Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

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cwadge
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Post by cwadge » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:59 pm

LouEatingSalami wrote:That doesn't really help as there seems to be an issue with some SCI games regarding volume changes. In the games I mentioned all volume changes only affect the drum channel, all the other instruments stay at the same volume no matter what you set it to.
Hmm, that's not how it works for me. What version of ScummVM are you using and on what OS?

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Post by Angelus3K » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:59 pm

Hi all,

Thanks for these amazing sound fonts. I’ve just found this thread, should I be using the UHD soundfont in the first post or the Fatboy one? And what is the difference?

Thanks

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Post by cwadge » Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:19 pm

Angelus3K wrote:Hi all,

Thanks for these amazing sound fonts. I’ve just found this thread, should I be using the UHD soundfont in the first post or the Fatboy one? And what is the difference?

Thanks
UHD is General MIDI only, and I finished it more than a decade ago. It was designed to be relatively lightweight (64mb) yet well balanced.

FatBoy is my newer project which, due to the prevalence of high-quality software synths and tons of system RAM, doesn't have the limitations of its predecessor. I'm still working on FatBoy, but it's already fully GM compliant and partially supports the GS standard as well.

If you don't have extremely limited hardware, I'd go with FatBoy. But you're of course welcome to try them both and see which you like better.

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Post by Angelus3K » Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:39 pm

Thanks for the quick reply.

I already tried UHD and was amazed by the quality!

I’ll give Fatboy a go and will be prepared to be blown away again lol. I have high end PC but planning to play primarily on an iPad Air 2, they have 2GB RAM so hopefully will work ok on that.

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Post by cwadge » Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:53 pm

Angelus3K wrote:Thanks for the quick reply.

I already tried UHD and was amazed by the quality!

I’ll give Fatboy a go and will be prepared to be blown away again lol. I have high end PC but planning to play primarily on an iPad Air 2, they have 2GB RAM so hopefully will work ok on that.
FatBoy currently weighs in at 316MB, which is what you can expect in memory usage when all banks are loaded into RAM. However, it's likely to grow a bit larger as I put more work into it. :wink:

Let me know what you think, if you run into anything that sounds "off", etc.

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Post by cwadge » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:52 pm

Just an update for anybody who might be following this project. I've been very busy with both work and life, plus fighting off a nasty flu. But I've put some work into the new flute preset, primarily looping the samples which is a bit challenging due to their naturalistic style. I'll be sure to post it for you to try out before it becomes part of FatBoy, assuming it ever gets to the point where I feel it'd be a definite upgrade over the existing flute preset.

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by Avenger » Mon Nov 12, 2018 4:55 am

cwadge wrote:
Thu Feb 08, 2018 11:14 pm
TL;DR: After sitting on it for something like a decade and a half, I'm releasing my General MIDI SoundFont to the public. I hope you enjoy it.

You can download it here: https://pub.dotbalm.org/misc/UHD3.7z

WHAT?

The digital equivalent of sheet music, MIDI was commonly utilized by the video games of yesterday. MIDI doesn't have any sound information in it per se, therefore the quality of the samples utilized by your MIDI synthesizer determines the quality of your MIDI sound as much as the composition itself.

To put it simply, a SoundFont is a library of instrumental sound samples, instructions and parameters which, when loaded by a compatible synthesizer (either implemented in hardware or in software), will dramatically change the sound of MIDI output. It follows that your choice of SoundFont can have a noticeable impact on your classic video game experience. Especially if you're an audiophile like me.

WHY?

Basically, I was going to play an old school game and went looking for the cool new SoundFonts to make the MIDI not suck. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't find one I liked as well as my old UHD SF2.

HOW?

This depends largely on whether a particular game is being loaded through your OS, hardware synth, ScummVM, DOSBox, etc. Thus, I won't go into much detail here. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of tutorials online and these forums in particular describing how to load a SF2 in various situations, and I'm happy to help if you still have questions.

WHY NOT "TIMBRES OF HEAVEN" / [MY_FAVORITE_SF2_HERE]?

Timbres Of Heaven, while an overall great sounding SoundFont, is unfortunately NOT very adherent to the General MIDI convention. Some of the volumes between instrument presets are highly inconsistent, resulting in an uneven and often overpowering sound. Also, tremolo has been added to certain instruments in a manner which was not in any MIDI standard I'm aware of, and often clashes badly with many real-world examples (such as the soundtracks to many Sierra games) where the composer would have added their own tremolo in the MIDI itself. This gives me the impression it was intended more for studio use than for gaming or other standard GM playback. Timbres Of Heaven is also ~376MB in size, which must be loaded into RAM to utilize. On resource-constrained computers (or certain SF2 compatible hardware synthesizers), this isn't ideal.

