2011 - Work at Climax

Having had worked on my pet project Metal Crusade for a few months I had produced a functional demo that I used to bolster my CV. This way, in late 2010 I got a job offer from Climax which I accepted, starting the following year in January.

There will be no screen-shots in this article because the title we were working on was never announced. Then the following year the publisher canned it as it often happens in this industry and that was the sad end of it. Makes it hard to write anything concrete. So here's a photo of me at the office instead.At the Climax office in Portsmouth

What I can write about is the technology I worked with. I got introduced to a new model of game development - engine licensing. Much less fun than having your own technology but probably more cost effective. We used the Unreal Engine 3. This meant having to learn and use Unrealscript, a language so good its own creator (Epic) is killing it off. Despite that working with UE3 was a very worthwhile experience. The engine is extremely comprehensive and well supported by third party middleware which all meant I was exposed to many different technologies and solutions. This prompted more integration work than writing from scratch but over the almost 2 years of development I got my fair share of from-ground-up design as well.

For the majority of code we used C++ but I also got a fair share of work supporting our artists, writing plugins and scripts for Maya (in MEL). Continuing from my previous job I was also responsible for the UI which used Scaleform. This meant the whole process spanned across multiple APIs and languages, including C++ and Unrealscript on game side and Scaleform integration down to ActionScript inside the Flash files. Along with some C code I was given to maintain and the C# the UE build process uses I think that was a veritable safari of languages present in gamedev.

In the end though, as I mentioned before, the project was cancelled and we got downsized. I decided to repeat my process from before and started a new project to do something on my own before I began looking for a new job. This time I planned on something small enough to be able to finish it within a couple of months - and not as a demo but a complete product. It's called Lethe and it's a multi-platform interactive fiction engine that is keyword driven and thus touch-screen friendly. It will include a version for Android and a screen reader friendly command line version.

This is probably my last job in games development. I started out 10 years ago, working on an unreleased project and ended on same but I don't find it fitting, more of an annoying coincidence.

2010 - Risk Factions

Risk Factions screenshot This was an XBox game developed as a downloadable for the marketplace. The game offers both a faithful recreation of the popular tabletop game and a new new version with an extended set of rules and more graphical appeal.

It includes a short but funny single player campaign with some really top-notch cut-scenes but the main course really is the multiplayer mode - letting you play with your friends on the couch or through the Internet. It's a regular XBox downloadable so it features all the expected achievement and multiplayer features.

Risk Factions screenshotI didn't get to do much art for this one. I did edit a a metric ton of assets though for use in the hud and the front-end - my main job was coding these two. By this time the company's tech using lua for front-ends was very usable so the whole front end and the game hud was decided to be coded in lua scripts and I was the main person responsible. Of course everything I did was possible thanks to my wonderful colleagues writing the C++ parts it used and most of all Nick Slaven who developed the wonderful tech for me to use (and abuse).

The use of lua scripts meant fast implementation for testing purposes and since there was no compile time you could launch and see the changes immediately. At the same time the system was powerful enough to do pretty much anything you wanted - at one point I wrote a tetris variant (with some extra features and exploding bricks) which you could play whilst waiting for other players to finish their turn. I hasten to add I did it in my spare time of course! Obviously this didn't make it to the release. The job of keeping the defending player occupied was filled by the fantastic battle animations.

At this point I decided to permanently switch careers and concentrate more on code and technical issues. This didn't necessarily mean quitting my job at Stainless but doing so made it a lot easier. The deciding issue was something else though - as wonderful as my work there was, it meant living on the Isle of Wight where the company is located. Cue all the Isle of Wight jokes - they are all untrue. It does however have the only Pizza Hut in the universe that doesn't deliver and routinely runs out of pizza bases. And there's this small matter of not having a bridge to the mainland.

With great pains I told my superiors about my plans, arranged to stay on for a little longer to ease the transition (and got to play around with prototyping the front end for Magic the Gathering) and by the end of May 2010 I was off on my prolonged unpaid holiday, or put bluntly, unemployed.

I took up sleeping in and drinking G&Ts as my main occupation. Having resolved some personal and family matters I embarked on Metal Crusade - a foolishly grandiose project intended as a demo to get me a job. I'm three months in and it's obvious it'll be a project that will provide fun and amusement for years of development to come.

