Friday, 15 May 2009

From Midway to Ruffian

On May 22nd 2009 I will leave the Midway Studios – Newcastle offices for the last time. The majority of my time was spent working on Wheelman as a designer (particularly in mission design). I started working on the title on  November 17th 2007 and quickly blended into the team making a couple of good friends along the way. I’m glad to have worked with them and am proud to have Wheelman in my portfolio.

Wheelman wasn’t a perfect game, but given the circumstances in which it was given life, it was never going to be. It’s always difficult to sell new IP and even more so with the Midway logo on the box (thanks to journalists). The game was seen by many as a poor Grand Theft Auto clone and declared ‘last gen’ visually – both statements came generally from the ill informed and the ignorant.

Wheelman didn’t offer an open world in the GTA sense, but it didn’t intend to – the title offered a lot of varied game content over a large game space in the form of a digital Barcelona (with some artistic license). The graphics themselves may not have been top tier but the focus was on the technical achievement in providing a streaming, colourful, high detail open world at a high frame rate in the Unreal Engine 3.0.

Wheelman’s primary achievements were with the driving (on foot was only ever for pacing purposes). The game had one of the most accessible driving models and some of the most fun/inventive driving mechanics I’ve ever witnessed – I am happy to have been a part of their development (vehicle melee needs to go in the next Burnout).

Sceptics should download the demo (available on Xbox Live/PSN) and see for themselves.

A couple of Midway shout outs are in order (and their twitter accounts). The following people helped me most throughout the project – firstly with settling into the company, then later helping and inspiring me in the area of design…

Mark Thompson (Lead Mission Designer)

Simon Woodroffe (Creative Director)

Dean Smith (Mission Designer)

Steve Lee (Mission Designer)

Midway was fun while it lasted and I learnt a lot along the way. I’m mixing things up a little now, and on May 26th 2009 I start as a designer at Ruffian Games in Dundee.

Wish me luck!