StevenOBrien

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Audio Format
Posted on November 09, 2014 at 14:46

The following questions should be considered:

  • What file format? (.wav? .flac? .ogg? .mp3?)
  • What sample rate? (44.1KHz? 48KHz?)
  • What bit depth? (16-bit? 24-bit? 32-bit?)
  • Mono or Stereo?
  • How do you want the audio to be normalized? (i.e. The volume of the loudest point in the file in terms of %)
  • How much compression should be added to the audio? (i.e. How quiet is the audio allowed to get compared to its loudest point?)
  • Do you want the audio to fade in/out at the beginning/end? How long should the fades be?



File format: Audio, like images and videos, has different types of formats. We have lossless formats (where no quality is lost, but filesize is higher), and lossy formats (where quality is lost, but the filesize is smaller). If you're familiar with the differences between image formats, you can compare .wav to .bmp (the raw data), .flac to .png (the audio is compressed like a zip, but nothing is lost), and .ogg/.mp3 to .jpg (barely perceivable information is removed to make the filesize smaller).

As the filesize is reduced, the audio begins to sound fuzzier and will start to artifact. Beyond ~256kbps encoding, however, (compared to ~2mbps for lossless), most people are unable to tell the difference between lossy and lossless. One other downside to lossy formats is that in some cases there is a slight lag before the file can be played back due to the decoding process. For this reason, lossless files are usually used for short sound effects which need to be instantly played back, while lossy files are used for music.

The main difference between .ogg and .mp3 is that .ogg is an open source format, whereas .mp3 is a proprietary format (which means it may be difficult to use in a game under certain circumstances).

Regardless of the format, the longer the sound, the larger the file. To compare filesizes, a 3 minute music file might be ~60MB as a .wav, ~20MB as a .flac, ~8MB as a 320kbps MP3, ~5MB as a 256kbps MP3, ~3MB as a 128kbps MP3, ~1MB for a 64kbps MP3 etc.


Sample rate is like framerate. As you might know if you've ever seen a waveform on an oscilloscope, sound can be visually represented as very fast moving graph, and incredibly, this graph actually contains all of the information necessary to play the sound back again! An audio file, at its most basic level, is a representation of this graph in a digital form.

Similar to how a film camera will take a picture 24 times a second, when audio is digitally recorded, the position of the vibrating diaphragm in the microphone will be recorded at something like 44,100 times per second (44.1KHz).

Similar to video, the higher the framerate (sample rate), the higher quality will be, and the more detail captured. The two main sample rates used today are 44.1KHz (Historically used for CDs, and generally agreed to contain just enough information to perfectly reproduce audio), and 48KHz (Historically used for DVDs). There is also 88.2KHz and 96KHz, which are just multiples of the aforementioned sample rates, but most people agree that the difference is too imperceptible to justify the doubled filesize, especially for use in games. There are also a few smaller sample rates such as 32KHz and 22.05KHz, which some mobile developers use for SFX to retain the quick loading times of lossless files, while keeping the filesize small.

Phones and walkie talkies operate at a sample rate of 8KHz, which is why they tend to sound so muffled.

Keeping the sample rate consistent across all files is important. A sound device can only operate in one sample rate at a time, so if you begin mixing 44.1KHz and 48KHz files (I can't think of any justifiable reason to be doing this), more processing power will have to be spent on converting the mismatched files to the proper sample rate in real-time, and the audio quality will suffer as audio information is dropped or interpolated.

As far as I'm aware, most computer sound devices are set to 44.1KHz by default for compatibility with CD audio, but I may be wrong on this (it would be interesting to do a survey on this). I would imagine most consoles are set at 48KHz for compatibility with DVD/Blu-ray playback.


Bit depth: Similar to how the sample rate defines how often data is captured and stored horizontally, the bit depth defines the resolution in which the point can be placed on the vertical axis. This image does a great job of explaining how Bit depth and Sample rate work together.

32-bit is considered to be of the highest possible quality. 24-bit is very high quality and is used for DVDs. 16-bit audio is considered high quality, and is the quality used on CDs (and is the most common bit depth. Most people are unable to tell the difference at this point.). 8-bit is considered lower quality, but similar to low sample rates, might be used by developers interested in keeping filesizes very small. 4-bit is abyssmal.

