Project Button Masher: Phobos Phobia

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jan 1, 2015

Filed under: Music 55 comments

Happy New Year, you gorgeous internet. Have you lost weight and/or become more educated and wealthy? You look sexier/smarter/richer. I guess your resolutions for the new year are really paying off. Good on you.

A couple of weeks ago I got all navel-gaze-y about making music, lamenting that my skills are writing prose and code, and not wasting my time with music that I barely understand.

But allow me to argue with me-from-two-weeks-ago: Ten years ago my only skill was coding, but then I wrote a book. Not because it would make me money, but because that’s where my creativity was taking me. A few years later I branched off some more, and it lead to this website. I seem to have pretty good luck with doing whatever seems fun at the moment. Not all of my projects pan out, but I certainly shouldn’t refuse to do things because I’m new to them. If I followed that line of reasoning I wouldn’t have any of the hobbies that make me so happy today.

Ill never get it! Never! SLAM!

So I’ve been learning about music. It’s a big topic. It’s probably just as big and complex as graphics programming, although it’s a little more gratifying because it probably won’t take you a couple of years to produce a single piece of work.

I’ve been hammering away on my own, making tons of crappy little tunes. I throw a lot of them away. (Most of them are stupid or boring or just don’t work.) But once in a while when I think I’ve done something good I upload it to my Soundcloud.

I’ve found myself getting stuck in a musical rut. My skills and knowledge have hit a plateau and all my stuff is starting to sound the same. All my stuff is built on a nice neat grid and each part is played by exactly one instrument that clearly begins and ends on rigorously enforced borders. I build my songs on top of predictable repeating chord patterns where each chord is of the same length. I’m becoming very mechanical. Actually, I guess I just started out being mechanical and I’m failing to break out of it.

This is the point where a reasonable person might seek out a teacher or mentor. But personal interaction is slow and I’m stubborn and set on learning everything on my own. To be clear, I’m not saying this is always the most optimal way of doing things. But it is the most convenient. (Also the best way of turning the project into blog posts.)

So my plan is to take some game soundtracks that I love and try to emulate their style. If possible, I’ll get the MIDI version and tear it apart to see how it was constructed.

Does everyone know what MIDI is? I have no idea. Just in case, here is a super-quick rundown:

A MIDI file is just a collection of notes, with no sound data. Stuff like, “Push middle C really hard for 3 seconds, now push D4 gently for one second”, or whatever. The notes are divided into channels. The midi file says what instrument the channel is using (French horn, acoustic guitar, grand piano, bongo drums) and then what notes to play on each channel. But it doesn’t say how those instruments should sound. That’s up to your soundcard to figure out.

It’s a bit like web pages: The same raw HTML will end up looking a little different on Chrome, IE, Firefox, and Safari. And someday that HTML might look completely different on some browser in the future. On the upside, it makes the data very compact. Raw HTML text is going to be incredibly tiny compared to a screen capture of the webpage, and a midi file – being just a collection of button-presses – is really tiny compared to an MP3 of the same music.

So my plan is to:

  1. Listen to a videogame soundtrack that I like. If possible, I’ll look at the music itself.
  2. Identify whatever stylistic quirks give the music its identity.
  3. Try to capture the style in my own work. Ideally, I’d like to make a song that could be dropped into the original soundtrack and sound like it belongs there. This is ridiculously ambitious (spoiler: I’m not going to succeed today) but that’s fine. I’m still at the point where I can learn a lot through failure.
  4. Assuming I produce something that’s not horrible to listen to, I’ll post it here and talk about what I learned. I’m probably not going to post my disasters, just because I don’t want to upload horribleness to Soundcloud.

This screenshot is from Doom 2, not Doom. I just realized I no longer own the original game. The floppies died years ago.

So that’s the project. My first subject is the Doom soundtrack. Now, it’s widely known that the Doom soundtrack is very heavily influenced by the metal tracks of the day. Some people even say the songs are rip-offs. And when you compare them side-by-side, the similarities are pretty striking.

