Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started in the video game music business?
Well, I had not intended to get into video games. I went to school and studied music, and then recorded and toured with a professional band for about 3 years. Shortly thereafter my father saw an ad for a musician at Sierra – I had no idea what that was at the time – but I went ahead and sent in a tape and resume. A couple months later I had an interview and next thing I knew I was working in the games industry!
You’ve worked on the King’s Quest series for quite some time? How did you get involved in the series?
It was actually my first job at Sierra. I handled all the integration of the music for King’s Quest 4. Minus a couple very minor cues, all of the music was written by William Goldstein. Through that experience and a few others early on, I got to know King’s Quest very well. Ultimately I worked on KQ4, 5, 6, 7, 1 VGA, and Mask of Eternity in various capacities.
One of your most famous works was King’s Quest V. What were your goals in creating the score?
It was the first King’s Quest that would have a complete multimedia experience (Music, Voice, and SFX). Our goal was to attempt a complete audio experience with a very orchestral/renaissance flavour. We also wanted to make the music feel somewhat interactive for the player by doing lots of small pieces that could start on user input.
You’ve also scored Quest for Glory I. Could you tell us something about that score?
Well, if you listen to it next to Star Trek the motion picture, you might hear some similarities. I was asked to write something with the same flavour. What came out was the Hero’s Quest Theme (Later renamed to Quest for Glory).
What is, in your opinion, the most difficult / challenging / enjoyable task when composing for a game?
The most difficult task for me is getting that first theme. It was always a struggle for me to get a piece of music that captured the feel of what the designers, artists, and myself thought the game should sound like. Once that was done, usually everything else fell into place pretty easily.
What other composers / musical styles have had the greatest influences on you? What is in your CD-player right now?
For movie scores I like James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and James Newton Howard. What I’m listening to right now – I play guitar for a band at a church in Baltimore, Trinity Assembly, so I have a lot of popular worship music to stay up to date with what is happening there. Mostly the Wow CD’s, and some Integrity stuff. I also teach a little guitar so I try to stay up to date with some of the popular bands. I really like Switchfoot right now. And then of course there’s the old stuff like Pink Floyd, Queen, etc…the kind of stuff all guitar players listen to ;) AND since I got my degree in music, I also acquired a taste for opera. One of my favourites is Turandot by Puccini.
You’re not only a composer, but also a producer. What was your task as executive producer for the game Arcanum?
I came onto that project in the last 9 to 10 months. It was way behind schedule and way over budget. My job was to basically get it done. It was really hard being put in that position, but someone had to do it. The team had worked so hard to make a great game and I felt bad having to rush them to get it done. I know I didn’t make many friends with the development team on that project, but in spite of that I am proud of what they were able to do in a short period of time. And it was rewarded with some nice awards. Troika deserves all the credit, and I applaud them! I was trying to get them another project before Sierra imploded, but that’s another story…
Hands down: what’s more fun, being a composer or being a producer?
Tough question – Guess I’m going to say it depends on the project. I had great fun as a producer working with Al Lowe on Larry and Torins. However, composing for some of the early games like KQ5 and Camelot was great fun.
What is, so far, your favourite project you’ve worked on?
Another tough one, but I’m going to go with Larry 7 only because I don’t think I laughed so much on any other project I’ve ever worked on. We came to work to find new and better ways to make people laugh. Now that’s a fun job!
What would be your dream project?
I think I’d really enjoy working with Al or Roberta again. I know Al has a new project going right now – if only I was still living in Seattle …
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working for BreakAway Games in Hunt Valley , MD. My project has not yet been announced, so I can’t really say much about it at this time. I can say this – I’m the producer on the project, there are some VERY talented people working on it that have been in the industry for MANY years, and it will probably be announced late this year or early next year.
Do you play PC or console games, yourself? If so, what’s your favourite one and why?
I have a PS2 and a GameCube, but the PC is still my platform of choice. Overall I find the PC games to be less geared toward “twitch” games. I like strategy and RPG’s for the PC. I also like the hi-res graphics and greater detail in content found in PC titles.
Is there anything you’d like to say that I didn’t cover?
No- hope you got what you wanted.
Thanks again and good luck on your coming endeavours.