Mono or Stereo defines how many channels the audio is coming out of. Mono audio will come out of both of your speakers (or your single speaker) exactly the same. Stereo audio will have slight differences between each speaker, which allows you to give the listener the illusion of audio coming from different places (i.e. for some music, you might have the bass guitar playing on the left, while the piano is playing on the right, while the drums are in the center). Obviously, mono audio will be half the filesize of stereo audio.

If you're using the sound for 3D positional audio, you'd generally want the audio to be in mono (though it's worth discussing this with your sound man beforehand for certain circumstances), as the game engine will automatically be moving the audio across the speakers for the positional effect.

If there's no issue with filesize, you'd generally want music and soundscapes to be in stereo (unless you want the music coming from a radio in the game world, for instance).


Normalization: Volume level in the digital world can be thought of in terms of percent (%). 100% is the loudest sound which can be stored, and 0% is complete silence. Nothing can be stored above 100%, meaning if you try to push the volume up too high, the top of the waveform gets cut off (which is known as clipping and starts to look like this, your volume meter will go into the red, the audio will sound horrible and distorted, and your players will comment "RIP headphone users".

Unfortunately, even if you keep all of your individual audio files below 100%, adding two or three loud sounds together might push things over the threshold. To prevent this, you can work with your sound man to normalize different audio files to certain levels, so that your life is made easier when balancing all of the audio in-game.

Proper, standardized normalization is also useful for music or soundscapes, so that you don't have to waste time balancing things in-game when one piece of music peaks at 40% while the next peaks at 90% (though you also have to take into consideration the volume difference between quiet and loud music/soundscapes).


Compression (not to be confused with encoding, i.e., making an mp3 or ogg file) is another way of combating issues with volume. "Compressing" a waveform reduces the distance between the loudest part of a sound and the quietest part of a sound, reducing the overall dynamic range. For instance, uncompressed music may have a maximum loudness of 100%, and a minimum loudness of 10%, whereas the same music when compressed may have a maximum loudness of 100% and a minimum loudness of 50%. Have you ever had to turn up some music during a very quiet part, only to have a loud part come in, forcing you to turn it down again? At its most basic level, compression does this automatically to make the audio more consistent and manageable.

There are different levels at which you can compress sound. For instance, you could even have the maximum and minimum loudness both at 100%, but nobody in their right mind would want to do that, right? Too much compression will make the audio sound blaring and squashed. It's important to get the balance right.




To get a better understanding of what all of this means, I'd recommend listening through these examples and observing the filesize differences.




What happen?
Posted on September 26, 2014 at 22:23

On Thursday morning, I attempted to update bash on the server so that we would no longer be vulnerable to the recently discovered shellshock exploit. Unfortunately, our old host iWeb apparently uses a "special" version of bash, so when I updated the server and rebooted it, it didn't want to boot up again. :(

aeron filed a ticket with our host iWeb almost immediately, but unfortunately they didn't respond for over 24 hours until after we began to harrass them on twitter (after which they responded within 5 minutes).

We decided to use this opportunity to (finally) migrate 64digits over to our new server (which is on a host who doesn't take over 24 hours to respond to a support ticket!). The new server is faster, more secure, and far more powerful (we could run 8 minecraft servers concurrently if we wanted to!), so the at least the downtime wasn't for nothing in the end. All credit goes to aeron and Jeremy for getting the server back up and running!

Our new server is on a new IP address, of course, so if anyone is having problems, get them to make sure they're being pointed to 208.73.20.234 instead of 174.142.53.89 (there may be a rouge entry in their hosts file from a previous downtime).

If you're experiencing any strange problems, let us know. Apologies again for the inconvenience.




Block Physics
Posted on September 18, 2014 at 02:57

Yes, it's a Minecraft rip-off.

Ever since I first played Minecraft, I've had this idea for a Minecraft/Garry's Mod-like game which would work out something like this:

- Instead of all blocks in the game belonging to a giant world grid (like Minecraft), when a single block is placed, it becomes an independent object (like Garry's Mod). Blocks can be added to that object, and the object as a whole can then be moved around the world independent of any grid.

