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Trapper Zoid

MIDI music acceptable for games?

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I've been thinking about experimenting with interactive music using MIDI as the basis. I was just wondering in these days when MP3 quality music is standard in games whether MIDI quality is still deemed acceptable by game players as a music standard; personally I still like it, but I was raised on electronic bleeps with my games. I just think it will be a lot harder to get synthesised wavetable quality music from an interactive algorithm, so MIDI representation will be a lot easier. So is MIDI still okay for games these days, or will the lack of quality be off-putting?

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Well, in the days of FF7 and such, it was considered more or less standard.

The problem with MIDI is this. Very few computers carry real sound cards today -- most rely on an AC97 implementation resident on the northbridge. The MIDI mapper in this case is generally the Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth. A lot of the instruments in this bank ok, but a lot of them are pretty bad. If you stick with the instruments that are synthesized fairly well, you're ok. But good freaking luck trying to get anything resembling an orchestra or a real pipe organ. (To be fair, synthesizing these in ANY way, MIDI or not, is damn near impossible.) A lot of the other synth sounds are pretty odd too.

If it's dynamic music you're looking for, you might want to take a good hard look at the DirectMusic and DM Producer. There was a very cool sample in the DX8 SDK (is it still in there? I don't think so...) demonstrating dynamic music and all. The DirectMusic Producer allows you to define all sorts of motifs and such, and then you can blend them real time in code. Unfortunately I don't know of anyone who really leveraged this functionality, but it should be very cool to play with, especially if you can hunt down those samples.

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Admittedly, I'm only starting on interactive music, so I haven't yet chased down all the possible resources I might need. I've had a brief look at DirectMusic already, and the dynamic motif properties seem pretty cool, but I'm not sure if it can handle dynamic chord changes, or user defined chords or melodies. Plus that would tie me down to DirectX, and I'd like to give myself the opportunity to port my code to other operating systems in the future. Also, I'd like the technical challenge of designing a system myself (from what I'm thinking there's quite a bit of similarity between interactive music and my ideas for interactive storytelling systems).

Other than the DirectMusic samples, has anyone used the full potential of DirectMusic in an application yet?

I've got one of those crappy AC97 motherboard thingies in my computer at the moment (haven't yet decided whether I should upgrade to a better sound card yet for sound and music development, or which one to get). I'm thinking of working around the limitations of MIDI anyway with the system. If I'm limited to electronica, then I'll work with that. But would most people baulk at music that was obviously MIDI electronic stuff?

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
But would most people baulk at music that was obviously MIDI electronic stuff?


We still listen to (and love) the old Super Maro Bros theme, don't we? Not to mention all of the N64 games always used MIDI, and there were some amazing tracks in that era (Zelda, Mario, et al).

It's the composing quality that matters, IMO.

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Quote:
Original post by Promit
We still listen to (and love) the old Super Maro Bros theme, don't we? Not to mention all of the N64 games always used MIDI, and there were some amazing tracks in that era (Zelda, Mario, et al).


Well, we do [smile]. I'm more refering to the community at large (as personally I'm really bad at appreciating and understanding popular music trends). But I'm also of the opinion that:

Quote:

It's the composing quality that matters, IMO.

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If you have a good sound bank (SoundFont, dls, whatever you want to call it) you can make pretty good MIDI music. And making it interactive may be just the ticket for your game -- it really matters what the game is, and what the composition is.

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Original post by hplus0603
If you have a good sound bank (SoundFont, dls, whatever you want to call it) you can make pretty good MIDI music. And making it interactive may be just the ticket for your game -- it really matters what the game is, and what the composition is.


I'm a bit new to music programming; can you distribute a sound bank with your game/application and easily hook it up with whatever MIDI player system is available? Or would I have to write my own synthesiser program for playing my MIDI music with my sound banks?

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You dont have to use MIDI to do interactive music. It just takes some creative design on transitions and layers.

Furthermore, yes we all do love our old game music. But they didnt use MIDI's or chiptunes because it was the style at the time. They did it because that was the best they could get away with on their hardware and with their storage medium. Now that games come on 2 and 3 DVD's on systems on 64 bit computers or multiprocessor consoles, the only limit is your skill and your imagination. It stands to reason that we as composers strive to make best use of everything we have, and our customers, the consumers, expect the best experience for their game. If your game cries for old school goodness, thats great.:)

There is nothing wrong with using General MIDI, or XM tracker files if it fits your design best, or presents you with the least headaches as you work on your projects. But dont think that if they had DVDs in 1986 that they would have used Chiptunes for Zelda. :)

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Original post by krikkit
You dont have to use MIDI to do interactive music. It just takes some creative design on transitions and layers.


That's true, but I will be needing to use some form of symbolic representation of music to do the sorts of things that I wish to do (at the very least, I'll need to transpose music fragments easily). I suppose I could do this with a large selection of music samples, but that's probably more headaches than it's worth.

Quote:

Furthermore, yes we all do love our old game music. But they didnt use MIDI's or chiptunes because it was the style at the time. They did it because that was the best they could get away with on their hardware and with their storage medium. Now that games come on 2 and 3 DVD's on systems on 64 bit computers or multiprocessor consoles, the only limit is your skill and your imagination. It stands to reason that we as composers strive to make best use of everything we have, and our customers, the consumers, expect the best experience for their game. If your game cries for old school goodness, thats great.:)


Well, I haven't really decided on which specific game I will be including this in; really I'm wanting to create a great interactive music system that I can include in all my games. The MIDI music does lend itself well to the large project I'm designing, which I'm hoping will have a SNES RPG feel. Nearly all my games will be cartoonish in representation, because that fits the kind of art I like to do (and the only kind of art I can actually do, as well).

Quote:

There is nothing wrong with using General MIDI, or XM tracker files if it fits your design best, or presents you with the least headaches as you work on your projects. But dont think that if they had DVDs in 1986 that they would have used Chiptunes for Zelda. :)


Well, yeah, if they could have they'd have had an orchestral quality rendition of Bolero in Zelda if they had the technology. But these days there's something nostalgic about MIDI music that still makes me keep my MIDI collection in my Winamp playlist, even with my crappy sound card (in fact, the crappy sound card makes it nostalgic to me). I'm hoping a lot of other people feel the same way.

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The part I don't like about streamed audio formats like .mp3 and .ogg are that they access the hard drive at the same time a memory intensive game like Neverwinter Nights tries to generate and read back swap space. They skip and play back unevenly. It's bad enough when a game requires so much memory that it needs to swap to the hard drive but when every part of the program tries to access the hard drive at the same time it is downright intolerable. These developers go to a lot of trouble to make their animations play at variable frame rates so the animation skips don't drag the gameplay down so why don't they do the same for music?

I like the compact memory efficiency of .mid files although I personally am more at home with a .xm module for the primary reason of portability to other platforms that don't support Microsoft GM Wavetable Synth.

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