The Sounds of Change

If you look back through the history of EVE’s dev blogs, you’ll find hidden gems strewn throughout the patch previews, feature discussions, and other more mainstream dev bloggy type of writeups. Blogs like The EVE Cluster gave us some inside information about the hardware infrastructure that drives a single shard sandbox games.  There was the cool one where CCP strode along the at-the-time bleeding edge by switching their database storage to a solid state SAN solution that drastically improved ingame market performance overnight.

The list goes on, but now we’re lucky to be treated to a day in the life of CCP WhiteTrashNoise, one member of Team Klang who are largely responsible for me turning back up the volume slider in the settings menu after years of space silence. The audio in EVE has evolved massively over the last couple of years, and with Odyssey things continue to be tweaked and improved; this new blog shows us how these changes were accomplished.

To create a whole new jump sequence when the actual jump is performed I was greatly inspired by a feature I had previously made sound for, the micro jump drive module.  It has a charging period, a jump and an arrival which is different depending on whether you are the ship actually jumping or you are a 3rd party witnessing a jump. I took apart the old jump gate sounds and began manipulating the sound when being fired away through the jump gate and used those waveforms to design a sort of traveling sound, which could then be used to morph between the jump gate sound and going through the wormhole.  In this way no matter what jump sound is used, we are certain that the sound of traveling will always fit the actual jump as well as the arrival.

The complexity of the audio system EVE wields is quite impressive. Instead of just playing the same audio asset no matter what, thought is put towards contextualizing its use for the player and also the observers. The reuse of existing sound assets for new audio means that new sounds will situate themselves naturally with everything else.

The audio team is working hard to get more “Information” in EVE’s soundscape.  This doesn’t mean that this information is a game or experience changer, but more that this is sound that is adaptive to the current situation; it may be very small changes but they are, none the less, important.

Such changes could be that the undocking sound is faction dependent, so depending on your ship’s faction and the type of station you are in the sounds will generate differently.

It’s not so much that they put these little details everywhere, it’s the forethought to leave it open to even more depth to be added later, such as the above point about having faction specific undocking sounds.

The new experience will be that you are dying. And I mean really dying like only a frozen space corpse can.

The sound of the explosion is now much more prominent (to complement with the new visual sequence of the players body floating in space) and is accompanied by the sound of the defeated capsuleer choking in the vacuum of space and taking his or her final breath, along with a re-spawn sound which is race and station dependent.

Name another game where you’ll see the equivalent of “Dying now sounds more realistic” in their patch notes.

…the entire soundscape is changed once entering the hacking interface.

A combination of soothing sounds, atmospheres and interaction sounds will take over, with each type of node has a unique interaction sound depending on the result of the node once clicked.  Every type of tool or object picked up has a sound.

The most important and coolest audio feature in this case is the ability to hover over the yet-to-be-clicked nodes and, as part of the soundscape, hear very subtle changes to the sounds of the computer you are trying to hack.

Having been messing with exploration a lot lately, I started to notice these little sound cues and I honestly figured they were totally random.  For the most part I’m trying my best to be quick about a hack before someone else scans down the anomaly and goes after cans I’ve not checked yet, so I never really fully paid attention to the audio details. Thinking back on it though, I can remember there being a lot of different and interesting audio cues going on for both hacking and archaeology minigames, and I’m definitely going to be paying more attention to them as a hinting detail.

These behind-the-scenes glimpses are pretty rare in the games industry. I can’t think of any other game which delves into this kind of detail about how specific aspects of the game was developed.  The history of EVE’s dev blogs show that CCP is like a proud parent, always willing to point out the achievements of its creation, big and small, and the role they took in its development.

EVE’s always been full of these tiny meticulous details in places you’d never imagine, even though for the most part they’re completely unnecessary. That said, I still love that they are there.  They’re like little signatures made by the developers, indicators of the care and attention brought to the game by the individuals working on it.


Michael Lastucka

Also known as Winterblink in-game. Warp Drive Active's overlord.