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What Synthesizers Do Those Games Use?

Playing a lot of video games from the 90's and up to the mid 2000's, there's a lot of soundtracks that always caught my attention--and more importantly the sounds used. I sometimes think the 'sounds' used are just as important as the music itself; although this has generally been neglected as few wish to capture a specific sound at the risk of there's always 'something better' technlogically, but this ignores the fact that sometimes sounds are unique regardless of the technology. Mark Knight (TDK) often lamented how plain and uninteresting most music in the video game industry is today both aurally and melodically; many games today are utilizing live orchestras and the cream of the crop in terms of technology which tend to be extremely ambient and don't lack the extra aural touches that some of these legacy ROMplers and samplers offer. Sune Pedersen is actually the guy who told me about the JV-1080 and famously says "million dollar sounds for $200", and he's right.

Sune Pedersen (Sonny Maestro)
- Elekton SID Station
- Roland JV-1080 (w/ SR-JV80-02, SR-JV80-04, SR-JV80-06, SR-JV80-11)
- Roland VP-330
- Yamaha AN1x
Games in question: Drilling Billy / The Worlds of Billy

Allister Brimble (The Demon / A.M. Brimble)
- Korg Z1
- Akai S900
- Korg Wavestation A/D
- Roland M-DC1 (similar to SR-JV80-06)
- Yamaha TG77
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
- Spectrasonics Liquid Grooves
Games in question: Glover, Rollercoaster Tycoon I & II, Chris Sawyer's Locomotion, Descent I & II

Kevin Manthei
- Roland S-760 (2x without external video interface)
- Roland JV-880 (w/ SR-JV80-02)
Games in question: Mask of Eternity, Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, Civilization II: Fantastic Worlds

Robert Euvino
- Roland JV-1080
- Roland JP-8080
- E-MU UltraProteus
- Akai S6000
- A bunch of other synths too grainy and small to determine
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
- Spectrasonics Symphony of Voices (most likely on the Akai)
Games in question: Caesar 3, Stronghold 1, Stronghold Crusader

Keith Zizza
- E-MU UltraProteus (similar to the E-MU Morpheus)
- E-MU ESI (not specified which series)
- Roland JV-1080
- Yamaha MU-80
- Loads of other synths with loads of sample archives (but no photo of Keith's personal Studio has ever been shown)
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Lords of the Realm II, Lords of Magic, Pharaoh

Mark Knight (TDK)
- Akai S3000XL
- 2x E-MU Audity 2000
- E-MU UltraProteus
- Kurzweil K2000
- Elektron SID Station
- Some sort of ROMpler / Sampler
Games in question: Warhammer: Dark Omen, Dungeon Keeper 2

Bjorn Lynne (Dr. Awesome)
- Roland D-50
- Kurzweil K2500
- Novation Supernova
- Yamaha VL-70m
- Ensoniq SQ-R Plus
- Novation BassStation
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Seven Kingdoms, Seven Kingdoms II, Siege of Avalon

Glenn Stafford / Tracy Bush
- Roland JV-1080
- Roland SC-88
Games in question: Warcraft II, Starcraft I

Seppo Hurme (Fleshbrain)
- Roland JV-1080 (w/ SR-JV80-06)
Games in question: Gubble 1, Gubble 2

Stephen Rippy (Big Al)
- Roland SC-33 / Boss Dr. Synth
- Korg Polysix
- Sequential Circuits Pro-One
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Age of Empires 1, Age of Empires 2, Age of Mythology

Frank Klepacki
- Roland XV-5080
- Roland JV-2080
- Roland JV-1080
- E-MU Planet Phatt
- Korg Triton Rack
- Ensoniq ASR-10
Games in question: Lands of Lore I-II-III, Red Alert, Nox

Jerry Martin
- Roland XV-5080
- Roland JV-1080 (w/ SR-JV80-05, SR-JV80-10)
- Roland JD-990
- Roland D-550
- Roland TD-10
- Roland TD-7
- Roland GR-10
- Korg Z1
- Korg Triton Rack
- Korg DS-8
- Waldorf Q
- Access Virus C
- ARP 2600
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Sim City 3000, Sim City 3000 Unlimited

Stan LePard
- Yamaha VL-1
Games in question: King of Dragon Pass

Kevin Schilder
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Heretic, Hexen, Hexen II, Necrodome, Mageslayer

Chris Huelsbeck (Chippie)
- Roland JV-1080
- Akai S1000PB
- E-MU UltraProteus (or some E-MU module that resembles it)
- BOSS SE-70
Games in question: Turrican

Borislav Slavov (GloriaN)
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler / Borislav mentioned what sample pack was used but I don't remember and the reference is long lost
Games in question: Knights of Honor

Didier Lord / Stephane Bellanger / Remi Gazel
- Roland JV-1080 (SR-JV80-01, SR-JV80-02, SR-JV80-09)
- Korg M1
Games in question: Rayman 1

Jeehun Hwang / Gregory Alper
- Roland JV-1080
Games in question: Mechwarrior 2

Matt Uelmen
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
- Spectrasonics Heart of Africa 2
Games in question: Diablo 1, Diablo 2

Rob King / Paul Romero / Steve Baca
- EM-U Morpheus
- Kawai K5000S
- Nord Lead
- Yamaha Motif 8
Games in question: Heroes of Might and Magic I, II and III.

