Author Topic: Improving the sounds  (Read 2093 times)

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Offline jamespetts

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Improving the sounds
« on: March 24, 2017, 09:35:41 PM »
I am currently working on improving the sounds in Pak128.Britain-Ex; the sounds in Simutrans generally are somewhat neglected, being some very old and rather low quality sound files that are often too long and somewhat irritating. I have been trying to replace the basic UI sounds with better sounds, replace the background sounds with less irritating ones (I did that some months ago, in fact) and slowly add realistic vehicle sounds for all the vehicles (which this pakset had hitherto lacked, except for aircraft).

I should be grateful for any feedback on what I have managed to add so far.

Also, if anyone would like to help to improve the pakset without knowing how to code or produce graphics, finding sounds, obtaining permission to use them (if they are not already released under a suitable licence), and editing them to the appropriate length (for vehicle sounds, 3-9 seconds, normalised, with a short fade in and a long fade out; editing can be done in Audacity, which is free and works with both Linux and Windows) would be very helpful. There are lots of vehicles which have more or less unique sounds (especially internal combustion engine land vehicles) which many familiar with those particular vehicles will recognise and it would be helpful to have unique sounds for each. Other types of vehicle, such as steam locomotives and, to a lesser extent, aircraft and electrically powered land vehicles, can share a smaller number of sounds much more easily, although we are still missing some generic sounds such as for old trams and trolleybuses and various electric trains.

A rich source of suitable sounds may well be Youtube videos, whose creators may be more than happy to let extracts of their work be used for free in a non-commercial open source game: I have already had permission from one Youtube user who makes high quality videos of 'buses, to distribute sound clips from his uploads under the Artistic Licence 1.0.
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Offline AP

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2017, 12:21:07 PM »
If you are addressing the sounds, perhaps you might also consider sorting the music out - certainly the current music is absolutely awful IMO.

I'm unsure if the music follows the pakset or the game core files. Given Simutrans Extended is predominantly british in its content, perhaps some english, welsh, scottish and irish composers' pieces e.g.  butterworth, elgar, delius, maccunn, harty, mathias could set an appropriate tone? It must be possible to get free midi files somewhere for some pleasant background music for all that sort of long-out-of-copyright stuff.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2017, 12:40:03 PM »
I have to say, I tend to turn the music off, as I do not think that background music is that useful in a game when one can just listen to one's own music in the background. The MIDI files are part of the core game, not the pakset.

If you can find some good MIDI files with the right licence, do let me know, but I am doubtful at this stage that the time necessary to do this would be better spent doing this rather than something else.

Incidentally, do you have any views on the new sounds?
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Offline AP

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2017, 06:36:28 PM »
In which case, perhaps just delete the core game music. I also play with it off - unless the game crashes and it resets to "on" and catches me by surprise. It really does detract from the game.

I tend to have the sound effects off too, but it's mainly because the bulldozer tool has a sound attached to it, which gets very repetitive - that one should definitely be silent.

If you want to explore sounds, I would suggest making sound specific to zoom level. I.e. if high up either silent, or just get occasional gust-of-wind type atmospheric noise, if zoomed in, get the sound for the industry or action where you are.

Afraid I don't have audio editing knowledge, but your proposed approach sounds a good one.

Perhaps a ping noise for important alerts like stuck vehicles / no route (but definitely no noise for alerts like overcrowding). The old block instruments had a bell in them for sending of messages.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2017, 08:31:51 PM »
I should be interested in other people's views on deleting the music entirely: I wonder whether it might be a bit odd considering that the game has an entire music option which would no longer be available. I wonder whether setting it to be disabled by default might be a better idea? I should be interested in other people's views on this topic.

As to the bulldozer tool, I have improved the sound of that by using a very short fragment of the recording of a wrecker ball. Do you think that you might try turning the sound effects on and seeing whether this new bulldozer sound is less repetitive than the previous one when used in a live game?

I do not have time at present to make any non-trivial changes to the audio code as would be required for features such as adding wind noises, but the existing code from Standard does alter the volume level at different degrees of distance from the sound emitter when that emitter is a vehicle (I am not sure whether it also changes with zoom level).

