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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Boss Sounds In Duke Nukem 3D

Face Off wrote and asked the following question:
"Hi Bobby.I have a quick question about Duke Nukem 3D. In fact it's a question I've been wondering about for years: the sounds/growls of the Battlelord and Octabrain, where did you source those sounds from? Were they from real animals??"
One of the good things about finding the old 90's data CD's was that I can give you a more definitive answer to this question than my memory would serve.

These sounds were produced at a very hectic time in the production cycle -- between the release of the shareware version and the full version.

According to Wikipedia:
"The shareware version of the game was originally released on January 29, 1996, while the full version was released on April 19, 1996 as version 1.3d." Duke Nukem 3D - Wikipedia
I received artwork of two bosses (BOSS2.pcx and BOSS3.pcx) on around March 12, 1996. And I do mean "artwork," not animation:


This explains my text to Greg Malone, the project director, when I sent potential effects to him on March 19, 1996. By the time I sent these effects, I had sent thousands of sound files. As with almost all of the projects I have worked on, the earliest potential sound effects I sent were usually the ones that were used, even though I may have sent scores of possibilities after the first one.

Note that "time and sleepiness" mentioned below probably helped me in thinking that this was written in 1995 instead of the actual year, 1996.

March 19, 1995
Hey again! 
Here are some more sfx.  It is difficult to know exactly what route to
take regarding the death sounds without seeing how the bosses die --
but, I tried to hit a happy medium on it. 
As usual, many of these sounds are fairly interchangable, so please
don't let my file names mislead you.  A roam sound may be what you
consider perfect for an attack sound, an attack sound for a pain sound,
etc.  Also, some of these may work for an earlier alien/critter if there
is still some lack there.  I guess plugging things into the game will be
the ultimate test. 
Also, I included a few walking sounds for Boss 3 -- don't know if you
planned on that or not.  I would think that the walking sound _could_
take the place of the roaming sound.  If Boss 3 is the only critter to
have a walking sound, it would set him apart and people would definitely
know that he is coming for them.  I know that the programming aspect
might be the problem with this idea. 
Files included here:
Boss 2 attacks -
B2ATK01  WAV        11,688  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk01.WAV
B2ATK02  WAV        17,494  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk02.WAV
B2ATK03  WAV         8,982  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk03.WAV
B2ATK04  WAV        16,376  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk04.WAV
B2ATK05  WAV        18,018  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk05.WAV
Boss 2 deaths -
B2DIE01  WAV        18,464  03-19-96 11:48p b2die01.WAV
B2DIE02  WAV        27,158  03-19-96 11:49p b2die02.WAV
B2DIE03  WAV        44,828  03-19-96 11:49p b2die03.WAV
Boss 2 pain -
B2PAIN01 WAV        14,132  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain01.WAV
B2PAIN02 WAV         9,732  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain02.WAV
B2PAIN03 WAV        11,950  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain03.WAV
B2PAIN04 WAV         6,182  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain04.WAV
Boss 2 recognize -
B2REC01  WAV        14,576  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec01.WAV
B2REC02  WAV        17,546  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec02.WAV
B2REC03  WAV        18,342  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec03.WAV
B2REC04  WAV        10,656  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec04.WAV
B2REC05  WAV        12,010  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec05.WAV
B2REC06  WAV         6,844  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec06.WAV
Boss 2 roam -
B2ROAM01 WAV        16,850  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam01.WAV
B2ROAM02 WAV        18,248  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam02.WAV
B2ROAM03 WAV        11,698  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam03.WAV
B2ROAM04 WAV        12,698  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam04.WAV
Boss 3 attack -
B3ATK01  WAV        26,882  03-19-96 11:49p b3atk01.WAV
B3ATK03  WAV        17,990  03-19-96 11:49p b3atk03.WAV
Boss 3 death -
B3DIE01  WAV        13,160  03-19-96 11:49p b3die01.WAV
B3DIE02  WAV        32,200  03-19-96 11:49p b3die02.WAV
B3DIE03  WAV        24,104  03-19-96 11:49p b3die03.WAV
B3DIE04  WAV        14,308  03-19-96 11:49p b3die04.WAV
Boss 3 pain -
B3PAIN01 WAV        12,214  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain01.WAV
B3PAIN02 WAV        11,078  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain02.WAV
B3PAIN03 WAV        12,564  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain03.WAV
B3PAIN04 WAV        21,630  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain04.WAV
B3PAIN05 WAV        30,306  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain05.WAV
B3PAIN06 WAV        16,094  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain06.WAV
Boss 3 recognize -
B3REC01  WAV        11,506  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec01.WAV
B3REC02  WAV        18,874  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec02.WAV
B3REC03  WAV        15,482  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec03.WAV
B3REC04  WAV        22,962  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec04.WAV
B3REC05  WAV        12,190  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec05.WAV
B3REC06  WAV        19,264  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec06.WAV
B3REC07  WAV        22,314  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec07.WAV
Boss 3 roam -
B3ROAM01 WAV        22,972  03-19-96 11:50p b3roam01.WAV
B3ROAM02 WAV        29,016  03-19-96 11:50p b3roam02.WAV
B3ROAM03 WAV        21,658  03-19-96 11:50p b3roam03.WAV
Boss 3 walk -
B3WALK01 WAV        14,664  03-19-96 11:50p b3walk01.WAV
B3WALK02 WAV        14,692  03-19-96 11:50p b3walk02.WAV
B3WALK03 WAV        10,334  03-19-96 11:51p b3walk03.WAV 
I will try to do something with the music -- time and sleepiness may
take their toll there.  Wish that George had made these problems known
earlier when there was plenty of time. 
For those of you who were not working/playing on a computer in the DOS days, you should be aware that file names in DOS could be a maximum of 8 characters, followed by a dot, followed by 3 characters. Thus the sometimes cryptic file names. The REC files are "the boss recognizes me" sounds. ROAM are the sounds made when the boss is roaming and "thinking to himself."

