Here's a final archive of my remaining LEGO research. Feel free to sort or further archive it wherever you feel.
LEGO Media International
1. I deeply enjoyed working on Lego Island 2 - we tried to find a plausible way to animate the mini-figure (we homed in on a style of movement that would exist in the head space of somebody playing with the real toy in the real world) which also would look good... (this was long before the Lego movie) - I also given a lot of freedom in terms of content and story... but heavily referenced Lego Island 1 and the in-game animation.
2. I think we pretty much used all the footage we produced in the FMV - so no 'outtakes' as such.
3. in terms of reference... We played a lot with the LEGO mini-figure. I also embraced the animations that were done for in-game content...
1. How did you get involved with LEGO?
I joined LEGO in January 2000 as a Junior CG Artist and Animator. It was my first job after completing a Masters in Computer Animation from Bournemouth University. A friend of mine from Bournemouth had the job at LEGO first, but after a few months took a job elsewhere, and before doing so put in a word for me with Terry and the team (Mattias, Jason and Martin). The interview went well, and shortly after I started work with the team at their shiny new headquarters in Slough, just west of London.
2. What projects can you remember working on?
One of the first projects I remember working on was Harry Potter, and involved creating mock-ups in Maya (the 3D software we used) of a new range of Minifigures based on sketches of Harry and the other key characters from the novel. At the time, I knew nothing about the book, nor indeed how huge the franchise would end up becoming.
The 2 projects I remember most fondly were LEGO Racers and LEGO Football Mania (LEGO Soccer Mania outside of Europe). This was because I was able to assist Martin in the animation of some of the scenes from the FMVs (full motion videos).
LEGO Racers (here’s a low quality video I found on YouTube. I animated some scenes involving the “Murray Walker”-based character on the microphone, although I can’t see any of my work in this clip.
LEGO Football (I worked on quite a bit of the animation - including the tunnel sequence, and some of the football game animations. 00:57-01:30).
3. What can you remember your role entailing?
As mentioned, part of my role was to help visualize in 3D various drawings and design ideas. I remember helping to previsualize the layout of the LEGO Racers attraction for LEGOLand Windsor, including the touchscreens in the game. My real passion however was, and still is animation. And so I would look for any opportunity to work alongside Martin Lanzinger who was the Senior Animator in the team, in bringing the Minifigure characters to life for the intro sequences and FMV cut-scenes of the games.
4. Do you have any fond/amusing memories from your time with LEGO?
I don’t have any memories in particular, but I genuinely loved going to work each day, mostly for the banter with Mattias, Jason, Martin and especially Terry. I look back fondly on working for Terry, as he is such a hilarious and unique character. I truly appreciate the faith he showed in bringing me into the team and helping me get started on my career in animation.
5. Lastly, in the goal of archival, have you held onto any development materials that you would be open to sharing digital copies/scans of?
Unfortunately I don’t have access to any work from my LEGO Media days as it is on a hard drive back in the UK, but I will have a good rummage round and see if I can hunt some down
Although there was a LEGO bible when it came to the look of the Minifigures (e.g. exact measurements and Pantone colours), there wasn’t really a style guide for their performance. And we, as animators practically “broke” the characters, by introducing deforming (as opposed to rigid) torsos, arms & legs, which we felt perfectly suited the Minifigures in the digital motion video. We animated to storyboards, which at times had the Minifigures performing all sorts of crazy actions, and so we wanted a Minifigure rig which would literally give us the flexibility to add real dynamism to the animation that was there in the ‘boards.
In terms of reference, for LEGO Football I remember gathering the game reference from actual football coverage. And when I came to animate I would use the reference mostly for timing and posing, but then exaggerate or “cartoonify” the movement to be in keeping with the Minifigure style of animation from previous FMVs - most of which were at the expert hands of Martin Lanzinger. I had free rein to an extent in the animation clips I was tasked with, but made sure to keep the style as close as possible to Martin’s fun and often over the top approach to animating the Minifigures.
