News

8-Bit Symphony - Press Release November 15, 2018 16:51

Symphonic celebration of golden age of British computer music

Hull to host 8-Bit Symphony concert 15th June 2019: tickets now on sale.

The forgotten golden age of British computing genius will be celebrated at the world premiere of a special concert featuring 90+ epic minutes of game music in Hull next year.

8-Bit Symphony will feature tunes from the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC lovingly re-orchestrated in the spirit of the original and performed by Hull Philharmonic Orchestra.

The city is home to legendary composer, Rob Hubbard, who pioneered the use of music in gaming and wrote for more than 75 games in the 1980s before moving to Electronic Arts in San Francisco to become hugely influential in the development of interactive computer music.

Mr Hubbard recently agreed to come out of retirement to compose the tune for “Go Go Dash”, a new platform game created by Hull College to showcase the opportunities it offers for people interested in working in the city’s growing digital sector.

The college is also supporting the concert which has been pioneered by 8-Bit impresario, record label boss, publisher and music remixer Chris Abbott, who also runs C64Audio.com, a website dedicated to the music of the Commodore 64.

Chris said: “There’s no big corporate money waiting in the wings for Commodore 64 music, so I’m really grateful to Hull College for finally giving this amazing team, led by Rob Hubbard himself, a chance to showcase these astonishing orchestrations. They truly have to be heard to be believed.”.

“These early musicians were the best video game musicians in the world and millions heard their work.

“They were often eccentric pioneers who were ahead of the rest of the world as rock stars in a cottage/bedroom industry.

“Many people went into the video game industry as a result of these early musicians but their work hasn’t really been respected or remembered appropriately.

“This concert is a celebration of that fondly remembered age of good old British ingenuity and gumption: a time of Monty, Jet Set Willy, Ocean, Imagine and Zzap!64”

More than 100 composers, graphics artists, programmers and software house bosses are expected to attend.

For Chris, the concert is also the realisation of a 30-year dream.

"I have apparently been so obsessed with this music that I have ended up acquiring the publishing rights, signing up composers, hosting live events, releasing remix CDs, running successful Kickstarters and even teaching myself orchestral arrangement!” he said.

“It’s real music and although we were all told by our mums to turn off that racket – this is our last laugh, especially since some of our mums will be there on the night. I know my mum will be!”

Covering genres from Kung-Fu Movies (such as “The Last Ninja®”) to 80s epic Sci-fi (“Mission Fred”) to John Williams-esque romps (“William Wobbler”), the concert is billed as an experience similar to discovering a world of lost 80s film soundtracks, with the best melodies, and the biggest sound played by an orchestra (conducted by Robin Tait) bigger than the one that performed “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

Other iconic tracks featured include Monty on the Run, Ghosts and Goblins, Forbidden Forest, Aztec Challenge, Comic Bakery and Green Beret.

The concert is also a tribute to late composers Ben Daglish (d. 2018) and Richard Joseph (d. 2007), both of whom were lost to lung cancer, taken before their time. They were both huge fans of orchestral performance and composition. Ben has three co-arrangements in this concert and was active in its development, and Richard has two tracks including the comic “Stifflip and Co.” which will feature a “drunken” violin cameo by his good friend, colleague and ex-Bullfrog composer Mark Knight.

A proportion of money raised is to be donated to SpecialEffect, which helps people with disabilities play computer games, and Macmillan Cancer Support.

If successful, following its world premiere in Hull, Chris and the team plan to tour variations of the concert both in the UK and Europe.

8-Bit Symphony takes place at Hull City Hall on Saturday, 15 June at 7.00pm. Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday, 16 November 2018. Book at the Hull City Hall Box Office, call 01482 300 306 or click here. For more information on the concert, click here.

 

“The Last Ninja” is a registered trademark of System 3 Software Limited.

 


Ben Daglish - an obituary October 10, 2018 10:15 2 Comments

BEN DAGLISH (1966-2018)

Our hero.

Ben Daglish was one of the best Commodore 64 composers, an outstanding multi-instrumentalist and a great showman in the retro scene. It was my privilege to call Ben a friend after being a fan of his music for many years.

When Ben's family moved to Sheffield, it opened up a world of music to him. He learnt several instruments, including flute, piano and guitar. He played with the schools orchestra, as chief percussionist and later as conductor. Ben won a national essay contest, and the prize was a BBC Micro for the school. This brought him into contact with young programmer Tony Crowther. Ben and Tony wrote educational software together, with Ben’s first sounds being bird calls recreated on the BBC. The first tunes Ben did were for Percy the Potty Pigeon on the C64, Tony writing a music routine for Ben so that he could type in musical notes and the SID chip would play them back. Chopin’s Funeral March and the theme tune to All Creatures Great & Small marked Ben's entry into commercial games.

Sheffield was also home to Gremlin Graphics and Alligata, and Ben and Tony made games for both companies. The pinnacle of their partnership was Trap. Ben's epic title tune was even more impressive when listened to alongside the synchronised hidden animation, known colloquially as the Gladiator demo. By recording two C64s simultaneously, a special stereo mix was created for the game's audio tape.

Ben worked with another legend, Rob Hubbard, on Auf Wiedersehen Monty. Ben described this time in the Gremlin studio as being immense fun, kicking back and sharing ideas. The two also took part in a classic ZZAP! magazine feature (with Tony Crowther and David Whittaker) known as The Musicians' Ball, filled with jokes and hilarious photos.

The game most synonymous with Ben now is The Last Ninja, with System 3 using Ben and Anthony Lees (who sadly passed away in 2016) to create the multiple tracks needed for their ninja epic. Ben's Wilderness and Wastelands themes were truly memorable. In 2016 Ben would perform live with Fastloaders for the Ninja Musicology concert, with Ben in awe of how well the rock band captured his original arrangements. But as the games industry became more professional, Ben bemoaned the "suits" taking over and would move away from composing.

Ben became a familiar face at retro events, especially the Back in Time concerts. He would be the compere, introducing acts with real enthusiasm. He would share anecdotes, make jokes and even insult people with his dry, acerbic wit. He was at the heart of super-group Stuck In D'80s swapping between guitar, flute, penny whistle, bass and keyboards as the songs demanded. His vibrant persona on stage was matched with his modesty off it, self-effacing, generous to the other performers and always approachable. He would also provide fascinating interviews for documentary films From Bedrooms To Billions and The Commodore Story.

His story included so much more - performing with bands such as Cold Flame and Loscoe State Opera, touring in professional productions, working with orchestras and running music workshops for children. The one thread throughout Ben's life was his love of music and sharing that with others. Our thoughts are with his wife Sarah, his children, family and friends.

Andrew Fisher, October 2018


Anthony Lees - an obituary June 21, 2018 20:03 11 Comments

We were informed that Anthony passed away as a result of an traffic incident in August 2016. This is very sad news indeed, and a great loss. We thought we'd pay tribute by asking Retro Gamer's Andrew Fisher for a fitting obituary.

ANTHONY LEES OBITUARY - by Andrew Fisher

Music was always an important part of Anthony's life. He learned how to play the clarinet when he was young and later played the alto sax and bassoon, and he would work with a choir for many years - conducting existing works and writing new music for them to perform. It was in the mid-1980s that he switched to a new instrument, the Commodore 64 computer. He wrote his own music player routine and entered a competition to compose music for a game known as Mindsmear. This would actually turn out to be an April Fool's gag by ZZAP! 64 magazine as the game did not exist, but Anthony's winning music drew the attention of System 3 owner Mark Cale. Anthony was chosen to work alongside established composer Ben Daglish to create the twelve tunes needed for System 3's epic new game, The Last Ninja. Splitting the work between them, Anthony composed six memorable pieces. His personal favourite was the jungle sounds of The Wilderness loader tune, drawing inspiration from Apocalypse Now. The spooky and unusual sounds of The Dungeon music really suited that section of the game, adding to the atmosphere.

