In Apocrypha, no one can hear you explode

13th March 2009 – 10.25 am

New EVE Online expansion Apocrypha may be graphically shiny but the sound is awfully disappointing. To get a better look at space in high-definition I jump in to the pod of my Drake battlecruiser and pick up a mission from my agent, leaving my industrial ships behind for the night. The Drake's metallic exterior glisters in the lights of the space station's dock, looking far too pretty for a agent of destruction, and I am keen to see how shiny it is when being pounded by missiles and laser fire. My agent asks me to blow up a space telescope, which is a pleasant bit of senseless destruction for an evening.

I warp to the deadspace pocket, activate my shield hardeners and start locking on to targets, as they lock on to me. It is not long before my missiles are hitting hostile hulls, enemy ships disintegrating in glorious explosions of flame and sparks, laser beams igniting my shield's defences in retaliation. The level of detail is much increased, I can almost feel the hot radiation of the beams flaring in the hard vacuum of space and see holes being punched through my shields. It is just a shame that I can't hear any of it.

The new sound engine seems to be much more strict about sounds getting weaker the further you are from them, which is not an unfair realisation, but the problem is that it doesn't work when trying to make use of the tactical overlay. When using the tactical overlay it is best to zoom out a considerable distance so that the whole volume of conflict, or a good portion thereof, can be viewed, allowing more tactical decisions to be made as to which ships to engage first. Being able to view quickly the numer of ships and strength of fire in each direction, as well as seeing when reinforcements arrive, is made possible by using a distant view of your ship and the overlay. The overlay also offers useful information about targeting and module ranges, and using visual information makes it easier to pick off clumps of rats, whereas using the list of the overview two groups of rats at roughly the same distance could be mistaken for a single group and could be aggroed all at once.

As much as visual information is useful so too are audible cues. Knowing that missiles are hitting your shields or armour is always good to be aware of, as hardeners or boosters can be brought on-line, and being able to hear this rather having to rely on sight is an excellent cue, just as much as hearing when the enemy fire stops. Noting when an enemy ships explodes lets you move on to a different target but this is not always determined quickly by sight when multiple targets are engaged both by drones and more than a handful of missile launchers. Being able to hear every explosion around you is a welcome, and sometimes thrilling, cue to focus your attention back to target management for a few seconds. More importantly, being denied these audible cues makes combat more awkward, having to pay much more attention to every ship in the overlay and overview as well as the fluctuating status of your own ship.

I can understand the physics that dictates sounds getting weaker the further you get from the source but if we wanted an engine that was physically accurate we shouldn't be hearing sounds at all in space, with it being a vacuum. The accuracy of the simulation is already compromised by allowing sounds to be heard outside one's own vessel. It is possible to use the justification that the ship's computer calculates what sounds are being made by using its own physics engine based on sensor data and recreates the sounds for the benefit of the capsuleer, but if it is just a simulacrum projected to the capsuleer then there is no reason why the sounds cannot then be heard whatever viewpoint you set for yourself.

Finally, being in the midst of a heated space battle—lasers flaring, missiles detonating, ships and structures exploding in massive fireballs—and hearing nothing is boring. There is remarkably little excitement from being attacked by two dozen space pirates when the attack is effectively conducted in silence. I become far more detached from the action when the already technical combat is further reduced to only monitoring changing numbers because of the lack of gut-wrenching explosions.

It may be intellectually interesting to note how a simple lack of sounds can change the perception of a game's 'exciting space battle' to become instead 'simple resource management', but I hope the sounds are soon tweaked back to their previous settings so that I can once again become immersed in space combat.

  1. 4 Responses to “In Apocrypha, no one can hear you explode”

  2. For me, I have the sounds almost always turned off so I can hear corpmates/gang mates in voice comms. :/
    TBH, I like the idea of distance affecting sounds but I thought it was already like that a bit in pre-Apoc.

    By Kirith Kodachi on Mar 13, 2009

  3. Yes, hearing voice chat over the game is necessary, something I make use of in my guild in World of Warcraft.

    Having distance affecting sounds is good in theory but the implementation is flawed in that being zoomed out just 30 km from my ship practically silences everything before having my speakers blast out all the background noises once I've docked in a station. There needs to be a better balance.

    By pjharvey on Mar 13, 2009

  4. It was like this to some extent in pre-Apoc. I have a crappy headset and would often zoom way out when talking on vent so the game sounds wouldn't create feedback in my mic as it often did. It seems more to me that with Apoc, its just a lot more defined, and a lot more sensitive. But at the same time, everything sounds much quieter to me all around even with the sound levels cranked to max. (except in stations, which always comes across as deafeningly loud.) Either way, I agree with the overall theme of this post in thinking a lot of the sound quality took a nose dive with this new release.

    By Mikolan on Mar 13, 2009

  5. Agree with you fully here. Though I keep sound minimized when in vent, it was always nice to hear the sound when you were being targeted. Also helped to hear Aurora say when you were out of ammo, cap had been depleted, or a module deactivated. They definitely need to fix this.

    By Geaux Tiger on Mar 13, 2009

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.