Advanced Sound Propagation Prototype

published Wednesday, 18 May 2011, 11:00 by Kenneth

NOW we're getting somewhere! Try the latest prototype of my unique and groundbreaking Advanced Sound Propagation Model before your neighbour gamer!

Advanced Sound Propagation Model

Oh boy I'm excited to show you this! For quite some time I've been thinking about a system for sound traversal in games. Usually sound only travels in a straight line from audio source to listener in games. If there is something blocking the "line-of-sight" between the sound source and the listener the volume may drop a bit, and some high-frequency may be removed to make the sound more muffled (also known as occlusion)... But that's not how it works in real life...

A few weeks ago I made my first simple prototype of a more realistic sound traversal model in a small setup with only two rooms with a door between the rooms. This prototype was quite easy to make as it was only two rooms and one door, but in order to make it work with more rooms I needed to make use of a path-finding algorithm.

The key design to this model is, that when you are in the same room as the sound-source you hear it as you normally would, but when the sound is in another room, you hear the sound from one of the doorways leading to that room. But what if the sound is two or more rooms away from you then?... Well, that's where path-finding comes in...

The Prototype

Advanced Sound Propagation Prototype
See if you can locate the sound-source with your ears only - sneak up on it or confront it head on.

I borrowed Kim's Operation level, and made a simple scenario of four rooms and placed a sound moving around the level. Try walking around the small test-level and hear how the sound is shifting from doorway to doorway, depending on where the closest path to the sound-source is.

http://www.interstellarmarines.com/media/uploads/article_images/development/advanced-sound-propagation-prototype/four_rooms.jpg
Four rooms from Operations made a small test-level for this prototype

Remember, this IS a prototype, so there might be flaws, but it should give you a really good idea of the system - at least it gave me what I needed in order to proceed developing the system.

Let me know what you think!

Cheers,
Kenneth


Comments

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3 years, 3 months ago

waaow ?B;-1 nice diverese sound muffling. very uniqe and immersive, i belive what i hear/heard

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3 years, 3 months ago

Sound is very too SCARY in the dark...

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3 years, 3 months ago

This is awesome, you can use the sound source to navigate in the environment and find the correct path to the sound soruce. Great job :-)

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3 years, 3 months ago

very very good. When coupled with ambient or create sounds, this will be incredible. Gunfire, roars, whatever. Even a waterfall would sound brilliant.

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3 years, 3 months ago

WOW! this is amazing. I could walk around for hours listining, but I got other stuff to do unfortunately.

I will try with my surround later:)

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3 years, 3 months ago

@Crawing: I haven't tested it with surround yet (only have headphones at the office). Looking forward to hear from you how it plays out.

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3 years, 3 months ago

sounds good so far, though, doesn't give you as much directional awarness as i would have thought it would....

Keep up the good work.

For the love of the game.

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3 years, 3 months ago

@StrayEagle: What were your expectations exactly? I would really like to know, to see if I can meet your expectations.

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3 years, 3 months ago

Wow, this is extremely impressive, as Claymore said - you are able to track the source of the sounds in a comlicated environment with ease, hearing which doors it comes from and the like. Some small echo effects in confined spaces would be very nice, apart from that - perfect.

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3 years, 3 months ago

That, my friend, is the absolutely most awesome thing I've heard all week! Very interesting, I approve of it. ;)

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3 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, I have to agree with Eagle. It seems to propagate well, but he's right, directional info is minimal at best, same with distance info as it doesn't seem to be occluding through multiple walls/doorways well. You'd figure that a few rooms away with many right angle paths between you & the sound that don't have line of sight, the sound would be incredibly muffled/occluded.

Furthermore, objects like crates don't seem to offer the least bit of occlusion.

That being said, this is still one of the best sounding models yet, and the model prior (with distance of sound propagation) was also just fantastic.

I'm not maligning your work, but you've ventured into the uncanny valley now. You have to decide whether you're going to do it right going forward (as real as possible), or you're going to back it off a bit.

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3 years, 3 months ago

I really like the detail that's put into the sound-design of this game!
One thing: I can hear, that this lightbulb is in the left or the right room but not if it's in front or back of me.
(+first few shots were kinda scarry, nice!)

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3 years, 3 months ago

5.1 surround headphones, worked brilliantly.

It is indeed unsettling when you realize it's coming towards you at the beginning.

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3 years, 3 months ago

@Kenneth: I can see what you are trying to do and I believe you are in the right path. I agree with GrotosXtreme, I can chase the source around just by listening to the sound and actually find it by moving left and right, to hear from which side it is coming.

But I have to agree with StrayEagle and Saijin_Naib, something is missing in regards to the occlusion of the sound when you are behind a few objects, and the "rebound" of the sound from walls and objects to give you a better positional awareness when you are standing still.

I am no guru in sound design, nor do I have any knowledge on sound engineering but, I'll make you a suggestion. Take one of the small rooms and remove all crates and wall subdivisions, then stand in the middle of the room and let the source do its thing. If you go to the other small room with crates and stand in the center of the room, the source should sound a lot different (perhaps more muffled) than in the open room (more echo).

When you move into an empty house it sounds different as when you have the sofa, tv, bookshelf, etc. Now (back to the game rooms), if you are standing right behind a crate that is separated from the wall, even if the source is in front of you, beyond the box, you should be able to hear the "rebound" (for lack of a better word) of the sound from the wall behind you.