Anthony would write new music for the planned sequel Last Ninja 2, but it was rejected for not fitting the style of the game. He joined up with developers Tarann and created the music and sound effects for Incredible Shrinking Sphere, including another memorable tune that played out on the title screen. He would go on to write music for budget games on the Firebird label, and tried to move on to the 16-bit Amiga and Atari ST computers - but much of his work would go unpublished.

As his music career was starting to take off, Anthony's father passed away and it affected him deeply. He changed course and joined the ranks of the Civil Service, with music becoming a hobby rather than his day job. But his Commodore 64 music lives on - thanks to many remixes and covers for people to enjoy. Some of his Last Ninja tunes were performed live by rock band Fastloaders in their recent gigs. Being part of a massive bestseller such as The Last Ninja was a high point in Anthony's life, touching thousands of people and creating lasting memories.

- Andrew Fisher

Which Last Ninja subtunes were Anthony's?

(#1)
   NAME: The Wilderness (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
(#2)
   NAME: Palace Gardens (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
COMMENT: "I did six tunes for LN, the first of which was the one involving the
         creepy jungle music (....which was and still is my favourite) - the
         inspiration is hard to nail down, but it was probably the film
         'Apocalypse Now' - very dense, troubled and scary moods were evoked."
         (Comment from Anthony Lees)
(#4)
   NAME: The Palace (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
(#5)
   NAME: The Inner Sanctum (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
COMMENT: Interesting comment in this binary: "DONE BY ANTHONY LEES FOR SYSTEM 3
         ON 5/4/87...EAT YER HEART OUT GALWAY!".
(#9)
   NAME: The Dungeons
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
(#10)
   NAME: The Palace
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees

Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference - Kenny McAlpine interviewed November 05, 2017 10:11

We did a Q&A about the book with Dr. Kenny McAlpine, our main musicologist and first named author on the "Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference" book. Hope you enjoy it!

1. You’re the UK’s foremost academic expert on chipmusic: how did that come about? Is it still difficult getting other musical academics to recognise that’s even a thing? 

Ha! That’s unduly flattering, I think, but thank you. 

If it’s true, then it’s almost certainly by dint of the fact that there aren’t all that many other academics who are working in that space, so I've ended up being a leading voice by default — quite a bittersweet achievement, really. 

The full story of how I ended up here is, I suspect, a little too long, convoluted and dull to unpack in its entirety here, but in brief, I’ve been a music geek for as long as I can remember, and a technology geek for almost as long. 

Ever since I got my first computer, a ZX Spectrum+, and started experimenting with the BEEP command in Spectrum BASIC, I’ve been fascinated by that raw, geometric sound, and — maybe more importantly — by the ways that 8-bit musicians were able to work beyond the affordances and constraints of the hardware to create some truly remarkable compositions. 

I took up my first full-time academic post at Abertay University in 1999 as part of the team who developed the university’s first computer games degrees, and that opportunity essentially legitimised my professional interest in chip music. 

From then until now, I’ve been digging as deep as I can to understand the hardware architectures, the code, the music and the process of writing music using vintage computing systems, and working hard to try and find engaging and entertaining ways of explaining them and sharing them with other people. 

2. Who are your favourite chipmusic composers and why? 

Oh, now come… That’s like asking which of my children is my favourite, or which lung I prefer to breathe with! 

I grew up on a Spectrum, and didn’t get my first Commodore 64 until slightly later — maybe about 1986 or '87 — so a lot of my first, formative experiences with chip music were Tim Follin’s compositions on the Speccy. 

Chronos in particular, really sticks in my mind. It’s full of Keith Emerson-style licks and pitch glides, and I think it’s a very complete piece of work — musically very accomplished, but also beautifully executed. There’s still something about that raspy, 1-bit sound that sends the hairs standing on the back of my neck when I hear it. I was also a big fan of the theme tune to Durrell’s Turbo Esprit, which had a bubbly, Jan Hammer-esque soundtrack. 

On the C64 you were really spoiled for choice. Martin Galway’s cover of ‘Chariots of Fire’ on Imagine’s Hypersports was one of the first tracks that made me stop and listen, slack-jawed, to the music in its entirety before I even thought about playing the game. It’s a very accomplished cover, and in some respects I prefer it to the Vangelis original! 

Fred Gray’s soundtrack to Frankie Goes to Hollywood is wonderful too, particularly the ‘Flower Power’ section — it’s one of the trippiest, most soothing game sequences I’ve come across. 

3. You’ve interviewed Rob for your latest book: what do you find particularly noteworthy about him? How does it feel to work with him? 

When I was a kid, all of those guys, Rob, Ben Daglish, Tim Folin, Dave Whittaker… They were like rock gods! Rob was amazingly prolific, and yet he consistently wrote some of the best music for the Commodore 64. 

I remember reading an interview with him in Zzap64! or one of the other computer mags back about 1986, and I just thought that this guy… he had the perfect job. The more I found out about him, and the more I listened to his music, the more I came to realise just how significant a figure he was. 

His music is beautifully crafted — it was always clear to me that it had been written and orchestrated by someone who understood music theory inside out — but I think it’s the way that he combined that innate sense of musicality with a deep technical knowledge that really elevated his work to another level. 

Remember Rob was working at a time before there were any real software tools for composition, and his creativity didn’t stop at writing the notes. There’s a beauty to the way he implemented everything, and packed so much complex musical detail into the three channels that the SID chip had to offer. 

People often say that you should never meet your heroes, but in this case, it’s been a delight. I hope he won’t mind me saying this, but Rob’s a very modest and private individual, and the first time we met, I’m sure that he was sizing me up. But we sat down together, started taking about Chick Corea and Professor Longhair, and he just lit up and came alive! 

Rob has music coursing through his veins, and he’s very knowledgeable. It’s always a pleasure to talk to someone who lives and breathes a subject like that. 

4. You’re writing a large portion of the book for the Kickstarter: would you tell our readers what delights they can expect? 

Well — hopefully — they can expect a thorough breakdown and analysis of some of Rob’s key works, looking at not just the music and the arrangements but the technique that pulls them all together. 

I’m going to be working with Rob to select the works that he thinks are the most important from his back catalogue and we’ll use that as a focus to explore how his sound developed over time. It’ll be thorough, but I hope readers will also find it entertaining. 

I always try to write about game music in an affectionate, playful and sometimes quite tongue-in-cheek way. I think that’s really important. After all, games are all about fun and play — there’s no point in writing about them in a way that sucks all of the enjoyment out of them! 

5. What are you planning for the future? Well, my plan for the immediate future is to try and get some sleep. I’ve been working in Chicago for the last few weeks, and my body clock is still in UK time. I’ve been waking at 04:30 every morning since I got here, and nothing I’ve tried, from staying up late to a nightcap of Malort — a particularly disgusting local spirit that tastes like a mix of absinthe and pond scum — has managed to reset my biorhythms. I’m out here for another week yet, and odds are that my body will acclimatise the day before I leave for home, and I’ll have to spend until Christmas trying to get my body back to UK time again. 

Beyond that, I’ve got some interesting projects in the pipeline. I’m planning on being down at a games festival at the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham in January — I’m going to be doing a workshop on chip tune with my old friend Mark (TDK) Knight. 

Later in the year, I’m off to Germany to talk more video game music as part of the Ludomusicology conference 2018, and I’ll hopefully be doing a book tour later in the spring to coincide with the launch of my chip tune book, Bits and Pieces. I’m also working on a 2-part documentary series for the BBC about the birth of the Scottish games industry. That project’s still in its early stages, but already it’s shaping up to be a fascinating story!

Thanks Kenny, we're really looking forward to reading your work!


8-bit Symphony - the Story behind the concert, Part 1 November 04, 2017 12:53

Early Days

The Story of 8-Bit Symphony starts with... nothing.