2009 - Scrabble and others

After finishing work on Red Baron I've worked on at least half a dozen different projects - almost all of which I'm not allowed to talk about. Most of them were just pitches and little more than a few mock-ups for the pitch document.

Some went a little further and one even got signed but later dropped. It was a racing game tied to a TV franchise. Initially I was doing environment art for it but later got the chance to work with Lua, making in-game mini-games to be used for things like defusing bombs and lock-picking.

Unfortunately the project had been suddenly dropped by the publisher, possibly due to worse than expected figures for the TV show but that's just my guess. Everyone was really gutted having worked on it so hard but 2009 was the year when the economic world crisis finally caught up with the game development world so it wasn't that unusual to see it happen.

One project that got signed, produced and most importantly published was Scrabble. A fun little game for the DS and PSP. The production went unusually smooth and the publisher must've been happy with it as we later got another similar project from them but this time for an XBox 360 downloadable game - Risk Factions.

Scrabble is pretty much what it says on the tin - an electronic version of the world famous board game with the added convenience of being able to play it whenever you take you hand-held to. Also, in addition to the regular the game it has some dicionary training mini-games.

My job beyond the initial planning and pitching stage was rather minor - mostly technical help with graphics for it. The DS is pretty fussy about the images you give it to display due to clever workarounds it uses to deal with its limited hardware capabilities.

2008 - Red Baron Arcade

In 2007 I started work at Stainless Games located on the Isle of Wight. You might have heard of them as the creators of the Carmageddon series and the project is very much cherished here. As I write this I can see a desk full of awards for it and several boxes of the game standing not 20 feet away from me.

The first Project I worked on was an unannounced title for a publisher which unexpectedly hit some restructuring problems and the project had been dropped before it went into full production. For obvious reasons (at least I hope they're obvious to you, because I'm not sure about them myself) I can't really talk about details and have to be really vague about it. It was a remake of a 20 years old strategy game and I was making some initial models fot it and some general mock-up screens.

After not long I was moved to work on Red Baron Arcade. A project destined to suffer from some publisher issues as well but more about that later.

When I got on board the project was already in full production and the game was perfectly playable. After finding my place in the project and doing all sorts of odd jobs my first proper modelling job on it was making sea units.

Despite the Arcade nature of the game, the planes and other units were kept realistic and were based on old photos and blueprints of the era. Certain liberties were taken to make some easily distinguishable but if you look at the accompanying photos you'll see they're pretty closely adhered to.

My first model was the British destroyer. I didn't have the blueprints for it so I was working from hundreds of photos I had. Unexpected help came from the many miniature models companies make of ships from all periods. Miniature models are usually cleaned up from all the minute deck equipment cluttering up the decks and make it easier to get the underlying shape.

Obviously the ships weren't the main 'characters' in the game - it being a game about planes (and bi-planes and tri-planes) - so they obviously had a limited budget of polys and textures. Each usually used two small textures and had the light map baked into the diffuse texture. The smaller texture was used at lwoer density on the underbelly which was obscured by water most of the time. The ships also required a compliment of particle effects created in the in-house particle tool which made creating smokestacks and explosions fairly easy and I'd be coming back to use it quite a few times during the project to create exploding buildings and smouldering wreckages.

As for the tools used, having moved to Stainless I switched back to 3D Studio Max as that was the package most people on the project used. Photoshop was used for both diffuse textures and normal maps. I remember being an annoying zealot and 3D Studio Max advocate in my younger years but by the time I got to Stainless I've become pretty much software agnostic and comfortable in whatever package the company prefered or had the license for.

It happened that most of my work was concentrated on the map featuring a coastline. This included the manual labour involved in creating a mesh for the coastal surf effect spanning the huge map. However much automation you put into it you always end up having to tie it all up by hand in the end when the coastline takes sharp turns or has tiny nooks and crannies you have to compensate for.

Part of my the coastal renovation effort was making wooden piers and and jetties protruding from the coastlines and accompanying cranes and containers (which I learned haven't been standardised until the 1950s - we spared no effort on our research) and building sets of warehouses and even dry docks you get to blow up in the game

I also got to work on other maps adding detail to some missions by scripting in vehicles driving around the maps and adding aforementioned smouldering wreckages and burning buildings. All this was part of a collaborative effort and not possible to isolate so there's little point in showing the individual models.

