Amiga Soundtrack Post-Mortem: Bomb Jack Beer Edition [2018]

When i did self-candidate to help Graeme Cowie [a.k.a. mcgeezer] on the sound part of Bomb Jack Beer Edition i thought this was a straightforward process. I already did help Alessandro di Gaia in another Tekhan/Tecmo game port – Rygar – now on hold, but i did develop my own technique on how to set up interactions and handle sound effects AND music together.
The main difference between the two projects was that initially Graeme was targeting unexpanded Amigas, and that meant i could use a limited amount of RAM, therefore micro-samples use were the best choice. Additionally Bomb Jack arcade was old enough to rely on simple waveform generation, so to have a similar sound would have been straightforward.

Development notes of the game can be found in this thread on EAB and also this other thread on EAB; in this article will instead talk about how the music and Sound effects were planned and made.

The complete game can be downloaded from this link.

Get Your Material Right

Having Been an arcade junkie in my teen years, i did knew the Bomb Jack arcade good enough to be disappointed by the Elite Amiga port and i wanted to help to do the best job.

In case your memory decided to wipe the pain away, let me show it in all its infamy.

To have a good arcade feeling i wanted to use two channels only for music and the remaining two for sound effects. I did that for Rygar and other projects and did seem to bring good results.

In order to recreate the arcade songs correctly i did use my google-fu skills. A thorough YouTube search did point me to several sources but i think this playlist was the more appropriate to follow.

For each level i did insert the main tune and then all the interactions (P running, bonus time, fire bombs, game over, the two high scores,etc.) at fixed pattern numbers. That was done in order to reduce loading times: if a player run out of lives in a stage there will no need to load further songs, just to point to the current mod pattern number.

A finished tune usually will end up having the following interactions inside.

This movie has been made with a mod file that i modified so that all sub-song interactions will run in a continuous seamless play. Normally sub songs will either jump back to the main song loop or stop execution (in Game Over and Stage Complete).

And Expand on it

I decided to try to recreate the sound effects rather than grab some arcade samples, also to train myself on create sound effects on my own. To give it an arcade feeling i used my trusted microsamples collection and started create the effects using milkytracker.

Each resulting pattern has been converted in .wav using the save to Wav function of milkytracker; furthermore, resulting samples have been converted to 8-bit mono with Audacity and lastly further downsampled to 8363mhz and saved in IFF 8SVX with Awave studio.

I also wanted to look around what other ports did: Bomb Jack Beer Edition is not the only player in the field, there have been several non-commercial ports.
Main reference have been Bomb Jack DX for the Commodore 64, still under progress, and Bomb Jake for the Atari XL.

From Bomb Jack DX i got the idea – as cameo for the 64 version – to use Magnetic Fields II by Jean Michael Jarre in the in-game music.

Instead from Bomb Jake i took the idea to use also Orient Express, another Jarre song, in the in-game. This provides a full five song loop that gives to all rounds a distinctive song/graphic identity, unlike the arcade that was having three songs repeating and mixing with the five stages.

Finally for the title song i remember wanted to troll a bit my fellow Amiga Users and i made a nice mix of the ugly Bomb Jack theme by Elite and the arcade Jingle, all joint together with micro-sample drums and colorful chords.
It’s a pity that Graeme at the end decided to keep Magnetic Fields II as title song, but that’s its game, at the end of the story.

Beer Stages

The core feature of Bomb Jack Beer Edition, together with a near arcade perfect port, are the Beer Stages.
Those custom made stages will appear if the player is able to collect an adequate amount of bonus points by trying to get as much fire bombs and multipliers as possible.

If the minimum quota is met, according to the amount of bonus points every fifth stage in sequence will be replaced by one of the following Beer stages (ranked from lowest to highest bonus points required):

– Pensham Monument
– Edinburgh Castle
– Chichen Itza
– London Parliament

Graeme wanted more dynamic songs compared to the usual ones in the arcade levels since those stage have an higher level of difficulty. I did create at least two original songs (Chichen Itza and Edinburgh Castle) and adapted some more or less mainstream song, following the borrowing music tradition of the Bomb Jack ports.

