Graeme was nice enough to answer a few questions about his incredible body of work as well as "Second Sight" which was recently rereleased on steam. Here's what he had to say!
Q1: The 6th generation, multi platform hidden gem "Second Sight" has been released on steam. As lead composer on that project was that something you were happy to see?
A1: I wasn’t aware it was on Steam but I’m happy that it is, the more people get the opportunity to have access to these older games the better. A lot of love and work was put in to that game as I’m sure were many games like it at the time.
The OST for Second Sight isn’t as accessible as most of my output, it’s quite dark and atonal but I feel it fits the mood of the game and will help add a sense of immersion to the experience.
Q2: You have contributed music to several quintessential games in the N64 library. The console was historically difficult to compose music for due to its lack of a sound chip. Did you personally find it limiting when composing for those games?
A2: You have to remember I’d come from working on the Super Nintendo and Gameboy so at the time this was definitely seen as a step up. Limiting by today’s standards but at the time it was very liberating.
I had a sound driver written by one of the in-house coders to allow me to compose directly onto the N64 hardware from my PC. As I was writing a piece of music, I could hear how it would sound to the player. This gave me the freedom to experiment. What happens if I pitch this sample down many octaves but bath it in reverb for example. I could push the limitations of a primitive system and see what tricks I could get out of it.
Q3: Do you think it would be worth while for chiptune artists to explore the limitations of the N64 the way that they have with NES, SNES, Sega Genesis and Game Boy?
A3: I think it depends on whether that system is dear to your heart. I grew up with a love of the Commodore 64 and still listen to the music created by the SID chip today. To me, this is timeless. I moved to the Amiga next, but for whatever reason, I don’t hold the same love for it’s 8bit aliased samples that is loved by many people.
I feel it’s down to a sound chip’s capabilities.
Something like the SID is still being explored and exploited. People are finding tricks even to this day. Consoles or Computers where the sound is mainly sample playback is limited to just that.
It’s the same if we go back to the Amiga. Composers would try and trick the listener in to thinking there was more going on that 4 channels and they would find workarounds to create amazing music.
I’m not sure how you would do that with the N64. The channel count was limited by what else was happening within the game as there was no dedicated sound chip, so everything had to be shared. Likewise the cartridge size. The first games released would have been 8 or 12 megabits (the games at the end of the N64’s run were up to 256 megabits)
There are soundfonts available for SNES games like Donkey Kong Country and N64 games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark but why go through that pain?
It all comes down to what makes the composer feel happy. Like I said, I love the C64 Sid chip. For others it might be the Nes, Snes or N64. Good luck to them!
Q4: Do you game on the same sound system you compose with?
A4: These days my day job is mobile and I have a set of tricks and tips that I work towards to make sure what I’m writing will sound good from a phone’s mono speaker. Even in 2021 we work within limitations.
Q5: What's the last game you played?
A5: Honestly, it was Galaxian last weekend. My friend gave me a Mame arcade cabinet for my birthday and I absolutely love playing through those early 80s arcade games. Oh to be young again.
Find more of their music below!