Rob Hubbard

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Dr. Robert J. Hubbard
Rob Hubbard.jpg
Gender Male
Born 1955
Birth Place Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Nationality British   UK.svg
Aliases R.Hubbard
Robb Hubbard
John York
Ample Hamble

Rob Hubbard is a British composer and sound designer who is known to be one of the most (if not the most) renowned video game musicians of all time. He could be considered the Koji Kondo of the Commodore 64.

Hubbard has been playing the piano since age 7 and has also played flute, saxophone and guitar. His favorite subjects were math, physics and music, whereas he hated history, economics and metalwork. With O- and A-Levels, he studied engineering at University of Southampton, but quickly dropped out. Wanting to learn jazz, he slowed a Jack McDuff recording down, learning transcription along the way. At age 21, he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, to attend music college for three years.

In 1983, Hubbard read in Electronic & Music Maker about the Commodore 64 and American educational software for platforms like the Apple II. He also considered the Memotech MTX500, but bought the C64 when its price dropped to £230. Dreaming of writing the first British educational software, he showed a sight-reading game to companies, to no avail. In 1984, he ported and scored two games for local Ubik Software, who went bankrupt before release. The few who saw the games liked the music most, so he decided to specialize on game music and spammed for about eight months by mail and phone.

His fourth released job, Monty on the Run (C64), made him famous in the industry. Still, he found it a little strange to explain this new career to family and friends.

In early 1987, Hubbard's Sanxion (C64) won the first Golden Joystick Award for Best Soundtrack. At the ceremony in Cadogan Hall, London, he was photographed with presenter Jools Holland, and Mark Lewis of Electronic Arts asked Hubbard if he wanted to work in the USA for a couple of months. After Skate or Die Title Theme Music, EA offered him a permanent job in California as their first audio guy. So in January 1988, Hubbard sold his ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Ataris, his PAL C64, gave away the Amiga and moved to the USA with his wife, fulfilling a childhood dream and changing his life.

Hubbard felt unsatisfied when EA merely licensed music for FIFA 2000: Major League Soccer. By June 13, 2001, he was considering returning to Britain altogether and looking for options. In September, after the 11th, they moved back to East Yorkshire with an NTSC C64 and two disk drives.

On November 25, 2016, Hubbard received a honorary degree from Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland. His popular games include Monty on the Run (C64), Commando (C64), Skate or Die (C64), and The Immortal (NES).

Audio Development

Hubbard would always ask the programmers what kind of music they wanted in the game, but they usually didn't care. Hubbard explained that for his earlier games, the programmers would tell Hubbard to write anything he saw fit, and that most of the time, they accepted the work he sent them. Other times he would see or play the game to get inspiration.

Hubbard would write the music on paper in normal musical notation and alongside the notes, he would write hexadecimal numbers which he would then type into his respective sound engine. He would sometimes write music on his Casiotone MT-40.

Atari 8-bit

By April 19, 2005, Hubbard told ASMA:

I.K. was the first tune I ever did on the Atari, which was also quite a challenge because of the 8bit pitch registers.

Atari ST

Hubbard was disappointed that the otherwise superior Atari ST had a YM2149F sound chip. Still, around April or May 1987, Steve Bak made him buy one.

Hubbard's favorite musician was David Whittaker.

Commodore 64

In 1984, Hubbard used his own version of The Companion to the Commodore 64. Later that year, or early 1985, he started developing his own driver. In an interview featuring him and Jeroen Tel, he stated:

Basically, you had to learn assembly language programming to get anything done on these machines. So, you had to be a musician, then you had to learn programming. And it was very very low-level assembly language coding to get it all to work because there was no higher-level tools or method of being able to get the music in. So you had no option but to be a programmer to get it to work.

He also elaborated on the tedious process of writing the music in code:

Even though the music was done on such a restricted system, it was (like) trying to write music with boxing gloves on or something like that. With two hands tied behind your back, trying to use your big toe or something. You still had to be very very creative to try and get anything to happen.

In mid-1986, Hubbard started using SID's built-in filter. Unfortunately, the filter varies with every machine and several of Hubbard's melodies sounded muffled to many gamers. In VICE 3.4, they sound best with 6581 (ReSID) and a bias of at least 540, although how close it is to what Hubbard arranged on is unconfirmed.

