I. Market History
In 1988, DOS games were finally beginning to support cards and devices that would allow games to expand their musical abilities beyond the PC Speaker and PCjr./Tandy 3-Voice sound. King's Quest IV, released in September, 1988, was the first DOS game to support sound cards and midi interfaces. It supported the Adlib Music Synthesizer Card, the Roland MT-32 Multi-timbral MIDI Sound Module (with a Roland MPU-401 midi interface) and the IBM Music Feature, all of which had been released the previous year.
While the Adlib would soon become supported by all developers, and the MT-32 would dominate the high end of PC gaming for several years, IBM's card was seen as overpriced and lacking in features. It was supported in games only by Sierra, and then as something of an afterthought. Could a third card succeed? Creative Technologies of Singapore thought it could.
In late 1987 or early 1988, Creative Labs, Inc. released the Creative Music System (CMS or C/MS as it was abbreviated) in the United States (it had previously been released in Malaysia and Singapore). It consisted of a half-length 8-bit ISA card (called the "Creative Music Card") and software to compose music on the card. The software came on five 5.25" Double Density 360KB disks (Master Disk, Intelligent Organ, Sound Disk 1, Sound Disk 2, Utilities Disk). It included the Intelligent Organ, which used text mode ASCII graphics to show piano keys, demos, lots and lots of songs, many of which composed by the company's founder, W.H. Sim. It also includes a TSR called CMSDRV.COM, which some of the programs use to communicate with the card.
The Creative Music System had no game support in the beginning, and without it, any consumer based audio PC device would be considered little more than a toy. Creative had a card it could not sell, which is the reason why the Creative Music System box and package is incredibly rare today. Creative teamed up with Radio Shack to sell a repacked version of the card in its stores under the name Game Blaster. The official name of the actual card in this package is the Game Blaster Music Board. Note that whether the card is in a box with the label "Creative Music System" or "Game Blaster", the card is functionally identical. The software came on one 5.25" or 3.5" Double Density disk (both included), with only the Intelligent Organ, a demo, a test card utility, CMSDRV.COM and drivers for Sierra's games. The disks that came with the Creative Music System were available separately along with other Creative Labs programs for the card.
Like Ad Lib, Creative reached out to game developers, and in the Game Blaster box it included a full copy of Sierra's Silpheed and drivers for Sierra's SCI games released at the time. Hereafter, I use the label "CMS" to refer to the boards and software support for them. I believe the card was also referred to as the Avenger Music Card in some countries.
While the Game Blaster was more successful than the Creative Music System, it was still unable to challenge the Adlib's increasing dominance over PC audio. Creative's card had one feature the Adlib lacked however, and that was stereo output. In the beginning, it was the poor man's stereo music card, because only high end solutions like the Roland MT-32 supported stereo until the days of the SB Pro. Unfortunately, its musical capabilities were not inspiring to game programmers despite its marketing as a music card. Programmers and consumers viewed square wave synthesis was seen as technically inferior to the FM synthesis of the Adlib. The Adlib was a simple card and easy to clone or implement. Creative decided to combine the CMS functionality with the Adlib functionality and add a MIDI interface, a joystick adapter and digital audio input and output functions to create a "Killer Card." This card was marketed as the Sound Blaster at the end of 1989.
It soon became apparent that the CMS functionality (which enabled Creative to advertise the card as a "stereo" solution) was unimportant to buyers, so Creative left out the chips in the 1.5 and 2.0 versions of the Sound Blaster. The chips could be added in as an upgrade from Creative, or in the 1.5's case, by buying the right chips from anyone who had two of them. Relatively few people bothered when the Adlib provided all the functionality that PC games needed. In mid-1991, Creative released the Sound Blaster Pro and eliminated support for CMS on the board and in their products.
II. Technical Qualities
The card has six jumpers to set the I/O address to 210, 220 (default), 230, 240, 250 or 260. It takes up the consecutive sixteen ($F) addresses from and including the I/O starting address set by the jumper. It uses no IRQs and no DMAs. It uses standard TTL Logic and a custom Creative Technology CT-1302 Programmable Logic Array for interfacing. The music is exclusively made by two Phillips SAA-1099 chips, one for the left channel, one for the right channel. SAA-1099s from Creative have CMS-301 stickers on these chips.
The left SAA-1099 is at I/O 2x0 & 2x1 and the right SAA-1099 is at I/O 2x2 & 2x3. The subsequent twelve I/O addresses are used by the CT-1302. For a long time, the function of this chip was a mystery, but now we know what it can do. One problem which Creative used this chip to solve was that of detection. While the game publisher could require a user to tell a program the hardware he had in his system, it would be difficult for a less savvy user to know or remember what he had or where in the I/O space it was. Creative decided to make it easy for the consumer and the game programmers by allowing the card to be detected by software.
