- 1 Introduction
- 2 Sound Requirements
- 3 Music Requirements
- 4 Music Engine
- 5 Voice Acting
Thes guidelines standardize the sound and music in order to achieve equal quality for different contributions throughout the game. This standards are applicable for:
- voices for intership radio transmissions, and perhaps campaign fixers
- other sounds
For information on the broadcast project, in which we hope to emulate radio-station-like entertainment in addition to music, see In-Flight_Non-Musical_Audio
The following quality settings apply:
- 22kHz sample rate
- Mono for voices and for sound effects that have no associated location
- Stereo for music, composite (music plus other sounds) and for sound effects that have a location relative to the listener
- Vorbis OGG format for the final production version
The soundserver (integrated in VS) handles playing songs, while the Vega Strike engine handles sequencing them using the defined playlists (which are selected according to the situation by dj_lib.py).
The soundserver uses SDL to play them, which supports .mp3, .ogg, .wav, I don't think it supports flac (perhaps on Windows), and it does support .mid (but I have the feeling it will get dropped, at least temporarily, during the soundsystem rewrite, as supporting midi with only OpenAL is simply impossible - we'll get something later, though, don't despair).
.m3u lists are just like winamp lists, which are a bunch of files, each on its own line (relative paths are computed against where soundserver.exe is, which is usually inside the bin folder - and usually you want to always say ../music/something ), and you can add comments (on their own line, I don't think it works on the same line) by starting the line with '#'.
Playlists are stored in the user-data folder (usually under ~/.vegastrike), inside their own folder hierarchy (~/.vegasrtike/playlists). Inside playlists, you may find additional grouping, by situation:
Inside each, you'll find a playlist for each faction. Usually, the faction is selected according to the system owner at the time battle/threat/peace happens, though inside peace you'll have also around_sig and away, which get selected according to whether you are near a significant unit (base or planet - dockable) or not. That all gets configured in dj_lib.py, so if you add playlists, you have to add them to dj_lib.py as well - I doubt anyone will have to add playlists, though.
Inside playlists, you can (currently - until the extension commands get added) bias the frequency of some tracks by simply repeating them on the playlist. The engine will avoid playing the same track over and over, having a record of recently played tracks.
(information provided by klauss)
Inserting Your Own Music
Vega Strike allows you to use your own music files as background music within the game.
Useable File formats
These lists contain all of the playlist files.
The Playlist format is simple. Each playlist filename is in the format name.m3u. Within each Playlist are lines noting the location of all music files for that playlist:
<path to music file> <path to music file> <path to music file>
../music/peace1.ogg ../music/peace2.ogg ../music/peace4.ogg ../music/peace5.ogg ../music/peace6.ogg ../music/peace5_p.ogg ../music/peace6_p.ogg
Music Engine Future Plans
Eventually, we'll add sequencing commands to playlists, disguised as special comments (probably '#!<command>') - that will allow us to specify a bayesian network for the tracks, with (potentially) custom transition - that means, each track can have a certain subset of tracks follow it, with a certain assigned probability. That's not that far in the future, it needs not wait for the rewrite, as it's doable as an enhancement to the current engine.
(information provided by klauss)
Voice acting provides in-game voices for ship-to-ship radio transmissions, and perhaps some day for campaign fixer conversations. Ongoing projects are discussed here http://forums.vega-strike.org/viewforum.php?f=29
Current voice acting projects are as follows:
- Oswald "flight tutorial" mission: DONE by Turbo for Pyramid Dec 08
- Ship-to-ship communication: ONGOING see below for the faction list.
- In-flight entertainment (news, etc) ONGOING see In-Flight_Non-Musical_Audio
Fixer Voice Lines
Eventually, as campaign missions are written and finalized, we hope to produce voice acting for them.
Ship to Ship Radio Communication
This type of voice acting provides audio to go with the faction-specific ship to ship communications that lend fun and atmosphere to the game.
Broadcasts are keyed to events in the game, so each line must be in a separate file. To aid integration, the file names should clearly indicate which line it is, using the following format:
aera_lesser-being.ogg for the Aera broadcast, "The lesser being is always vanquished." In this example, "the" was omitted from the file name. rlaan_boring-boring.ogg for the Rlaan broacast, "Boring, boring, tiny one! You bring us no tupperware."
If you only have time to make the recordings, we appreciate your help. But if you have time to help integrate them into the game, that is even better. A complete ship-to-ship faction communication voice acting package should include the OGG files plus the following:
- Documentation: a text file that names the voice artist, lists the lines spoken, and provides any technical details about how the voice was created, edited, etc, to aid future updates.
