Sunday, 6 April 2014

Music To Roleplay To: Audio App Impressions

Today on Music To Roleplay To, we look at a few audio application options for your games and my impressions on them:

Tabletop Audio 

I stumbled across Tabletop Audio the other day, an excellent resource for use in your tabletop games. The site features numerous free 10-minute loop-able audio tracks that are playable directly from a browser, no downloading needed. As of writing this, users can select from about 35 tracks from a wide range of genres (generic fantasy, cyberpunk, sci-fi, world war, pulp, mystery, horror, etc.), though the author agrees the majority of them might be on the weird side since he's been playing a lot of Numenera and Star Wars EtoE. Which I'm totally down with. :)


I like compiling playlists for my games, but the thing I really like about Tabletop Audio is the portability of it: sometimes you don't have the time and/or space to compile a playlist for your RPG. I've ended up playing/running a couple games that I'd have like to have some audio adding to the mood, but I lacked an appropriate playlist. Tabletop Audio appears to work in any web browser regardless of device, and I even tested it both from my (iOS) phone and tablet.

Another nice thing is usually when you play audio off of a device using a browser or app, you used to have to dedicate that device to playing, because when you go to the main screen and/or open another app the music ceases (unless using the dedicated music player, which are what playlists are for). A pleasant surprise I found with Tabletop Audio (and also other sites like Bandcamp) was when played through a web browser (in iOS least, tested both Chrome and Safari) it continues a site's audio when you switch to another screen, which is nice because I don't think it did that before. New iOS update? Anyway, one doesn't necessarily need to dedicate a device strictly to providing tunes.


Sadly, this method doesn't work with YouTube. The other downside to this being it requires connectivity to work, and if you don't have wi-fi access it'll either cost you in wireless or you'll be SOL so to speak. If connectivity is limited, you'd probably be better off with a playlist or an app.

Anyway Tabletop Audio is my current go to website for audio ambience for RPGs and boardgames. If you enjoy it as much as I do, consider donating some money to the designer to pay for bandwidth and as incentive to keep up the good work. :)


DMDJ

About more than a year or so ago, when I was first exploring my gaming audio options with my new tablet, I downloaded an iOS-only app to my tablet called DMDJ. A decent app for cost with a bunch of nifty features like SFX sets, music, ambient playlists, and dice rollers; though after trying it out in more than half a dozen sessions to provide audio to my games, I decided the interface wasn't intuitive enough and was more of a hassle. You can load DMDJ with your own audio playlists, but doing so takes a bit more work than loading a normal playlist.



One major problem I had was when swapping to another screen to check notes or reference something, I'd not only lose the audio, but the internal playlist would get messed up. Also I like orientating my tablet landscape-wise when at the table, and the app only displays in portrait. :\

The last update for DMDJ was in November of 2013, long after I opted not to use it, so some of the issues I was having with this app may have been rectified since then. Is it worth the $3.99 price tag? Debatable. I seem to recall paying more when I initially purchased it, they may have dropped the price since...


Syrinscape

Syrinscape is a cross-platform app that allows the user to have complete control over the audio packs provided by Syrinscape. Downloadable for free to PC, iOS, or Android with a few soundsets featuring an array of music, SFXs, and ambient audio. Additional soundsets or packs can be purchased from their store, saved to your account, downloaded, mixed and personalized across multiple platforms.


Though Syrinscape gives its users a dazzling degree of control over sound in their games, I prefer the fire-and-forget mentality of audio in my games: it should be in the background doing its job and not having to be constantly fiddled with, distracting the GM and disrupting the game. That said, you can personalize your soundsets ahead of time and run them that way, perhaps adding in a SFX or two to add a splash of sound into your games to spice it up if one desires. And aside from syncing, this app doesn't require an active internet connection to run.


The iOS app is currently only available in the US App Store, which means Canadian users like me have to switch stores to download it for our devices; and swapping stores always seems to mess up my account, so I've yet to check the app side of things.

Update: The designer of Syrinscape has contacted me to inform us that "Syrinscape IS normally available in ALL AppStores... we are just currently 'between' versions after a incompatibility between Unity and the current iOS literately silenced our iPad version! An updated fixed version is up for approval right now." Hopefully this means I'll be able to give a more thorough impression of the tablet app of Syrinscape soon. :)

Additionally, at the moment Syrinscape won't run it's audio in the background on tablets, which is an additional downside if you use your tablet has other uses at your gaming table than making noise.

Syrinscape's price is proportional to the amount soundsets purchased and the sheer audio control provided.


Keep On Listening! ;{١