David Rousset - HTML5 & Gaming Technical Evangelist

HTML5 & Gaming Technical Evangelist

Composing the music for the World Monger Windows 8 game using the Renoise tracker & East West VST Plug-ins

Composing the music for the World Monger Windows 8 game using the Renoise tracker & East West VST Plug-ins

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I’d like to share with you something not related to my usual Windows 8 & HTML5 development activities. It’s linked to another great passion I’ve got: composing music. But it could interest some of you to know how I’ve managed to compose on my free time the following score with the same fingers usually dedicated to write code:


Without knowing anything about any instruments and/or music theory!

It’s the main music theme for a Windows 8 DirectX game we’re working on with some good friends during our spare time. Yes, we’re gamers. Old hardcore gamers who spent billions of hours on Dune, Monkey Island, Wing Commander, Doom, Duke Nukem, Myst, Populous and so on. And the ultimate dream of a gamer is naturally to build… its own game.

So let me tell you my story!

My demo scene past

A long time ago, when I was young, I was a member of a demo makers’ team. My main role was to create the crazy music that tried to fit the crazy effects my friends were coding on our lovely 80x386 SX/DX CPUs with our “state of the art” Vesa Local Bus graphics cards later on. Sourire

We were huge fan of the very famous Future Crew group but my team was named… The Past Crew. Because we knew we weren’t exactly at the same level. On my side, my absolute composer guru was Purple Motion. I can still listen to his modules for hours. A terrific genius who was using the effects like no one. Check out this video playing his music of the Second Reality demo inside a tracker:

This Second Reality demo is well known for old geeks like I am. It won the Assembly 93. If you’re a bit interested in ASM/C development, remember that this was running on an 80x486 and you should think it was awesome.

On the music side, this was the time of trackers and the .MOD, .S3M & .XM formats. I’ve then started learning to use Scream Tracker from Future Crew by downloading and analyzing the way various S3M or MOD files were done. I’ve done funny things with that and my friends were kind enough to make me think I was doing great stuff. But the quality of the samples was really poor compared to high-end Yamaha or Roland sound-systems. We needed something better.

Playing with high-end toys like GM & XG Bank sounds

Playing with the trackers gave me enough energy to try to move to the next steps: composing music with MIDI devices & keyboard.

My sound card was a Sound Blaster Pro and then a AWE32 one. For the Sound Blaster AWE, I bought an extension card named the Yamaha DB50XG. I was amazed by the quality of the samples and effects compared to classic MOD/S3M files I was looking to. I’ve then bought a keyboard to connect to the card via the MIDI port and start playing with that.

 
Image from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaha_XG & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_Blaster_AWE32

But quickly raised a big problem for me: you need to be aware of the music theory to properly compose music using Cubase or similar software. I always refused to learn these boring things. I was able to compose music with trackers, why should I bother learning a different more complex way to do that?

My dream was then to mix both worlds. Having the high quality & high fidelity sound banks of the professional instruments coupled with the simplicity of the trackers. I’ve then started thinking about writing my own tracker. But building software handling sound in not something easy my friends! You must be the master of the hardware APIs and the clock.

I was a young lazy guy who finally more or less stops composing music because of that. Shame on me.

Renoise made my old dreams become true

Several years later, David Catuhe told me he was thinking about writing a 3D game for Windows 8. He was also an old guy from the demo scene and asked me if I was motivated composing the music.

Ok, so let’s recap: it’s been ages since I haven’t tried composing, I still don’t know anything about music theory and I’ve got almost no spare time for that… Well, the conditions were perfectly met to try this new cool challenge! Clignement d'œil

I’ve then spent some time digging the web and trying various recent trackers until another colleague, huge fan of Commodore (Amiga & C64), told me to stop searching. Renoise is THE tracker you’re looking for.

I’ve then first tried it, quickly loved it and finally bought it for only a couple of €. The 1 GB shipped samples were much better than the samples I was using 15 years ago but this still wasn’t the quality I was expecting. The tracker itself is just perfect for me, very well done and even supporting 64 bits architecture. It works like a charm on my Windows 8 Release Preview PC.

Looking at the documentation, I’ve then discovered that in 15 years a lot of new technologies were created in this area. A new one was named the VST plug-ins.

East West Orchestra or the ultimate sounds bank

Ok, I’ve got my perfect tracker. I now need the perfect instruments to feed it. I’ve spent again a couple of hours on the web. And finally, I’ve discovered some reviews that said that the Symphonic Orchestra suite was awesome.

You can listen to some demo songs on their site: http://www.soundsonline.com/Symphonic-Orchestra in the demos section. Beware: once you listen to them, you want them.

I’ve then ordered a special offer bundling the Symphonic Orchestra, some voices & other packages. I’ve received them via 1 TB hard drive with 800 GB of samples (yes, you’ve read it correctly, 800 GB of samples!!!).

The excellent news on my side was that it shipped with VST Plug-ins. Even 64 bits plug-ins supported by the Renoise tracker! You just have to configure where your plug-ins are in Renoise. Then, add a new instrument:

image

Open the player associated to your VST plug-ins and choose the instrument you’d like to use:

image

And finally, play with it inside the tracker!

As I’m not afraid of being ridiculous, I’m going to share with you my last trick I’m using to build music. I often have some music in my head (I know, I know…) that I like but it takes me too much time to convert it into the tracker. As soon as I start writing the first seconds of the music, I’ve just forgotten what I had in my head. The Dory’s effect? Probably. Sourire 

To avoid that, I’m more or less singing it to the microphone of my wonderful Nokia Lumia phone. Thanks to that, I can listen to it later on and convert it into the tracker taking all the time I need.

And that’s it. If you want to compose music and you don’t want to learn the music theory, it is possible!

Here is a video quickly demonstrating Renoise with the East West plug-in and then playing part of the music inside the tracker:

Download Video:MP4, WebM, HTML5 Video Player by VideoJS


I hope that this will maybe motivate some of you to try out this marvelous creative activity. Coding is something creative also. But composing music is really something cool & different.

Indeed, Developers are artists. Our instruments are usually made of { ; } or shaders for the 3D gurus. For instance, you can check the beauty of the 3D engine made by David Catuhe and the quality of the textures & artworks made by Michel Rousseau here for our game:

WorldMongerHomeScreen

Some pure art!

But don’t be afraid to try your talents on something else that a computer keyboard! If you do it, please share your feedbacks in the comments. I’d love to read your own story!

David, a musical developer.

  • Check out the paketti renoise tools. We worked hard to add a large amount of missing impulse/schism functionality to renoise. Ex: direct octave column access, set selection to current instrument, halve/double selection shortcuts, and more :]

    I also made some classic IT color themes for RN

    protman.com/.../two-renoise-themes-based-impulseschismtracker

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