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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Continuum / Alpha Waves AdLib Music

In 1990, Infrogrames, the French video game publisher and developer, came out with Alpha Waves, or Continuum, as it was known in Europe and the US respectively. This was one of the first 3D polygon games, and there is something about the abstract, purely geometric qualities of early, non-texture mapped polygon games that captivates me. Their graphics are so simple, that they almost seem hyper-real, and thoroughly three dimensional. Not to mention that the game play for classics like Continuum, Stellar 7, Nova 9, Elite, Virus, Spectre, Spectre VR and Battle Zone is incredible, involving and immersive (nice alliteration, eh?).

Continuum stands above the others in its creativity and scope; this wasn't just a game, it was a meditative, even spiritual experience. You play a craft that bounces from platform to platform in a maze of 256 rooms. Groupings of the rooms represent different emotions or activities of the mind, and the game indeed does induce a dream-like response from the player (hence the European title, Alpha Waves).

One of the key aspects to the game is the music. Frédéric Mentzen scored the game, and the compositions that he coded for the Yamaha OPL2 chip, as used on the AdLib and SoundBlaster soundcards, is gorgeous. Many games of the late-80s/early-90s have awesome FM-synthesized music, which is completely ruined by wave-table soundcards, that MIDI-fy real synth music and turn it into very cheesy soundtracks, with horribly bad "realistic" samples of conventional instruments, loss of dynamics and complete loss of filter data. But on a true FM-synth soundcard with an OPL2 or OPL3 chip, the music of these games can be of great quality. Of all the AdLib soundtracks I enjoyed, on a real FM-synth, not a simulating soundcard, Continuum's music is my favorite. It's title track became a song in the soundtrack of my youth. I still hum the theme song from time-to-time, and I liked the music so much, that about a decade ago, I plugged the output of the soundcard into a tape recorder and recorded a tape of Continuum music! Interestingly enough, it was the PC Speaker beeps and boops version of the song I originally fell in love with, and when I finally heard the AdLib version, I was blown away!

I feel it very worthy to publish some tracks, and eventually all tracks, to the game, especially since after an exhaustive web search, I found nowhere the music from this game archived on the web (though other games enjoy the benefit of their Adlib musics being shared on the web).

I post these song data files in the DRO format, ie I recorded the OPL commands as the game was being run in DOSBox. Thus these files only consist of data that triggers an OPL chip to sing. You sill need to obtain an Adlib emulator. I highly suggest AdPlug, which can be easily used as a plugin for your WinAmp program. If you want to use it as a plugin for WinAmp, then following links after clicking AdPlug above will take you here. Installing the plugin is as easy as copying the in_adlib.dll and adplug.db files to your Winamp\Plugins directory. (Mini edit: If you're using Linux, you most likely can play AdLib music files natively - try Audacious)

The songs are:

The four tracks after the title track are soundtracks for a sampling of the various groupings of rooms one could call levels in the game. These are meant to loop over and over. In the future, I will get all 12 level soundtracks posted, as well as possibly post better versions of the current ones (fix start and cutoff times). A problem I rarely encounter is sometimes an instruction will carry over to the next song, creating a note that doesn't stop. This is easily fixed by restarting the song.

For more information about AdLib Music, check the following websites:

Malfunction's FM Synthesis Heaven - Huge zipped archive of AdLib music playable with AdPlug here (note, to get the archive, you'll have to fix the typo '\' to a '/')
melcom's ChipTune Archive - Another even bigger zipped AdLib archive!
AdPlug / AdPlay
AdPlug download
www.oplx.com - Has another AdLib emulator, but this one only plays the D00 files made by the Vibrants tracker
AdLib Music Archive
http://www.ninjacode.org/audio_museum/pc_adlib/ - Just discovered this collection, and added it to the list in an edit. And look! It has Continuum! :)

For more information about Alpha Waves / Continuum:

Continuum at MobyGames
Frederic Mentzen at MobyGames
In depth history of coding Alpha Waves by Christophe de Dinechin, lead programmer.

Enjoy the music!

1 comment:

elend said...

Man, thanks for posting these files. I also fell in love with this music, when I heard about the game and checked out some YouTube footage. Too bad I can't use Adplug at the moment and was more or less searching for some MP3s, but this is better than nothing.