Applying Data Science to Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Music Presets. Part 1: Discovery

The 80s and 90s were decades of innovation in the worlds of electronic music and video gaming, largely thanks to the iconic YM2612 chip from Yamaha, the sonic heart of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Over the years, the number of VGM files on platforms like Project2612 or vgmrips has grown exponentially, capturing the sonic spirit of this gaming era.

VGM (Video Game Music) files are a digital music file format designed to store and playback video game music, specifically from gaming consoles and arcade systems. These files capture the precise sequence of data sent to sound chips, such as Yamaha’s YM2612, allowing the music from classic video games to be played back with high fidelity outside of the original hardware.

But why are they importants? The significance of VGM files in relation to extracting presets lies in their structure. Since VGMs record the exact instructions sent to sound chips, they encompass details about how these chips were configured and manipulated to produce specific sounds. This means that, with the right software, it is possible to extract and isolate these configurations, or «presets», from the data stream within the VGM file. These presets are essentially the «recipes» of the original sounds, detailing how the sound chip parameters should be adjusted to recreate a particular sound.

This is exactly what DrWashington did. Extracting presets not from just a single VGM file, but from the entire collection on Project2612 up to 2010. His effort provided a vast repository of classic sounds from the video game music era. It was during a fortuitous online exploration that we stumbled upon a pack shared by this user forum on KVRist. This pack brought to the fore not just the sounds but a treasure trove of the times.

However, as we delved deeper into this vast sonic library, a thought struck us: the sheer amount of latent information in these files is staggering! Not just about the sounds themselves, but about the composers, the tools they used, and the composition techniques of the time.

But how to extract and understand all this rich information? Enter data science.

Imagine breaking down this extensive collection of presets alongside public databases about composers and video games for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. We could unveil relationships between games, observe regional differences in music, and understand the favored techniques and tools of renowned composers. We might even pinpoint the most popular presets and explore their unique configurations.

Employing modern data analysis techniques, we could answer intriguing questions like:

Are there specific patterns or signatures in the music from certain composers?
Were there sound differences in games released across different regions?
Which presets were most popular, and how were they featured across different titles?

Such analysis would allow us not just to understand the sound of a generation but also to appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity of the composers from that era. It’s an exciting journey we’re embarking on, and we look forward to uncovering and sharing with you the sonic secrets of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.

Become a part of this adventure. Dive into the legacy with us! 🎵🎮