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Great Hierophant

Ultima III MIDI Magic

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Twelve years, eight months and five days ago, I asked in this forum what games used MIDI for the Atari ST. http://atariage.com/forums/topic/43716-games-with-midi/

 

One reply indicated the Ultima games supported MIDI. No further information was provided. I did nothing with this information at the time, I did not even have an MT-32 or other MIDI synthesizer then and barely knew what one was. I do not believe that MobyGames had added the Atari ST to the database at that time.

 

Sometime last year, a friend of mine acquired an 1040ST and discovered Ultima III and IV's MIDI support. It was not really advertised anywhere he could find, it just sends the data automatically and if you happen to have a device connected to the MIDI Out port when you play the game, you should hear music for it. You won't find anything in the system-specific Player Reference Cards for these games that mentions MIDI support. He also confirmed that Ultima V and VI do not support MIDI.

 

Ultima III only supports MIDI output on one MIDI channel, making it monotimbral. Ultima IV supports MIDI output on six MIDI channels, making it multi-timbral. However, by setting one's modules correctly and using a MIDI splitter, Ultima III can sound very impressive with period-correct hardware. My friend made a video about it, and I thought this would be an appropriate place to share it :

 

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Very well done indeed. Really nice setup being used properly. Anyone wanting to use single channel midi in this way could potentially use this guide as reference. http://www.electronics.dit.ie/staff/tscarff/Music_technology/midi/midi_note_numbers_for_octaves.htm for a multi timbral synths ranges.

Edited by Neffers
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There is a link in the video description to an mp3 of his Ultima III MIDI arrangement. Ultima IV will have to wait for another video. Of course this works in Steem too.

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You won't hear anything from Ultima III if your device does not support MIDI channel 1. The MT-32 does not receive data on MIDI channel 1 by default. It uses MIDI channels 2-10 by default. There is a button combination on its panel to change this so that it uses MIDI channels 1-8 and 10. The compatible modules in the CM and the LAPC sound cards require sysex messages to reassign the eight LA parts to MIDI channels other than the default. Ultima IV uses MIDI channels 1-6.

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Duuuuuuuude. Awesome!! So, is there a low cost device these days that someone could purchase to do this. I think this is what everyone should be doing for music when making new games for the ST.

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So, is there a low cost device these days that someone could purchase to do this.

 

Most multi timbral synths these days can "assign the keyboard" to a particular patch. Even the most basic synths with keys can allow a 2nd split, last two octaves would be one patch and the keys above are the next patch you assign.

 

All that is happening here is midi notes from each octave (look at the table I linked to above) are being assigned to another synth via the FB 01, one octave (or two or more, it's definable) to another sound module. You can daisy chain them (again via midi) and expand as much as you need.

 

It's a neat solution and I like it a lot. Midi flexibility is superb. This kind of thing was available from the 80's, but backwards compared to this, the keys would be split via the synth / controller, each octave could send to a separate module, C0 would be one midi channel, C1 another... JMJ style.

Edited by Neffers
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You can use LMMS (free) on your desktop (Windows or Linux) and a USB to MIDI cable ($20ish).

Free, you say. That's my kinda price. ;-)

 

I'd love to have a small hardware solution to this but I'm got a small PC that would do nicely with your suggestion.

 

Neffers. You're going to have to dumb that info down a little more for me. :-D

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I recently worked-out a similar "realtime arrangement" of Ultima IV's MIDI playback for the Roland MT-32; it being a target device fitting within the same contemporaneous model used for the Ultima III example.

  • 1986 - Ultima III (Atari ST), Yamaha FB-01
  • 1987 - Ultima IV (Atari ST), Roland MT-32
As Great Hierophant mentioned, Ultima IV sends six channels of simple Note On/Off MIDI data, corresponding to the Mockingboard voices of the Apple version. In an ideal world, this would make the task of "arrangement" an easier endeavor than was Ultima III with its single channel of MIDI data. Alas, no. While the same main challenge is present - that is, that any instrumentation and settings are the same for every piece involved - there were also several other issues that had to be programmatically dealt with at the synth level.

 

After analyzing the MIDI data, it seemed appropriate to select instrumentation that might represent a performance by a musical troupe from the late Medieval or early Renaissance periods. The result is hardly perfection, but mostly reasonable for the majority of pieces, in my opinion. Being primarily woodwind and stringed-instrument focused, it's something of a departure from normal Ultima music perceptions and expectations though, for better or worse.

