I'll start out by saying that this is a bit of a curious post. The app I'm highlighting here isn't a game at all -- not even sort-of a game. It's a music player, of sorts. But, a music player that should bring a smile to the face of many a gamer who sat in front an Amiga or PC, joystick in hand, back in the late '80s and early '90s. The app I speak of is French developer Yohann Magnien's Modizer [App Store]...and it's a MODplayer.

First, some history for those unfamiliar with MODs, trackers, and all that lot of sampled digital audio goodness. In 1985 the Commodore Amiga was released, bringing with it dramatic innovations on every front, really. And, among them, was its 8-bit, 4-channel, wavetable, stereo audio subsystem offering far better audio playback than any other consumer machine of the time. Digitized sound samples could be loaded into the Amiga's CHIP RAM and triggered for playback (and with zero CPU intervention), with highly realistic results.

Two years after the Amiga's release, developer Karsten Obarski decided to create a program that would load samples into said RAM and trigger them for coherent playback using a simple script that's something akin to the scroll of a player piano. That program was called Ultimate Soundtracker. And that script, plus its associated audio samples all bundled together into a single file, is called a module or MOD. Since then "trackers" of every sort, along with new MOD-like formats, emerged for platforms far and wide.

Demoscene coders were quick to adopt these trackers to create soundtracks to accompany their onscreen pixel magic and soon the "music guy" became a critical component of every demogroup. Noting this, game developers began adopting tracker modules as their solution for in-game music. Back in the day of limited CPU resources, audio boards with real horesepower came onto the scene to enable efficient playback of not just 4 but 8, 16, 32, 64 channels. Demos and games benefitted mightily, and audio geeks had a new scene to drool over. (I was a GUS and CapaMOD man, myself.)

And plenty of iOS games have reach out to MODs, S3Ms, XMs, and other formats of the kind for their soundtrack solutions.

And, so we come back to Modizer. Is it the only MODplayer in the App Store? No, it's not. But it appears to be the most full-featured. Modizer supports a dizzying array of audio formats thanks to its use of the MODPlug and UADE players (the latter of which actually emulates an Amiga 1200 computer), switchable in the settings menu. A variety of OpenGL-based audio visualizers can be enabled to accompany playback, a feature that will be much appreciated by those accustomed to hearing MODs running alongside a demoscene production's onscreen pixel magic. And it all runs smooth as glass without missing a beat.

Modizer is a universal application, natively supporting the iPhone 3G, iPod touch 2G, iPad and up, with specific optimizations for the iPhone 4 and iPad. The app includes a file browser that allows free access to the MODLAND and HVSC collections -- about 215,000 tracks in all -- that, when downloaded, are stored locally for quick access. The archives contain audio tracks from basically every demo ever made as well as most games for the C64 and Amiga.

See our iPad demo video. The developer provides a few iPhone demo videos, as well.

At a mere $.99, Modizer is a godsend for gamers with a fancy for digital music. And, while indeed not a game, Modizer for iOS seems worth a spot here at Touch Arcade.

UPDATE: We just got word from the developer that he's currently working on a v1.1 update that includes various bugfixes as well as a number of enhancements:

  • Some optimization for browser (mainly when browsing modland/artists)
  • Sharp X68000 support (mdx/pdx files) with updated Modland lib
  • Addressing issue where some formats miss the last second of music
  • And more to come, depending on user feedback...

Magnien indicates that he's also considering a network "user stats" sort of ranking system that would let users easily share the overall highest rated songs. We'll keep you posted.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Metalbear

    Wow, looks awesome. I was unfortunate enough to nothave been born in the '80s, so this should be interesting.

    • Yvan256

      To really understand the impact of the modscene, you need to blast PC-speaker and Tandy 1000 in your ears for about 5 years, then OPL2/OPL3 music for another 3 years.

      After that, listening to those modules will feel like a breath of fresh air.