Work on the maps was done in an in-house editor - most of my work was done on the coastal map. You can't really call it level design as the ground was in the game mostly a backdrop for the action which took places in the skies. I only mention it because it's the first time I got to use Perl in gamedev, even if it was in a strictly auxiliary capability.

Games development is 99% of the time a strictly windows based business - even if you make games for consoles. Perl hasn't really got a place in this world. Scripting languages are used, but the the only one receiving widespread attention and use is Lua. Otherwise companies tend to use their own internal scripting languages, like Stainless did before adopting Lua itself. The Perl script was not in any way used by the game or the editor - it was a just a helper script for me and it's simple job was to remove overlapping duplicate objects from maps by munging the level file (and there's nothing better at munging text files than Perl).

Not very exciting but the OpenPerl IDE (a long-time defunct windows IDE I used since uni which I kept using until around 2009 when I finally switched to Strawberry Perl and Padre for working in Windows) stayed with me to help me in such tasks ever since - especially when I got to work on the front end which was controlled by giant cyborg-readable XML files.

Taking over the work on the front end was to be a sign of things to come. Red Baron's front end was heavily reliant on the C side and was little more than a set of XML files being parsed by the game engine and any interactive capability was coded in C so I didn't get to do any actual coding yet. My work was to control it through the XML files and provide the assets for the buttons, frames and backgrounds used throughout. So maybe it was less than a glorious experience but by golly was it character building and vocabulary enhancing (though mostly by expletives). It was a terrific primer for working with front-end systems though and as crash courses go this was the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs.

From then on I'd be working less and less on the graphics side and concentrating on the front-ends and other code-art intersections as the company scrapped the XML controlled system for a sleeker and more powerful Lua based one. I'd get to see it born and grow up into a substantial part of the company's tech despite (or, as I like to think, thanks in part due to) my constant abuse of it, to the bemusement and almost paternal worry of its author - a fine gentlemen who I hope doesn't hold a grudge against me for it.

We finished the project, got it through cert and then the worse that could happen happened. The publisher, Sierra Online, went under and during the turmoil the project just sat there waiting for someone to turn the greenlight on for it. After such a long time in limbo when we thought it was gone for good Activision who bought it out finally signed it off and it got released but only on the PS3 and the PC. The economical crisis was in full swing and worse things were to come.

2007 - Two Worlds

Having shipped Earth 2160 which apparently sold well the company with the backing of its publishing overlords embarked on an incredibly ambitious project. Reality Pump was at that time a small company of less then 30 developers and we started work on a free roaming open-world action RPG.

We made good speed on it but it still took us almost 2 years to complete. It were a joyous two years but the end of the project also meant the end of my stay at Reality Pump - as I have graduated from my university that year and I had plans to move to the UK but I'm getting way ahead of myself here.

The game itself was, as I mentioned, a fairly straightforward fantasy action RPG. As every one of those it had its own story and distinct world (which still started with the letter 'A' though) but if you ever played one you'd be immediately comfortable with the setting. It had its fair share of innovations and gameplay ideas and the graphics were still top notch technologically. It certainly wasn't lacking in features. It had horse riding, it had a unique magic system based on cards (which you could combine to augment spells) and a way to keep upgrading weapons so you could use a certain weapon you liked for longer if you kept beefing it up.

Like I mentioned the project was enormous and extremely asset hungry. The world spanned many aesthetic styles requiring unique assets. The artists certainly had their hands full. The first model I made for the project was a teleporter site (screenshot above) used to fast travel around around the world. By this time I was completely comfortable in my work-flow and settled in for the long journey on this one. At that point I used Maya to build the meshes and Photoshop for textures with a little help from ZBrush.

I'm not sure how I landed the privilege but one of the last objects I made for the project was the key which is part of the central quest in the game (screenshot on the left). The object was exceptional in the way that I designed it myself - a rare occurrence having usually concept artwork to work from when making assets (a decision made to try and keep the assets in a similar style). Our concept artist didn't hate it (or at least not enough to reject it) so I considered it a success. I'm not being entirely serious here, of course, and our concept artist was a top bloke and a friend.

