2, Issue 8
January 10, 2000
the Mouth of Madness:
welcome back. As you can see, loonygames is Y2K compliant. I gotta
admit, I wasn't too sure there for awhile. :)
all of you had a great holiday break...I certainly did. I spent
my break playing a great deal (I mean a great deal) of games,
including Donkey Kong 64, my current addiction of the moment.
DK64 is great, but a little baffling at times. I can't
quite seem to figure out what they were thinking when they made
some of the design decisions.
most of the game progresses in a really well laid out non-linear
fashion, there are some areas that just seem to be confusing for
no apparent reason. I know a number of people who simply didn't
like the game because it took so long to actually get going...heck,
even I didn't care for it at first. But once I managed to really
get into it, boy is it great stuff.
thing I spent my break doing, was upgrading my home theater system.
I've completed my surround sound system, and have been enjoying
the wonder that is surround sound. Which brings me to the subject
of today's column - surround sound in games.
have been utilizing surround sound for some time now. The 3D audio
enabled by A3D and Environmental Audio makes for great positional
audio, and you can even buy THX certified surround sound speakers.
But for consoles, real surround sound is still fairly new, and
is about to jump forward with the release of the Playstation 2
(which is just two months away from its Japanese release!).
Kong 64 uses
Dolby Surround, which is the same system many games these days
use (including Wipeout 3, which is an excellent example
of analog surround). The audio output on the current batch of
console systems isn't exactly ideal for real surround sound. All
of them, including, unfortunately, the Dreamcast, rely on the
standard analog stereo cables we've grown used to. These are fine
for many kinds of surround - Dolby Surround is great if you have
a Pro Logic-enabled receiver, which can really do some great things.
Playstation 2 will be the first console system released that features
a digital audio out capability, and this means we're in for a
wild ride. The Playstation 2 is DVD based, and supports all the
DVD audio specs: Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital (AC-3) and DTS.
Dolby Surround is what you'll get if you use the regular stereo
cables. AC-3, is a system that hopefully developers will take
the audio system most commonly found on stereo DVDs (older, mono
movies don't utilize it) and it uses a full 5.1 surround setup
(front left, center, front right, rear left, rear right, and subwoofer).
It requires the use of a digital connection to your receiver (IE:
an optical or a digital coaxial) which the Playstation 2 supports.
Because of the nature of the audio, Playstation 2 CDs (not DVDs,
there are two different formats the system can use) won't benefit
from them at all. But expect to see some incredible sound from
games that use AC-3.
really the king though, and while I'm not holding my breath, I
really, really, really, want to see a DTS-enabled game or three.
DTS (Digital Theater Systems) is the sound system created for
the theatrical release of Jurassic Park, and is used in movie
theaters across the country, as well as many DVD, CD and Laserdisc
titles. DTS enabled DVDs use the exact same audio as their theater
counterparts (although usually at a slightly lower quality sampling
rate), and it's a wild, wild system to hear. In the case of DTS-enabled
DVDs, more often than not, the amount of space required by the
extra audio information means that any extras have to be taken
off. So in the case of the DTS-enabled DVD 12 Monkeys,
you don't get the documentary, commentary, or anything else. You
just get the movie. This would seem to imply that any DTS enabled
game would be really impractical.
is certainly true. First of all, in order to hear DTS at all,
you've got to have a DTS ready receiver and all 5.1 channels (the
subwoofer is the .1). While you can include two soundtracks on
the same disc, many do not, since again, the sheer amount of space
required by the DTS information means anything unnecessary has
to go. So anyone making a DTS enabled game would have to make
two versions - one for DTS users, and one for the mass market.
Then there's the issue of how much space would be left for the
game once you've got all that sound information on the disc. Probably
this means a DTS enabled Final Fantasy game isn't ever going to
happen. But something that traditionally uses a ton of space for
music and audio and a smaller amount for the game itself, like
a racing game, could actually work. We'll just have to wait and
meantime, I'm going to go enjoy my surround sound Donkey Kong
64. DTS or not, it still sounds great.
Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor in chief here
at loonygames. He'll play surround sound stuff 'till his ears