1. A super efficient engine is developed that is later discovered to have a side effect of being able to move through the multiverse. This ends up tearing apart the fabric of multiverse. A team of humans and other beings is put together to repair the damage.
2. Starthropods are giant space insects that live in the atmosphere of the sun. Humans build a fleet of vehicles and suits to survive near the sun and explore and study these creatures. This was my proposal for a continuation of the Insectoids line.
Elements are a team of monsters each with an elemental power and a mastermind who is a brain in a jar with mechanical tentacles. The team set to fight them has vehicles designed just for the task.
Ghost of the Machines is a planet inhabited by the ghosts of everyday appliances.
Spynomics is a space version of Spy-vs-Spy.
Cosmic Thrill Seekers is a group of adventurers who have an clubhouse/spaceship from which they bungee jump into black holes and surf solar flares.
Bartho and the Bartho Circus is a space circus.
3. I started when the idea was very rough: LEGO action figures. The project was called Genesis back then. There was a small team of us who spent 2 months in a little office in Manhattan Beach CA coming up with ideas for stories and how we could build figures in a LEGO manner.
4. I ended up working mostly on the joints and how we could make them have realistic human like limits. And ways to make a hand that could interface with LEGO and look a bit more human than the mini dog hand. Unfortunately I contacted a horrible flu from the guy sitting across from me in the office and was out for the last week of the project…I missed so much that happened at the end.
5. It was all great times. I loved sitting at my desk dreaming up stories, doodling and being paid for it. I wish I could have done more work for LEGO but they licensed Star Wars and paused the Futura group that I was working for. While I was working on Genesis, LEGOLAND California opened so I was able to go the day before it opened. I occasionally helped out with a few of other little projects for a few years after as their little Studio 12 office was only a short walk from mine but eventually I ended up very busy with many other projects of all sorts.
Additional Information 1:
LEGO Beings was the very first code name for the project. Genesis was the name that came out of the 2 month workshop. It probably changed a few more times before it finally ended up being Galidor.
I found a few images from an old portfolio I put together in 2003 that might be fun for you to see.
Here is an arm I build in SolidWorks during the first week or so of the 2 month session. It was before we brought in the technic connectors and were experimenting with other connection systems. The slots in the sides of the arms where another connector for snap on accessories.
Anyways to start off with, here a few basic questions: 1
. How did Mudpuppy Studios get involved with LEGO? We were working with a Paul Allen funded tech startup in the Bay Area on software for some prototype smart toys. Allen sold the operation to LEGO while we were doing a couple projects for them. It was an interesting group down there. Al Alcorn of Atari fame was working there.
2. While I was aware LEGO Circus was in development at Mudpuppy Studios, I noticed you mentioned working on three LEGO titles on your resume. Can you remember what the other two were? (I also should add I'm aware LEGO was working on smart toy racing and girls focused titles, so maybe those are related?) I think there were three titles, but my memory is fuzzy. I think there was the circus and then a boy focused one and a girl focused one. But It was a moving target early in the project and then when we really got rolling LEGO had a major shift in upper management and the group we were working for was disbanded. 3. How far can you remember the LEGO titles getting in development? We were maybe half way. LEGO was very good to us when the project was cancelled. They paid us out for the next uncompleted milestone so were were left whole. It was a very difficult time in the business then. CDROMs were dying and the dot com bust and 911 just happened.
4. Do you have any fond/amusing memories from working with LEGO? Just the cool people we worked with. Tons of integrity. We were out on the fringes of what had been done with smart toys and software and it was a ton of fun. The works at the LEGO group seem to be energized and having the time of their life. We were about a dozen people at Mudpuppy when we got the deal with LEGO. It was well over $1M project. The day we got the deal I went to Toys R Us and bought one of every set they had, over $1000 worth of LEGOs for the office. Everyone at the office had LEGOs on their desk. We immersed ourselves in it. (My kids had the best LEGO collection ever.)
Hi Jeremy. Back in 2009 I did some 3D work on a couple of tracks for an unnamed Lego racing game that was cancelled. It was for a company called Firebrand Games based in Glasgow, Scotland.
