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Friday, September 22, 2006

Audio Adventures

I'm not sure if this qualifies as a Round Table post or not, since I'm responding specifically to Thomas' notion on using audio in games.

Sound in games can be a fascinating dimension. I still react almost viscerally when I hear that alarm noise from GoldenEye rings in a movie or television show (Stargate: Atlantis uses it constantly). Back in the olden days, when Dungeon Master showed up with surround sound audio - it felt like someone had completely changed the rules of the game. Even when I was a CounterStrike admin the most common defense for someone doing well was that they were just wearing a really good set of headphones that helped them locate people.

And yet these days the most common critique you hear about game sounds is that they don't have enough bass, or "omph", or gritty realism.

What if sound took back the center stage? What if there was no video output? Well, here's a couple of thoughts:

Audio ARG
This is actually what ilovebees slowly transformed into ... an onllne mystery whose plot was advanced by a series of audio files. I was actually a little annoyed because it shifted the game dramatically from being about puzzle solving and reading to waiting for people to make phone calls and downloading wav's.

Still, it was impressive how complete of a world was created with just audio snippets. Not just a plotline, but characters and backdrops as well. If text is the cheapest way to describe a detailed world, audio is the next cheapest.

Audio Puzzler
Speech detection has gotten much more sophisticated these days. If they can use it to avoid your phone calls on technical support, why not use it to entertain you as well? Think virtual GameMaster without the text - just the speech. The game sets up the description of the puzzle and you converse with the parser to solve it. Since not constrained by graphics, the puzzles could be anything from brainteasers to twenty questions.

Audio Platformer
Makes no sense, right? How do you have platform without a screen to represent it? It's simple ... rock concerts do it all the time. It's called audience participation. Certain points during the audio - the player has to perform an action specific to the audio cues. Shout out, sing back, clap, whatever. Basically Simon Says meets Guitar Hero.

That's all I got time for right now. Good mental exercise for when one is looking to shove a game into iTunes, I might add.

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Unknown said...

Thomas' link to bit Generations is worth your time, I think. Sound Voyager in that series is apparently an aural-only game, where you navigate by the audio output only.

My copy arrives in the near future (I hope today), but we found out about it on CG because I joked that someone could make an aural-only game for the Shuffle and sell it through iTunes. Baines piped up and told us that, in fact, Sound Voyager is pretty close to that already.

Unknown said...

Inverted Castle offers up two different audio only games.

Anonymous said...

When I was in 8th grade a buddy of mine (who is now the frontman of a signed band in LA) showed me how to play Goldeneye with no TV, just a really good stereo. He didn't survive for long, but that wasn't the point.

Josh said...

Yeah an audio shooter in general is a sweet idea.

I've got one other one that violate's Thomas' desire to have no screen. I had a gametype mod for Unreal called Blink where you stayed invisible if you were standing still.

You could have the same concept, just with sound. Obviously this is so far removed from cheat proof it's not funny (that tape fell on my mic!) ... but essentially if you're position is revealed based on the ambient noise you're giving off.

I guess you could do the opposite - have a game which generates obscuring elements based on the noise you've made - that way more sound is better.

Thomas said...

Oh, for an iPod gaming SDK.

The Accessible Quake mod generates sound "pings" for doors, entities, and terrain changes. It's an interesting way of doing it. (link)

I was thinking about loading up my Excel sound engine and writing a Wolf3D clone that raycasts sound instead of texture lines (it would have to be pretty low-res). Along with your idea, you could only ping other players by their footsteps. Like deathmatch submarines, really.

Josh said...

That's potentially sweet. Darkmatch used to work with flashlights ... so you would have to use light to see other players - but give your position away as well. Sonar would be an excellent subsitute.