Thursday, 4 September 2014

Music To Roleplay To: Ambient-Mixer

Today on Music To Roleplay To, we look at another audio app that can be used in your games, this time focusing not so much on music but instead on background ambience:

My attention was recently brought to a site called The site is a compilation of user-submitted templates containing up to eight audio files mixed together to form an 'atmosphere'. The application is designed for a variety of uses: general ambient listening, background music for a short film, etc.; and for the mobile versions, an alarm clock and night timer. The applications for gaming have not been overlooked.

The nice thing about Ambient-Mixer is that there are figuratively tons of free, pre-compiled ambient templates to listen to; organized by category, recentness, popularity, and entirely searchable. (Doing a few quick test searches I pleasantly discovered users have complied a bunch of specific mixes tagged for RavenloftNumenera, and Star Wars games.)

You can view public atmospheres created by other users, which is handy if you dig their sound. That said the quality of mixes varies and thus so may your mileage; at least there is a wide selection and multiple genres to choose from!

You can also actively alter the mix you're listening to, changing the volume, cross-fade, frequency, etc. of tracks, which is convenient if you want to emphasize a particular sound or you need to mute one you find grating. I didn't have the time to make an account and create my own custom mix/save a template, so I didn't see that side of the coin.

One of the downsides of Ambient-Mixer, regardless of using it via desktop or mobile, is that it can take up to a few minutes for the mixer to download the necessary audio tracks; thus creating a period of dead air when searching for/swapping between atmospheres. Not really conducive for GM's like me who like to keep the game from being interrupted by fiddling with music. Also if you want to download an atmosphere as an MP3, the site charges you $5-16 USD based upon the length of the file.

The mobile version of Ambient-Mixer seems to also (at least with iOS devices) suffer from the inability to play sound when operating in the background or with the screen switched off (at least the screen blackens after a minute or so to minimize power loss); relegating your device purely to producing audio. Also the app has crashed once or twice on me, so I don't know how stable it actually is.

Additionally to note, all of my testing was done with the free mobile version of Ambient-Mixer; there's a full version about $4.99 USD for iOS devices and $4.73 USD for Android; the only difference from the 'Lite' version and full seems to be the ability to save atmospheres; when you already have access to all the other features combined with the currently stability of the app and its lacklustre interface doesn't make it seem worth the price.

All in all my impression is that Ambient-Mixer's major variety balances out its mild utility in gaming.

Keep On Listening! ;{١