In order for a card to be detectable in software in a PC, it has to give a reliable, non-random response to a read from the processor, the more distinctive the better. The SAA-1099s cannot be read, only written, so there was no reliable way to detect these chips in software. Here is where the CT-1302 comes in. For the remaining addresses, the card will store or latch an 8-bit value written to it at addresses 2x6 or 2x7, which is then read back by a program from address 2xA or 2xB. Port 2x4 always contains value 7F, giving this card an even more unique detection scheme. If the value read at 2xA or 2xB is the same as the value written at 2x6 or 2x7 and the unique value at 2x4 is 7F, then the card is detected. There must be two different I/O addresses involved in the reading/writing scheme, otherwise this scheme does not work reliably.
There is a volume wheel to control the amplified output to the RCA jacks and headphone minijack. They can drive speakers up to 8ohms. There are cards marked with CT-1300A and CT-1300B part numbers.
Each Phillips SAA-1099 chip supported six channels of sound using square waves with 12-bit frequency control and 4-bit amplitude control. Up to two of the six channels could be used for white noise generation or envelope generation with 8 preset envelopes. The chip can output in stereo through dual amplitude controls. Compare the TI SN76496 and its derivatives found in the IBM PCjr. and Tandy 1000 computers with three channels of square waves with 11-bit frequency control, 4-bit amplitude control, a separate noise generator and mono output. The SAA-1099 is almost a stereo clone of two AY-3-8910s, where each chip supports three square wave channels with a 12-bit frequency control, 4-bit amplitude control, a noise generator and a envelope generator.
In Creative's products, the SAA-1099s are clocked at 7.159MHz, which is exactly half of the OSC 14.318MHz signal. It its 1990 C/MS Programming Information manual, Creative Labs copies much of the SAA-1099 datasheet but fails to make any mention of the envelope generator functions or registers and also leaves out the most important noise selection (in which it uses the programmable frequency of a tone generators), giving the impression that the noise generator is only capable of three pre-selected frequencies. The manual gives the impression that the Game Blaster is less capable than it actually is, and doubtless may have contributed to the relative lack of use of the noise capabilities in DOS games. I am not aware of any game that used the envelope function. The chips Creative Labs used appear to be generic SAA-1099s (after you peel the CMS-301 sticker off them), so all the functions described in the SAA-1099 datasheet should be available.
The Sound Blaster 1.5 is the same card as the Sound Blaster 1.0 but it has two empty sockets for SAA-1099 chips. Once these are installed, and they can be obtained from IC suppliers, then CMS becomes available. No jumpers or other fiddling is required. With the 2.0, not only do the ICs need to be inserted, but a programmed PAL (write once) or GAL (rewritable) will need to be inserted into the third socket. Chuck(G) of the Vintage Computer Forums develpoed a method to deduce logic tables for PALs and used his method to determine the logic table for the PAL Creative used and programmed. The upgrade GALs programmed with the derived logic will work on all 2.0s except those with the CT1336A chip. On those boards, the upgrade does not work at all, even with a true Creative Labs PAL. Once the three chips are installed, the CMSOFF jumper needs to be removed.
III. CMS Games & Software
Through various sources, including MobyGames and VOGONS forums, I have identified 83 unique DOS games that support CMS. In the chart below, I give the release year as reported by MobyGames, but I highly doubt, for example, that the DOS ports of Airball and Times of Lore were released in 1987 or 1988 respectively, or that patches were available for Sierra's 1988 games until 1989. (I have been corrected as to Times of Lore). Games that supported CMS were really available from late 1988 to 1992.
Unfortunately, due to the self-detection mechanisms described above, not all games work with a Sound Blaster with CMS. However, I have been able to make 75 of those 83 games work with a Sound Blaster with CMS. Many games, including all games from Sierra, Activision and LucasArts games, do not try to detect CMS and require the user to select CMS in an install program or with a command line argument to make the game work with CMS. Some games will play Adlib or Roland MT-32 music and sound if they detect one in the system even if they detect a CMS. In those cases, you need to manually select CMS by a command line argument.
This would not be a huge problem except that CMS cards are extremely rare. One to two come up on ebay in a year. Thus if someone wants to hear CMS on real hardware and not worry about compatibility or finding the right command line switches to get CMS working, they need a real CMS. Sound Blasters, the 1.5 and 2.0 are not as rare, and can be upgraded with Phillips SAA-1099 chips obtained from an IC supplier and a programmed GAL (with the caveat given above).
In many, many cases, CMS music in games will sound pretty awful next to the Adlib or the Roland MT-32, and sometimes even the Tandy 3-voice chip sounds better. Elvira and Conan are especially awful, and Sierra's support for games like Laura Bow 2 is pretty pathetic. However, Times of Lore uses it well, and Airball is unique in that it supports CMS and Innovation SSI-2001 (better than CMS) but not Adlib or Roland.