- All the faction's speech, one voice line per OGG file, listed in VS/data/communications/<FACTION>.xml
- The "bounty text" line from VS/data/modules/missions/bounty_leader.py, which reads: It appears we have something in common, privateer. My name may be on your list, but now your name is on mine. This voice line's file name must be <faction_name>_it-appears-we-have.ogg in order for the code to call it dynamically. Please do not forget to record this line; it is not listed in the <faction>.xml file.
- The updated <faction>.XML file that tells the game to play the sounds, by adding the SOUND FILE tag after each node's text comment and before the EDGE INDEX tag. If the node contains two sets of text, just add two SOUND FILE tags one after the other. Here is an example of the SOUND FILE tag and where it goes:
<node text="Make room for your betters, friends. Room for your betters." relationship=".03125"> <!-- node 4(random good chatter)--> <sound file="communications/sounds/highborn/highborn_make-room-for.ogg" sex="0"/> <edge index="4"/> <edge index="5"/>
Note: Currently the game code that assigns gender to ships does not function, but when it does and we get enough voice acting for both genders in all factions, female voices will use the tag SEX="1"
- If the faction is an alien language, the following additional guidelines apply:
- the translator's voice should sound like a computer (flat in dynamics and pitch) while remaining clear and understandable; more on the work done up to now in the next section
- The alien voice should speak for 1 second before the translator starts. This helps the player hear the alien voice before the translator kicks in, and the delay represents the translator's need to build context before commencing translation.
- When the translator is speaking, the alien voice should be muted by -7 dB to make the translator easier to understand; exact amount to mute depends somewhat on how "noisy" the alien voice is, so try higher values if -7 dB is enough.
- Also provide a few alien "fixer" lines, i.e. alien jabber without the translator overlay, that we can use for randomly generated fixer conversations in bars or splice into future campaign fixers if we need them
- Ideally there should be 2 versions of the package, one with the translator overlay for the English version of the game, and one without the translator so that voice actors can eventually create versions of the game in other languages. For alien voices that were created via some mathematical or logical algorithm, include information in the documentation about how the alien voice was made, in case we need more of it later.
- For communication lines which end in "[garbled]", indicating that the transmission was interrupted while the pilot was broadcasting, use a 1/2 second burst of white noise, at 70% volume, at the end of the spoken line. One of the militia lines talks about sending data to player, so we did something similar -- a modem "negotiate connection" sound, at double normal speed.
File locations are as follows, so you can test your sounds and hear them in-game before submitting:
- the <faction>.XML file goes in /data/communications/ (it is already there, you are just updating it with the sound files)
- the <faction>_it-appears-we-have.ogg file goes in /data/sounds/missions/
- the remainder of the faction ogg files go in /data/communications/<faction name>/
Faction Voice List
Here is the list of the production status for each faction's voice. If a faction's "citizen" variant has the same lines as the base faction, it is not listed:
- Aera DONE by Turbo Dec 08
- Andolian DONE by CLoneWolf Dec 08
- Andolian Citizen DONE by CLoneWolf Jan 09
- Confed DONE by maxaxle Oct 2012
- Forsaken IN PROGRESS by maxaxle Nov 2012
- Highborn DRAFT by Turbo is in SVN but rivalin has offered to redo this faction's voice
- Homeland Security DONE by Turbo Jan 09
- Hunter DONE by Turbo Feb 09
- Interstellar Church of True Form's Return aka Luddites
- ISO DONE except for one line, by Shadow Oblivion
- Klk'k in discussion here: http://forums.vega-strike.org/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=15206
- LIHW DONE by CLoneWolf Dec 08
- Mechanist DONE by CLoneWolf Jan 09
- Mechanist Citizen DONE by CLoneWolf Jan 09
- Merchant Guild DONE by CLoneWolf Jan 09
- Merchant Guild Citizen DONE by Lisa Willadsen Jan 09
- Militia DONE by Lisa Willadsen Feb 09
- Neutral: This faction has a full range of lines, though the items said tend to be short. We are not sure what ships or bases would use these lines.
- Pirates are under discussion, but no one has offered to record them yet
- Privateer is the player's faction; wingmen you hire can be from different factions so they use their "native" voice
- Rlaan DONE by Turbo Jan 09
- Shaper DONE except for one line, by Fendorin Feb 09, with postproduction and XML editing by CLoneWolf
- Shaper Citizen (currently the same lines as the Shaper military)
- Uln Citizen
- Unadorned DONE by Turbo Jan 09. Currently, the unadorned citizen uses exactly the same lines, so we use the voice set for both.
