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Author Topic: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!  (Read 1339 times)

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fuzion.mixer01

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Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« on: June 19, 2019, 16:27:03 »

Ok, after giving it some thought, I decided to post this to see how much (and how far) we've come since Grand Daddy. This is an expandable list, so please present your thoughts or opinions on each tracker's classification (1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th). I'd love to hear them, as well as learn more obscure trackers out there throughout history.

___

1st Gen: First of its Kind
This marks the start of the tracker era. Primitive yet simple to work with, it serves the purpose of creating video-game music with its low filesize and respectable list of effects. Along the way, the base format .MOD got extended to 8 channels with 7-bit panning. Other (later) formats include .OKT, .MED and .STM, all of which are usually an extension of .MOD with a twist meant for its native trackers.

1st Gen trackers include:
Ultimate Soundtracker (Grand Daddy)
Protracker
NoiseTracker
Oktalyzer
OctaMED
Soundtracker Pro II
FastTracker
Scream Tracker

___

2nd Gen: Upping the Ante
Trackers evolved into the 2nd Gen, where capabilities are expanded even more. Computers are faster and stronger...its the DOS age! Soundcards are all the rage: SB or GUS? The list of channels, effects and instruments are extended further than ever before. Formats that sprout from this gen are .S3M, .XM and .IT. While .XM expanded on .MOD's effects set, .S3M decided to modify it into its own and .IT followed suit.

2nd Gen trackers include:
FastTracker II
Scream Tracker 3
Impulse Tracker 2
Schism Tracker
CheeseTracker
Soundtracker
MilkyTracker
Protrekkr
MED Soundstudio
X-Tracker

___

3rd Gen: Bridging the Gap
Developers realise that trackers can do more than what Impulse Tracker 2 could. They got inspired mainly by its New Note Actions (NNAs) and low-pass filter capability, to make their trackers VST-compatible! Not only that, the capabilities of the previous formats are also expanded further. Formats that are born from this gen include .MPTM, .SKM and .MT2. .MPTM follows behind .IT, while .SKM and .MT2 follow behind .XM.

3rd Gen trackers include:
OpenMPT
Sk@leTracker
BeRoTracker
MadTracker 2
MIDITracker

However, another group decided that keeping samples as its main source for instruments is not the way to go, and went another route: modular synthesis! By focusing on building instruments via "modules", they open up a new door for the tracking community to explore.

3rd Gen Modular trackers include:
Jeskola Buzz
Buzé
BuzzTrax
Psycle

___

4th Gen: Bringing it to Commercialisation
This is the peak for trackers currently. Having GUI influences from DAWs, as well as the focus to bring tracking to a new paradigm, they spearhead the 4th Gen. Although focus on full compatibility with the previous formats are dropped, this proves to be more of a pro than a con as they are not restricted to just traditional concepts such as Ticks and Samples.

4th Gen trackers include:
Renoise
Radium

4th Gen Modular trackers includes:
Sunvox

___
« Last Edit: June 20, 2019, 15:21:58 by fuzion.mixer01 »
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Saga Musix

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Re: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2019, 19:20:19 »

Generally I am not aware of anyone using that 4th generation as a distinctive point, in particular since commercial trackers have been a thing way before that. In fact, OctaMED can probably be heard on countless of records because it was a relatively professional tool for its time. In particular, speaking from the generational aspect, Renoise came to life around the same time as most 3rd gen trackers, so typically it's sorted into that niche. There already were trackers that tried to introduce new concepts that were inherently incompatible with previous trackers before that (only allowing basic import like Renoise does), so the only difference in my eyes is that Renoise was one of the few trackers being actually successful at doing so.
From that perspective, there is also an interesting 2nd gen tracker not mentioned here - X-Tracker. It introduced a lot of great concepts but wasn't all that successful despite of that. If it had instrument envelopes, it could have been an XM killer, I guess.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2019, 19:24:35 by Saga Musix »
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fuzion.mixer01

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Re: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2019, 15:20:31 »

4th Gen is reserved mainly for trackers that are still in active development. By commercialisation, I don't mean in the sense that you have to pay to get it (if that was the case, MIDITracker would've be classified as 4th Gen). I mean in the sense that it presents itself as a contemporary product, meaning graphically-pleasing, straightforward and responsive.

There are definitely "transitional" trackers (i.e Renoise being 3rd at first, moved to 4th), which I intend to include, as well as the version numbers and years of development. OctaMED (at least the later versions i.e MED Soundstudio) could be classified as 2nd Gen, but I don't see it capable of being 3rd Gen. Same goes for X-Tracker.
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Nikku4211

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Re: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2019, 04:23:09 »

I think the line between Gen 1 and Gen 2 is much more blurry than you think.


Some programs you call 'Gen 1' like Fast Tracker 1 and Scream Tracker are DOS programs, even though you consider Gen 2 to be the 'DOS-era'.
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fuzion.mixer01

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Re: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2019, 05:14:51 »

The line is of course blurry between the Gens, however it also takes into account:

- Release date (e.g 3rd Gen started circa 1998)
- Development period (e.g OpenMPT being developed since 2006)
- Capability (e.g VST-compatible)
- Commercialisation (e.g Renoise incorporating DAW features and interface)
- Backwards "compatibility" (e.g retaining accurate playback of .IT files)
- Operating Systems (e.g Amiga)
- Goals of the tracker (e.g MilkyTracker staying as 2nd Gen)

FT1 and ST are DOS programs sure, but I don't see anything apart from the OS it ran on that is particularly groundbreaking about them. In my view, the change is much more apparent later when they've matured into FT2 and ST3 respectively.

As it is now, they're already "transitional" trackers, just different versions of the same programs. The description of each gen is there to provide context to the period it was in, not the trackers specifically.
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Re: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2019, 21:01:00 »

Your categorisation of 4th gen trackers seems to be extremely tied to the standpoint of today's perspective; many of the trackers mentioned here were graphically pleasing, straightforward and reponsive for the time they were released in. And while Renoise was getting updates for years (and still occasionally is), I'm not quite sure where it made the jump from 3rd gen to 4th gen because on the surface it really didn't change all that much (although innovative features were added way after its intial release, but that is the case with any product that is developed for long enough).

I think the well-understood (as in, used outside of this thread) borders between tracker generations are:
2nd gen trackers added features that were previously lacking in all Soundtracker clones, typically instruments (with envelopes) are considered to be the milestone, but having multiple effect columns (as seen in ST3) can also be considered a major step forward.
3rd gen generally came into existence on Windows and adds features made possible by the increased processing power: Plugins and DSPs. The major distinction compared to earlier trackers with DSPs is that the DSPs and plugins became an integral part of the production process, rather than just being a nifty -addon. One could finally add as many effect instances as desired (or as the CPU allows), rather than e.g. having just one global echo effect that works identically for all instruments.

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- Development period (e.g OpenMPT being developed since 2006)
Minor nitpick, OpenMPT has been in development since the initial source release of ModPlug Tracker in January 2004. ;)
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Re: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2020, 15:46:44 »

Not to necro, but as this thread was about a complete list of trackers, I note that it's missing one that I used to love, but can never find mention of - Digitrakker, for DOS. IT had envelopes, if I recall, and supported reading pretty much any format I could find at the time (early to mid 90s), but didn't do anything with VSTs or modular synthesis - which I think would have placed it in Gen2?
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Re: Master List of Trackers - CATEGORISED!
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2020, 16:02:24 »

Digitrakker is definitely a 2nd-generation tracker, yeah. Quite complex in some regards compared to XM, e.g. having more than one envelope per instrument if I recall correctly.
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