- Objects you make out of blocks can have physics applied to them, and independent objects can be constrained to each other in various ways (via an axis, weld, ropes etc. Think Garry's Mod).

- Instead of being limited to a single block size, using the scroll wheel, you'd be able to shift between a standard Minecraft-sized block, and several smaller levels of "detail blocks", which would hopefully allow you to construct far more detailed and intricate objects, while still retaining the simplicity of the Minecraft system:



- Objects can be damaged and destroyed block by block. For instance, if an explosion occurs near an object, it will be torn apart in a realistic manner at a block-by-block resolution.

- Different blocks can have different materials, and therefore different levels of damage resistance and constraint force limits. For instance, two brick blocks attached to each other will be less likely to come apart than two wood blocks attached to each other, or a wood block attached to a brick block. Putting the weight of a ton of steel blocks onto a flimsy frame made out of wooden blocks should cause it to collapse. etc.




I've always figured that this idea was a relatively obvious evolution from Minecraft, so I was expecting it to have been developed by now. It's a game I really want to play, so, after years of waiting, and years of nagging marbs to develop the idea for me, I opened up Unity tonight and gave it a shot, and this is the result:

Download

Right click blocks to add (Note: You can do this while the physics is running, but it's very buggy at the moment)
Left click blocks to destroy (Note: Don't destroy the first block, or you'll have to restart the game!)
"~" to toggle physics
Tab to toggle water/buoyancy

Needless to say, the implementation of my idea is VERY basic, buggy and incomplete at the moment, but I thought some people would find it fun to play with. I've only implemented the basic versions of the first two points. There's no scrolly detail block system implemented yet, but that's coming up next. Please let me know what you think, and if you have any ideas.





Just a non-descript test object


And it falls over! It's kind of fun to experiment with balancing objects in weird ways


I then started making some boats, and wanted to test them out on actual water, so...


I added a basic buoyancy calculation thing to the object


D:. Eventually, I'd like to add in some sort of system which causes the buoyancy to decrease as more damage is done to the boat. That combined with the structural stress thing I'd like to implement (if it's feasible), and we could have some really cool ship sinking simulations! :3




-Steven




Our purpose
Posted on August 10, 2014 at 15:44

When all of humanity's needs are perfectly fulfilled, when there are no more problems left for us to solve, when technology does all of our work for us and maintains itself, and we are all sitting comfortably in our futuristic living rooms staring out of our windows, what will be our purpose? What purpose will we have to stop us from just ending our existence out of boredom?

No matter what we do, whether good or bad, it's almost always aimed towards fulfilling our own needs or helping to fulfill the needs of someone else, another group of people, or humanity in general. When we finally get to the top of this mountain that we struggle to climb, when there's no more pain, hunger, labor, or any other sort of difficulty in this world, what then? What will this struggle ultimately culminate in?

It's a little ironic, really. By solving all of our problems, it seems that we will only be creating an even bigger one to deal with. What are your solutions? Can you come up with something that will be both permanent and fulfilling for us to do when the time comes?




STARTED - Minecraft Snapshot Marathon!
Posted on July 28, 2014 at 09:21



Saturday, August 2nd @ 20:00 GMT


We haven't had one in a very long time, mainly because no official Minecraft updates have been released in a very long time (200 days!).

We could do this any number of ways; We could have a vanilla marathon, a snapshot marathon, a modded marathon, a creative marathon, a marathon with some sort of specific goal in mind, anything. If you're interested, post your ideas, and be sure to +1 the ideas of others that you like, so I can get a good idea of what people are interested in doing. Also, if you have any preferred date/day/time to host the marathon on, post that as well!

Unless people say otherwise, I'm going to preemptively suggest that we do it this Saturday, August 2nd at around 20:00 GMT. Do leave an angry, complaintive comment if you disagree.

If you're interested, leave a comment saying so, and I'll add you to the list of interestinged people!

Be there, or... don't be square! :3

Interestinged People!