The musics that i have adapted to the game, using my microsamples sound bank were:

– Penshaw Monument Beer Stage [song supposedly from the Initial-D soundtrack, i ignore the original title]
– London Big Ben Stage [Corona – Rhythm of the night cover]
– Panjabi MC – Mundian To Bach Ke [unused, at the end]

Since all musics are qite short (no more than two minute each), i created a medley video where i play all those together. The unused title is also included at the beginning.

Unexpected (by me) Negative Feedback

Around end of February 2018 the coding of the game was mostly complete and Graeme was working on ironing out bugs and implementing beer stages. The game music was still using just two channels and a public beta was released.

People started to complain that the music did not play good with only two channels. I decided to cave in and created a new version of all songs using three channels thinking things will subside, but was not enough. The criticism spawn from at least two separate dissenting groups: from one side the “purists”, that were expecting an exact replica of the arcade songs and, from the opposite side, a group that wanted the songs to use full samples and sound “worthy of Amiga capabilities” practically questioning all the work and research i made on the music so far. Both groups were pretty vocal and unwilling to compromise, and were showing a level of entitlement that, if we assume the project is an hobby project made in spare time by two guys with no purpose of money making, did sound excessive.

Me and Graeme tried to address criticism in a positive way but at the end the storm did not subside, so we did agree to disagree,we did leave the group and continued the work on our own.

Beside what happened above, it seems that this is an ongoing problem that can easily kill any motivation in other homebrew developers, as stated in several points in this EAB thread.

We also received positive comments praising the way we did treat the sound and was considering a nice addition to have the arcade game spirit reproduced.

Final Thoughts

Despite the last hour problem and trolling, working on the project was an enjoyable experience and will surely cooperate with other arcade ports in the best of my capacity, with the hidden agenda of giving finally birth to the arcade ports that a machine like Amiga can do and deserve.

The final game experience is summarized in this Hipoonios longplay.

Amiga Music: Block Off! Music Post-mortem [2018]

The Block Off! Story is simple; i took notice of the work of Colin Vella in the AMOS developers facebook group and asked to cooperate.

The game is pretty simple: the player need do destroy all colored blocks putting blocks of the same color side-to-side within the allotted time, and each level might present a different challenge: different layout, ice blocks, arrows, dynamite+detonator blocks, unmovable blocks and so on.

There is not a single source of inspiration for the musical work; in a way all is inspired by different games, musics and situations that happen to give me ideas.

The main music in example uses a sample that is well known to be used by Tim Follin in the Qix High Scores (and that i did stumble in a demoscene .mod file); gives a pretty distinctive tone and a mood between the happy and space euphoria. Being a title tune i did use all four channels plus my usual bank of microsamples, that comes handy when the memory footprint is needed to be small – since the game need to fit in one 880k disk the leaner the better.

Same instruments bank is used for the High scores tune, and a slower pace compared to the title tune, more relaxing.

In-game tune A (that for some circumstances become the third in appearance during the game) is instead inspired by the tunes often heard on the Dizzy games and try to keep a playful mood.

And In-game B is instead a simple reggatta tune in part fueled by dubstep and in part by other pop songs that happen to come up in the radio.

In-tune C instead has a bit of mixed feeling between horror and misterious. No particular inspiration beside some meddling with keyboard while looking for inspiration and then start to build layers on it.

Then have a couple of short jingles: the Game Over tune (one track in style of the high score music) and an harp blend at the end of a successful level.

From the technical side, all songs are typical protracker .mod files, with sizes ranging from 12k (level done, just one pattern) to 60k (title song) and have been composed using Milkytracker on Windows XP.

The in-game songs uses just three of the four available channels, keeping channel 0 free for sound effects, while the title song, high scores song, game over song and level complete song use all four channels.

The game can be downloaded from the links appearing in the EAB thread here, while the soundtrack is available here.

