Open Cubic Player and Mods

Oh dear. This will be so niche that nobody is going to read. Anyway.

Long before MP3 files were a thing, the world had mod files. It had s3m, xm, and it music files. There was a thriving scene of musicians creating music for the love of it. Files were distributed on bulletin boards, by swapping disks and in the early internet of the mid to late nineties, by downloading from Hornet or

Before I was really online I frequented BBSes in Ireland and every Sunday morning I’d download the latest week’s worth of new scene music from a BBS in Northern Ireland. Luckily, the telephone system here was loosening up, and we had pretty cheap rates at the weekend and in the evenings. There was a huge amount of rubbish there but some classics too, all sadly rotting away on some long forgotten hard drive.

The days of using a modem meant a slow connection to the world. Thankfully, the files weren’t huge. Unlike MP3 files, mod files were instructions on using embedded samples to play the music. The samples were short 8 or 16 bit sounds that were used over and over to make the music. That resulted in tiny files. For example, the title music to Cannon Fodder, a piece of music that is over 2 minutes long, is only 245Kb, and that was a fairly large file for the time.

Want a taste of amazing mods without doing any work? Many years ago I purchased a compilation CD called Freedom with some remarkable tracks. Here are a few songs from it. YouTube really doesn’t do them justice, however. You can grab MP3 rips of the CD from or look for the songs on The Mod Archive.

How do you play mod files today? The simplest way is by using VLC player. That player natively supports several mod formats. Install it and double-click your mod files to load them. Another option is Open Cubic Player. You’ll find the original DOS version on that site, but a separate Unix port is now maintained on this GitHub repository. Opinion on how good a player it was is divided in the community, but I loved it.

It’s a command line application you can install on macOS with brew install ocp or grab the Linux version from the GitHub repository. A DOS version is available from their homepage, which might let you run it on Windows. I created a macOS application using Automator. I had it “run shell script” and entered the following to change the directory to where my MOD files are stored and then launch the player:
cd ~/retro/MODS/ && /usr/local/bin/ocp

Save that as an application and copy into Applications. I couldn’t get it to load mod files by associating them in Finder but it’s possible to use the file navigator built into the player.

If you were active in the PC demoscene in the 90s, you’ll probably remember this player, and I think you’ll enjoy revisiting some of your old mod favourites. You can download mod files from a few sites listed on the Open Cubic Player GitHub page, but the best place to look is The Mod Archive. Best of all, you can play the mods in your browser, so you don’t need to worry about this ancient player at all. Their “About Modules” page lists other players for Linux, macOS, and Windows too.

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