Archive for the ‘games’ Category

Documentary on 80’s Japanese Game Composers

September 5, 2014

This documentary on Japanese game music from the early 80’s is interesting because:

  • It’s not exactly easy to get reliable info in English on the history of the Japanese chipmusic. But here you get interviews with experts like Hally and the original composers like Hip Tanaka.
  • It shows a little bit about the process. How these early 8-bit composers were designing their own waveforms, much like the Amiga chipmusicians in the 1990’s. I’m glad to see custom waveforms getting some love, and perhaps more people will learn about the massive 1990’s Amiga chipscene.
  • To see a notebook with drawn 8-bit waveforms talked about with so much love and affection, is pretty much all we need in life.

It’s the first episode in a series. The angle seems to be the influence of Japanese 8-bit music on contemporary dance music. Kode 9 is there, and he’s bound to say some very smart stuff. Still, these episodes will most likely leave out a lot of stuff that I (and probably you) think is relevant and important. But that’s probably how you get a proper budget to do these kinds of things, eh?


The First Recording of Chipmusic, or What?

May 9, 2011


For the past months I’ve been using early 80’s computer magazines as toilet literature. It’s incredible to see the ideas and projects that seem to be part of a completely different world compared to now. In Allt om Hemdatorer #2, 1984 I read that the Spectrum game company Automata Ltd were releasing their soundtracks on cassettes. Since this might be the first chipmusic ever to be recorded and released, I thought I’d check it out.

But it was a bit more complicated than that. Automata’s games were pioneering “multimedia” games, which used a separate audio cassette player for the music. I mentioned their game Deus Ex Machina here, which had a very strange atmosphere to it. PiMania seems to be an equally bizarre game, that featured a competition that took 4 years for someone to figure out.

Last year the Automata soundtracks (from PiMania and Deus Ex Machina, afaik) were released on vinyl by Feeding Tube. All of those songs are also available for free download here, plus a lot of other ones. If you listen to them you’ll notice that it has nothing to do with chipmusic. But it’s pretty good stuff, some kind of witty step-sequencer acid electrock. Perhaps Automata released other cassettes with recordings of their Spectrum music, though, but I didn’t find any.

Afaik, it was all composed by Mel Croucher. He was a computer renaissance man of the 1970s and the co-founder of Automata Ltd. He made lots of world’s firsts such as sending data over the FM and AM-band, multimedia games, stereo VGM, etc. Also, his use of the TR-606 and TB-303 in Groucho (1984) is quite early proto-acid that reminds me of Alexander Robotnick’s pioneering acid (which is fantastic). Also, the PiMania song is a charming piece of VL-Tone toasting.

So, according to my timeline the first release with recorded chipmusic continues to be this strange flexidisc from 1984, which demonstrates a C64-software. If you have any other ideas, would be great to hear it. (There are plenty of examples of digital music since 1951 in the timeline, but the question here is about massproduced recordings of music made with a soundchip)

Btw, I recently got a Thomson TO-7 where the cassettes contain both data and audio. For example, you can hear classical music while the data is loading. Or get a nicely human-narrated description of what’s happening on the screen, perhaps while you’re messing with the built-in light pen. I wonder what would’ve happened if Mel Croucher would’ve worked with this machine..

Synapse Software & Other Acid-ish Games

March 30, 2011

As everybody knows, all the early hacker/entrepreneurs were on acid. All the time. Yes. In the games industry, Jeff Minter is probably the most obvious example. But I recently stumbled across Synapse Software, which made some hot stuff in the early 80s, with pretty good soundtracks too.

Rainbow Walker (video) looks nice and synchronizes the music to your movements. There’s Drelbs (video), where you are a walking eyeball that traps an angry face and kiss a girl to go to another dimension. In Mindwalker you are a deranged professor who enters his own mind to repair it by connecting identities with landscapes, locate a “shard of sanity” by using audio cues in a maze of pulsing neurons, etc. Check a video of it here.

Relax is a game that uses biofeedback and was designed to make you relax by looking at kaleidoscopic patterns, playing slow games, etc. There’s an article about it here and the C64-version is here. After a while they started to work with interactive fiction (“text adventures” – you saw Get Lamp, right?). It seems that Mindwheel was their biggest success. “At its most basic level, the game is about telepathy” (here).

Some other nice old games with a psychedelic/stoner flair are:
  • Deus Ex Machina (video)
  • IQ / Worms? (video) – a sound game
  • Alpha Waves / Continuum (video) – early 3D stuff
  • I, Robot (video)
  • Master of the Lamps (video)
  • Hoi (video) – sound/visuals from RAM-trash + SIDmon!
  • Little Computer People
  • …and a playstation-game called LSD?