Amiga Music: Tanks Furry Music Post-mortem [2015]

Its been fortunate for me to work with Krzysiek “Koyot1222” Matys and with Pawel “Juen” Nowak in the making of Tanks Furry; they were receptive to my approach to music and i was receptive to their vision of creating a quality arcade game for ECS Amiga; the trend of finally develop new stuff is not new, and has been around in a faint way for the last three/four years; however 2015 has seen a resurgence of activity.
I actually went to know about Tanks furry by accident: i proposed to help Aszu and Sordan with the title music of Crazy Priest, an AMOS game that was proposed on the RetroKomp-LoadError competition in Danzig, Poland in October 2015; in the same contest Tanks Furry was shown and a video of the test version was uploaded on Youtube.

I thought that game was nice, a clone of the Arcade and NES game Battle City that i loved to play in the arcades, and i also thought that some music might have helped to set the game mood, so i sent a message in the page proposing to do songs for the game; Krzysztof responded that would like something for the main title.

I did follow my feelings watching the video: atmosphere should have been military-oriented but not too serious; could not avoid to have the soundtrack of Wings of Honneamise in my head, especially the part where Shiro start the training, a messed-up military march that, with the clunkiness of the instruments, both marks the strong ambitions and poor means of operation.

I did kinda follow the base structure for the main song but did left the clunkiness behind, i however alternated a solemn military march to a cartoony feeling in the use of the instruments. Final song did weight 124k.

I also created a Menu song: it follows the same base pattern of the main song but shorter. Uses only three channels (in expectance of sound effects in the menu) and microinstruments, therefore the weight of the file is lighter at 56k. Unlike my placement, it ended up on the end sequence.

The tools i used were Milkytracker and Audacity.
On the meanwhile that was composing this, i did start my work on two other soundtracks for the same team: one is Bridge Strike and the other is Project R3D the Game, that deserves a more detailed description.

If you want to support Team R3D on developing new Amiga games you can consider doing a pledge – even minimal – in their Patreon page.

Amiga Game Graphic and Music – Holy Warrior – W.I.P. [2017]

As many might already have understood, am trying to get back in both graphic work and music work (possibly also coding albeit simple); and when i did stumble in the indieretronews article showing the game by Dario Bongiorno (or Bongi as appears on Facebook). Dario did start to work on its game in the 90s but then dropped it – also due to Commodore demise.
Last year Dario decided to restart work on its game, and did ask for help in both graphic and music side. I offered myself to help him; thought was the right occasion to refresh my pixel art skills and to work in a genre – Fantasy RPG – that i usually did not touch.

First thing i proposed was the audio. Dario did let me know that space was tight. The game is programmed on AMOS and was already taking four disks. I give him some advices for optimization that took a while to be implemented, especially for the world map but now problems seems to be solved; however due to the still limited estate I decided to use micro instruments for the songs; beside the small space taken those also give a very distinctive footprint to the game atmosphere, with some reminescence of 8-bit RPGs on the NES and Sega machines.

Graphics speaking, the game was already doing a citation of games like Final Fantasy on the SNES: the way the panel and the fights are set up is indeed similar; using chiptunes enhance a bit the feeling, making you think to be in front of a PC-Engine rather than your miggy.

For the graphic overhaul i had an hard constraint about the palette; since Dario hardcoded it in the game, those were the colors I had to use; last 16 colors for the main character sprite and all others for the graphic environment and enemies. Fortunately colors were pretty versatile so had not too much problem.

The fighting screens have been redrawn too, and now have a better painting-like quality, despite the same palette.

Took me a while but i convinced Dario to change the map handling from using images to a tile system; that did help to reduce the game assets size considerably. I also pushed to have at least three sizes for the main character: a 16×16 sprite for browsing on the main map, a 32×32 for environments such as the village and others and a 48×48 for the fight scenes.

Now, due to the recent fatherhood of Dario [Congratulations again, by the way!], things might slow down a bit (real life gotta have priority), however we both are committed to continue work on the game and finish it. Stay tuned for more information!

