After what may seem like a very long time, the number of pieces left to be added to Moon before it could be considered complete is finally starting to get smaller not bigger. There are no obvious new bits of feature or technology to be added, the main structures of the entire game world have been laid out and there’s now a real sense that as long as I stick with it I could actually release a finished product. A game that a few people might enjoy playing (and maybe even paying money for). Don’t go rushing off to steam just yet, there are still plenty of things to do but I can start to put actual numbers on things in a way that I’ve just not been able to do up to this point. With numbers I can count down the remaining work and even see a point in the future when they all reach zero and I release it all into the wild. The landscape of indie development is littered with games that never got finished. I recon it probably kills about 99% of the projects ever started. So, as another year comes to a close I have …
My first project as graphics programmer for Double 11. The challenge was to squeeze a game that made some pretty significant demands on a ps3 onto the new PSVita. Oh, and add a whole pile of new content, features and control methods. Little Big Planet is pretty much the biggest franchise I’ve ever had the chance to work on. It was full of huge coding challenges but also lots of fun visual effects and graphical fluff to write. The metacritic score of 88 along with tons of great reviews seem to suggest we did a pretty reasonable job.
Having completed Ferrari Challenge to such a high standard, we got the opportunity to include all the other exciting high performance cars that don’t feature a prancing horse on their bonnet. Supercar Challenge was basically all the bits that never made it into Ferrari, plus lots of new stuff. Lots more cars, more tracks, better multiplayer, better renderer, more game modes, more downloadable content and crucially (for me) better visual effects
As a bit of a departure from the high saturation colour schemes and arcade physics of the game we’d been working on upto this point, Ferrari Challenge was a real racing simulation. All licenced cars and tracks, with the added bonus of the vehicles being smashable and damagable (a first from a car manufacturer I think). By now I’d really settled into my role as lead visual effects programmer. I had lots of code and systems written and the trust of production management to get on with stuff and do what ever I could to make everything look better. I think visually the game is definitly the best looking I’d worked on to date.
The Hotwheels game was basically a re-imagining of the concepts used in Cartoon Network Racing; only this time we had the chance to get all next-gen with our ideas. Extra weapons replace the special powers and now we had tracks with loops and stunts. Again I got free reign over the special effects and on this occasion I could really go to town on the shiny next-gen platforms. Cue the HDR and bloom effects for the explosions and lightning. Sadly my best efforts in the effects department did not translate to a great game and so, once again, the press mauled it.
When I first heard that we’d be making a game for Pimp My Ride my first reaction was “How?”. Its a little hard to see where a set of game mechanics can be attached to the format of the show. Luckily it wasn’t a problem I had to deal with. Instead I was charged again with the creation of all the real-time effects and this time I had a little help, i.e. I’d gone from a team of one to a team of two. The final result looks pretty enough on all its release platforms (especially the Xbox 360). Though a little short (very short) on depth. As far as procedural effects go, it features everything from fire hydrants and collision sparks to flocks of birds and scatterings of rubbish and leaves.
A very very long project if nothing else. Littered with all sorts of craziness, including a change in publisher and an almost complete rewrite half way through. The final result is by all accounts pretty good if a little short on morality. I must say that street racing is not really my thing, and given the choice I’d not have made a game about it, but as its my day job I tried my best to enjoy the whole thing and do my best on everything I worked on. Since release, SRS has risen all the way up the US XBox charts, so here’s to hoping that some royalties come out of this. (edit: they didn’t)
My first introduction into programming games consoles, I came onto this project after F1 World Grand Prix I didn’t really have a specific area that I could call mine in the same way as I had on the previous project but I wrote a lot of the interfaces and some of the game core. By the time it was finished I was one of the projects lead programmers managing the rest of the programming team. Despite a change of publishers half way through, the game went on to sell over a million units all over the world, everywhere from Japan through Russia and Europe to the USA. it even spent nearly 3 months in the top 5 games in North America.
By all accounts I think that this was probably a sequel that really should not have come about. The humour that had been used in the first of the series was all but used up, so trying to squeeze another title out of it was never going to happen. This compounded by a significant dumbing down of the game mechanics and a shrinking of the game world led to ultimately to the less than perfect final result. Perhaps we were all just a little burnt out from the epic SRS project.
After a few months working in R&D for next gen platforms, I moved onto this project. I was to take complete responsibility for all real-time special effects. At last a task that made use of a much broader range of my skills. That’s every sparkle, explosion, cloud, rocket trail and puff of smoke, from conception and artwork through to implementation. If its not already obvious, I really enjoyed this project. Sadly the game as a whole was littered with ill conceived design decisions, marred by under developed handling and crippled by poor track layouts. As a result, the press mauled it. though nothing bad was said about the effects, which is at least a little positive.
I only spent about six months on this project, Working as a senior programmer rather than a lead (i.e. I didn’t manage anyone but myself). I spent most of that time re-writing the interface management systems. Well before the end of the project I moved on to next-gen technology for shaders and effects. I think in general the finished game turned out to be a reasonable playable and tidy racer (complete with nice interface systems)
My first contribution to a commercial game Starting work for Eutechnyx. I joined the project about half way through and wrote all the race AI and some of the frontend systems. Though not a commercial success, the game is special to me as the first game I could see in shops on the high street, pick up, open the manual, and see my name.