I dunno if I want to call these tracks “rip-offs”. Especially since the whole point of this project is to do the same dang thing myself. I’m moving into a brand-new glass house, so now is a terrible time to start throwing stones.

But whatever. This is a good place to start, because the Doom songs are kind of simple, the MIDI files are freely available, and I’m already familiar with the material. So let’s focus on one song and see what we learn:


Link (YouTube)

This is the music from level 8 of the original Doom. It’s the point where you get to the end of the first episode and you fight the two Barons. It’s my favorite tune from the game. Sometimes I’d just hang around at the start of the level and listen to the music.

Note that the video is a very faithful version of the song. There was this awful craze in the late 90’s of “wavetable soundcards” that replaced the old MIDI sound with sexy new sound samples that resembled real instruments. It was automatic. Just get one of these deluxe soundcards and all your games will sound better! That’s cool, inasmuch as the new stuff sounded much richer and less like someone trying to play rock music on a Nintendo, but it had the side-effect of ruining music that had been specifically engineered for the old MIDI. The sound levels would get out of whack and often the “real” instruments would have a completely different range compared to the originals. The song would be unrecognizable, and occasionally even intolerableI had a soundcard in the late 90’s that just ruined the Descent music. It was awful.. I was really glad when we all moved to MP3 for our music needs and sound cards stopped trying to “improve” old music.

Swiped from Google image search. I can tell this was done with cheat codes, because the plasma rifle was not available in the first episode.

So my first step is to take the MIDI music of E1M8Apparently it’s actually titled “Sign of Evil”. I have no idea how you could know this in 1993. It’s not like games had proper credits. and go over the patterns. I tear it apart and rebuild it in MAGIX. I won’t bother posting the result. It’s just the same song with more robust instrumentsI actually have a terrible time tying to replicate those old MIDI instruments in MAGIX. and a bit of minor fiddling. This is the equivalent of tracing a drawing made by a professional. It’s still educational (particularly at beginner levels) but it’s not original work.

But then I took what I learned and tried to make something that has the same mood and style, but is an original composition. I did this by selecting similar instruments, and making something in a similar key with similar tempo:

This one isn’t really a success in my book, because it’s a bit too on-the-nose. I used an overdriven guitar playing super-long notes, followed by little bursts of short notes, backed by a string-ish instrument that plays octave-spanning chordsTake a regular chord, but drop one note an octave and raise a different note an octave.. It’s more a copy of a specific arrangement than a style.

Stuff I learned:

  1. The E1M8 song has this one instrument that JUST plays friggin middle C, over and over again, throughout the entire song. I would never have thought to do that. It sounds like a dumb idea, but it works. For some reason.
  2. If you have to repeat a chord several times in a row, it’s good to make the chord jump around on the scales a bit. Maybe pull one note down an octave and another one up an octave. Then flip those around. The longer you’re going to repeat a chord, the more versions of it you’ll need.
  3. The pitch wheel! I never knew what that was all about. It’s this extra control that lets you “bend” notes, basically throwing the MIDI instrument out of tune. You can only move up or down a couple of notes, but if you’re careful you can make some cool sounds. It’s really useful to do this for long notes. Holding a middle C for an entire measure is kind of monotonous. But if you hit (say) D and then quickly pitch bend down to C, then back up at the end, it can sound really cool. You can hear it in both E1M8 and in my song, during the long guitar notes.

So that’s the project. Assuming all goes well, we’ll do one of these every week in January. Soundtracks I plan to tackle: Deus Ex, System Shock, Descent, Half-Life.

My goal is to make at least one tune that could be dropped into one of those old soundtracks and not sound out of place. It’s a pretty audacious goal, I’ll admit. The only way to know for sure if I’ve succeeded is to post the work here and see how everyone responds.

 

Footnotes:

[1] I had a soundcard in the late 90’s that just ruined the Descent music. It was awful.

[2] Apparently it’s actually titled “Sign of Evil”. I have no idea how you could know this in 1993. It’s not like games had proper credits.

[3] I actually have a terrible time tying to replicate those old MIDI instruments in MAGIX.

