You a Pilot, Lieutenant? Or a Musician?
It’s my great pleasure to (finally) introduce you to one of our newer team members, Greg “FilmCompos3r” Nicolett – our lead composer/musician for the project. I say “newer” – he’s actually been with us for well over a year at this point, so this article is well past due!
But enough from me – I’ll turn you over to the man himself:
In His Own Words
My “history” with the franchise began with a copy of Wing Commander 2, which I picked up at 11 years old on sale from my local toy store and played on a 13” black and white pc monitor. I was playing Lucasarts “X-Wing” space sim at the time, but the story, characters, and colorful bitmaps in Wing Commander 2 quickly drew my 11 year old brain away from the textureless polygons of X-Wing . I quickly fell in love with the music, and would spend hours tinkering with midi “sound fonts” trying to get the most realistic orchestral playback (I was a strange child).
I remember it being a little controversial when, for Wing Commander IV, the developers switched from MIDI to “digital audio.” Digital audio, of course, is what all games use now, but at the time technical and memory limitations meant that, in many ways, digital audio sounded worse than a good MIDI synthesizer. Low bit rates, mono audio, audible loop points, and jarring transitions were common.
You can tell a lot about a system from its music, you know?
For the remaster, we’re going to be using George Oldziey’s live symphonic recordings he made in 2014 wherever we can, but there’s still a great deal of music that hasn’t been recorded, including all the music heard in the demo. For those tracks, I’ve recreated them by ear, listening deeply for each layer and then performing them into Cubase. I keep George’s themes and harmonies exactly as is, augmenting them with modern sounds, textures, and percussion.
We’re also experimenting with ways we can subtly expand on the original score. For example, one of the ways digital audio was limited was by length. The demo’s original battle music track is only 45 seconds long, which can get quite repetitive during a long dog fight. For the re-master, I doubled the length and added in some variations to the original arrangement to help keep the music fresh (see video below/left).
Another example – Wing Commander III featured background music while walking around the Victory, but there’s no such music in IV. I think it could be interesting to compose music that adapted to the story arc; perhaps music that’s more militaristic and authoritarian while on board the Lexington, giving way to music that’s a bit more emotional while on board the Intrepid.
Finally, I’d love to create original arrangements for key in-flight plot points to help amplify the drama of the moment.