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Gez

Munt / MT-32 emulation

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Midi playback is problematic as everybody knows. There are basically two standards that have appeared: OPL emulation (as in ChocoDoom or ZDoom for example) and GUS emulation (anything that can use Timidity).

But there is also Munt which is an MT-32 emulator available under both the GPLv2 and the LGPL, and so should be compatible license-wise with most source ports (it even used to be under a MIT license as well).

Have any developer thought about integrating Munt in a source port? As far as I know, it's incorporated in ScummVM, some builds of DOSBox, and pretty obscure otherwise.

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Munt requires an MT-32 or CM-32L/64 ROM, which aren't GPL. (Although I guess this isn't much different than there being a lack of Free GUS patches for Timidity.) However, thanks to some weirdness in US copyright law at the time they came out, the ROM might actually be public domain. I don't know how or if this applies to the rest of the world.

I can vouch that, despite the fact that most instruments have different program numbers in MT-32 versus General MIDI, the music in Doom and Doom II still sounds half decent on both real and emulated MT-32s...

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Any source port requires the IWADs which are not GPL either. I don't think this is an issue.

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Gez said:

Any source port requires the IWADs which are not GPL either. I don't think this is an issue.

That's ridiculous, you get the IWADs when you buy the game, but it doesn't come with any MT32 instrument data.

The instrument data is the important part, and if that cannot be legally re-distributed then MT32 is useless to support.

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It's the same thing in that it's not the problem of the program where the user got the data. There's no legal distribution channel for the Doom 64 ROM either, and this doesn't prevent Doom64Ex from existing.

Back in the nineties I had an MT-32-compatible soundcard and it sounded nice. The Heretic soundtrack in particular was a lot better than in General MIDI mode.

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Using MT-32 emulation would be just as "problematic" as using GUS emulation : you cannot make it easy for end users by simply including the instrument data with the program, either because the data is not legally distributable (as with some GUS patch sets, and I think with Roland's MT32 ROM too) or because the data is too big (FreePats).

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But isn't TiMidity++ a GUS emulator? Not many people find it that problematic it seems.

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Neither GUS nor MT-32 is adequate hardware for Doom. A Soundcanvas is the real thing, the game was intended for. (Plus some Soundblaster Pro compatible card for the sound effects)

And only the real hardware that is. The Virtual Soundcanvas has inferior quality due to a lower sample rate and probably more issues.

Gez said:

But isn't TiMidity++ a GUS emulator? Not many people find it that problematic it seems.

No, it doesn't emulate any hardware, afaIk. It is compatible to GUS patches. That's all.

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Gez said:

It's the same thing in that it's not the problem of the program where the user got the data. There's no legal distribution channel for the Doom 64 ROM either, and this doesn't prevent Doom64Ex from existing.


You gotta get the ROM off your own cart.

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Adding MT-32 support would be pretty pointless because MT-32 is only good for software specifically intended for use with it. Yes, it's possible to reprogram a MT-32 for General MIDI stuff but it still sounds really bad compared to a good, real GM synth like a Roland Sound Canvas or something from the Yamaha MU series. I have a real Roland CM-500 (it's kinda like a MT-32* and a SC-55 in one box) and a real Yamaha MU80 so I know what Doom sounds like on all of them.

OPL2 and OPL3 are of course crap too (at least for most games and songs), but they're at least crap that a whole lot of people used back then thanks to Creative Labs. ;-)

* = actually a CM-32LN, but it's really the same thing for the purposes discussed here.

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And MT-32 was the crap I used back then thanks to Orchid. :p

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I dunno, I think this is kinda pointless. The MT-32 is ancient compared to the Sound Canvas which Bobby wrote the Doom music on.

At best I think it'd be an interesting retrotech curio people might look at once, like the "egadoom" pwads, but nobody's going to use it full-time.

I'd rather see sourceport authors working on real bugfixes and feature requests.


Edit: As an aside, it also sounds awful!

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Super Jamie said:

I dunno, I think this is kinda pointless. The MT-32 is ancient compared to the Sound Canvas which Bobby wrote the Doom music on.