Specifically, nothing on the TV in the 1970s.

I lived through a period in the 1970s when sometimes the only thing on TV was a static graphic (called a "Testcard") and some light music. You can imagine a questing young mind listening to and processing that music. Filing it away. It was a great variety of music, from classical tracks done properly, to classical tracks done in a different style, to pop, and... to early synth music made purely on synthesizers of the time.

It made quite an impression to hear what was, essentiially, chipmusic being played in the same continuous stream as classical orchestrations. In fact, the early chipmusic was mostly classical covers.

In the early days of chipmusic on home microcomputers, there were also classical covers. Lots of them. Sheet music was readily available and sound drivers were simple. Things like Bach were very easy to convert, and were also familiar.

Somehow, in me, all of this got fused together: chipmusic, classical music, symphonic orchestration and remixing.

The following video, which presents some of the testcard tunes of the time, illustrates just how easy it is to fuse together memories: a Testcard and its music, overlayed with classic 8-bit games that used those tunes.

This is how dreams of symphonic orchestrations of 8-bit tunes, apparently, get started!

Longing for orchestras...

The first original tunes I ever heard on a computer that desperately wanted to be orchestrated were the twin pair of Cosmi/US Gold/Audiogenic tunes Forbidden Forest and Aztec Challenge. 

Since I heard the C64 music from Rob, Martin, Ben, etc, my brain had heard it and integrated it. Some of their tunes were so obviously meant to be orchestral that it was painful that no one was interested in doing it.

Paul Norman, author of both games, and obviously a frustrated film-maker, was way ahead of his time: specifically, one year ahead. 

However, they were the only two. But more was to come, and we need to meet the composers behind the music.

Gathering the cast: the composers behind 8-Bit Symphony

While the Commodore 64 had been released in 1982, it wasn't until 1984 that the full cast that would drive Commodore 64 music forward was in place.

In the middle of 1984, Ocean released "Daley Thompson's Decathlon". This was notable for being the C64 debut of musician Martin Galway, albeit only doing the loading tune. This was a cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra's Rydeen.

 

Rydeen's first use in a computer games was in Sega's arcade game Super Locomotive: the rhythmic intro to the piece indeed sounds like a locomotive.

This game so impressed a young Martin Galway, who already had a musical background thanks to a musical family that included his Uncle, famous flautist James Galway. The game's music inspired him to become a computer game musician/programmer.

He later borrowed Rydeen for Daley Thompson's Decathlon, in a more innocent time when most record labels and publishers weren't paying attention, especially Japanese ones.

... and he covered another tune from Super Locomotive as the train riding music in the later game Roland's Rat Race. Presumably the train connection was what explained this choice!

 

Martin's 1984 debut coincided with other debuts that are equally important to our story.

Sheffield's Ben Daglish teamed up with his friend and new superstar programmer Tony Crowther to do the music for Loco: a game inspired by Super Locomotive but with different copyright infringing, though very impressive, music. This also makes Super Locomotive responsible for the careers of two Commodore 64 musicians!

Also, Fred Gray started his composing career at Imagine with the game Pedro: a simple tune simple code that he soon upgraded due to the competition.

As is quite common with Commodore 64 games, the music was better than the game.

In 1984, Elite Software hired a local lad called Mark Cooksey straight from school as a programmer, and quickly discovered he was better at music. His first game was a conversion of the theme from Airwolf: this time a licenced conversion.

One other piece made a big splash on the C64 in 1984, in the same way it was making a splash in other areas: Ghostbusters, with music programmed by American musican Russell Leiblich. This game showed what was possible on the Commodore 64 sound chip (SID), especially with the sampled speech shouting "Ghostbusters".

This tune really impressed a certain Mr Rob Hubbard, who was just at the beginning of his career programming educational games and games for a local software company, Ubik such as the Commodore 64 version of a game called "Paranoid Pete". The game was cancelled by Weetabix, but not before Ubik released other versions of the game.

After this software house went out of business, and Rob turned purely to composing, producing demo disks and sending them out. The first piece to make a real splash? Thing on a Spring.

Which was reviewed thusly:

Cementing the LSO as the gold standard and ultimate destination for C64 music: a journey that it's still on.

 And so the guard changed on Commodore 64 music, and most of the cast was in place: though two more players arrived with a new wave of composers in 1988.

 End of Part 1


8-Bit Symphony - a Symphonic Celebration of Home Microcomputer Gaming - previewed! November 03, 2017 15:10 3 Comments

Previews. The London Symphony Orchestra ("Star Wars") playing Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amstrad and BBC Micro music: a once-in-a-lifetime chance needs your help to happen.

The ConsolEAtion of Rob Hubbard October 24, 2017 18:38

Rob Hubbard was the king of music in EA games from 1988 until the mid-90s when they started licencing music... and covered Commodore 64, Amiga, NES, Tandy Jr, PC, 3DO and even MSX.

"Rob Hubbard - the Official Reference" has a section devoted to his EA work including the console work, and some of his OSTs from the Genesis/Mega Drive/3DO will feature on the Archive CD

This article covering Rob's Console work is sponsored by Rob's official Kickstarter (book, albums, SIDs, etc), Project Hubbard. Why not back it or pre-order now?

 

Skate or Die

The original theme was composed in August 1987 and originally appeared on the Commodore 64. However, it did see a NES release, and saw Rob's tune covered (without guitars) by Kouji Murata.

 

This video's comments also contain the first NES vs C64 flame war I've seen between grown adults.

At this point in the timeline, it would have been nice to mention Kings of the Beach or Jordan vs. Bird: One on One, but these games were converted externally outside of Electronic Arts, and featured different soundtracks to the ones Rob composed, which you can hear in part 1 of our Electronic Arts series.

Budokan - The Martial Spirit 

Appearing on multiple platforms (see this article), the Genesis version suffers a little from the limitations of FM synthesis, that aren't quite getting the kind of epic sound intended by Rob. While the arpeggio is there, the drums are gone and the sounds are thin. It's also slower than the original version. However, it's also atmospheric.

Laker Vs Celtics and the NBA Playoffs

While it wasn't uncommon for different ports of the same game to have different music, it was unusual for them to both be by the same composer. The Genesis version is fondly remembered, but the title tune is markedly different to the PC iteration.

 

 And of course it's easy to forget that were were in-game tunes too:

 

Ski or Die

As usual with Rob, the piece originated on the expensive MT32 synth and got converted downwards, but this is a great version.

 

 

Skate or Die 2

For such as best-selling game, it seems odd that this only appears on the NES.

The piece is best understood as "Skate or Die Unleashed": the DNA is clear. The PCM guitar samples that Rob put into this certainly made an impression, especially on the YouTube commentators:


The Immortal

The Immortal was converted to both the NES and the Genesis/Mega Drive, and the difference between 16-bit and 8-bit systems was pretty clear in the way the game was redesigned for the NES.  

There was even a NES version... here with oscilloscope. Pulsey! Thanks Anna!

Check out the PulseBot channel for more of that.

According to Mobygames, both console versions featured a larger soundtrack and more tunes than their big PC brothers. Interesting!

Centurion: Defender of Rome

Despite various crediting snafus, Rob composed at least the title tune to this game. The Genesis version struggles a little bit with the epic nature of the tune.

John Madden's Football

An unusual SNES outing for Rob here: they later transferred SNES duties to fellow C64 veteran and legend David Whittaker. YouTube commenters generally prefer the Sega Megadrive/Genesis version, but like in football, you play with what you've got!

Wait, Rob programmed the SNES? Well, while credits do sometimes lie (thanks, Centurion), these don't:

And now to the Mega Drive/Genesis, which seems to be regarded as a "holy smokes classic".

