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Thread: Sing Me To Sleep (atmospheric exploration narrative protoype)

  1. #1
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    singmetosleep (atmospheric exploration narrative protoype)





    S I N G M E T O S L E E P

    website | playable prototype | videos | twitter @acatalept



    Your name means
    "song of remembrance..."

    You are our memory,
    the memory of a dying world,
    a world that lost its way.

    The world around you
    is so very big,
    and you, you, my child,
    are so very small.



    singmetosleep is an atmospheric,
    exploration-based interactive narrative.

    Vast minimalist forms, a stark color palette,
    and an evocative soundscape.

    There are no real monsters.

    Not really.



    Download playable prototype (May 4th, 2014) -- with optional Rift DK1 support -- from itch.io!

    Updated prototype with Rift DK2 support coming soon!

    story details

    singmetosleep website

    follow @acatalept on twitter







    Some kind words from those who've played the prototype:

    Indie Impressions video preview

    Kill Screen Daily

    Alpha Beta Gamer

    Warp Door

    Game Sphere

    Zockah.de





























    VIDEOS


    2015/02/28: minimalist soundscape





    2015/01/31: alternate visuals without dynamic lighting





    2014/10/17: realtime global illumination and soft shadows





    2014/09/18: ArchViz flythrough





    2014/04/29: early Oculus Rift walkthrough





    2014/04/16: early exploration









    website | playable prototype | videos | twitter @acatalept

    Last edited by acatalept; 07-13-2015 at 01:16 PM.

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    I'm new to UE4 (coming from Unity), but I'm very impressed with the tools and workflow. And of course the out-of-the-box visuals (for a non-artist like myself) are just incredible...
    Last edited by acatalept; 05-23-2015 at 11:30 PM.

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    Wow, it's really coming together in the second video Keep us posted!

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    I have to say, this is probably one of my favorite things I have seen in UE4 yet. Everyone gravitates to the usual fps, 3rd person, sidescroller, or flying game. Most of them are spawned because the developers were inspired by something they played or a game series they enjoyed. (Not saying this is terrible), however it causes a "stale" monotonous repetition that can get discouraging. Unique games don't really come out anymore. But I have to say, it looks like you might be on to something very unique

    BRAVO!

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    Looking great, the atmosphere in the second video is very nice. Will be keeping an eye on this.

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    Looks awesome - that kind of desolate snowy atmosphere is something i'm trying to achieve myself (I've only had the engine for a couple of days thought, and a few hours to play with it - hoping to get some real time with it soon)

  7. #7
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    This is pretty neat I like it. keep at it.

  8. #8
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    Do you use atmospheric fog with a density gradient in order to achieve that foggy look at the edge of the terrain?

  9. #9
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    Samaritan
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    Amazing and unique. I'll be following this project. Love the 2001: Space Odyssey Influences.

  10. #10
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    Unreal Engine Developer
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    Cool stuff man, that second video has a lot of atmosphere. The sound adds so much!

  11. #11
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    Looking great!

  12. #12
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    Thank you all for the compliments! I'll continue to post as I progress.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOldWizard View Post
    Do you use atmospheric fog with a density gradient in order to achieve that foggy look at the edge of the terrain?
    I'll post the exact details when I next get a chance to sit down and crack open the project. I *do* remember spending a lot of time playing with a combination of atmospheric fog and exponential height fog to get where it is now, and it's still not totally obscuring very distant objects/scenery (which is my goal).

  13. #13
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    fantastic! Looks super creepy and intriguing. Kept expecting a slenderman or something to scare the banana pudding outta me.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by acatalept View Post
    Thank you all for the compliments! I'll continue to post as I progress.



    I'll post the exact details when I next get a chance to sit down and crack open the project. I *do* remember spending a lot of time playing with a combination of atmospheric fog and exponential height fog to get where it is now, and it's still not totally obscuring very distant objects/scenery (which is my goal).

    Alrighty im looking forward to that post.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheOldWizard View Post
    Alrighty im looking forward to that post.
    Regarding the fog settings, I was misremembering: as it turns out, I had high hopes for atmospheric fog giving me a sort of "distance haze" as shown in the image at the top of this page: https://docs.unrealengine.com/latest...Fog/index.html

    But after a lot of experimentation I could not get more than a negligible effect. As it turns out, I'm currently only using an Exponential Height Fog. And even with this, I spent a lot of time playing with the Height Falloff, Max Opacity, and Start Distance, and ultimately left these at default, instead simply jacking the density up to 1.0 and dropping the fog actor *way* below (-25000) my ground plane to get the current look:





    Like I said, I still aim to have scenery/objects beyond a certain threshold gradually disappear completely into some sort of fog, but I haven't found a way yet.

