Multichannel sound becomes the norm in the world of video game players (finally).

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Thanks for all the e-mails describing your speaker systems. It is heart warming to know that you gamers do take your sound seriously. However, one of the respondents stated that he plays the game originally on his home theater system, but follows up with his repeat plays on a normal stereo system. Very disappointing.

We did our own market research to find out what our customers were really using in the way of speaker systems for our games. Every customer who called our support hotline with a question on the PlayStation 2 was queried on his or her speaker setup. We also asked all of our game testers what they used in the way of speakers at home. The results were quite gratifying.

We sampled over 600 people. Twenty-seven percent used home theater systems. Sixty-three percent listened on various flavors of stereo speakers. Ten percent are still stuck in the mud of small speaker monaural sound.

Judging from conversations I have had with Dolby and people at the CES, I bet that, in about 18 months, we will be seeing close to 40 to 45 percent of our gamers immersed totally in a home theater surround system.

Toward this end, we in the game business are creating the infrastructure to enable us to produce the best in interactive surround sound.

The PlayStation 2 already supports DTS and AC-3 from Dolby. Of course, you need a breakout box to get the sound to all your speakers. You have probably read about Dolby Digital and the XBox. Yes, everybody knows that sound is the next powerhouse tool in the marketing of games and game machines.

We have several engineers developing tools and methodologies relative to the proper implementation of interactive surround in games. As computers get faster, the job definitely becomes easier. The amount of calculations necessary for the proper positioning of interactive surround is mind blowing.

I remember when I was an engineering student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. We had to solve our math problems using either a slide rule (how many of you have even seen a slide rule) or logarithmic tables. It would sometimes take me four to five hours to work my way through a problem related to the probability of something happening within a given space and time.

I recently pulled out my old textbooks and recalculated these same problems utilizing my computer. Once I entered the formula (which took about ten minutes), the computer solved the problem with a greater degree of accuracy in less than one minute.

If I had this much computational power when I was in college, I wonder what I would have done with the time that I saved. I would have probably played video games (which were not invented yet).

We still will have some problems related to standards. Our setup menus will now have to give the gamer the choice of stereo, Pro Logic, 4.0, or 5.1. They will also have to choose the flavor of encoding, be it Dolby or DTS. I imagine that we may eventually utilize advanced systems as the Sony Super Audio system that samples the signal a couple of million times a second.

Actually I am looking forward to these future developments. Those of you that have listened to these advanced systems at the Surround Conferences know the degree of reality that we can now achieve in the world of audio recording. In our world of interactive soccer, football, and basketball (not to mention snow boarding), the introduction of these future audio tools will make our gaming environment even more realistic.

As multi-speaker systems have dramatically enhanced the motion picture experience, we in the video game business have (at last) the tools and technology to compete with our brothers in the movie business. As this technology increased the box office receipts for the motion picture theater conglomerates, we shall also reap these same financial benefits.

I guess this is why I find this field of work so enjoyable. We are on the edge of a major breakthrough in home entertainment – all kinds of home entertainment. As a practitioner of audio in all of its flavors relative to the exploding world of home entertainment, the sky is the limit as to creative solutions. Anything we can dream about will probably be possible in a few years. This is definitely the golden age of audio.

So I implore all of you in the creative audio fields, please dream and dream some more. Don’t let any obstructionist hold you back. If anybody tells me that we have to think about those 10 percent who still listen (and I use the word “listen” very loosely) to small speaker monaural audio, I think I will count them as a non-person and exile them into the world of 300 Hz to 3 kHz.

Surround Professional Magazine