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Sounds files and music files in NWN come in a great many forms. Basic sound files can be PCM encoded WAV files (rare) or MP3 files (much more common and highly recommended to use in pretty much all cases).

Types of File

The extension for these are always BMU (music) or WAV, regardless of the files type. Confusing but it is how the games resource manager loads them all! You can use on Windows Media Player Classic to play all the game files and inspect their bitrates and types.

This guide will use Audacity to export files, which is open source and freely available.

Filenames must be 16 characters or less it seems like any other resource in the game. The basic format recommendations are for files be 41,000 or 44,000 kHz, and mono or stereo as required. Some Bioware files use a lower kHz value. The limits of what NWN:EE supports will be sorted over time (it uses OpenAL so should support a lot larger range of formats).

For MP3s for anything other than a music file make sure you add a header - eg; using Notepad++ - to the very start of the file:

BMU V.1.0


Type2da File or UsageExtension (not format!)Header required if MP3Mono/StereoExample FileUsual LocationNotes
Music File

ambientmusic.2da

bmuNoneStereo or Mono (Stereo Recommended)

mus_theme_nwn.bmu

mus_bat_aribeth.bmu

Hakpacks or Bifs

Default music:

SteamApps\Common\Neverwinter Nights\data\mus

Must be MP3 you cannot load a wav file of any kind as a music track

Note to show up in the toolset the battle music must have a prefix mus_bat_

  • any name or mus_ - Normal music
  • mus_bat_ - Battle music
Sound Set Voice file

Soundset files (.ssf)

referenced in soundset.2da

wavBMU V.1.0Monovs_fvengaum_bye.wav

Hakpacks or Bifs


Voice FileNone, referenced by name in conversation optionswavBMU V.1.0Monovs_faldom_050.wavHakpacks or Bifs
Ambient Soundambientsound.2dawavBMU V.1.0Stereo or Mono (Stereo Recommended)al_pl_citynite.wav

Hakpacks or Bifs

Default ambient tracks:

SteamApps\Common\Neverwinter Nights\data\amb

Ambient sounds are really a type of "music". For some reason some are placed in "ambient" folder, who knows why.

Bioware prefixes all of theirs "al_"

Most of these appear to be WAVs by default which is odd (since they're long and perfect for MP3).

Weapon Hit Soundsweaponsounds.2dawavBMU V.1.0Monocb_ht_fleshleth1.wavHakpacks or Bifs

Sounds of weapon on armour etc.

These appear to be WAVs by default

Footstep Soundsfootstepsounds.2dawavBMU V.1.0Monofs_dirt_hard1.wavHakpacks or Bifs

Footstep sounds. When you walk on certain terrain.

These appear to be WAVs by default

Sound Effect

None, prefixes however are accepted, see below for list of default ones.

Can be used in PlaySound.

wavBMU V.1.0

Mono is recommended

However the toolset does load Stereo encoded WAV files, but fails to load Stereo encoded MP3 files. Odd!

al_an_chickens1.wav (WAV file)


Hakpacks or Bifs

These are short or long, and the toolset can load most of the other types in this list into a repeating/single shot/continuous, area wide/local sound effect in the toolset as a sound object (which can have a varying volume level etc.).

Alternatively playing them plays it from OBJECT_SELF at a set volume.

GUI Sound EffectNone - mostly coded into GUI files or the game as hardcoded references. May make a list sometime.wavBMU V.1.0Usually mono.gui_open.wavHakpacks or BifsThere are not many of these but can be replaced. Default ones are wavs.

File and Sound System Limits

Apart from the file name, some music tracks are over 10 minutes in length, so there is no apparently size limit as such (Although note NWSync has 15MB file size limit). However there may or may not be issues if a sound file plays for an exceedingly long time if not a music or ambient sound track, since it could reset or cutoff depending on how the sound system works.

Ambient and music tracks also can cut out randomly or reset and start from the beginning, most obvious if alt-tabbing the game. If you make a good music track make sure the start of it comes in nicely - else it'll be really, really repetitive. Delays between it playing again and a lower volume can help. The game has a music volume slider.