For samples, Hubbard recorded on an Amiga with a newly-bought FutureSound sampler, used a dynamic range compressor to avoid volume fluctuations, transferred them to the C64, and used an electronic tuner to see if they are in pitch (eventually 1455 to 8315 Hz). Samples include chords from a Yamaha DX7, an oft-ripped electric guitar, and voices, including his own.

Hubbard's favorite musicians are Martin Galway, Ben Daglish and David Whittaker. His own favorite is Thalamusik.


Hubbard was paid by Elite Systems to come in and write the music to their conversion of Capcom's Coin-Op arcade Commando. Hubbard came in the office late at night and worked throughout the evening to compose the music. According to Hubbard, Elite Systems had the arcade cabinet of the game in the office, and he drew inspiration from the arcade game's music, but didn't actually arrange the arcade soundtrack to the Commodore 64 version. Hubbard finished the music by morning. According to Hubbard, he put the music on all the work computers before he left the office so the Elite staff could hear his composition.


For Battle Squadron, Hubbard used Steve Hayes' sound driver.

For Desert Strike: Return of the Gulf, since he didn't have access to Brian Schmidt's sound engine, Schmidt programmed music and converted his samples to same engine.

For the rest of his works, Hubbard wrote the music in assembly, using his custom sound driver.


It was all pure assembly, similar to the way it was done on C64 and Atari machines.

Hubbard only scored three games for the NES; The Immortal, Skate or Die 2, and the unreleased Chuck Yeager's Air Combat. Hubbard wrote the music driver and audio in pure 6502 assembly machine code. While some NES games used the DPCM channel for drum samples, Hubbard was one of the very few who used it for instrumentation, as a triangle wave is used in his music for The Immortal, and he programmed it in himself. Hubbard also used digitized drums on some songs, and on Skate or Die 2, also digitized voices and electric guitar, but it is unknown who or what they were sampled from.


Hubbard used a custom version of Nintendo's Kankichi-kun sound driver. He did not like the SNES.


Throughout his career, Hubbard didn't really use aliases in the games that credited him. However, in the game Samantha Fox Strip Poker, he is credited as John York. This was probably because the game was a pornographic title, and he wanted to remain anonymous as a result. Because his middle initial is J, John may be his middle name. It is unknown exactly how he came up with the name. York could refer to his hometown, Yorkshire.


