Developer Reflections: Peter McConnell
Would you consider yourself a fan of the original Maniac Mansion? Did you play it before becoming involved with the sequel?
Well, I had a Mac and there was no Mac version (until much later), so no, I hadn't played it before hand. But I did learn the story and watch parts of the original. The technology had changed so much by Day of the Tentacle that the field was wide open in terms of musical statement.
How were the duties split between yourself, Michael Land, and Clint Bajakian on the game?
We each took a time period, more or less, with a couple of exceptions. As I recall Clint was Past, I was Present and Michael was Future. I seem to remember one of the exceptions being that I may have written a little fugue on the Dr. Fred theme for the past. Clint and I split the opening, too. I did the bouncy trumpety theme, and Clint did the dark and wacky alternate parts.
Was there a particular of the three time periods featured in the game that was most fun/challenging to compose for?
I think they were all tough in some ways. The trick was keeping them coherent with each other, since three of us were doing the score. I think it worked out OK.
Aside from the catchy main theme, there isn't much music to speak of in the original game (though the Nintendo version had themes for each character). What sort of potential for musical expansion did you see in the Maniac Mansion universe in composing the sequel?
A lot of it related to the technology. My recollection is that by that time there were enough people with MT-32 cards and even Sound Canvases so that we could really think about some sense of orchestration beyond just getting a tune through Adlib FM synth chips. Thinking about music beyond simple melody and harmony was where the new potential was.
At some point in the music for Dr. Fred's secret lab, there are four notes that seem like they're from the original Maniac Mansion theme song. Was that intentional, or am I losing my mind?
Hard to say at this point, but I think it may have been coincidence.
What sort of direction did Tim and Dave give you guys, if any?
I would say they gave us pretty much leeway. If they didn't like something, they would talk about the feeling of the music, and then we would go back and fix it.
What were some of your influences for this particular game, and do you find that they've also applied to your other game scores?
For me, four that come to mind are Henry Mancini, Danny Elfman, John Williams and Carl Stalling. Those have been big influences on other projects with a similar sensibility, including the Sly Cooper games and even Psychonauts.
Obviously back then the music was exclusively MIDI as opposed to live recordings. What sorts of benefits (such as iMUSE) and limitations came with this?
As one of the three iMuse co-inventors, of course I loved the iMuse system. It was like building your own sports car and driving it. But I liked what iMuse did later with real recorded audio much better than the MIDI stuff, even if it wasn't quite as dynamic. There's nothing like working with live recorded sound. It's not a close comparison.
You've worked with Tim Schafer on every one of his projects since Day of the Tentacle. What kind of working relationship do you two have that the collaboration has lasted so long?
I honestly can't quite put my finger on it. I think somehow we speak the same language musically, even across a broad range of styles.
On a similar note, you continue to do music for story-driven games, such as Tim's games and the recent Insecticide. What's the draw to the genre as a composer?
The simple answer is you get to do more moods of music, since everything isn't about action. But then on the other hand I've worked on projects that are all action, but the way things build musically is unique. So I guess I like any situation with a lot of variety.
What projects are you working on right now, if you're at liberty to share?
Brutal Legend and at least one other I can't talk about yet.