Tuna was great at developing relationships with other developers and getting them excited about collaborations. That happened with First Star - the owners of the Boulder Dash IP. They wanted to relaunch Boulder Dash, and we started to
work on a brand-new PC game. In the meantime, another (wealthier!) developer/publisher, 10tacle, had a similar idea. They offered to cover the development costs, and Tuna ended up doing level designs.
The thing that really sticks in my mind were how nice the level building tools were. It was probably the first game where I had access to a bespoke set of development tools that had been lovingly made.
Puzzler Collection signalled Puzzler Magazine's move into console games. Considering it was a traditional puzzle game, the development process was full of potential pitfalls.
The deal was structured in such a way that we had to get sign off from another developer, they needed to get sign off from a publisher, and the publisher needed signoff from the IP holder. In the other direction, we'd subcontracted some of the engine development to another team that we also had to manage.
I was the producer, the designer and the artist. We (just about) launched on five platforms simultaneously, with a tiny team, and tough deadlines. It ended up being one of the trickiest projects I've ever worked on.
When it came out, the Nintendo DS version was the first non-first-party game in almost 3 years to top the DS chart.
I was looking for a project to make with an old colleague (Peter Featherstone). At the time, he was in Australia and I was in the UK. We decided to figure out what the simplest game we could make was. Lap Uranus was born!
There are three things I love about Lap Uranus: 1) The name (well, duh!) 2) The simplicity. The only instruction the player needs is "Tap to turn left" - and that's the entire game 3) It was - at the time - almost unique in that it offered local multiplayer on a single iPhone.
I've since rebuilt Lap Uranus in Unity and Unreal Engine, as a way of learning each engine. One of these days I might just release the 8-player version!
When I first met with Bolser they were a digital agency that had no game development experience.
I was recommended to them and ended up doing some design and design consultancy work on a location-based AR (Augmented Reality) game for PS Vita. It was interesting seeing how they had to quickly adapt to the quirks of game development. In some ways it was a game that came out ahead of its time. Bolser have since stuck to their agency roots, and this was their only console game.
[Developer Site][Trailer][Store Page]
Hide and Seek put out a call for location-based games to be played at their Sandpit events, throughout the country.
My contribution was 'The Sky's the Limit'. It used illuminated helium-filled balloons as a score system. The multiple teams would be given a bunch of location specific tasks and challenges, and each would be rewarded with a length of string. The harder the challenge, the more string they would get. When the session was over, the team with the highest balloons were declared the winner.
It was first played on a Winter's evening in Sheffield City Centre, and then played again at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Through my work with Tuna Technologies, I got to know another local developer, Four Door Lemon. We partnered up with them on a number of titles that Tuna was the lead developer on. I was frequently FDL's external producer on those projects.
After leaving Tuna I kept in touch with their MD, Simon. They had a contract with Sony to develop a bunch of AR (Augmented Reality) titles for PS Vita. I'd already made a few crazy golf titles, and designed a few more, so he brought me in to do a first draft on the initial design.
I didn't have much else to do with the game after the initial design consultancy, but it was good to do some more crazy golf design work.
Tuna had big plans, but it was a small fish swimming in a big pond. We set ourselves the task of bulking out our portfolio with lots of PlayStation 2 games, to show the world that we could create console games.
The way we did this was to sign multi game deals with 'budget' publishers. The core outlets for their games were supermarkets and petrol stations. The budgets were ridiculous, as were the timescales. We'd often have up to 3 projects on the go at any one time, with games being developed (including QA and platform holder lot checks) in 2 to 4 months.
It was 'seat of the pants' development, but less crunch than you would expect. On many of these projects I was the producer, lead artist and designer. It taught me a great deal about the development process. The great thing about this process was that you could pitch anything to the publisher-often by giving them a mock-up of the box - and they'd say yes or no.
Obliterate was one such title. It was inspired by my love of Namco's light-gun games, especially Point Blank. Lots of crazy levels with simple-but-adrenaline-filled shooting challenges.
[Developer Site][Playthru Video]
This was the very first game I ever made, and it was only Tempest's second game. It would've been my second game too - if they hadn't rejected my job application a year earlier!!! But that's over 20 years ago, and it'd be silly to still
hold a grudge against those bastards* for not hiring me sooner.
We thought we were making something cool at the time. An RPG adventure with a female as the main character. Unfortunately, the very first Tomb Raider was launched around the same time, and their budget was way bigger than ours.
I loved learning the ropes on that game, and with that team. We were all kind of making it up as we went along. I was employed as an artist, but as there weren't any designers in the company, everyone took on that role. I just presumed that was how all companies worked, so while I was learning how to be a games artist, I was also learning how to be a game designer, without even realising it.
(*I still have regular beers with my former boss and several colleagues from Tempest after all these years!)
[French People Laughing at Our Game]