Standard has recently added sound effects for producing industries; I have not added these into the pakset yet, but the code should work in Extended. What are your (and others') views on this feature and whether it would add to the atmosphere or be irritating?
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Offline Vladki

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2017, 09:29:07 PM »
I have been playing for long time without sound. The midi's are too repetitive, and I also hate the default bulldozer and dialog opening sounds. Also I did not want to disturb others by random noise. OTOH ambient sounds of accelerating vehicles are a nice touch. Perhaps having a switch for sound categories: tools, notifications, ambient (engines, factories, wild geese, sheep, wind, sea...).
For ambient noises a configurable zoom level would be nice.

But frankly - don't bother. There are much more interesting and important things than sounds in this game. I would keep it as is, as long as it works, but if it gets broken, I would get rid of it.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2017, 09:35:11 PM »
I have already implemented most of the vehicle sound effects; could you try re-enabling the sound to see whether the new bulldozer/dialogue select sounds are less annoying?

I should be interested in others' views on the notification sounds.
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Offline Vladki

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2017, 10:11:49 PM »
The new sound for removing track is OK, but the "click" of info dialog, or when switching tools is annoying. Also the big explosion sound of general bulldoze tool is quite unpleasant. Vehicle noises are nice, but they are more silent than the tool sounds. If I turn the volume up to hear the vehicles, then the tool clicks are too noisy.

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2017, 10:44:09 PM »
Thank you for your feedback. May I ask what kind of sound that you would find better for switching and bulldozing? I think that we need sounds for those things to confirm to the user that the event has occurred. Would quieter versions of the existing sounds suffice, or is it quality rather than loudness that is the problem?
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Offline Vladki

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2017, 11:20:11 PM »
I think it is more about loundess than the sample itself. If I want to enjoy the chooo-chooo of steam engine, I have to turn the volume quite high, and then get scared by bulldozer or just clicking anywhere ...

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2017, 12:29:43 AM »
That is very useful, thank you.

May I ask whether anyone else has any views on this topic?
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Offline AP

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2017, 04:49:30 PM »
The coins every time money is spent is subtle but repeptitive. The bulldozer noise is definitely repetitive.

I couldn't figure out how /when vehicles make noise.

I think the basic consideration should be "what does it add". You have visual feedback of money being spent, so aural feedback is not necessary (visual is more data rich as it gives actual cost. Ditto clicks have visual feedback (effect is seen).

Either sound effects are about atmosphere, or about informing gameplay. It could be you get a sound, but no visual cue, if you try to select an obsolete vehicle, for instance, or match a passenger locomotive with a freight train.   Or if your view includes a convoy that is reversing, versus one that is waiting for a schedule slot, they could make different noises (shunting noises vs tick-tock, for example) to hint at something not otherwise apparent.

You could use block telegraph bell codes to create a chime alert of "obstruction danger" if any train executes an emergency stop.

I'm sure other "useful" ideas could be thought of.

At present we get "speed record" alerts, which are not so helpful. Better to get profit/loss alerts, which could have sound equivalents, perhaps.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2017, 04:56:49 PM »
We are straying from the discussion of the sounds themselves to a discussion of feature requests for a redesigned sound system. What I am doing at present is replacing the existing sounds with new sounds that are better than the old ones (in fact, I have largely completed this, although some road vehicles still need sounds and I have not added industry sounds yet). Changing the sound system would require a lot of coding work, which is a different level of resource commitment entirely.

There is no reason in principle that it might not be changed in the future, but that is not a priority at present.
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Offline AP

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2017, 05:05:28 PM »
Sorry James!!

Could you give me a specific example of vehicles with sounds, and what it is necessary to do with those entities to hear the sounds, and I'll have a listen.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2017, 06:27:18 PM »
The trigger for sounds is vehicles setting off from a stop, although no sound will play if another sound has been triggered within a randomised number of seconds of the second vehicle sound trying to play. As to which vehicles have sounds, most 'buses from the latter 1930s onwards have them, all trolleybuses have them, all railway steam locomotives have them, most electric and diesel railway locomotives and multiple unites have them, most ships have them (albeit in that case just the original horns) and all aircraft (possibly except the airships - I cannot remember now) have them.
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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2017, 03:44:15 PM »
I have just reduced the amplitude of the main interaction sounds (the money sound, the bulldozer sound, the digging/building sound and the click sound). Can anyone let me know whether this is an improvement and makes the sounds as a whole easier to listen to?
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Offline AP

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2017, 02:22:32 PM »
The interaction sounds still seem much louder than the vehicle departure sounds.  But the departure sounds seem generally good.

It's perhaps a shame you can't toggle one off but not the other, like you can with the midi vs the noises.

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2017, 02:32:41 PM »
The interaction sounds still seem much louder than the vehicle departure sounds.  But the departure sounds seem generally good.

