Taking care of sound and audio in competitive FPS game

Audio is very important in games. Sounds gives clues and reference about the current game situation and environment the listener is in. Both silence and high volume sounds have their places, but is important that the audio volume levels are correct.

In competitive FPS game, 3D positional audio plays important role when locating opponents. Headphones are must have to be competitive in multiplayer FPS game.

When working on the audio and sound design for Hardmatch multiplayer FPS game, we take account the importance of audio occlusion, clues, directivity, effects and more.

Audio occlusion

Occlusion happens when there is physical obstacle between listener and audio source. Often the sound doesn't completely get blocked because the sound either reflects from nearby walls which bounce the sound waves to the listener. Also lower frequency sound waves are good at traveling through mediums.

In games, audio occlusion test is often implemented using raycasting. Often good estimation of audio occlusion is done by raycasting multiple lines from the listener to points near by the audio source. Path tracing can also be used to compute better reflection and realistic audio directivity.

In multiplayer FPS games, we argue that realistic audio directivity will cause confusion for the player. For example, gun shots or footstep audio should be seemed to be coming directly from the true audio source and not reflected from walls. Although it isn't realistic, it is important from gameplay perspective to avoid confusing the player.

In Hardmatch, the audio occlusion implementation is still work-in-progress. Currently we use multiple raycast testing to define audio occlusion. The audio is low-pass filtered and reduced by volume depending on the obstacle size.

Improving audio directivity with HRTF

We leverage OpenAL Soft audio library. It comes with an excellent HRTF (Head Related Transfer Function) implementation. In short HRTF simulates how ears will hear the sound from certain point in 3D world. Headphones should be used when HRTF is enabled. With HRTF player gets much better immersion of the sound direction, especially on the up/down axis.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to sign up for the Hardmatch multiplayer FPS alpha test. We would like to have your opinion and findings about the audio in order to improve it.