At best I think it'd be an interesting retrotech curio people might look at once, like the "egadoom" pwads, but nobody's going to use it full-time.

I'd rather see sourceport authors working on real bugfixes and feature requests.


Edit: As an aside, it also sounds awful!


Sounds awesome!

EDIT: unquote video.

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Yes, I agree that the "guitar" sound is certainly charming in its own way (I do like SID music and NES music too for example) and that D_E1M1 on the whole is not too bad on a MT-32, but many other songs in Doom and Doom II just don't come out really well using the Roland-provided tools (actually just a couple of standard MIDI files containing a bunch of System Exclusive messages) for programming the MT-32 (or any of the 99-100% compatibles, which btw. does NOT include GUS, SB AWE32, etc. and mostly only includes other old Roland synths and soundcards) into a partially General MIDI compatible state.

Also, Munt does not always sound very good compared to a real MT-32 (or CM-32L, CM-500, LAPC-I, etc.) even when listening to music specifically made for those Roland LA synths. It's possible that I am just doing something wrong or that the DOSBox CVS build by gulikoza from 2009 still uses bad MT-32 emulation code from like 5 years ago. I haven't tried to build Munt or a DOSBox integrated with it myself yet.

Compare: http://home.nbl.fi/~nbl4338/lol_mt32emu/

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LogicDeLuxe said:
Neither GUS nor MT-32 is adequate hardware for Doom. A Soundcanvas is the real thing, the game was intended for. (Plus some Soundblaster Pro compatible card for the sound effects)

Primarily developed on and intended aren't the same thing. Along with OPL, GUS is the only other method directly supported by the IWADs in lump specifications. You don't put effort into something unintended. OPL may be "crap" but so are the game's 8-bit resources and 320x200 resolution, so it all works out, especially because, like the sounds and graphics, the OPL music has its own feel, defined in the IWAD itself through the GENMIDI lump. GUS is incidentally the only other method directly supported by the IWADs in lump specifications. Interestingly, its support was improved through user input (from Tom Klok.)

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xttl said:

Heh, that's really quite bad.

myk said:

OPL may be "crap"

Says who? Doom has some of the best sounding OPL music of all time! Each instrument is relatively well tuned and tweaked to sound the best it possibly can, or at least as close as to what Bobby wanted as possible. Most other games just used a generic OPL instrument set and left it at that.

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Super Jamie said:
Says who?

Not me, hence the quotation marks. I meant to say more of less what you're saying. Xttl said it, although he might agree with us, at least to a point, considering that he said its crappiness has some exceptions, in parentheses.

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Yeah, the OPL2/OPL3 support in Doom and Doom II is good compared to some other games but I don't hold the hardware itself in very high regard and I don't like Creative Labs that much either (though Gravis did partly dig their own grave and Roland stuff was not priced with the average gamer in mind).

One idea they should have tried though is utilizing sampled sounds for some instruments (especially percussion) in addition to FM synthesis. This works pretty well in games done on the Sega Mega Drive, Japanese home computers and arcade hardware (but I still like the Roland GS soundtrack in X68000 Castlevania the best!).

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The funny thing about this whole "OPL purism" thing is that it's an acquired taste: people who grew without significant exposure to it (practically, if they never played DOS Doom or DOS games in general for any significant amount of time when they were still hot) will find it crap no matter how well you emulate it (or rather, because of that).

Of those who have had the exposure I mentioned, their expectations are generally biased by how it sounded on their setup, aka their particular soundcard, speakers, etc.

E.g. I always used a couple of QuickShot 4W "multimedia speakers" with Bass Boost and Treble Boost on: if I removed them it sounded too thin, yet that's how it actually sounded. With Sony headphones it sounded quite different, again (with a more enveloping and bass-rich sound, even though AdLib/OPL2 had neither) and some dudes had sound cards with knockoff OPL2's which sounded outright different and/or had "3D Sound enhancers" which considerably altered everything.