There are also obvious...limitations with NWNs ancient sound system (in EE and Diamond). The game only plays a limited amount of sounds effects, the 3d positional audio sometimes decides to rapidly cut out or rapidly increase the loudness of sounds - even, annoyingly, in cutscenes. There is little to no way to script better sounds (as in use all the pitch, volume and randomness settings available in the Sound Object the toolset has) since PlaySound is so limited and buggy, and playing a sound as part of a voiceline also has limits.

Even more of an issue, the audio files are all also rated in the same "volume slider" used by the game. Which means spells, rain, or that walking sound all have the same volume meter. "voices" played in effects also get this treatment. The camera or PC also can get very close to sound effect sources and alter the position of audio through the camera rapidly.

A note on Ambient Effects

The game has a limited pallet of ambient effects which add echos and other things. If you've got more information on these write it here.

BMU format

There isn't particularly anything special, as noted here. These are MP3 files. The extension likely stands for "Bioware Music". Renaming a MP3 to BMU works fine as long as it matches the example settings.

Just in case you missed the note above, BMU files cannot be actual WAV encoded files. However .WAV files can be BMU ones.

As noted above if you have a .WAV file but MP3 / "BMU" contents you need to have the start of the file be: BMU V.1.0, eg in Notepad++:

2da Files

Information to follow, but in essence, list the file name and an appropriate TLK (or sometimes "Quoted Name") reference to see the option in the toolset, and it sort itself in game.

Music Prefixes

There are two main prefixes that Bioware used for their files.

For battle music, to show up in the toolset the prefix must be used.

It should be you can still set the track using script commands or GFF edits (since they refer to just a ID number)

PrefixUsageNotes
Any (bioware uses mus_)Ambient MusicCan only be used as ambient music. Cannot be selected for battle music tracks (but to have the same effect just have no battle music track).
mus_bat_Battle Music and Ambient Music

Usually has an "ending sting" but not always.

Can be used as both ambient music and battle music tracks - a good use for ambient music is "final boss levels" or "battlefields" where the entire area is for battle. It keeps it continuous track going helpfully.

Sound Effect Prefixes

These help load the right sounds - else you'll be looking through literally thousands if you select "All Resources" which is the only way the toolset can load a sound effect, say, named "sound.wav".

They are defined in rrf_wav.2da - you can edit this or just use Biowares defaults below. The shorter prefixes load everything "under" them, so "Ambient_SingleShot" loads the People, Animals etc. ones all at once.

There may be some files in the default game which don't come under these naming conventions, selecting the "Blank" category can show them all.

Sound Effect CategoryPrefix Loaded in Toolset
Ambient_SingleShotas_
as_Peopleas_pl_
as_Animalsas_an_
as_Natureas_na_
as_Weatheras_wt_
as_Doorsas_dr_
as_Containersas_cn_
as_Switchesas_sw_
as_Magicalas_mg_
as_Civilizationas_cv_
Ambient_Loopingal_
al_Peopleal_pl_
al_Animalsal_an_
al_Natureal_na_
al_Weatheral_wt_
al_Doorsal_dr_
al_Containersal_cn_
al_Switchesal_sw_
al_Magicalal_mg_
al_Civilizational_cv_
Creaturesc_
Bodyfallsbf_
Combatcb_
GUIgui_
Footstepsfs_
Itemit_
Spells
Spell_Castsca_
Spell_Cessationsce_
Spell_Conjuresco_
Spell_Projectilespr_
Spell_Persistent_Staticsps_
Spell_Persistent_Mobilespm_
Spell_Durationsdr_
Spell_Fire_and_Forgetsff_
Spell_Personal_Impactsim_
VoiceSetvs_
VoiceSet_Partial_NPCvs_n
VoiceSet_Partial_Henchvs_h
VoiceSet_Fullvs_f
Horroras_hr

Encoding WAVs

The WAV settings are pretty simple. Using Audacity, an export of a file as a mono/stereo file with WAV (Microsoft). There are not any real options to export it, and an example is below:

Bioware WAVs are reasonably rare - an example one encoded: adpcm_ima_wav, 44100 Hz, 1 channels, s16, 177 kb/s while another is adpcm_ima_wav, 22050 Hz, 1 channels, s16, 88 kb/s.