Creating the Voice for the Ship's Translator
For aliens which speak a non-human language, the ship's translator will provide a "voice-over" of the alien speech. To make the alien speech easier to hear for gameplay immersion, and to account for differences in grammar, the translator voice-over begins one second after the alien voice broadcast.
Some translator lines are the same for all the alien races. Turbo already created those and posted them in the Aera thread http://forums.vega-strike.org/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=13311. What remains to be decided is whether all the translator voices should sound the same.
This took some experimentation to get a good result. Our first attempt used MicroSoft Narrator's "Michael." MS Narrator's voice meets the criteria for a cold soulless machine voice, but he was too hard to understand. We also tried applying a "vocoder" to a human voice, but it was also difficult to understand. What we settled on, to represent 1200 years of voice-generation and translation technology, was the following:
- record all the translator lines in a flat, emotionless voice
- edit out unwanted noises like lip smacking, breathing, etc
- apply noise removal and click removal effects
- apply a low pass filter for 15K Hz, other values default
- apply a high pass filter for 1000 Hz, others default
- apply the leveller (heaviest setting)
- if desired, adjust pitch
- if desired, repeat the click removal, filters, and leveller again
- make other edits as required
- amplify to full volume
The effect of all these transformations, including the repeated ones, is to make the translator's voice as clear as possible but still sound a bit mechanical. You can separate each translator line into a separate file for editing, or keep them in one larger file and cut and paste the translations into the individual alien voice lines.
Creating Alien Voices
A subset of voice acting is the creation of alien voices. The short tutorial below describes how Turbo created the voices for the Aera and Rlaan ship-to-ship communication.
This is the process I used to create alien-sounding speech without actually developing a language. If someone wants to do this for another race, please do, and start a new thread in http://forums.vega-strike.org/viewforum.php to get feedback on your work.
To begin, you should look at my voice acting tutorial to get some basics about sound editing tools and how to use them: http://www.willadsenfamily.org/us/don/ttlg/voice/va_tutorial.htm tutorial
The aera speech is based on humpback whale songs I found on the Internet. I used whales because they came to mind when I read that aera have vocal resonators (Artstyle_guide:Aeran) in their heads, instead of vocal cords in their throats. I plan to use insect sounds for the Rlaan. Other alien races' speech could be created with similar techniques, using different animal sounds or your own voice as the basis for each species. I modified the raw whale sounds by removing noise and clicks, then adjusting the tempo to 350% and the pitch down an octave. Audacity makes this easy. For example a tempo change in Audacity will not change the pitch, so you avoid the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" effect. Then I saved the individual bits of modified whale sound into different files so I had a variety of tones, growls, and grunts from which to choose.
The Rlaan voice was a combination of 3 different insect noises, reduced in pitch by different amounts, and DTMF tones (using the first 8-12 letters of the translated line) adjusted in pitch by -87%. These 4 tracks were split among the left and right stereo channels to simulate Rlaan having 4 mouths spaced several feet apart.
Once you have the alien voice lines created, open each translator's line one at a time. Mute the translator's speech so it will be silent while you work with the alien speech. Import the alien speech bits into a separate track of the same file. For the Aera I used tones to represent positive feelings, growls for negative feelings, and grunts as modifiers. Different aliens may do it differently. Change some individual parts to add variety: change pitch here or there, reverse a few parts if it sounds good, and add silence. It is best to do this with the (muted) translator speech on the screen so you can see how the patterns line up, and it is easy to select a few seconds and play it to see what it sounds like without the voice over the top. For silent portions of the translator speech, put a particularly interesting part of the alien speech there. If the translator is difficult to understand for a particular word, make the alien speech pause at that time. There is no reason an alien language would have the same tempo as its translation. The translator and alien can be approximately the same length, because when you go with the final OGG format both will be mixed into stereo anyhow.
Finally, deamplify the aera speech by -3 to -7 Db, whever sounds good without making the translator difficult to hear. Do this by selecting that track and the Amplify command. Then, unmute the translator, and listen to the alien voice and translator together. Make any final edits to the alien speech. If you can play the result with your eyes closed and understand the translator, while being aware of the alien voice behind it, you have it right.
Voice Acting Uploads
Once you have created a voice set, compress it into a ZIP file and upload it to the web, then post a link in the Music and Sound forum to get everyone's comments. If you do not have web space of your own, we have an FTP site that you can use. The public URL for downloads is http://www.willadsenfamily.org/VSvoice but to get upload access, go to the VS forums and send a PM to Turbo or Loki.
Once files have been tested, Turbo can commit them to SVN.