Hi everyone,
Ok, I've basically just spent the better part of today as well as last
night looking into a solution for the panning issues for Mysteries of
the Ancients, and I'm sorry to say so far I'm not coming up with any
viable options or solutions to the problem. As it happpens it is not
just OpenAL that doesn't handle stereo panning well, but most of the
other audio mixing libraries I have tried don't do it either. At least
not the same way it worked in DirectSound. Let me explain the problem
further so we are all on the same page.
As I mentioned earlier on list OpenAL was mainly designed for games
using a 3d audio environment. Therefore sounds are to be renderd using
its 3d renderer. This, however, doesn't translate well into a 2d game
like MOTA because there is no 2d stereo pan control as such for me to
use. Despite a lot of good end user suggestions, e-mailing people, I
haven't found any realistic way to make OpenAL pan sounds the way
DirectSound does. Everyone I've asked pretty much told me to do it the
way I'm already doing it, but the pan effect, as you all know, sounds
nothing like the way it did in DirectSound.
With that in mind I decided to give SDL, the Simple Direct Media
Layer, another try. As it happens SDL Mixer has a stereo pan control,
but it doesn't render sounds the same way as DirectSound does. In
DirectSound you can set the position of the sound to the far left or
the far right and anywhere inbetween by giving it a value between
-10000 and 10000. With SDL Mixer a sound is either left, right, or
center with nothing in between. SDL Mixer allows you to control the
volume for each speaker individually, but you can't really position
the sound in that speaker. So obviously SDL Mixer really isn't a
solution here either.
In terms of cross-platform audio libraries that leaves us with FMOD by
Firelight Technologies. As some of you might remenber we tried this
already in a previous beta, perhaps beta 11 or beta 12, and while FMOD
does support panning it doesn't exactly sound like DirectSound either.
However, based on my personal experience FMOD is probably the closest
we can get to DirectSounds pan control.
However, FMOD is a commercial library and costs a fortune to license.
A single license for one platform is bad enough, but trying to license
it for Windows, Linux, and maybe eventually Mac is completely out of
my price range. We are talking thousands of dollars for a single game.
So that pretty much makes FMOD beyond a realistic solution here.
Some might say that going back to DirectSound is probably the best
solution, but that too is problematic. First of all by developing
games using DirectSound that would rule out any possability of
creating games for Mac and Linux. For some of us, who aren't Windows
users, this option is unacceptable. Second, even for Windows users
using DirectSound is less than a perfect solution in the long run.
As I mentioned before DirectSound hasn't been updated for ages, is now
deprecated by Microsoft, and is scheduled for removal from the
DirectSound API. It only comes with Windows 7 for backwards
compatibility with older games, but who knows how long that backwards
compatibility will last.  Using DirectSound is probably fine for now,
but what about down the road when XAudio2 eventually replaces
DirectSound on future Windows operating systems?
Actually, as of Windows 7 XAudio2 is now the recommended and prefered
audio mixer for game developers. The only problem is it doesn't have a
stereo pan option either. Like everything else you have to position
sounds through its 3d renderer. There may be a way to create a custom
pan option, but the way to do it is mostly hypathetical at this point.
I'd hate to spend days and even weeks working on trying to research
and create my own stereo pan control for XAudio2 when I'm not even
sure it will work, or that I can even get the desired results by
spending the time and effort.
So bottom line we have a fairly big choice to make. We can either
return to DirectSound for the short term, worry about finding a new
replacement for DirectSound later, or we can just go ahead and cut our
losses and go with OpenAL or something else to begin with. I agree
that panning sounds with OpenAL isn't quite the same, but I think it
is acceptable considering the fact that there really aren't any clear
cut alternatives. Plus since I'm mainly thinking about creating 3d
first-person games anyway, rather than lots of side-scrollers, the
problem we are talking about mainly applies to this single game. Other
games like Raceway and STFC won't have this issue. So I'm personally
in favor of just accepting OpenAL, such as it is, and moving on to
other issues.
However, as some of you have paid for this game I'd like to hear your
thoughts. I'm not really certain what I should do, and I'm frankly
tired of hearing about complaints over the audio panning issue. I
can't fix it without going back to DirectX, and that is only ashort
term solution anyway. So I really do need some advice what to do here.


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