Ambient sound is an integral part of experiencing simulated environments, not only because it significantly adds to a feeling of immersiveness, but many people are in Second Life without their music turned on. Silence makes a place feel dead. Unless of course that is what you’re going for (like a moon landscape), then adding sounds are a simple way to add life to your environments.
I was surprised to read NWN’s post: Why Second Life Has So Little Ambient Soundscapes that suggests there is a lack of this environmental factor in world.
It’s not difficult to add ambient sound to your environments
Whether you run a full region, or a small parcel for just your home, Second Life creators have made it easy to add sound to your simulated environments, by selling sound objects on the marketplace to anyone who cares to look, and enabling these sound objects with controls for radius and volume. One example is Hastur Pierterson, who runs a store called SoundScenes. SoundScenes offers nearly 800 ambient sound objects, for pretty much any simulated ambient sound effect you can imagine. They tend to be priced very affordably at L$89 each (transfer/no copy/no mod).
The sound objects are usually invisible and phantom (or can be made so by editing them) and you can place the objects in unobtrusive locations, giving your visitor the impression that they are hearing a sound they should expect to hear as they near a location where sounds like that are natural. The sounds are typically good quality and last between 1 minute and 1 minute and 30 seconds, running on continuous loops. Longer sound loops are better because they are less repetitive.
Further, many creators have added sounds to their objects, to add life to what would otherwise be solely a visual prop. I am particularly attracted to and tend to favour buildings and building components that offer sound (like the sound of crackling fire embedded into fireplaces or the sound of waves embedded into environmental objects).
The multilayered soundscape of Basilique is a result of choosing many specific and overlapping sound objects to place in specific locations around the region that naturally complement the atmosphere. For example, there is a sound object that simulates the sound of a rustic town atmosphere placed in the middle of the Piazza. In the cafe, I’ve added sounds from a typical European cafe in Berlin (couldn’t find an Italian one but still looking!). The pier and docks have sounds of birdlife and water lapping against the dock posts. On the beach we have sounds of waves and water birds. In the parks and gardens we have sounds of crackling fires, insects and birds chirping. I even have the sound of flies buzzing around the fish stalls.
Everything – the sights, the sounds, the light, the movement and chatter of scripted agents – adds to the wholeness of the atmosphere a region builder aims to create. Sound is a such a rich component of our lives, including it in simulated environments is nearly as important as choosing the best visual details.
Sights and Sounds of Basilique
NWN’s blogger Hamlet Au asked me to film a short video highlighting Basilique’s ambient sound. I thought it was a terrific idea to not only feature the ambient sound that some visitors might be missing (if they have their music turned on) and to show the difference that ambient sound alone can make.
How do you feel about ambient sound in Second Life? Does it add to your immersion? Or do you just have your music on (in world or out) that you’d not hear it anyway?