[4] Take a regular chord, but drop one note an octave and raise a different note an octave.



From The Archives:
 

55 thoughts on “Project Button Masher: Phobos Phobia

  1. Mephane says:

    I never played any of the Doom games and listened to your piece without checking out the piece from original soundtrack first. So coming from someone entirely new to the thing: Phobos Phobia sounds fantastic, especially because of the e-guitar. :)

  2. Nyctef says:

    This sounds like a really interesting idea. One of my vague New Year’s resolutions is to get back into drawing and art again, and I might try a similar approach.

    Looking forward to hearing some more :)

    1. KingJosh says:

      A similar approach to Shamus’s? So, ASCII art instead of MIDI?

      1. Dragomok says:

        I think Nyctef meant self-teaching combined with multiple autopsies of better art.

  3. DrMcCoy says:

    I still prefer the AdLib (OPL2 / YM3812) version of the Doom sountrack, but I’m in love with synth chips in general. :)

  4. DrMcCoy says:

    But, woah, this is a really great version of that track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukQblT_5_fg

    1. Eric says:

      Neat covers. That said, this kinda music definitely works better in videogame format. I kept expecting the song to go somewhere further, throw in a solo or different lead melody, or some new riffs or tempo changes, but it never quite did (except the ending).

      Writing music for games has so many different consideration and when a cover like this doesn’t fully cross the line, it’s kinda weird to listen to. Perhaps this highlights why games that just license music (especially rock and metal, or that have vocals) tend to just not work well, because they always end up sounding way too busy in the context of a game.

      I write and record my own stuff but making something intended for a game soundtrack would be an interesting experiment for sure.

      1. HeroOfHyla says:

        I think Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance did a good job of incorporating music with vocals and stuff into a game soundtrack. There was some kind of variable mix going on, and the vocals would kick in right at the most awesome parts of the fight. See the first boss fight for a good example:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM33Hr94SKw

        1. IFS says:

          Part of the mix was that they made a second version of each song with additional instruments and such (called the Manic mix on the soundtrack if I remember right) that plays when you go into slow motion or hit other intense moments, just so that the music matched the action better.

          1. Ringwraith says:

            Games which seamlessly change between remixes of the same track are great.
            A very good recent example, of all things, is Final Fantasy XIII-2.
            Every normal exploring background track (many of which are also vocal) has an “aggressive mix” it switches to when a random encounter pops up but before you run away from/actually fight it.
            It’s hard to get any videos of this, but you can tell it’s meant to happen at any time due to the original and aggressive mixes of all the tracks are the same length, so it can switch without missing a beat.

            Though speaking of other things with vocal tracks in gameplay, the Persona games are good at this, even incorporating it into their regular battle tracks. Even their style fits the respective games’ themes and tone. (3 takes place in a city fighting in a twisted version of reality at midnight, while 4’s set in a rural town, fighting in the mysterious world inside the TV).

      2. swenson says:

        As somebody who likes to listen to a lot of videogame music, I’ve contemplated the same thing myself. It’s a very odd breed. Superficially, it’s similar to movie soundtracks–the music isn’t the focus, but rather needs to complement what’s occurring on screen and subtly drive the audience’s mood. But you couldn’t just take movie soundtracks and drop them into a game either, because unlike a movie, a game is dynamic. You never know exactly how long a player is going to spend in a certain area or how long a battle’s going to take, so you’ve got to have some form of redundancy in the music (and be able to transition ahead, if the player’s unusually fast), if you want to have music the whole time.

        I’m reminded of a portion of the airboat sequence in Half-Life 2 where there’s some really epic chase music going on (can’t remember the name of the track at the moment), you’re running from the Combine, and the music is getting you all hyped up–and then I always hit the loading screen for the next map before the song ends. It just seems odd that in such a tense sequence, when you expect and want the player to be moving quickly, you’d have the music drag on so long! I dunno, maybe the playtesters all took way longer than I do…

        EDIT: Lambda Core, I think is the track.

