| How/why did you get involved with video game music/sound programming?
|| The first game I worked on, Monopoly for the SMS, needed to play some music.
I was already doing most of the lower level stuff on the platform for the game
(board scrolling, tile display, etc.) Being an amateur musician it made sense
for me to do it (I don't remember if I actually requested that task, but was
likely interested in it). In the month before getting that job I wired up
a 8 bit DAC to a Z80 and wrote shift and add sound synthesis noise generators,
so I was already interested in making music (or at least sound effects) with
After that, when Falcon AT was being worked on, it was observed that the Tandy 1000
had the same sound chip as the SMS, so it fell to me to implement sound, since I
already had experience with the chip.
At that point I sorta became the de-facto sound guy. I then implemented a sound driver
for the Innocation sound card (SID chip on an ISA card), and then on my own time I
developed an Amiga sound driver which played Mac Studio Session files, which was used
for Amiga Tetris, Welltris, etc.
So by the time we started doing Genesis work it was natural that I would work on a
sound driver for that as well.
| How difficult was it to code a sound engine for the Master System/Game Gear and Genesis? Some sound programmers said they had trouble with making FM sounds for the Genesis.
|| The master system was easy, just 3 tone generators and a noise generator. It could do
so little there wasn't much to it. (however, I never wrote a vibrato system like
Rub Hubbard had, that would have made my player a little more interesting (I probably
didn't understand why Rob Hubbard music sounded like that at the time).
For the Genesis:
FM synthesis is nigh impossible to design patches with in any coherent fasion. Mostly involves a
lot of trial and error.
For patches we mostly started with Yamaha FB01 patches (since the FB01 and the Genesis are both
4 operator FM chips). The FB01 has a much higher sample rate, so there is a lot more aliasing noise
on the Genesis, so in general we needed to turn the amplitude of each modulator down to get the
patch to sound close to the original FB01 patch.
It wasn't hard to program, although the hardware made playing sampled sounds more difficult
than it needed to be. The Genesis just has an 8 bit DAC, with no buffering whatsoever. So the
CPU has to write the samples to the DAC at a very precise rate (otherwise phase errors are
introduced, which just sound aweful). The FM chip has a programmable reload timer, so can easily
generate a consistent interrupt clock for sample playback. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to
Sega to run a wire from that output pin to an interrupt pin on the Z80. So instead of getting
interrupts our code had to poll that timer to know when to output the next sample. So we had
to count cycles, and insert a macro which would sleep until the next sample time, output a
sample, and then continue, throughout our driver. (IIRC it was every 105 cycles or so
at the sample rate we were running). Messy, and a PITA.
The final driver could do mixed FM & sampled playback, with modulation and envelope generation
on the FM channels, all running on the Z80
| Similar to the previous question, was it hard writing music for those consoles?
|| I made the sound driver I wrote support midi (wrote a program on the Amiga which listened for midi
events, translated them, and sent them over the 4 bit parallel cable to the 3rd joystick port on the
back of the genesis, where the sound driver would then play those events).
I also wrote a patch editor on the Amiga which allowed one to edit the FM parameters.
So musicians could treat the Genesis as a midi synth, and use their favorite midi sequencer to
write music on it directly.
This is how I wrote the Technocop music.
So at least using my system it was a pretty natural way to compose.
| Were you satisfied with your Sega sound engines or was there something you always wanted to improve?
|| Most of my annoyance was due to hardware limitations, like the above mentioned FM timer not
I would have liked to be able to mix multiple samples so we could have more than one channel
of sampled audio playback. We just didn't have the cpu for it on the Z80 while also handling
the FM. IIRC later Razorsoft titles used a sampled only player based on an Amiga Mod player, that
ran almost entirely in the 68000 (except during Vblank DMA, since that stopped the 68000 from
accessing the bus, so the Z80 had to take over (it was the bus master on the Genesis, since
it didn't know how to wait for a memory access). So their driver could sound better, but mine
use 0 68000 cycles.
| I think you said you did the music conversion for Rampart for the Sega Master System. How difficult was it converting the arcade music to the SMS?
|| We didn't really port the music, just a couple of ditties that play when the castle is surrounded,
and a few sound effects. I don't have any memories of that, so it must have been easy (probably, having
done it before).
| Was there a console/computer you wanted to compose music for but didn't get the chance to?
|| I would have liked to write a synth engine for the PS3 on the DSPs in the cell processor.
| Was there a game that you wanted to contribute to musically but only ended up doing the programming?
|| Not really. My composition skills weren't that great (for proof, just listen to what I composed
over the years at http://wiki.tenetti.org/bin/view/KevinSeghetti/OriginalMusic )
(these days I am mostly a drummer, see here for a band I was in last year: https://www.facebook.com/Stamentheband/app_2405167945 )
So as games got to the point where we were hiring separate composers I was glad to let people
who were better at it contribute. (for example, the music in Sylvester & Tweety is certainly
better than I was at that time).
I do want to get back into composing again (hard to find the time between work and family), I did
recently get a Presonus 26/26, which ties toghether an ADAT and Fostex digital mixer giving me
24 tracks of simultaneous recording (now I just need to get more mics and I will have one for
each drum). I am a much better musician now than I was then (not sure if I am any better
composer, need to write more to find out).
| Some of your earlier work for the Sega consoles you weren't allowed to put your name on because of a contract with Sega. Did you mind not being credited? Some developers like Japan-based TOSE didn't mind at the time. At the same time though, I'm sure you put a lot of effort into those games.
|| Well, considering I put a secret credits screen into Monopoly, I'd say yes, it bothered me. I think
creative people should get credit for their work.
(and also think that programming is a creative endeavor). It annoyed me when Alexandria removed people from
credits on games they worked on if they left the company before the game shipped.
| Which game is your favorite work musically?
|| Well, since I really only did original music for one game, I guess I'd have to say Technocop.
For all games I worked on, musically I like Stormlord the best, that music was composed
by a friend of mine (Lars Norpchen), and I think has a really Danny Elfman feel to it
(Lars is an Elfman fan, so not entirely a coincedence).
I also liked how the sound effects and music came out on Sylvester and Tweety.
| Do you have anything to say to your fans?
|| I have fans? Dudes, get on the internet and find out there are literlly millions of musicians out there
better than I am.
(not that that matters, I have fun playing music, and that is all that counts).
More seriously, I think everyone should be able to express themselves musically, performing can be a lot of fun.