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Multiple Audio Listeners in Unity 5

Discussion in 'Audio & Video' started by Vectrex, Sep 25, 2014.

  1. Vectrex

    Vectrex

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    With the new audio system, would now be a good time to allow multiple audio listeners for things like split screen?
    Last time it was asked the answer was ~"it's too confusing". Well, what's more confusing is for only one player to have any audio, especially since every console game since the 80's with multiplayer uses splitscreen. They all have multiple listeners, so I think people are used to it.
     
  2. angrypenguin

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    I was just thinking about this the other day and... yeah.

    The only time I've done local co-op in Unity everyone also shared a camera, so I didn't even think about it. But for split screen, what would I do?
     
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  3. 0tacun

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    I am also looking forward and I'm a bit disappointed that there are no information about this.

    Currently I'm using the left speaker for one player and the right for the other with only 2D sounds and blending the pan and volume based on distance of the players and the soundsource. That's not a cool workaround.
     
  4. Izitmee

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    Never had the need to do that, so I never realized it couldn't be done. Very good point!
     
  5. triLight

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    Now that I think about it, why don't we have this? I never really needed it but that would be very nice.

    @0tacun That sounds like a total pain.
     
  6. shkar-noori

    shkar-noori

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    seriously, how can I do split-screen single player games?
     
  7. Blorfy

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    We have also been waiting on the second audio listener, hoping for it in Unity 5. Pretty disappointed to hear that it has not been added. We have a split screen component to our game, and we are stuck audio wise until there is a second audio listener. Releasing the game with one player totally muted would be awful.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2015
  8. Kiwasi

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    Is there a way to sample sound at a particular point, and perhaps feed that to an audio stream? I'm thinking a radio that picks up the sounds of fighter planes in the background. An intercom system. A simple sound based trigger. Sound recording. Something like a render texture for sounds.

    There are plenty of valid use cases for more then one listener. Same way you can manage more then one camera.
     
  9. angrypenguin

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    I can think of at least one way to make multiple virtual listeners work, but it sucks big time. Instead of AudioListeners and AudioSources, you have VirtualAudioListeners and VirtualAudioSources, and then a bunch of objects elsewhere that mirrors every VirtualAudioSource near a VirtualAudioListener with AudioSources around a master AudioListener. Yes, I said it sucked.
     
  10. TylerPerry

    TylerPerry

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    Need multiple audio listeners and support for positional audio, can't believe these are not supported.
     
  11. Tomnnn

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    Can someone explain the concept of multiple audio listeners in a split screen game? Wouldn't you overhear the other screen's audio anyway? Why not just use 2D audio if you're going to use split screen? If you implement audio listeners for 2-4 screens, isn't that just going to duplicate the sounds heard for everyone?
     
  12. angrypenguin

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    Yes, it will (potentially) result in duplicate sounds, and similar issues which will make the audio design far more complex than it otherwise would be. These are things that good multiple-listener support would have to allow you to deal with. Eg: which listener(s) should a given source be audible with?
     
  13. Kiwasi

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    So this brings us to the more interesting question, how do classic split screen games, say halo or 007, manage sound. Its not just with multiple listeners, as this would cause echoes or volume increases when two players were close to the same sound source.
     
  14. superpig

    superpig

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    Yes, there is a general design question of how split-screen games should sound, I think.

    As a workaround, you could play your sound back as 2D and do 'manual attenuation' at the mixer level based on the minimum distance to one of the two players, perhaps?
     
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  15. Tomnnn

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    That's what I was thinking, but it still doesn't make sense to me lol. Split screen as in... the same screen...? The same set of speakers...? Is there even going to be a difference? In split screen games when my friend or myself fires a weapon, if a third person in the room had their eyes closed they would not be able to identify which shot came from where.

    If that isn't the case, I wonder when my memory of split screen gaming totally disappeared. I've done a lot of it in my life, like 15 years at least. It'd be funny to not be aware of something that's been going on for so long :p Or sad. Sometimes memories (or categories of memories, apparently) can just disappear on me.
     
  16. 3agle

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    There may be a small misunderstanding here, as it's not especially about 'where' the shot came from (though that needs to work too ofc), as much as 'who' shot.

    If you have two people doing their thing shooting stuff, with only one audio listener, you can only play the shooting sounds for one of the players. The other one would have to have no sound at all, without some of the complex workarounds mentioned earlier. Quite an important issue for any competent split-screen game really.

    Imagine playing mario kart but only player one gets the sound effects from picking up the boxes, it'd cause a few fights for the first controller I'm sure ;)
     
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  17. angrypenguin

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    Yeah, its more about the functional awareness and feedback than creating a properly simulated soundscape.

