INTERVIEW: Rich Vreeland

Music is key to a game’s immersion factor, and that is a point Rich Vreeland drove home in his keynote address at the NASSCOM Game Developer Conference. Vreeland is a freelance music composer, who’s been creating music for games for the last six years.

Vreeland’s resume features titles like Bomberman Live: Battlefest, Zonr, Shoot Many Robots, and Fez, just to name a few. We had a chance to catch up with him following his keynote at NGDC, where he talked at length about the independent gaming scene, his take on the industry, and more.

MCV: The gaming industry is in transition right now. What are your thoughts on the direction it’s taking?

Rich Vreeland: I think the AAA titles – the big budget games, are stagnating a little bit, but I feel it’s been like that since a couple of years. The independent scene, on the other hand, is growing exponentially. I feel there are good independent games coming out nearly every year, so I think that’s really exciting.

I think in independent games, there’s a certain spirit involved. It’s about creative freedom and making the game you want. And money is not the primary objective of what you’re doing. It’s important, but it shouldn’t be the only reason you’re making games.

MCV: Do you plan on sticking around with the indie scene? Would you work on a bid budget title?

Vreeland: For most part, I tend to work on smaller, independent projects. I’ve been embedded in a studio in the past so I got a feel of what that’s like and I didn’t really like it. I wasn’t an employee, but I worked on Shoot Many Robots for nine months and I just didn’t enjoy the long development cycle, where you’re working eight hours a day.

MCV: So you’re not a fan of corporate culture? You seem like the kind of guy who likes to do what he wants, when he wants.

Vreeland: I wouldn’t say they had a corporate culture. It’s a very nice place to work and the people are friendly. I had a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted, but if I had the opportunity to work on a large game, I would have demands in terms of having a certain level of freedom. I don’t want the fear that I’m going to do something that the higher-ups don’t like. I want to take risks and explore new avenues.

MCV:What’s your take on music in AAA games? Does it all sound the same to you?

Vreeland:I think a lot of the big titles are run more as a business, so they don’t take as many risks. They want to make sure the things they do are safe.

MCV: What do you think of the free-to-play revenue model?

Vreeland: I’m not really a fan. I hate monetisation in games. It doesn’t make me feel comfortable. I’d rather have something that’s shareware, where the game is free to download, but then you get to a certain point where you have to pay to play the game. I’d much rather do that than have a bunch of virtual items cost me money. Or I would even like to pay for the game up front, but I understand that, especially in the mobile market, if you’re going to charge up front, your install base is a lot smaller than if it was free.

MCV: What do you think of the Indian gaming industry?

Vreeland: I’ve been in India for only three days, but I get a sense that it seems young and upcoming and there are a lot of independent people passionate about making games. That’s really nice.

MCV: Would you be open to coming down to India for work if an indie developer could afford you?

Vreeland: Typically, when I do freelance work, I work from home (the US), but if the situation calls for it, I’m certainly up for the travel.

MCV: Any advice for budding developers?

Vreeland: If you have any opportunity, you need to constantly be assessing the value of that opportunity to see whether it’s worthwhile to continue. If you’re independent and working on a project, it’s very important to bounce your ideas off other people because you have to be open to the possibility that people may not be interested in what you’re working on. You really don’t want to waste a lot of time.

MCV: You’ve been dabbling in game development lately. How’s that going?

Vreeland: I do a little bit of game development, but I’m still new to it. It’s kind of a hobby of mine. I’ve been working on a game called January that’s currently free to play through your browser.

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