Tapio Muley (Shao-Lee)
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood
Advisory: there's *so little* information about Tapio Muley and his equipment. However, I can say I hear identical sounds in Robin Hood as I do with Rayman 3.

Timothy Steven Clarke
- Some sort of Korg device (reportedly used on the piano)
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: The Incredible Machine, Return of The Incredible Machine

Brent Christian (Burnt A. Christian)
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Dr. Lunatic, Spooky Castle: Kid Mystic, Eddie Galaxy, Loonyland

Peter Hajba (Skaven)
- !!! Some sort of undisclosed sampler and undisclosed samples
Games in question: Bejeweled, Bejeweled 2, Alchemy

Notice on Samplers

As you can tell from the above, a lot of these artists used SAMPLERS with sample products, diskettes, CD-ROMs, SCSI hard drives and the like--which are now virtually unobtanium or actually permanently lost. This is kind of sad because it can be next to impossible to get some of the sounds used on: Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, Caesar 3, Lords of the Realm II, Stronghold 1, etc. I wish I had the source for some of the more prominent samples used but it's a dead end.

It's one thing to find the sampler, but often a whole other story when trying to find the samples... part of the problem--especially during the earlier portion of the 90's, was that ROMplers were not very mature yet. The JV-1080 singlehandedly was the most used ROMpler for video games (and even film) due to the fact it was a very high quality ROMpler. But a lot of samplers were still used before the ROMpler takeover. A big producer of samples then was Spectrasonics of course, but they refuse to sell the 'legacy' libraries anymore (even though I think it kicks the hell out of their new softsynths) and buying new-old stock copies are insanely expensive.

Paolo Di Nicolantonio at 'SynthMania' is one of the few individuals who (has) been collecting most of every kind of synthesizer and most importantly samplers. He is one of the few people in the entire world who actually demonstrates some of the languishing near forgotten samples on some samplers I've seen.

Random Notes

Figuring out the synthesizers Allister Brimble used from the very low-def photos was the toughest of any of the ones I looked at, especially since they were so distorted at which point the Korg Wavestation A/D in there almost doesn't even look like a Wavestation. It didn't help that I was absolutely confounded by which ROMpler he was using until I finally found the Yamaha TG77! This is rather curious as I always assumed Allister Brimble wrote the final OST used in Glover as his name is still in the credits, but it was simply due to the fact they never updated them to Paul Weir when the game shipped. What's even stranger about this is after I had discovered Allister Brimble had a TG77, by sheer coincidence it turned out that Paul Weir ALSO used the TG77 (or Yamaha variant thereof) for some of the ROMpler sounds found in Glover's redbook OST. I reach out to Allister about this and was surprised to hear that his original soundtrack for Glover was changed by the publisher (Hasbro) at the last minute even though it apparently suited the game very well and Nintendo when they heard it were very impressed, Allister has since said the original OST has been lost after the archive CD it was on got melted. Allister and I both thought it was very coincidental and interesting Paul Weir ended up sharing a lot of the same synths that he used to have. Kevin Schilder and Paul Weir have shared sounds between Glover and Hexen II (yeah, really) so I'm not sure if these portions are the TG77 or an undisclosed sampler and samples that they had (Akai?).

Bjorn Lynne and Stan LePard both used the Yamha VL series, Stan using the (quite sought after!) Yamaha VL-1, and Bjorn the VL-70m. Good luck finding a mouthpiece if it's missing, as the running joke goes. ;)

Jerry Martin and Allister Brimble both owned a Korg Z1, apparently.

Jerry Martin and Frank Klepacki have a fair amount of similar synth modules in their arsenal.

In all of the studio photos I've seen of Frank Klepacki, he always seems to have the same (old!) IBM Navigator Pro mouse from 2002 up until now; it's weird because I thought he would have thrown it out by now, but apparently he must really like the form factor on it. Fortunately you can still find a lot of those new-old-stock so Mr. Klepacki won't have to worry about every changing from his favourite mouse -- ha!

Often the JV-1080 is lauded as one of the most used sound modules, as it can be determined from the above list, it definitely is the only synthesizer that (most) of the above artists have used. And yes! I was able to figure out which people had which SR expansion cards in the JV-1080s (which thankfully unlike lost sampler samples, can be had)... only by virtue of buying nearly all of them (!) and memorizing all of the sounds... heh. If it's of interest I own the following spread across two JV-1080s:
SR-JV80-01 - POP Expansion Board <-- the first expansion card in the series, very old (mine is so old in fact that the ROM chips are branded mitsubishi instead of Roland)
SR-JV80-02 - ORCHESTRAL Expansion Board
SR-JV80-04 - VINTAGE SYNTH Expansion Board
SR-JV80-05 - WORLD Expansion Board
SR-JV80-06 - DANCE Expansion Board
SR-JV80-09 - SESSION Expansion Board
SR-JV80-10 - BASS AND DRUM Expansion Board
SR-JV80-11 - TECHNO COLLECTION Expansion Board

Finding samples for the Roland S-700 series is notoriously difficult. I know Kevin Manthei had some of his (most?) on diskette. I believe Kevin has recently sold or got rid of the S-700s, so that means all of the sample diskettes with them, too bad :(