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Lee Jackson
From the IRS to gaming, Lee Jackson has taken the unconventional route into the industry creating some of most well-known themes to date.
By - Ryan "Kelster" Kelly

Because it was done as a free public service, it gathered a lot of support very quickly. I wound up with reporters (who chose to call themselves "The HackWatchers") in places like South Africa, Israel, Australia, Norway, Germany, Brazil, and of course, in several places in the United States. A distribution net was set up, including FidoNet, CompuServe, and an Internet mailing list (the old "hack-l" mailing list).

Several people wrote programs to compare SysOps' BBS file lists to the files listed in The Hack Report, and one BBS package included native support for the report. The Hack Report and I even got a write-up in a book called Cyberlife (Copyright 1994 by SAMS Publishing, ISBN 0-672-30491-0).

I wound up writing The Hack Report from early 1992 through September 1993, which brings us to the next step out of the IRS.

During the time I wrote The Hack Report, I received reports from Joe Siegler about versions of Wolfenstein-3D that had been hacked before he had come to work for Apogee. I also had correspondence with Scott Miller and Jay Wilbur about some hacks that had been reported to me. The big break started when I got a report from Steve Quarrella, a tech support rep for Apogee. We kept up the NetMails, and I learned that Joe Siegler was working with him at Apogee.

One day, Steve mentioned in passing that Joe had been promoted from the tech lines to doing online BBS support. I told him, half in jest, to let me know if Joe's tech position was open for a new person. Steve took me seriously, passed me on to Joe, and Joe connected me with Steven Blackburn, the VP of operations at Apogee. Steve and Joe gave me quite the glowing recommendation, based on what they knew about The Hack Report and my moderator duties in FidoNet.

By this time, life at the IRS was pure hell. I'd hit the "seniority ceiling," where no amount of training, experience, or ratings points would get you a promotion if someone with more time-in-grade had applied for the same job. I'd taught myself C and was writing programs for use in the Accounting Branch on my "spare time" (i.e., after I'd finished the normal daily grunt work), but I couldn't get a transfer to a real computer job to save my life.

Naturally, when I got the call from Steven Blackburn about a tech support job, I was very, very interested. Steven invited me to an interview in Garland (held on April 15th, no less), which I agreed to immediately. Shortly after lunchtime on April 15th, 1993, Steven offered me the tech support job. I immediately said yes, turned in my notice at the IRS, and moved to Garland to join Apogee.

Shortly after I started at Apogee, Scott Miller and George Broussard started bringing programmers in-house. Tom Hall and Mark Dochtermann arrived first, along with William Scarboro. They were working on what was at the time the sequel to Wolfenstein-3D.

Mark was into music and MIDI, but didn't have time for it anymore, so he gave me his copy of Cakewalk Pro for Windows 1.0. I dug into it, cooked up a couple of military-sounding songs, and brought them up for Tom and Mark to hear. They didn't immediately barf, so I was encouraged and kept on writing. The late Dennis Scarff helped me out by loaning me a Gravis Ultrasound card that the company had received, and that really got things moving along.

In my tech job, I'd had to learn all of our games, of course. That meant I got to hear all of the music done for them, mostly written by Bobby Prince. Bobby came up with a theme that was played at the start of all of our games (when the Apogee logo was on screen)--we called it the "Apogee Fanfare."

He'd done a few different versions, and other composers for other projects had done more, so I decided to try my own hand at one. I brought it in and played it for Tom, Mark, and Joe Siegler (who had a better sound card and an office of his own by now). They thought it sounded a bit like something John Williams would do, and dubbed my version the "John Williams fanfare." They passed it on to Scott and George, who apparently liked it so much that they offered to buy the rights to it from me. I agreed, and from that point on, my "John Williams" version was the version that appeared in all Apogee games.

Later, as Wolfenstein-3D II became Rise of the Triad (or ROTT), George called me into Steven Blackburn's office for a meeting. I'd kept on bringing up new compositions and arrangements, and apparently Tom and Mark were hyping them up to Scott and George.

George offered me a deal--I could write the music for ROTT, but I had to finish it in six weeks. Also, I had to write the music at home, but at the same time I had to come up to the office and work the tech lines for a few hours each day while the other techs went to lunch. It was going to be rough, but there was no way I was going to turn this down. I said yes, thank you, and got busy.

I'd get up in the morning, put in some writing time (using my computer, the GUS card, and a Roland D-50 that I borrowed from Mark as a MIDI controller), go to the tech room during lunch, talk to Tom and Mark afterwards about my current songs, and then come back home and write until I went to bed.

After six weeks of this, I'd written 28 songs. Not all of them were 100% appropriate as level music, but I did the best I could in what little time I had. When my six weeks were up, I went back to the tech room.

I couldn't stand not writing music for long, so soon after ROTT I started checking in on the Duke Nukem 3D team. Todd Replogle and Allen Blum were in our offices now, and Greg Malone had come in as project director. I followed the same pattern - write a song, bring it up, and let Todd and Alan hear it. They'd pass it along to Greg and George. As it turned out, Bobby Prince had already been contracted to do music for Duke Nukem 3D, but his contract wasn't exclusive, so I kept working.

Bobby and I did some work together on ROTT, and we got along extremely well, even through Duke Nukem 3D and beyond. Bobby and I sort of shared the project - I wound up getting almost half of the songs in the first release, including the theme song (Grabbag) and the music for episode 1, level 1 (Stalker). (By the time the Atomic Edition was out, I had more than half of the total songs.) All of this took place while I was still in the tech room--this time, though, I didn't have any extra time at home to work on the music.

Next: Jackson's work and his favorite soundtracks...

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