PGA Tour Golf

"This first game in the series was originally released in 1990 for DOS computers, 1991 for Sega GenesisMacintoshSNES, and Commodore Amiga, and 1993 for Sega Master System and Game Gear. It was developed and published by Electronic Arts for DOS and Macintosh, ported to Genesis, SNES, and Game Gear by Sterling Silver Software, to Amiga by Bluesky Innovations, and to Master System by Polygon Games." - Wikipedia.

Rob put a lot of spirit into this, and it's one of his own favourite console outings:

The SNES verson was more challenging.

 

Rob on the Sega Master System? Yes and no! Composer Dave Lowe (Uncle Art) did the port from Rob's original, like he did on IK+ to the Amiga and Game Boy.

 

Populous

Most of the ports of Populous for a myriad of consoles were not done by Rob, but the Sega Genesis was.

Ports he didn't do, but which featured his theme are:

Sega Master System

PC Engine

and SNES.

 

 

Road Rash (1991)

Road Rash is probably the most famous Rob Hubbard tune on the consoles, and it originated on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. Some of the music in the game was by Michael Bartlow, though the title track was definitely by Rob.

A playlist of the OSTs is here if you're interested, but Rob confirms that two in-game tunes are his:

Sierra Nevada

Pacific Coast

... and a very good guitar remix...

 

The Mega Drive's smaller brother the Master System also got a look in with the conversion handled by Probe, and the music was ported by Matt Furniess, for a satisfyingly chippy version of the tune. Some of the heavy metal feel is gone of course, but... square waves!

The Game Gear version sounds pretty similar, and was also handled by Matt.

The Game Boy Color version was ported by the also-mighty and Project Hubbard-related Allister Brimble in 2000.

 

I wonder who converted it for the Game Boy...?

Oh, OK, it was Ocean :)

Road Rash Gameboy is one of the few games which only plays on a classic Game Boy, a Super Game Boy (a classic game boy but in a SNES case), or a Super Gameboy V2 (Japan only).

I don't have confirmation, but given Jonathan Dunn was Ocean's Game Boy musician at the time (for instance, he put the Comic Bakery theme into Jurassic Park), I think that would be a good educated guess.

Road Rash really was a who's who of C64 talent... programming not on the C64!

 

Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (1991)

While Rob contributed music to this game, he wasn't responsible for the title screen music, not the music on the Amiga.

However, he did do these:

Opening (Part 1) - 1:26 - 3:12 in this video. It's VERY reminiscent of Lightforce.
Opening (Part 3) - 3:46 - 5:11 in this video.
Mission Briefing 3 - 9:51 - 11:24 in this video.
Ending Theme (Hail to the Chief) - 13:19 - 14:55 in this video.
Staff Roll - 14:55 - end in this video.

 

SNES-wise, he wasn't credited, and it seems only one of his tunes was ported.

Here's Opening (Part 1):

While the end tune was still "Hail to the Chief", it was a different arrangement to Rob's.

Team USA Basketball (1992)

And so, another sports franchise was enabled by Rob...

Rob seems to have charmed fans whereever he went:

That last comment sounds _awfully_ familiar to SID fans!


Road Rash 2 (1992)

A Mega Drive/Genesis-only release this time.

Youtuber "CloudTheLastSoldier" says it best: "This theme is fucking awesome. It truly makes me want to get on a motorcycle, whoop some ass, then ride away. Would be cool if someone did a guitar cover of this."

Rob did the title tune (above), the Arizona theme... 

... Vermont...

and "Busted".

IMG International Tour Tennis (Sega, 1994)

Occasionally Sega would go begging to EA for talent...

 

MLBPA Baseball

 

Sherlock 3DO (1994)

And, since Rob was the King of 3DO soundtracks around this time...

Shockwave: Operation Jumpgate 3DO (1994)

An add-on to the original Shockwave, it dispensed with the orchestral stuff, and gained this rather spiffing Zimmer-esque track suite from Rob.

...and later on, Rob's reach extended to the PS1, thanks to this game and PGA Tour Golf 96.

Madden 3DO (1994)

Wikipedia missed this one, but Rob confirmed he was the composer.

Fanfares, and rocking action, unfortunately ruined by actual gameplay.

 

PGA Tour Golf 96 (1995)

3DO

 

PS1 - Rob's only game on the Playstation 1 except for the port of 3DO Shockwave Jumpgate.

 

And then...

"Most of my time later was spent out sourcing music and arranging dialog talent and setting up sessions. And sitting through technical design review meetings."

He left EA in November 2001 to return to the UK. The next game he was asked to provide music for was "Era of Eidolon" for Nokia in 2004 (unreleased, but will appear on Project Hubbard).


The EAvolution of Rob Hubbard - part 4 October 21, 2017 18:03

The EAvolution of Rob Hubbard - pt 4

Project Hubbard: 1992-mid 90s. The Road Rash years... and Sherlock Holmes.

This article is sponsored by Project Hubbard, The official Rob Hubbard Kickstarter, and gives an idea of the kind of topics we will cover in the associated book "Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference" - except with more supporting interviews and facts.

The definitive MT32 soundtracks from some of these games should also be on "The Rob Hubbard archive" album on "Project Hubbard Standard".

Read part 1 of this series of blog posts here.

Read part 2 of this series of blog posts here.

Read part 3 of this series of blog posts here.

As Rob got more senior within EA and they hired more people, over time Rob was gradually assuming more of a management role: supervising other musicians, making top level creative music decisions, evaluating technology, and participating in IASIG (Interactive Audio Special Interest Group, an industry body).IASIG and Rob were trying to define standards and come up with solutions for interactive or adaptive music and audio. Unfortunately, Rob remembers that "... the advent of licensed bands and music stopped all efforts in its tracks.".

This list is limited to games Rob composed music for: the ones that he just did sound for don't appear. There were a lot of ports of Populous (see Part 2 for the Amiga version) during this time, so let's cover those.

Populous (ports)

The ones Rob did were the PC...

... ah, CGA. How I (don't really) miss you.

... and now for the posh DOS version (MT32)...

Rob also did the Sega Genesis port:

But he did none of the other ports, which I'll list here for completeness.

 Archimedes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qj8WAgNgUBU

 ST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqHlvl6W9zU

 Sega Master System: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9CrGvLgAm8

 PC Engine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqVH_ggrC8M

 NEC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5rwb2tl7Xs

 Populous MT32: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHSSlAlKVCM

 SNES: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po2I0ZumoTc

 C64: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGCpOGSgHSU (tech demo)

 

Road Rash (1991)

Road Rash is probably the most famous Rob Hubbard tune on the consoles, and it originated on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. Some of the music in the game was by Michael Bartlow, though the title track was definitely by Rob.

A playlist of the OSTs is here if you're interested, but Rob confirms that two in-game tunes are his:

Sierra Nevada

Pacific Coast

... and a very good guitar remix...

 

The Mega Drive's smaller brother the Master System also got a look in with the conversion handled by Probe, and the music was ported by Matt Furniess, for a satisfyingly chippy version of the tune. Some of the heavy metal feel is gone of course, but... square waves!

The Game Gear version sounds pretty similar, and was also handled by Matt.

The Game Boy Color version was ported by the also-mighty and Project Hubbard-related Allister Brimble in 2000.

 

I wonder who converted it for the Game Boy...?

Oh, OK, it was Ocean :)

Road Rash Gameboy is one of the few games which only plays on a classic Game Boy, a Super Game Boy (a classic game boy but in a SNES case), or a Super Gameboy V2 (Japan only).

I don't have confirmation, but given Jonathan Dunn was Ocean's Game Boy musician at the time (for instance, he put the Comic Bakery theme into Jurassic Park), I think that would be a good educated guess.

Road Rash really was a who's who of C64 talent... programming not on the C64!

 

Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (1991)

While Rob contributed music to this game, he wasn't responsible for the title screen music, not the music on the Amiga.

