At the age of 15, while my main source of income was a paper round, I got a ‘job’ as a reviewer for a games magazine. TV Gamer a short lived publication that covered everything from Arcade to Computer games had the ingenious idea of getting it’s readers to write the reviews. You got sent the game and in lieu of payment got to keep it.
For two issues I wrote 3 reviews that due to the wonders of the internet I have found over 30 years later.
Everest my first ever review was a climbing simulation for the Dragon 32. Although I seemed to enjoy it, I didn’t review it very highly and I seem to remember visually it was shocking, written in basic and pretty poor.
Two months later in September I’m back sharing my view of a Pac Man clone with my adoring public. I preferred this game although for reasons unknown I had changed my name from Chris to Christopher!
And then finally a couple of pages later in the review section, my last ever game review 3D Lunattack. Developed by Graftgold one of the greatest 8bit UK developers and written by the legendary Steve Turner. I gave it a glowing review but for reasons known only to my 15 year old mind I gave it only a 3 out of 5 for value!
That was the end of my brief foray into journalism, something I feel the game magazine industry may be glad of.
It was my first slightly tenuous job in an industry that I would spend the majority of my life working in.
Inner Workings was a Glasgow based games developer, they had focused on a number of multimedia kids books to CD Rom conversions such as The Fish that Could Wish and Winnie the Witch.
They had acquired the rights to the Jolly Postman IP and created two games, each with an educational slant as well as a related website.
I joined as a Software Engineer and worked on providing some simple internet connectivity technology that allowed players to create and collect stamps and post them on the internet through a dedicated in game browser.
Plane Crazy was a flying racing game and the one and only fully fledged game that Inner Workings released before going bankrupt in 1999.
The game was initially published on PC and PS1 by Europress in Europe and Segasoft in the US.
I developed the multiplayer engine wriiten on top of Microsoft Directplay which allowed 8 players to compete in both LAN and Internet multiplayer races.
This was extended to support the Sega Network matchmaking technology with the Segasoft deal.
The picture is back in 1997, with Lesley the CEO and Audrey Operations Director alongside myself in Atlanta as we attended E3. We were at the time looking for a US publisher, which ended up being Sega. You can see we are wearing Inner Workings T-Shirts. They had Insane on the front and Plane Crazy on the back!
I-Play started out being called Digital Bridges, then dbi, then dbi games and finally I-play. Over the time it turned from a technology for delivering WAP and SMS games into a mobile games publisher provide downloadable J2ME, Brew and Native games.
Sorcery was one of the first games we did, it was a pick your own path adventure on WAP with hundreds of hand drawn location images done in black and white. We did a number of these games including a Star Trek game licensed from Activision.
Moving to download J2ME games we developed licensed games on everything from Pink Panther to Goodfellas, Robocop to Maria Sharapova Tennis.
We also did original games, My Dog was very successful as was Pillowfight but for very different reasons.
Racing games were a big part of the portfolio with Fast and Furious but also licensed games like WRC Rally.
Finally we worked with EA Sports on a number of FIFA and Tiger Woods games.
I ran the production and publishing with four internal development teams and a number of external teams developing around twenty games a year in total.
Digital Bridges needed a racing game, its one of the most popular genre and out competitors like gameloft has asphalt. Licensing managed to get the Fast and Furious license and so it was my job to get a game asap.
The initial game was a top down race, that played well but didn’t look as good as some of the early pseudo 3D games that were coming out.
For 2 Fast 2 Furious we brought development internal and build a pseudo 3D game that certainly looked better.
3D was starting to become feasible on mobile around 2004, so we built an early 3D game based on the original license.
With no new film coming out and the need to get another Fast and Furious game to keep sales up, we started to search for an angle. On the 2 Fast 2 Furious DVD there is a short film that explains the change from Miami to LA, using this as a base we made Fast and Furious Fugitive.
With a new film Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift coming out we followed Fugitive with two games based on the new film. We used the same developer we had used on Fugitive Firemint (who later got bought by EA and did Real Racing) to build the 3D game while the low end 2D game was kept internal.
The Fast and Furious franchise was the biggest franchise iPlay worked on, under my leadership we did five games in 4 years half internal.
Digital Bridges, later to be renamed iplay went through lots of models of how to sell mobile games in the early 2000’s
One idea was to package them with a new phone, to get users familiar with the idea of playing games on their brand new colour mobile phone.
To do this the games were packaged into DVD boxes and sold in phone shops alongside the phones and often given away as bundles.
Inside each box was a piece of card with the URL and a code that allowed you to download the games once. To stop users returning the boxes because there was no DVD inside, a DVD was provided which contained some pretty random demo software such as digimask.
