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Posts with tag sound

Story and Sound: Mozart would be writing the World of Warcraft

I've been thinking a lot lately about the dynamics of telling a story. What exactly is a story? How do you tell it most effectively, both from an artistic narrative stand point, and a consumer-friendly attention grabbing one? I've also been concerned with new ways to tell a story, especially one that people might discount at first since the story mechanism lives on the edge of pop culture.

Besides working on WoW Insider, I also make my home at the Minnesota Opera, working on their website and advancing an opera's story through digital mediums. Opera is an old art form, one that if not nurtured and brought into the next century is at risk of becoming obscure. I'm proud to work for a company that realizes this and does some really ground breaking things.

It struck me recently when sitting through a dress rehearsal the eerie similarities between Warcraft and an opera like The Magic Flute. After thinking about how very like these two story-telling vehicles are, I realized that they are both just a natural progression in humanity's ability to tell a story.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Breakfast Topic: What's your favorite piece of music in WoW?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

World of Warcraft is a game with great sound and great sound design. Players might not always notice it, but for those of us who play with the music on, these themes can really set the tone for the game. Ashenvale music never fails to remind me of my first foray into the zone; after Darkshore, which was a bit bleak, my baby druid stepped into Ashenvale and it seemed like all of Azeroth opened up, wide and colorful and filled with swelling orchestral tracks. Though the game world seems much smaller to me now, I still remember that moment whenever I hear the Ashenvale theme.

My favorite piece of WoW music, however, has got to be the one in Mulgore. I play mainly Alliance, so I don't go there often, but every time I visit the zone for the Darkmoon Faire or head to Thunder Bluff for some holiday achievement, I'm struck by the beauty and tranquility of the Mulgore music. It really fits the environment, and it never fails to relax me when I fly through. The slow, soft yearning reminds me of the Tauren people and their culture, while the undercurrent of tension hints at the conflict brewing in the world outside that secluded valley.

What's your favorite piece of WoW music? Does it remind you of a particular time or a nostalgic feeling, or is it the pure beauty of the composition that you admire? When do you feel the WoW music is at its most epic?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

World of WarCrafts: Sounds like a whole new Stratholme

World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including fan art, cooking, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself by contacting our tips line (attention: World of WarCrafts) -- not-for-profit work only, please.

In this week's World of WarCrafts, the "dark and haunting tale" of Stratholme comes alive with a custom audio build from Ashram of Darksorrow-EU. Ashram paid a visit to the burning city, capturing it on video and then setting it to all-new audio - from spell effects to NPC voicing to birds cawing in the background, all set against an atmospheric soundtrack that injects an eerie edge of desperation to an instance that's become old hat.

Ashram brings a good bit of recording and audio experience to the project, having spent several years singing in a band and recording most of their material. "This is the first time I've ever attempted something like this with a full rebuild of a game's audio," he admitted. "This project was much more complex than anything I'd ever attempted before."

We visited with Ashram (thanks for the tip, Foulbourne!) to learn how he brought dread and despair back to old Stratholme.

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Filed under: Machinima, Fan stuff, Features, Interviews, World of WarCrafts

Breakfast Topic: Awesome Animations

So hot on the heels of the best mob noise in game discussion, I thought I'd ask another question: What about the animations? We probably don't think about it too much, but the sounds and animations of PCs and NPCs alike probably end up making a lot of atmosphere we take for granted. It fills out the world and makes it feel more immersive, more real.

With that in mind, the noise topic got me thinking of what animations I really like. There's a lot of them that at least deserve a mention, from the howling of Coyotes to the nervous skittering of the Silithid. In the new animations, we get stuff like Stinker's escapades and the wildlife of Grizzly Hills going on with their every day activities.

Beyond that, even PC animations can have their awesome looks, such as a Draenei twirling a Polearm to attack or a male Blood Elf dying with Shakespearean dramatics. Ethereals also have some pretty graceful moves overall, even in the way their bandages move and their energy pulses.

What animations and graphics have you encountered in WoW that have made you stop and say, "Hey, that's pretty neat?"

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Breakfast Topics

Setting up your audio just right

Kestrel's has an interesting post up about how he deals with audio while playing -- he listens to game audio (or music, apparently) through his computer's speakers, and pipes Vent audio in through his headset. The headset is hooked up via USB (so the sound signal can be different from the speaker signal), and of course the speakers are hooked up to the regular sound card. I'd have thought the way most of us do it (though we do know that some players don't listen to game audio at all, instead choosing music or even a movie over any of the sounds from the game), but apparently Kestrel had some people ask him about it, so maybe it's not that widespread.

Personally, I play with a laptop next to me, so I run Vent on that, and let the WoW sounds play on my desktop computer. But there are probably lots of people out there who use just one computer, so must alt-tab out to run Vent, and thus have their game sound and Vent sound coming through the same speakers. And there may even be a better way to do it -- maybe it would help things to have Vent coming out of a different speaker instead of through the headset, like from the surround sound speakers behind you.