    Having said that, I suspect that you might be able to largely get away with a standard listener for each player, since our ears are pretty good at both working with our eyes and being able to pick out individual sounds. Could be wrong there, though.
     
  18. Tomnnn

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    How isn't that solved by having an audio listening in the scene with 2 sources (per concurrent sound effect) on either side of it that play when the corresponding player shoots?

    That's what I was thinking regarding knowing who shot. Wouldn't you know because you pulled the trigger and saw the muzzle flare? haha. And also, just play sounds for both players. Have an army of audio sources if you must. Or go the playmaker route - create an audio source, load the clip, play the clip, delete audio source on clip end lol
     
  19. 3agle

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    Because without workarounds for the current system, a single audio listener (presumably attached to a player), will only capture sounds relevant to that player. The other player, if far away from player 1, won't get any sounds relating to their own activities, as they don't have a listener. Of course, there are workarounds for this, but I think the point here is that it's not possible to do this with Unitys normal method.

    Also note that listeners are used for more than just shooting sounds, you have enemy audio, powerups, ambient level audio, music(tough to justify for splitscreen to be fair) etc. Lots of stuff that depends on the location and activity of each player.

    All that said and done, splitscreen is increasingly rare as a game mode, which may go towards explaining why this hasn't really made it's way into Unity yet, I myself don't plan on using it (at least not for split screen), though I can see it being a not insignificant problem for those that wish to do this.
     
  20. Tomnnn

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    But in split screen you wouldn't notice xP

    Say the sceen is split down the middle... when player 1 (left) does something, the audio emits from the left speaker. When player 2 (right) does something, the audio emits from the right speaker. Maybe this isn't even about directional audio, I dunno, I feel dumb but I can't wrap my mind around what's going on here lol.

    Does it matter who initiated what? If it's split screen and both cameras are close to the player they keep track of, wouldn't all sounds from either play emit from the center / both speakers anyway? Really not seeing what's even supposed to be happening here.

    On SPLIT SCREEN however, everyone hears when anyone picks something up. There's no distinction and player 1 might as well just have 30 audio sources nearby to account for all of the channels that can go off at once for all players. I have played games like this, and to the best of my [unreliable] memory, it wouldn't matter who did what, the sound would be emitted from the same place and the same time every time. It bothers me that I have no idea what's happening in this thread :D

    Couldn't this just be solved by making your audio 2D?
     
  21. 0tacun

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    Tomnnn, the issue is currently that only one audio listener is available at any time. Imagine if player one is at top of a castle and player two walks around the front gate, you would hear only the sounds surrounding player 1.

    The second player is practically 'deaf'. You could easily try it yourself and see the limitation.

    The 2D workaround works. But well it is a workaround. With this you're losing some audio effects like echo, dobler etc. And I think some performance since you need to calculate the distances of every audio source to the players.

    It looks like other engines support multiple audio listeners fine. Maybe they just pick one of the available listeners which are closest to the available source, or if they are too far apart from each other just mix every audio source together.
     
  22. Blorfy

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    For us, our game is a space game. Here is a link so you know what I am talking about:



    So in our game there are a lot of explosions and engine noises and bullet impacts. The second player can pick up a controller, hit start, and the screen will split and they will take control of one of the ships in the fleet. All the cameras clone themselves for the second player and it all just works aside from the sound. The second player is currently deaf. Not hearing the second ship being pummeled is really noticeable, especially with the second ship is taking hits and the first one is not. Our game is heavy on sound effects and half the screen is mute.

    The second listener should only listen to 3d audio in our case, to prevent double playing of music, chatter etc...

    A second listener is also something that should be enabled explicitly since it is a more rare requirement and it is not too hard for newer users to accidentally get 2 listeners in a scene.

    Mixing wise, just mix the sounds and let us manage the loudness when two of the same audio play simultaneously. If we literally just had a second audio listener that would do exactly the same work as the first audio listener (aside from skipping 2d audio) that would solve split screen for us.

    This is the first any only case with Unity where I have regretted not having code access. For every other problem we have been able to tailor a solution using the black box. This really feels like a piece that is missing in Unity 5. We picked up Unity 5 yesterday and with all the sound upgrades, I was in shock that the second audio listener was not included.
     
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  23. Tomnnn

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    You need those effects in split screen? The workaround suggests finally that I do understand what the issue is, but I'm still not understanding it as an issue xP Special effects in split screen that are doable but complicated and less efficient, hmm.

