FastTracker 2

Infobox Software
name = FastTracker 2



caption = Screenshot of FastTracker 2
author = Fredrik "Mr. H" Huss
Magnus "Vogue" Högdahl
developer =
released =
latest release version = 2.08
latest release date = August, 1997
latest preview version = 2.09 (leaked)
latest preview date = 1999
programming language =
operating system = DOS
platform =
language =
status =
genre = Tracker
license = Proprietary
website =

FastTracker 2 used to be one of the most widely used trackers in the world. It was created by Fredrik "Mr. H" Huss and Magnus "Vogue" Högdahl, two members of a PC demo group called Triton (now commonly known as Starbreeze Studios) which set about releasing their own tracker after breaking into the scene in 1992 and winning several demo competitions. The source code of FastTracker 2 is written for BP7 and TASM.

History

In 1993, Triton released Fast Tracker (generally referred to now as "FT1"). This tracker was able to load and save standard four channel MOD files, as well as extended MOD files with six or eight channels (identical to standard MOD files, aside from the extra channel data and ID markers "6CHN" or "8CHN"). It was only compatible with Creative Labs' SoundBlaster series of sound cards, which were most popular on the PC at that time. The whole editor was a single 43 KiB DOS executable.

Through 1994, the musicians in Triton released some songs in a new multichannel "XM" format, accompanied by a pre-release, standalone player. In November 1994, FastTracker 2 was released to the public, with support for the Gravis Ultrasound soundcard.

FT2's biggest "rivals" in the scene were Scream Tracker, and in later years, Impulse Tracker. ("FT2 vs IT" is a common and still ongoing debate among musicians, usually involving IT users complaining about FT2's mouse interface while FT2 users commending the very same, and pointing out that every mouse feature has a keyboard shortcut as well.)

FastTracker 2 was discontinued after the release of version 2.08 in August 1997, though a beta version of 2.09 was leaked to the public in 1999. On May 23, 1999, Starbreeze productions announced on their website that "FT2 has been put on hold indefinitely. [...] If this was an ideal world, where there was infinite time and no need to make a living, there would definitely be a multiplatform Fasttracker3. Unfortunately this world is nothing like that," signed by Vogue. [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20010628033251/www.metamacro.com/fast3/home.html FastTracker 3 homepage] - as retrieved by web.archive.org in 2001]

Today, many contemporary trackers, such as MilkyTracker, ModPlug Tracker, Skale Tracker, Renoise, and MadTracker 2 are heavily influenced by FT2.

Architecture and features

The FT2 interface is largely inspired by the looks of Amiga's Protracker. The screen consists of a pattern editor in the lower half, while the upper half features an instrument selector on the right, and the general module settings and some oscilloscopes. The pattern editor can be changed to sample and instrument editors screens. The program also features a little "Nibbles" clone.

Patterns

Patterns are essentially sheets of music where the musician is able to compose the actual musical score. A pattern consists of several rows (64 by default) and is divided to columns ("tracks"). Each row can have one note in every track. A note can look like the following:

C#4 02 20 R11

This means the note is a C#-note on the chromatic scale, played at the 4th octave (according to the scientific pitch notation), with instrument number 2. The next column is the volume setting on a 0x00-0x40 hexadecimal scale, and the last column enables a variety of effects to be applied to the sound (in this case, retriggering).

A song consists of a collection of different patterns which can be played in a user-defined order to create the final song structure.

Samples

Samples are generic raw sound data to be played back at various frequencies, much the way normal musical samplers do. Samples can have a loop start and end point which enable the sound to repeat endlessly, either repeated continuously or in a way which is called "ping-pong loop" in FT2, and essentially means the sample played back and forth as soon as the replay gets "stuck" in the loop. (This is also called a "bidirectional loop".) The musicians are able to either record samples or load existing ones, manipulate them by cutting and/or pasting parts, or just drawing them by hand. There's also a feature to crossfade the sample with itself, thus allowing the loop points to be seamless.

Instruments

Instruments are essentially arrays of samples with additional convenience features. A musician can assign different samples to different pitches of the sound, thus eliminating the possibility of a sample sounding bad if played too high or too low. Instruments support various loopable envelopes to be set on either the sound volume or the stereo panning, as well as built-in vibrato. It is also possible to set the generic settings of the instrument here: finetuning, default volume, default panning and relative starting note to C-4.