In fact, it's too bad the in-game voice chat (remember that?) isn't a little more imaginative in how it plays the sound out -- it would be interesting to have players' voices positioned in 3D space around you, much like the game sounds already are. Vent is more or less necessary for raiding in big groups, but it's too bad that extra audio can sometimes break the illusion of the game.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Hardware

Sensory Overload

Unlike a great many of my friends and acquaintances, I'm on record as liking the graphical design of Outland and The Burning Crusade. I never had any trouble distinguishing between the Naaru and their crystal, dimensional ships and spacecraft, I absolutely love the Draenei and the Exodar, I'm a big fan of Nagrand and the stark, barren and destroyed vistas of Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley. So I expected that, unlike what seems to be the majority of players, I would in fact be dissatisfied with the visual design of Wrath of the Lich King.

As you can see, however, they realized some of us would be hard sells, so they let me dual wield two hand weapons from the back of a flying carpet. Blizzard, how do you know me better than I do? I didn't even know I wanted to do that!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Expansions, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King

BlizzCon 2008: Blizzard sound panel

I am, I must admit, one of those people who frequently plays World of Warcraft with the sound muted. I've been playing for a long time and, well, I've heard it all before. So, as a person who doesn't exactly consider sound an essential component of their gaming experience, I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting into when I attended the Blizzard Sound panel at BlizzCon, featuring In attendance were Russell Brower, Director of Audio and Video; Glenn Stafford, who founded the audio department; and Derek Duke, a full-time composer. But, presented with live musical performances accompanied by enthusiastic explanation from people passionate about making music a part of the game, I have to say I'm a believer.

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Filed under: Blizzard, BlizzCon

Patch 2.4.2 surprised me

Not that it was happening, but rather that it added a really strange sound effect to my Bloodrage and Berserker Rage abilities. My wife described it as sounding like the mutant offspring of an orc and a murloc howling in anguish, and she's not far off. After a while I realized I recognized the sound as being the same one that plays when Horde shamans use Bloodlust.

Now, I don't know why, but while I accept the sound when it comes out of an orc, I have a really hard time hearing it when my human pops bloodrage... which he does a lot, since you know, needs more rage and all. This is reminiscent of the previous patch with the unexpected change to Whirlwind (also a sound effect change) and it makes me wonder every time if I just wasn't listening or if it's an actual change.

Furthermore, it always makes me stop and think about just how much development work goes on for things like new music in inns, new sound effects, a new pet model... these things all add up and it's a lot of work if you stop and think about it.

Have you noticed any other changes, undocumented or just stuff you didn't really think about?

Filed under: Shaman, Warrior, Patches, Analysis / Opinion

Patch 2.4.1 available for download

Extended Maintenance has begun, and it looks like a small patch has come with it. Patch 2.4.1 is less than 5 megabytes, and looks to mostly fix a few bugs with the combat log (including that annoying one where no settings were saved), sound, and shading, as well as a bug with Tranquilizing Shot. There might be more undocumented changes, of course, but we'll have to wait until the servers come up to see that.

Patch notes after the break!

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Filed under: Hunter, Patches, News items

Sounding off on ingame sound

If you checked out the unofficial changes in patch 2.4, you'll have noticed (or just heard on the realms) that quite a few sounds got changed. Some are louder (as in that annoying PW: Shield sound), some are quieter, and some are just plain missing (it's a known bug that Tigers and Sabers don't roar anymore). But this brings up an interesting debate: many players are saying that they never would have noticed -- they rarely ever play with sound on anyway.

Playing with music off is one thing (and yes, many people prefer to listen to their own music while playing), but playing with the sound completely off seems like it would be tough -- there are a lot of audio cues going on in the game, and with sound off, you might not notice that a party member accidentally pulled another mob offscreen, or that someone behind you is casting a certain spell, or any number of other things that have specific audio to them. That doesn't need to be the only thing you listen to (I usually have to turn down the game sound during raids, just so I can hear what's going on in Vent), but surely listening to game sound makes you a better player.

Do you keep the sound muted all the time, and if so, why? And do you have any trouble playing if you do? Of course, it does help you avoid that annoying PW:S sound, but as someone who keeps the game sound up (though not the music), it seems like there are specific cues meant to be heard while playing the game. Don't you miss those with the sound off?

