Monday, 28 September 2009

Music Makes The Game: The Days of Dos (part 1)

I got my first IBM compatible in 1996, it was a Cyrix 586 with 8mb of Ram and a 256mb hard drive. Back then the important statistic there was the 8mb of Ram, which some of the latest games really needed! And I was oh, so proud of it. It wasn't long before the hard disk space became an issue, but that's another story.

So although Windows 95 had appeared, not that many people were using it yet. Dos with Windows 3.1 was still the popular configuration - after all, who needed direct X eh?

My friend down the road had already had a PC for a few years so I'd been spending a lot of time down there playing games such as Sim City and Doom. But now I had my own and I felt unstoppable! I already knew which game I was going to buy first...

Now, some of you may have played Rollercoaster Tycoon, or one of it's sequels, made by the legendary Chris Sawyer. However for me his biggest games were the Transport Tycoon series. Transport Tycoon Deluxe was the first game I bought for the PC, the idea being that you build train track, roads and airports to create a profitable transport company. But what I really liked about the game, which will come as no surprise, was the jazzy music track that came with it. As illustrated by my tiny hard drive space (ahem) file size was a big issue back then, so MIDI was used a fair bit rather than MP3 and Transport Tycoon had some of the best MIDI music ever!

Here's a taster just from the main menu music of the Deluxe version:

A huge portion of the better games from this period were isometric, which must have been quite a challenge to create in some cases. One of these must have been Microproses' Ufo: Enemy Unknown which was a turn based squad game where you organised and directed a handful of secret operatives fighting against aliens from Mars. The scope of this game was unprecedented at the time featuring base management, research into alien technology, flying to Mars in retaliation, anime style graphics and, of course, awesome music.

Well, some of the music was awesome anyway. The in-battle music was an unsuccessful attempt to make atmospheric music using MIDI, which is a bit too..."ringy" for it. But the intro and base management music was great. Take a look at this marvellous introduction to the game, also something that wasn't seen very often back then:

While writing this I realised I wasn't going to be able to fit everything into one neat post, so to finish off this instalment I'll go with yet another isometric game. This time it's Origin's Action game: Crusader no remorse.

Crusader was a great adventure putting you in the shoes of a traitor to government (or was it an evil corporation?) that then tried to finish you off before you could turn rebel. The story was quite fun here, with video sequences of the characters as they talked to you. It added just the right amount of realism in there to make you care about what was happening.

I was especially keen on the music here because it was written by one of my music heroes: Andrew Sega. Without further delay, here is my favourite track from the game, and the first level, Dimension 2012:

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