you remember what it was like to walk into an arcade? No, I mean
a real arcade straight out of the 80's? The games, the competition,
the friends, seemingly endless supplies of quarters being fed into machines
at near light speed, and of course the sounds...
the advent of MAMET and the pursuit of loyal hobbyists one can easily
replicate a cabinet or two or maybe even half a dozen, but the experience
just isn't the same. Sure we can add art, lights, beverages, and
even the quarters if we really wanted to. We can invite over our
friends for some competition, but still something's missing...
Our game rooms just don't seem to have the proper and complete arcade
atmosphere until... Now!
had a chance to visit with and interview Andy Hofle, the man behind
the Arcade Ambiance project.
of us that are not aware of Arcade Ambiance, can you tell us about it?
Andy: Arcade Ambiance is an attempt to reproduce the loud, chaotic
background white noise one would hear in a typical arcade back when
arcades were popular. When I was younger, it was quite an adrenaline
rush walking into a dark, crowded arcade at the mall with a quarter
or two and being overwhelmed by the symphony of electronic beeps, explosions,
and music. It is intended to be used as background noise for those who
have arcade cabinets at home, either as CD audio, or as a background
mp3 for emulator front ends.
How did you get started with this project?
The first time I had the idea of creating a simulated arcade sound was
when I purchased the Digital Eclipse Williams emulator pack CD, which
contained a few classic Williams arcade games. When you started up the
CD, it brought you to a little CGI arcade and once you 'opened' the
door, it played a short sound loop of 4 or 5 simulated arcade sounds
going together (the emulated games on the CD). It was like being taken
back in time hearing that sound. I thought it would be great to make
it longer and with more games. That was way back in 1996 I think. The
"arcades" of the day were pretty lame in comparison, relatively quiet
places with few people and not much of the bustle that I remembered.
Anyway, I never really got around to working on it until I was laid
off from my job in 2002 and had a few months with nothing to do. I spent
a lot of time at home that summer working on little projects I'd been
putting off, and finally started working on the Arcade Ambience sounds.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a 35 year old software engineer, married with two kids. I've been
into arcade games since I was a little kid. Discovered MAME in 1998
or so and have been addicted to classic gaming emulation ever since.
How much work went into each of the Arcade Ambiance tracks?
Andy: Hmmm, it's difficult to remember exactly how many hours
I spent on it, but it was probably in the neighborhood of 15-30 hours
or so each. Gathering the samples took some time, but I'd say the vast
majority of time was spent in the sequencer trying to get everything
to sound right. It's one of those tasks that you never quite feel perfect
about and you are constantly tinkering with this and adjusting that.
You finally have to just tell yourself you're done.
Where do you obtain the sounds you used in each track?
Andy: Most of the game sounds were recorded while playing MAME.
I used a program to record the WAV output of the computer, and ran through
the game normally. Some game samples were actually taken from real machines
at a local authentic arcade (Asteroids for example, since the samples
didn't sound right at the time in MAME). I also used 4 samples of coin
changers and general background noise (people talking, etc.) from the
local arcade. In the 1986 track I added a few other sounds like a loud
carnival-like bell from a horse racing game they have there. All these
sounds were mixed together randomly using a sequencer program.
Which arcade track is your favorite?
I would have to say 1983. There are some annoyances in the 1981 track
(the Space Invaders shot sound is too loud), and the 1986 is good, but
I think I may have added a few too many sounds (there's too much going
on at times). 1983 I think was a perfect balance, although I regret
not adding a Dragon's Lair sample! (I did not find out about the Daphne
emulator until later.)
Which track did you find the most difficult to mix?
Andy: Definitely the first 1981 track, simply because I didn't
really know what I was doing! Panning the games left and right was easy
enough, but getting them at the right volume was very difficult. In
addition, I also had to run some of the sounds through filters like
high-pass to minimize the treble and give it a more distant, realistic
sound. Finally, I had to "randomly" space out the games so there weren't
any quiet spots, but at the same time, I had to make sure there weren't
places with too much going on.
Were there games that were more difficult to add to the mix than
Andy: I didn't have much luck with games like Scramble that have
a lot of high pitched explosions or sound effects. They were either
too loud, or when I used the filter on them, you couldn't hear them.
It was hard to find a happy medium.
Do you accept monetary donations, and how can one go about donating?
I've tried to offer these retro sounds for free in the same spirit as
the developers of these emulators. I mostly just enjoy getting email
from people who have enjoyed the tracks.
Are there plans to release other Arcade Ambiance tracks in the future?
Andy: I have been considering a 1990 or 1991 track (my college
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about
Andy: You can learn more and download the sounds at
I hope everyone enjoys them!
Thank you for allowing us to interview you!
Andy: My pleasure!
can download all three tracks from the Arcade
Ambiance web site
or you can purchase the CD versions from Good
Deal Games. Either way be prepared to take a step back in
time and into your favorite arcade!
nothing better than the sound of chomping. . . in STEREO! Wocka!