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How the Ecco the Dolphin release got added to Ecco PC
#1
Yesterday I released the Ecco PC Fixed and Enhanced Edition v1.1 on Caverns of Hope (http://web8.orcaserver.de/ecco/)! As you probably know already, the update features the 16bit Audiophile release of Ecco the Dolphin as a soundtrack option, as well the corresponding sound effects! I wanted to take this chance to talk a bit about the release, its production, how it enhances the game, and how to activate it ingame Smile



[Image: eccopc11.png]



First things first: For those who don't know, Ecco PC is a port from console to Windows 95 performed by SEGA/Novotrade in 1995. It was released on CD-ROM and combined the best of all previous Ecco 1 releases: the MegaCD/SegaCD soundtrack and exclusive levels, and CG-rendered videos. On top of that, the graphics got a huge update with everything being redrawn in higher resolution. With the game becoming incompatible with more recent Windows versions, COH team member Korama continued to fix the game by releasing various patches and install tools.



Our most recent Ecco PC release supports audio file playback from your hard drive, using the Bass audio library (www.un4seen.com/). Our previous Ecco PC fixed and enhanced release contained emulator rips of the MegaDrive/Genesis soundtrack, in relatively low quality. When I found the 16bit Audiophile Project, I got really excited, as a high quality recording of the MegaDrive/Genesis soundtrack would suit the Ecco PC release perfectly! Thus I supported the request for recording the soundtrack. Another nice enhancement of our Ecco PC release is that the full range of sound effects is played from WAV files. So I took the chance and asked if the 16-bit team could also record the sound effects for us, as they'd definitely improve their quality as well.



[img]/16bap/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Ecco1-512x512.png[/img]



Fast forward to the release of the 16-bit Audiophile release of Ecco the Dolphin, I was really excited to finally implement both the soundtrack, and the sound effects to Ecco PC! The task was to create properly looping versions of the music tracks, and to split and reassign the sound effect track.



I created seamlessly looping versions of the music tracks using Audacity. The method is relatively easy, but requires good ears and eyes. You have to find out where about the looping part of a track starts and ends, and then mark their positions. Best positions are transitions from silence to unique waveforms. Some tracks were easier to handle than others, as you may suspect. Once you got the positions of the loop points for a track, you can erase the data beyond the loop end, and export to a format that supports loopable areas. I went with OGG Vorbis, because frankly, I don't know of any other format that does this, and bass.dll supports it nicely. The execution of the looping part is performed by two OGG Vorbis tags called LOOPSTART and LOOPLENGTH and their corresponding sample values. The result: Ecco PC now plays the original MegaDrive/Genesis tracks properly looped! Smile



[Image: audacity.png]



The sound effects were kind of a burden on me - I think donluca had a similar feeling when he had to rip them. I mean, there are 65 sound effects in Ecco the Dolphin, and while recording was probably already a pain, splitting them up and properly assigning them seemed like a really tedious task. Right before we started splitting the sound effects by hand (I actually asked KC from RadioSEGA for help with that), Korama came with a tool that rescued us! SoX (http://sox.sourceforge.net/) is a command line tool for processing audio. We used options to split the track at areas of silence, and after tweaking the input values, the program did the worst part of the work automatically. The remaining work was reordering the sound effects to the sequence Ecco PC uses. The result: Perfectly crisp sound effects as if played on the MegaDrive/Genesis now accompany the game, no matter which soundtrack you listen to!



[Image: sox.png]



Of course, nothing works perfectly immediately. A couple sound effects were missing in the original track - which comes naturally when you have to record 65 effects. We're really grateful that donluca actually returned to recording a couple sound effects that were missing in his original track, as well as the storm/tornado track that cannot be played from the debug menu for some reason. Korama edited two of the sound effects, as Ecco PC does not play them properly. One of them is the sound effect for the time machine that echoes sonar back and forth, the other one is for the Vortex machine that plays endlessly in sound test for whatever reason. Korama faded that one out after a couple seconds. After we got everything together, the test sessions went rather well. We only had to amplify the sound effects, so they play a bit louder, but the rest worked like a charm.



If you want to try out the 16bit Audiophile Ecco release in Ecco PC, there's a couple things you have to do in advance:

- Download the Ecco PC Fixed and Enhanced Edition v1.1: http://web8.orcaserver.de/ecco/downloads/games/index.php

- Extract the ZIP file and run the Ecco PC Launcher.exe from the ECCOPC folder

- Click the Edit Settings button

- Make sure Enable Sound Effects Patch and Enable Music Patch are enabled

- Change the Music Folder to MegaDrive Genesis Soundtrack by browsing to it inside the ECCOPC folder.