  16. #16
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    Samaritan
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    Perhaps using a depth buffer that effects the alpha of objects in the distance?

  17. #17
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    Someone asked for details on the camera shake implementation - I got started with this post: https://answers.unrealengine.com/que...-question.html

    First I created a new Blueprint based off the CameraShake class, and changed a few values in the Defaults:



    I compiled and saved that blueprint (as "BP_CameraShake" which we'll need to reference in a later step).

    Then I opened my "MyCharacter" blueprint (this is created automatically with a New Project based off the Blueprint First Person template), and created a "Play World Camera Shake" node to be triggered on Event Tick, with the "Shake" input dropdown set to my "BP_CameraShake" blueprint I created earlier, the Epicenter input set to my current player location, and the Falloff input set to a range based on whether the player was moving or stationary (since I want a more exaggerated shake while moving, but still a small "baseline" shake while standing still).

    Coming up with the right Falloff is a little complicated, since it seems to adjust the curve that scales the BP_CameraShake class's values based on the distance from the Epicenter to the camera you wish to affect, where Inner Radius is 100% shake, and Outer Radius is 0% shake. In my case, my Epicenter is always set to the center of my player's collision capsule (the location returned by the Get Actor Location node), and my camera is vertically offset from this point by 64. Again, this is the default setup when using the Blueprint First person template when creating a new project:



    I'm definitely not doing this optimally , but considering my target camera is 64 units from the Epicenter, and I'm using an Inner Radius of 0, and an Outer Radius of 150, my shake is always scaled to roughly the middle of the curve defined by Falloff (100 / 150 * 64 = 42%). Where this falls on the curve I haven't really visualized, but I get pretty close to desired results (using the above Camera Shake class values) by generating a Falloff range of 1.0 - 3.5, where the lower Falloff value (1.0) is more shake, and the higher Falloff value (3.5) is less shake. When I don't offset the Falloff input by 1 (instead generating a range of 0.0 - 2.5), I get pretty strong shake both moving and at rest, and not as much difference between the two. And when I get a Falloff input a little higher (say 4.0 or so), the shake disappears completely.

    Here's my camera shake setup inside my "MyCharacter" blueprint, running on every Event Tick:



    I've created the variables MoveForward, MoveRight, MouseTurn, and MouseLookUp, which are used here as modifiers to create a Falloff input for the camera shake. These are set by modifying the pre-existing Input sections of the "MyCharacter" blueprint to save the mouse and movement inputs to these variables:





    Sorry for my completely hopeless lack of math skills, but I continue to be amazed at how much I can accomplish with blueprints alone. Hope this helps!

  18. #18
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    You, Sir, are the best!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by acatalept View Post
    Regarding the fog settings, I was misremembering: as it turns out, I had high hopes for atmospheric fog giving me a sort of "distance haze" as shown in the image at the top of this page: https://docs.unrealengine.com/latest...Fog/index.html

    But after a lot of experimentation I could not get more than a negligible effect. As it turns out, I'm currently only using an Exponential Height Fog. And even with this, I spent a lot of time playing with the Height Falloff, Max Opacity, and Start Distance, and ultimately left these at default, instead simply jacking the density up to 1.0 and dropping the fog actor *way* below (-25000) my ground plane to get the current look:





    Like I said, I still aim to have scenery/objects beyond a certain threshold gradually disappear completely into some sort of fog, but I haven't found a way yet.
    Hacking suggestion.

    I can see that the Exponential Height Fog has both a location and a rotation...

    Could you fix it to your camera so to speak? so it twists and turns with your camera... so instead of looking at the fog in a horizontal way, you'd lay the fog component down... and look at it from the top, rotating and moving it with your camera etc.

  20. #20
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    This is absolutely amazing. First thing I thought when I saw the second video was "OCULUS RIFT EXPLORATION GAME!"

    The atmosphere just screams at me, I love it.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasped View Post
    Hacking suggestion.

    I can see that the Exponential Height Fog has both a location and a rotation...

    Could you fix it to your camera so to speak? so it twists and turns with your camera... so instead of looking at the fog in a horizontal way, you'd lay the fog component down... and look at it from the top, rotating and moving it with your camera etc.
    I just tested my suggestion, it looks like it doesn't work, no rotation or location changes has effect.

  22. #22
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    Thank you for sharing your camera "shaker", much appreciated.