Released Title Sample Notes
Unreleased Paranoid Pete (C64)
Unreleased Razzmatazz (C64)
1985-0?-?? Action Biker (C64)
1985-0?-?? Confuzion (C64)
1985-0?-?? Thing on a Spring (C64)
1985-??-?? Battle of Britain (C64)
1985-??-?? Chimera (C64)
1985-1?-?? Commando (C64)
1985-??-?? Commando (CPC)
1985-??-?? Crazy Comets (C64)
1985-??-?? The Human Race (C64)
1985-??-?? Hunter Patrol (C64)
1985-??-?? The Last V8 (C64)
1985-??-?? Monty on the Run (C64)
1985-1?-?? One Man and His Droid (C64)
198?-??-?? The Master of Magic (C64)
Unreleased Show Jumping (C64)
1986-0?-?? Bump Set Spike (C64)
1986-0?-?? Formula 1 Simulator (C64)
1986-0?-?? Geoff Capes Strongman Challenge (C64)
1986-0?-?? Gerry the Germ (C64)
1986-0?-?? Hollywood or Bust (C64)
1986-0?-?? International Karate (C64)
1986-0?-?? Kentilla (C64)
1986-0?-?? Las Vegas Video Poker (C64)
1986-0?-?? Phantoms of the Asteroid (C64)
1986-0?-?? Rasputin (C64)
1986-0?-?? Samantha Fox Strip Poker (C64)
1986-0?-?? Spellbound (C64)
1986-0?-?? Thrust (C64)
1986-0?-?? Zoids (C64)
1986-11-20 Sigma Seven (C64)
Composed by Julian Breeze.
1986-11-?? Flash Gordon (C64)
1986-11-?? Tarzan (C64)
Unreleased Food Feud (C64)
1986-1?-?? LightForce (C64)
1986-??-?? Ninja (C64)
1986-??-?? Sanxion (C64)
1986-??-?? W.A.R (C64)
1986-??-?? Warhawk (C64)
1986-12-?? Knuckle Busters (C64)
198?-??-?? Up Up and Away (C64)
1987-01-0? Dragon's Lair Part II (C64)
1987-0?-?? Delta (C64)
1987-03-?? Shockway Rider (C64)
1987-04-0? Auf Wiedersehen Monty (C64)
1987-04-1? Nemesis the Warlock (C64)
1987-04-1? Thanatos (C64)
Composed by Julian Breeze.
1987-05-2? I, Ball (C64)
1987-0?-?? Trans-Atlantic Balloon Challenge (C64)
1987-07-?? Star Paws (C64)
1987-07-31 Monty on the Run (FDS) (モンティーのドキドキ大脱走) Arranged by Unknown.
1987-08-0? Deep Strike (C64)
1987-0?-?? Ace 2 (C64)
1987-08-?? Arcade Classics (C64)
1987-08-?? Wiz (C64)
1987-08-?? Mega Apocalypse (C64)
1987-0?-?? Saboteur II (C64) Unused.
1987-10-15 Thundercats (C64)
1987-10-?? IK+ (C64)
1987-10-2? Skate or Die (C64)
1987-1?-?? Invade-a-load (C64)
1987-12-?? Bangkok Knights (C64)
1987-??-?? Gold Runner (AMI)
1987-??-?? Jupiter Probe (AMI)
1987-??-?? Nemesis the Warlock (ZXS)
1988-01-0? Chain Reaction (C64) Unused.
1988-01-?? BMX Kidz (C64)
1988-0?-?? I, Ball 2 (C64) Sound effect driver.
1988-02-?? Ricochet (C64)
1988-0?-?? Scout (C64)
Invade-a-load (C64)
1988-0?-?? Stormbringer (C64)
Invade-a-load (C64)
1988-0?-?? Pandora (C64)
1988-05-2? Super Trolley (C64)
Invade-a-load (C64)
1988-0?-?? Knight Tyme (C64)
Invade-a-load (C64)
1988-08-?? 19 Part One - Boot Camp (C64)
1988-11-?? Power Play Hockey: USA vs USSR (C64)
1988-1?-?? Jordan vs Bird: One on One (C64)
1988-12-?? Skate or Die (NES) Arranged by Kouji Murata.
1988-??-?? Q-Ball (AMI)
1988-??-?? Skate or Die (A2GS)
1989-0?-?? Kings of the Beach (C64)
1989-??-?? Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate (AMI)
1989-??-?? Budokan: The Martial Spirit (AMI)
1989-??-?? Populous (AMI)
1990-0?-?? Ski or Die (C64) Arranged by Unknown.
1990-??-?? Champions of Krynn (DOS)
Sound Programmer
1990-??-?? Indianapolis 500: The Simulation (AMI)
1990-??-?? Secret of the Silver Blades (DOS)
Sound Programmer
1990-??-?? Ski or Die (AMI)
1990-??-?? Ski or Die (DOS)
1990-??-?? Ski or Die (NES) Arranged by Jun Funahashi.
1990-09-?? Skate or Die 2: The Search For Double Trouble (NES)
1990-11-?? The Immortal (NES)
1991-??-?? PGA Tour Golf (AMI)
1991-11-11 John Madden Football (SNES) (プロフットボール)
1992-??-?? Bulls vs Blazers and the NBA Playoffs (SNES) (NBAプロバスケットボール)
1992-03-?? PGA Tour Golf (SNES) (PGAツアーゴルフ)
1992-??-?? PGA Tour Golf II (GEN) Music Programming; Additional Music
1992-??-?? Road Rash II (GEN) Music Programming; Additional Music
1993-08-09 The Immortal (GEN)
2000-11-01 007: The World Is Not Enough (N64) Audio Technical Director
2000-11-24 International Karate 2000 (GBC) Arranged by Jon Wells.
2000-11-29 Road Rash (GBC)
Arranged by Allister Brimble.
2001-02-23 Space Invasion (GBC) Arranged by Jon Wells.
2001-11-18 Madden NFL 2002 (GBA) Reused music from John Madden Football '93 (GEN).
2001-11-30 International Karate Advanced (GBA) Arranged by Jon Wells.
2002-08-12 Madden NFL 2003 (GBA) Reused music from John Madden Football '93 (GEN).
2003-08-11 Madden NFL 2001 (GBA) Reused music from John Madden Football '93 (GEN).
2003-08-14 Seiklus (W32)
Unreleased Chuck Yeager's Fighter Combat (NES)
Unreleased Putty Squad (GBC) Arranged by Jon Wells.
Unreleased Sanxion (GBA) Arranged by Jon Wells.

Picture Gallery