As for the sounds used, many were animal sounds. I used a lot of animal growls, grunts, screams, hisses and such. For BOSS3, I added mechanical/metallic sounds for his walk.

As I've mentioned in at least one other post, I record sounds whenever I travel (or hear some local, usable sound). I've been to quite a few zoos, several rain forests and other places where I might luck up on some really usable sounds. Of course, I've made use of sound effect CD's too.

A lot of the mechanical sounds I used in Duke 3D were recorded at Apogee headquarters. The coke machine: coin servo, drink supply mechanism, coins dropping in the change slot, hum of the refrigeration unit, etc. The copier cycling. The urinal flushing. The general "buzz" of multiple conversations at one time. The sky was the limit.

In recent years, I have saved the multitrack audio software files and all of the tracks' raw effects, settings, audio effects, etc. so I know how I came up with the sounds.

For Duke 3D, in those megabyte hard drive days, I would not have had disk space to store all of the raw effects I used, especially given the number of final effects that were required. Besides the effects, I also edited all of the voice over files, and there were many hundred's of those since the final voice overs were not chosen until the edited ones were completed. Add to that the rush of having to complete sound effects "yesterday," there was really no time to think about keeping track of anything more than getting things done.

I'm not trying to gain any sympathy here. My wording is an attempt to show the time pressure toward the end of the project.

It's too bad that Blogger doesn't give audio in a blog the same respect as video. It would be nice just to have an audio widget built in. Note that these are mono files, so on SoundCloud they will play on the left only. The link provided is private to keep it from cluttering up the song files up there.

Hear them here: SoundCloud

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Dark Ages of PC Games

Even for one who remember the early days of PC gaming, it's an eye opener to find documentation of what was actually happening. I recently found an old CD that contains some correspondence about my work on some of the earlier games. This was not really the Dark Ages. I remember saying it was the equivalent of Hollywood in the silent movie era, and the first "talkies" were just beginning to come out.

Here's what I think is the first letter I wrote to Scott Miller of Apogee software on April 25, 1991. My comments upon reading this for the first time in 26 years are in brackets [FWIW].

