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AdLib/FM synthesis troubles


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Posted 23 July 2008 - 10:22 AM

So sue me, I love retro game music. I really need to find a way to make authentic OPL3 music (I have DOSBox so I do not need the actual sound card.) I have AdTracker II, a tracker/sequencer for AdLib FM synth music. Only thing is, it's hard to use as heck, and I cannot, simply CANNOT figure it out. What's worse is it's a pure DOS program, so I do not have any way to use the mouse or any other modern convenience. Can somebody please give a suggestion. Remember I want AUTHENTIC AdLib/OPL3 music, not just imitations made using ModPlug or FL Studio. I will eventually write a program/DLL/whatever to give my game the ability to play A2M (AdTrack2) music files, or some similar format. I am also strongly against using MP3/WAV/OGG for my background music...I am a purist for retro, realtime-sequenced music.

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 08:04 AM


you think liking retro is unusual?.. 8 bit scene is thriving..

But not sure what you are after, your post is a bit all over the place.. you are prepared to use an emulated sound (ie dos box).. but dont want to use the dos sequencers.. fair enough who would, but you also dont want an emulator in a windows tracker like modplug?

So how about using an FM VST instrument in your sequencer of choice? I'd recommend VOPM.. should be authentic enough for you.

You can always create midi files in the airy comfort of windows with that and convert them to play in the dank recesses of your DOS CLI and adlib device to feel more authentic .. I won't tell ;)





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Posted 25 July 2008 - 05:18 PM

Quote:
Original post by t00nz
you think liking retro is unusual?.. 8 bit scene is thriving..


Yes, it was a hard choice choosing between 8-bit flavor and FM synthesis flavor. I love both, but for different reasons. You see, the game I'm making (or want to make over the next year) is the first in its series, and I am trying something unusual. I am making the first game be ultra-simple in graphics and sound/music. The next in the series would still be mostly 2D, but much more advanced. Finally, the third (and subsequent ones) would be in full-3D, a homage to the evolution of video games from the 80s to now. This of course is pure concept though, and I should focus on this one game first.

Quote:

You can always create midi files in the airy comfort of windows with that and convert them to play in the dank recesses of your DOS CLI and adlib device to feel more authentic .. I won't tell ;)


Well yeah, creating MIDIs is something I not only am comfortable with, but enjoy as well. And let me clarify a few things that I think I made pretty confusing in my original post.

For one, I actually would brave the horrors of no mouse support and try to learn AdTracker 2 if the AdTracker 2 community was more active. It's a real shame that the files created/played on AdTracker 2 are among the best-sounding AdLib tunes I have ever heard...truly pushing the capabilities of the hardware (or emulated hardware) to the max, exactly what I'd do.

I also notice that unlike MIDIs, Adlib uses many different formats, some sounding better than others. I presume this is due to the fact that FM synthesis has far more flexibility in certain areas than wavetable does. For instance, AdTracker mentions something about "carrier" and "modulator" signals, which I do not know at all. All I know is I want to be able to decide what each instrument sounds like, something that may be difficult if I simply import and convert the MIDI (I have a MIDI to IMF converter, but the sound quality isn't too good.)

Quote:
So how about using an FM VST instrument in your sequencer of choice? I'd recommend VOPM.. should be authentic enough for you.


I don't know what that is, but it sounds extremely useful. Do explain more.

[Edited by - Forestknight25 on July 25, 2008 11:18:42 PM]

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 06:57 AM

Quote:
Original post by Forestknight25

Yes, it was a hard choice choosing between 8-bit flavor and FM synthesis flavor. I love both, but for different reasons.


That's an interesting comment. What are the different reasons?

I like your tribute to the evolution of games ideas. Be interesting to see. Although isn't it more the evolution of the commercial idea of games, there seems to be a swell of games following in the wake of it that hark back to the older days.. Everything from the indie scene to popcap style internet games. In any case, I wish you luck with it

Quote:

real shame that the files created/played on AdTracker 2 are among the best-sounding AdLib tunes I have ever heard...truly pushing the capabilities of the hardware (or emulated hardware) to the max, exactly what I'd do.


Sounds very interesting.. I'll have to search some out.. I think theres lots of merit in pushing out from limited capabilities.. Not to the extent of masochism though :) I don't think I could even go back to tracking personally.

Quote:

I also notice that unlike MIDIs, Adlib uses many different formats, some sounding better than others. I presume this is due to the fact that FM synthesis has far more flexibility in certain areas than wavetable does. For instance, AdTracker mentions something about "carrier" and "modulator" signals, which I do not know at all.


Thats the basis of FM, one signal (the modulator) affects the other (carrier)..(modulate is just another word for change really). You should read a primer on it or something. A very good place to start understanding synths imho (with a few pictures you'll get the principle in no time, under 30 mins). Doesn't translate to mastery of programming the things, but might help get your head around adtracker?

Quote:

All I know is I want to be able to decide what each instrument sounds like, something that may be difficult if I simply import and convert the MIDI (I have a MIDI to IMF converter, but the sound quality isn't too good.)


Hmm not sure I can help much, I dont know the IMF format. But you may have sound information as well as note in there. It is awkward to span both camps.. You can get a good result by using a modern equivalent of the old FM/OPL style synths and using it in a totally modern environment (such as a VSTi).. or you can go old school and use some of the original utilities, or something like adtracker..

To try to do both, I'm guessing you'll end up writing a midi against a VSTi for instance, and then converting to .IMF and recreating the sounds as close as you can on the adlib.. Doesn't sound like a fun workflow..

And to be honest, what do you gain with the DOS route anyway? I know you mentioned getting an authentic sound, but stick to a synth like VOPM, with little or no FX and you can record a very authentic wav/mp3/ogg etc.. What is lost over using something like IMF? , you are only just capturing it in time.. It's not like analogue where you have a pleasant warmth to the sounds, FM is quite mathematical and I'm not sure any of the old sound cards had particularly well loved DAC circuits 9).. I'm sure some purists would disagree :)

In other words, it's not even a compromise as far as I can see to dump the DOS emulation. Better to have good sequencing tools, and a nice easy front end to the synth.. (masses of authentic OPL style presets too ;)

And in a practical sense, just the music itself could turn into quite a project if you use the older tools I think.. especially if you need to program the sounds. Whereas if you were prepared to use new tools and render to a wav of the track then you would get the work done quicker, and also longer term be able to base more high tech versions of the game on the same music (already available in your FM music & midis)...

Afterall, if you're writing the game too, it might be worth easing off on the music requirements for the sake of just getting it done? 8)

(By far my favourite old school style games in the past few years is Cave Story. Gives me a fantastic nostalgic feeling about old games. The music comes in mp3, but it doesn't matter a jot! )






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