In contrast, UHDv3 is just 64MB uncompressed, which fits cleanly on most older SF2-capable hardware synthesizers, and isn't too RAM hungry on resource-constrained computers either. But perhaps most importantly in the context of video games or other standard MIDI, it sticks much more closely to the GM convention utilized by many classic games. I think it strikes a decent balance between consistency and realism that compliments the original compositions.

HOW DOES IT SOUND?

Like this:

▶ Betrayal at Krondor
▶ Chiisana Warutsu (Little Waltz) [compare to: ▶ "Musyng Kite" 1GB soundfont]
▶ Discworld 1 (CD DOS)
▶ Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
▶ King's Quest 6
▶ Leisure Suit Larry 1 VGA
▶ Leisure Suit Larry 3
▶ Leisure Suit Larry 5
▶ Leisure Suit Larry 6
▶ Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
▶ Quest for Glory 1 VGA
▶ Quest for Glory 3: Trial by Fire
▶ Quest for Glory 4: Shadows of Darkness
▶ Sam & Max Hit The Road
▶ SC-88 Pro demo tracks (GM conversion)
▶ Silpheed
▶ Space Quest 5
▶ The Legend of Heroes IV: A Tear of Vermilion
▶ The Legend of Kyrandia II: The Hand of Fate
▶ Theme Hospital
▶ Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness

And a quick contrast between UHD and AdLib FM synthesis used by default in most classic games:

▶ Ultima VI startup theme (AdLib/UHD3)

(If you prefer, there is also a YouTube channel)

WHEN?

Right now. Go download it if you want (https://pub.dotbalm.org/misc/UHD3.7z). Just don't distribute it commercially, please.

HISTORY

As a kid I loved video games, and had a special appreciation for their unique soundtracks. Sierra stood out especially, as perhaps the first to embrace the impressive but relatively high-dollar Roland MT-32 synth module. I wanted an MT-32 badly as a kid in the 80's and early 90's, but sadly at $700 it was far out of reach. So, like most other regular Joes, I had to suffice with PC speaker bleeps and, a bit later on, low quality OPL support via SoundBlaster.

Fast forward to the late 90's / early 2000's and the EMU10k1 had become a thing. Creative Labs released a commodity-priced sound card based on this innovative sound processor, the SB Live!, and I was fortunate enough to acquire an early model at a trade show. Among other things, the EMU10k1 supported SoundFonts natively. This gave your average audiophile access to high quality MIDI playback which was on par with pricey studio synths. Unfortunately, the best SoundFont that shipped with the SB Live! was an 8MB GM set that, while far superior to the quality most people expected from MIDI, largely failed to impress. Thankfully homebrew SoundFonts caught on in music and audiophile communities, with a slew of SF2 sound banks circulating. The one I liked best at the time was a set called "Unison".

Around the same time I'd finally acquired my longed for MT-32 for something like $45 on eBay. At that point it was over a decade old and seriously outmoded, but its clarity and balance still had a certain sophistication that even the MIDI synthesizers of contemporary times seemed to lack. Worse, most SoundFonts in open circulation didn't work so great with many of the classic games I wanted to use them for in the first place. So, I figured, if you want something done right...

Initially using Unison as a starting point, with the MT-32 and the soundtracks to hundreds of classic games as references, I began replacing samples, sometimes with publicly available instrument samples, other times with custom samples recorded by musician friends & acquaintances, even some by myself. Lots of effort went into fine tuning new and existing samples, correcting looping errors, making countless micro adjustments to timbre, falloff, presence, reverberation, etc. Though the finished result hardly resembled Unison any longer, I called the finished product "Unison HD" in homage to its roots.

Though I hadn't released UHD publicly in its entirety (until now), some of the unique samples recorded for this SoundFont may be familiar to you already. This is because the kind folks who collaborated with me while I was first building it also got copies of many instrument presets and used them in their own projects. These include game soundtracks, backing tracks, and even TV commercials. Some have also wound up in other popular SoundFonts, often with a slight tweak here or there.

As the UHD Soundfont still holds up pretty well today, I figured you might appreciate the way it augments your favorite games of yesteryear.