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Tips, Bugs, Hardware

2.3: Live vs. PTR

Now that you've gotten a bit of a chance to look at the live patch notes for 2.3, let's go over what's changed between this version and the latest PTR build. Some of these seem to have been in the PTR already, but just not listed in the patch notes; others are genuinely new. I tried to screen out all the bits we knew already from the PTR, but some probably made it through. I'll put the ones that look relatively significant up front, and the full list after the cut. This post will mostly be of use to those of you who have been playing on the PTR and/or keeping up with the PTR news; if you haven't been and you want to know what's up with this patch, you'd do better to go look at the full patch notes.
  • Rogue
    • Dirty Deeds now also increases special ability damage against enemies below 35% health. [Used to just say "...increases damage against..."; this changes seems to imply that it now does not affect white damage.]
    • Shadowstep: minimum range removed. Now works on any target within 25 yards.
  • [Warlock] Unstable Affliction: The silence from this ability is now subject to diminishing returns.
  • [Engineering] The Crashin' Thrashin' Robot is now Bind on Use rather than Bind on Acquire so non-engineers can use them as well.
  • Health and mana values for your target can now be displayed numerically, as values or as percentages (was previously the case only for you/your party members).
  • Added a Use Hardware [sound] option. This should only be used by advanced users with specific hardware configurations, as it may significantly alter your sound performance.

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Filed under: Patches, News items

Hardware sound acceleration to return in 2.3

There's yet more Patch 2.3 news, this time for people who have been having problems with sound ever since the sound upgrades in 2.2. As Cicero noted from his experience on the test realms, "all my sound problems were gone. I can hear myself cast again, no more clipped sounds..."

Those of you who have been suffering unduly may wish to go to the test realms and try it out. I haven't been able to do so myself due to some computer limitations, but I wonder if our readers who have visited the test realms can comment on any differences they can hear.

Are things really as good as Cicero says?

Filed under: Patches, Odds and ends

2.2.3 on the PTR

Looks like we got a little ahead of ourselves. Before we see 2.3 on the PTRs, we're going to see 2.2.3, a small patch that is supposed to bugfix a lot of the sound problems that players are having. Patch notes are complete below, and I'm betting that if the Kael event isn't fixed yet, a fix for that will also be included in this patch. We can only hope that we'll see a small PTR appearance for 2.2.3 (so test it extra fast, folks), and then the gloriousness of 2.3 will grace us with its presence.

PTR 2.2.3 Patch Notes
  • Clients utilizing OpenGL video modes will no longer experience graphical anomalies and missing textures after minimizing/maximizing the window.
  • Fixed an issue that caused Fel Eye Stalks during the Legion Ring event to not despawn when the event is completed.
  • Fixed an issue where zoning after mounting and summoning a pet was disconnecting players.
  • Fixed an issue where the Shift key would get stuck in game.
  • Using a /equip macro while affected by certain crowd control spells will no longer cause the items in the macro to be stuck in your inventory.
Continued after the jump...

[ via MMO Champion ]

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Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Bugs, Blizzard

Draenei skin, or seeing Azeroth through all five senses

I love the question that juliamarcela over on Livejournal asks: What does Draenei skin feel like? Obviously Tauren are hairy cows, and almost all the other races are more or less Human (even if the color is a little different). But the Draenei are completely alien. Sure, they're probably not scaly or slimy, but it probably feels different than most skin we know. I like julia's suggestion, too: like shark skin.

And I think I like that question so much because it brings Azeroth alive for our senses. What do mana potions really taste like? What does Shadowmoon Valley smell like? The prairie in Nagrand is probably a little firmer under your feet than the lands of Azeroth (considering it's just rock down there), but Swamp of Sorrows is probably a muddy mess to get through. And what does it feel like when you actually pass through the Dark Portal-- do you get to watch that scene from Stargate as you fly through the stars?

I'm known to DM a D&D game on occasion, and I can tell you that there's no better way to bring a fictional setting to life than to imagine it through all of your five senses. From Draenei skin to what surely is a hot sulfur smell drifting through the Burning Steppes, I find it extremely interesting to think of what being in Azeroth would really be like.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

Creative offered help to Blizzard with sound engine

As you may have heard on this very website, Blizzard didn't just include voice chat in patch 2.2 (and how's that coming, by the way? anyone use it yet?). They put a whole new sound engine into the game. For some people, that's great news-- a reader sent us a note last night that he was surprised to hear his rear 5.1 speakers kick on in Karazhan. But for others, not so good. While there are a few little glitches and bugs floating around, it seems there's a big problem with Creative sound cards (definitely one of the most popular sound card brands out there). And Creative has posted on their message boards that officially, they're not very happy that Blizzard didn't consult them when upgrading their sound engine.

Apparently Blizzard's new engine, called FMOD, by default uses a generic mixer with just a few simple effects. Creative has worked with FMOD to develop a way to run sound through their hardware and enable 3D mixing and other effects (they did this for the PC version of Bioshock, which also uses FMOD), but Blizzard apparently doesn't want any part of it.

So it seems Blizzard treats other hardware vendors the same way they treat their own players-- Creative says they got no advance notice that changes were being made, and apparently requests on why the changes were made have gone unanswered. Of course, Blizzard doesn't have to answer to Creative at all (and maybe they just don't think it's necessary-- I have a Creative Audigy 2 ZS, and my WoW sounds all right, if just a little different). But when we're talking about the biggest online PC game in the world and the biggest sound card manufacturer in the world, it would behoove them both to get along, and make the game sound better for everyone.

Thanks, Jack!

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard

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