The best things about the project was the variety of assets I got to do in its long run. On of the parts of the world was Asian-influenced and I ended up doing quite a bit of assets for it, including some Asian faces.

For the same region I also did a set of city walls for the cities and many of the interior decor assets. The mythical and ethnic background of the region was a mishmash of Asian cultures, chock full of samurai but instead of the dragons you'd expect - lizards, worshipped as gods. Like I said, it was extremely fun to work on. The local temple had a dungeon which you got to explore at great length.

At the end of the confusing corridors filled with giant lizards lizard was a enormous chamber (half filled with water missing from the render) where the boss battle took place. Over the course of the project I'd do quite a lot of dungeons as they featured heavily this being action RPG and all.

The dungeons were done by linking sections created from tile-able blocks and unique locations like this one. As you can guess I had the pleasure of designing the blocks and then creating them. It might look like a tedious job having to do so many blocks and make sure they fit in with each other in all the required ways but I loved it. It's the sort of technical challenge I enjoy the most.

It wasn't a simple job of copying the same set over and applying different textures - each type of environment called for a different style of blocks. You'd want different types of passages for a dwarven mine - narrow and winding, different, more open sections for natural caverns, and structured sections with smooth arcs and bends for human built dungeons. When you add alternate blocks to the mix for visual variety things get interesting and challenging. And immensely fun to make.

The length of the project meant I got to do a varied assortment of assets. Weapon categories were divided up amongst artist and I got the rogue's arsenal (which is often my favourite class when playing RPGs, both computer and tabletop ones so I was pleased) - bows, daggers and short blades.

The bows were quite varied and all obviously needed to be rigger to animations. Daggers and any sort of short bladed weapons are usually made quickly obsolete in RPGs. Two Worlds was clever about it with its system of combining weapons and adding boosting effects onto them making them a viable weapon of choice. Especially when you opted for a bow as your main weapon.

From the modelling point of view it was quite challenging to make the knives and daggers recognisable and unique looking despite their small size. However exotic they look though, most of them are based on real weapons from different cultures.

I didn't get to do many props, concentrating mostly on larger structures but I did get to do some small furnishings, mostly all kinds of lights and candlesticks. I could probably squeeze in some of the smaller structures I made into the props category but environments were my main job to be honest.

This isn't to say I didn't make any occasional contributions to other categories, especially when the company was concentrating on one particular subject to show the publishers for example - in such cases all artists would be corralled into helping out.

Most of the times though I'd be working on large scale structures and the biggest one I got to make was one of the cities with a Roman feel to it. Obviously, I didn't construct the town itself - we had talented level designers to do that - but I did create almost all of the buildings and building elements used to build it from, including the surrounding walls and towers and all the miscellaneous bits.

It was terribly satisfying to be able to create a comprehensive set of assets used throughout the whole city. For one it meant I could go around the city freely and take in game screenshots without the worry of including some other artist's work in the frame.

Apart from doing a whole swathe of generic building sets and dungeon blocks I also got to do some unique structures use in only one place in the game and serving as landmarks. One of them was an abandoned mausoleum in a swamp infested with the undead.

Having fought your way through the legions of enemies you'd enter the tall chamber with the sarcophagus in the canter holding up the sought after artefact. What exactly the artefact was escapes me but I think it might have been one of the key parts of the key base, since it was probably connected with the main quest. The chamber was fun to make with it's round layout and having to try and keep the texture density running constant across the radius.

In hindsight the complex dome and ceiling was a waste of time as no one ever looks up in games like that unless there are flying enemies. And there were any there. Even I forgot to take a screenshot of the ceiling when I was making the renders for my archive.

Another prominent structure I got to make was the dwarven gate blocking a narrow canyon passage passage. The dwarves were mean bastards and even though they mostly infested the mines they for some reason thought necessary to inconvenience everyone on the surface as well by arbitrarily locking off parts of the world.

Early on I got to do a lot of work on the natural environments as well. Some of it though in the end didn't make it to the release. During production we've explored different ways of making trees and plants. It was decided in the end to create a tree generator (another app later sold as middle-ware). Interestingly the job was initially assigned to one of the newly hired junior programmers. I was the one pestering him for functionality I needed but at the actual asset creation level most of my job was just creating the texture for the bark and leaves as the actual mesh was created by the generator. While the bark was pretty straightforward to make, leaves were created by rendering actual meshes so as to achieve realistic normal maps on them. This made them seem less flat and gave the whole tree a better illusion of depth.

