Fluid, the Playstation 1 music “game”

Written Jan 2024

Back in the day I had trouble sourcing digital instruments, well, any instruments at all. Finding out that my computer could make music was very useful. At that time I had an Amiga computer which had a rather basic sound setup. You could make music with the Amiga and with a few tricks you could start to make it sound half decent, but moving away from the “computer music” sound was quite hard, you know, the terrible game music that the Gameboy etc made. One band called “Urban Shakedown” back in the rave days had a chart hit, connected two Amigas together to get a reasonable quality. So, I digress, me with my cheap setup, discovered that my Playstation 1, entirely a games machine at that point, actually had quite a good on-board sound chip. I discovered this with a early release of a “game” called Fluid (1998). Ok, it wasn’t a game really.

Enter the dolphin. Fluid started off dumping you in the sea as a dolphin. Not a good start. So you swim about in a murky undersea environment. My memory of this is murky too but I have read after the fact that you collected sound samples down there, I don’t remember doing that. I do remember that you then found the main portal to the music sequencer. Then you are no longer a dolphin but in a music sequencer. This was a pretty clever sequencer, in that, all the music samples are in time. You could mess with the BPM (beats per minute) and effects, like reverb. It was way more clever than it is given credit for. Knowing a bit about music and sequencing, I was aware it was a handy tool. I’ve seen other articles about it and those articles dismiss the software as a “not game” and a “not sequencer”. If the makers had dispensed with the dolphin section they’d not had this criticism.

The proof is in the output, and I made a good few music tracks with Fluid. Another music package came out a year later for PS1 called Music 2000. On the face of it this was a “real” sequencer. You made a music track by dropping blocks into a grid, the blocks being music samples. There was a version of this on the PC, in-fact there were several “dropping blocks to make music” type softwares on the PC, but they were as flawed at Music 2000. I made about 5 tracks with Music 2000 and about 20 with Fluid. As a note, I had the “blocks dropped on a grid” music packages on the PC too, but they were as limited as Music 2000. Fluid was a very clever idea and it is a shame a super sequencer could not have been made on the same basis.

Real musician packages on the PC, Ableton Live, Cubase, FL Studio (FL Studio has a real old fashioned feel like Music 2000 or OctaMED on the Amiga) do enable you to make real music but in the case of the first two, you need a massive bank of music samples and a massive amount of knowledge… and… a lot of time on your hands. However, the real packages have unlimited potential, whereas, Fluid and Music 2000 etc really don’t, but of early, entry level music software, Fluid really was pretty amazing. At a time when computer music was still very basic, Fluid was pretty useful for entry level music making.