Matt Chat 143: The Fat Man Part I

Matt Barton's picture

Here's the interview with The Fat Man himself, George Sanger. George is indeed "The Man" when it comes to PC game audio, particularly back in the pivotal early 90s when we moved from the PC buzzer/speakers to Soundblasters. George helped standardize the industry and did all kinds of fantastic productions, including The 7th Guest and Wing Commander soundtracks. Lots of great stuff in this interview about how he got his start and much more.

Download the viddy here.

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ELLIS DECHAMPS (not verified)
PC GAME AUDIO

HI, THERE, MATT. I WAS WANDERING, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF DOS GAME MUSIC COMPARED TO THE OTHER SYSTEMS OF THE TIMES, SUCH AS THE AMIGA AND THE ATARI ST? I HAVE TO SAY I PERFER THE OTHER SYSTEMS, ESPECIALLY THE AMIGA BUT ALSO THE COMMODORE SID MUSIC. PSYGNOSIS GAMES HAVE SUCH GREAT TUNES THAT I STILL ENJOY LISTENING. I ALWAYS WANDERED WHY THE PC HAD SUCH BAD SOUND COMPARED TO THE OTHER SYSTEMS WHEN THEY COST SO MUCH MORE. I ALSO REMEMBER THE SOUNDBLASTER CARDS BEING SO HUGE ALMOST AS BIG AS LONG AS THE MOTHERBOARD! AND WHY ON EARTH DID THEY PUT THE JOYSTICK PORT ON THE SOUND CARD?

I ALSO AM WANDERING WHAT A ROLAND IS. I HAVE HEARD IT MENTIONED A FEW TIMES BUT IS IT A KEYBOARD OR A CARD OR WHAT?

Nathaniel Tolbert
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Joined: 11/06/2010
Roland is a company that

Roland is a company that deals with Midi instruments and sequencers even to this day. Before General midi they released a technology called the Roland MT-32 which stood for Multi-Timbre. The 32 indicated the number of notes in polyphony it could play at once. It used a form of synthesis call LA Synthesis which stood for, if I remember correctly Linear Arithmetic Synthesis. Another interesting aspect of the MT-32 was the ability like the Roland D-50 Keyboard that used the same technology to load what is called a Sysex (System Exclusive, I believe) patch. This allowed you to modify the sound s available for output, like the whistling at the beginning of Space Quest III, or the thwacks thumps and thuds added for the Quest for Glory Games. This became available for home use in the mid 80's (approximately 1987 or so) for a fairly high price. Around 700 Dollars here with a controller card, like the MPU-401. Later the Roland MT-32 was converted into an 8-bit ISA card called the LAPC-1. This is a fully functional MT-32 except inside the computer, meaning you miss out on some of the interesting messages that companies sent to the MT-32 to display on it's little LCD Screen, like space quest III's infamous Insert Buckazoid. After the MT-32, Roland started to spearhead a technology called GS or general sound or standard. It was almost the same layout as General Midi, but with 98 additional instruments 15 additional percussion instruments, 8 additional drum kits and 3 effects. This was slightly after General Midi spec was ratified and was created to answer some of the complaints about General Midi, and as such early General Midi games were designed to sound best on the GS based systems as a lot of games were supposedly composed on GS equipment. All of Roland's GS based sequencers like the Sound Canvas SC-55 were also compatible with General midi. It is also interesting to note that some of the Sierra Composers are said to have disliked General Midi due to the fixed sound set. Also remember that IBM tried to enhance the sound quality of the PC early on with the IBM music feature card, but it was expensive and sounded a lot like how the Adlib sounded, which wasn't enough of an improvement overall. If you want to heard a bunch of comparisons, and see why a lot of people want a Roland MT-32 and Sound Canvas check out this link. http://sound.dosforum.de/

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ELLIS DECHAMPS (not verified)
THANKS

THANKS, NATHANIEL. YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY KNOW ALOT ABOUT ALL THIS!!!! I GREW UP WITHOUT A PC SO THIS IS ALL GREEK TO ME. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUR SAYING THAT YOU COULD HOOK UP A KEYBOARD TO YOUR COMPUTER AND GET SOME KIND OF SECRET MESSAGES FROM YOUR GAMES! THAT IS GREAT. ARE YOU SAYING THAT WAS PROGRAMED IN? I FEEL LIKE I MIGHT HAVE MISSED OUT ON ALOT OF EASTER EGGS.

WAS THE PC WITH A ROLAND MT-32 OR SOUND CANVAS SOUNDING BETTER THEN THE AMIGA OR ATARI ST?

Nathaniel Tolbert
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Joined: 11/06/2010
The sound could be better

The sound could be better music wise. However both the MT-32 and the Sound Canvas didn't do PCM style sound effects and as they are synthesizers music that used true instruments on the Amiga still sounded better, albeit limited in the number of channels used. To see the messages that show on the Roland MT-32 take a look at this youtube video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za5W1poAORQ as you watch the music load, you will see the little screen say Calling Roger Wilco. For an example of how much better MT-32 was versus Adlib at the time have a view at one of these many videos - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApX60Y8djPI

Don't get me wrong, the Adlib was nice even if it was a little tinny. It reminds me much of the Sega Genesis for some reason. Probably because the OPL synthesis chip is somewhat similar. So have a listen and see what you think. Some people think it was light years ahead of the Amiga and built in Atari ST sound, and others think it sounds too fake. I personally enjoy the use of my Roland SC-55 MK II and my CM-64 setup that I have. It really makes older computer games come alive.

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