1. StevenOBrien
2. Cpsgames
3. eagly
4. Iasper
5. Seleney
6. Ferret
7. Mega
8. CyrusRoberto
9. Kilin
10. JeremyDF93
11. Extravisual
12. LAR Games
13. marbs
14. col not seed that pun coming
15. Acid
16. InvisibleMan
17. Kyoutu
18. Alert Games
19.




What are you working on?
Posted on July 02, 2014 at 14:43

We might as well have a thread in which to post smaller updates that you don't feel will fill out an entire blog. In short, this is the productive version of "What are you listening to?". :)

So, 64digits, what are you working on? Share your screenshots and stories!

Also, please be courteous towards RC dial-up users and put your screenshots/images in [hide] tags.

Also, feel free to comment on the work of others in addition to posting your own stuff.




Only If
Posted on May 29, 2014 at 17:49

After four months of hard work (on my part, and eight on his part), Only If has been released on GameJolt as a (DISCLAIMER: buggy) open beta, and will be released for free on Steam by June 5th!



Of course, I'd recommend downloading the beta from GameJolt. The music will likely make more sense in the context of the game. Also, if you find any bugs, or have any suggestions, feel free to send them to myself or the developer.

Until the next game...
-Steven




No blogs stating that you submitted!
Posted on May 01, 2014 at 00:48

Do not make blogs stating that you submitted your 64DSC entry!

As long as you submitted the game with the genre "64DSC" it is automatically entered into our list of successful entrants. It is not necessary to make a blog to inform us. If you are worried about something or have a question, leave a comment on this blog, send Acid a PM, send me a PM, send aeron a PM, send Kilin a PM, or send Cyrus a PM.

Do not make a blog with your question! It will be removed and ignored! It clogs up the activity feed and knocks your game, and other's games down the list needlessly!

If you do, however, have a legitimate content-ful blog to post telling everyone all about the horrors you went through to submit your game before the deadline, please feel free!

Your friendly neighborhood moderator,
-Steven




Regaining my composure
Posted on April 23, 2014 at 23:40

Heh... hehehe... Did you see what I did there? Hurr hurr hurrrhuerhrsughag. Composure? Composer? HRUHRURAHUGHUGHUHGH... It's not a depression blog. I bet you col not seed that coming...

... Sorry. Have some music:



This is part of the soundtrack to a game which is still in development. The development for this game has been shelved temporarily (since December) while another game is being worked on (the game I'm scoring right now). I've been dying to release this music, and just tonight I finally managed to persuade the developer to allow me to upload it. I hope you all enjoy it!

-Steven




Mark as irrelevant
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 17:15


CLEAR YOUR FUCKING

CACHE





Due to several worrying incidents which have occurred in the past few months, the staff have agreed that it would be best to revoke the ability for a user to delete comments posted to their own blog, in the interest of maintaining free speech and open discussion.

The primary reason OPs have cited for the removal of a user's comment is because they deemed it irrelevant or because they felt it took away from/distracted from the discussion at hand. In order to allow the OP to retain a certain amount of freedom over the direction of the discussion in their blog without having a damaging effect on free speech and open discussion, we have added a new button to comments which reads "Mark as irrelevant".

When a comment is marked as irrelevant, it will appear as an automatically collapsed box, which allows the comment to be easily passed over and ignored, but still allows the comment to be read if anyone wishes to do so.

The poster of a comment may also mark their own comment as irrelevant if they wish to redact what they said without deleting it (We haven't removed the ability for users to delete their own comments). Moderators also have the ability to mark comments as irrelevant.

If you have any questions to ask, complaints to make, or bugs to report, feel free to leave a comment... AS LONG AS IT'S RELEVANT!!!

Also, PLEASE use this feature sparingly.

-Steven




TL;DR:

- OPs can no longer remove comments posted to their blog by other users
- Users can still delete a comment which they posted themselves.

- OPs now have the ability to mark comments as irrelevant, which will turn the comment into a collapsible box (which is automatically collapsed).
- Users can also mark their own comments as irrelevant if they wish to redact what they said without deleting it.

- You can only unmark a comment as irrelevant if you marked it as irrelevant in the first place. (ie, a user won't be able to unmark a comment if an OP marked it, and vice versa)




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