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

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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.

Last Updated: February 19, 2015

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.

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