No Man’s Sky’s procedural audio is pure musical wizardry

4 min read
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No Man's Sky's audio will be procedural too

No Man’s Sky is a gorgeous, unique and confusing beast. The procedurally-generated space sim is blending art and science together in wonderful ways, creating a game that not only looks and feels different, but also pushes the boundaries of what game systems really are. Everything you see and interact with in the game is going to be created using algorithms to enhance your own personal journey. Turns out, everything you hear is going to be unique as well.

Sound and music are so often overlooked as part of the core experience of a game, despite the fact that a lot of the emotion would be lost without it. Sound designers go to great lengths to create effective sound effects for everything you can and can’t think of in a game, which complements the more organised soundtrack. In No Man’s Sky, these two principles are kept intact, although Audio Diretor Paul Weir is throwing in his own brand of musical science.

No Man’s Sky will feature a regular OST, created and produced by Sheffield band 65daysofstatic (they were the ones who did the song for the game’s reveal trailer). The band has produced an album of sorts, which is used in semi-scripted moments throughout the game. The real magic comes into play with the band’s stored “scraps” from their experimentation, which Weir is using to procedurally generate soundtracks for each unique planet – in real-time.

“Whenever you’re in space, or on a planet, or underwater, or in a cave, that physical state will be attached to its own audio state. I want to use the seed values that create the planets to seed the music. We’ll know what the biosphere is, what the habitat is, and we’ll know how much danger there is. That information is there to use if we want to, and it’ll all act as a driver for the ambient music.”

Weir stresses that what he calls generative music isn’t new to the industry, but rather that no one has created a system like this that doesn’t sound like it’s throwing together random bits of music that don’t fit. He also doesn’t care if players realise the technical wizardry behind it all – he just wants the game to sound phenomenal.

“I don’t need people to know that it’s generative—I really don’t care about that. I want a game that sounds totally beautiful, where you’re on a planet and what you hear is suitable for that planet. That’s all I care about.”

This procedural audio system extends far beyond just ambient music though. While No Man’s Sky is procedurally generating wildlife on planets, their voices are also being created at the same time. The audio system is able to determine the qualities of generated creatures, and then map a relatively fitting sound effect to it.

“So we’ve created our own sort of plug-in, which basically models vocal tracts, and within that we can say it’s got big features, it’s got a big neck, and it’s screaming because it’s angry. Then, the creature’s parameters are mapped onto the game. All the creature sounds you’ve seen in the trailers so far, they’ve been created by our prototype plug-ins, so I’ve always done this from day one.”

There is so much science to No Man’s Sky that it’s sometimes difficult to believe that it’s actually a game. Most of the game’s technological prowess is going to fly over players’ heads though, as the majority will purchase the game for the very same reason they purchase any other. No Man’s Sky, with all it’s fancy systems, will still need to be a compelling experience. And if Hello Games can pull that off, I don’t see anything standing in No Man’s Sky’s way.

Read  Every game out this August – Hellblades, lawbreakers and F1

Last Updated: February 19, 2015

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Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

  • Admiral Chief

    I’m looking forward to this. Just to get lost in the game. I think I need a break, and an adventure

    • Raptor Rants A Lot:Original #7

      Couldn’t agree more. Can’t wait to get horribly lost to the point of not knowing what the heck to do next.

      Or maybe I can build up a colony on some remote planet and call it planet rants #7

    • Spaffy

      What is your purpose in this game? Is there a campaign or a mission or what?

      • Michael

        Oscar can explain it for you.

        • Spaffy

          Oh fuck off.

          • Michael

            moneybabies

          • Spaffy

            ???

          • Hammersteyn

            Don’t respond, prick will leave eventually.

      • Raptor Rants A Lot:Original #7

        To explore. I believe that is the main purpose

        • Spaffy

          And that might keep you busy for a while, but then?

          • Raptor Rants A Lot:Original #7

            Well you feel that way perhaps. I don’t. I would love a game that I can randomly just go exploring in

          • Michael

            Then you will be conquered by Oscars empire.

      • Jay

        At the game’s start, everyone is scattered across the galactic edge,
        and the goal (if you decide you want to pursue it) is to make your way
        to the core. The starting ship won’t be able to make it there just by
        setting a waypoint and hitting the fast travel button, of course, so
        it’s going to take significant ship upgrades plus cooperation with other
        players to reach the galaxy’s heart. Or you can blow off the quest and
        just go sightseeing, if fighting to the center seems like too much
        trouble.

        Despite the game’s focus on exploration, there’s going to be plenty
        of shooting to go along with it. How much and how avoidable is still
        unknown, but it’s not a safe galaxy out there. Pirates will happily
        blow you out of the sky and take everything you’ve brought along, and
        while you can’t die, being stuck on a planet with little more than your
        ship’s escape pod/cockpit is a situation that’s bound to take a while to
        recover from. How resources are harvested and turned into a working
        space ship is another unanswered question, but with a bit of luck your
        temporary planetary home will have a nice supply of resources to help
        you recover.

        It all depends on the planet, though. Planetary makeup is determined
        by its chemical composition and a few rules that lead to complicated
        results. Atmosphere, mineral resources, plant color, and animal life
        are all determined by the variables that create the world, and the
        farther into the galaxy you go the stranger the worlds will get. The
        trailer featured an Earthlike world to help ground the game’s first
        showing, but one of the driving design decisions is to create an
        exciting future based on science fiction book covers of the 70s/80s,
        before everything went all space-marine grey.

        Hello Games intentionally didn’t show anything too crazy because No Man’s Sky is a
        game of discovery, but there’s plenty of room in classic science fiction
        for some truly amazing worlds populated by fantastic creatures. AI
        civilizations have also been hinted at, and that’s yet another question
        to toss on the “unknown” pile for the moment.”

        http://www.hardcoregamer.com/2013/12/15/what-we-know-about-no-mans-sky-2/66075/

        • Spaffy

          Thank you.

  • Kensei Seraph

    Anyone who says you don’t need to be smart to understand a game has obviously not looked at No Man’s Sky.

  • Jac7

    No Man’s Sky, because the woman also took that in the divorce settlement.

  • Travis

    This is the game I am most looking forward to this year. Looks (and sounds) amazing

  • Rock789

    The more they talk about No Man’s Sky, the more it sounds amazing! And if they can pull it all off, it’s going to be EPIC on a whole ‘nother scale.

    I just hope they can pull it off – it’s a helluva lot to do for what is still regarded as an indie studio (although I know they do now have the backing of Sony)… I wish them all the best and I will definitely be watching this closely and buying it, Day One, should they succeed!

    • Matthew Holliday

      aye, it all sounds very good on paper.
      hoping the ingame is as good as it sounds.

  • Sageville

    I have such high hopes for this title, bring it!

  • Graeme Selvan

    Yeah, i really need this now!

  • Skoobaz

    I’ve been looking for some stand alone software that generates ambient type music on the fly. Any ideas?

    • loftie

      there’s this thing called a radio ;-P

      • Skoobaz

        That’s so last century

  • evan

    I truly do believe that the PROCEDURALLY generated music system is the least talked about things in regards to NMSs mindblowing innovations. This generative music system could really create some dynamic and unique player expwriences. I’m so intrigued and interested in NMS, I can’t wait.:D

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