We ask our industry panel - the brightest and sharpest VR professionals from around the world - one question about the VR industry, business, technology or trending stories every week.
Question: Valve launched the Steam Audio SDK for VR developers this week; how much importance do you place on audio design in the projects you work on, use or enjoy? A lot of time is spent talking about resolution and frame rates in VR, but does spatial audio deserve a higher profile given how much it contributes to immersion?
Justin Corcoran, CEO at Phosphor Games Studio
“We believe audio is a huge part of a good VR experience. In The Brookhaven Experiment, we put a lot of focus and refinement into the audio, and feel it is one of the secrets to success in creating the suspense and fun for that and all our VR titles.
“As a VR dev, you want to trick the player’s mind into thinking the person is truly ‘there’ in the setting. Having bad audio will ruin that immersion as quickly as bad frame rate, poor lighting, non-cohesive environment assets, etc.
“Unlike on other platforms, with VR you are almost guaranteed to have a player using headphones or surround sound, so you can really control that sensory element and make the most of it.”
When you’re actually present IN these worlds, you're even more sensitive to sound.Oskar Burman
Oskar Burman, CEO at Fast Travel Games
“Audio is incredibly important for VR. I'd argue it's even more important than in PC/console gaming, which traditionally have taken sound pretty seriously. In VR, when you’re actually present IN these worlds, you're even more sensitive to a lack of sound, or sounds not sounding right. It could completely break the illusion. Also, sounds are important to give you cues on where to look in the VR world, so they’re an important tool for the game designer.
“I think this is also an area where non-game VR apps need to step up. On mobile, it's pretty rare to spend a good chunk of your dev spend on sound, but for VR apps you need to rethink this.”
Audio is going to become one of the primary forms of interaction for most platforms, not just virtual ones.Dean Johnson
Dean Johnson, Head of Innovation at Brandwidth
“Audio is going to become one of the primary forms of interaction for most platforms, not just virtual ones. We already have daily conversations with Siri and Alexa and we’ve been verbally interrogating Google for a while now. Wireless Hearables deliver status updates, in-ear conversations and information about the world around us…
“3D sound is every bit as important as 3D vision in VR. It’s vital to place the sound where we expect it to be in reality if we ever hope to convince an audience the virtual world is a place worth spending time in. Audio cues also enhance effective storytelling and guide viewers without them feeling as if they’re being pushed. This is ‘direction’ in one of its most subtle art forms.”
Juergen Funk, Managing Director at highlewelt GmbH
“Spatial audio is very important but less critical than visual effects, frame rate, resolution and other related topics. Since Unity3D comes with very good and advanced spatial audio features, we do not see any necessity for investing money and time in superior 3D sound features.”
Being able to accurately assess the position of your opponents based on their footsteps is a big advantage.Jonathan Wagstaff
Jonathan Wagstaff, Country Manager - UK & IE at CONTEXT
"I was speaking recently to a professional eSports contact who was telling me that by far the most important accessory for FPS games is a good headset. Mechanical action is all well and good, but being able to accurately assess the position of your opponents based on their footsteps is a big advantage.
“One of the selling-points of the Rift is the quality of the headphones which are surprisingly good; it's also one of the things I don't like about the PS VR's boxed offering - there so many stealth costs the mainstream media don't report, such as the camera, controllers etc that it's really not that much of a cheaper option.
“What I love about PS VR is the audio of Sony's in-house VR software. I was speaking recently to their team in London and the lengths they have gone to produce high-fidelity sound would put many film studios to shame. The importance of audio will vary between genres, but from my experiences in early VR online multiplayer FPS titles like The Art of Fight, the eSports anecdote rings true."