What is the best music standard for each LucasArts game?

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The_cranky_hermit
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What is the best music standard for each LucasArts game?

Post by The_cranky_hermit » Sun Apr 24, 2011 3:38 pm

I've got an MT-32, a Roland Virtual Sound Canvas, and I'm planning on doing a LucasArts marathon with the best possible music standard for each game. Here's what I *think* is best:

Maniac Mansion - IBM PCJr
Zak McKracken - Digital (FM-Towns CD)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Digital (FM-Towns CD)
Loom - Digital (CD)
The Secret of Monkey Island - Digital (CD)
Monkey Island 2 - MT-32
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - MT-32
Day of the Tentacle - General MIDI
Sam & Max Hit the Road - General MIDI
Full Throttle - Digital
The Dig - Digital
The Curse of Monkey Island - Digital
Grim Fandango - Digital

Is this all correct? I've found that Monkey Island 2 and Indy4 can be played using General MIDI in ScummVM, but I don't think their soundtracks were composed with this ability in mind.

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LordHoto
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Re: What is the best music standard for each LucasArts game?

Post by LordHoto » Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:56 pm

The_cranky_hermit wrote: Zak McKracken - Digital (FM-Towns CD)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Digital (FM-Towns CD)
Have fun buying these versions, they are usually most expensive :-P.
The_cranky_hermit wrote: Loom - Digital (CD)
I heard the Loom FM-Towns version is "better" than the DOS CD version, because it doesn't cut out some dialog lines. Of course it doesn't feature voice overs.
The_cranky_hermit wrote:Is this all correct?
I am not sure whether you really think that's the best music standard... I am not sure why you ask us about it either, everyone has its own personal feelings about what's "best".

Personally I prefer AdLib for most SCUMM games.

EDIT: There should be plenty threads about this topic on our forums, so you might also want to check out the search function to locate them.
The_cranky_hermit wrote:I've found that Monkey Island 2 and Indy4 can be played using General MIDI in ScummVM, but I don't think their soundtracks were composed with this ability in mind.
Yeah General MIDI should just be some conversion from the MT-32 MIDI tracks in the case of both games.

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Post by The_cranky_hermit » Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:08 pm

I am not sure whether you really think that's the best music standard... I am not sure why you ask us about it either, everyone has its own personal feelings about what's "best".
I would have thought it would be more or less objective. Take Conquests of the Longbow, for instance. I have been told it was composed using an MT-32, as all Sierra games of the time were. Adlib is supported by a driver that interprets the MIDI and converts each note into data for FM synthesis. The result accurately portrays the melody and rhythm, but the instruments don't sound as nice, especially not custom sounds, and there are no reverb effects or any other nice things the MT-32 provides. GM support, on the other hand, was added in later via patch, and it works by remapping instruments to their closest approximation. The result is better sounding instruments than with Adlib, but they're not exactly the same, there are no custom instrument sounds, and no reverb effects.

Maybe I've got it all wrong - this is my understanding of how MIDI works in games, and I've never had it properly peer reviewed. But it's consistent with all of the facts I do know, and it leads me to believe that for any given game, there is a musical standard that is objectively better than the rest. If that's not true, then either my facts are wrong, or my reasoning is wrong. And even then, what about the games that I think use digital soundtracks? That would have to be a simple yes/no question, wouldn't it?

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Harrypoppins
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Re: What is the best music standard for each LucasArts game?

Post by Harrypoppins » Sun Apr 24, 2011 11:30 pm

LordHoto wrote:
The_cranky_hermit wrote: Loom - Digital (CD)
I heard the Loom FM-Towns version is "better" than the DOS CD version, because it doesn't cut out some dialog lines. Of course it doesn't feature voice overs.
And around 90% of the music too. The Fm-Towns version of Loom is certainly the best.

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Post by LordHoto » Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:40 am

The_cranky_hermit wrote:
I am not sure whether you really think that's the best music standard... I am not sure why you ask us about it either, everyone has its own personal feelings about what's "best".
I would have thought it would be more or less objective. Take Conquests of the Longbow, for instance. I have been told it was composed using an MT-32, as all Sierra games of the time were. Adlib is supported by a driver that interprets the MIDI and converts each note into data for FM synthesis. The result accurately portrays the melody and rhythm, but the instruments don't sound as nice, especially not custom sounds, and there are no reverb effects or any other nice things the MT-32 provides. GM support, on the other hand, was added in later via patch, and it works by remapping instruments to their closest approximation. The result is better sounding instruments than with Adlib, but they're not exactly the same, there are no custom instrument sounds, and no reverb effects.
In this case you probably wanted to ask what the original music was composed with and not what is "best". The latter usually means what people like best.

In case you wanted to ask what the original games were composed with I think FM-Towns versions and also Loom CD were definitely not the "best" versions, since they were probably composed with some MIDI device in mind in the case of Loom for example. In all those cases it's best when you ask the original composers what devices they used when "testing" their score.

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Post by eriktorbjorn » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:36 am

LordHoto wrote: In case you wanted to ask what the original games were composed with I think FM-Towns versions and also Loom CD were definitely not the "best" versions, since they were probably composed with some MIDI device in mind in the case of Loom for example.
I'm pretty sure Tchaikovsky composed the music for an orchestra, not a MIDI device. ;)

The README for the Loom Roland upgrade that you can still find on LucasArts's FTP server says that the music was "transcribed and arranged for the Roland MT-32/LAPC-1 by George Alistair Sanger", though.