EDIT:
If you're looking for a SoundFont which isn't limited by the size and complexity constraints of UHD, you might prefer the FatBoy SoundFont I've been working on. If so, take a look at the end of this thread for development progress.
How do I get this to work with ScummVM?

I have extracted the file and selected it in the MIDI options menu of the program while setting the GM Device to "FluidSynth" and there is no change to the music while playing Leisure Suit Larry 1 over what I was experiencing before.

Is there anything else that needs to be done?

Cheers.

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by Avenger » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:39 pm

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by cwadge » Fri Nov 16, 2018 6:29 pm

Avenger wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:39 pm
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Sorry, the forum upgrades apparently unsubscribed me from notifications for this topic. That said, are you playing LSL1 EGA or VGA? The original doesn't even have a MIDI soundtrack. It's all PC speaker beeps and boops.

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by cwadge » Fri Nov 16, 2018 7:18 pm

FatBoy hasn't had any bug reports in a while and, as I believe it's ready for general usage at this point, I've put together a simple website for it. It's probably a bit easier to refer people to than a forum thread, and the download link always links to the current version of FatBoy. Let me know what you think. https://fatboy.site/

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by cwadge » Thu Nov 22, 2018 9:18 pm

cwadge wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 7:18 pm
FatBoy hasn't had any bug reports in a while and, as I believe it's ready for general usage at this point, I've put together a simple website for it. It's probably a bit easier to refer people to than a forum thread, and the download link always links to the current version of FatBoy. Let me know what you think. https://fatboy.site/
Thanks to feedback I've received, I put the current version number next to the download links. I'll also be adding a changelog page. Don't worry though, I'll still make an effort to keep this thread updated as new versions are released.

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by Avenger » Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:35 pm

cwadge wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 6:29 pm
Avenger wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:39 pm
????????????????????????
Sorry, the forum upgrades apparently unsubscribed me from notifications for this topic. That said, are you playing LSL1 EGA or VGA? The original doesn't even have a MIDI soundtrack. It's all PC speaker beeps and boops.
Thanks for the reply.

VGA. I got my copy from GOG.

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by cwadge » Tue Nov 27, 2018 6:03 pm

Avenger wrote:
Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:35 pm
Thanks for the reply.

VGA. I got my copy from GOG.
Hmm, I have the same version and it works fine for me. Here are my settings for LSL1-VGA:

Image
Image

Note that I'm running ScummVM in Linux, though (unless you're running a broken build) the platform shouldn't really matter.

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by Avenger » Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:50 am

cwadge wrote:
Tue Nov 27, 2018 6:03 pm
Avenger wrote:
Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:35 pm
Thanks for the reply.

VGA. I got my copy from GOG.
Hmm, I have the same version and it works fine for me. Here are my settings for LSL1-VGA:

Image
Image

Note that I'm running ScummVM in Linux, though (unless you're running a broken build) the platform shouldn't really matter.
Yeah, my settings match yours but when Leisure Suit Larry boots I'm still getting the default music that plays. It sounds nothing like the example you provided in the first post of this thread...

What files are required in the ScummVM folder for optional sound fronts?

I do remember installing a minimum version of ScummVM back when I initially did that only came with the base few files to run games. Perhaps that's got something to do with it since the GOG games that come with it have a ton of unnecessary junk files.

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Re: Better Music for GM ScummVM (and DOSBox) games

Post by cwadge » Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:53 am

Avenger wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:50 am
Yeah, my settings match yours but when Leisure Suit Larry boots I'm still getting the default music that plays. It sounds nothing like the example you provided in the first post of this thread...
I just loaded it up with exactly the same settings from my last post, using FatBoy 0.784; this is how it sounds for me: https://youtu.be/FvmyJJFl1E8

Something must be wonky in your settings, ScummVM, or perhaps the game itself.
Avenger wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:50 am
What files are required in the ScummVM folder for optional sound fronts?
Nothing, just the normal game assets. All you need to do is have the soundfont on your system someplace, then set the relevant settings in the audio and MIDI tab.
Avenger wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:50 am
I do remember installing a minimum version of ScummVM back when I initially did that only came with the base few files to run games. Perhaps that's got something to do with it since the GOG games that come with it have a ton of unnecessary junk files.
The unecessary files don't matter much if you have the disk space. You might want to redownload ScummVM, reinstall, and double-check your settings. If you still can't get it to sound like my video, please post screenshots of your audio and MIDI tabs.

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