Sandbox Soundscape

Simulation of a walk-through scenario with FMOD Designer and FMOD Sandbox

After a lot of trial and error between FMOD Designer and Sandbox, regarding the roll off parameters, I could upload my second Sandbox project.

I wanted to build a post-apocalyptic scenario, in which survivors didn’t even know what happened, although they were trying to establish themselves again, somewhere in that world there was civil war going on and you couldn’t tell who was on each side. That led me obviously to some research so I could sketch some elements that would integrate in it as some kind of preparation for a game project I recently went in. (At the time, now it’s a whole new thing.)

The soundscape, as in a walk-through, from the player point of view, should contain elements of devastated landscape, unknown creatures, some people trying to survive anyway they could.

Working with the FMOD Designer:

For most of the sounds, I used a custom roll off that was later defined in the events window, with “volume” as an effect in 3D distance parameter so I could control them exactly how I want. Also used the Occlusion effect and combining both there are sound events that have sound elements themselves in some area of the physical object (if it was one).

Of course, there is a lot of programming missing as Sandbox doesn’t support that, there are    no ways of triggering some events with precision … but we tried. And tried…

In some cases, it made sense to use a logarithmic roll off as well.

In many sound definitions that contained multiple audio files, like that building burning and those gunshots, I chose to randomize them (pitch, volume, 3D positioning, audio files). Unfortunately, it seemed that these sound defs played within the events window and also Sandbox can’t randomize if the user stays at the same place and I’m guessing it is because the event is not being triggered again. To go around this performance issue some different sounds were spread within the same event, separated in distanced.

I started with the creatures sound, since I had at least a dozen of them created already:

The first draft made used just too much of the outside cone level that ended up in general too low regarding a real perception; I’ve learned — and probably everyone who listen to it with headphones — how efficient is the directionality programmed in FMOD Designer. Probably such an attenuation isn’t a good choice with most of sounds because there’s a risk the player won’t even hear it unless it passes by it very closely. When I got the Siren sound, immediately I used this feature.

For the atmosphere sounds, like Rain, the Lake and Forest the velocity that the player moves around must be seriously taken in consideration because it affects the perception of how one enters and comes out of that particular scene. So, their volume decay regarding the 3D distance parameter is really slow and long, working as a subtle and nice fade out, preferentially, cross-fading between each other, 3D panning level down to 0.

Because of this velocity walk-through navigation limitations I ended up not using the sound of the player’s footsteps. breaths, clothes. etc., in Head Related mode. It would be possible, if I used dozens of them limiting one into an acceptable range of distance, but whenever the player would be entering a place with different ground type everything would be lost.

Anyway, an updated version of this project was presented at a local college facility, on an exhibit called “Perceptions“, that apparently overwhelmed some people, so the job was done.

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