  • Anonymous

    Easily has to be the coolest non-game app on the app store. Thanks for the heads-up and review Blake.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, first good mod player I've seen for iOS or any mobile OS to speak of actually. Full featured and backgrounds properly on iOS4. Worth every penny of 99 cents if you ever had even a passing interest in the earlier years of amateur computer musical composition.

  • Jeffmd

    Impressive indeed. Now if only we could see one of these players support the console music formats so we can play nes/snes/genesis/psx music. ;)

    • Anonymous

      jeff - this does support NSF, SPC, PSF, PSF2, and VGM!

  • Acidbottle

    very impressive app. finds a lot more files than the other nodd players ive nabbed off the appstore inc a whole load of ben daglish ones. love it!

  • Habu

    Two words: Space Debris

    • Blades

      Hell, yea. I remember downloading Space Debris.mod from the EPIC BBS, back in the day. And replaying it over and over.... The memories!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/stromdotcom Rick Strom

    Wow this is incredible. I wish I had thought of it. :) I just noticed it multitasks too.

    For those too young to remember the MOD days, there is a ton of really great music out there. It'll be kind of hard to wade through 200,000+ tracks to find it, but it's there.

  • http://twitter.com/stuartcarnie Stuart Carnie

    Ahh, some good chip-tunes in that video.

    Cheers

  • JuLieN

    Klisje paa klisje, someone? :) Or Global Trash?

  • JuLieN

    (hmm, maybe I should make this less private by givink some links ;)
    Klisje paa klisje : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21rO87f-cs0
    Global Trash : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwB3Mku_KoM
    ... Jesper Kyd is the king! )

  • mnemo

    This is somehow amazing since I coded some updated versions of SoundTracker on the Amiga back then... Over 20 years ago, phew.

  • Jcat

    Wow - nostalgic trip. Must get this - especially after hearing one of my favorite opening scores which was definitely from Psygnosis, but I can't think of which game it was...

    • Jcat

      Replying to myself - just saw the names...it was "Obliterator"!

      • mnemo

        The Obliterator music was coded by David Whittaker.

        If you have a PC, get XMplay and the Delix plugin (just google it), this will not only playback MOD files, but also custom Amiga soundtracks via a built-in 68000 emulator. And then get some music here: http://www.exotica.org.uk/wiki/UnExoticA

  • Blades

    So can you add, your own MOD music collection, or is this download only off of the web?

    • JuLieN

      I imported my mod collection using iTunes and it went flawlessly.

    • Blades

      Never mind. Found the answer is YES. Instant Buy..... 80's here we come....

  • mnemo

    OMG, I watched the video just now. Modizer really has the 68K emu in it for the Whittaker songs and stuff. This is a MUST BUY!

  • Adams Immersive

    Cool! I hope they add Octamed support. I’ll have to resurrect my Amiga and my MOD collection!

  • yoyofr

    Hi, I'm the author of modizer.
    thanks to UADE, nearly all amiga formats are supported. In fact the Amiga softwares are emulated so it's the real player which is used here. Of course octamed is in the list ;-) . For the formats supported both by Modplug & UADE you can choose which one will be used by going in setting/player option.
    Basically Modplug is faster but UADE is more accurate and slower (since it emulates a real Amiga 1200).

    Consoles world is also supported (nintendo, sega, nec, sony, ...) but you'll have to upload the files by yourself (using either itunes or the ftp server) since it's copyrighted stuff (I had to exclude them from Modland original database).

    I'll try to write a kind of 'user guide' for next version ;-)

    • mnemo

      Thank you for the player and for posting here! :-)

      Maybe it's possible to add the Atari SAP format in a future version? There's a music archive here: http://asma.atari.org/

      • mnemo

        Uh, never mind. SAP is already supported. I just wet myself. :-D

    • MooCow

      For the 1st generation iPod touch, would it be possible to simply disable all the visualization options, maybe turn down the sampling rate, etc?

      That's seriously the first application that I would GLADLY pay 10$ for, especially if it can store the tunes directly on the device.