  5. Grant says:

    I actually find the two songs to sound quite different in mood. To me, the original sounds calm and mysterious while the new one is very energetic, particularly at the climax. I think that this is because the original has a very subdued background, while the remake has a lot going on, some of which is very pulse-y and energetic.

    I don’t mean this to be a criticism, as they are both good songs, but since the goal was to mimic the mood I thought it would be helpful to share my perspective.

    1. swenson says:

      I would definitely agree. I enjoyed both tracks–I honestly may like Shamus’ better than the Doom track, just because I like peppier stuff more–but they had very different moods to me. Similar building blocks, very different building.

    2. Lanthanide says:

      I agree Grant. The new version sounds completely different, if it weren’t for Shamus saying it was based on the original one, I never would have picked it.

    3. 4th Dimension says:

      Yes. The original evokes the image of some desolate landscape and a solitary figure walking to his doom through it.

      First part of Phobos Phobia does sound like the original ableit a faster original and thus looses some if the desolation. But the second part is too fast and is more evocative of a explosion filled gunfight.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why not start with something simple and emulate ufo:enemy unknown?Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun….

  7. MadTinkerer says:

    “Does everyone know what MIDI is? I have no idea.”

    I can’t believe I know more about computer music than you do, Shamus. But then, you may be confused because midi wasn’t created for computers. Technically, a computer’s sound card is just one kind of midi device.

    Midi files are a standard for digital music. I know you figured that out already. I’m getting to the important part. No, actually, let me just point you here. Basically, the computer version works exactly the same way, but instead of you pressing keys in realtime to send a signal to a device, the computer reads the signals from the midi file, then tells the sound card what it read and the sound card makes the music.

    It’s less like HTML and more like ASCII text. (For one thing, ASCII and midi are both standards adopted for computers because they were the best pre-existing standards, rather than a standard invented for computers.) HTML sometimes tells the browser to do stuff like make links in posts (as I did above) but Notepad would interpret it as literally “< a href" etc. The advantage of doing things this way is that you can interface with dumb non-computer midi devices, and those devices can be just about anything as long as they send midi output and/or take midi input.

    You could make your new fancy mouse into a midi device with relatively little effort if you wanted to. No one would ever want to use it as a serious musical instrument, but you could do it if you wanted to, and midi is midi to the midi-compatible.

    1. You kind of jumped the gun. What Shamus said was that he had no idea if the majority of the commentators/readers here knew what MIDI is. He de-teched the explanation for those less in the know. He never said that “he” didn’t know what MIDI was.

  8. You might check out the folks over in OverClocked ReMix if you’re doing music based on/inspired by video games. They’ve got a good community and a lot of resources that you can pull from. If you’re particularly proud of a piece you can even upload a song there for posterity.

  9. Andy_Panthro says:

    I feel obliged to mention that there’s a rather good album of DOOM remixes (and another for DOOM 2) over at OCRemix, if anyone wants to check that out.

    DOOM: Dark Side of Phobos – http://ocremix.org/album/4/doom-the-dark-side-of-phobos

    DOOM II: Delta-Q-Delta – http://ocremix.org/album/11/doom-ii-delta-q-delta

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If you dont know what a midi file is,look at this picture.Midi file is the one in the middle(obviously).

  11. Oh, please please do “The Synapse (Hong Kong Streets)” from Deus Ex! It’s my absolute FAVORITE video game music – EVAH!

    (As a professional pianist/pipe organist, I really enjoy these posts. Thanks, Shamus!)

    1. Shamus says:

      I looked it up on youtube. The really odd thing was that I didn’t realize all of that was one tune. I LOVE the later stuff when the synth-strings, synth-flute, and synth-synth are all into it. But I’ve always disliked the faux-Asian plucked part (although it’s perfectly justified and appropriate here) right at the start.

      I always arrive at the market and I’m like, “Meh.” Then a couple of minutes later I’d really get into the music. It wasn’t until now that I realized they’re both part of the same song.

