Well, it is possible to render some truly realistic 3d environments, but
as you said it does require at least a 7.1 surround sound system and a
lot of high end equipment to get that realism out of a game. The problem
is, of course, that very few if any average VI gamer would have the
necessary equipment to get the most out of his/her games. So the biggest
challenge for me is not programming the games to be accessible, but to
program it so it will run on systems with cheap off the shelf hardware
you might find on any Compaq, HP, or Del which do tend to have
substandard equipment for this sort of thing.
For example, a couple of weeks ago I was reading the OpenAL programmers
manuals when they were talking about using the Creative Labs hardware
mixer to produce hardware based 7.1 surround sound support in a video
game title. As I was reading this I was thinking that this was all very
cool, but how many VI gamers would have a Soundblaster Audigy II or
Soundblaster X-Fi with a set of 5.1 surround sound speakers or
headphones. Answer is not very many.
First off I figure the majority of customers got their machines through
some state agency or picked up an e-machine through Best Buy or Wal Mart
so we are not talking a very high end system to begin with. most of
those machines probably have some onboard sound card like an AC-97,
which isn't the greatest sound card in the world for 3d audio, and a
standard set of speakers and headphones. Many are probably running a
laptop which can't be upgraded anyway even if they wanted to. So problem
number one is I have to take account of the fact my target machines
don't really meet the hardware requirements or specifications for
hardware based 3d mixing and 7.1 surround sound support. Plus I can't
honestly expect an interested gamer to run out and pay for $300 worth of
upgrades or so just to play my games. That's obviously not going to
happen in this lifetime.
So the solution is I'm going to have to fall back on software mixing.
Which basically means loading all of the sounds into a standard stereo
mixer and virtualize the sounds that way. It will produce a 3d-like
effect, but it will by no means be as accurate or realistic as if I had
used a hardware mixing solution. So the irony is while the technology to
render some truly amazing 3d environments exists I can't really use it
and have to trade realism for maximum compatibility here.
Fortunately, though, I was never intending on making the 3d audio
support the be all and end all of accessibility in the game engine. Like
the GMA Engine I plan on adding markers, visited here reminders,
commands to view your surroundings, and as much verbal feedback as
humanly possible as needed. I think David Greenwood showed us the best
way to handle an FPS type title, and his engine remains in my mind the
best example of a way to make FPS style games fully accessible to a VI
gamer. So my engine is being designed along the same principles of the
GMA Engine, except for the fact my engine can design fully 3d games as
well as 2d games like MOTA.
James Dietz wrote:
Tom, I look forward to see how you're going to approach a fully 3d
game. I'm not sure it can be as viseral as it is for the sighted
because 3d sound technology isn't really at a level where it's easy to
distinguish whether something is above or below you (unless you have
one of those fancy 8.1 setups which I don't nor do I really have
interest in getting one; too involved).
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