      Oh shit, "Dope" is playing... totally forgot about that one!

  • Carl

    So... no go on my old iPod Touch 1st gen?

    • yoyofr

      Hi Carl,
      I don't have an iPod touch 1st gen to test, but as far as I remember people doing beta test on it told me if was either too slow or it crashed a lot (not enough memory/cpu, cannot remember...). If somebody want to lend/give me a 1st gen iPhone/iPod I might adapt modizer to it, but it is not the case right now :-/

      • Yvan256

        Just FYI, I think the 1st generation iPod touch is the least powerful of all the iDevices. That's one reason I'm keeping mine. If I code something that works on it, it should work on all other devices as well.

        If it works on the first iPhone it won't necessarily work on the first iPod touch.

    • TKO

      It wouldn't work well, unfortunately. On my iPhone 3G (the lowest supported hardware), it's only barely usable with the more CPU-hungry chipsets to emulate. For example, C64 SID's ..the 6581's filter can take a lot of CPU wellie. Some of the scene tracks, which tend to use a lot of raster time, stutter even with no visualiser. And they all stutter when searching, or scrolling a fair bit.

      Don't get me wrong. It's a supremely excellent player. I love the visualisers and the brilliant play-quality.

      So yeah.. it would be nice to support older Phones/Pods. But you'd really have to slash the supported formats. People would be annoyed to buy it and find their favourite format isn't available on their hardware.

  • ZorakZoran

    Merci Yoyofr !
    Now I can listen to phantasmagoria by symbiote again. Sweet memories...
    Franchement, super player, ça fait carrément plaisir !

  • Rockstar31

    love it, brings back so many great amiga memories

  • Stick Men

    Two names for all y'all newcomers to the tracker scene: Skaven, and Purple Motion. By no means the only names you should look up, but two of my favourites.

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      Skaven and Purple Motion are probably my two favorites.

    • MooCow

      LizardKing.

  • http://gorehole.org/ Anonymous

    yes! i've been using this app since the betas and it's reproduction is incredible. some more names: goto80, skope, mortimer twang, vim.

    the one thing i wish this app did better was random browsing/discovery. i know a few artists but i know there are even more out there who i'd love but have never heard.

  • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

    Many of these tracks are available via MP3. But there's **definitely** something -- maybe it's spiritual -- about a track actually playing in a tracker as opposed to playing canned in an MP3. And it takes a certain amount of balls for a device to get the playback right.

  • Mike K

    I love it! Especially the FTP feature (no need to fire up and sync iTunes! Yus!). I was copying some of my old tunes over (which work great), but noticed after the fact that some tracks are MP3's and OGG's (since they were composed in Buzz, a not so compatible (and stable) player). I dunno if it's against the Apple terms to include MP3 playback, but being able to also play OGG's would be swell (and keep all my tracker music in one place).

  • Dyscode

    !!!!!!!!!!hallelujah!!!! MODs never die!

  • Anonymous

    As a (once) huge fan of the demo scene back in the day, I am quite happy to hear about this, game-related or not.

  • Kludger

    Loving this app especially the ftp and http feature, the music brings back some good Amiga memories, another good artist to check out is keith303.

  • Joel

    This looks epicly (that's a word) good. Looks like I'll be taking a break from the awesome ThumbJam to check this out.

  • Dyscode

    if you fancy making MODS on the iPhone/Pod/Pad check out SunVox.

    This Tracker is AMAZING!!!!

    And you can take you composition to the Mac/PC/Blueberry/Symbian if you want

  • roxahris

    Finally, a chiptune player!

    And... MDX support? Excellent!

  • kl

    I just download this and searched for "secret of mana" and amazing things just happened.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cat-Astrophy/100000838113704 Cat Astrophy

    Please add a random feature so it just starts playing music

  • TonyRockyHorror

    The July 1995 issue of Wired had an article on the demoscene: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.07/democoders.html

    I read that and fell in love. I was just a poor high school kid from southern West Virginia at the time, so I never got to participate, but this stuff definitely provided a fair portion of the soundtrack and visuals for my dreams all the way through college.