However, he did do these:

Opening (Part 1) - 1:26 - 3:12 in this video. It's VERY reminiscent of Lightforce.
Opening (Part 3) - 3:46 - 5:11 in this video.
Mission Briefing 3 - 9:51 - 11:24 in this video.
Ending Theme (Hail to the Chief) - 13:19 - 14:55 in this video.
Staff Roll - 14:55 - end in this video.

 

SNES-wise, he wasn't credited, and it seems only one of his tunes was ported.

Here's Opening (Part 1):

While the end tune was still "Hail to the Chief", it was a different arrangement to Rob's.

 

 

Team USA Basketball (1992)

And so, another sports franchise was enabled by Rob...

Rob seems to have charmed fans whereever he went:

That last comment sounds _awfully_ familiar to SID fans!


Road Rash 2 (1992)

A Mega Drive/Genesis-only release this time.

Youtuber "CloudTheLastSoldier" says it best: "This theme is fucking awesome. It truly makes me want to get on a motorcycle, whoop some ass, then ride away. Would be cool if someone did a guitar cover of this."

Rob did the title tune (above), the Arizona theme... 

... Vermont...

and "Busted".

 

 

The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel (1992)

Sherlock Holmes marks a return to classical orchestration for Rob: it had long been a passion (albeit one constrained by technical resources), but here he could indulge himself with a wonderful collection of themes (composed specifically for the MT32). In fact, there are so many Sherlock tunes, they deserve their own blog post.

But here's the title (Adlib/CMS(?) version).

... and here on the MT32 in all its glory.

There was a ton of great music for this game in it.

Experience it in real-time with this walkthrough playlist.

 

IMG International Tour Tennis (Sega, 1994)

Occasionally Sega would go begging to EA for talent...

 

MLBPA Baseball

 

Sherlock 3DO (1994)

And, since Rob was the King of 3DO soundtracks around this time...

Shockwave: Operation Jumpgate 3DO (1994)

An add-on to the original Shockwave, it dispensed with the orchestral stuff, and gained this rather spiffing Zimmer-esque track suite from Rob.

...and later on, Rob's reach extended to the PS1, thanks to this game and PGA Tour Golf 96.

Madden 3DO (1994)

Wikipedia missed this one, but Rob confirmed he was the composer.

Fanfares, and rocking action, unfortunately ruined by actual gameplay.

 

PGA Tour Golf 96/486 (1995)

3DO

 

PS1 - Rob's only game on the Playstation 1 except for the port of 3DO Shockwave Jumpgate.

486 (PC Version)

 

And then...

"Most of my time later was spent out sourcing music and arranging dialog talent and setting up sessions. And sitting through technical design review meetings."

He left EA in November 2001 to return to the UK. The next game he was asked to provide music for was "Era of Eidolon" for Nokia in 2004 (unreleased, but will appear on Project Hubbard).


Rob-tari - Rob Hubbard on the Atari 8-Bit and ST platforms October 20, 2017 06:00 6 Comments

"Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference" will contain the most detailed look yet at the timeline and content of Rob's releases on the Atari 8-bit machines (POKEY) and Atari ST (YM2149)

The "Project Hubbard" project also contains remixes of various tunes on this page, some by Rob himself, and a whole bank of unreleased Rob Hubbard tunes not tied to any chip. The remix albums are based on the music rather than the sound of the SID and can be enjoyed by all.

Pre-Driver

The first three Rob tunes that made it onto the Atari were The Last V8, Action Biker and One Man and his Droid on the Atari 8-bit (A8) range. While Last V8 had some charm, the results weren't really Rob.

Not Rob's implementation.

This neither. Also, it gets the tune wrong.

This is the weirdest music choice ever made in porting Rob Hubbard music and seems to be taking the piss out of the Finders Keepers music, but getting the piss-take wrong. It's clinically strange, and not very pleasant. Oh, how I wished this had the real music.

 

Ninja (A8)

For a short while, Rob was king of the 8-bit fighting game themes! His debut on the A8 platform was "Ninja": written concurrently with the C64 version, but the Atari A8's hollow, echoey, quite hard-edged sound complements the echoey feel of the game. It even makes the room feel bigger!

It was a bit of a weird decision to make the music play only when he isn't fighting though. I guess players could just stand still to listen.

International Karate (A8)

Rob made a real splash on the Atari platform with a port of his International Karate C64 music™™, composed six months earlier.

This and Ninja were the first time I heard and saw the Atari 8-bit doing something that I thought could only be done by a C64. Mind. Blown.

Warhawk

There are two different versions of the Warhawk theme on the C64: The "Proteus" version (Warhawk was originally called Proteus, which was also the developers' name) lacked the long, echoey intro of the released Warhawk theme, and had a shorter structure.

The Atari 8-bit version is based on the earlier Proteus version, kicking straight into the melody. It's impressive how the ring-mod effects have survived without there being any actual ring-mod, though the POKEY chip's naturally metallic sound might have something to do with that.

Goldrunner (ST)

Rob's first outing on the ST was one of his most famous, and of course reused his most recognisable tune from "Human Race" on the C64. The AY sounds gave it a plaintive nature, with a slightly different emotional tone to the C64 version. Very much a Sci-fi remix.

David Whittaker took over for Goldrunner II, kind of keeping it in the family!

Extirpator (A8)

 Rob was no stranger to strategically re-using tunes, and here his seminal "Thalamusik" gets an Atari 8-bit rework: quite a challenge, but with triumphant results.

It's fascinating to hear how Rob himself solved the problem of implementing unimplementable bits of the original without gutting the tune. I especially like the rhythm breaks. Luckily the metallic nature of POKEY sounds and the beefy noise waveforms help beef up the tune where lesser waves might have failed.

Jet Set Willy (A8)

The last tune Rob did on the Atari 8-bit (though David Whittaker used his driver to continue his legacy!) was also one of the strangest choices: a platform-specific original track for a very old game (Jet Set Willy) that pre-dated his SID career.

However this happened, we should be glad it did, since Rob himself loves this tune, and it's a classic. If I was guessing, the fact that it's Tyne Soft doing the conversion, and Rob was local probably went a long way to explaining this!

Jupiter Probe (ST)

The ST was honoured to have an original track by Rob specific to the platform: a real badge of honour shared with its Atari 8-bit brother's Jet Set Willy.

Largely overlooked by Hubbard fans on other platforms it's sci-fi funky.

Warhawk (ST)

A month after Jupiter Probe, Rob delivered the ST port of Warhawk...

This time, the full track was implemented. As usual with Rob porting his own work, surprises were minimal.

Thrust

At around the same time as Warhawk, Rob had finished his "Thrust" port.

As with the C64 version, the SID-FX-heavy intro was dispensed with to get to the tune more quickly. A very satisfying transition. It's a pity Spectrum and Amstrad CPC owners never got this version.

Thundercats

The honour of being the last tune delivered as a freelancer before moving to EA, this port of his Spectrum/Amstrad versions was as thorough as you'd expect.

Given the wildly variable nature of C64 filters, Thundercats was a variable-quality listen on the SID: and a lot more predictable here!

And so Rob went to Electronic Arts... and left Atari behind.

Almost.

A much more detailed version of this article will be in "Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference".

Postscript:

Thanks to Jochen Hippel, the story for Atari ST fans doesn't end there...


The EAvolution of Rob Hubbard - part 3, 1990-1991 October 19, 2017 07:55

The EAvolution of Rob Hubbard - pt 3

Project Hubbard: 1990-1991, Sports, Fantasy, PCs, a flirtation with the SNES and more.

This article is sponsored by Project Hubbard, The official Rob Hubbard Kickstarter, and gives an idea of the kind of topics we will cover in the associated book "Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference" - except with more supporting interviews and facts.

The definitive MT32 soundtracks from some of these games should also be on "The Rob Hubbard archive" album on "Project Hubbard Standard".

Read part 1 of this series of blog posts here.