Some games and most of Creative's CMS software use CMSDRV.COM to access the Game Blaster and require it to be run as a TSR prior to the game or software being run. The driver provides basic interface services to the game through a software interrupt. CMSDRV.COM v3.10, used before the Sound Blaster, will refuse to load unless it successfully detects a true CMS or Game Blaster card. So will the Intelligent Organ executables found with true CMS boards. However, Creative included versions of these programs that will run with a Sound Blaster in its original 1.0 driver disks. The version of CMSDRV.COM that comes on the Sound Blaster 1.0 disks is v3.20B. If a game requires you to use CMSDRV.COM and its CMSDRV.COM fails to load because you have a Sound Blaster, just copy over the later version.
Some games will automatically detect a Sound Blaster, and if so, will allow CMS music to work. Sound Blaster detection is usually done by sending a report DSP version command to the card and reading back a value that would seem to make sense (1.5, 2.0 or 2.01). Thus some Accolade games will default to CMS music because it detects a Sound Blaster and the user did not load the SOUND.COM TSR from an Adlib disk or SBFMDRV.COM from a Sound Blaster 1.5 or above disk. These TSRs act exactly like the CMS TSR, and if a game advertises Adlib support but you cannot hear the sound in the game, try running one of these beforehand.
Silpheed (v1.0) had already been released without support for CMS, so the version (v2.3) in the Game Blaster box included the full game (on 5.25" and 3.5" disks) with support added for the CMS, volume control (which does not work with CMS) and text for Xacalite's speech (apparently his speech did not function correctly, so it was impossible to understand everything he said). Sierra did not leave out any of the other sound card drivers in this version and even added a driver for a Yamaha FB-01 MIDI module (connected to a Roland MPU-401 MIDI interface). Sierra would later release v2.4 in the Silpheed box and v3.0 with the PS/1 Audio/Game Card.
Drivers were included on the Game Blaster disk for King's Quest IV, Leisure Suit Larry II, Police Quest II and Space Quest III. For the later versions of King's Quest IV and Leisure Suit Larry II and all versions of Police Quest II and Space Quest III, there are two files. The first, CMS.DRV, is common to all games. The second, PATCH.101, is unique to each game. For the older versions of King's Quest IV and Leisure Suit Larry II (SCI interpreter versions 1.000.111 and 1.000.011 or earlier, respectively), there was a unique CMS.DRV for each game combining the two files identified in the previous sentence. There was a program called SG-INST.EXE which allowed you to change the I/O address of the driver. This should work with all Sierra SCI0 engine CMS drivers.
Finally, there are several instances where claimed support for CMS does not seem to really exist. In the list, I have identified games where I could not find any indication that CMS support was actually included in the game or that the support was broken and not fixable. Even the box will sometimes give false advertising. However, if anyone is actually able to get CMS working in these games, let me know.
In the table, Y = Yes, N = No, P = Patch Required. Many games will not recognize CMS at an I/O port other than 220-22F.
|Game||Release||Publisher||CMS/Game Blaster Only||I/O Port Select||Notes|
|Altered Destiny||1990||Accolade, Inc.||Y||N|
|Arkanoid II: Revenge of Doh||1989||Taito Corporation||Y||N||"Special Version", not present on other versions|
|Bad Blood||1990||ORIGIN Systems, Inc.||N||Y|
|Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess||1990||Interplay Productions, Inc.||N||Y|
|BattleTech: The Crescent Hawks' Revenge||1990||Infocom, Inc.||N||N|
|Breach 2||1990||Impressions Games, Mindcraft Software, Inc.||N||N|
|Bubble Bobble||1989||Taito Software Inc.||Y||N|
|Budokan: The Martial Spirit||1989||Electronic Arts, Inc.||N||N|
|Castle of Dr. Brain||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Champions of Krynn||1990||Strategic Simulations, Inc.||N||N|
|Chuck Yeager's Air Combat||1991||Electronic Arts, Inc.||N||N|
|Codename: Iceman||1989||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Colonel's Bequest, The||1989||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Conan: The Cimmerian||1991||Virgin Games, Inc.||N||N|
|Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Day of the Viper||1989||Accolade, Inc.||N||N|
|Death Knights of Krynn||1991||Strategic Simulations, Inc.||Y||N|
|Don't Go Alone||1989||Accolade, Inc.||N||N|
|EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|F-14 Tomcat||1990||Activision, Inc.||N||Y|
|Fire Hawk : Thexder – The Second Contact||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||N|
|Harpoon||1989||Three-Sixty Pacific, Inc.||N||N|
|Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero / Quest for Glory I||1989||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 1||1989||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 2||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 3||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure||1989||Lucasfilm Games LLC||N||N||EGA Version 1.4 for Support, All VGA Versions have Support|