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      The demoscene was and still is an amazing thing. I think, however, that it was more of a magical phenomenon back in the days before hardware-assisted, OpenGL rendering and the like, back when you were pushing a 1MHz CPU to throw pixels around the screen.

      Wikipedia has a nice summary:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene

      Arnold and I were both avid followers of the demoscene. He had an Apple IIgs at the time and enjoyed the demos available for the machine, while I had an Amiga, a rather more capable demo platform. Arn actually did some impressive 65C816 assembly demo coding, himself - and later 68000 asm on the Mac. I never did any demo coding, but still spend time watching demos. I keep several Amigas around primarily for that purpose.

      And, while modern computers and graphics subsystems allow for much more photorealistic demos, current demoparties still have oldschool categories. As well as categories for extremely limited resources.

      Check this winner of the 4K demo compo (4096 bytes max is the length of the demo executable) for the PC at Assembly 2010:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZopz-dvq08

      4096 bytes.

      Arnold once described the demoscene to someone as "the They Might Be Giants of computer programs." And apt description, I'd say.

      Take, for example, the winner of

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      Another good production from Assembly 2010:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgO_tWufjgc&feature=related

  • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

    Another good production from Assembly 2010:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgO_tWufjgc&feature=related

  • JuLieN

    And this is what an Amiga 1200 can achieved today, in 2010 :) Keep in mind that it has no 3D-card, dates back from 1992 and runs at most with a 68060 CPU running at 50MHz :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_2P31K9mRs

    And, as it suits the topic, here's a small article I wrote a few months ago about the demoscene :
    http://www.1001happy.com/2010/04/26/have-you-heard-of-the-demoscene/

  • Kaherka

    Can this play gbs or nsf files or that kind of thing? I'd get it if I could play my collection of gameboy and NES or other video game system music files. But I don't see anything on the modizer site explaining how to do it, so maybe it can't?

    • Anonymous

      You can sideload your NSFs and GBSs from your desktop into Modizer using the built in FTP server. SID support (C64) is the only thing that's seemed wonky on some files or not working quite right to me so far. I've tried NSFs and SPCs and they play perfectly as far as I can tell.

  • Manwe

    Does it supports IT format?
    What sound engine was used? BASS?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Touzimsky/100000352055300 Thomas Touzimsky

    I just died and was reborn! This is exactly what I have been waiting for!

  • jebby

    I already have a modplayer but this one looks much better since it supports some other formats like nsf and spc which I couldn't play before!

  • jebby

    Well performance on a 2nd Generation Ipod Touch isn't great. It works fine but browsing the repositories is slow and some music formats get a bit choppy when you start browsing or when the song starts playing. Hopefully 1.1 fixes some of the issues because it is more flexible than modbox which is what I currently use.

  • FunkyMusic

    the Sid sound quality is a horror - bad play, I'm sorry.

  • yoyofr

    Sid is broken in v1.0. I have fixed it in my current dev build and it should be ok in v1.1 that I hope to have ready in a few days...

  • Spoonman

    I really love this app. I don't normally buy apps, but this I had to have.

    There are only a couple things I would like to see if it's still be updated/optimized.

    1. I wish there was a better way to sort your local files by type:
    Like: Genesis / SNES / GBA / C64 / Amiga / GB / etc....

    2. I wish it showed the song names for SNES songs in the RSN listing. I.E. "Actraiser - Bloodpool.spc" Instead of  the generic "Actr2-07.spc"

    3. Better optimization. The iPod Touch 4 battery drains faster with this app than with a fully 3D rendered game like Assault 6.

    I will still recommend this to anyone who wants an excellent chiptune player though,
    but I will be happier when I see "Update available" and it addresses some of the above suggestions.

    Thanks!