Read part 2 of this series of blog posts here.

Skate or Die 2 (1990)

For such as best-selling game, it seems odd that this only appears on the NES.

The piece is best understood as "Skate or Die Unleashed": the DNA is clear. The PCM guitar samples that Rob put into this certainly made an impression, especially on the YouTube commentators:



Low Blow

At about this point Rob seems to have been paying careful attention to kind of sports themes that were on network TV, with a rousing theme that definitely conveys "World of Sports".

While there were many good speaker-only soundtracks during the history of PC gaming (and we can see from composers such as Tim Follin that a beeper is sometimes all you need), the composition process here focussed on isolating the lead line only, possibly because it didn't fit into the workflow, and wasn't prioritised.

But it's great with Adlib (below). 

It would be even better with MT32 (not shown). We will be getting proper recordings of this full tune.

The end theme of this is going to be turned into a SID on the Alt-SIDs CD on Project Hubbard so we can get a taste of how it would have sounded had they done a C64 version.


The Immortal

With a game name like that you'd expect a Spellbound/Nemesis the Warlock vibe, and you'd be right. Right back to Kentilla and Master of Magic, through to Era of Eidolon, Rob has excelled at music that conveys a sense of place and time.

The game apparently started off on the Apple IIGS, but not with music by Rob, but by Doug Fulton.

The PC verson was created that features Robbological music... (here, the Adlib variant).

 

And the Amiga followed suit in a 1Mb-only release.

It also hit the Mega Drive/Genesis with Rob's music intact. I find it interesting that at this point the venerable NES (8-bit) was competing with the Mega Drive (16-bit), and the Sega Master System had been much downplayed. 

There was even a NES version... here with oscilloscope. Pulsey! Thanks Anna!

Check out the PulseBot channel for more of that.

According to Mobygames, both console versions featured a larger soundtrack and more tunes. Interesting!

And... also the Atari ST! Which was very unusual for an Electronic Arts game.

... and who would have thought there would be a remix?

 

Centurian:Defender of Rome

Amiga (1991)DOS (1990)Genesis (1991), PC-98 (1993) and FM Towns (1993).

While only credited for the Amiga programming (which he can't remember doing), Rob composed at least the title track for this. Rob played his title tune from this game at the Back in Time Live 2003 event in Brighton on the piano. 

As usual, we start with the MS-DOS version.

The Amiga version makes great use of Timpani samples to achieve a suitably epic effect.

 

The Genesis struggles a little bit with the epic:

The PC-98? We haven't a hope in hell of getting a YouTube video of Centurion running on that, but here's an interesting video.

Since the PC-98 was equipped with either 3-channel or 6-channel + samples FM chips (YM2203/optional YM2608), you'd expect the music to sound a lot like the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive sound (YM2612). The same would be true of the FM-Towns version... (the clue's in the name!)...

 

John Madden Football

SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, Amiga

An unusual SNES outing for Rob here. YouTube commenters generally prefer the Sega Megadrive/Genesis version, but like in football, you play with what you've got!

Wait, Rob programmed the SNES? Well, while credits do sometimes lie (thanks, Centurion), these don't:

And now to the Mega Drive/Genesis, which seems to be regarded as a "holy smokes classic".

It was a while before they got to the Amiga, and they used the extra time well. Rob's title theme starts at 1:12, and it soundns more mature now.


PGA Tour Golf

"This first game in the series was originally released in 1990 for DOS computers, 1991 for Sega GenesisMacintoshSNES, and Commodore Amiga, and 1993 for Sega Master System and Game Gear. It was developed and published by Electronic Arts for DOS and Macintosh, ported to Genesis, SNES, and Game Gear by Sterling Silver Software, to Amiga by Bluesky Innovations, and to Master System by Polygon Games." - Wikipedia.

What's immediately obvious is that Nic. tenBroek did the original music for the game, which was quickly replaced on other platforms by some of Rob's favourite EA work.

Above: not Rob. Below: Rob.

This is the first Rob Hubbard piece for the SNES, and he didn't like the machine. One of David Whittaker's first jobs when he was hired as to cater for the SNES.

You can just about hear Rob's music peeking out in the Mac IIGS version:

Rob on the Sega Master System? Yes and no! Composer Dave Lowe (Uncle Art) did the port from Rob's original, like he did on IK+ to the Amiga and Game Boy.

No Game Gear music available. We really ought to look into that for Project Hubbard!

Next time: 1992 onwards - where Rob spends an awful lot of time being elementary, and curing a rash. A Road Rash!

See you then!


Rob Hubbard - AY UP! October 18, 2017 06:00

"Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference" will contain the most detailed look yet at the timeline and content of Rob's releases on the ZX Spectrum 128 and Amstrad CPC (AY-3-8912).

The EAvolution of Rob Hubbard - part 2, 1989-1990 October 16, 2017 13:23 1 Comment

The EAvolution of Rob Hubbard - pt 2

Project Hubbard: 1989/1990, Bye Bye SID, hello PC - and Rob hits the Amiga. 

This article is sponsored by Project Hubbard, and gives an idea of the kind of topics we will cover in the associated book "Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference" - except with more supporting interviews and facts.

The definitive MT32 soundtracks from some of these games should also be on "The Rob Hubbard archive" album on "Project Hubbard Standard".

Read part 1 of this series of blog posts here.

Read part 3 of this series of blog posts here.

 

By 1989, Rob had his feet under the table and finally had the opportunity to visit the Commodore Amiga, as well as continuing his PC work.

Corporately, EA's main platform was now MS-DOS, with the Tandy 1000 downplayed, though chipmusic versions of Rob's PC tracks were still being produced (even if the game was never actually released on that format).

It's notable that there are no EA SIDs on record programmed by Rob in 1989/1990. It's kind of sad that while Rob left detailed instructions for the use of his C64 driver for future programmers when he left the SID, no one picked up that baton.

So, Budokan and Ski or Die both had C64 releases, but they weren't programmed by Rob: they were programmed by Pablo Toledo of Dro Soft S.L (Budokan) and Dave Warhol (Ski or Die).

Here's Dave being interviewed about it in the Retro Game Audio podcast, ep 9.  He's talking about the NES version which was, as usual, programmed by Ultra.

So, in all cases, the original tunes for the MS-DOS port upon which everything was based were by Rob. As with Skate or Die, the NES tune seems to be a port created by Jun Funahashi.

It seems that at this point Rob was being used as the main musical source of material, but was getting too busy to be able to port all of the versions of the game: he was also enjoying the luxury of more than three channels on other platforms, such as the Roland MT32 and Adlib, though he still found time to create chipmusic on the Tandy 1000.

Imagine being a composer freed from the musical restrictions of three voices, and being able to use a proper musical sequencer (albeit with a loss of control over sound design).

 

In 1989, the world was a very different place sonically.

 

Chiptune vs FM/Wavetable

By this time, Rob had graduated to composing music for the AdLib and the new MT32 sound module, and taking advantage of the huge increase in the number of channels.

It's interesting to see how the various sounds aged during the intervening decades. To many, the sound of the SID is still fresh.

This may be because the original PC platforms were consciously trying to be "real" instruments, but were only approximations. Technology has improved immeasurably since then and so we know a low-quality emulation when we hear one.

However, the classic subtractive synthesis chips were never made for emulating real instruments and so they had their own unique style.

This means that raw chiptune has not fallen into the uncanny valley of "trying to be something but not quite getting there" that FM synthesis and early wavetable synthesis did. Though of course, fans of Adlib have every bit as strong a retro experience with Wolfenstein and Doom than C64 fans have with Sanxion.

 

Budokan: The Martial Spirit (1989)

MS-DOS (1989), Amiga (early 1990), Sega Genesis (late 1990), Commodore 64 (1992), ZX Spectrum (1992), Amstrad CPC (1992), MSX (1991).