HOMM2 music diaries – June-July 2014

So last may i posted on EAB forum proposing myself as MOD musician. Got two gigs: one from the gut who create downfall for its dizzy-like game and little later was asked by Philippe “Meynaf” Guichardon to port the music of Heroes of Might and Magic II in MOD files for its Amiga Port of the game.

And is on the second task that i want to focus on this article and possibly some future ones.

Tough nut to crack! The soundtrack is composed of over 20 tracks, the music is done on pc either via Midi with custom instruments or via CD tracks, in some cases in the “price of destiny” expansion pack there are singed parts (in german) so i know will never be the same as the original PC one, but who am i to defuse an impossible challenge?


Looking at the context and some of the music, plus the fact that the porter do not want to mix channels (processor intensive), i realized i can build some of the mods in a way that three channels carry the main melody and the fourth is of support and can be overridden by speech or sound effects.

As reference i took this youtube playlist of the CD tracks, and that is mostly the kind of feeling I want the mod files to have.

As mentioned in other articles, i actually have no real Amiga handy where to compose the score, however my actual favourite weapon, MilkyTracker on Win XP, has been put to the test for writing .mod files and feedback has been positive.

Another thing is that since there are some songs (i.e.combat 1) that have a recurring background, i could sample it and use it on the mod file. the “Combat” scream on combat 1 could be replaced with a generic crowd cheer (whoah) .


Before to leave i started to port lurking enemy (the enemy turn song) and had some problems both for its basses and for the motion of the song; i repromised to give it a second look or to rewrite as mixed version.

The day earlier instead i tried to port the grassland theme; so all possible problems with Milky showed up – which from the other side is good so i have an idea of the workflow i could employ; first the four version sound kinda flat (midi can rely on being projected in two channels) plus the lack of faithful instrument brought me to look on my mod bank for similar sounds. Redo a tune is harder than come out with your own: especially in a limited environment as Paula might be, plus memory contraints and the fourth voice as wildcard. But that is what makes it so compelling: being able to reach good results in a limited environment 🙂



I tried several combinations of instruments for Grassland, mostly coming from digging through instrument free data banks; a decent cello in the background is hard to find and for clavicembalo sounds I resorted taking it from a tune of The Weasel, however the high tune clavicembalo sound kinda weird;

[WIP] H.O.M.M. grassland tune Test G from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

That made me look for better clavicembalo (harpsichord) samples; the ones i found comes from collections around the net: very good this Harpsichord sample bank  from a 1720 Blanchet and this Oboe sound from; those two instruments helped me in give a more realistic sound;

[WIP] H.O.M.M. grassland tune Test I from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Result is pretty impressive: might not have all the sounds of the original but has its own depth 🙂

The research for more realistic sounds brought me quite around on the net, looking mostly for .wav files until i started stumble in more professional sites that provided soundfonts; this format is used for most professional tools and usually provide a good instrument quality, however is not directly “consumable” by milky or other trackers: a tool to export in .wav file format is needed.

Looking more around i found an open source .sf2 to wav converter for Windows at this address:; what it does is to split all audio files composing the soundfont and exporting them in .wav file on a folder.

Then the sample is passed through Audacity, where is flattened to Mono and saved in .wav 8-bit (save -> other uncompressed format -> .Wav (microsoft) 8-bit) then loaded in milky and “resampled” to match the protracker range of sound going in the Sample Editor [smp ed.] and choosing ‘advanced->resample’ from the right click menu.


Once in the option requester, setr the “relative tone” and “fine tune” values to 0, select “Precise sinc” on the Interpolation dropdown option and click OK.



At this point i usually save the instrument in .xi format from the [save] button on the top of the instruments list. Range used by protracker mods is between C-3 to B-5 according to milky scale. If higher or lower octaves are needed i usually load a copy of the instrument in another slot, go in the instrument editor [Ins. Ed.], press octave up or octave down at need then go in the sample editor and again use resample putting to 0 the values to render the sample.