Mr. Scott Miller, President
Apogee Software Productions
April 25, 1991

Dear Scott,

I appreciate your letter and the chance to work with you and 
your  family  of software authors.  I promise that  I  will  work 
diligently  to  compose and arrange music you will  be  proud  to 
include  in  your  software.  I have to  apologize  for  not  yet 
including the tape I promised.  It will follow as soon as I  have 
received  the  latest version of Sputter, the program  that  will 
allow  me  to translate my 16 bit samples to 8  bit  SoundBlaster 
samples.    That   should   be  only  a   short   time   in   the 

[I looked for information regarding Sputter and it has more recently been the name of some software to "accelerate BitComet downloads." Yes, this was the DOS computer days where a PC would greet you with a "C:\" followed by a flashing prompt. I well remember the computer BBS's (Bulletin Board Services) filled with questions like "What good is a PC? All I get is a "C:\" on the screen -- and when I type anything, it doesn't understand" or words to that effect. These were very confusing times for those who bought the early PC's and had never owned a computer. By this time, I had owned a "Trash 80" -- TRS-80 and had built a TRS-80 clone (it even had a color monitor way back then)!]

[So, the operating system had no included software for editing audio, and Sputter was the answer to that. I have no memory of actually using Sputter.]

Since  I  last  spoke with you, I have  come  by  some  good 
software  and  instrument  sounds.   To me,  the  sounds  of  the 
instruments  playing  the  music is as  important  as  the  music 
itself.  I think that the music on Dark Ages is commendable,  and 
for  the  most  part, the choice of  instruments  was  excellent.  
Anyway, I got one file that contains over 900 instrument  sounds, 
most of which are garbage, but the task is to find the good ones.  
I have written a little program to audit the sounds, but it  will 
take a while yet to get through all of them.

[Dark Ages was the first "shareware" game to have AdLib sound card music. The AdLib was an FM synthesizer. It did not play digital audio, so any sound effects used in a game had to use the FM synthesizer. You can read about Dark Ages here: Dark Ages (Wikipedia)]

[Some of the FM instrument sounds I found (called "patches" back then) were very good, and were credited to a person with a username at one of the nationwide BBS's -- Prodigy or CompuServe. I messaged him so I could send him some money for his work. I never heard back from him, or his username was no longer recognized. I never found him. Remember, there was no internet search engines back then.]

[The program I wrote was in the BASIC language. I don't remember writing it. I do remember it played a melody and maybe some high and low end pitches for each new patch.]

I  have  received  the  Software  Development  Kit  for  the 
SoundBlaster, and it has helped some.  It mentioned a  Composer's 
Utility  (not included), which has not been advertised as  it  is 
new.   I  called  Creative  Labs and lucked  upon  talking  to  a 
salesman who is sending me those programs free (he says I will be 
the  only  one  to  have them  outside  of  Creative  Labs).   He 
expressed interest in Commander Keen and Dark Ages, so I sent him 
a  copy of the Shareware Versions.  I have tried to impress  upon 
Creative  Labs  the importance of helping us  get  good  sounding 
games out so they will sell more cards.

[I have very little recollection of this except to say I remember trying to get both AdLib and Creative Labs more interested in games that would greatly increase sound card use and sales.]

I am including a list of the phone calls I have charged  to 
your  number thus far.  I apologize for several very short  calls 
where my computer failed to link up with another.  The calls have 
been well worth the cost, especially the ones to VGER BBS,  which 
specializes  in AdLib and SoundBlaster software.  All but one  of 
the successful connections was made when I charged the call to my 
number (for some reason the operator assisted calls were a poorer 

[What's an "operator assisted call?" Ha! These were still the Dark Ages for telephones. They were all wired. Many people still had rotary dials. I didn't -- touch tone dial was "the way to go" for speedster dialers like me! "Operator Assisted" meant that I actually talked to a person at the phone company (usually a lady) who made a long distance connection for me. Long distance call costs were based on time and distance, and they were not cheap, even for back then.]

Also  enclosed are invoices for purchases made thus far  out 
of  the  $400 you sent.  I have an AdLib card on  order,  and  it 
should be here very soon.

[One of the reasons I believed Scott Miller was the real deal: he put his money where his mouth was. He sent $400 for me to purchase what I needed to get started with sound cards. I already owned some high end synths and samplers, but they did little good to produce AdLib and Sound Blaster ready music.]

[About this same time, I spoke with someone at AdLib and was told they were going to be in Atlanta for the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in a few weeks. I went to that convention where AdLib had a booth. Surprisingly, they were not very interested in music for games. I never understood that. Evidently, AdLib felt that the sound card was going to sell well to Broadcasters?]