The lack of a Rob Hubbard SID version of the Budokan music is explained by the 2-3 year gap between the MS-DOS version and the 8-bit conversions: the 8-bit conversions were subcontracted out and Rob's C64 code had been deprecated: it was simply easier to get the subcontractors to port the tune, especially since all the 8-bit platforms were nearing the end of their useful life to big companies like EA.

The PC version supported the CMS, Adlib and MT32. Once again it's the MT-32 that represents Rob's original vision for the piece best.

The Amiga version is obviously missing some twiddly bits, and is slower and heavier.

With the Genesis, the limitations of the platform become more obvious: while the arpeggio is there, the drums are gone and the sounds are thin. It's also Amiga-speed rather than PC-speed.

The C64's music was ported by Pablo Toledo:

You can't help wondering what it had sounded like if Rob had done it with his samples driver for big huge drums like on the Amiga.

 For a nice overview of the Amiga/C64/CPC conversions, have a watch of this:

 The ZX Spectrum and MSX versions obviously share a lot of DNA, and perhaps a title tune was too much to hope for.

 Fun fact: at this point, EA started giving names to their title tunes: the title of the Budokan intro theme is "Point of Focus".

 

Indianapolis 500 (1989)

DOS (original, 1989), Amiga (1990/1991)

... and the title tune for Indianapolis 500 is "Braking Hard".

Here's a nice comparison of the various PC modes including beeper (leaving out the Tandy):

While it left barely a trace, there's one video I found of the game running using the Tandy chip, which shows a very nice 3 voice version of the tune going on.

 

The Amiga version (as usual, it seems), followed later.

Spirited title theme, but it's not surprising that the output from PAULA couldn't compete with an expensive external hardware module (MT32).

When EA released a sampler CD in the mid-90s, it was the MT32 versions of the themes that were put on it.

 

Populous (1989)

The game that made Bullfrog, Rob's Amiga music was a bona-fide classic.

Like all of his contemporaries on the Amiga, Rob had to squeeze as much music into the game as possible, since he was contending with the developers for memory space as much as on the 8-bit platforms.

Still, Rob was thinking orchestrally throughout. And, as if to prove it...

Mmmm, orchestras. (in this case, the Tokyo City Philharmonic). Now you can understand why we can to give Rob's music the London Symphony Orchestra, starting with 8-bits and moving outwards.

There were ports. There are always ports.

Acorn Archimedes, Atari ST, FM TownsMS-DOSGame BoyMac OSMaster SystemNEC PC-9801PC EngineSega GenesisSharp X68000SNES

 


Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs

MS-DOS (1989), Mega Drive/Genesis (1991)

Continuing a trend for complicated names that will have annoyed the heck out of people running games databases with small "game title" fields, we have what I will call "LvC". The title refers to a rivalry between these two Basketball teams. 

Initially a PC-only release, and ported to the Genesis/Megadrive later.

Thanks to Laurent Andrivot for recording MT32 PC soundtrack for us!

 The Genesis version is fondly remembered, but the title tune is markedly different to the PC iteration.

 

 And of course it's easy to forget that were were in-game tunes too:

 

Ski or Die

Amiga (1991)NES (1990)MS-DOS (1990)C64 (1990), PC Engine (1990) reviewed in Joystick magazine issue 5.

From this point in EA's history, it was common for the MS-DOS version of the game to be the reference original: presumably both for marketing reasons (the MS-DOS market was huge) and technical reasons (open platform, good ecosystem of developer tools).

Of course, PCs without sound were extremely common, so had to adapt even to the lowest common denominator:

 Loving that pitch bend.

Here's how it sounded on Adlib (this recording is via the Adlib emulation on a Soundblaster 16).

.. and on the MT32...

Impressive, but the hardware required was out of the budget of many.

Now we've covered the PC versions, let's see what the Amiga was doing (the first reviews of this version appear in the middle of 1991: I wonder what the delay was?)

The C64 version appeared by the end of 199, with Dave Warhol porting Rob's tune, but not with Rob's sample driver, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.

as did the NES, though since the port came from Konami, it's likely someone else did the port. They did a good job though.

 

 

688 Attack Sub (1989) 

MS-DOS (original)
Amiga, Genesis, NEC PC-9801

Realistic simulations are one of the genres that age more badly than most, for the same reason that Adlib music aged badly: because it was hitting the limitations of the technology and those limitations obviously moved over time. 

This game was well received at the time, though, so let's have a look at the MS-DOS version, in this case, the Adlib version.

Again, you can hear Rob thinking much more orchestrally here.

 If anything gives a clue as to how the SID might have sounded, it's the Tandy 1000 version, addressing the SN76496 sound chip. Dramatic!

Here he's using PCM samples to do the chords. This might have been more problematic on the C64 for memory reasons. I'll leave the last word to SeattleMatt1976 on YouTube:

Rob Hubbard mania: not just SID!

Of course, the definitive version of this music will always be on the MT32, and we will be making sure that it appears on the Rob Hubbard Archive Album in Project Hubbard.

So, what happened to the Amiga version? Initial viewings on YouTube indicate that there wasn't any title tune! Ran out of space? There's a story there you can be sure we'll look into in more depth for "Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference".

Meanwhile, the Genesis/Megadrive version sounded like this:

This difference is explained by the fact that 688 Attack Sub was licensed by Sega of America in 1990, shortly before EA began publishing Sega games for themselves, which seemingly meant new music unrelated to the PC version: possibly because EA didn't have a Sega driver, or possibly because given the Tandy's reliance on samples for chords, that the tune was too ambitious for the Genesis at that point in time.

Join us next time when we return to cover the 1990/1991 period, including "The Immortal", Skate or Die 2, Low Blow, John Madden Football, PGA Tour Golf the evergreen Road Rash, and Desert Strike, where we try to find a tune in it that Rob actually wrote!

See you next time.


The EAvolution of Rob Hubbard - part 1, 1988 October 12, 2017 20:34

Part 2 is here

Project Hubbard: 1988: Rob Hubbard hits EA with a bang. And sports. C64, Tandy 1000, Adlib, NES.

Rob Hubbard was the king of music in EA games from 1988 until the mid-90s when they started licencing music... and covered Commodore 64, Amiga, NES, Tandy Jr, PC, 3DO and even MSX.

"Rob Hubbard - the Official Reference" has a section devoted to his career at EA, and some of his archive album also covers this. 

Much of his work was overlooked by SID fans (though not Skate or Die!), so here's some YouTube videos for "What Rob Hubbard did in 1988!"

This article sponsored by Rob's official Kickstarter (book, albums, SIDs, etc), Project Hubbard. Why not back it or pre-order now?

 

Skate or Die

The original theme was composed in August 1987, but it wasn't until Rob joined EA fully that he wrote the drivers for addressing the Tandy 1000-series, which used a variant of the Texas Instruments SN76496 sound chip also featured in the BBC Micro, the IBM PCjr and the TI-99/4A (and which was a competitor to the much-loved AY-3-8910).

As we know, a combination of factors led to Europeans becoming used to a much slower version of Rob's guitar-laden intro tune than Rob intended on the Commodore 64.

This is confirmed by listening to his Tandy version, which is fairly speedy. The speed makes sense given that skateboarding activities aren't known for their sluggish pace. Note that the Tandy version also has the 4-bit PCM samples. I guess this proves that not having a bug on the SN chip was no hindrance to doing samples, something Rob proved later on the NES with Skate or Die 2.

The samples seem a lot more polite in this version.

Skate or Die did see a NES release, and Rob's tune covered (without guitars) by Kouji Murata.

 

This video's comments also contain the first NES vs C64 flame war I've seen between grown adults!

If there had been an Amiga or ST version, it probably would have looked and sounded similar to the Apple IIGS verson:

PC owners not lucky enough to own sound hardware still got some funky pitch bending on the speaker version:

The ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC ports had no music.

