Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making things smaller

When I first started in the video games industry I'd had little experience with cartridges. This was the era of the Super Nintendo, Jaguar, Sega Megadrive and soon to be the new kid on the block, the Sony Playstation.

It's safe to say, that when I went for my interview at Rare way back in 94, I thought, the days of chip music was over, and it would be red book cd tracks for ever more.



My first project was Killer Instinct for the arcade. yes, we could use full blown music tracks, but they had to be mixed in mono (on an appalling tascam 16 track desk) and they had to be short with lots of loops.

Still good fun never the less.

Then, came the fateful day, I was asked to convert those tracks to the Super Nintendo.... yep... those full blown instrumental tracks that myself and Robin Beanland had thrown everything we had into, had to be converted to 8 sound channels and each track had to fit into 40kilobytes each.

Yep, that's right, 40k... what is 40k these days.... a notepad file maybe ?  a tiny thumbnail perhaps... what about, all the instruments and music data for an arcade conversion ?

I panicked, Dave Wise, my audio boss at the time said, it would be like a suitcase when you go on holiday...we'd just jump on it until it shut.

That advice, and that experience is still proving handy today, 15 years later....  this week, i've been cutting down sounds to fit into something that they weren't originally built for... I'm really pleased with the results.... it's rewarding if not a bit mentally unstabling to listen over and over to a background ambience picking the closest loop point possible to keep the listeners interest, make the loop smooth, click free and small in memory.

In the days of gigs and terabytes and 100 meg net connections, this may seem un-necessary, but you'd be surprised.

From this:

118124212412.jpg picture by grey242

to this

snes-super-nintendo-killer-instinct.jpg picture by grey242

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  1. I actually think music created with small sample data has a lot of charm―I'm glad things like the Nintendo DS and downloadable games are around so there's still a reason for it.

    By the way, thanks for the great music. TimeSplitters 2 and Blast Corps (which I played when I was a lot younger) have songs that I just can't seem to forget. Simian Acres will haunt me forever.

  2. Todays' consoles have a lot of RAM though, don't they? Since only the current sounds and music need to be stored in the RAM at one time, I wouldn't have thought it would be a problem.

  3. more fitting would be from arcade
    to this:

    since ntsc snes is ugly as fuck :P

    now on the topic: personally i like the strict memory usage. this shows you how sloppy people can be "cause there is enough space anyway".
    it frightens me to see how many memory leaks and shit like that happen these days.

    as a homebrew programmer for the wii it scares me to see how fragile the memory is on those limited little things and yet you can do so much if you handle shit right.

    having said that i understand your thoughts back then when you needed to port that.

    loved the results btw ;)