This lasted for a few years, in the end it was clearly a stupid idea, but for a while it certainly made the games more visible.
Flock! was an Xbox 360, PS3 and PC game aimed at the Xbox Live market. It was developed by Proper Games, a company based in Dundee. I was COO for two years helping to secure the publishing deal with Capcom.
The game is about Alien Abduction, you take control of a flying saucer with the job of herding various farmyard animals in to your mother ship for reasons that are left to the players imagination.
Each level is a puzzle with the ability to pick up and push items, flick switches and even create patterns (Crop Circles) to unlock the level and let the player progress.
The game has a beautiful art style, great visuals and music but is let down by a tricky control system and the overall difficulty of a herding mechanic.
There was also a full editor with the ability for players to create and share levels online through a dedicated browser.
Capcom even created a Flock toy, which I still proudly own (somewhere!).
The second game Proper Games developed on for Capcom was an emulation of a couple of classic arcade games. Final Fight Double Impact was an emulation of the CPS1 Arcade board which used a 68000 CPU, Z80 for sound and custom graphics hardware.
We used an existing 68000 CPU emulation core which was ported to the Xbox 360 and PS3, the music and sound effects were sampled rather than emulated and the graphics hardware was a custom emulation by the development team.
We also used a multiplayer technology Capcom had bought to provide the arcade style multiplayer over the internet.
The menu system was visually displayed in 3D and this one of the first to create a range of video modes including an emulation of a CRT screen.
Final Fight is a famous arcade game, but Magic Sword is much less well known and this is the only official way of playing it outside of an arcade.
Capcom also provided a lovelly press pack with a plastic barrel and old style audio tape of the music. I did have one of these but it really has been lost which is a shame.
This was a beautiful emulation package, and it was a shame the core technology wasn’t used for other games.
Celtic Heroes is a very successful Mobile MMO that was developed by a Glasgow based developer One Thumb Mobile.
At the start of the project One Thumb Mobile was looking for initial funding to help kick off the project, I managed to secure this funding from Creative Scotland based on the fact the game was based on Scottish mythology.
The final game I worked on at Proper Games was Crackdown 2, specifically the DLC pack - Toybox.
The local developer Ruffian was building Crackdown 2 after the game had been taken off Real Time Worlds. The game was on a tight schedule and they needed some extra help, specifically in the DLC pack called Toybox. This provided the ability to unlock the game, and new multiplayer modes as well as additional vehicles.
Crackdown 2 was a big triple A exclusive for Microsoft, also working alongside another development studio was interesting to see how cultures differed.
Lets be clear to start with, this is a terrible game. Probably one of the worst games I’ve ever worked on with GamesTM giving it 3 out of 10.
Raven Squad was a game developed by a Hungarian Stdio Atomic Motion, who had previously worked on PC RTS games. This was a console game that aimed to mix RTS and FPS.
It was published by Evolved Games who no longer exist for good reason. My role in the project was to get it finished no matter what. I was brought in by the financing company to get it delivered so the publisher had to pay.
It was already late when I got involved, but we managed to get it through cert and out on PS3 and Xbox 360. The game I had almost nothing to do with, but I’m proud we got it released against all the odds.
It kind of proves that success isn’t simply about the quality of the game in some circumstances.
Alice Return to Madness was an EA Partners game. I worked for an external consultancy Games Audit that was contracted to provide Executive Producers to manage external projects on behalf of the financing.
Syndicate was an EA Partners game. I worked for an external consultancy Games Audit that was contracted to provide Executive Producers to manage external projects on behalf of the financing.
deltaDNA strated out being called games analytics. There are three founders, myself, Mark Robinson and Tim Christian. We started as primarily a consultancy, raising our first serious money in 2013 to build a SaaS Analytics and CRM platform dedicated to the games industry.
In total we raised £4M from Par Equity, Scottish Investment Bank, STV and Edge VCT. The company is now a highly successful platform working with some of the biggest games publishers and developers and easily the leading analytics and CRM platform in games.
I was CTO from 2014 to 2018, at which point I stepped back from day to day management to explore new opportunities. I still work as a technical adviser, board member and major shareholder.
Abertay University is the leading center for education in Video Game development, production and design in Europe. I’m a Visiting Professor at the University, helping to make sure it stays at this level and grows.
I’m specifically interested in bringing my experiences from deltaDNA to the University and students, lecturing on data driven design and using big data analytics to build better games.
I am currently working on a number of projects, ranging from fraud in mobile messaging to mobile game development connected to health.
I’m also working with a couple of venture capital companies to help identify new opportunities.
I worked with sumdog on a project to look at their development processes and help to streamline how they decide and build features for their SaaS platform.
I’m always open to new projects.