There should be no need to encode any special headers, there are various WAV types - but seriously - why would you use this over a well encoded MP3 file anyway? Please don't use WAV files nowadays.

The one I encoded as a working test: pcm_s16le, 44100 Hz, 1 channels, s16, 705 kb/s

Audio
Format                         : PCM
Format settings                : Little / Signed
Codec ID                       : 1
Duration                       : 2 s 749 ms
Bit rate mode                  : Constant
Bit rate                       : 705.6 kb/s
Channel(s)                     : 1 channel
Sampling rate                  : 44.1 kHz
Bit depth                      : 16 bits
Stream size                    : 237 KiB (100%)


Encoding MP3s

MP3s are generally more sensible since it saves a lot of space. It appears NWN likes constant bitrates of 128kbps or lower. Some of the original game ones are for instance 96kbps. It is recommended in modern times to just use 128kbps.

You can use higher bitrates - but make sure you test the tracks in game.

Remember to add BMU V1.0 at the start of the file for the game and toolset to load them unless they are using the .BMU extension (where this info is assumed).

Stereo MP3

These are for music and ambient tracks only it seems. Mono is needed for usual sound and voice files (the game does positional audio for where it will come from).

These are the settings used in Audacity:

This produces this kind of MP3:

44100 Hz, stereo, 128 kb/s

Format                         : MPEG Audio
File size                      : 44.1 KiB
Duration                       : 2 s 795 ms
Overall bit rate mode          : Constant
Overall bit rate               : 128 kb/s
Writing library                : LAME3.100
FileExtension_Invalid          : m1a mpa1 mp1 m2a mpa2 mp2 mp3

Audio
Format                         : MPEG Audio
Format version                 : Version 1
Format profile                 : Layer 3
Duration                       : 2 s 795 ms
Bit rate mode                  : Constant
Bit rate                       : 128 kb/s
Channel(s)                     : 2 channels
Sampling rate                  : 44.1 kHz
Frame rate                     : 38.281 FPS (1152 SPF)
Compression mode               : Lossy
Stream size                    : 43.7 KiB (99%)
Writing library                : LAME3.100
Encoding settings              : -m s -V 4 -q 3 -lowpass 17 -b 128


Mono MP3

This is likely the most used filetype for sound effects. It should work in all cases WAV works, but this author hasn't tested every single sound playing instance (eg; footsteps, or weapon sounds). If it is a case that WAV is needed in any particular place in the game update this with a warning and list of cases.

It is recommended to pre-mix down to mono before exporting.

But in any case select the Force export to mono to be sure:

This produces this kind of MP3:

44100 Hz, mono, 128 kb/s

Format                         : MPEG Audio
File size                      : 44.1 KiB
Duration                       : 2 s 795 ms
Overall bit rate mode          : Constant
Overall bit rate               : 128 kb/s
Writing library                : LAME3.100
FileExtension_Invalid          : m1a mpa1 mp1 m2a mpa2 mp2 mp3

Audio
Format                         : MPEG Audio
Format version                 : Version 1
Format profile                 : Layer 3
Duration                       : 2 s 795 ms
Bit rate mode                  : Constant
Bit rate                       : 128 kb/s
Channel(s)                     : 1 channel
Sampling rate                  : 44.1 kHz
Frame rate                     : 38.281 FPS (1152 SPF)
Compression mode               : Lossy
Stream size                    : 43.7 KiB (99%)
Writing library                : LAME3.100
Encoding settings              : -m m -V 4 -q 3 -lowpass 20.5 -b 128
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