- Change Track assignment to "Custom..."

- Now you're ready to Launch and play the game (check the manual for more info on how to play Ecco)



[Image: launcher.png]



So, to sum it up: Ecco PC now plays sound and music exactly as you'd expect on the original MegaDrive/Genesis hardware! I don't think any other port of Ecco the Dolphin has achieved this amount of quality. There are ports to many consoles actually: GBA, Wii, Xbox, PS2, PS3. The ones I tried all have terrible audio processing. Especially the PS2 and PS3 versions have a screeching sonar sound effect, and some music tracks have hickups. Obviously these have been recorded and badly processed. The Steam release of Ecco the Dolphin is basically a Gens version, which is rather worse emulation with lower audio quality than Kega Fusion for example. So there you have it, The 16bit Audiophile Project made the best sounding Ecco release possible, ever since the original MegaDrive/Genesis version! Big Grin
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#2
Awesome writing, do you mind if I make an article of it and put it onto our front page?
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#3
Nope, I don't mind of course! Go ahead, I'd love that! =)
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#4
Just a brief update: We added a FLAC download version of Ecco PC. I figured out that by using bassflac.dll you can play OGG FLAC files from within the game. OGG FLAC files contain the original FLAC data wrapped in an OGG Vorbis container, which allows for loop tags to be added and executed! Since I still have all the data (loop points, track assignments etc.) at hand and in mind, I decided to create this FLAC version as a last effort for the v1.1 Ecco PC Update. You know, in half a year or so I'll most likely have forgotten how to do this, at all. Wink



You can grab the Ecco PC - FLAC Edition from here: http://web8.orcaserver.de/ecco/downloads/games/index.php
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#5
I read about it earlier on twitter, that's awesome!



While OGG Vorbis is an excellent compressed format, FLAC is lossless which means that no data whatever is lost during the transfer.



I was thinking about making a Mac version of your enhanced version of Ecco PC by putting it into a WIneskin wrapper.



I'll try this out one of these days and see how it goes.
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#6
Yeah, the lossless upgrade was why I thought it's worth it going for the FLAC version. The OGG FLAC container format doesn't really seem like it's a true standard yet, but since the audio files work with Ecco PC and bassflac.dll, I don't really care so much, after all.



Keep me updated on the Mac version you're planning to do. A friend of mine is actually not able to run the game, it crashes when it attempts to launch the ddraw.dll... But with so many OS releases around, maybe you can get it to run? Good luck and thanks for trying! I've had a few people ask for a Mac version Smile
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#7
This is just nonsense on my part, so do forgive for blabbing on about this and that. Just putting out other options since ogg is not the only thing that can support loops.



(SNIPPED for being out completely out of touch, and not reading. I'm SORRY!!!!)
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#8
Sorry Kirishima, I feel like I'm missing your point here.



Care to explain a bit further on the matter?



The Enhanced Ecco PC version features a wide array of soundtracks you can choose from, and now you have the choice between OGG Vorbis compressed format to save some precious space on your hard disk or the OGG contained FLAC version to get higher quality.



Why should he be using ADX (can't, closed format and proprietary) or GENH?
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#9
I think you were just elaborating on the options of other formats that support loop points, Kirishima? (..since I wrote in my post that I don't know any other formats) But at the same time you recognized that the two you proposed aren't any better or useful than OGG & OGG FLAC I've used for now. So I'm thinking I went with the right format. BTW, Korama is also a fan of OGG Vorbis. It's kind of a shame it never got the recognition it deserved, it could've taken the place of MP3 so well.



This reminds me that I've actually been looking for VGM compatibility for Ecco PC, since you could create a very lightweight compilation with that (the whole game would take just about 60MB without videos then). But I haven't found a way to play VGMs with bass.dll, so we'd either have to wait for un4seen to support it, or Korama would have to program VGM compatibility into Ecco PC by himself. I don't see the necessity for that right now though, so this is also just idea babbeling on my part.
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#10
well, the library exists, in_vgm.dll which works in foobar, so it's just a matter of studying how the library works so that its output gets played.



Shouldn't be too complicated though: http://www.smspower.org/maxim/Winamp/InVgm
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