      For the curious:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FZ-12a3dTI

      1. Oh yes! You definitely have to make sure you hear the “synth-synth” – that’s the best part of the song!

        ;-)

      2. Ya kidding me? That cheeseball, tone-deaf, plucking is my favorite part of the music in my favorite track I’ve heard in the game so far! It was that music that made me realize how boss it would be if the game had a movie adaptation that tried to emulate the aesthetics of goofy early 90’s tech noir.

      3. Dev Chand says:

        How would you classify Deus Ex: Revision’s redone version of the music? For the most part, it focuses more on the synth part and less on the faux Asian part. You can listen to it here: http://www.moddb.com/mods/deus-ex-revision/videos/mind-the-synaptic-gap#imagebox.

        Also I would like you to talk more about the more famous tracks in Deus Ex, like NYC Streets, UNATCO and DuClare Chateau.

      4. Continuing the trend of recommending OverClockedRemix, fans of this track may also like the remix produced with the approval / participation of the original composer, Alexander Brandon. He talks about it in this 2009 interview, and it’s freely available as part of the Deus Ex: Sonic Augmentation tribute EP to the franchise.

    2. Bryan says:

      I see your Synapse (yeah, that one is pretty good, but…) and raise you the NYC Streets track:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgIE6Pb_MFE

      …starting about 1:10 in, maybe.

      Or the Unreal:RtNP track for the Nagomi Passage level (Journey, I think? yeah, that’s it):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Byha9TKuYtw

      …starting about 40 seconds in or so.

  12. pearly says:

    I feel you about that middle C. The worst thing in the world is to be the instrument in the band who gets stuck with that part, but it’s a necessary component to lots of music.

    Which is just really sad for the low brass sometimes.

    1. Veloxyll says:

      And this is why we invented the Triangle!

      Of course composers just have to get fancy and want sounds that triangles don’t produce to be all ~edgy~

      Thus they make the rest of the band be one note wonders sometimes too.

      Questionably related: I forgot to tick the not a spammer box and got the “Prove you are not a spamming robot” warning.
      I instantly thought of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_oMD6-6q5Y

  13. Eric says:

    If you have to repeat a chord several times in a row, it's good to make the chord jump around on the scales a bit. Maybe pull one note down an octave and another one up an octave. Then flip those around. The longer you're going to repeat a chord, the more versions of it you'll need.

    There’s actually a specific term for when you pull chord notes down an octave: drop voicing.

  14. Radagast says:

    Warcraft 2 had some great music and those are all available via MIDI as well FYI :) When you’re done with DOOM that is.

    The oft-repeated middle C is a tradition that goes WAY WAY back and was originally called a Drone note. Hence mindless drones haha! But it’s okay in electronic music because the computer isn’t going to care about repeating a note.

    If you want to see what actual musicians think about such things make sure you watch the Pachelbel Rant!

  15. DTor says:

    Shamus, I think this could make for a fun guessing game. You could post just the finished track at first and ask us (your readers) to guess what game you were thinking of. I’d be entertained, and it might give you an idea of how successful you’ve been. Especially if you happen to pick a game that you didn’t list as part of your plan.

  16. Micamo says:

    This track sounds less like Doom to me and more like Metroid Prime.

    This is a good thing.

  17. Chris says:

    My favorite cover of E2M9 is this awesome remix.

  18. Felblood says:

    I have set out to do this a couple of times, and always failed.

    It isn’t my complete lack of Technical music skills, either.

    I always put together the list of songs I want to do, without first putting together a list of songs that I can find in MIDI.

    Thus, all the time I set aside for these gets eaten up hunting for rare song files.

    Perhaps I’ll use this series as a to-do list, next time I get to give this a go.

  19. Trix2000 says:

    “I was really glad when we all moved to MP3 for our music needs and sound cards stopped trying to ‘improve’ old music.”

    Many still do this… though in entirely different ways, and often much more configurable (ie: actually being able to turn things on/off). Instead of changing the base playback entirely, they just modify the outgoing signal to improve the output – like accentuating peaks and whatnot. For the most part this WILL improve how things sound, but like anything of the sort it really depends on the situation.

    And again, it’s not something you have to have running, unlike what happens when you change how midi playback sounds.

