During The Road to PS5 livestream, PlayStation 5 lead system architect Mark Cerny discussed the specs for Sony’s next-gen console, including backwards compatibility and SSD load times. When it comes to audio, the PS5 will utilize 3D audio technology, allowing you to better determine an in-game item or enemy’s location in relevance to you based on the sound that it makes. So, like if a monster is sneaking up on you from behind, you’ll have a better idea as to it’s specific location as opposed to the general direction.
When it comes to audio on PS5, Sony has three goals. “The first goal was great audio for everyone–not just for VR users or sound bar owners or headphone users,” Cerny said. “That meant audio had to be part of the console, it couldn’t be a peripheral. The second goal was to support hundreds of sound sources. We didn’t want developers to have to pick and choose what sounds would get 3D effects and which wouldn’t. We wanted every sound in the game to have dimensionality.”
The third goal is more deeply tied to immersion, and it’s the one that’s going to help make it a little easier to play survival horror games, battle royale games, and other types of games that are heavily dependent on locating a target through sound. “We wanted to really take on the challenges of presence and locality,” Cerny said. “Now, when we say presence, we mean the feeling that you’re actually there–you’ve entered the Matrix. It’s not of course, something we thought we could perfectly achieve. The idea was that if we stopped using just a rain sound, and instead used lots of 3D audio sources for raindrops hitting the ground and all sorts of locations around you, then at some point your brain would take a leap and you’d begin to have this feeling–this feeling of real presence inside the virtual world of the game.”
He continued: “The concept of locality is simpler: it’s just your sense of where the audio is coming from–to the right of you, behind you, above you. This can immerse you further in the game and it can also directly enhance the gameplay. To use Dead Space as an example–I know, old school–you’re fighting enemies in fairly dark, spooky locations. Back in the day, if you played the game using the TV speakers, you could tell that there was one last enemy growling and hunting you down, but it was difficult to tell quite where that enemy was. With headphones, you could tell that the enemy was somewhere on the right, which let you deduce, if you couldn’t see it, that it must be somewhere behind and to your right. But with 3D audio–with good locality–the idea is, you know the enemy is precisely there.”
Of course, just because 3D audio is going to make a survival horror game easier to play, it doesn’t mean the game will be any less scary. In fact, the idea that I’ll more precisely know just how close a necromorph is to stabbing me in the back is a tad bone-chilling. Perhaps a bit of ignorance is bliss.