Wikipedia mentions Atari ST, but it seems there was only a demo on that platform (although there was conversion activity through Codemasters/Kinetic).

 

Jordan vs. Bird: One on One

Otherwise known as "One on One 2", this was a sequel to one of EA's most successful early games. The title music to the first game was "The Entertainer", so this music was a big step up.

Highlight of this game was pulling the basket down. The game was also on the Apple II, one of EA's main platforms of the time.

So, the sequel was much better specific, with another sample-based Rob Hubbard track, and a lot better graphics.

In these days, EA was still cool enough to let the programmers take credit for things on the title screen.

The Tandy version manages to capture much of the spirit, thanks to reuse of the samples made famous in the C64 version, which were actually recorded on an Amiga.

Digitised photo FTW!

The NES version was programmed by RARE, and as you'd expect, doesn't share the soundtrack.

Hmm, not a huge fan. Sorry.

 

Kings of the Beach

Or, "VOLLEY" as Rob's source code directory put it.

Mmm.... source code directory....

Quite interesting that there's some Hockey stuff in here. What to make of that?

The C64 version. You can almost feel the breeze. Rob says this was based on a Soca band called "Arrow".

The Tandy version is quite chipper, too.

... and an Adlib recording surfaced too, from the MS-DOS version.

One thing's for sure: one of those YouTube commenters doesn't like the programmer very much.

The Adlib version sounds like if there was an extra level in Wolfenstein 3D that only had a party in it.

The NES version didn't have Rob's music, being programmed externally. 

 I'm kind of biased, but I preferred Rob's.

 

Powerplay Hockey: USA vs USSR

Shades of Shockway Rider here, though Rob says the guitar is missing from this.

There's some random gameplay footage here:

 

This was only released on the Commodore 64.  I wonder why? Maybe we need a Kickstarter...

Click here for Part 2: 1989, with all the joys of Rob, including Populous.

 

 


20% off Rob Hubbard Sale! October 12, 2017 12:39

To celebrate the Project Hubbard Kickstarter at http://www.projecthubbard.com, now you can get 20% off anything from C64audio.com's Hubbard Collection, from vinyl to Blu-Ray!

Use code PROJECTHUBBARD at the checkout any time until the end of the campaign.

Click below to check out the Rob Hubbard collection!


How to be a remixer October 10, 2017 14:24

Getting started as a Remixer

You want to remix C64 tunes yourself?

Be aware that there are thousands of C64 remixes out there. Many of them cover the following games:

  • Arkanoid
  • Auf Wiedersehen Monty
  • Comic Bakery
  • Commando
  • Cybernoid II
  • Delta
  • Giana Sisters
  • Hawkeye
  • Human Race
  • International Karate
  • The Last Ninja
  • Last Ninja 2
  • Last Ninja 3
  • Lightforce
  • Myth
  • Parallax
  • Sanxion
  • Wizball

Therefore unless you've got a really new idea, it's probably best to concentrate on something less established, because the Commodore 64 remix audience is quite accustomed to high quality remixes on a regular basis. Releasing your first tune is quite disheartening when the response is a collective shrug.
Unless you're being really weird, the chances are there's already a mix just like the one you have planned: so do something different!
There's over 40,000 SIDs in the High Voltage SID Collection (HVSC), so it shouldn't be too hard to find something that inspires you. 

Now, let's assume you've found a tune to concentrate on: 

What's the Next Step?

Well, it's not "find a sequencer". It's "make sure you know why you're doing this".
Have you got something to say with the original SID? Is it lacking something only you can provide? Has no one touched it before? Is it one of your favourite tunes, and can only flourish in your hands?

If the answer to the above was YES, then you have that all-important thing which will make people respond to your music: an IDEA!
Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation (a cover of David Whittaker's Lazy Jones) had an idea.
It was very successful, though of course the legal background to that is decidedly unsatisfactory.
No one is terribly impressed by taking a generic loop and sticking it on a SID recording.
It doesn't matter if you use free softsynths or thousands of pounds worth of hardware: lack of ideas shows through instantly. The days are long gone when the fans applauded any C64 cover. 

Assuming you've made it this far without being depressed, it gets more exciting.
The main challenge in remixing is to master the original tune. A common mistake is to put all your energy into recreating the original tune, and then have no creative energy left over to make it shine.
It's an achievement to recreate a C64 piece, exactly, but it's only the beginning of the process, not the end. 

How DO you recreate a C64 piece?

Get to know the original, its feel and its soul. Load up SIDPlay and listen to the tune. Practice playing it until it's a part of you. Try and hear the differences between what it is, and what's in your head. A lot of artistic choices will be determined by the style you've chosen, though you can often make an impact by putting in the unexpected.
Record individual tracks if you have a SIDplayer that allows it... then if you're still lost, use a tool like SID2MIDI (which converts SID music to a MIDI file, but again should only be used as a starting point). Ear2MIDI is also very popular! ;-) 

Which sequencer do you use?

Any that you feel comfortable with. Remixers on Remix64 have used at various times:

and others (it's not an exhaustive list). Try the demo versions, find one you feel comfortable with, and use it. Get to know it very well with small test projects to avoid having your ideas limited by your knowledge of the technology.#
Software generally divides into MIDI sequencers (which tend to take a linear approach to composition and which are designed to drive external MIDI hardware as well as VST Softsynths), and Trackers, which take a more pattern-based approach. Sibelius is a scoring package, so everything is done with sheet music.
In terms of sounds, they're generally inbuilt, or you would use external hardware through a MIDI interface, or you would plug in soft synths (or a combination). There is a vast range of stuff on the net for free. Just googling "free VST plugins" will keep going for weeks.

Needless to say, planning is important in your remix. How does the tune change over time (or not)? What is being added to interest the listener? How do your new tracks combine with the existing SID ones?

If you want to include SID from games in your remixes, you have many choices:
  1. SIDPlay for Windows will save a SID as a WAV: though it will be an emulated WAV, and thus imperfect, though the quality has vastly improved. The JSidplay player also allows you to mute channels, which is perfect for remixing and has an oscilloscope view.

  2. VICE and other C64 emulators will also output sound now.

  3. SIDFX is a cool solution to put into your real C64 to add dual/swappable SID chips, and has noise reduction. It can be used in conjunction with a control panel application downloadable from CSDB. There is currently a waiting list for the second batch.

  4. Record from a real C64 using the video port (though this tends to be noisy), and the quality you gain from recording from a real SID chip is lessened by the noise.

  5. Mssiah cartridge is also worth a look: it turns your C64 into a MIDI synthesizer, 4-bit wave player, sequencer, etc.

Older solutions that are less accessible now included:

  1. Midibox - a DIY midi board with a SIDchip on. The schematics were free, and it had Sid playing. Search it out if you're curious.

  2. Catweasel - a multi-function card for the Amiga and PC which amongst other things allows you to play SIDs through a real SID chip. It was good, but PC technology changes left it incompatible with modern PCs. Individual Computers, the manufacturers, do many other good things.

  3. HardSID card. This card will allow you both to record SID music, and use the card as a MIDI device. It was brilliant, but again, modern PCs left it behind. However, the HardSID 4U is still functional (though drivers are unsigned).

  4. Sidstation: the most expensive SID player ever, now itself part of history.
Real SID is mostly welcome in a remix, especially if treated with FX and used imaginatively. Some fans live for this kind of sound!  :-)

A note from the Legal Side 

What if you want to use your remix commercially? 

Well, many of the original pieces are now registered with MCPS/PRS/STIM/GEMA, whatever. So permission to cover them (but NOT to sample the SID) is already granted, subject to the normal royalties charged by these organisations (which deal with all music). However, all SIDs are under copyright to someone. No one minds if you upload covers to Remix.kwed.org though.

Contact us if you want to use C64 music in a film or TV Programme. 

We'd be delighted to help out.