(Demo showing off the capabilities of the Super MIDI Pak)
RetroRGB recently had the opportunity to do a follow up interview with Rian Hunter (cejetvole) the creator of the Super MIDI Pak. A device that allows musicians and enthusiast of the Super Famicom/Nintendo to use their console as a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) synth. In other words the console becomes an instrument outputting sounds or music the user inputs, and within the last month or so (as of the writing of this article). Units have been moving out to those who preordered the device.
However future device production was not certain after the initial preorders were fulfilled. Interest had yet to be fully gaged, but cejetvole made an announcement via twitter which changed all that. Stating that, “we will officially be producing a second batch”:
All Super MIDI Pak pre-orders have finally been shipped! 🥂 That was intense. Thank you again to everyone who pre-ordered and hope you enjoy 🙂 More available later this year XD https://t.co/HRtlGdNfoF— Rian Hunter (@cejetvole) July 15, 2022
With all this news and excitement for such a unique product. It begged for a follow on interview to check on the project and see how the journey has been.
Here are the questions:
RetroRGB: With Super MIDI Pak releasing and getting out to pre-orders. You must feel some sort of relief. How did you feel about the release?
cejetvole: Yes the relief is enormous. We had originally planned to ship in January or early February but there were numerous delays with our cartridge manufacturer who was in Taiwan. Some were simply timing related (lunar new year), others related to COVID, some software related (incompatibilities between our file formats), and some were design related. So the process dragged on for a while with unpredictable delay after delay causing increasing stress. The final result ended up great so in the end it was worth it.
Over the course of manufacturing, these sorts of unpredictable delays are not out of the ordinary. I just was not 100% sure what to expect. Going forward we probably won’t do the pre-order process again and instead commit to an initial quantity before taking orders. Keeping customers waiting for an indefinite amount of time isn’t great for everyone involved and generally the customer’s expectations should be of the utmost importance when delivering a product.
RetroRGB: How has the feedback been?
cejetvole: The feedback has been exclusively positive I think. Particularly there has been a lot of gratitude from the community around a device like this finally existing. For many, including myself, it’s sort of a dream come true to plug a keyboard into the SNES and finally try your hand at making music with similar constraints as the great composers of the 16-bit era. Whenever the existence of the device gets shared broadly online, there’s always that one person who just learned about it who has been wishing that something like this existed since they were kids. That has driven the decision to produce another batch.
An awesome aspect of the feedback has been the plethora of early demos from all over the world that people have shared on Twitter, I can’t stress that enough. When you create a creative tool like this you really don’t know what is going to come of it. It’s a highly technical process and my mind has been in the realm of behaviors, standards, code, circuits, costs, manufacturing, logistics, etc. When you see people actually using the thing to create real music or play pre-existing music, it’s a bit surreal. People have made music with it that I could never have imagined would come from the code I was writing or even the SNES itself.
RetroRGB: You have also setup a Discord server. Have you been pleased with the growing community around it?
cejetvole: Yes I have been. At first I created a Google group because I like the archival aspects of an email list. Immediately afterward, someone on the email list suggested I make a Discord. I use Discord heavily myself so it seemed like a good idea. It turned out to be a great idea and it’s nice there’s a place for the community to come to. I’ve since closed the google group.
I actually do like the community aspect a lot. A lot of the people I’ve been meeting are people who have the same strong niche interest in SNES music that I do, which is something I’ve felt alone in for a very long time. Many in the Discord could probably relate. I also like that I have an opportunity to support people who are creating music in this space now that I can actually know them.
RetroRGB: You mentioned in a recent tweet update that there will be a second run. Is there anything you have learned that you would like to apply to future releases of the product?
cejetvole: So far there hasn’t been any feedback for changes to the core product. A lot of the feedback is around making the web application more usable and improving the documentation. This is actually the best possible scenario for me. The only thing we’ll do with this second run is make sure they’re all produced first before opening up orders as I mentioned earlier.
RetroRGB: Do you have any plans after Super MIDI Pak? Maybe attempting a similar product for a different console?
cejetvole: I have ideas for another product, still secret at the moment but it will be in the SNES / retro space. I’ve considered a similar product as Super MIDI Pak for the C64 since the SID chip is so iconic and the Genesis as well but there already seems to be similar solutions in those realms so no immediately plans in that space. For the time being we’ll continue to support and improve Super MIDI Pak, especially the SPC export functionality.
RetroRGB: Is there anything else you would like to add or let people know about you and your products?
cejetvole: Would just add that I am grateful to everyone who has supported the project, whether it was making a pre-order, making a video about it, writing an article, sharing the link, a retweet, talking about it on your podcast, anything. It’s really hard to spread the word for a small niche project like this, especially when it’s a pre-order from an unknown person. I’ve always understood that it’s a risk for people to share something like this, so the help has been extremely appreciated. Getting the word out was an entirely community-driven process and the community really was there for me when I needed them. Also just want to say an explicit thanks to RetroRGB and you Vanessa for your help as well.
In terms of the kind of products we make, we hope to continue to make high-quality products that fill gaps in previous neglected areas in the retro space.
RetroRGB: Best place(s) to contact you if they have questions about your product?
cejetvole: Yes my twitter @cejetvole or discord is best: https://discord.gg/uPypZqB4EA