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Post by LogicDeLuxe » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:38 am

LordHoto wrote:In this case you probably wanted to ask what the original music was composed with
Even that is not that simple.
Indy 3 isn't even composed for the game, but for the movie, meant to be played by an orchestra.

Then, there is Monkey Island. The majority is MT-32, but the CD has some more tracks, which is also original music composed for the game, but clearly not MT-32 based.

Same thing with the ambient tracks in Zak Towns. Also worth to note, that the demo tape of the main theme, recorded before the game has the most similarities with the FM-Towns track. Of course, the original game track was coded to be played on SID, but obviously enough, it wasn't the choice of the composer.

And Sam&Max was probably composed with more then one device. In the audio tracks, SC55 is very present, but there are also other instruments mixed in.

And the Loom music was of course composed way before the game, by Tchaikovsky.

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Post by LordHoto » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:43 pm

LogicDeLuxe wrote:And the Loom music was of course composed way before the game, by Tchaikovsky.
Yeah but someone needed to arrange the tracks for the target platform and you can still ask that guy :-P.

Anyway all this leads to the point where we don't have any good reasons to objectivly judge what's best :-P.

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Post by The_cranky_hermit » Mon Apr 25, 2011 3:35 pm

I really think you're making this issue a lot more complicated than it needs to be, but "what was the target platform of the music when it was composed/transcribed" would be a good starting place.

Here's two questions. I think they are simple and objective.
1: Was Day of the Tentacle composed for MT-32, General MIDI, or something else? And I know that at least one track is derivative of Rossini. The way I see it, the version that made it into DOTT is still meant for a MIDI device of some kind, not an orchestra. Just like how King's Quest II was composed for PCJr, even though it contains excerpts from Greensleeves and Thriller and Batman.

2: Did Full Throttle, The Dig, and later games completely eschew MIDI?

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Post by MusicallyInspired » Mon Apr 25, 2011 3:37 pm

The General MIDI games specifically sound best on the Roland SC-55.

DOTT was composed for the MT-32, I believe. I don't think there's a General MIDI driver for it in the original interpreter.

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Post by The_cranky_hermit » Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:15 pm

The General MIDI games specifically sound best on the Roland SC-55.
Thanks, but which ones are GM games?

DOTT seems to have native GM support, BTW. On the CD, in the DOTT directory, there is a file "GMIDI.IMS" which probably implies native GM support. There is also "ADLIB.IMS" "NULL.IMS" and "ROLAND.IMS."

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Post by LogicDeLuxe » Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:33 pm

MusicallyInspired wrote:DOTT was composed for the MT-32, I believe. I don't think there's a General MIDI driver for it in the original interpreter.
There is an Adlib only version of the game for whatever reason, but there should be an upgrade patch somewhere at LucasArts.
Usually, the game has Adlib, MT-32 and General MIDI all as separate resources each optimized for their target MIDI device. This might be the first title where they started to compose on Sound Canvas, but MT-32 might be the original MIDI device just as well. The only way to find out would be asking the composer.

Sam & Max is easier to find out, as GM is the only format in the resources and all other devices are translated on the fly. Apparently, they ditched the idea of optimized versions in favor of saving some kB.

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Post by LordHoto » Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:46 pm

The_cranky_hermit wrote:2: Did Full Throttle, The Dig, and later games completely eschew MIDI?
Yeah they should only have digital audio support.

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Post by balpat » Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:34 pm

A really good question. However there is a lot of subjective perception involved. Personally, I think that a real MT-32 (actually, I use a CM-32L) produces softer and more beautiful music even for games that have been made with General MIDI in mind.

When it comes to Maniac Mansion, there are two Non-PC-Version (supported by ScummVM) that sound much better: The first one is the NES version which also has cool music for each of the characters - but, of course, it looks ... strange.
The second one is the Amiga-Version which is virtually identical with the PC version except for better sound.

Both Indy 3 and Zak have a vastly improved FM Towns port. But Indy 3 uses the movie-soundtrack and is very clearly cut from the soundtrack CD. This makes it sound awkward in my ears - also, the graphics are a little bit squished.

The LOOM FM Towns version uses some Tchaikovsky recordings and sounds great - plus it features close ups. Still, I think the PC CD version sounds even better but doesn't use as much music, which is a shame.

Beginning with Full Throttle, Lucas Arts used digital music and got rid of MIDI completely.
Which is a good thing as it allowed them to make on of the best soundtracks ever: The Dig.

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Post by The_cranky_hermit » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:31 pm

Thanks for that info.

So, now I know the following:
Sam & Max Hit the Road is definitely GM-based.
Day of the Tentacle might be GM-based, but probably isn't.
Everything newer is digital-based.
Everything older is probably too old to be GM-based.

Now my list looks like this:

Maniac Mansion - Amiga
Zak McKracken - Digital (FM-Towns CD)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Digital (FM-Towns CD)
Loom - Digital (FM-Towns CD)
The Secret of Monkey Island - Digital (CD)
Monkey Island 2 - MT-32
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - MT-32
Day of the Tentacle - MT-32
Sam & Max Hit the Road - General MIDI / SC-55
Full Throttle - Digital
The Dig - Digital
The Curse of Monkey Island - Digital
Grim Fandango - Digital

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