At the end of the project I got assigned to clean up duties. The game was initially released in Germany whilst it was still receiving polish and we were producing patches often - a few months later it was released all patched up in the rest of the world. In the meantime I was trawling the forums in case someone spotted a glitch our testers missed and dealt with it quickly so we could ship it with the next patch. Other than that I was slashing polys in bottleneck areas and tidying up in general.

The game production didn't stop because the company already decided to start work on an expansion pack even before the release and everyone was hard at work on that. Alas, I could not stay to join in as my time at Reality Pump had run out. By summer 2007 I have graduated and was tying up loose ends and packing my suitcase (just the one; I'll be moving again soon and I can't believe I once was able to do that). My boss knew about my intentions a long time before I left and he and the company were extremely accommodating (I even got a raise even though I was just about to leave - yeah, it was that nice a company).

A few months later I was on a plane headed for the UK.

Thinking it didn't matter where I stayed whilst job-hunting I settled in Luton, where the plane had landed. A month later I moved to Cambridge.

Eventually I landed a job starting that same year at Stainless Games located on the idyllic Isle of Wight. And there I spent my next three years. Dodging burning christmas trees and generally having an altogether stranger time.

2006 - Arch. Vis.

After settling in the company, my university studies were going well and what I thought I'd do with the abysmally scarce free time I had left was to spend it doing freelance jobs. This, to an extent, explains why I haven't got a family.

My personal issues aside, working on architectural visualisations isn't terribly exciting. It's not something you'd do for fun in your spare time. It is something you'd do for money though. And that I did. Most renders here come from projects which weren't wholly my work as I work collaborating with a friend on them. Misery loves company and he was a man with contacts (ergo contracts).

I'm being overly harsh on visualisations here. Maybe because my experience was marred by a solitary hiccup on one of them - but let me talk about it a little later on.

The actual job is pretty straightforward but demands a completely different approach than low-poly modelling. Geometrically correct meshes are less important and there is no budget for polygons or textures (within reason of course). It's more important to keep the mesh tessellated evenly than it is to optimise it for the poly-count.There's not a lot of place for improvisation. Working from exact plans is the bread and butter of these. They also very rarely include dragons. Or lasers. Bright neon lights is as exciting as it gets.

I Worked on many projects like that and was at the same time moonlighting as a web designer to supplement further my income - university fees aren't cheap. There's not a lot more to say about that period - it bled outside of 2006 as I would help out with projects like that whenever I had the chance and more importantly the time. Most of the time it would turn out worth the effort but freelancing isn't as safe as a full-time job. That's like saying russian roulette isn't exactly as safe as playing solitaire.

When doing freelance jobs you always take a risk. And sometimes you lose when a job goes sour. I was lucky enough to only ever hit a snag once (but once is all it takes to make a young trusting lad a bitter, jaded old bastard) when I was doing a small job for a friend's friend. This is usually when you're lax on formalities and generally trust the other person. In the end I finished the job and never got paid a penny. I was pretty bitter about it at the time and frankly I still remember it not very fondly indeed but I guess I learned the lesson as I never hit the same problem again.

The job itself was pretty trivial - a start-up company (I think) was making chairs and they wanted some renders for their catalogue. I made a dozen of those on a short deadline. No idea what happened to the company or if they every used them - but if they did I have a feeling I didn't get credited for them.

2005 - Earth 2160

Right after joining Reality Pump in 2005 I started work on Earth 2160 which was the next in line in the series after 2140 and 2150. The latter was one of the first fully 3D RTSs and 2160 was determined to keep the series on the cutting edge of computer graphics. It wasn't shy to show it off by letting you view the action from the perspective of individual units in a PIP or full-screen mode. The camera wasn't much constrained and you could zoom in out freely. The game was confident to deliver on every scale.

The games in Earth series are all real-time strategies but far from your common backyard variety. Earth 2160 offered you 4 races which had different gameplay styles - which is a feature claimed often but rarely delivered upon. In this game the differences go far beyond the usual unique technology trees and mean real game differences.

