Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Product Review - Syrinscape

  Another first for Don't Split the Party - a product review!

  Before we get too deep into the product itself, let's talk about gaming ambiance. We all know that the setting for play can matter as much as or more than the setting in the game. If you have a group of investigators creeping into a dank, cobwebbed cavern at night hoping they can stop Nyarlathotep playing on a beach with laughing bathers nearby is not going to enhance the mood. Playing a silver-age, four-color superhero campaign in a steam tunnel will not enhance the mood. GMing for players standing on a windswept, rain-soaked mountain peak as they gaze down at the orcish hordes marching to crush the last dwarven city is not the time to be playing j-pop.
  Not that there is anything wrong with j-pop.
  Back in 1982 I had already been running Seaward (my 1e campaign) for about 5 years. I had handouts (thanks, mimeograph machines!), a few props, and things like a wall hanger sword for when we played. But one night while I was DMing I left the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack running.
  The players loved it, especially Mary and Shelby.
  Pretty soon I had 5 mix tapes (ah, cassettes) for gaming; forest, underground, sea, desert, and battle. I would play them during sessions and players would sometimes donate new music.
  This is pretty common, I know, and more people seemed to do it when CDs and (eventually) digital music came along.
  But I always was searching for more and more. I was an early adopter of soundboard programs and when game-centric soundboards hit I started trying them all, including for my phones.I also mined audiosparx, soundrangers, and other such sites from the dim, dark past to get the sounds and ambiance I wanted.
  There were a lot of OK solutions and a few good ones, but I always ended up back in a mixer program fixing something. Why? Because I am a hard to please jerk that way, that's why.
  But I am happy now.
  I downloaded Syrinscape last week and went ahead and tried it and some bonus packs.
  First thing I love is that that is runs on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. With just a touch of work I got it working on an Ubuntu netbook. The sounds are crisp, professional, and varied. I can adjust the various sounds either with presets, make my own, or on the fly. It was easy to use, has a ton of add on content (I highly recommend the SoundSet Starter Pack; it was a big hit at the table) and it looks like more is coming, too.
  On the technical side, it was not a resource hog either in memory or RAM usage, I didn't have to fiddle with my sound controls a lot to make it audible, and I never experienced any skip or lag, not even with my wimpy little netbook.
  My only complaint is - I could not find a tool that would keep my screen from going to sleep while it was running. Yeah, I know, that may not be a quibble to many but a) sessions run long and if the screen is open I don't have to pause so much to keep going and b) I am a hard to please jerk, remember? Of course, I have been running it on Ubuntu so this may not be an issue on a fully supported OS and I could always take the 30 seconds to change my screen settings.
  Huh. Looks like I am a hard to please lazy jerk.

  My score is
  9 out of 10 stars, highly recommended for any game master. I suspect I won't be able to live without it.



  Thanks to Benjamin Loomes of Syrinscape who was kind enough to email me personally about the firm's product and get me some free sound sets for this review