So there has been radio silence on the blog for quite a while, I can only put that down to laziness if I’m honest. It was mainly a record for me and my family of my time in Canada. But I thought that it would be fitting to post an end of year/decade retrospective, after all everyone else (on telly) is doing it.
2000, the year of my graduation from Newport with a 2:2 in animation the all grey suit, shirt, tie combo that made it look like the photograph was taken in black and white. It’s so far back now that I can’t find any pictures in digital form that I can put up here. I do remember how amazing we thought our student house was, even if the front room was held up by scaffolding, we thought it looked “artistic”, is a wall of porn artistic? I remember playing Goldeneye in the front room with the “No Boris, No oddjob” rule, I also seem to remember winning a lot with slaps.
This was also the year that I started my first job at Hothouse in Bristol, I didn’t even want to work there originally. I had actually refused to go for an interview 3 times. I only decided to go because I was going to be down in Newport for my graduation ceremony anyway and thought that I might as well. It was also smack bang in the middle of the petrol crisis of 2000, when petrol reached crazy levels of 80 whole pence a litre!!!
This was the true transition from student to professional if you can call developing computer games professional, it turned out that I had talked so long in my interview that I think I was just given a job on the condition that I would shut up. I had no idea where it was going to take me, there were plenty of people I was leaving behind that I didn’t want to but I was hungry, ambitious and willing to move anywhere (except London) to become a professional animator. I had no idea whether I could sustain a career with it. But it would prove to be fun finding out, no more working in a bar at least.
2001 The year of Who Wants to be A Millionaire, over and over again, all I remember doing this year is working, having constant deadlines but not caring because I was working in computer games, that and getting bonuses for seemingly doing a very simple task I thought I had it made. I blew my first bonus on a state of the art Multi Region DVD player which I still have now and plays anything as long as it’s disc shaped. I also went out and bought Gangster No1 and American Psycho as my first films as I had a fascination with gangster films and the lifestyle, that and they weren’t out here yet made me feel like I was getting something that no one else had. I also bought a computer that lasted me a good few years and my salesman's car, a 1997 Vauxhall Vectra in what I thought was silver… It wasn’t, Mike Devereux called it “Golden Shower”, I hate to admit it but he was right. I threw in decent stereo and alarm that I think was probably cosmetic and made a nice weep weep sound when activated.
I thought I had hit the big time, with regular bonuses coming in fromWWTBAM, it seemed like a licence to print money, it had sold over a million copies in the UK, the Germans went nuts for it and it seemed like everywhere else was going to follow suit. So why not blow some cash, after all I was only just out of Uni.
Yeah so the bonuses dried up, I had moved into a flat with my mate Lee Dowesett another animator, although he was actually getting to animate as for some reason Steve Goss my “producer” a 1950’s throwback with slicked back hair at the time didn’t think I could animate to a level he thought was appropriate. He basically didn’t want to admit that he had hired me for work on Who Wants to be a Millionaire that required no animation, so made out that I wasn’t good enough… Yeah, we didn’t get on. I “think” he was let go and found another job somewhere, but certain bridges I’m quite happy in burning, that's one on them, I had no interest in ever working for or with him again, nice guy a person, but as a professional… Useless. I could see that within 9 months of becoming professional and my opinion hasn’t changed since.
Gina (Became Lee Dowesett’s wife) and I
Matt, Ian, Pete, and Bill Barna
Ian’s party piece, that he can still do now
Anyway there was the flat in high rolling Clifton, the parties with endless open bars, the jumping into the Avon for a laugh (and a pay rise), hanging out at the Mud Dock with work buddies, drinking over expensive Jack and Cokes, travelling over to Cardiff to see Andy and Sharon and basically living like a student with a bit of cash. Life couldn’t get much better.
2002 – 2005 I’m sure plenty more happened but I’ll summarise, 2002 was world cup year, England got knocked out by Ronaldino and Brazil, I saw the game in Crete where I had my first (and last holiday) with my then girlfriend, we split up a couple of months after but I should of seen it coming, It just wasn’t meant to be and it hit me pretty hard so I threw myself into my work finishing off work on the last of the WWTBAM gravy train games, with the bonuses completely dried up.
Now that my old producer had “left” the company I managed to get a chance to animate on Casino Inc, Hothouses next project, having a great time making people throw up, dance, play blackjack, flirt, chat and various other things. I’m sure loads of other things happened, but I can only remember the work things, that shows you how much of a work-o-holic I turned into around this time. Although I did meet Al and Dunc and started playing basketball with them, that would lead onto me moving in with them and having the best time in a huge house in Southville, Al and Dunc invented “Cork” the game you could play in your kitchen with a cork and washing machine…
Al “The Cork Magician” in our kitchen
Redcliffe 84 Basketball team, great guys had a ton of fun with
Al and I in the same kitchen, looking “Buff”
I enjoyed being single for a bit, but then met another girl who I thought I was really serious about, but things changed as they do and I ended up wanting to move on, but this time it was my decision.
Hothouse released Casino Inc in 2003 and was one of the most fun games I’ve ever worked on to this day, the team was really tight, but the idea wasn’t solid enough, and Konami eventually buried it with no marketing, I became Lead Animator, but this was a case of being too much too young, sure I was good at my job, so I naturally thought that becoming a Lead was the way forward, problem was I knew nothing but thought I knew it all. We had some great ideas for Pop Idol for Codemasters, but it was ultimately… Crap, due to us trying to do everything, from make the engine, animate hours of singing, create an original soundtrack, the Lead Programmer was only lead because no one else wanted to do it, so the project was doomed from day 1, I do remember pulling many an all nighter to prove the concept with Mike Baker, then getting annoyed when my producer said that it was just OK, obviously working until that late doesn’t make a quality project… In fairness he was right it was rubbish!
Hothouse bought by Zoo Digital a DVD production company in Sheffield in 2004 we moved into town, and we kept working on another project called Crimelife – Gangwars… That was also rubbish (there seems to be a pattern emerging), no one really knew what the game was supposed to be and then it was decided that we were going to compete with GTA for a fraction of the cost, we managed to get D12 (Emenim’s Crew) involved, to the point where they recorded a song for us specifically for the game.I had wanted the game to work so much I ended up in Hospital, it was at that point I had had enough, and focused my efforts into finding another job. I produced my demo reel with what animation I had, produced a website, and worked on a couple of other pieces and sent them over to Ubisoft Montreal, where I didn’t expect to hear anything from them. In the mean time I forgot about it and a good friend introduced me to my future fiancée, of course I didn’t know that at the time, we tried to keep it casual as I was looking to move to Canada, but we would stay in touch (obviously).
Overall though I would say that the first part of the decade consisted mainly of me working, which I don’t regret as It’s paid dividends now, but considering they tend to be the things that I remember the most that must mean I did a lot of it.