Valve Explains Insane Levels of Audio Detail in Half-Life: Alyx – IGN Unfiltered

The Source 2 engine enables Half-Life: Alyx to have staggering levels of detail, such as unique clothing movement sounds based on player movement speed, body position and, according to Valve developer Robin Walker, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.In this month’s episode of IGN Unfiltered, Ryan McCaffrey sat down with Chris Remo and Robin Walker from Valve to talk about Half-Life: Alyx, The Orange Box, the mystique of Valve, and much more.“One of the things we learned, many years ago, that we used a lot in Half-Life 2 was the idea of building technology where… each creative discipline was as unconstrained as possible in applying their discipline to the product,” Walker said. “Wherever we could, we tried to make it so that, if you are a sound person, you could put sound into the game and hook it up as much as you can, to all the things you want, without needing to get anyone else involved.”

This process was in place during Half-Life 1 but, according to Walker, by Half-Life 2 the team at Valve was much better at it. Going into Half-Life: Alyx using the Source 2 engine, this level of discipline independence was a focal point for the studio. “We spent a lot of time on the ‘tools’ side of things in Source 2, relative to Source 1, so Half-Life: Alyx is the first time we’ve had a bunch of audio people with, essentially, a bunch of superpowers they haven’t had in the past.“The net result of that has been, they have produced an ungodly amount of sound and they have tied it to the state of the world, and to a greater extent than they’ve ever been able to. There’s… little bits of code, that they write and control, associated with every sound in the game if they want it. They can feed any information from the game into it.”

Here is where it gets crazy, according to Walker. “Some examples of how they’ve used that, that stuck in my head when I heard about it, were things like; we have built a virtual character, essentially, that has a set of clothing… they have simulated how that clothing responds to the player’s movement, and they use that to make sound.

Half-Life: Alyx First Screenshots (4K)

“So, in the case of teleport, for example, if you’re playing in ‘blink’ or ‘shift’ modes, if you teleport over a ledge or around a corner, they’re going to adjust… the sounds that your clothes make will be affected by you falling some distance. Or, if you move quickly… over a long distance, or short distances, it will affect the amount of noise that your clothes make, and how they move around.”

“If you’re playing ‘continuous’ mode, we feed that same information in as well… It’s not just some looping sound that’s played or anything, it’s fully aware of… is your body standing? Crouching? Movement… all that sort of stuff. The surfaces you’re working on… brushing through plants, all that sort of jazz. It’s been pretty exciting to see all the ways things happen as a result of empowering individual disciplines, as opposed to having some kind of gate in there where they need to get some help from some other discipline, just to be able to deploy their craft.”When asked how Source 2 and Half-Life: Alyx propelled each other forward, Walker said another change (which sounds simple but had huge knock-on effects) was improving the ability of multiple people, from different disciplines, to work on the same area of the game at the same time.

Catch up on every single episode of IGN Unfiltered here so you can hear from the best and brightest minds in the video game industry, such as Hugo Martin and Marty Stratton (id), Stig Asmussen (Respawn), Sam Lake (Remedy), Bonnie Ross (343 Industries), Ted Price (Insomniac), and a whole lot more.

Brian Barnett writes news, features, wiki guides, deals posts, and much more for IGN. You can get your fix of Brian’s antics on Twitter and Instagram (@Ribnax).

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