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News: Celebrating 30 years of Star Control 2 - The Ur-Quan Masters

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1  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Some ideas about remastering original music on: February 14, 2006, 10:00:45 pm
I forgot about the GUS PnP cards; my GUS Max has 512 kB RAM expandable to 1MB. How compatible with the original GUS was the GUS PnP?

The Interwave chip has a configuration register where it can be switched between GF1compatibility and native Interwave mode. In GF1 mode it behaves exactly like a GF1, with the only difference being that the synthesizer renders at 44100Hz regardless of the amount of voices. In Interwave mode the stereo positioning registers increase from 6 to 8 bit, the memory registers change to allow an address space of 16MB, and several new registers for hardware accelerated effects become available. The GUS PnP could use a 512KB patch set from ROM and was shipped without RAM, To be GUS compatible you did to add some SIMMS. If you did, the compatibility was 100%. Or perhaps, the PnP allowed more IRQ choices than the original GUS, which could give problems with some games if you used an IRQ that such a game did not have in its list.

Also nice was that IWSBOS emulated a Roland Sound Canvas both on the SoundBlaster Midi port as on the Roland Midi port, and also emulated the ULTRAMID driver. The result of this was that games using Midi either through Roland or through ULTRAMID could take advantage of the excellent 4MB patch set. For some games, like Warcraft II and Little Big Adventure II, you couldn't believe your ears so beautiful it was Roll Eyes

Bad as always was the Adlib emulation, I had a SB2.0 in my computer for those games.

The GUS PnP was criticised for noise on the output (which the GF1 was reported not to have), and indeed, when setting you speakers loudly you could indeed hear a soft noise.

This is ridiculous considering that Vorbis is a good codec available with minimal license requirements (you have to include the copyright message and disclaimer in the documentation!).

I don't understand it either; propably it all has to do with awareness, most game developers live in a propietary world and aren't necessarily aware of open source alternatives. But I still don't understand it. Shocked

In that case, you may be interested in the ModPlug XMMS plugin and Schism Tracker.

Thanks,I'll check it out. Cheesy

Volume envelopes in Impulse Tracker are essentially sets of linear slides on a value multiplied with the note volume, so you can emulate them quite closely with a lot of volume slides; add volume slides to the pattern rows corresponding to the sections before and after the sustain loop (removing any note off/cut events). Alternatively, set speed to 1 and set the volume manually for each row. Of course, using volume envelopes is a lot easier, but this is how people used to do it before envelopes.

You would need to combine it with using multiple channels and round robining between them (which some composers did/do) , but indeed, then you could do something like that.
2  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Some ideas about remastering original music on: February 14, 2006, 06:23:40 pm
There was a permission problem with the wavs, fixed.
3  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Some ideas about remastering original music on: February 14, 2006, 02:23:57 pm
"Sounding better" is somewhat subjective. However, I do agree that the music of many DOS games has been underrated due to limitations of the popular Sound Blaster series. For MOD-style music, the Gravis Ultrasound was way ahead of its time; it's greatest problem, in my opinion, was the lack of proper support for it (and the limited sample memory size combined with no proper support for sample compression). For MIDI-style music, the Roland MT-32 and Sound Canvas showed the way. The Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold, in my opinion, was the top DOS-era sound card, with a synthesis abilities superior in most ways to the GUS, good General MIDI playback, full SB16 compatibility and enough sample memory for any tune. Unfortunately, most games used it as a Sound Blaster with General MIDI support instead of making full use of its wavetable synth.

Well, I had/have an Interwave based GUS, which combined with 8MB of memory and the very good 4MB patch set kicked ass, both for tracker music and for MIDI music. The AWE64 was indeed a very good card as well, I don't know which one I would perfer: the AWE64 won for better Adlib compatibility and the GUS won for better support.