    Sounds pretty low priority compared to other things. I guess it's important for people trying to make console games. But really, you need 3D sound in a split screen game? I don't recall this being a thing in Halo. For split screen games, let's see... I played Halo 2 and 3 in 1 sitting with a friend, I played gears of war in 1 sitting with a friend, I played mario kart with some friends and I played cod3 split screen multiplayer with 1 friend... I don't remember at any point there being a difference in 3D of 1 player or another initiating a sound. If both players are shooting guns, you just hear both guns shooting. If someone to the left of player 1 fired a tank round, there was just a loud mono tank blast sound from the tv. Same with guns / enemies / explosions in the halo games and gears of war.

    Confused.
     
  24. Blorfy

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    The problem is with the number of sounds being hand updated in script with the "go 2d model" Most sounds in our game are not quick one shots like gunfire, and the ones that are may be up to 3 seconds long for a big explosion. So we end up with a model where we are updating (in script) the distance to BOTH player cameras for the desired sound volume per sound per frame (many of these sounds are also in motion). Note: there can easily be over 100 sounds trying to play at any given time, and with looping sounds like engines and missile engines etc, there is a lot happening. When a mass bomb near misses you, you need to hear it, and ideally hear it travel from the right channel to the left channel if it is headed that way.

    So the current option is to essentially make split screen a much poorer audio experience than the actual game by going 2d, losing all directional feedback, effects, and adding a large overhead to get the volumes correctly hand updated per frame.

    The alternative is adding a second audio listener, giving us the same quality audio and effects in split screen as in single screen. This seems from the outside of the black box as a fairly simple constraint to remove, but perhaps it is not.

    Many PC players nowadays want to play on the couch, especially through Steam's big picture, and their new Steambox. We are targeting PC, Mac, Linux, PS4 and XboxOne and we believe split screen will be as huge selling point on all of them. It is fun to have a friend be able to pick up a controller and drop in, instead of watching at the sidelines. Another focus for us was to integrate these local players into internet multiplayer seamlessly, which also works right now. But imagine the second the second player hits start, the entire soundscape of the game essentially goes mono, loses all sound effect, and just generally sounds like a game from the 90's. It really sucks if you care about how your game will present itself.
     
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  25. orionburcham

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    Tomnnn- wouldn't setting all your AudioSources to 2D remove some basic properties of audio like volume changing with distance? Directionality? In a 3d game, that...seems like a mighty big drawback, splitscreen or no. What am I missing about your approach?
     
  26. Tomnnn

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    @Blorfy Hopefully you'll find a fix to this. Casual gaming & SteamOS could be a thing, since steam has such a massive user base. Hmm... what would happen if every single frame you just enabled 1 player's audio listener and then disabled the previous player's audio listener and did this back and forth? A dumb idea, but maybe less of a performance hit than trying to rig a fake 3D system yourself with 2D sound? Not sure.

    It's probably just my lack of understanding of the problem. I think when you're dealing with a 3D world and and multiple players on a single screen, then directional audio is a mess. If you and your friend are next to each other, facing the same direction and a 3D sound comes up between the two of you, will the direction for the audio be forwards or backwards? It should be both, but in a split screen environment, what is that going to sound like? Without both of you wearing headphones, what even is 'forward' or 'backward' sound from your tv / speakers? If it's just sounds getting louder and quieter based on distance, then you can achieve that with 2D sound. It will take a little more calculation that having both players have an audio listener and I'm not suggesting that UT not develop it because there's a workaround, I'm just not seeing the purpose of 3D sound in a game that is split screen.

    So, to both of you, maybe that's the perspective UT has. A split screen game should have 2D audio because directional input from 2 listeners but only 1 output (the same tv / speakers) is poor design.

    Another example that answering could clarify some of this:

    Say player 1 and player 2 are standing beside one another. Player 1 holds down his/her trigger and begins firing a machine gun. A moment later, player 2 walks away from player 1 who is still shooting. So... what would that sound like? Audio listener 1 has an up close, forward-ish sound of a gun firing constantly. Audio listener 2 hears gunshots in another direction and also gradually quieting.

    How would you represent this sound from 1 audio out?
     
  27. The-Spaniard

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    My suggestion is you'd sample the volume of each sound once per listener, and then play the loudest. If you make the simplification that sound travels instantly (ie. no time delay) that I'm pretty sure Unity already does, then it makes sense that the loudest "instance" of a sound would be dominate. In your example, the output sound would be the loud gunfire from player 1. But if there were say, a rocket exploding far away from both players 1 and 2, then that would be quiet. You don't have to worry about directional output of the audiolistener on the most part, because most of the time, a split-screen coop game will not be being played with surround-sound, but with both gamers sitting next to each other some distance from a speaker.