  23. #23
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    I've been working on Oculus Rift support with my DK1, performance is really good currently with no artifacts (postprocessing effects like bloom, dirt mask, etc work without artifacts). I've set up an unbounded PostProcess Volume that is enabled when the Rift is detected, which disables motion blur (for better latency) and switches AA from TXAA down to FXAA (which reduces texture artifacts, though I'm currently using zero textures).

    FYI, I scaled down everything by a factor of 10, to give me much more room to build without running into floating point precision issues. I rescaled my character's capsule half-height down to 9.6 (from 96), and moved the camera accordingly so that it would be where the "head" is, but otherwise I had no issues with scale or appearance in the Rift (even keeping the default IPD of .064):


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  25. #25
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    Man beautiful and odd visuals, it feels like Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick had some sort of shared dream. Love the use of scale.

  26. #26
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    Unreal Engine Support
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    Howdy acatalept,

    Fantastic work on this project. In your last video, at about 7 minutes in, the rotation of the rings is simply mesmerizing. I caught myself just staring into it. I really hope to give this game a try when it is fully complete. Keep up the great work and have a great day!

  27. #27
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    Hey,
    Any idea when this game will be compatible with DK2 of the Oculus?

  28. #28
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    I was just working on this late last night and should be wrapped up soon, smoothing out a few obvious warts in the demo level design so it doesn't look too horrendous

    But LimasseFive just released an update for NaissanceE with DK1 support, and I feel compelled to defer my own project another day or two to help them test (and hopefully fix) DK2 support as well. Must resist... but NaissanceE in VR is just too tempting

  29. #29
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    Making progress on the updated demo with Rift DK2 support, still some very rough placeholders that I'm replacing with slightly less rough placeholders

    In the meantime, a few people have asked me how I made the low-poly-ish, wind-sculpted terrain:



    Here's a video showing how it's all done in the UE4 editor, using simple landscape editing tools:



    EDIT: this terrain sculpt method relies on a "bug" (though I considered it a feature ) that was "fixed" in 4.5: https://forums.unrealengine.com/show...e-4-5-Released!

    [under the "Landscape" heading] New: Improved landscape sculpting tool, it's now continuous and framerate-independent
    Sadly a pretty deep refactor was involved in fixing that bug: https://github.com/EpicGames/UnrealE...commit/ecdd802

    So I hardly feel justified in politely requesting an option to turn it back on

    But the effect can be emulated (albeit rather more slowly) by not holding down the mouse button and dragging, but rather click/release, click/release to scoop out each chunk of terrain.

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    UE 4.5 update is amazing... using the new Distance Field Soft Shadows, plus Distance Field Ambient Occlusion, and Light Propagation Volume dynamic GI:


  31. #31
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    LPV GI, DFSS, & DFAO in motion:


  32. #32
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    Samaritan
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    Very interesting, love the strange atmosphere, can't wait to give this a try with the DK2

  33. #33
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    If you're not getting playable framerates in the current singmetosleep playable prototype (or parasomnia, my UE4 side project), I will have in-game video settings soon.

    But in the meantime, you can do the following to improve performance:



    Lower the resolution:

    The game defaults to running fullscreen at your primary monitor's desktop resolution. But you can get much better performance if you lower the resolution by editing the file "GameUserSettings.ini" in the subfolder "singmetosleep\Saved\Config\WindowsNoEditor":

    Code:
    [/Script/Engine.GameUserSettings]
    
    ; 0 = fullscreen (traditional): best performance, supports all resolutions, but doesn't alt-tab as nicely
    ; 1 = windowed fullscreen (borderless): always at desktop resolution, better alt-tab app switching
    ; 2 = windowed standard: supports lower-resolution window with border and min/max/close buttons
    FullscreenMode=0
    
    ; width and height of game window
    ResolutionSizeX=1280
    ResolutionSizeY=720


    Disable dynamic shadows:

    Dynamic light and shadows have a huge impact on the look and mood of the environments, but you can disable dyanamic shadows for a huge performance boost. While in the game, just press the tilde (~) key to show the debug console, then enter this command to turn off shadows:

    Code:
    show dynamicshadows
    And enter the same command again to turn shadows back on (you can press the up key on the keyboard to go back to your previously entered commands instead of typing them again).

    This setting will revert to the default each time you start the game.



    I should have some real video options in the next playable prototype - thanks for your patience!

