9 years in videogame music preservation – Part III

Link to Part II

What happens when you go beyond what is humanly possible to hear, when no matter how hard you try, you can’t tell a difference?
Well, for most of us we’d say “that’s it, it’s good enough”.
And sure enough, there would always be cases when that “good” wouldn’t cut it.

After 7 years I started getting messages from emulator developers (both software and FPGA implementations) asking if they could use our work to fine tune their emulators. We were super stoked to know that we had reached a point where people would start using our releases for other purposes than just listening to the music.
Bear in mind that, until then, emulators never really took too much interest in shaping the audio output to try and get the sound as close to a real Mega Drive: they were happy enough with having the Yamaha YM2612 and PSG perfectly emulated, ignoring all the circuitry used in the audio output section of the console. This brought results which were pretty far from what a real Mega Drive sounded.

Up until last year we were still using very primitive tools (besides our ears – and our community’s) to understand if our work was accurate enough and it served us well so far.
The issue arose when we started to realize that the goal of the project was shifting once again.
All we ever wanted was to just record music from original hardware, trying to stay as close as possible to the original sound signature, recording using the most transparent equipment we could afford and let people enjoy our work.

When I started receiving those messages about our work being used in contexts where even a fraction of microsecond could make a difference I really wanted a more advanced tool to understand if we were doing things properly.
It became clear that our project wasn’t just about recording music as good as possible. We weren’t sharing music for our community’s pleasure.
We were doing something much more important: we were archiving Mega Drive music for preservation.

Although this seems a bit like an apocalyptic scenario, one day all our beloved old consoles might start failing to the point where they can’t be repaired anymore. Sure, emulators will still likely be around, but there wouldn’t be what we started referring to as a “reference”, a good, proper recording from original hardware.
A proper recording in an open source format such as FLAC will always be available to anyone and can be played back on any OS and architecture, even future ones which don’t exist today, because the source code of FLAC is publicly available and anyone can compile it and make a new player for a new OS or CPU.
And since our work has received lots of praise and seen use in several contexts, we just can’t screw this up anymore, we have to do things properly and with the right tools.

This is when everything changed again thanks to a new, incredible tool that suddenly became available, and the upcoming part will finally unveil the actual state of this project, what we’ve been doing so far and what’s going to happen in the future.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this small series of articles so far, stay tuned for the final part which is coming in the following days!