This wall of text is intended as a message to the ship audio team. There will be no TL;DR
You talked about at CitizenCon that you were hesitant to implement fully realistic audio delays not only because it is complicated, but because you think it may detract from the game experience.
I do not think this is the case.
One of the examples you braught up was the physics of a sonic boom, saying it may be confusing for the pilot.
I don’t feel that’s valid because while it may be confusing the first or second time for a player that has never played a realistic flight sim before, after 3-4 times experiencing it they will figure it out and this will no longer be an issue.
The second example was the effect of realistic sound delay on the combat experience. You said that it would result in delayed gunfire, explosions, etc and the playerbase may not react well to that.
Personally, the current lack of realistic sound delay in combat is one of my biggest immersion breakers. In space it is understandable since the sound is simulated, but in atmosphere – especially on the ground, it really ruins the feel.
One of the things that can really sell a massive explosion is its physics. The shockwave, the sound, all of that. Without it, it makes it feel gamey.
For gunfire, how it sounds is not only critical for some weapons to have maximum effectiveness (you shouldnt hear that revanant gatling til the first shell hits the dirt, use a10 videos for easy reference) but also ruins some of the immersion regarding your current enviroment.
There is a massive 100 v 100 ground way happening miles from you, and you are the rear guard observing until your forces retreat to your position. You see the tracer fire and the rockets flying and it’s completely desynced and lagged from the current happenings. This gives the feeling – one that should be familiar to milsim players – that you are not in immidiate danger, but still in the warzone.
It does miracles for selling the atmosphere.
Thanks for reading,
Myself I am a sim player so I understand your angle on that. Using delays / speed of sounds would likely be quite nice in FPS … but in space combat that is absolutely not the case. The dogfight distances in SC are vast and accelerations are fast … so delays based on actual distances just make space combat feel extremely disconnected (based on the velocity of ships you could easily accelerate away from sounds).
We were toying with the idea of having no delay when we have “Sound Sim” enabled (which is our way of saying that there is sound in space) … but then again we could also fight in atmosphere which invites the question if we can hear sounds multiple times (from sound sim without delay and realistically with delay) … but that again is an invite to confusion. Our user base is more diverse than the average MilSim community and judging from our internal chats a lot of people are actually not used to the effects of speed of sound (even if they watched fireworks, e.g).
So this is why have to treat this with extreme care … using the delays can easily make the game seem broken if not done right.
Truth be told I think it can be solved and my feeling is that at some point we will approach this … but it’s not a trivial solution and atm there are just bigger fishs to fry.