MMO sounds (of your doom!)

It’s difficult to really explain how big an impact sound has in DarkFall to anyone who has not played it, yet has played other MMOs that promote sound as being important. Usually in those games the sound is ‘important’ because an audio cue will tell you when to dodge or block, or alert you to a secret. If you miss the cue, you are likely not playing at maximum efficiency, but it’s not a make or break issue. Sound in DarkFall is deadly.

I was out farming some trolls near our clan city of Hammerdale, a location that is only a few steps away from an Air Elemental spawn. The Air Elementals however are not found on the ground, but rather on a floating island high above, accessible only by a floating platform that travels up and down on a regular interval (no fairy wings here). It’s something that unless you specifically look up, or you just happen to cross the platform’s location when it’s near the ground, you can entirely miss the whole thing as you pass by. That is, you could if no one is fighting the elementals; because if someone is there, you can hear them. Not only does the sound of combat travel a great distance, the sounds of magic being used is much easier to pick out, and the Air Elementals love to cast lots of noisy spells.

So as I was wrapping up with the trolls, I rode near the location of the Air Elementals and sure enough the sounds of combat can barely be heard from high above. The spawn itself is only three elementals, which makes it ideal for solo farming but a waste for two or more people. The drops are decent but not great, and generally it’s not a hugely popular spot (it’s somewhat hidden location no doubt helping in this regard). The plan was simple, jump and gank whoever is farming. As the Air Elementals are a glass cannon-type mob they deal some rather considerable damage, and most of the time they leave you heavily wounded after a fight.

So my adrenalin is now pumping as I slowly, slowly ride up the lift on my way to see exactly who is farming the Air Elementals, and in what shape they are in. A lot of things can go horribly wrong here. If the person farming is resting, they might be watching the lift location and if they see me riding up, they are going to nuke the hell out of me. They might also spot me before I want them to, and if that happens they can quickly mount up and ride away with little hope of being caught. And of course, I could catch them in-between spawns, we fight it out, and they beat me, taking all the loot I’ve been farming off the trolls in the process.

Finally at the top, I still hear the sounds of combat and casting, which is a good thing because it means the player is going to be focused on the mobs and is very likely to miss the sound of my character walking around to spot him. I’ve been to this spot to farm before, so I know the layout and what areas are best for creeping around. At one corner, I can look around and see the other player fighting while he can’t see me, and the plan now is to attack as soon as he kills the last Air Elemental. As luck would have it, he does this and ends at around 25% HP, with his back to me. Perfect. I sprint out, two-hander drawn, and rush up and swing away. After taking a few hits and dropping to 5%, he jukes me enough to get out of melee range, and manages to jump off the island. You can’t die from falling damage, so his 5% HP won’t factor into that, and I leap off the ledge in pursuit. As we fall, I switch to my bow and start shooting arrows downward, bullets-flying-as-you-fall Matrix style. Luckily for me I’m a crappy shooter, as I’m fairly sure if I killed him while falling his tombstone would have remained in the air (not 100% on this though).

We both land on the ground, and he quickly spawns his mount to make his escape. Before he gets more then a foot further, a well placed arrow hits him in the back and off his mount. Win. After some quick looting, I jump on his already-spawned mount and make my way home. It’s only at this point do I realize how tense I was that entire experience, all to jump someone at 25%. Sad and yet very satisfying at the same time, and all thanks to the sound actually having an impact in DarkFall. Good times.

19 Responses to MMO sounds (of your doom!)

  1. Anjin says:

    Jeez. Sounds like the MMO of choice for sociopaths. Please tell me he said something rude about your parentage to earn such treatment?

  2. Hirvox says:

    Anjin: Don’t worry. At some point you’ll grow up and learn to know the difference between fantasy and reality. For example, actors playing bad people in movies are not really evil.

  3. Malakili says:

    Its pretty sad that a common feature in FPS games for years is just now starting to be leverages in RPGS in the same way. Good to see it though.

    • syncaine says:

      Agreed.