  34. #34
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    I've been spending a lot of time trying to improve performance, targeting different levels of hardware, and doing what I can to help lower-level hardware not have a second-class experience.  Years ago I used to spend an inordinate amount of time struggling to tweak games to run on my affordable (and less-than-enthusiast-grade) hardware, and I always hated that I'd have to make so many sacrifices to visuals to get a playable framerate.  So I've been attempting a different tack: rather than just turning off effects as a late-stage afterthought, I've been experimenting with ways of actually changing the experience, challenging myself to work within the constraints of reduced performance, cutting out what's not necessary while maintaining the feel, and more importantly not letting any cracks show.

    For example, one of the biggest performance gains, which carries the most obvious visual penalty, is completely turning off dynamic lighting/shadows.  I've gone down the road and back of doing what I can with static lightmaps, which can look outstanding with some work put into them...



    ... but static lighting build times and memory requirements (both for building during development, and for the player to simply load the lightmaps) are prohibitive with scenes this big, even when I break the world up into manageable chunks -- so dynamic lighting is my only realistic option.  But dynamic lighting has a *huge* hit on performance, especially when I add in realtime global illumination (which I hope I can get looking the way I want in the final experience, for those who have the hardware to handle it).

    So for now, I have a sort of master lighting and time-of-day system set up that enables toggling dynamic lighting (including dynamic global illumination) and some other effects.  But when it's turned off, rather than just look like a cheapened, flat, overbright version of "what could be"... the experience takes on a rather different look...



    ... which attempts to sidestep the complete lack of any shadow information and uses only a single, uniform, omnidirectional sky light.  Compared to full dynamic lighting/shadows, the framerate on my dev system increases by anywhere from 75% to over a 100% gain.  This is particularly critical when targeting the Oculus Rift, which suffers from pretty severe nausea-inducing judder and latency any time performance even briefly falls below 75fps @ 1920x1080.  This has been my biggest hold-up in releasing a Rift DK2-compatible prototype (for those who have been waiting), which should now be ready very soon (sorry it's taken so long!).

    There are some tradeoffs: the end result is even more stylized and unrealistic than the lit/shadowed look, and some sense of depth and scale is lost in some areas.  Though some of the much less expensive tricks in Unreal Engine 4's toolkit, such as light bloom and screen-space ambient occlusion, tend to give back some substantiality and texture...



    And there are always other ways of strongly driving home the scale of the place when lacking vast shadows cast across the vista...



    (note the distant figure next to the massive structure)

    Updated video and playable prototype (with Rift DK2 support) on the way...

  35. #35
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    Here's a quick video of the Rift / midspec visuals in motion (also updated first post):


  36. #36
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    Love this so much acatalept!! One of my favorite projects that I keep an eye on! I will support you all the way big fan and thank you for sharing your terrain sculpt method! You inspire me! thank you so much!

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoo View Post
    Love this so much acatalept!! One of my favorite projects that I keep an eye on! I will support you all the way big fan and thank you for sharing your terrain sculpt method! You inspire me! thank you so much!
    Thank you so much I appreciate the kind words!

    FYI, that terrain sculpt method relies on a "bug" (though I considered it a feature ) that was "fixed" in 4.5: https://forums.unrealengine.com/show...e-4-5-Released!

    [under the "Landscape" heading] New: Improved landscape sculpting tool, it's now continuous and framerate-independent
    Sadly a pretty deep refactor was involved in fixing that bug: https://github.com/EpicGames/UnrealE...commit/ecdd802

    So I hardly feel justified in politely requesting an option to turn it back on

    But the effect can be emulated (albeit rather more slowly) by not holding down the mouse button and dragging, but rather click/release, click/release to scoop out each chunk of terrain.

  38. #38
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    Soundscaping

    Soundscaping has been a huge part of developing singmetosleep (as discussed in this post), and I've especially been concerned with, for lack of a better term, "high dynamic range" audio: audio with a wide range of dynamics from very subtle all the way up to "wall of sound" intensity.  I want it to sound as much as possible like being in this other place, not a filtered, compressed, radio-friendly representation of it.

    There are some challenges with this approach: The best experience of this kind of audio palette is decent headphones or a surround sound speaker system, but obviously I don't want players with small desktop speakers or inexpensive earbuds missing important audio cues, so there will probably ultimately be a setting for "HDR" audio or standard (compressed) dynamic range.  I've seen several games going this route in recent years (notably racing games which use it to great effect), so I'm not thinking this will be too off-putting to players.