|J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I||1990||Interplay Productions, Inc.||N||Y|
|Jack Nicklaus' Unlimited Golf & Course Design||1990||Accolade, Inc.||N||N|
|Joe Montana Football||1990||SEGA of America, Inc.||N||N|
|Jones in the Fast Lane||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Keef the Thief: A Boy and His Lockpick||1989||Electronic Arts, Inc.||N||N|
|King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella||1988||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P||Patches Required, Different for Old or New Version|
|King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||N|
|Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs||1989||Electronic Arts, Inc.||N||N|
|Leisure Suit Larry 1 : In the Land of the Lounge Lizards||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals||1989||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)||1988||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P||Patches Required, Different for Old or New Version|
|Les Manley in: Search for the King||1990||Accolade, Inc.||N||N|
|Loom||1990||Lucasfilm Games LLC||N||N|
|Miami Vice||1989||Capstone Software||N||Y||Replace included CMSDRV.COM with CMSDRV.COM from Sound Blaster 1.0 Install Disk|
|Mixed-Up Fairy Tales||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Mixed-Up Mother Goose (16-Color High Res)||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P|
|Mixed-Up Mother Goose (256-Color Floppy)||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Night Shift||1990||Lucasfilm Games LLC||N||N|
|Oil's Well||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||N|
|Operation Wolf||1989||Taito America Corporation||N||N||Fails to Detect but Works Anyway|
|Paku Paku||2011||Paladin Systems North||N||Y|
|PGA Tour Golf||1990||Electronic Arts, Inc.||N||N||Run SOUND.COM for Adlib Music|
|Police Quest II: The Vengeance||1988||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P||Patch Required|
|Police Quest III: The Kindred||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel||1992||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Power Drift||1990||Activision Publishing, Inc.||N||N|
|Prince of Persia||1990||Brøderbund Software, Inc.||N||N||v1.0 Only, Must remove Adlib chip from Sound Blaster to get C/MS Music, buggy unless patch, see comments below|
|Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero (256-Color)||1992||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||N|
|Rambo III||1989||Taito America Corporation||Y||N|
|Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye||1990||Activision, Inc.||N||Y|
|Silpheed||1988||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y||v2.2 and above|
|Sorcerian: Master Scenario||1990||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||N|
|Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||N|
|Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon||1989||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||P||Patch Required|
|Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers||1991||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||N|
|Spirit of Excalibur||1990||Virgin Games, Inc.||N||N|
|Spot||1990||Virgin Mastertronic Ltd.||N||N|
|Star Control||1990||Accolade, Inc.||N||Y||Game will try all six I/O ports to detect Game Blaster, Must Remove Adlib chip to get Game Blaster music to work, Game will automatically enforce MT-32, Adlib, Game Blaster, Tandy and PC Speaker in that order|
|Strike Aces||1990||Accolade, Inc.||N||N|
|SU-25 Stormovik||1990||Electronic Arts, Inc.||N||N|
|Test Drive III: The Passion||1990||Accolade, Inc.||N||N|
|The Dagger of Amon Ra||1992||Sierra On-Line, Inc.||N||Y|
|The Game of Harmony||1990||Accolade, Inc.||N||N|
|The Secret of Monkey Island||1990||Lucasfilm Games LLC||N||N|
|Times of Lore||1988||ORIGIN Systems, Inc.||N||Y|
|Ultima VI: The False Prophet||1990||ORIGIN Systems, Inc.||N||Y|
|Windwalker||1989||ORIGIN Systems, Inc.||N||N|
|WolfPack||1990||Brøderbund Software, Inc.||N||N||Fails to Detect but Works Anyway|
|Games without CMS Support|
|Xenocide||1990||Micro Revelations, Inc.||Box claims support, but not fully implemented in software|
|Secret of the Silver Blades||1990||Strategic Simulations, Inc.||Box claims support, card will make some horrible noises in game, but there is no entry at the music selection screen. Adlib overrides everything for music|
|Jordan vs Bird: One on One||1988||Electronic Arts, Inc.||Some Boxes have the System Requirements Label from Lakers v. Celtics, Game does not support Adlib, C/MS or Roland MT-32|
|Sargon 5: World Class Chess||1991||Activision, Inc.||No switches for Game Blaster in Executable|
|Trump Castle II||1991||Capstone Software||Possibly Broken|
|Monte Carlo Baccarat||1991||Capstone Software||Possibly Broken|
|Hoverforce||1990||Accolade, Inc.||Seems to Support Adlib/MT-32 Only|
|Stratego||1990||Accolade, Inc.||Seems to Support Adlib/MT-32 Only|
|Blue Max: Aces of the Great War||1990||Three-Sixty Pacific, Inc.||Box claims support, but seems to support Adlib only|
|Das Boot: German U-Boat Simulation||1990||Three-Sixty Pacific, Inc.||Box claims support, but seems to support Adlib only|