Plus since, unlike the good old protracker, there is no chord and no merge samples feature, sometimes i need to “render” in .wav using an empty mod the chords and composed samples and do on the rendered track the flat/8-bit/resample loop again.

Being a Bedroom Musician in the Tracker Age


Writing music in .mod format has been a part of my artistic expression since long time; while not musically trained in the canonical way -beside some of the typical flute lessons and the basics of note reading in middle school; when in 1983 i bought my first computer, a ZX Spectrum, the sound was driven by a beeper built-in inside and was able to do just a note at the time of pitch and length decided by a BASIC instruction; so not too much field for tune making there, at least until the first advanced music routines appeared, and were published on RUN, an italian cassette driven magazine; that made me experiment with some pieces (tried to redo the hang-on theme) but that was it. Then in 1988 i bought my Amiga 500 and finally got my hands in some music software: at first Sonix, where i did learn the ropes on basic music making, then in 1989 a mostly unknown tracker from LinEL, called SoundFX, where instead i did learn the basics of tracking.

Around the same time was introduced ot music rippers, but since did  not knew about mod files, i mainly used those programs to get sound samples and then re-use it in SoundFX after converting them in 8SVX format; little later got introduced to Noisetracker, a soundtracker free clone – but able to work with non-original ST disks, as the original Ultimate Soundtracker, if i remember correctly, used a ST-XX volume name system for sample disks that prevented to read from other sample disks;  Noisetracker worked that around by just the need to use a ST-00 volume, not even always the same disk, just same name.

As for finally getting in “the field”, as i said in the Powder Diaries, got in touch with Thomas and Filippo in doing graphics and music for Quazar, and then also for Nicola under the Nike name;  those were simple songs, with most of the instruments coming from the ripped mods or from “RAM scanning” after a reset with Audiomaster.

The involvement with Quazar and the Powder game made me deal with the problems of providing a good audio experience with little memory space; the songs in Powder, excluded the main theme, had a set limit of 75k, that luckilly reached rarely; other projects, such as the ARZENAL utility disk, were having a much smaller footprint (guess not even 2k) and so complex instruments were not an option; however in 1989 i stumbled on a intro that was using what i used to call “micro instruments”; that was the easiest way some people found to do chiptunes using soundtracker: using very little chunks of samples is possible to obtain pretty pure waveforms and small size drums; did some experiments with it but none of those were published.


Music: Amadeus (cover) – 1993 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

This music uses microsamples to obtain chiptune effect.


Had also occasion, together with Marco Maltese, to do soundtracks for its CGI animations, including a local TV program opening, three local TV advertisings and three animations ptrsented at Bit.Movie and Pixel Art Expo; plus other unfinished ones. Doing music for those is a different deal from doing it for video games and demos; since there are no big memory constraints samples can and must be the best possible, and sound need to be richer to mask the limited capabilities of Amiga hardware.

Music – Deimos (v3.2) – 1994 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

An example of music for a (unfinished) animation of Marco Maltese.



 Being a “lamer”

In the demoscene culture,and in particular on the tracking scene, is – or was – considered a lamer he who rip mod files ,harvest samples and reuse it in its own compositions. I was almost the only amiga user for a while in my town and for sure the only mod composer in my area: up to the half of nineties could not afford a sound sampler not to mention a CD player so all instruments I had forcefully got it through ripping; so according to your point of view and seen literally might I be considered a lamer?

Ripping modules has been, as said, both a way to replenish a starving sample bank but, also, a way to learn to use the tool: when i used see an intro or a demo or play a game and hear some nice sound effect or transition i wondered: how did they do it? Vibrato? Arpeggio? playing with pitch?

And then you find yourself in front of the file and you can see the magic going on: for a while that has been my only documentation on how to use the tracker: songs themselves; and so i did learn to use the basic effects: the arpeggio, the pitch up/down, speed, jump  and the volume; following i also learn portamento and other effects; but to learn the Protracker stuff had to wait the online documentation built in, was simply too much.