      Part of it though has to be tech reasons. I can pinpoint someones location around me based on sound, but I can do so because I’ve got some high-end headphones hooked into my X-Fi card. Before, with on-board sound and two speakers, just picking out the sound of someone mining as I rode past was tough, let alone direction. I’m guessing not many people spend hundreds of dollars to get the absolute best sound out of their MMO, especially since so many of them people mute all too often.

      Another part is design. Why have pinpoint sound location in a game like WAR, where I can see your red nametag for miles, and I can tab target over to you even if I can’t see you on my screen. Plus what’s the use of sneaking up on someone from behind when you can just hit your stealth key and become 100% invisible and silent. The stealth ‘skill’ in DarkFall is coming up behind someone and hoping they don’t hear your footsteps, or hiding behind a rock/tree and hoping the enemy does not spot and chase you.

  4. Adam says:

    Has anyone upgraded from onboard sound to X-Fi in Darkfall?

    Trying to decide if it’s worth doing (its not the money its the drama of the pci-e slot being crammed in next to monster viddie card)?

    Some of the sounds are inconsistent in my current environment with onboard intel sound.

    • syncaine says:

      I have two comps, one is on-board sound the other is my X-Fi Alienware. The sound in DarkFall is night/day on the Alienware, even though I have above-average headphones on the on-board comp as well. The X-Fi card + top-shelf headphones just do a great job separating all the sounds, so even though you can have 3-4 people walking around, shooting arrows, riding, you still get good positional audio from each sound source. On the on-board setup, all those sounds kinda ‘mesh’ and you can’t tell the exact direction of each source. If you have the money, I would highly recommend the X-Fi card and good headphones for any game, but especially DarkFall.

  5. Bhagpuss says:

    I used to play with headphones on and there’s no doubt that it’s both much more atmospheric and greatly superior for sensing both position and direnction.

    On the other hand, it makes it hard to listen to the radio, which I do for about 80% of my gametime (80% of my non-gametime too, really). I have tried putting the radio through the headphones too, but it’s a bit too much to process, for my ears, not the ‘phones.

    When it comes down to it, I think I’d rather have a less-focused experience and get to hear some interesting documentary or drama while I play. Hmm, but since right now I’ve got the radio off for once, perhaps I might take a look for the headphones…

    • Malakili says:

      I often listen to things when I am playing a game, I just make sure to avoid it when playing sound sensitive games. If you don’t like to pay attention to the sound of games, then a game where sound matters (which is probably also a game where you undivided attention matters), isn’t the best choice for you.

  6. Dblade says:

    I can’t play an MMO without listening to the sound effects. I react very quickly to sound, and I’ve had several times where audio cues alone made the difference between death and life. Careful listening can alert you to a lot of things, and I never really understand why people block it out.

  7. n0th says:

    hm, do you actually do anything other than grinding mats/makroing and random ganking in DarkFall?
    PvP without real purpose (other than “OMG I lewted his stuff”) can be fun for a while, but eventually will get boring…

    • Remastered says:

      You might want to read some of his other entries on Darkfall for a pretty easy answer to your question.

      • syncaine says:

        Do you use the email address you used to make that comment? If so check it, if not email me with one you do use. syncaine at yahoo.

  8. vario says:

    Wow, reading that makes DarkFall sound like the greatest game of all time. Do you think you could write such prose about a match of Pong on the 2600?

  9. James says:

    I finally caved and picked up the US version of Darkfall on Sunday. Was out mining last night, when I heard the familiar sound of a bowstring being pulled back.

    I can speak from the other side of the arrow, it’s every bit as intense and fun as it sounds. Just like it was in UO. It’s amazing what adding an element of (pixellated) danger can do to amp up the fun in a game.

  10. theJexster says:

    DF is the first game that I have switched from speaker to headset for. Sound is incredibly important in DF, especially when hunting for harvesters.

    It’s amazing how playing a game like DF changes your play style.

    Before DF, tab, attack, kill, loot, repeat (all while watching TV)

    In DF. Check out mob spawn, clear.
    Check out surrounding area, clear.
    Hide behind something and pull a mob (generally 3 will charge so the something I’m behind helps me get hit less)
    Kill one, heal, look around quickly, loot, look around quickly, skin, heal, lose agro or kill another if health is above half, hide scan area and pull another.

    Being paranoid has never been so fun, and I’m serious!

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