A little while ago I posted an interview with Simon Goodwin, the audio programming guru at Codemasters who was responsible for introducing Ambisonics into their game DIRT. Simon recently emailed me announcing a new game “Race Driver GRID” … which leverages Ambisonic sound even further, with more concurrent sources, and greater realism.
Rather then interpret the message, I’ll copy Simon’s email right here:
I though you might like to know that our latest game RaceDriver GRID deploys hybrid third- order Ambisonics (again) on PlayStation 3, plus a lot more concurrent sound sources (at times hundreds play at once, each generating eight WXYZPQUV Ambisonic components) – all with distance and occlusion filter effects updated 30 times a second. It already looks as if GRID will outsell DiRT (current sales around 1.5 million – is this the biggest Ambisonic deployment yet?) and is getting great reviews.
Perhaps more interesting to your readers is that this time we also managed to get Ambisonics running on Microsoft’s Xbox 360, via OpenAL and the XAudio system – despite having been told that we’d need to wait for XAudio2 for the required phase control ;-). Since the Xbox 360 hardware is limited to Dolby Digital AC3 5.1 output at best (even when using the recently tacked-on HDMI port) the intermediate mix only uses first-order horizontal B-format and so the sweet spot is quite small, compared with third-order over HDMI on PlayStation 3.
But it still sounds a lot better than the pairwise panning which XAudio provides by default, whatever the listening position, and if you’re nicely centred between the speakers you get a significant advantage over other players from the positional cues – indeed I was glad to see a non-technical reviewer comment to the effect that that it was the first time they’d had a
clear idea of the positions of cars around them in a game, and been able to drive (dodging or blocking) accordingly. Just as we’d expect, and about time!
I recently spoke to a chap from the BBC, at the Cambridge AES conference, who said he bought DiRT for PS3 specifically because it used Ambisonics – he only played it on an ITU 5.1 rig rather than 7.1 (where the higher-order components really help to refine imaging and create a ‘sweet zone’ rather than just a sweet spot) but he was still impressed. He’s pushing Ambisonics as an archival format within the Beeb – it’s ideal for that, of course.
With 20 cars milling around the soundfield in each race, surround reverberation and complex volumetric ambiences, GRID pushes our Ambisonic sub-system much further than DiRT, and has new audio features besides. A few are listed at:
As you may have guessed, I’m the ‘audio programming guru’ cited. The obvious next step is to use Ambisonics in other genres of game. Don’t hold your breath, but we’re working on it!
Simon N Goodwin