In the meantime, I am spending time learning the  instrument 
sounds  and  how  they may be used as sound effects  as  well  as 
musical  instruments.   I downloaded a program that  will  change 
Standard MIDI files to Creative Music Files and AdLib files.   It 
is  relatively  primitive,  but at least I  can  get  started  at 
hearing  what things will be like on the SB/AdLib.  I  have  also 
ordered a copy of a sequencer package that supposedly will  allow 
me to compose directly on the SB/AdLib.  Also, it is supposed  to 
allow  me to edit the instrument sounds -- we shall see, as  what 
is advertised is not always what works.

[I don't remember the name of the program that translates MIDI files to Creative/AdLib files, but I do remember the name of the "sequencer package" -- it was Sequencer Plus Gold, and it was everything they advertised it to be.]

I tried Dark Ages on my 10MHz XT, and it works just as  good 
as it does on the 386 25MHz.  Maybe your ad for it should specify 
a fast machine rather than a particular type of CPU?

[I still have the bill for that XT PC clone. I bought the thing at Rhythm City in Atlanta from the owner, George Luther. At the same time, I bought Texture -- a pattern based sequencer. Some time after that, I bought Cakewalk 1.0. All of this was before I had started working on game music. And, WOW, a 10 MHz XT! Can you say "FAST!" And then a 386 25MHz! Can you say "BLAZING?"]

I have yet to show Commander Keen to anyone that they  don't 
sit down and get lost playing it -- it is a real winner.  I  look 
forward to working on the music for the sequel trilogy.

[As I've said before, just a week or so before I was first contacted by Scott Miller, I had downloaded the first "Commander Keen" trilogy (using the Prodigy BBS). Like others who had done the same, I was very impressed with the game. When Scott messaged me on Prodigy, I had no idea he had anything to do with Keen. He somehow picked me out of 50 or so people that responded to his post about needing someone to write music for games. In our first call, he mentioned that he marketed Commander Keen. That was all I needed to hear to accept his offer.]

The W-9 is enclosed as requested.

[Let's don't forget TAXES!]

I  will  keep you posted on things as they progress.   I  am 
working  on your theme, but I haven't found the right  instrument 
sounds  yet.  I am enclosing a 360k disk with Color My  World  by 
Chicago  on it.  It is my first attempt at putting something  out 
through  the  SoundBlaster.   I chose it as  I  found  instrument 
sounds  that  reminded me of the song.  Just type "PLAY"  and  it 
should run, as the driver and program are included.

[I don't remember doing this. But how about the massive storage on a 360k floppy! I don't have the "Color My World" sequence or the patches I used for the sequence.]

Talk with you soon, and until then take care.


Telephone Calls Charged to Apogee Software Productions

Date - Time - Called - Reason

04/17/91 - 10:30 PM EDST - VGER BBS (California) - D/L files
Several attempts
Charged successful call to my number

04/17/91 - 11:30 PM EDST - SB BBS (SoundBlaster-California) - D/L files

04/18/91 - 07:30 PM EDST - MicroMusic BBS (Atlanta) - D/L files
Several attempts, no success

04/18/91 - 09:00 PM EDST - MicroMusic BBS - D/L files
45 minutes

04/19/91 - 09:40 PM EDST - VGER BBS D/L files
Unsuccessful attempts

04/20/91 - 07:47 PM EDST - VGER BBS - D/L files
32 minutes, charged to my number

04/21/91 - 12:30 PM EDST - Creative Tech Support
 Told to call back next day

Several  calls  made to Creative Labs 800 order line and transferred  to  Tech 
support, so no charges for these.

[See the notation "45 minutes" to download a file. Today you'd say, "How many gig?" Back then you would have said "Gosh, that had to be a huge file, even at 2400 baud!" Greatly simplifying it, the dial-up modem was receiving 600 bytes per second. 45 minutes is 2700 seconds. So the file must have been roughly 1.6 MEGABYTES -- a truly huge file for that time in history! Now, even at "slow" cable speeds, you'd get this file in seconds. Aren't we lucky to live in these times?]

[How does one get into writing music for video games? For me it was being prepared when LUCK STRUCK.]