DirectMusic For The Masses
By Tom Hays
November 6, 1998
Vol. 2: Issue 44

Published in Game Developer Magazine, September 1998

Game Developer Magazine
DirectMusic For The Masses


DirectMusic's Innards

Segments, Tracks and Tools


The DMS Loader

Output API

Basic Playback


Composing With Producer

How Deep Do You Want To Go Today?

The Future

DirectMusic is a complete overhaul of the way that Windows plays music. It replaces the basic code that Windows applications use to get MIDI data out of a file, through the computer, and to the output device. It's a completely rewritten and rethought system, all the way down to what noises come out and how. Has it arrived too late? Now that so many games are using Red Book CD audio and other streaming mechanisms, is DirectMusic enough to make MIDI relevant again to game developers? I think so - no matter how you currently handle music in your games, DirectMusic is definitely worth checking out.

DirectMusic starts out by addressing the major problems of Windows' old MidiOut API, such as shaky timing and limited real-time control. It offers consistent playback of custom sound sets using an open standard, Downloadable Sounds Level 1 (DLS1). On top of that, DirectMusic opens more than one door to achieving adaptive musical scores in games.

Like other SDKs from Microsoft, DirectMusic will try to cover many bases, not all of them related to games. Most observers agree that it has some great solutions for background music on web sites. Are DirectMusic's approaches relevant to game development? Its depth makes for a massive API, with hundreds of pages of documentation. Is it too complex to use on a project with a deadline?

This article is an overview of a big piece of work that is still in alpha, so don't look at it as a review. It's more of a look at what DirectMusic is and what it isn't, to help you get some idea of whether it fits your needs. The SDK should be in beta as you read this, and will be released as part of DirectX 6.1 late in the year.

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