NL: Pilotwings 64 was Paradigm's first foray into video game development. Was it your first experience at composing music for a video game? How did you feel when you learned that you would be creating the musical score for a Nintendo 64 launch title?
Hess: I created music for a simulator experience which was designed to be a Location Based Entertainment System (Magic Edge) in the early 90s using the Audioworks platform, but Pilotwings 64 was my first experience composing for a commercial video game. I was thrilled to take it on as it was the realization of a childhood dream!
NL: Was it difficult creating music and sound effects for the Nintendo 64?
Hess: What most people don't realize is that at the time, soundtrack development for video games was 25% music composition, 25% sound development, 25% interfacing with team members and directors, and 25% software/system manipulation. N64 cartridges had limited ROM memory — around 8 megabytes — and very little of that was dedicated to sound effects, let alone music. Forget recorded music, that was way too intensive for the hardware. Assuming the games required more than one or two repeating 4 bar tunes (as in the game 1080° Snowboarding), soundtrack artists had to create sound databases of the instruments to be used in the game, then create MIDI sequences to trigger the sounds in order to produce the real-time tracks for the game. Even in the 90s, this was an archaic form of music creation, but such were the limitations of the video game systems at the time. Composers who could work within those limitations were required.