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I'm making a multiplayer videogame where the characters are AI piloting spaceships fighting other AI piloted spaceships where the entire premise is that everything follows the laws of physics and mostly makes sense (no FTL, no force fields, logical ship design, etc). However, I would like to add sound effects for things, as playing with no sound is really unsettling and feels super unpolished. How I'm thinking of justifying this is by saying that the sound the player hears is actually from heat detectors on the ship or something being represented as sound, but I'm not sure if this is a good enough reason, so I want to run it by you guys and ask what you think a good justification for having sound effects is.

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  • $\begingroup$ First person? Third person? $\endgroup$
    – DrMcCleod
    Jul 4, 2020 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @DrMcCleod first person of course, I don't think third person would make very much sense realistically $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2020 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair, the AI wouldn't see like the players see, either. All that stuff with indicator cartouches around detected objects, text printing up in the field of view, arrows and pointers and HUDs and labels in the GUI -- That's all diagnostic stuff for human manufacturers/superiors to watch along, or review in after-action reports. An AI flying itself wouldn't need or use them; it would just have the information available. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Jul 4, 2020 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ How is this about worldbuilding and not just, um, asking for opinions on how to justify your whim as game developer? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 5, 2020 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ I suggest musical stings. We are used to watching movies with background music. The background score is always there but there is a cymbal clash when necessary or a drum beat in time with the shots. $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2020 at 23:30

2 Answers 2

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Your player is playing the AI, receiving information about its surroundings. Unfortunately these AI will only be as smart as their player. To give the player as much information as possible you give them various tools. A UI gives feedback on the status of the many components, but to draw the player's attention to things you can also use sounds.

An enemy detected? You hear a sound as feedback, allowing the player to act as the ship AI by noticing it and digesting the information.

Got hit? Alarm bells sound as feedback.

Hit the acceleration? You hear an engine sound as feedback. Which the "AI" can unconcious pick up and add to his overall idea of his situation.

Hear a ship nearby? Your ship's sensors have simply detected it, and the sounds are there to cue the player in to what is happening so the player knows what the AI has already detected. Maybe you hear it turn, decellerate, accelerate, go on a ramming course, detect it being hit or firing its own guns, it could cloak itself from sensors (cool down its exterior enough and radiate heat away from you or something), suffer breakdowns and whatever else you can think off. In the end it is all the same: your ship detects it, and the player gets to detect it in a way the player understands.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah that's sorta what I had in mind with sound representing information from various sensors, but you said it much better than I could have. $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2020 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Sound could also be a difficulty option. Experienced players can try their hand without sound and see if they notice all the now silent alarms and visual cues about data that the 'AI' is always displaying on their screens. $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2020 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ John Hemry uses this in his science fiction -- a character contemplates how space is really silent but they add the noise for ease of processing. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jul 4, 2020 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ There is a great answer to a different question that says... essentially the same thing. You aren't hearing real noises, you're hearing synthetic noises because the fighter designers found that improves situational awareness. (That particular answer goes on to extend the principle to scent; the question is about canid space-fighter pilots.) A really awesome way to canonize this in-game would be to have the audio awareness system sometimes cut out if it takes damage. (Just be sure to add a blinking malfunction light so the player knows it's intentional, and not a bug.) $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Jul 4, 2020 at 23:32
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only have the inside of the ship have sound. But there's no way to justify sound, but instead, use the lack of sound to keep the player(s) on edge. as in the fear factor of never hear attacks or your enemy, and huge engagement distances give an even bigger fear factor in that you do not even see the enemy attacking you.

also, you'd hear impacts against the hull.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xs3mGhQGxM&t=14s

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    $\begingroup$ But why would AI be able to hear in the first place? Putting microphones in the ship seems like a waste of resources and doesn't really give you any extra info $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2020 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ i myself would exploit the lack of sound in space to instill a sense of fear, and to multiply the sense of forgiveness pf space itself. the kind of fear where you'll never know when or where you'll be attacked next. kind of like when it's "too quite" or like the calm before the storm. classic selling point of many game, most notably zombie horror games or the Metroid series of games. like Metroid 2 and Metroid fusion. lots of untapped potential with no sound in space. $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2020 at 0:58

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