It's perhaps a shame you can't toggle one off but not the other, like you can with the midi vs the noises.

The difference between the two types of sound is that the interaction sounds are always played at full volume, whereas the vehicle sounds are played at a volume dependent on the distance between the vehicle and the centre of the screen. How much louder do you find the interaction sounds to be, and have you any comment on the quality of the interaction sounds?
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Offline AP

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2017, 02:56:58 PM »
The vehicle volumes changing as you say makes sense. But only serves to empahsise the interaction sounds.

The interaction sound quality is absolutely fine, I just find them too intrusive by far, and would turn it off by default as it currently stands, therefore loosing out on the vehicle sounds too.

I would suggest the interaction sound be at most half as loud as the quietest possible vehicle sound, to get a better balance.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2017, 03:09:27 PM »
Thank you for your feedback. I do try to make the vehicle sounds of very similar amplitude by normalising them, and I thought that I had halved the volume of the interaction sounds by comparison. When you play the original .wav files in the sound folder, do the interaction sounds seem as loud as the vehicle sounds still? They need to be loud enough to be heard clearly at least.

Edit: I have further reduced the volume of the interaction sounds, which should be available with the next nightly release. I should be grateful for any further feedback on this topic taking into account the modified sounds.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2017, 03:20:59 PM by jamespetts »
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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #20 on: October 01, 2017, 03:32:41 PM »
I have just committed a change to the code, which should appear in to-morrow's nightly build, that make the vehicle sounds a little louder by making the loudness be based on the distance from the centre of the screen rather than from the mouse cursor, by reducing the rate of the falloff and by having all sounds within an 8 tile radius of the centre of the screen play at full volume, falling off only from there.

I should be grateful for feedback on whether this change makes the ratio of the vehicle sounds to the interaction sounds better.
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Offline Vladki

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #21 on: October 03, 2017, 08:53:50 PM »
The ratio of click/vehicle noises is imho much better. However it would be best if they could be adjusted individually.
But now I hear even vehicles that are off screen. Is that intended?

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #22 on: October 03, 2017, 09:24:39 PM »
It was always the case (and remains so in Standard) that vehicles a little way off the screen can be heard.

Individual adjustment would be ideal, but would require a lot more work. I am glad that the current setup is an improvement, however: thank you for reporting on that.
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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2017, 12:36:52 AM »
I have been working on industry sounds, and have added quite a few for the next nightly pakset build. I should be grateful for any feedback on these new sounds.
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Offline Vladki

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #24 on: October 09, 2017, 08:09:34 PM »
Nice sounds. Even:
Code: [Select]
                 (__)
                 (oo)
           /------\/
          / |    ||   
         *  /\---/\
            ~~   ~~   
..."Have you mooed today?"...

Offline Vladki

Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #25 on: October 10, 2017, 06:45:00 PM »
I have a few ideas about sounds. I know that this is the lowest priority just wanted to share.

1. the monotonous sound for power plant is really unpleasant. Perhaps a sound of electric spark (switching off a high voltage switch), or the decent hum of high voltage line.
or

2. it would be nice if one could switch groups of sounds separately (industry, vehicles, actions), or even the chance to silence one specific industry / convoy.

3. And the most crazy one: when there are more industries and vehicles on the screen, it is not easy to guess which sound is what. I just relate them on the assumption that the industry sound starts at the same time as smoke, and vehicle sound when it starts to move. It would be super cool, of the sound is balanced in left and right speaker, according to its position on screen

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Improving the sounds
« Reply #26 on: October 10, 2017, 10:27:55 PM »
In terms of the power station, I did consider transformer humming noises, but rejected them on the basis that that is what it sounds like to be next to a substation, not a power station: if sound were ever implemented for substations, that would be the noise to use for that. It would thus be inconsistent with all of the other industry noises, as it would be more symbolic and less the noise that one would actually hear if one were standing outside the power station. Those symbolic sort of sounds would be better if the sound were played, not when the industry is running, but when the player clicks on the industry in game; but that is not how the sounds work.

It would indeed be nice if it were possible to switch groups of sounds individually, but, as you note, this is very low priority. If anyone would like to code this, I should happily incorporate it.

As to stereo balance, it would indeed be a happy thing to be able to have this. I have no idea how one would go about doing this, and I imagine that it would be difficult, as many of the base samples are themselves stereo. However, again, if anyone would like to code this, I should happily incorporate it.
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