Improve Audio with iKALiZER
Let’s have a chat about the underlying technologies in Urban Terror for a moment. Urban Terror is built upon id Software’s Tech 3 engine. For the average player, it would seem that knowing the engine the game runs on is (in general) pretty useless knowledge. However, this tidbit of information is much more interesting than first meets the eye. The GPLd game engine is why the game can be provided for free (without advertisements), why it is available on nearly all platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac), why it will continue to be available in the future, and why it can support recompiled binaries with extra features. What? You didn’t know about those?
I’m not talking about cheats or aimbots. I’m talking about built-in VoIP, enhanced multiprocessor support, anaglyph graphics (with 3D glasses), and support for full 5.1 surround sound. I told you that knowing the engine the game runs on would prove interesting, didn’t I? Today I’m going to introduce one of the most common recompiled builds out there: iKALiZER. Other special binaries (such as Mitsubishi’s Optimized Build) exist, but those are another article entirely. For starters, “iKALiZER” is an improved audio engine that is available for Urban Terror.
Why Use iKALiZER?
I hear all of you out there asking questions: “Is it fair? Will it improve my game? Why bother?” Well, here are a few reasons to consider using iKALiZER.
- It might improve your game: Reading through the Urban Terror Forum thread on iKALiZER is very technical. But even if you don’t know what the terminology means (Holographic, HRTF, Cinema AGC, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious), here is the simple truth: the built-in audio that Urban Terror supports is rather abysmal. Go into the sound settings, and you will see what I mean; two options: Dopplar sound and quality. Using iKALiZER will help you improve sound quality, which may help you utilize sound to better help you figure out where enemies are, hear incoming grenades, and become a better player. It’s worth a shot, right? This is especially true for players in clans, because why not try a simple tweak that could improve your game instead of (or in addition to) spending hours on strategy and practice.
- Take advantage of expensive audio equipment you (wish you) have: I use the cheapest headphones money can buy, some bargain bin headset that cost <15$ USD. I can already anticipate the furious criticism some readers will give me. Anyway, I have played with others who swear by their Sennheiser studio headphones that apparently (according to them) do sound as good as they cost. I have played with others who use full 5.1 surround sound with speakers mounted tactfully to “play the game” the way it was meant to be played. Using iKALiZER will allow players with thousand dollar stereo systems to get the most from the game.
- Enable SMP support for sound processing: For those of you with a computer that is newer than 2 years old, it’s likely that you have a dual-core or even a quad-core. Urban Terror is notorious for being unable to utilize multi-core systems (see “fix graphics problems on Urban Terror with affinity”), but by using iKALiZER one can at least process some of the game on more than one core. This may improve frame rate and lead to smoother gameplay.
- Because you can. I don’t know about you readers out there, but I like to tweak things to their fullest potential. From my mouse sensitivity to positioning my chair the correct distance from the screen, if it is customizable I will personalize it. I don’t know about European leagues, but iKALiZER has the “okay” for use in FTWGL. It’s not considered cheating, so try it out and see if you like it.
Should you use iKALIZER?
I feel there is no real cost to at least trying out iKALiZER, but to make it easier for you all, I’ve created a flow chart. Click on the graphic to make it larger if you can’t see it.
It is also my understanding that one can choose to use alternate sounds or not. I enjoy the original sounds, but some players may find the alternate sounds to be more authentic. I find the alternate sounds kind of metallic and grating to my ears, but others do enjoy them.
iKALiZER in Practice
Below are a few videos showcasing some play on a public server. Each video is the same, except that they have been exported from Urban Terror using different audio settings. First and foremost, I played this match using normal sound. Also, I know I suck, so please no “you’re a noob” comments. I’m not the best player out there, I’m admitting it so you don’t have to. It’s also likely that the terribleness of other players made me look better than I really am. For the record, this is not about “showing off” play, but rather about the audio. You may also notice that I’m not particularly good at aiming, and most of my kills come from flanking my enemies. I use sound heavily when playing the game.
The audio setting I used for all of the iKALiZER videos on youtube is (0×24) Dolby Pro Logic II compatible material. I was able to play the clip/demo with 5.1 surround sound (0×61/0×60), but I could not get Urban Terror to export with working audio (I’m not sure it matters much as I believe youtube compresses the audio anyway).
iKALiZER Alternate Sound Effects, Dolby Pro Logic II:
iKALiZER with Normal Sound Effects, Dolby Pro Logic II:
Click on one of the videos and view other videos by me to see an iKALiZER video with +20dB. I’ve removed it because videos filled the page and disrupted this post too much.
Like what you heard? Install it!
From what I understand, there are two versions of iKALiZER: one that enables alternate audio (such as different weapon sounds), and one that does not (and only adds the extra sound features).
- First, head on over to the Urban Terror thread and download yourself up some iKALiZER. The files should also be available on here: http://www.ikalizer.com/. If the links aren’t up you may find it here, or here.
- Extract the files to your Urban Terror folder. I would suggest making a backup copy of ioUrbanTerror.exe and autoexec.cfg prior to overwriting it with iKALiZER.
- Start up Urban Terror. Enter these commands in the console:
- /s_useIkalizer 1
- seta ikalizer_LimiterLevel 0 (a volume limiter)
- seta ikalizer_ChannelMode 0×60 (This sets iKALiZER to 5.0 surround sound. Other options can be found here)
- seta ikalizer_EnableSMP 1 (This will give you benefits if you have a multi-core processor).
- Restart Urban Terror. Check if the settings took by typing /s_useIkalizer. If it comes back as “1” the settings were saved.
- Play some Urban Terror and tweak to your liking.
iKalizer is one of the best alternate builds out there for Urban Terror as it is an interesting concept and a real treat for audiophiles. I think that the biggest drawback is that there is no support for Mac or Linux. This lack of support might lead to it getting banned in league play, since it gives some players an advantage that others cannot use. There is an argument on both sides, however, as players with faster computers and better connections also have an advantage.
I did notice some fps slowdown on certain audio settings, even though I have a quad-core. It was nothing major but it needs to be mentioned. Finally, the install method is not very elegant and can leave a player without working sound if instructions are not followed carefully. I would suggest reading the install advice on the Urban Terror forum thread before “jumping in.” Overall, I would highly recommend players take it for a test drive, but in the end, I would hope that players use what they like best.
- An Interview with iKALiZER’s Christophe Gossa I got a chance to catch up with the programer of iKALiZER for an interview. I asked him about upcoming features, estimated release dates, and about his motivation for allowing iKALiZER to interface with Urban Terror. So, without further ado, here is the interview!...