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Maes said:

The funny thing about this whole "OPL purism" thing is that it's an acquired taste: people who grew without significant exposure to it (practically, if they never played DOS Doom or DOS games in general for any significant amount of time when they were still hot) will find it crap no matter how well you emulate it (or rather, because of that).



I think that even the vast majority of those who did grow up with it find it crap nowadays but most of these people just don't post here which skews the picture a little.

For me, OPL just hurts my ears, and that's not just figuratively speaking.

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I was used to SID and Paula music, and when I got my first cheap soundcard in my PC, I found it rather horrible. I used a Yamaha MU-5 back then whenever a game supported GM.

AfaIk, SID was designed by a musician while OPL wasn't. That's probably the reason why SID is still in use by several musicians even today, despite it has only 3 voices. There is a SID-station, and there are several boards for PC which can hold one or more SID chips. That's quite astonishing, considering that the SID filters aren't even of high quality. Of course, OPL filters are much worse, since you can't even alter its parameters to any useful extent.

Nevertheless, I have to agree that apparently quite some effort was made to have OPL sound as good as possible in Doom. There are far worse games indeed. Another example of well made OPL music is Monkey Island 2, but of course still far inferior to the MT-32 version.

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Maes said:
people who grew without significant exposure to it (practically, if they never played DOS Doom or DOS games in general for any significant amount of time when they were still hot) will find it crap no matter how well you emulate it (or rather, because of that).

Perhaps, although those people will probably find DOOM's low resolution 256-color graphics to be crap and go back to Halo or the like after trying it. If for any reason they start to get a taste for the game, and especially in vanilla form, they may end up liking its use of OPL as well.

Tastes are acquired by nature, anyhow, since they're just a relation between our general-purpose organs and external things. I think people like state-of-the-art or "more advanced" tech due to an acquired taste for it, for example. Acquired taste is not wrong, either; most refinements, like good wine and art, require a high degree of it.

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myk said:

Perhaps, although those people will probably find DOOM's low resolution 256-color graphics to be crap and go back to Halo or the like after trying it. If for any reason they start to get a taste for the game, and especially in vanilla form, they may end up liking its use of OPL as well.


Many do, and guess what they use to play Doom: Right, a port with hardware accelerated graphics that does not have this limitation.

There's a reason why so many Doom newbies seem to be attracted to engines like Doomsday and Risen3D which offer a lot of eye candy in their default settings.

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LogicDeLuxe said:

Of course, OPL filters are much worse, since you can't even alter its parameters to any useful extent.


What filters? :-p

The OPL didn't have any programmable output state filtering like the Paula and SID did.

As for getting used to 256 color graphics...dunno, people seem more forgiving when it comes to graphics, but the tolerance level for "electronic" or "synth" music is generally much, much lower. E.g. try convincing a metalhead to get used to the OPL2's rendition of the "electric guitar", even the most well crafted ones. No go. Maybe a typical Amiga "distorted guitar" sample, yeah, but not a bunch of OPL2 harmonics.

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Maes said:
As for getting used to 256 color graphics...dunno, people seem more forgiving when it comes to graphics, but the tolerance level for "electronic" or "synth" music is generally much, much lower.

The key difference is that they usually can't do much about the graphics, not a prior sense of forgiveness. Source ports and different engines easily or automatically change the way music is played by accessing MIDI or similar means, but replacing the look of the graphics is not so trivial, although many of these newer people will, as Graf Zahl noted, apply OpenGL effects they see in their favorite 3D games (even when they don't make as much sense on 2D sprites), or even use hi-res texture replacements. People who learn to appreciate retro looks generally like retro sounds, and such people don't need an orchestra playing in the background while they play Pac-Man.

A metalhead wouldn't want to listen to his favorite songs in OPL in general, that's what real recordings are for, but might get to like it in the synthetic environment of the game, as part of its feel.

Besides, OPL is not common now due to technological reasons, and this makes it harder to get into. If it were an option in most systems, it would be used much more for DOOM. This is kind of happening with emulation, already. Popularity is one factor that has made people associate DOOM music more with a Sound blaster than a Roland card, after all.

