After graduating university in 1995, I started my professional career at Gremlin Interactive in Sheffield.
I had job offers from several game studios such as Ocean and The Bitmap Brothers, but Gremlin appealed because I’d grown attached to several of their games in my teenage years.
Actua Soccer: OEM Edition
At this time, 3D graphics cards for PCs were the next step forwards in computer game technology. Gremlin’s premier title at the time was Actua Soccer, and hardware manufacturers S3, ATI were desperate to showcase games running on their prototypes.
Working alongside a fellow new start, we were tasked with porting the PC version of Actua Soccer to these new cards. Although we shared many of the common tasks, we decided to each take one of the cards as our main focus and I took the ATI 3D Rage while my colleague took the S3 Virge.
Being the first generation of 3D acceleration, both cards were seriously underpowered and had both fill rate and vertex throughput issues. The software rasteriser for Actua Soccer used a clever 2D sprite system that wasn’t truly 3D, and was so well optimised that we initially had trouble getting the cards to even keep up with the non-accelerated version. We did eventually manage to outperform the software, but where these cards truly shone was in their ability to use bilinear filtering on textures and true alpha blending instead of the stippled effect that had been used throughout the game.
Shortly afterwards, the prototype of the 3Dfx arrived at the office and the next generation of 3D acceleration began.
Although it was a busy period for 3D hardware and what was to become the start of Gremlin’s OEM division, I was moved on to the Reloaded team which was in need of a PC developer.
Following the success of Loaded on PlayStation, the sequel was going to be released on both PlayStation and PC. Although I was lead developer for the PC version, the PlayStation was the lead platform and my role was to write a new engine for the PC and duplicate the gameplay that the PlayStation developer was writing. It seems archaic now but this was back in the days when source code was shared among developers on floppy disc and source control was simply telling your colleagues which files you were working on.
Since the PC version had started behind the PlayStation version and had further to go since it couldn’t reuse the existing Loaded game engine, I was offered the assistance of a junior programmer. This was my first taste of managing another developer.
I learned much during this project as it covered the whole range of game development features including networked multiplayer and artificial intelligence.