An Interview with Games Maestro Bobby Prince
Imagine Star Wars without composer John Williams' soaring, mythic score. Envision The Exorcist without Michael Oldfield's haunting Tubular Bells. What about The Godfather without its poignant, yet tragic main theme? It is simply unthinkable. The music of these films emphasizes the drama, and forges deep, emotional connections with audiences.
Now imagine the intense, pulse-quickening carnage of Doom without Bobby Prince's masterful, hard-driving songs. It, too, is unthinkable. To recall the most enjoyable parts of that classic game often includes a similar remembrance of the accompanying music. It punctuates the hellish spirit, and anticipates evil deeds. It nudges us along, encouraging us to enter dark rooms where demons wait, then confirms our worst fears. The effects of the weird, unexpected mix of underlying music and devilish soundscapes is nothing less than extraordinary.
To create such fiendish music, many people believe Prince must reside within the very depths of hell itself. Actually, he lives just south of Tampa, FL. It is there that he became one of computer gaming's most prolific composers, and created some of the industry's most enduring music and viciously brilliant sound effects. His list of credits beyond id Software's massively popular Doom series is extensive, and covers several notable titles, including 3D Realms Entertainment's Duke Nukem 3D, Crack Dot Com's Abuse, and numerous award-winning games for Apogee Software (see the comprehensive list of projects at the end of the interview).
The Adrenaline Vault recently had the privilege of talking with this soft-spoken lawyer-turned sound artist about his career, the creative process, his philosophies on music, and where he thinks game sound is heading. Scott Miller, president of Apogee, was right when he wrote that Bobby Prince is "truly one of the industry's top talents and nice guys." Please give him a warm welcome.
AV: Tell us about how you got started creating music and sound effects for games.
BP: Before everyone had easy access to the internet, Compuserve, Prodigy and the like were very busy services. I joined Prodigy when it first started and used to get on the computer music section. There were quite a few people in this section, and those of us who knew a good bit about MIDI would share information with newcomers. One Saturday, there was a general message posted to the section asking for anyone who would be interested in writing music for computer games. I thought, "this is some wanna-be," but decided to respond anyway. The next day I got a call from Scott Miller of Apogee Software. I did not know who he was [because] Apogee was still a very young company with limited public exposure. He said he had received 50 or so responses to his post and liked what I had said. I knew that he was the real deal when he mentioned that his company had just released Commander Keen. I had downloaded Keen a couple of weeks before and was very impressed with the game. Anyway, Scott said he would be back in touch when there was a project to work on. For six months following that, I did not hear anything. Then I received a call from John Romero of the newly-formed id Software. They wanted me to write the music for the second Commander Keen series. It was not until I worked on Wolfenstein 3D that I actually met Scott Miller or the guys at id. I should say that I got these gigs without Scott or id having heard the first thing I had written. I was hired "sight unseen" and "ear unheard."
AV: How did your experience, skills, and interests lead you down the path to Apogee and beyond?
BP: Good way to put it. I played musical instruments all my life, but never took any lessons. I just went with the flow on this. Unlike swimming against the flow, it was very easy, as if it was meant to be. Still, for many years I had spent many nights staying up to play in bands, to learn more about computers, to learn about MIDI and the like. Those experiences gave me the skills to jump on this opportunity when it appeared.
AV: We understand you were a lawyer before you started making music for games. Why was this change made?
BP: I have 21 years of formal education. That trained me to do a lot of things. I liked doing each of them, but was not born to do them. I was born to do music. It is something that I don't even have to work at. Since I have always believed that one should do what he or she loves to do, I decided to put that belief into action in my own life. I have not been sorry, for even a second, that I made the change, and would never go back.
AV: Tell us about your personal musical preferences. What influences, musical or otherwise, have impressed themselves on your work?
BP: My preference is music; anything musical is good to me. I guess if there was one kind of music that I do not care for -- but I respect its power -- is music that reinforces negative things, such as causing hatred, abuse, and war. The largest influence on me is the music that has come before me. I cannot get enough of listening to what others have created. I have the greatest admiration for people who have taken a chance with music -- the innovators.
AV: Who are the people you admire in the industry?
BP: I admire those who remember where they started from, remember that fame passes quickly and friendship lasts forever, live up to the spirit of their words, take chances, create computer games from their soul, forsake money for personal principle, and treat the game player with utmost respect. There are many people in this industry that I admire for these things.
Copyright © 1995-1998