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Well, most people I know do want at least a GUS or a SB AWE32 when they're building a PC for playing old DOS games so I don't really see why these people would use Chocolate's OPL emulation when it's done, except maybe for laughs now and then. Myself, I would just use my external Roland and Yamaha synths with them. If I didn't have them, I would probably buy a Yamaha or Roland daughtercard for the WaveBlaster connection in my main soundcard (at least the Yamaha daughtercards shouldn't cost too much on eBay or other such places).

For me, "retro" sound and music is all about the compositions themselves. The problem with modern game music is not really technological progress (some old games have really good CD soundtracks) but the fact that it's almost always either boring ambience or boring licensed crap.

Btw. if the OPL chips were still included in modern sound hardware, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be used for much more than backwards compatibility for software which only supports it.

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xttl said:

I don't really see why these people would use Chocolate's OPL emulation when it's done, except maybe for laughs now and then.


And only to realize that it sounds the same as any other OPL emulator ever made and it won't magically sound any different and/or have mystical powers that grant total salvation, absolution and redemption of the soul.

xttl said:

Btw. if the OPL chips were still included in modern sound hardware, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be used for much more than backwards compatibility for software which only supports it.


Granted, no modern software would use them directly, let alone that at least under Windows NT there has never been a generic driver that exposed the OPL registers to application, unless you use a weird utility called porttalk. Dunno what the situation is under Linux, but there's bound to be even less interest in such a driver.

There are some "modern" sound cards (made after 1997), e.g the Yamaha Waveforce) that include an OPL3 compatible FM synth but only expose it as a MIDI device with their own drivers and timbers, and sadly it's not fully programmable by apps due to the lack of a suitable "fully free" FM driver.

Other than the Waveforce, the only "modern" sound cards I can remember that have an OPL3 -or at least a compatible implementation- are certain 4.1 cheapo soundcards by Opti and Cmedia, but they could be using software emulation.

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myk said:

(even when they don't make as much sense on 2D sprites)

Sense, schmence. It's a game. It's supposed to be fun, not to make sense.

You speak about retro look, but people aren't necessarily in it for the look, they may want the retro gameplay instead. Also, the retro-look can be different things to different people. It's not necessarily heavy pixelation; it might instead be the general aesthetic of the game -- colorful and cartoony, painterly in a way, rather than the modern games that strive for photorealism in browns and grays.

Finally, effects like upscaling filters or brightmaps are meant to work on sprites, so how can they not make sense when applied to what they were created to be applied to?



Anyway, back to the topic. The point was not so much the Doom soundtrack as that of other Doom-engine games, Heretic in particular.

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Maes said:

And only to realize that it sounds the same as any other OPL emulator ever made and it won't magically sound any different and/or have mystical powers that grant total salvation, absolution and redemption of the soul.


IIRC (haven't used it in ages!) DOSBox' OPL emulator is not 100% accurate, especially when you activate OPL3 support in Doom (hint: set DMXOPTION=-opl3). So, there's still room for improvements by fraggle.

Maes said:

Granted, no modern software would use them directly, let alone that at least under Windows NT there has never been a generic driver that exposed the OPL registers to application, unless you use a weird utility called porttalk. Dunno what the situation is under Linux, but there's bound to be even less interest in such a driver.


Yeah, I was talking more about a "what if" scenario where every integrated and discrete PC sound device would still have a real OPL3 in there and MS & others would support programming it on a register level by a standardized driver or something. :-)

Btw. regarding graphics, I can say again that the number 1 problem with modern game graphics is not technological progress but a lack of imagination and unwillingness to try things that will perhaps not sell so well. Everyone just wants to emulate reality even though they could just as well do graphics like those in Killer 7 (Gamecube/PS2) and Ōkami (PS2/Wii) for example.

I still play Doom in 320x200 software mode though! (or 384x200 if I want to fill the whole screen on my 16:10 CRT display :-)

Gez said:

Anyway, back to the topic. The point was not so much the Doom soundtrack as that of other Doom-engine games, Heretic in particular.


Heretic, Hexen and Strife in general do not sound that great on a MT-32 either. Especially when it's one emulated by Munt and not a real one.

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