For example building a a base when playing as ED meant having to connect all buildings with corridors and if the circuit was broken in an attack the detached buildings would not function. The aliens on the other hand did not have any bases whatsoever and relied on mother units which had the unique ability to split into two as long as they had resources. To get units you had to mutate the mother unit into whatever it was you wanted - including a stationary plant-like spitting turret. If that's not enough variety for you most factions could customise their units with different modes of propulsion, weapons and armour - depending on your strategy or technology level.

The game was really impressive graphically; it used a powerful particles system which the company later packaged up and started selling as middle-ware.

All models relied on the today standard fare of diffuse, specular and normal maps. The detail of buildings and units was for that day impressive and the game was extremely demanding on the hardware if you wanted to enjoy all the eye-candy.

From the modelling point of view it was a challenging job. The models needed to be proper closed meshes with no open seams or poly-saving cheats due the fact that the game showed the damaged state of buildings by overlaying a destruction texture on them and applying vertex transformations to make the structure look deformed. If there was an open seam somewhere it could show up as a hole after such a deformation.

I got to work on many neutral structures and some game vehicles and my first organic unit - which was the alien mother creature which was used as the unit producer for the Alien faction. I also had the duty of doing some of the less exciting jobs like creating LODs and fixing meshes from the technical side and optimising them where possible.

2004 - Oil Tycoon 2

In 2004 for whatever reasons, possibly financial, the company abandoned its own project (Witch Hunter) and started work on Oil Tycoon 2. The old project hanged around for a while in the background but as far as I know it never recovered from being shelved.

Oil Tycoon 2 was a bought and paid for project, continuing a franchise. To be honest I wasn't anywhere near the game mechanic side of things and later when the game came out I shamefully didn't even play it so embarrassing as it is I can't really say a lot about the actual game.

Making the models for it though was a joy. The game was already planned out and there wasn't much uncertainty as to the number and type of assets needed. We were basically filling modern cities with models that had plenty of easily available reference material.

This being a strategy game the camera was pulled out quite far and the cites were just playing the role of the backdrop. The buildings in the renders here are in a far bigger scale than they would have ever appeared on the screen where you'd be looking at the whole city planning the action more globally.

The project was fairly small and very fast paced and quite a pleasant experience to work on. The assets needed were quite varied and the only problem was trying to keep the poly-count and texture memory footprint low - relying heavily on reusing textures across buildings.

I remember finding it quite amusing how I was back to doing small buildings - like the hundreds of buildings I've done for our amateur project (Transport Tycoon Unlimited) a few years back. Of course the actual process was different as they weren't meant to be used as pre-rendered sprites - you had to create them as proper, closed, low-poly meshes and you had to work out how to best to use the texture budget available to you.

At the end of the project I decided to leave the company. The work hours were putting a little bit of a strain on me and negatively affecting my university studies. I spent the next year working freelance jobs in my own time and could concentrate more on my education - I succeeded in getting an educational grant (awarded based on your grades' average) which I managed to keep till the end of my studies.

First thing next year I got hired again; in January I started work at Reality Pump, another gamedev studio in Cracow, which I have very fond memories of.

2003 - Witch Hunter

In spring 2003 I finally got a paying job as an artist at a game development studio - Drago Entertainment. I wasn't being paid overly well but it was my first job. Whilst working there I learnt a lot as you do when you finally stop working on your pet projects at home but to deadlines and with other professionals who can teach you things. Initially we were working on an action RPG under the working title Witch Hunter - that never got finished or released. It's always a pity but I've learned it's sadly quite common in our industry. To the right is the fist model I have ever made in a professional capacity for a video game.

I was doing mostly low-poly models and textures although at one point I remember I was assigned together with a concept artist to design some oriental location with a story around it. Sometimes the job would involve doing some level-design as the assets were usually big chunks of the level - sometimes whole buildings including mazes and multi-storey buildings.

The game itself was a fairly straightforward action RPG with a TPP camera - a little similar to the company previous title Cold Zero. Tech reuse is a given in gamedev. The setting was pretty generic medieval fantasy and the story didn't really have a chance to get nailed down properly. The camera wasn't attached to the character and was pretty high up, although that kept changing quite often - I still remember roofs becoming more or less important depending on the allowed camera angle but regardless of their prominence on the screen when outside the building when you stepped inside the roof and top floors would fade out to reveal the layout of the house from the top. This gave the game a more tactical feel to it. It was pretty fun to play and even more fun to work on.

