Allister Brimble /
Added on December 8th, 2010 (8143 views)
Hello and welcome! Please introduce yourself to anyone who may not know you.
My life's work has been to create music and sound effects for computer and video games. I've written the music for over 350 titles since 1989 including the Team17 range of Amiga games, Driver 1 and 2, Rollercoaster Tycoon and most recently, Sonic & Sega All Star Racing for DS.
How did you first get started with computers and the C64 in particular?
I always had a fascination with video games from a very early age, and eventually my parents gave in a bought me a ZX Spectrum. I played the piano as well and started to enter small tunes into the Spectrum using the "beep" command. Later on, I expanded to the Spectrum 128K which could play three notes at the same time and soon after, the C64, where I was amazed by the quality of the music.
Tell us how your career in games started. Did you submit work samples to various games companies looking for jobs, or did jobs come to you?
It first started with the Amiga. I sent some tunes I had written to a public domain software company called 17Bit Software (now Team17). They liked the tunes so much they included one on their monthly news disk run by Martin Brown. Over the next few years, they asked me to create several music demo disks including translations of many C64 tracks. I submitted some music to Code Masters who then gave me my first job on a game called Four Soccer Sims, later released as Italia 1990.
What attracted you to the C64 as a development platform? Was it as special as we like to think it was?
It was the amazing SID chip that attracted me and games such as The Last Ninja captivated me. I would often record the best C64 tunes onto cassette tape and listen to them whilst on holiday. I never expected to write music for the C64 as I had moved onto the Amiga, but my work for Code Masters led me to produce music for several of their budget titles later on in the C64's life.
What C64 games did you work on? Write a list with the titles and as much information you remember about each of them.
These were all made in the last years of the C64's life. Remember I worked for the Amiga first and then turned to the C64 when I was offered some projects by Code Masters. My goal was to use the best instruments from the likes of Hubbard and Galway. These were budget titles where the tunes had to be knocked out fast and this shows in the short length of many of them.
Dizzy: Down the Rapids
Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk
The Hunt for Red October
Murray Mouse Super Cop
Robin Hood Legend Quest
Sergeant Seymour: Robotcop
Seymour at the Movies (Seymour goes to Hollywood)
The Sword and the Rose
Terry's Big Adventure
Wild West Seymour
What companies did you work for, in-house and/or freelance, and what were your tasks?
Code Masters and Domark on the C64. The rest would be too many to list here. My full portfolio can be found at: www.c64.com/downloads/orchestralmediaportfolio.pdf.
What did a typical day in front of the computer look like?
My first task was to learn the musical style being asked for. Then I had to compose the music using a tracker style editor on the Amiga. Finally I would copy the notes by hand into a C64 assembler, taking care to optimize the song data for best memory usage. Finally I would create the C64's instruments in assembler.
When you were assigned to a game, how much time did you usually have to finish your work?
It took me about one day to write a tune. Most games including sound effects creation took about one week.
What tools/development kits/etc. did you use, and did you create any yourself to satisfy your needs?
I started with a sound player by Wally Beben on the C64 where everything had to be input within an assembler. Later on, my coder friend Michael Delaney created a real time editor for me where I could enter notes and create instruments real time. You can hear the improved quality in games such as Rampart.
Were there any games you worked on which never saw the light of day?
Not on the C64 but definitely a few on the Amiga and more recently on the Wii.
Which game are you most proud of, which was most fun to do, which became a real challenge, and which gave you headaches?
I enjoyed making the C64 soundtrack to Rampart with Michaels' new editor. It was great being able to tweak the instruments real time until they were perfect. The game I am most proud of recently is Fluidity on the Wii which is out soon. In the Amiga days, it's probably Alien Breed, Superfrog or Project X.
If you had the chance to go back to any of your past games, what would you add and/or remove?
I'd improve the instruments a lot on my C64 work. My early titles contained no dynamics, i.e. the instruments are all very loud and not mixed properly as a full track. Also, now that I know people are still listening to the C64 tracks, I wish I had worked on them a little harder!
Were there any particular games that you would have liked to work on or converted from arcade?
Ghosts'n Goblins would have been great on the C64, but later I got the chance anyway with the Game Boy Color version.
Did you get much chance to play games as well as create them? Any favourites?
Yes, I played them all the time but normally just to listen to the music. I enjoyed playing The Last Ninja and Uridium on the C64.
Were there any games which you felt were so appalling and bad that you wished you had worked on to do a better job?
As long as I get paid, I don't care. :) But it's nice to get a good product at the end that you can be proud of.
Was there a particular programmer, artist and/or musician who influenced you and possibly gave inspiration to your own work, or did inspiration come from somewhere else?
David Whittaker with his amazing work on Glider Rider on the Spectrum 128K, Tim Follin for his amazing six channel music on the ZX Spectrum 48K, plus Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway and Ben Daglish on the C64. I never reached their heights with the budget C64 titles I worked on, but I hope I managed to capture their essence later on with the Amiga.
Share some memories from the old days! It could for instance be something you remember a colleague did or said, about your time in the demo scene, about crackers stealing development disks, or about going to computer shows.
The best memory is when I made the sound effects for the Amiga game Alien Breed using newly born kittens to make the noise! I sampled one and by accident I fell on my keyboard, producing the kitten sound three octaves down, three notes at once. I added an explosion and it was a perfect alien death sound. So, remember when playing Alien Breed that you're killing poor defenceless kittens! None were hurt during recording though. :)
We can't ignore the fact that there were other machines apart from the C64. Share with us the software and/or hardware you created on other systems.
Here are the tools for each format:
C64: C64 + Amiga editor
Amiga: Tracker utilitiy + Kurzweil K2000 hardware synth amongst others
Old CD audio titles: Amiga or PC, Cubase VST with racks of hardware synths and effects
New CD audio titles: PC, Cubase 5 and software instrument plugins
Nintendo DS: Modplug Tracker, Cubase VST, C compiler, special NDS dev kit
Wii: Modplug Tracker, Cubase VST, C compiler, special NDS dev kit
What are you up to these days?
Creating music on the Wii, Nintendo DS and soon Nintendo 3DS! My latest title is Fluidity for the Wii and Sega & Sonic All Star Racing for DS.
Thank you for helping us preserve an important part of computer and gaming history! Do you have any last comments to leave a final impression on the audience? Feel free to send any greetings to anyone you know.
I grew up listening to game music and now I'm living my dream! Thanks to Martin at Team17 for getting me into it, Anthony Putson for putting up with me as well as all founders of game music, which for me is Rob Hubbard and David Whittaker.
back to the list of available interviews