Ok, sorry for the testament. One more thing, maybe for the next prototype, instead of a glowing sphere we can get a floating land shark with glowing eyes? ;)

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3 years, 3 months ago

for a ball of light, that thing is pretty scary

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3 years, 3 months ago

Folks, we have to keep in mind that the reverbs from the running man were prebaked. Getting test sounds into these previews will all sound features enabled would be a bit time consuming and counterproductive :-)

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3 years, 3 months ago

Very cool! Can't wait to hear other sounds put into the mix!! When will you start to incorporate more than one sound source?

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3 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for all your comments - It's really important to us to hear your thoughts.

All prototypes have a purpose and a certain scope, and sometimes we get comments which are outside the scope of the prototype (path-finding audio in this case). But that doesn't make these kind of comments irrelevant - on the contrary, these kind of comments might spawn new ideas.

Also - we are looking for your honest opinion, no matter what it may be, so don't hold it back. One of the best ways to improve our solutions is to get feedback from others.

So keep the constructive criticism up, and thanks for your time invested in giving us feedback!


For the Love of the Game,
Kenneth

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3 years, 3 months ago

Very impressive, and the dark atmosphere was a nice touch.

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3 years, 3 months ago

I shouldn't hear it over walls that easily, its stupid just lowering volume, thats what most games do. you need to simulate propagation, distortion and echoing of sound to really have it believable. However, the graphics already are pretty good, I forgot it was a game for first 10 seconds. It is offen the issue that sound engines are simple to the point that conversaion heard over doors is just lower in volume, there is no reflection, diffraction or refraction, or they ignore the environment all the time and top it off with ignoring speed of sound and doppler effect with it. Last game I remember has DE is Battlestar Galactica Online.

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3 years, 3 months ago

That is actually really damn awesome. This not only adds an extra level of immersion but also can add another layer of tactical gameplay (suchas the need to use suppressors so other players won't hear you having a firefight two or three rooms over)

Overall awesome!

Keep up the good work.

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3 years, 3 months ago

@Dhatz - I just couldn't agree more :-)... Follow me on my journey and we'll see if I succeed in making our common "dream" come true.

Peace,
Kenneth

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3 years, 3 months ago

with a little improvement, this merits its own level!

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3 years, 3 months ago

and I forgot aerodynamic sounds. Onloy NFS U and U2 had some exagerated ones and from FPS Mirror's Edge had em. Thats really awful, because you easily hear air at running speed. Don't know if futuristic ITO helmets would prevent it.

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3 years, 3 months ago

That's some spooky 'gameplay'! I was almost scarred of the big shiny ball! :P Just imagine if it had teeth!

-A

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3 years, 3 months ago

@Dhatz - I actually tried it for Running Man (allthough the helmet might prohibit it, but it sounds really cool), but it took too much focus and kind of messed up the mix. And if I mixed it down it kind of just disappeared. One of the reasons why it might work in Mirrors Edge is, that the entire sound design is focused around immersion and the character, and combat is only a minor aspect of ME, compared to IM... So as always its a matter of priority... But maybe someday I'll give it a shot again.

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3 years, 3 months ago

To be honest I was a little scared of what I would find. But it was just a big shiny ball lol!

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3 years, 3 months ago

Man, you get several rooms away from that ball, and it can get ominous. Bang, pause, bang, pause, bang, pause... One could almost think of it like some giant monster stomping around on the roof of the complex, or someone going through and in cold blood finishing off wounded teammates of yours.

Good model, but I agree with some of the other great folks here in that sound bounces off more than just walls, but floor and ceiling too. It bounces off of many surfaces, especially large ones like crates. Sound changes dynamically as it travels through air, bounces off of things, and propagates into spaces. What you have here is a great test for initial path-finding and it is a good first effort.

At first I had a couple of moments where I didn't quite recognize the ball as being gunfire, but once I did, I started looking for it, turning left and right to hear better, then was able to easily locate it. I then went to the other end of the map, and realized that with as much stuff, like doorways and crates and rooms, the sound should have been more muffled. Then again, like your other prototypes, I figure the sound and pathfinding is exaggerated. Again, going back and finding the ball was not hard, especially since I use my ears a lot in game to help me find people. I listen for footsteps, grunts or breath of people moving, the sound of someone reloading, the clicks of suppressed weapons, and shell casings hitting the ground, besides general gunfire, and so much more.

Sound really is key to immersion, especially since you won't always have a mini-map, radar, or even HUD sometimes. You have to use sight AND sound to find the enemy before they find you. This I believe can help with that a lot.

I can't wait to see what's next.

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3 years, 1 month ago

That's very cool, it's accurate and immersive, I could find the floating light(source of sound) very easily.

I always say very well done sound is just as important in a game as good graphics and physics.

Even though it's just a prototype can you allow the changing of audio settings for different sound setups please, for example, headphones, 2.1, 5.1.

Keep up your good work.

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3 years, 1 month ago

Oh god, soon that "Big shiny ball" Is going to be a shark creature! Keep up the good work Zero Point!

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2 years, 8 months ago

I totally flipped out when I saw that glowing ball of light. I love the concept.

Is that the sound the shark is going to make? That would be freaking freaky.

The whole experience was a bit nightmarish, searching for a phantom noise that I don't know what looks like. That was scary.

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1 year, 11 months ago

You have no idea how scared i got thinking it was a Carcharodon Polemos :P but nope it's a giant glowy orb.

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1 year, 4 months ago

One thing i would absolutely love is compatibility to surround sound

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