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Looking for folks with experience or knowledge of how retro game music was programmed in

Discussion in 'Technical Discussion' started by djnathanig, Jan 21, 2021.

  1. djnathanig


    Hi guys,

    I'm in my final year of my music degree and for my research project I'm looking into synthesis and composition in retro video games, specifically looking into each systems limitations, sound hardware and why each system had it's signature sound (eg. nes is classic chiptune and genesis has the twang). I'm aware of the short answer being compression and cartridge space limitations.

    One part I am struggling to find documentation on is how programmers coded the music onto the roms. I have seen in a handful of documentaries on YouTube that music would be converted from a demo recording into assembly code and embedded onto the game rom. I would really like to get in touch with people who either composed for published retro games on any system from the 80s/early 90s or if you happen to have researched this yourself?

    Please get in touch if you have information you think is helpful or can point me in the right direction.
  2. Chimes


    The One SSG-EG Maniac Member
    Severe apologies for bumping a thread that by now probably has passed its time (hope your project went well, anyhow!), but over the coming years there has been tiny trickles of info on programmer dev tools. Specifically of the likes of GEMS, SMPS/Sound-Sorce, and just general knobbery with hardware.

    On a different but just as dedicated side of retrotech, a forum thread on has gradually compiled a list of what tools NES composers used for their music.

    As for what I know, apparently Yuzo Koshiro used a combination of MML and various PC-98 tools for games like Streets of Rage. For SoR3, he used a randomiser of sorts to get the surreal, mechanical tone of SoR3's soundtrack.

    Although incredibly scattered and... dare I say, mushy, "" is a okay resource for researching and cataloguing who were the composers and what the composers and sound programmers used. Just be warned it's kinda a wiki for chiptuners deep in the music hole with little leeway for those who trainspot video game music...
  3. Brainulator


    Regular garden-variety member Member