Music from PC games
Here I am back in 1994, playing my favorite game. This is video stills taken from a short clip my uncle filmed on 17. May which is Norway’s national day, and what was I doing...? Playing Doom of course! I think the PC I'm using here is a 386DX/33MHz with 4 Megs of RAM. Even with the screen size scaled down, Doom is running painstakingly slow and jerky. When you spend hours and hours playing Doom as a kid you get somewhat attached to it.
Video game music has had a big influence on me, specially the games from the 90's. I got the Roland RAP-10 soundcard in 1995 (still got it) and my love for MIDI began. Music in games never sounded so good and the RAP-10 worked wonders to games like; Discworld, Day Of The Tentacle, Sam & Max, Indiana Jones and The Fate Of Atlantis, Legend Of Kyrandia, Bioforge, Warcraft, Descent, Duke Nukem and Doom. Made in 1993 by id Software, Doom is and will forever be my all-time favorite; it is the original first person shooter game. Wolfenstein 3D came out before Doom but the graphics and game play where not quite there yet.
In the late 90's, MIDI music was getting rare in favor of other types like CD audio, WAV and MOD files. I am not a particular fan of the MOD format, but it was brilliantly used in Unreal/Unreal Tournament as unlike MIDI; the music sounds the same no matter what soundcard you have. Michiel van den Bos composed a lot of great music for both the games which I still listen to once in a while. Today games mostly use compressed file formats like ogg and mp3. Some newer game music I like is the dark and gothic sound of Vampire Bloodlines and the beautiful symphony music by Jeremy Soule in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
All the music and sound effects in Doom and Doom 2 are made by Bobby Prince; a former lawyer and Vietnam veteran.
Bobby Prince worked for id Software from 1991-1994 and has created music and sound effects for numerous games, including Wolfenstein 3D and Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms).
Some Doom tracks resemble early 90's heavy metal music and that's what lead game designer John Romero wanted. It was strange to me when I discovered this as to me the music from Doom is the original, but if it weren't for Bobby Prince's music I would never known bands like Slayer, Alice in Chains and Pantera existed. Actually I like many of the Bobby Prince versions better as the melody is not hidden by overly used guitars and hammering drums.
Here is a 1993 video of the man himself explaining one of the tracks he made for Commander Keen. The keyboard next to his computer is an Ensoniq EPS.
Bobby Prince is now retired from composing game music and in 2005 he received a well earned Game Developers Lifetime Achievement award for his work in the game industry.
My Doom tracks
MIDI files played on a dedicated General MIDI device like the Roland SC-7 was great back in the days, but sound a bit boring with those overused sounds now. From time to time I dig up an old MIDI file and record it using whatever I have in my studio. I've focused more and more on Doom tracks because I love the game, still play it and the music can be used in new ports of Doom. I use the Doomsday engine where you can use custom external files instead of the MIDI music.
The idea with my tracks is not to make a completly new song (then it wouldn't be of any use in the game), but to make a better sounding version of the MIDI. I've tried to not use annoying sounds that stick out too much; the music must just flow in the background. The volume/loudness of the tracks are fairly equal relative to each other, so it shouldn't be much need to adjust the music volume for different levels. All tracks are compressed in ogg format (which loops better than mp3) and edited for a smooth in-game loop - that's why the sudden start and stop. Most of the tracks are recorded everything in one shot and by doing this I've sometimes not had everything optimized for lowest possible noise (my mixer is a tad crappy), so some tracks has a bit more noise than others. But you know; a little noise just adds to the flavor ;-) Recording everything in one shot makes it much faster and easier to make a tune, although I don't get the separate audio tracks for later use or change.