I don't much more than that sorry!
1) I've built so many racetracks for so many games over the years that my memory is slightly foggy. I do think one of them was a kind of Daytona oval, but I'm honestly not 100% sure. I could be thinking of another title.
2) I was the main contact. Fraction was a small studio I set up that consisted of me and a handful of contract artists.
Probably on a backup CD or HD somewhere in storage. It would be too difficult to track down. I've moved countries twice and had two kids since that time!
Silicon Dreams Studio
1. Not really anything different in the dev process except everyone thought we were mad to make a videogame of Lego, but we proved them wrong!
2. Actually we got close to them and ATD developed an arcade style race game for them based on their Rollcage game that was featured as a 'ride' in the park. Maybe you can find out more than me about that. It was super popular.
3. Yes, we were developing Lego Soccer 2 when I sold the company.
4. We don't own any rights to the titles they were on a work for hire basis.
1. What content can you recall working on directly?
2. What are some points during the development you'd call notable?
3. Can you recall any canned/removed content from the game?
4. Do you have anything from the development still? (Images and such)
1. Mainly modelling and texturing. This included creating parts of the island the game is based in using an in-house modelling tool. Creating lego models for the game and one of the games within the island which was the trike game which passed through a harbour environment if I remember correctly.
2. The most notable points during the development were not really positive ones. Two external producers from Lego were involved with the game and this caused tensions during development which directly adds to your third question. Of course this affects the moral within the team at points. An explanation of the decisions and mistakes made by the the external producers was given at the end of development, but really helps no one at that point. Also royality promises that never materialised.
3. A lot of good ideas and art were conceptulised and modelled for the game as a whole including the mini sub-games and then scrapped. Control systems were dumbed down to such an extent that some sub-games only required the player to hold down a certain button throughout the sub-game to complete it. This was argued that younger children could then play the sub-games, but I was not convinced by this argument.
4. I am afraid that I don't think I have any still images from the development. I did have a copy of the game but must have given that to someone a long time ago. I can have a trawl through the internet to see. Fellow artists that worked on the game may have something but because it was so long ago now I doubt it.
My memories of development on Lego Island 2 and Extreme Stunts maybe a bit blurred together due to the time period.
I hope this information is useful. It was quite a while ago. If I think of something else I will let you know.
What can you remember about the development history?
Ooo, now you are pushing the old memory bank, Our team had just finished a game called ‘Dogs of War’ on PC and I believe the PC/PS1 version of LI2 had already been started by another team.
Some of our team members moved on so the team size dropped and our bosses turned round to us and said “do you reckon you could make a GBA version of LI2?” I think reading between the lines they asked Lego if they wanted that version doing as we had a team spare (us) to do it. They said yes and off we went.
We had never made a GBA game before so it was bit of a learning curve and with that in mind we were relatively left to our own devices. Obviously Tim (Green) and Scott ( Mackintosh) were kept in the loop of what we were doing and had their input. We had some really good programmers who got the game up and running quite quickly so it was down to us as designers and artists to get in the content.
As far as I remember we had the initial design stuff from the other project (PC/PS1) in terms of the Island and things that were meant to be on it but as the GBA version by default worked differently in terms of moving around the map, we had quite a lot of freedom to ‘fill in the gaps’. Also we were big Pokemon fans ( Malcolm Grant/ Dean Roskell - the designers and myself) at the time so we introduced similar gameplay from that for leading the player round and exploring the map fully. Most characters you met had something you could find or do for them to get more info or rewards.
Like I said we had quite a lot of freedom so I don’t know whether they weren’t expecting us to get it done or for it sell well and we were restricted by how we could recreate some of the mini games that were in the other versions so we just cracked on with it.
Can you remember any canned/removed content?
Not specifically, although it was a long time ago! Again we got the main elements of the overall design in and were then left to fill in all the gaps. We wanted to get as much content in as we could and we had a laugh doing it hence all the little jokes and quips in the character dialogue (which were all tongue in cheek), luckily Tim and Scott went along with it.
