Audio & Audio Systems


#1

Hi Ben,

At this point I’m sure you don’t need another person to tell you that this DevLog has been fascinating - I discovered Moonman on TIGSource a few days ago and have really enjoyed reading through all this juicy dev. Anyway, I have a million questions about your handling of audio and audio systems oh and I also did a thing (I’m in game audio obviously):

Let me be clear - I FULLY appreciate that I haven’t seen the latest state of the audio for Moonman (and that you are a busy person who may not care at this late stage what some random-dude-you’ve-never-met thinks), so many of these questions or points might be completely irrelevant, considered, or annoying by this point. (I was going to post this on TIGSource but I have tried a couple of times to set up an account but the activation e-mail isn’t coming through, so here I am)

I know you are probably sick of Terraria as a comparison to Moonman, and I know your game is structurally different, but it can’t help but be relevant. In my humble opinion, the audio in Terraria is not amazing, and there are lots of lessons to be learned from it. Whilst I’ve only played in the first area of that game (since I never got that into it), I will be referring to it lots below. In fact some of these points are basically me ranting about Terraria’s sound, rather than Moonman at all. Hopefully it’s still helpful. Anyway, onwards!

  • SO MANY ASSETS: How are you organising the sound for such an enormous number of assets? I see you said something about using the material type to determine the correct sound. That’s sounds good. Tell me more! Is it a system based on layers? Do different sized weapons have different sized impact sounds or are you keeping it really simple?

  • PANNING: In Terraria, a lot of the simple sounds seem to be in stereo - the whoosh from the melee weapons and tools, the sound of a door opening and closing - this is BAD and creates the feeling that the sounds are ‘all around you’ which really should be reserved for music, ambiences, and any huge or more abstract stuff, like maybe some large magical effects, giant boss sounds, and UI stuff. Most everything else should probably be MONO - this makes the sounds much more ‘placeable’ in the scene, and the scene therefore much more readable (what’s on my left?) as a whole. In Terraria it’s off-putting having my player’s sword essentially whoosh across the whole screen. (In fact not only is Terraria’s melee whoosh sound in stereo, but it is actually panned significantly towards the left. All of the time. This is madness.) Mono mono mono!

  • WHOOSHES: Talking of whooshes - in Terraria, every single weapon AND tool - in the early game anyway - seems to have the same whoosh sound on swinging. Where’s the character!? Swords should ‘shwing’!. The whooshes in Moonman that I’ve heard have been super quiet - which is perhaps a good decision since you are whooshing A LOT - but I’d like to hear bigger weapons with some OOMPH to their swings. And blades ought to sound sharp/dangerous.

  • OCCLUSION: Will Moonman handle occlusion? Will an unseen mob on the other side of some tunnel wall make an appropriately filtered sound - thereby alerting you to the presence of it and it’s hidden space, without giving the same sense of danger that the mob’s ordinary unfiltered sound might? (In fact, will your simple enemies have an idle sound at all?) I think this stuff really helps, and - pro tip - you could piggy back on the AI pathfinding system for this - for example this unseen mob might be very close (in a straight line) and thus might be very loud, but since the mob can’t reach you due to the wall and being in an enclosed space, the pathfinding distance would be ‘infinite’ and therefore you could choose to occlude the sound fully. So it would be loud, yet muffled (like any sound behind a wall right next to your head would be). (As far as I can tell, Terraria does no occlusion stuff at all, which isn’t too surprising)

  • VARIATION: I can hear pitch (& sample) randomisation in your videos - how does that work? Can you change the amount of pitch variation per sound asset, or is it more global? What about volume? And different samples? In general the sounds in Moonman so far seem pretty inoffensive (compared to some of the craziness in Terraria at least) - for example the sounds for when blocks are dug at and destroyed are pretty nice and a sensible volume (removing a dirt block in Terriaria is so bassy and punchy it’s like I’m being smacked in the face - not a fan). Also - and I know that I took it in a different direction in my sound replacement thingy but - I actually quite enjoy the ‘slap’ you have for attacks - it grew on me - although I can imagine that sound getting tiresome after a while. I could be wrong. It’s pretty satisfying.

  • SENSE OF SPACE: Sounds in Terraria don’t seem to be ‘in the space’ at all. They are dry as a bone, and have no reverb corresponding to whether you are inside a tomb or out in a thunderstorm. The zombie growls sound like they are right next to my face. Whilst this accomplishes the (important) job of alerting you to the zombie, it really doesn’t need to be that loud - it immediately takes me out of the experience, and I have no idea if the zombie I’m hearing is the one right next to me or a different one 17 miles off screen. Is there/will there be reverb in Moonman? Unsure. It’s fairly subtle but in my vid above I changed the amount of ‘cave reverb’ depending on how big the area you are in is (for example, it tightens up a lot in the final fighting scene)

  • AMBIENCE: How are you handling your ambiences? Simple looping stereo tracks? Scattered sounds around the space? Both? How are you dealing with moving smoothly between different locations/biomes? Given the procedural nature of the world your ambience system will obviously need to be smart - I think you mentioned something about this in the DevLog but I can’t find it now. It’s hard to tell from the limited available footage, but in Moonman, it sounds like there is some ambience already - I’m hearing crickets?

