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Engine Roundup

by Alexander Brandon

With the advancements in PC audio made over the last five, even last two years, it is becoming clear that we are no longer dealing with merely FM sound and wavetable cards. We have massively powerful 3D surround engines that add realism and dynamics to our games and apps. We also have many different kinds of music engines that support many different kinds of playback, from Redbook to multichannel WAV to MP3 to MOD to DLS / MIDI, the well informed audio developer is now awash in a veritable sea of possibilities.

But the operative phrase here is "well informed." This report is intended to help clear up some of the confusion as to just what the techniques for generating state of the art audio content are and what options are available to the developer. While it should be especially helpful for the layman, hopefully there is also information for the seasoned composer/programmer/engineer that will be of interest.

We will begin by listing engines that are intended for music playback. Some engines feature both music and sound effects playback routines, some engines feature various ways of doing one or the other, and some actually contain production applications. Integration of separate engines will be featured in a later issue along with specific examples of published games where each engine has been used.

(ed: all information was provided by the companies themselves or from public sources. The IASIG is not responsible for the accuracy of this information and does not verify nor endorse any of these products.)

STACCATO SDK

Staccato Systems, Inc.
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 853-7035
http://www.staccatosys.com
(Windows)

Overview: Commercial Software DevelopersKit (SDK) includes an algorithm engine for games and a license to ship for commercial apps.

Features: Staccato provides tools that empower sound designers to develop audio synthesis and processing algorithms, a flexible host-based synthesis engine to run them, and content that shows the power and flexibility of the audio rendering engine. Staccato has a large amount of intellectual property to bring to the audio market, particularly in the area of "Physical Modeling" synthesis and other "next-generation" audio rendering techniques. The Staccato audio rendering engine, "SynthCore" also allows for other forms of synthesis such as wavetable/sample-based synthesis as well. Staccato brings some real advantages to the user experience and development process by:

SynthCore(TM) is a synthesis engine that is Sondius-XG, XG-Lite, GM, Direct X, Down Loadable Sounds (DLS) and Down Loadable Algorithm (DLA) compatible.

MILES SOUND SYSTEM 5

Rad Game Tools, Inc.
Kirkland, WA
(425) 893-4300
http://www.radgametools.com/miles.htm
(Windows)

Overview: Perhaps the most used commercial audio engine on the market. Miles Sound System provides MIDI, XMIDI, Redbook, MP3, and DLS support including a software synth and integrated support
for numerous compression schemes.

Features:

DIRECTMUSIC

Microsoft Corporation
Redmond, WA
(425) 882-8080
Contact: Chanel Summers <chanels@microsoft.com>
(Windows)

Overview: DirectMusic (DM) is a brand new and powerful computer music development tool using DLS as its primary delivery method for sounds and MIDI as its control. The DirectMusic SDK is available free with DirectX 6.1 SDK, along with "DirectMusic Producer", the editor for DirectMusic. Information can be found on Microsoft's DirectX site, and in this issue's column on interactive composition.

Features:

GALAXY SOUND ENGINE

Digital Dreams Multimedia
Contact: Carlo Vogelsang <carlo@ddreams.nl>
(Windows)

Overview: Galaxy is a state of the art music playback system featuring Mpeg layer 1, 2, and 3 support, MOD file support, Redbook, and MIDI support.

Features:

HEADSPACE AUDIO ENGINE (HAE)

Headspace, Inc.
Contact: Steve Hales <steve@headspace.com>
(Mac / Windows (playback only))

Overview: The Headspace Audio Engine is designed to effectively play music and sounds over low bandwidths such as the internet, and can also be used in other applications such as games. The engine contains a linear audio API, a file reader, a software based wavetable synth and sequencer, and a 64
input, 2 bus mixer. The engine will support files from numerous sources including Headspace's own .RMF file format also known as files created in their music editor "Beatnik".

Features:

PATHFINDER (Proprietary engine used by Electronic Arts only)

Contact Alistair Hirst for more information: <ahirst@ea.com>
(Mac)

Need for Speed II and III featured interactive streamed music on both the PC and Playstation. By streaming, the music was able to maintain the production values of music produced in a professional studio, and leave more sound RAM for sound effects.

Interactivity was achieved by seeking around in a linear music file. The music was written in sections which both attempted to reflect the surroundings of the track where they would play, and in various levels of intensity which would reflect the performance of the person playing the game. Pathfinder is a Mac
based proprietary tool used at EA Canada and EA Seattle to set up a tree to reflect how the different sections of the music were related, and to set up a "path" for the music to follow based on input from the game. It also allows the setting of triggers, which when called, will jump the pointer to a different
part of the stream. Pathfinder's output is recognized by the in-house libraries for both platforms, making integration simple.