Sampling vs pure tracking

I am pretty convinced that most musically oriented people can take advantage of Paula and its four voices at the most of its capacities but, being honest, the BEST way to use paula channels is not the MOST clear; whoever analyzed mod files knows that some of the most impressive use several samples for several instrument states or play styles, and at least two or more chords (multiple note samples).

Coming from a linear music composing program like Sonix, the idea of composing music using samples of music to insert was, at least in the end of eighties, antithetic to the approach that instead Sonix was proposing, like using instrument to create melody and rythm; and having a self-learner approach to music making did not help concerning chords, that are still a bit a black beast of mine beside the usual min (C-E-G#)and max(C-E-G). the concept of using sampled pieces of base drum or a bassline or a piece of sampled melody seemed like cheating; of course with the growing in popularity of House Music and Hip-Hop things started to get a different approach but, at least for the first three-four years, there was this idea that to do music i had to try hard using instruments and effects; however, the more ran into other people mod files and try to understand their secrets, the more i got the clue that to get the best sound impressions, a mix of instruments and samples were required.



About writing music for games

I might say that my pro career as musician mostly started with powder and essentially ended with Powder; also because in the end of nineties trying to do tracker music on a power mac was close to impossible: the modplug tracker was far from operational and pretty impractical to use, at least for me. Most of the gigs – if we can call it so – were coming from Marco Maltese work in the video publishing service: i was cheaper than a licensed musician Furthermore, after the split with Maltese, that was my main provider for track requests either for its animations or external works like local TV commercials (two), had no more requests for soundtracks; from the other side, inspiration slowly faded away.

Only recently, thanks to Milkytracker on PC I restarted a bit to do some music but until now is essentially for my own leisure. Wish to compose soundtracks for some of the retro revival games around; if anybody wants me to just drop me a mail – actually got busy with a pretty (unpaid) big project so hold on it, but you can still contact me for later projects 🙂

By the way, my mod files are actually stored in the AMP site and i have encoded most of my tunes in video format so that are visible in my Vimeo profile.

The Powder Diaries – appendix – Archeological Digs

Not enough developed to be a full chapter, here i introduce a better insight on the 1991 demo.

The 1991 demo was called “M1 Prototype” on the title screen. Due to the disk error i mentioned on chapted 2, Maltese decided to redo the title screen at its own liking. The demo is using a homebrew trackloader and is known to not work on machines with os older than 2.0.

I found the disk at home when i went to Italy last may and made a DMS of it;  later last week i installed WinUAE in my laptop and tried to make it run, with little hopes being that disk already picky on my old A500 and never worked on my 1200.

Meddling a bit with settings i made it work finally!


The Prototype Demo loading screen


And the splash screen once loaded

So in this demo we have the first half of the later scrapped Sea Level and a first version of the City level. There are some playability differences with the final version such as the fact that is possible to collect energy pods to restore the ship energy (very little) and that the credit system is using thousands of units, like 500 credits for a change.

Sea has a pretty nice palette and shows the skills of  Marco Maltese at its finest as much as in Clouds; the enemy placement and strategy is interesting too.


A screenshot from Sea

Even the already known City level is different from the final one: first of all the sea flyby part is longer, then there is traffic roaming the city – as private vehicles and trucks – and some police roadblocks; plus the end of level boss is not a robot like in the final version – rather is another big helicopter. Also there were some kinda funny behaviour, liks some kamikaze Rail-A falling down the rails.

Download and Use

The demo is available as zipped DMS (DiskMasher) file; to use it in Amiga you need to unpack it using the DMS tool to create a physical disk; to use it in WinUAE or other emulators or even Minimig i guess you just transfer the .dms in the card and that’s it – don’t know about further settings.

For WinUAE i found out the settings in the following picture work for me:


I used A600 basic, with the slider compatibility set to Best Compatibility.

The demo can be downloaded from Aminet at this link.

Still in Aminet, is also the 1997 demo previewed in Amiga Format;  it contains the final version of  City and City Boss. This other one can be installed on Hard disk and can instead be downloaded at this link.