Sinus Iridum

Saturday, October 07, 2006

So, where was I? Oh yes, back in 1985 and reminiscing about computer games.

I worked with Novagen (Paul Woakes and Bruce Jordan) starting with Mercenary. This was one of the very first walk-or-run-around-and-collect-or-shoot games ever. I don't know how else to describe it that would make more sense. First person viewpoint, i.e. the screen becomes your eyes, at human-like height. Simple wire-frame (lines along the edges) objects. It was an extension of the text adventure games which were so popular at the time, and it was one of the first attempts to add real-time (and as close to real-life as possible) imagery to the best of the hardware's ability. Which was quite limited in comparison to today's machines.
Mercenary was a huge best seller and kept the company ball rolling, so to speak.
The history of the games can be found at the Mercenary site which is lovingly maintained and has even spawned projects to properly convert the code to the PC. Well worth downloading if you want to see what our games looked like back then, they have respectfully kept all the wrinkles and blemishes that come from aging. There's even an interview with me, which is nice.
Mercenary also has it's own Wikipedia page.
Next came Backlash, which was an extension of the Battlezone arcade machine and was released on the Atari ST. That game got to number 1 in the all formats games chart and stayed there for 4 weeks, which is no mean feat considering that the other (more popular) machines at the time were Spectrum, Amiga, etc. and that the major games companies like US God - sorry, I meant US Gold LOL - kept all the versions for all the platforms waiting for release until the last one was ready before they dropped them all onto the public at one fell swoop.
We couldn't afford to do that.

So there we were, little company, riding the tsunami.

It's now 1990 and Paul and Bruce decided that it was time to update Mercenary and I nodded enthusiastically.
The result was Damocles.
It stayed at number one in the afore-mentioned all-formats charts for 6 weeks, even though it was only released for the ST and Amiga. Even those releases were staggered so each made it's mark almost alone.
If you want to know more, I suggest using Google to look up something like "Novagen games Damocles" (without the quotes) etc. There are tons of sites out there with reviews and screenshots, even PC versions.

Sadly, Novagen died when Psygnosis promised to release a PC version of Damocles and then dropped us just before we finished. I mean literally just before. You can see some screenshots and stuff here.

It seems that they were drastically cutting the company budget and we weren't the only ones to be dumped on our collective backsides.

Anyway, I began to look around for other work and spent some time designing games with Dimension Creative Designs (Legends of Valour), Domark (Marko's Magic Football), Philips Media International (a game called Continuum which went nowhere past the storyboards) and other stuff. Tried advertising work, went back to college as a Multimedia Development Officer (I did their intranet and web sites) but finally decided to go it alone and started Grafixation with my life partner Pete in May 2001.

So, that brings my career pretty much up to date.

Today, I have been mostly designing a web site for a UK company who are expanding into the USA.

Web design appeals to me because I've always designed and composed graphics but with a very practical edge, which always meant that I need to know how to code as well as scribble. It's working out well, my clients are happy, so am I. I'm one of the lucky few who make a living by doing what they really enjoy.


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