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Renowned composer Peter McConnell scores Goblin Stone from Orc Chop Games

Composer Peter McConnell is responsible for some of the most memorable tunes of some of the most beloved video games of all time. There’s a good chance you hummed along with his melodies while playing classics like Monkey Island 2, Sam & Max and Grim Fandango. Or, more recently, Hearthstone and Psychonauts 2. He also wrote the soundtrack to the upcoming turn-based RPG Goblin Stone by Orc Chop Games

“I fell in love with the game right away when I was contacted by Vince McDonnell, Orc Chop’s lead designer”, says McConnell. “The art, narration, story, all are first-class in my book. And so I created all of the music used in the game, with help from my colleague, Jared Emerson-Johnson. The action music was made to be used in an adaptive way in the sense that it can build in layers according to the energy level of combat.”

As he has always done with all the different soundtracks he has created over the years, McConnell began with the melody. “I always start like that!”, he says. “In the old days I would hum themes into a hand-held cassette recorder. Now I just sing into my iPhone. The process is the same: the melody comes first, then the studio mock-up, then the live recording. I have no limitations on instruments. instrumentation depends on what I hear after looking at the art or movies. Like a lot of composers I work in Pro Tools because that software translates most readily to other studio environments.” 

Useful skills

How things have changed in the 30 years McConnell is in the business. It was 1991 when his old roommate Michael Land brought in McConnell when he needed assistance in LucasFilm Games’ audio department. Together, they created a new music playback system called iMUSE, which was later utilized in many LucasArts games. Alongside Clint Bajakian, the trio composed the music for several classic adventures as well as Star Wars games. “I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time with some useful skills.”

McConnell: “There isn’t much that I wouldn’t like to do, musically speaking. I particularly appreciate projects that come at a subject from some new and different angle.”

“The hardware limitations of those early computer games were a gift in a way”, continues McConnell. “Because they made us focus on writing memorable melodies that could hold up to being played back on a Sound Blaster card. I am grateful for having learned to score for games in a real-world situation that was stripped down to the barest bones of visual and audio communication.”

Growing appreciation

In the decades that followed McConnell witnessed a growing appreciation for video game music. “It most definitely is taken more seriously nowadays, because games occupy a much more prominent role in pop culture than they used to. When you can read in the Wall Street Journal about how Halo has affected Microsoft’s bottom line, that tells you something right there. As game composers we are fortunate to be part of something that affects the everyday lives of millions of people, so there is a certain amount of attention and responsibility there.”

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.

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