Effects

Effects Column

* 0xx Arpeggio
* 1xx Portamento up
* 2xx Portamento down
* 3xx Portamento to note
* 4xx Vibrato
* 5xx Tone portamento + Volume slide
* 6xx Vibrato + Volume slide
* 7xx Tremolo
* 8xx Set panning position
* 9xx Sample offset
* Ax0 Volume slide up
* A0x Volume slide down
* Bxx Jump songposition
* Cxx Set volume
* Dxx Pattern break
* E1x Fine portamento up
* E2x Fine portamento down
* E3x Set glissando control
* E4x Set vibrato control
* E5x Set fine-tune
* E6x Pattern loop
* E7x Set tremolo control
* E9x Retrig note
* EAx Fine volume slide up
* EBx Fine volume slide down
* ECx Note cut
* EDx Note delay
* EEx Pattern delay
* Fxx Set speed / tempo
* Gxx Set global volume
* Hxx Global volume slide
* Kxx Key off
* Lxx Set envelope position
* Pxx Panning slide
* Rxx Multi retrig
* Txx Tremor
* X1x Extra fine portamento up
* X2x Extra fine portamento down

Volume Column

* +x Volumeslide up
* -x Volumeslide down
* Ux Fine volumeslide up
* Dx Fine volumeslide down
* Sx Set vibrato speed
* Vx Vibrato
* Px Set panning position
* Lx Panning slide left
* Rx Panning slide right
* Mx Tone portamento

Files

Fasttracker 2 supports a variety of file formats, though often only two were used by musicians: XM (Extended Module) and XI (Extended Instrument). XM was and still is one of the most popular module formats nowadays, because of its compact and well compressible file structure.

Compatibility

FT2 ran with a custom made DOS 32bit-extender and it supports Gravis Ultrasound as well as Sound Blaster, Covox and the simple PC speaker. This rendered the software rather flaky to use nowadays, as the recent Windows versions generally do not allow DOS applications to access hardware directly, let alone the fact that most of those compatible cards are built for ISA slots, which are absent from recent motherboards. Due to this, hardcore musicians who still want to use FT2 often build "oldskool" PCs with the optimal (and nowadays rather cheap) hardware for the tracker, just to be able to track with it again.

An alternative way of getting FT2 to run is by using DOSBox — this, however, as accurate as is, has speed and latency problems, and one needs quite a muscular PC to be able to use it as comfortably as on a native environment. The release of DOSBox 0.7 in March 2007 substantially improved speed/performance problems. Other methods of usage include [http://www.deinmeister.de/gusemu/index.html GUSEMU] or [http://sourceforge.net/projects/vdmsound/ VDMSound] .

Clones

The success of FT2 has driven many people to attempt to duplicate the software to other mainstream platforms, when the original version became tedious to utilize. Although there were numerous variations of the software concept on a multitude of platforms, many in the tracker world are still waiting for the "perfect FT2 clone".

Free Software clones

* Perhaps the first try for an FT2 compatible tracker for Windows was ModPlug Tracker, a tool which was compatible with many other DOS trackers at the time as well. Its native GDI user interface, however, alienated many musicians who were used to a custom GUI.
* SoundTracker (not to be confused with Ultimate Soundtracker) is a free (GPL-licensed) FT2-style tracker program for Unix-like operating systems. For many years, it was one of the very few mature Unix-based tracker programs.
* Another clone is MilkyTracker, a tracker currently available for Windows, Windows Mobile, Mac OS X, Linux and FreeBSD. MilkyTracker provides nearly all functionality available in the original FT2 and adds various features. The GUI looks close, but intentionally different from the original.

Freeware clones

* In 2000, a year after Fasttracker 2 was put on hold officially, Spanish demogroup Chanka decided to take on the weight and boldly presented a software which they called "Fast Tracker 3". The software looked and felt like the original, but it lacked various quintessential features and even though it was announced as a beta, it never made any progress. Some years later the same development team came out with a beta version of Skale Tracker, which was essentially the next version of FT3. Skale is currently a very popular tracker, because it provides the basic functionalities of FT2 with a similar look-and-feel, although some critics point out that it still doesn't support all the FT2 effects.
* NitroTracker is a FastTracker II style tracker for the Nintendo DS.

Shareware clones

* Renoise also takes a portion of FT2's basic GUI- and featureset-design, even though there are various major changes in its concept.
* MadTracker can also be considered an FT2 clone. The author [http://www.madtracker.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3363&postdays=0&postorder=asc announced] that the program will become free software in the future.

References

External links

* [http://www.soundmonster.com/fasttracker2ft2.htm Getting FastTracker 2 to work on XP / DOSBox guide]
* [http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=13350 Fasttracker 2] on Pouet


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