 

I hope to do another video demonstration, eventually. In the meantime, here are FLAC recordings of the current, "beta" effort, directly captured from my MT-32, being supplied with the in-game MIDI output. While all playback except for "The Castle" was captured from the title demonstration sequence as a single recording, this was subsequently split and arranged into the (Apple) Mockingboard playback order, with fade-in/outs added to each track.

 

"Towns"

"Shopping"

"Dungeon"

"The Castle"

"Rule Britannia"

"Wanderer"

"Combat"

"Shrines"

"Fanfare of Lord British"

 

If I can ever be content with the effort, I'll release the SysEx file that can be used with any MT-32 or CM-variant. Until then, here's hoping that this provides some inspiration.

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This is so epic sounding. It's a shame that more games didn't support this and advertise the fact. Maybe more MIDI keyboards could have been sold and more STs... This certainly sounds better than a lot of the Amiga music.

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This is so epic sounding. It's a shame that more games didn't support this and advertise the fact. Maybe more MIDI keyboards could have been sold and more STs... This certainly sounds better than a lot of the Amiga music.

 

Yeah really... At the time the ST's first came out the only MIDI synths I knew about were the big & expensive keyboards, stuff like the MT-32 sound modules that came out later were more suited for games. If only Sierra and LucasGames would have advertised MT-32 support for ST versions of their PC games it would had made a difference.

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Yeah really... At the time the ST's first came out the only MIDI synths I knew about were the big & expensive keyboards, stuff like the MT-32 sound modules that came out later were more suited for games. If only Sierra and LucasGames would have advertised MT-32 support for ST versions of their PC games it would had made a difference.

 

Back in the late 80s, I found a cheap Yamaha keyboard at Kmart or someplace that had MIDI ports, it didn't have full size keys, but it sounded so much better than the STs music. I don't remember the model #

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I still have my cheap Ratshack one I bought forever ago. Still works surprisingly. I will have to see what brand it is.

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Back in the late 80s, I found a cheap Yamaha keyboard at Kmart or someplace that had MIDI ports, it didn't have full size keys, but it sounded so much better than the STs music. I don't remember the model #

 

I think it was a Yamaha PSS-480, I paid less than $200 for it a the time, it was adequate for a non-professionally wanting to mess around with MIDI

 

45413396_614.jpg

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is the one I have. And yeah I think it was around 200. Get anywhere with the MIDI? I certainly did not, then again I only had the money for this well after my ST had been shelved and was trying to get it to work with my Creative Labs Audigy Platinum (which looking back on it, cost as much as the keyboard did).
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is the one I have. And yeah I think it was around 200. Get anywhere with the MIDI? I certainly did not, then again I only had the money for this well after my ST had been shelved and was trying to get it to work with my Creative Labs Audigy Platinum (which looking back on it, cost as much as the keyboard did).

 

I did actually get the midi to work on my ST with that keyboard. I got "Music Studio" from Activistion, which supported MIDI. I also had a music theory class in college around this time, so I was applying what I learned in class to Music Studio and the keyboard, and tried some "compositions".

 

Since moving to PC, I found MIDI on PC to be more 'temperamental' when it was basically plug and play on the ST. I have a cheap MIDI USB cable that I swear can't synchronize notes correctly- I tried with multiple devices and software packages.

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Ha, I bought a cheap USB -> MIDI cable to see if I could get ScummVM to work on the Amiga with MIIDI out. Never had much luck. It detected it was there, but then wouldn't load the device driver for ScummVM to see it. I still intend on doing the same on my Falcon (though don't need the USB -> MIDI cable for obvious reasons).

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Ha, I bought a cheap USB -> MIDI cable to see if I could get ScummVM to work on the Amiga with MIIDI out. Never had much luck. It detected it was there, but then wouldn't load the device driver for ScummVM to see it. I still intend on doing the same on my Falcon (though don't need the USB -> MIDI cable for obvious reasons).

 

LOL, If it's the same USB->MIDI, it will never sound good even if you do get it to work. :) It just loses data or something. Notes play but may never switch off for instance, and the song soon sounds like a mess. I used to have a SoundBlaster card that did external midi flawlessly, but todays mobos integrate sound but not MIDI, so USB is the only way to go.

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So, at long last (or something), here's the aforementioned "U4ST32" Roland MT-32 configuration for the Atari ST version of Ultima IV.

 

http://www.symphoniae.com/atari/U4ST32.ZIP

 

The SysEx data has been encapsulated in a Standard MIDI File, allowing some transmission flexibility over a straight SysEx dump, while also regulating playback speed (necessary for both the LCD text animation timing, and to prevent potential RX buffer overflow in 1.x MT-32 units). Additional notes of relevance are in the READ.ME file.

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