  20. Alexander The 1st says:

    One thing I always find fascinating about early MIDI was apparently you could be limited in how many instruments you could run at a time. I don’t know if this is something early general computer games were limited by with their sound cards, or if it was just the Sega Genesis that had this specific limitation (I can’t find the exact source for this, but I seem to recall reading at the same time that one of the tracks had to be replaceable with a jumping sound effect at any time as well, because there wasn’t enough room power for that sound *and* all four tracks.), so I’d be interested in seeing if you end up having similar limitations in the works you try and emulate as well.

    1. DrMcCoy says:

      The issue is not really MIDI as such, but the sound generating hardware.

      Back in the day, music was generally not directly digitized PCM audio (what you have in WAV, MP3, …), but in the form of instructions for synthesizer chips (PSG, programmable sound generator). Each “channel” would generate a pure waveform (sine, square, sawtooth, triangle, noise) and certain filters could be enabled to modify the sound in some way. For example, modified noise would be used as percussion.

      Later chips would go futher, introducing several stages of frequency modulating operators to better approximate real instruments. For example, the Sega Genesis used Yamaha’s FM synth chip YM2612, which could play 6 channels (“voices”) simultaniously, each with 4 operators.

      A usual music player would work like that: initialize the chip. Read the voice configuration from the music file and tell the hardware to set them up. Register a music updating function with a timer interrupt, configure the interrupt to fire at the correct rate (possibly variable depending on the song’s speed) and enable the interrupt. That function would then frequently read the next note from the music file and update the hardware on-the-fly.

      This is how music in many console and computers worked: from Atari’s 5200, over the C64 (within the the famous SID chip, which had 3 channels) to IBM-compatible PCs (the YM3812 on AdLib and SoundBlaster cards).

      The Amiga was a bit different: instead of generating a soundform, it used PCM samples (short clips of, say, one note from a piano) and played them in different frequencies, live-mixing 4 PCM channels. Otherwise, it’s conceptually similar to the PSG.

      Nowadays, you can easily synthesize and mix together hundreds of channels, but back then, you needed hardware to do this in real time (*), and even then the channels were severly limited.

      (*) In recent years, the demoscene did manage to get quite impressive with software mixing on older hardware, though.

      1. Dude says:

        I remember playing Duke Nukem 3D on my first machine. Later I had to upgrade its soundcard, and that soundcard had the awesome Yamaha chip, and the first time I loaded DN3D with the new card and got to the part where the main theme plays (Saturn), I was blown away, man (I always had great audio speakers). I’ve only ever felt that difference once after that, when I moved from a 14 inch CRT to a 22 inch flat screen monitor.

      2. Knut says:

        This is also true of hardware synths. Keyboards using digital samples can often have 64-note or higher polyphony, while “analog modelling” synthesizers usually have less (or are more expensive due to more powerful hardware).

        For example, I own two keyboards (Yamahaa CS2x and Korg MS200B for those interested). Synth A is a digital sample type, B is a virtual analog one. They were roughly in the same price range when new, and B is a few years newer. Synth A (the digital one has 64-note polyphony), while B only have 4-notes.

  21. MikhailBorg says:

    I can tell you I’d use “Phobos Phobia” as a background selection for one of my tabletop Shadowrun games in a hot second.

  22. Neko says:

    It's a pretty audacious goal, I'll admit.

    I applaud your Audacity!

  23. twobob says:

    Hi, interesting concept.

    As an old school midihead https://soundcloud.com/twobob I can confirm your plan will work fine. Plus you should learn a few things along the way, again as you thought. The ostinato http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostinato trick for example.

    Be thankful you never have to tangle with system dumps via exclusive.
    The world does not miss them. There is nothing to stop you linking the “pitch bend” to any of the registered controller values with minimal effort (and in the old days NRPN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NRPN with a little more)

    luckily most most modern software solutions make such patching trivial. I would strongly suggest looking into learning it.
    This is one way to get the [Variations and themes] http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/theme-variation-in-music-definition-form-examples.html#lesson that you were talking about, in addition to the [inversions] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inversion_%28music%29#Chords you noticed being used in the doom music.