    2 audio listeners, outputting mono, and then plugged into the same mix, filtering the quieter of any duplicated audio out would be the simplest solution.
     
  28. Tomnnn

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    @The Spaniard that's what I was getting at... I think. The directional stuff doesn't matter and if you only play the loudest of duplicate sounds, and then you don't really need 3D sound and thus there is no problem. When a sound is playing, find out who it's closest to (distance between emitter and player, no 3D audio needed), then use your linear / logarithmic rolloff function to adjust the sound volume ;)
     
  29. orionburcham

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    I think we're missing a big piece of data here: what other games do. We've mentioned Halo a few times, but to my ears (and admittedly error prone recollection), I thought they were just blending the 3D audio from all player's POV.

    I wouldn't assume that would sound particularly bad, but none of us can really be sure without good data about what approach they actually took. I'd love to hear some!
     
  30. superpig

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    It's not so much "that's the perspective UT has" I think - when I suggested it before, that was just me thinking on the spot for a solution - but I think it is the case that, as discussed here, the problem is not actually trivial to solve and the desired behaviour can vary pretty wildly between games.

    That's not to say we couldn't support some common configurations, or try and solve small pieces of the puzzle while leaving the bigger-picture behaviour to you to implement, but it's a much more subtle problem than it might first appear so it's not something we would want to rush into carelessly.
     
  31. Blorfy

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    Personally even a half baked solution with 2 audio listeners would be better than what we have now which is nothing. We are considering dropping the split screen because we cannot deliver on the sound and it is awful because the rest of it all works perfectly and we have a great couch game. It is a hard problem to theorize about on paper, you need a working example to get a feel for it. When you have an example playing in front of you, the problem becomes obvious.

    I will try to illustrate. So we have a split screen game with the 2 screens stacked vertically (maybe this is why it is a simpler problem for us because both screens have a well defined left and right side. Anyhow.

    X sound source relative to camera facing. (this is a looping starship engine hum with pronounced doppler)
    [ ] top screen
    [ ] bottom screen


    X..........................[ ]
    .......................X...[ ]

    I expect to loudly hear the sound in the left channel of my speaker system.


    ...........................[ ] X
    ......................X..[ ]

    I expect to loudly hear the sound in both speakers (ships are facing opposite directions)

    .........................[ ]................................................................X
    .....................X.[ ]

    I expect to loudly hear the sound in the left speaker, very quietly in the right one.

    Only 2 audio listeners can achieve this while keeping all the effects and spatial feeling intact. The effects are as important as the sounds. The falloff ranges, the distant rumbles all of it. 2D sound just cannot convey a 3d soundscape at all. 2d sounds are great for music, radio chatter, hud events, but in a 3d world you need 3d sound. You can't have a second player join and then suddenly hobble the whole sound system. It is not inviting at all.
     
  32. angrypenguin

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    Sources aren't the problem. Listeners are.

    I think at the functionality level multiple listeners and a layer mask controlling what sources are used by what listeners cover it. Past that it's higher-level design for the game. Can anyone think of a design case which that functionality wouldn't allow you to cover?

    For cases where the designer would want to play a sound in 2D instead that's already covered. It's only cases where you want 3D sound from multiple simultaneous perspectives where we need anything that's not already there.

    Edit: Of course, "multiple listeners" on its own is non-trivial, as it means an extra layer of mixing is required.

    @Blorfy, it sounds to me like what you're asking for is two mono outputs, from two listeners, each mixed into different speakers. Is that right? So player 1 listens to the left speaker and player 2 to the right? To me that approach seems to ignore a lot of stuff, like what if the game is played on a surround sound system rather than stereo?

    Anyway, I think you could implement what you're taking about with a single listener, though once again it'll be fiddly. Make a source manager for your sounds that, depending on which player the sound is for pans them to either the left or right, sets them to 2D and adds Doppler via a filter.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2015
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  33. Blorfy

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    I am not looking for mono output. I am looking for mixed stereo output. Literally 2 audio listener outputs added together and weighted to only hear the louder of the two sounds in either speaker. (you cant add them together). There are methods in place to make virtual sound environments and they are heavy and fairly horrible. The best solution is simply to open up that second audio listener. Were there to be 2 audio listeners that could simply play the loudest version of the sound instance per speaker (this would even work with 2d sound without any layers since one set would get culled since the volumes would be equal) that would be all that is required.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2015
  34. Vectrex

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    Ok, I really don't see why this is so confusing to people (I've even talked to Unity people in real life and they look at me strange).
    THIS guy made his own and it's exactly what we want. Watch his video. http://forum.unity3d.com/threads/multi-audio-split-screen-audio-plugin-beta.165694/
    He just duplicates each source for each camera.

    As for efficiency, here's some thoughts off the top of my head.
    To use a single source for all cameras, just calculate the distance/panning between the source and ALL cameras, average them and use that as the SINGLE sources volume.
    You could still duplicate the source but set the priority to disable the quieter one. This would still allow doppler effects, while not having 2 sources wasting cpu.
    Yes doppler and per camera effects can still be a problem (eg if both listeners are very close, but facing the opposite way of a fast source). Well.. if the sources deviate enough, just internally duplicate the source exactly like the guy above does. You can even do this realtime when it's needed.
    Most of the time a single source would be fine.
     
  35. Tomnnn

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    Darn. In the end I remain clueless. At least that's problem solved-ish for now.
     
  36. Blorfy

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    The plugin Vectrex presents is a good demonstration of the problem, but as a solution it leaves much to be desired. We really need someone at Unity to take notice and give us a second audio listener, then expensive work arounds like that plugin would not be necessary.
     
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  37. 0tacun

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    Perhaps @wkaj has some information of the current situation ?
     
  38. Polyphylla

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    I like this idea.
     
  39. jerotas

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    I agree there should be something native.

    It will be quite a while I'm sure before Unity produces something, so if you need it, spend the $5 or write your own. You're not really calling $5 expensive are you? Plugins don't get much cheaper than that.
     
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  40. angrypenguin

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    "Expensive" might be referring to the computational/workflow overheads rather than the $5.
     
  41. jerotas

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    Yeah that's why I'm asking the question. It wasn't rhetorical :)
     
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  42. Loren-Logic

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    For my split-screen game, I use a non-rendered object with an audio listener on it which scripted objects having audio sources can control. An object that wants to source a clip checks a static variable to see if the audio listener is available. If not, I implement a priority scheme to decide if the playing or the new sound is more important. If the listener is available, the sourcing object is considered. If the object about to play a clip is a protagonist, having a camera as well, its script brings the audio listener object to itself. If it is not a protagonist, its script does a little vector math and puts the listener in the appropriate place between or among the other audio listeners . The scheme works well for interesting and comprehensible audio because I don't clutter up the sound environment with noise that is meaningless to every player. If, say, player top is about to shoot player bottom, the former is going to enjoy the sound of the shot and the latter is quite interested in knowing s/he's being shot at. If, say, protagonist middle has engine noise, that is a meaningless irritant to players left and right, so don't have engine noise at all. The realism player middle enjoys is worse than no engine noise at all for players left and right.
     
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  43. CausticLasagne

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    This post is funny. You can have as many audio listeners in the scene as you need, but try to keep each one paired with a camera and even then controlling how many you need. Unity automatically blends the audio correctly for each audio source. In a split screen game, you would have a camera for each player and an audio source for each camera, and even though unity says that this is an issue, you can still do it. As for making split screen games, organizing the cameras it the tricky bit. I'll leave that up to you guys. Cheerio.
     
  44. angrypenguin

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    Necroing ancient threads to tell people they're wrong is "funny". ;) Back when this thread was active you could indeed only have one AudioListener per scene. It's pretty sweet if that's been updated, but the manual doesn't reflect that.
     
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  45. Kiwasi

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    Some people just don't appreciate what life was like in the old days when we used to walk to school uphill both ways.
     
  46. jerotas

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    Indeed. I have never heard that that changed. Did it?
     
  47. Kiwasi

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    I dunno, I couldn't see anything in a cursory glance at the release notes.
     
  48. jerotas

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    Then maybe the guy that necro'd this thread is "funny" lol.
     
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  49. Kiwasi

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    16,533
    Just tested in Unity. As of 5.4 (haven't upgraded yet) having two audio listeners still spams the console with errors. And there is no automated blending if there are two listeners, one works and the other is ignored.

    So unless something changed in 5.5 that I haven't seen yet, the necromancer is completely wrong, and the initial thread is still relevant.
     
    angrypenguin likes this.
  50. Vectrex

    Vectrex

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2009
    Posts:
    204
    Still says "There are 2 audio listeners in the scene. Please ensure there is always exactly one audio listener in the scene." for me in 5.5.0f3
     
    angrypenguin and GibTreaty like this.