  • WEATHER: Oh lord the rain in Terraria is so bad. RANT TIME: When you go inside a completely enclosed house, why doesn’t the rain get muffled? That would create a feeling of safety and warmth from the outside. It would be lovely. Not only that - and I genuinely think my copy of Terraria might be broken - but going into a cave or VERY DEEP down under the ground didn’t affect the rain either. AT ALL. Not even a simple volume change. Arrrggghh. I’m not much of a programmer, but I think it would be simple case to link the current depth of the player to the volume of the weather outside on the surface. Also when the rain track loops there is a VERY clear few milliseconds of silence breaking it up. Crikey. I’m sure I don’t need to say this but do dis fings bettr plz. I’m sure you will. (Does the sound of the crickets get quieter or disappear altogether as you go down into the caves or go inside one of those separate houses via a background door?)

  • MIX: How will you mix the sound overall? Will enemies be loudest? And the player’s own attacks, for maximum ‘feel like a badass’? Perhaps enemies that aren’t currently ‘interested’ in you might be quieter since they pose less of a threat? Will things on the side that you are currently facing be slightly louder than those on the other side? Will things that are offscreen be attenuated (perhaps in a similar way to occluded sounds), thus freeing up the mix space for sounds that are more relevant? Questions questions questions!

  • MISC: In my sound replacement vid, the overall sound gets filtered just before you die - it’s very quick so might not be clear, but this was just a simple low and high freq pass on the master channel that I merged in as the health bar got really low. This immediately alerts the player to the dire situation and I think it ‘feels’ really good - kind of like the world is closing up as you struggle to stay alive.

Once again I stress that you have probably considered all of these things either before or since those latest vids, so please ignore me if this is just not relevant. I just got a liiiiiitle bit excited about this game. I know that you are getting close to actually releasing the game at this stage, but I hope what I’ve said is helpful in at least some small way - totally gutted I didn’t discover this project sooner - I would have been all over this forum! Let me know what you think of my video if you get a moment, and best of luck to you and your team. Can’t wait to jump on this when it’s out.

(Also I just checked out your website and ended up playing I’m Sick Today. It entertained me much-ly. 10 points)

Cheers for reading! Damion.


#2

Welcome Damion, I like your video.
I’ve played terraria, I usually mute the music because it gets repetitive. I like games that have a variety of sounds for the same action, playing the same sound over and over drives me nuts.


#3

Thanks.

Yeah, it’s strange because obviously Terraria is incredibly successful and popular despite it’s audio issues - I think a lot of people, as you do, just end up muting the music or sound. Credit to the devs for including separate volume controls for music, sfx and ambience though - pretty rare to get a separate slider for all three.


#4

So you are supposing it is weird the success of terraria because the sounds are bad? :neutral_face:


#5

Uh kinda? There is plenty that is good about Terraria’s audio, but I guess I just can’t help but notice certain things, especially when I think the solution is simple (the rain for example). But yeah, people obviously aren’t bothered anyway, or the sound is actually fine after all and I’m just nitpicking…?

I did find this Reddit thread (from people who actually play the game presumably) complaining about the sfx: https://www.reddit.com/r/Terraria/comments/4aimec/what_sound_effects_drive_you_up_the_wall/? Maybe every game’s subreddit has people complaining about sound though so make of that what you will…

Like I said I haven’t actually played a great deal of Terraria - I just found certain issues I heard in the first area to useful as a comparison in my above ramblings. :slight_smile:


#6

Before judging the game frome the audio, you should understand why terraria had all this success.


#7

Definitely an entire game shouldn’t be judged on one particular facet, but I think it’s reasonable to analyse certain aspects of it. I don’t think a game needs great graphics or sound to be fun and popular and Terraria is a great example of that.


#8

@damion Wow, thanks for posting all this! It’s going to take me a while to unpack all this. I can definitely see things like occlusion being implemented, and I too love how the rain gets muffled when you go indoors in Minecraft – I’d love to do something similar. The Early Access release will have fairly simple sfx in, and then over the course of the coming year I’ll start to incorporate some more sophisticated sounds. Cheers!


#9

I totally agree with you ben. Thanks!


#10

@Strider2126 I’m not judging Terraria in it’s entirety - just the audio. Clearly it is a successful game. Even so, I think it’s totally fair to judge any aspect of, well, anything without a requirement to understand a thing as a whole.

And yeah a game doesn’t need to have super duper graphics or sound to be successful (as @ben said) but I view the graphics and, uh, ‘procedural style’ in Moonman to be better looking than that of Terraria and a lot of other procedural 2d adventure-y craft-y explore-y games. It also has, to me, much more character and - I dunno - narrative potential or something? So I guess I think that the audio and it’s implementation ought to align with all that. :slight_smile:

Minecraft is another game I haven’t got super into. I’m much more into the Don’t Starve/Spelunky/Isaac kind of games. Just love that permadeath yo. Also the audio in all three (music & sound) is top notch. Particularly he sound in Don’t Starve and the music in Spelunky. Soooooo goooooood.