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Hisymak

Do you miss MIDI or Module-based music in modern games?

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During early 90's, the vast majority of games used sequence-based music tracks, either MIDIs which were played through some MIDI synthesizer, or modules which contained  samples that were played with different pitch and length.

But as the years went and there was more storage (CDs, bigger hard drives) and powerful compression formats (mp3, ogg, ...), eventually all the games started to use "real" or "streamed" (or how to call it) music. It was either recording of real orchestral music played by real instruments, or final rendition of MIDIs or tracks made by professional trackers. Nowadays I practically cannot find a modern commercial or freeware game which would use sequenced music format at all. Even games which use chiptune-style music (for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-baHj9N6dM), the music is not synthesized on the fly by a software synthesizer, but it's "just" ogg recording of the final track.

I fully understand that "real"/"streamed" music is superior over sequenced formats, and gives unlimited possibilities. However I realized I somehow miss the old sequenced formats and feel some nostalgia for them.

There are two main reasons.

One is the file size. The MIDIs usually have kilobytes or tens of kilobytes in size, modules something around a megabyte. I fully understand that nowadays nobody cares about file size at all when we have terabyte hard drives and gigabit internet connectivity. So one or several gigabytes soundtrack is not a thing at all. However as I am old school player, I still intuitively care about the size. It just bothers me when a game soundtrack takes hundreds megabytes or gigabytes, no matter I have just enough hard drive for that. Then also the Doom mappers and modders still care about size of their WADs and PK3s, so having small-sized music files is still an important thing here.

The second thing is the style and feeling of the music. Earlier, every platform had its own synthesizer and music style that defined the platform and were recognizable for the platform. Pretty good times I really miss nowadays. For MIDIs, you can use soundfont and synthesizer of your preference. You have a MIDI and it can sound how you want it to sound like. I, personally, prefer OPL synthesizer and enjoy its sounding and felling. It's the music I was growing up with during all my childhood. This is something I really miss in new games, while younger players wouldn't understand that at all.

So what do you think?

 

 

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I miss actual engaging music. Sick of all this orchestral, I-want-to-be-Jeremy-Soule ambient background noise BS. 

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Midi's use for playback was probably a sort of 90's accident - it started out in the 80's as a tool for musicians to store/copy/modify their works easily and rapidly, and it still sees use in that capacity today. Nobody (except us) plays a straight midi file out of their keyboard or PC as the presentation of their piece, they'll layer real instruments etc. on top, or heavily modify that midi in other hardware/software and present THAT to their audience... i.e. it's a production tool now as opposed to the experience.

 

Tracker music I don't feel ever got anywhere close to mainstream even among gamers, I think you have to be extreme super dork gamer/programmer for that to be on your radar. There's still a ton of activity in tracker music today, and as such I don't miss it since I don't think it went anywhere (maybe it went from Quite Unpopular to Very Unpopular). The only games I can name on pc would be Star Con 2, UT, and Crusader No Regret

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On the contrary am glad they are a thing of the past. There was always one best soundfont -usually a soundblaster- for each game (The one the composer designed around) and everything else was just a test of how many details get butchered; A lot of them frankly outright ruin songs and give me a headache when an instrument just doesn't fit with the song. I grew up with Sound Blaster and can't stand OPL at all, so that point about younger audiences not understanding doesn't really defend the format. 

 

2 hours ago, Mr. Freeze said:

I miss actual engaging music. Sick of all this orchestral, I-want-to-be-Jeremy-Soule ambient background noise BS. 

 

Ambient soundtracks are really overused by now. A lot of games have such similar songs that it is hard  to figure out what game the song comes from too. Not like many old games with songs anyone who have heard would instantly recognize (Hell March, AfterLife, Entryway, Terran2 etc). Worst part is games that rely on ambient songs and do them well don't even have that weakness; The songs in Dead Space and Resident Evil 2 are great! 

 

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Posted (edited)

Tracker music can sound pretty good--Unreal, Mummy Maze, Typer Shark, and Heavy Weapon (the PC version) are some examples of more "powerful" sounding module music in a game, although they still don't quite have the same quality as actual orchestrated music.

 

Here's Heavy Weapon's PC version boss music (the PSN version uses pre-recorded metal music instead of modules):

 

Spoiler

 

 

I'm less fond of General MIDI music however, for the reasons that Pegg already mentioned.  With more obscure games that weren't composed with an SC-55, you'd have no idea how the composer intended the music to sound, because so many sound cards and soundfonts would completely change the instrument balance.

Edited by TheUltimateDoomer666

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I really liked the fact it exposed me to lots of great music from previous generations, in MIDI form. But that was mainly unintentional and came from fan creations.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/4/2019 at 7:52 PM, Vorpal said:

 The only games I can name on pc would be Star Con 2, UT, and Crusader No Regret

Persuit of Greed, Jazz Jackrabbit, Epic Pinball, Stargunner, Halloween Harry, Out of this World...

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I missed out on using midi sound cards back in the day. I was never aware midi existed until I learned about what doom used for music playback in.. 2011. I do think many indie developers use midi for there soundtracks.

 

Way too late for the party. I'm going to guess the real hardware midi playback sounds better that softsynths. I turn into a enthusiast for midi ever since I started hearing the music from memento mori 1 and 2, requiem,reverie. There a ton of passion in those midis rich with interesting mix ups up to long spans of time without getting dull. IMO the musicians here are light years ahead of a lot of AAA companies.

 

My main soundfonts are

- roland sc-55. Sf2

- Yamaha XG soundset.Sf2 

- just t4.sf2 ( A Yamaha tyros 4 sf2) I used for composing music

 

I still like how midi sounds on the those old banks, they are timeless. Are there any midi sound cards that will work with modern pc's? I would love to experience what I missed out on. I wish I can talk about this from experience Iike everyone did, I did not know anything about midi until way late.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 4/5/2019 at 8:52 AM, Vorpal said:

The only games I can name on pc would be Star Con 2, UT, and Crusader No Regret

Tracker music/module files were more common in games than some might think, especially in the early 2000s...  Or maybe a lot of the games that I play just happened to use that format.

 

Some PC games I can think of (including the ones I mentioned in a post above) with great module soundtracks:  Alien Eggs, Alien Outbreak, Alien Outbreak 2, Alien Stars, Atomica, Black Knight: Marine Strike Fighter, Bud Redhead: The Time Chase, Cosmic Bugs, Dynomite, Heavy Weapon, Insaniquarium, Jeanne D'Pac, Jumpix, Magic Ball, Mummy Maze, Mystic Towers, One Must Fall 2097, Radix: Beyond the Void, Seven Seas, Star Defender series, Stargunner, Terminal Velocity, Terroid, Trugg, Typer Shark, and Zuma.

Edited by TheUltimateDoomer666 : Extended game list

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Ditto on Tracker music. Not only does it sound good, but it does so at a reasonably good file size compared to MP3/Ogg.

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Posted (edited)

UFO Enemy Unknown had great music, especially with MT32.

 

This would have to be my favorite track from the game with MT32.

 

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