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Oregon Research's Gamesmith

Amiga Notes
Published March 1995

Paul Overaa's recent experiments seemed to have dropped a bit of a bombshell on the Amiga's tracker‑based musical community. To find out what's happened, and pick up on all the other important Amiga‑related news, just keep reading...

Before I tell you about what I've been doing music‑wise over the last few weeks, I'm going to appease the Gods by giving a particularly good public domain library a well‑deserved plug. With so many PD libraries around these days, it's sometimes hard to know where to look for particular Amiga programs. On the music front, however, there is one source of PD software, SeaSoft Computing, which clearly stands out from the crowd. Firstly, because they seem to provide more music‑related offerings than anyone else, and secondly, because they know what they're talking about when it comes to the Amiga music scene.

One of the offerings that SeaSoft distribute is of course the AM/FM disk‑based music magazine, and although I've only seen a few of these, the quality has been consistently high, and some excellent sound samples have been used. A number of AM/FM sample disks are also available from SeaSoft, along with a variety of other disks containing MIDI songs, larger music utilities, and so on. If you are into tracker module song creation, and haven't looked at the SeaSoft material, then take it from me — you've been missing out!

SeaSoft have strong connections with both RBF Software and Teijo Kinnunen (who wrote the OctaMED tracker program), and this means that they have access to a great many MED/OctaMED‑related disks. The prices are reasonable, too — the SeaSoft disk magazines cost £2.50 per disk, while normal PD/shareware utility and sample disks are £1.50 (although an extra 50p for postage and packing needs to be added to each order). Total Irrelevance, the disk magazine from MUG (MED Users Group) is worth looking at, since it always has a variety of interesting articles. If you want a 'taster', you can in fact get the best of the 1993 issues on a 3‑disk set for £4.50. Other MUG‑related offerings include Making Trax Vol. 1, Musically Challenged, Microcraft (vols 1‑4) and Friends of Paula (vols 1‑4) which are modules for use with OctaMED. There are also some good drumkit samples (in two volumes), bass sounds, and brass and woodwind .IFF sample disks available, again courtesy of MUG.

There is plenty of other MIDI/music material floating around the library as well. X‑Beat Professional, for example, is quite a good shareware drum sequencer, and if you want to learn more about MIDI, a tutorial disk written by Kevan and Garreth Craft is also worth looking at. A selection of Music X and MIDI files are also available at £15 a set, although if you fancy checking the quality out without spending too much cash, then I'd suggest you try the MIDICraft demo disk first, as it costs a mere £1.50. For further details, phone SeaSoft Computing on 0903 850378.


Having sung the praises of the Amiga tracker fraternity for the excellent work they do, I've now got to admit to doing something which most tracker program developers will surely regard as outright heresy. Last month, you may remember that I briefly mentioned a package called GameSmith, which provides programmers with a variety of Amiga game‑oriented graphics tools and library routines. What I didn't mention, because at the time I didn't know, was that a small set of sound sample loading and playing functions are also provided in the GameSmith library. Judging from the manual, the sound routines are primarily meant for creating sound effects (zaps, whizzes, bangs, etc) but it turns out that they are rather more useful than this.

During the past few weeks, I've proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the underlying functions are fast enough to be used for playing music as well. I've written utilities that play MIDI files, encrypted MIDI files and special Amiga hardware‑oriented song module files, using the GameSmith internal Amiga sound drivers. The implications of this approach are quite interesting, as it obviates the need to use conventional Amiga tracker programs. In theory, a piece of music for a game could be written using a conventional MIDI sequencer, or entered using notation software like Notator‑X (which can write type 1 MIDI files directly), and then converted automatically into a module that can be played using Amiga internal sounds.

It is exactly this idea that I'm now working on, and whilst there is still more work to do as far as defining a generally useful (and efficient) song module format goes, the initial results are very encouraging. You will in fact be able to get a number of demos of these preliminary experiments from various pd libraries and bulletin boards in the near future. Once the song playing module format is finalised, and a reasonable‑sized collection of song modules have been produced, I'll also get a SOS Amiga library demo disk prepared.

A New Octamed

Teijo Kinnunen's OctaMED Professional is probably the best tracker sequencer program available for the Amiga, and there can be few Amiga users who've not heard of it. I've recently discovered, however, that a brand new 'super' version of this program is now in the pipeline. Called OctaMED Professional Sound Studio, it will have just about every new facility that OctaMED/MED users have ever asked for. Development work is already well underway, and RBF Software tell me that Beta test versions of the new program should be appearing within the next few months. The scheduled release date for Sound Studio is not until the end of this year, but I'll be getting plenty of details about the new facilities long before this, and will keep you informed!


Most people who use Dr T's Amiga KCS sequencer tend to create their arrangements using track mode, and may often end up with any number of tracks that in reality just represent one instrument, on one MIDI channel. You might, for example, lay down a bassline, and then decide to embellish it. When you record the extra notes, KCS automatically puts them onto another track. If you do that sort of thing half a dozen times, you'll end up with half a dozen fragmented bassline tracks. In addition to this, you'll doubtless have a few tracks that you mute out, because they are not wanted at all. I've found that the easiest way to clean up a set of tracks like this is to write all the non‑muted tracks into a sequence using the 'All Tracks to Seq' option, switch to song mode, and insert the sequence number into the song segment list. Then, choose 'Song To All Tracks'. KCS will write your sequence back into track mode storage, but it does of course only separate the data relating to each MIDI channel in use. It takes about ten seconds to do this, and the net effect is that KCS automatically combines any partial tracks you've created on each MIDI channel in one go, leaving you with the easy‑to‑use track arrangement you probably wanted in the first place!

Amiga News In Brief

    As we go to press, there's still no official news about the fate of Commodore, but it is clear that negotiations are now in their closing stages. It is known that the liquidator has recommended that the creditors' committee accept the Commodore UK management buy‑out bid, and all that remains now is for the powers that be to give their final seal of approval to the new arrangements. With luck, Amiga machines could be back in the shops by April/May, and that will of course please retailers and users alike!
    Shortly before Dave Haynie left Commodore, it appears that he went walkies with a camcorder, and the results of his labours have now surfaced as a video entitled The Deathbed Vigil, And Other Tales Of Digital Angst. With clips of disgruntled employees airing views about the ex‑chairman, and other similar material, this is most definitely not an official Commodore product. So, if you've got £25.95 to spare, and have an interest in what was going on inside Commodore during the time that its liquidation was announced, then you'd better contact Almathera (081 687 0040) double quick — before the new owners of Commodore decide to try and pull the plug on Dave Haynie's new video promotions career!
    Amiga KCS users might like to know that Millenium Music Software are now the official distributors for Dr T's music products in the UK. They can be reached on 0602 241924.