Proem for the Ethics Campaign
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Play with Fire on Bytten

The review on Bytten for Play with Fire is probably the fairest to date. Their criticisms are apposite, and the reviewer appreciates the game for its strengths. Overall they give it 75%. Patrick has some commentary on the review here.

I'd like to briefly respond to a few points. Yes, the menu options and so forth are not up to grade, alas. In the latter stages of development there was no money and little time, and sadly this meant we didn't get everything in the framework up to spec. This reason does not excuse this problem, of course. Also, I completely agree that the minimum spec is too high for the game. This is the development aspect I'm least happy with - the programming team rebuilt the engine three times in development, and each time the foot print got bigger. I would have much preferred to polish up the early development build that ran on a much lower spec machine, but this isn't what happened.

Lastly, on the subject of the lack of burning sounds. The reviewer comments:

I imagine it would grate after a while if background crackling was present, but silent burning is strange and almost unnerving

Well we did have these sounds, and we did have them running at one point. There were two problems with it, though. The first was that it ate up memory to have this much sound generated in the environment and it would have been difficult to scale this efficiently in the time we had. The bigger problem is the one the reviewer alludes to above: with the burning sounds all switched on the game was cacophonous. No-one could have listened to it for long. I much prefer the final result. Is it unnerviing? I prefer eerie. It's was an aesthetic choice, and I'm happy with it.

My thanks to Andrew Williams for the review!


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I remember we had a similar issue in a horse racing game. We had a footprint 'thud' effect, and thought we should play it once, every time a horse's hoof hit the ground. With 10 horses, this not only sounded awful and overwhelmed everything else, it generated massive interference patterns which cancelled out or caused distortion on the effects. The audio guy was at a loss to come up with a better solution, so we asked the horse racing TV consultant we had visiting.

Turns out they have a similar problem with real life horse racing. Rather than have a microphone near the horses trying to be authentic, they just have a recorded 'horse race' sound, and they fiddle with the left/right balance based on roughly where the horses were in relation to the camera.

He claimed that they tried running horse races with no sound of hooves at all, and it wasn't watch-able for any length of time. There's something about observing things on screen when you can hear some audio effects but not all. Your brain is aware that a sound it expects is missing, and it constantly nags at you. If what you are observing is completely silent that's fine, but partial noise messes with your sub-conscious like an inner ear infection.

That's an awesome anecdote, MrCranky! Thanks for sharing it. I guess I was willing to take the risk that we would be messing with people's mind's a little, because this was such a strange and abstract game to begin with, but it's definitely something to bear in mind for future projects. :) Best wishes!

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