Nowadays, with MP3 and Vorbis compression, hardly anyone even bothers with synthesised music.
Well, audio quality is nowadays generally okay, but due to space requirements, a lot of CD-ROM games limit the amount of music that comes with the game. Imagine converting the entire SC2 music collection to MP3, I don't think it'll fit into the 30MB or something that most developers want to spend on music. Undecided A lot of games have good music, but it becomes quickly boring. Some developers still resort to 22 KHz .wavs because of patent trouble (Master of Orion 3 to name one). Yuck!

MikMod seems to have a speed advantage over the others, but is definitely lacking in advanced features. However, it should be noted that basic MOD playback is well within the capabilities of all these engines. Personally, I've been using the ModPlug engine for most of my MOD-like playback and tracking needs, and it seems to have very accurate playback (especially for ModPlug Tracker songs Wink) and extensive filtering and so on.

Yes, I used Modplug to edit the file, after discovering that the Linux based trackers (I tried Cheesetracker and Soundtracker) were not able to do the task. Reboot to windows Sad Modplugs player engine is excellent.

I'm not entirely sure what benefits using volume envelopes over volume slides would have; the end result is pretty similar.

A volume slide allows only a linear change in volume. Suppose you have an instrument with an echo. If you need to note-off such an instrument early with a volume slide, you eliminate the echo, With an envelope, a note-off will end the sustain phase, and no matter if the note is long of short, the echo is hearable.
4  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Some ideas about remastering original music on: February 14, 2006, 02:01:48 pm
I'm actually not too sure how much the music would benefit from this change, though. How about you give us an example, dmantione, since you suggested it? Cheesy

I'm more an audiophile than a composer, but I gave it a try. Even though I'm an amateur, the improvements are  beyond expectations.

hyper.mod is the original, the edited file. I've also added wav files in case your player engine cannot handle .it files well, both files were prepared using Open Cubic Player, using the floating point synthesizer and AOI filtering.

What has changed:
* All samples converted to instruments.
* Volume envelope added for most instruments.
* Some instruments (i.e. the bells) now continue after next note starts, others (strings) get a note-off instead of sound cut off.
* Note off events manually added at various places to prevent some instruments from continuing inside their sustain forever.
* Stereo modifications. Some instruments have a panning envelope now, so the positioning of the channels is now no longer the only stereo source. The positioning of channels has changed.

Most changes do not really affect the "original feel" and it sounds like the original in better sound quality. One does IMHO and that is that the bells now are no longer interrupted therefore and sound like real bells. It doesn't sound bad at all, but differently from the original, so for optimal nostalgy this change would have to be reverted in some places.
5  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Some ideas about remastering original music on: February 13, 2006, 10:23:33 pm

Congratulations for this very well done revival of this superb game.

I read in the other thread that the maximum has been done to improve playback of the mod-files. First I would correct something, that is that Dos games did sound bad. I had a GUS available, and while I don't know wether SC2 supported it, I can assure you that many Dos games did sound better than many modern games.

The goal should be to match the playback quality of the GUS synthesizer. There exist several good software synthesis engines that can match it, Mikmod is unfortunately not one of them. However, wether Mikmod is a bad choice is another matter, there exist few open source engines, to my knowledge: MikMod, Cheesetronic, XMP and Open Cubic Player. OCP is one of the best engines available, but propably also one of the hardest to use Sad For the rest, I doubt if the trouble would be worth it, but it could be investigated.

That is for the player engine. Regarding the MOD files, there are several things that can be done to improve them. They should be converted to a more advanced format like .IT, which allows for several enhancements:
* Take advantage of the note-off features. With Mahoney & Kactus .MOD, the previous note stops when the next starts. For playback of several instruments this is undesired, think of a piano for example. By inserting appropiate note-off information the listening experience can be significantly enhanced.
* Rethink the stereo positioning. M&K .MOD has two channels left and two right, just like the Amiga. Especially with a headphone this sounds bad. This can be done much better in modern formats.
* Samples can be volume normalized; modern module formats allow a fully controlable vlume envelope. This would allow to get rid of tricks volume slides that are used in .MOD files to emulate the envelope in natural instruments. This would be quite hard IMHO.

Just my 2 cents....
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