    I've also been struggling to build a soundscape that's expressive and helps tell the story of this place, without overtly sounding like a "song", or even necessarily a "soundtrack" overlaid on the experience, but almost sounding as if it exists naturally within this place -- that almost begs the question, "Am I the player the only one hearing this, or would the in-game character be hearing this as well and responding accordingly?"  My goal is the latter... The reasons for this will make more sense when the time comes  I'm not there yet, but here's an example of walking around the demo area with something akin to "in-world" soundscaping:



    And I'm still not happy with the level of quality in my home-brewed sound effects, which has been holding me back a bit.  This isn't a sound-effects-heavy game, but those that are there should speak volumes.  For example, here's an experiment I did a while back using a bit of sound I sampled from Ben Lukas Boysen's incredible Restive OST: https://hymen-records.bandcamp.com/track/hoe-fight



    I just can't make any sounds that are nearly as intense as that  Suffice to say I won't be using that sound effect in the final game...

    Attention to audio is particularly crucial for those aspects of the experience that I'm trying to convey via the player's imagination versus simply dropping something in front of them.  There's an old adage writers go by: show, don't tell.  I would extend this further for visual mediums like film and games, where we find it comparatively easy (with the right budget and artistic resources) to show the viewer/player exactly what the artist envisaged... but this doesn't have nearly as much potential for personal impact as what the viewer/player may themselves imagine when the right cues are presented, the right seeds are planted.

    Don't show, don't tell: just suggest.

  39. #39
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    I adore your project, though I daresay I won't get to play it (I'm a new UE4 adopter and working on a recent Mac). I'm also fond of your music, though now I discover some of it's example music you can't use!

    Are you able to get a reverb engine inside UE4? It seems like that would be ideal, then you just need sound sources. One thing that occurs to me is that you might find your 'intense' but unworldly sounds in the synth FM8. It's a bit tricky but has great possibilities, especially when used with a controller with pressure aftertouch. I can show you what I mean as I've long been fond of just such unworldly visceral sounds: these two examples (in each case the sound is the 'hook') use aftertouch to control a filter changing the waveshape of the FM synth modulator (not the wave directly, but the thing that's modulating the pitch is getting a sort of resonant filter effect). I'd happily give you this patch if you like



    https://soundcloud.com/applejinx/hiatus
    Last edited by Applejinx; 03-16-2015 at 09:31 AM.

  40. #40
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    Thanks! Why wouldn't you get to play? I should be releasing Mac and Linux builds for the next demo (whenever that day may come), and it shouldn't require the beefiest hardware, esp if you play in non-VR mode.

    Just to clarify, for that "intensity" video I used a looped 5 second sample from the track "Hoe Fight" on the Restive OST by Ben Lukas Boysen (aka Hecq) (good write-up here btw: http://reviews.headphonecommute.com/...restive-hymen/) -- cut up and crossfaded between an omnidirectional part that's all around the player, and a directional part coming from the monolith at the end to sort of beckon the player to head in that direction (really noticeable with headphones). Obviously this sample won't be in the final release: my intention was to provide a proof of concept, an idea of what *could* be, a lofty goal to aim for I hope to get there someday, but that intense part is only a small part of the whole experience, so even if I don't get "there" I'll come up with something...

    In any case, all the other music from other videos besides that intensity example is mine, even though some of it's work-in-progress.

    Most of the experience will not be as instense as that example -- here's a more in-depth explanation of my sound design plans. And a better example of the overall final soundtrack would probably be some of the more ambient soundscaping I've done like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caPaYqBn67Q and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byJ9wTbGPDc.

    To answer your question, UE4 has a basic reverb system built-in. But now with the recently released Oculus Audio SDK supported by FMOD and Wwise plugins, I should be able to get some impressively immersive audio that truly sounds like it's in this immense space. But I have yet to open that can of worms...

    Thanks much for the offer to share your patch, though I'm afraid I don't have FM8 (it's $200 just for one synth? don't get me wrong, Native Instruments makes amazing stuff, but yikes). I do most of my sound/music work in Reason, which I managed to pick up cheap years ago and has some decent FM [and other more exotic] synths. I haven't had time to play with sounds in a long time, but you inspired me to roll up my sleeves earlier tonight and I came up with this weird dark soundscape sketch:

    http://acatalept.com/mp3/acatalept%20-%20stilted2d.mp3

    The mix is too muddy, and it doesn't go anywhere, but it sounds *huge* and intense. I keep telling people that I suspect half the reason I'm doing this project is just as an excuse to play at soundscaping

    In any case, good luck with UE4, it's great to see so many people starting to use it, it's been a blast for me!

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