I've worked on it quite extensively but at the time I didn't think of keeping track of the assets I make in order to use them later in a portfolio so I don't really have many renders from it. For similar reasons I have almost no screenshots because I didn't think of taking any at the time and now for all I know the project doesn't even exist any more. This one tiny screenshot is from the company's website.


An interesting issue came up a little later when it was decided to start making assets more modular. I'm particularly fond of constant meetings but those were quite interesting and gave birth to some pretty good ideas about textures. We're talking about old days here, when multitexturing was still a novelty and memory constraints were a huge issue. The devised method had textures tile in complex ways with parts of itself so you could randomise the tiling and cover large areas with good density without visible repetition (remember: no multitexturing, no detail textures or any fancy tech was available at that point).

In the end the project was put on indefinite hold whilst the company changed production to a paid for title - Oil Tycoon 2.

1996 - The beginning

This is a section spanning my earliest attempts at 3D modelling when I was still a kid. I got first interested in 3D art in 1996, when I was 12. This got me started on my career as a 3D artist which was inaugurated 6 years later when I started my first job at Drago Entertainment. In the meantime I occupied myself with making art for different personal projects and even some internet community projects. Occasionally I'd even get a paying job. This is roughly the timeframe of images here, some of them overlapping with my early days at Drago.

To the right, at the top of the article is my first scene I have ever rendered; oddly enough I can just about remember trying to fake the lamp's glow by pointing a second light at it. It's nothing exciting I'm afraid - I was not a child prodigy. Soon I'd be attempting a little more ambitious projects, though. One I remember was this ship, which was maybe a year (?) later on, meant as an illustration for a short story I was writing for a competition. I distinctly remember going overboard (pun purely accidental) with the poly-count and having to switch to bounding boxes on camera move. The PC I had at the time, if I recall correctly, was a Penitum 200Mhz MMX with 32MB of ram. I think the video card was an S3 virge (remember those?) with a whopping 2MB of video memory.

I'm awfully hazy on my childhood memories and it's hard for me to even get these in chronological order but I think my first project was creating some art for a browser game - which wasn't really much of a game, it was tacked onto a forum about ancient Rome. It was purely for fun and had few rules and was pretty much a glorified forum with some basic trading built into it but people expanded on that and created their own meta-games - it felt like a really slow RPG session on a forum.

My first serious attempt at game development and the thing that convinced me I could do this for a living was working on a project with Rob Spencer who was attempting to make a remake of Transport Tycoon - that was well before openTTD was as big as it is today. I spent countless days over summer (I was still going to school, remember I was a kid then!) and I've made over 150 buildings for the game which we never finished.

Eventually some of them found their way to the nice people at Simutrans (another TT remake). They were even nice enough to give me a mention in the credits! I also designed the menus and created lots of icons and buttons and was working on roads and bridges when the project started to grind to a halt. Don't know what happened to Rob afterwards. I think he was at Uni when he was working on the remake. We lost touch when the project fizzled out.

Another abortive attempt at game making was the brief period of working on a Daggerfall remake. Although the project under different names has been going for decades now (now under the name Dungeon Hack)! This had a positive outcome in that it started me hosting Daggerfall remade/inspired music - which I still do now. ReDF as it was called at times (DFR or FReD at others) was overly ambitious and comprised of many fool-hearty young people and Brendan, as self-proclaimed martial arts bum. It was fun and educational. The low-poly models were too low poly but at least I made a decent render for the website background (the interior of a tower with the opened book) and met some really nice people.

Around about this point I think I started working for Drago, it's been some time now, can't really pin it down very well. My stint in Drago was somewhat short and as a junior artist I wasn't getting paid a lot of money so I continued to work odd jobs like low-poly models for outsourcing companies or some architectural visualisations and transferring architectural plans from paper to CAD - hey, whatever paid the bills.

By this time I was obviously out of high school and earning a leaving. I started university the same year and I'm not sure how (I think a friend from Drago who also happened to be attending the same university recommended me) but I was asked to do a short animated eye-catch video for a comedy review. This was one job that didn't see me get paid in any other way than getting free tickets to said event but it a was fun assignment amongst the more bland but actually paying jobs like making websites.