    Good luck with your endeavors.

    I ran prbooms music on a kindle once.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cph038y7gyI&list=UUgZ-bhareB-Z0D__LKbQA4w

  24. Gravebound says:

    I remember when I had my first computer (that was all my own) and all the music I had on it was MIDI, because even just one album of MP3’s took up a large chunk of hard disk space. I really liked the instrument sounds on that old computer (I might still have that motherboard, too…).

    My favorite song from that time was called “Chmed” from Final Fantasy III (6). Especially the part from 8:50-9:40.

    Also, the Castlevania series has fantastic music, such as Vampire Killer and Bloody Tears (but I can’t find any original-sounding midi files for them???).

  25. The Rocketeer says:

    “So I've been learning about music. It's a big topic. It's probably just as big and complex as graphics programming, although it's a little more gratifying because it probably won't take you a couple of years to produce a single piece of work.”

    This is definitely the bias of my musical background and my relative ignorance of coding talking, but I choked a bit when I read this. With no offense to graphics programming, I think music, with its several thousand years of history, tradition, and theory spanning all cultures and peoples back to and before the dawn of human civilization, is at least a little bigger.

    And while it doesn’t take most composers two years to make a single song, not all coding projects take two years, either. A game’s engine and graphics might take a team of people a couple of years (or more!) to produce, but a comparable musical endeavor would be an album put together by a band or a symphony written for a large group, which can indeed take a long time to complete, rather than individual songs put together by an aspiring newcomer.

    But if you’re taking suggestions for great, simple game music to learn from, consider taking a look at the soundtrack of Cave Story. It’s absolutely fantastic! Here’s a favorite of mine: Running Hell. There are a few versions of the soundtrack, but this is the original, and the simplest version technologically and compositionally.

    It’s been entirely too long since I made music of my own. I need to bite the bullet and buy a keyboard, and damn the expense. I spent more than ten years training as a pianist and I’m letting it slip away from me.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      Which is bigger as a subject and how long creating something takes don’t need to correlate though. I feel like with music a work is pretty much “valid” from it’s earliest form to it’s most polished, a few chords and some lyrics written down in five minutes is still a “song” even if you can put a lot of time into making a larger work. Games on the other hand need to reach a certain point before which they are essentially useless.

      This makes game kind of lack a “small unit of game”, a single song compared to a complete album. Sure, with easy and easily available tool this is improving but there’s still a lack of ability to make a “throwaway” game more analogous to a little crayon drawing or a song improvised on the spot.

  26. Decius says:

    You recognized your mechanical patterns. Rather than get into different mechanical patterns, why not iterate through each pattern and then break it in every way you can imagine?

  27. Geebs says:

    I much preferred it when id software went for “instrumental White Zombie” for Quake 2 than midi ripoffs of Pantera.

    Weird thing: that riff from E1M4 has been compared both to “Rise” by Pantera and “Unsung” by Helmet – both albums those songs were on (Vulgar Display of Power and Meantime) came out in the same year.

  28. Andy says:

    Fighting the E1M8 Barons with a plasma rifle? CHEATER!

  29. postinternetsyndrome says:

    A very good idea! I really liked Phobos Phobia. Looking forward to more of this.

  30. RCN says:

    Wow, my mother looked at my screen and asked “What’s that tab? ‘Project Butt’?”

    I looked at it and had no idea for a good twenty seconds. I finally got the nerve to click on it and got here.

    Goddamn, Shamus, I thought Josh was the Troll.

    EDIT: Huh, I listened to both songs before reading the article. I was unsure if I’d recognize any DOOM tune, but the E1M8 song did flare up my memory. Then I heard your version and throughout it I felt I should be remembering the mission it is from, but not quite. I thought I was the problem.

    You got closer than you thought. It is only close to the end of Phobos Phobia that it really is distinctly unlike DOOM.

  31. Cuthalion says:

    I can’t wait to see how this project goes! Looking forward to your attempt at a Descent song.

  32. ulrichomega says:

    Shamus, just to let you know, the Doom music link is broken here now.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *