Rob Hubbard - The Official Reference - Explained!

Posted by Chris Abbott on

Project Hubbard was an ideal opportunity to give Rob Hubbard fans on all platforms the best book they could possibly get. 29 years after he left for EA, fans could be forgiven for thinking it would never happen. But, if Kickstarter is good for something, it's about making the unlikely happen.

But why does Rob deserve a book? 

"Because as well as being a great composer, he also made himself a part of the community both back in the 80s and now, and he always stands his round. Galway's musical contribution is possibly greater, but Rob .. he had a bizarre Northern star quality. He's just a lovely bloke. And funny. And swears a lot. But seriously, I bought up a pint at the thing up north that time, and he promptly bought me one back. That kinda thing sticks with you. :)

During his stage performances, he's always played with and bantered with the audience. That always makes things feel special, and personal. This Night Only, Mr. Rob Hubbard. He plays other nights, but none will be like that one." - Mark Hennessy-Barrett, Video FX "The Orville".

This opinion is widely shared, albeit with a statistically biased sample :)

What book do you write?

Rob himself habitually underplays the impact of his work on other people, or its effect on the video games industry: which we contend is substantial. But what book do you write?

It's certainly not a Rob Hubbard picture book. We believe that fans of Rob's work are thirsting over the details and aching for the nitty-gritty. Sure, there's pictures... lots of them. But they've got to serve the text. What did his EA development environment look like? Just what was the band Muffin up to in Norway? What did his sounds look like if you draw them, for instance?

More than a biography

Most music biographies seem to spend very little time on the actual music produced by the personality. This is partially because it's quite difficult to write about music using words, and traditional musicology is a very dry subject not suited to a general readership.

However, Rob's defining feature isn't his own life: it's that his music affected the lives of others, sometimes drastically so.

Here's Ian Flory, the author of the free Rob Hubbard PC game  "RoboRob" on what Rob means to him:

Others also owe Rob a debt:

"I kinda owe all I have done with music to Rob and the SID" - Tim Koch"

"I grew up on his game music in the 80/90, his C64 music was a great influence on me, and is one of the major reasons I got interested in game design/development. I didn't go the music route, but rather graphics & 3d design, but still, if it wasn't for his contributions in the 80s & 90s, I might not have went into this profession." - John Gado

Provisional outline (open in new tab for full-size):

Getting the time right

His music deserves historical accuracy, by getting timelines right so that we can create a primary source to make sure Wikipedia is correct.

We have access to Rob's own invoice books, and of course the brain of Rob himself, to ensure that this book is definitive. No more Wikipedia arguments!

His music also deserves expansion and context such as fun facts and cool background information about the music. 


Behind the Music

Quite often the music was cleverer than you thought: and we want to explain why!

In this case, Dr Kenny McAlpine, the UK's premier chipmusicologist is the ideal person to step in. A published academic with a book about chipmusic about to appear on Oxford University Press.

Kenny is very keen to analyse Rob's music properly. He will look in-depth at how he used both the technology and the musical content to create the feelings and atmosphere that the fans responded to, and will do it in a readable and interesting way.

For a composer such as Rob, to whom life has always been about the music, this is the ideal way to pay respect: giving his music a suitably deep analysis that isn't bogged down by dry music theory.

Provisional outline (open in new tab for full-size):


Behind the Tech

We've all wished we knew how Rob (or any of the composers) did what they did. In this book, you can find out. 

We're taking great pains to present Rob's Electronic Arts Driver in a way that makes it understandable. Of course we print the driver itself in a technical appendix, but we will also analyse how it works at a high level. Thanks to Jason Page porting Rob's driver to object oriented code, we can show much more easily how it works conceptually.

You might never be able to write a driver, but finally, after all these years, you'll get an idea of how it all works.

Provisional outline (open in new tab for full-size):

Rob is other people

Rob's impact on lives all over the world was immense. That's something that should be looked at in as much depth as we can fit in. He built software houses, and he changed lives. He inspired more devotion, disciples and innovation than he could ever have imagined.

It was, and is, a double life where the modest musician from Hull is some sort of global rock-star, but one who, in the immortal words of Ben Daglish, "can still go down to the supermarket without being hassled."

Provisional outline (open in new tab for full-size):

The Whole Rob

Of course, it was his work on the Commodore 64 in the mid-80s that made his name: but Rob had a long career before that, and a long career after: innovating, composing and orchestrating. The book covers that: his time playing in over 20 bands (he's doing to try and remember the names of most of them, but two of them are "Muffin" and "Snoopy Woodstock"), his time spent working on "Work Opera" with Steve Daggett (re-produced in full for the first time) and his other life working the cruise ships.

The Project Hubbard Archive CD allows people to experience his "lost works": and in some cases, works that were released, but in a better form.

Not just for SID

Just as any book on Paul McCartney would concentrate on his music after the Beatles, this book gives proper credit and exposure to his work on other technical platforms, such as the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Atari ST, NES, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, PC, 3DO and even PSX.

Anyone who has enjoyed Rob's music, whether they be a 90s Mega Drive owner who lived through Road Rash and John Madden, a NES fanatic who head-banged to Skate or Die 2 or thrilled to "The Immortal", or a PC owner who fell in love with Rob's Sherlock music while solving crimes in Victorian London... this book should be of interest to them all.

If the campaign makes £55,000, each Rob book will come with a Rob Hubbard source code bookmark exclusive to the Kickstarter.

Hopefully we've explained enough about the book to make you realise how much we're planning to do.

Each section of the book is self-contained and focussed, so it's also ideal for dipping into.

Now, why not support it? 

We have a great team on board: Dr McAlpine, Paul E. Morrison (published author), Roger Kean (game industry and Newsfield legend), Anna Black (media expert) and

It's Rob's Gig

Of course, Rob himself is the star of the book, and his involvement is what sets this book apart. He has raided his archives to find scans and unreleased tracks, and made exclusive material available that's never been seen.

Holy Sheet!

There's even sheet music: easy piano and guitar tabs, and if space permits, C64 Orchestra scores (if space doesn't permit, these PDFs will be made available as separate digital downloads).

The Mighty Robb

Help us create a better book by pre-ordering/backing it: one stretch goal is to create additional pages for the book which have Zzap! style talking heads reviewing Rob's music, called "Robb!64", with the blessing of Roger Kean and Oli Frey.

Thanks for reading!


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