What parts can you directly recall working on?
As the Lead artist I had to oversee the rest of the artists but as it was a small team and we had all worked together previously it wasn’t difficult. I knew I could rely on them to get their stuff done. So my main task was creating/designing the in game Island map along with other design elements of the game with Malcolm, Dean and Phil Harris (lead programmer). Once the programming team had set up an editor for laying down the tiles I was off making 8x8’s in specific ‘lego’ colours and laying them down for the map, scenery and buildings. I created the splash screen sequence at the start and stuff like that. It was my job to check all the sprite stuff that went into the game. The characters were 3D from the other versions which were animated for our directional needs by Sophie Mobbs, our animator, then rendered out and turned into the necessary sprite sheets. I seem to remember having a hand in a some of the mini games, especially ‘Brick Dive’ and ‘Ogel Sneak’ as they were built using the tile editor, but they were mainly created by John Moss, our other artist.
Do you have any development images/files from the development?
Not specifically dev files but I have found some images of the game, tucked away, which must have been taken from our editor. I’ve zipped them up for you to have a look at.
It was a 6 month project, we wrote it all from scratch having never worked with the GBA before, I wrote the level/data editor (LegoDev2D) which all the maps were built with. Matt Ritchie wrote a great pseudo-emulator that we could test on PC with too. The team was about 8-10 people and I’m still in touch with several of them.
Removed content? Not sure what you’re after here. The only thing I do remember was a stipulation from Lego that there was to be no smoke or fire in the game
The editor is a 2D multi-layer paged tile editor with all sorts of advanced features (ordering, palette switching, paged regions, collision zones and polygons, animated regions).
I’ve certainly got a bunch of screenshots from the editor, not sure about a working copy though, that would require a fair bit of archaeology.
Images of LEGODev2D: https://archive.org/details/lego-dev-2-d
I didn't have that much work on the Lego series, I help with the 'football' management system and I adapted the one we used for our soccer games to manage data for Lego mania, but really that's about it. A Lego Mania 2 was planned. Ian Hutchinson did most of that work.
I do remember that the game was delayed, so that it could be improved.
1. I became involved in the project as I used to play in a covers band within the West Midlands area and Mark (the writer) came to see us a couple of times and approached me to ask if i wanted to sing on some tracks he was writing for a lego game (you can imagine my response).
2. As far as I can remember he sent me a rough draft on cd of the songs and the lyrics he wanted to use and I had a couple of weeks to learn them. I then travelled to Silicon Dreams studios (?) in Banbury for a day to record. I think at the time the game was meant to be lego island 3? It was all quite surreal as it was a vocal recording situation but for a video game, which was quite unfamiliar at the time! As far as i can recall we spent the day recording the tracks and making sure they were right. Once done I left whilst they mixed and produced it.
3. I was given a copy of the demo although I am unsure where it is now Im afraid. Oddly enough it wasn't till about 10 years ago I discovered the game actually got made! As I heard no more from the development and was unaware the name had changed. I spent a while attempting to discover it to no avail. Even trying to convince friends that it had actually happened at all! I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it on youtube a number of years later! It even took a while to convince people that it was actually me who sang on the track. I think Mark even had to intervene to prove it!
1 I was teaching IT in a Further Education college where I made a good friend in one of the other lecturers, Steve. He and I both had the ambition to work in the computer games industry. Within weeks of each other, we got jobs - him at Silicon Dreams, me at a company called NMS. Just over a year later NMS went bust, and I got a job, after a tip-off from Steve, at Silicon Dreams, joining his team working on the Lego Island 2 game.
2 I cut my teeth on the game's particle system - all the twinkles, music notes, smoke, hot-pepper-pizza-fiery-breath and so on. This work really appealed because it combined close collaboration with the art team with the technical challenge of delivering the effects they desired. After that, I built the cutscene system. My last work on the special-effects side was the system for transforming the Lego models from one form to another - this involved defining an encoding to describe the Lego models, their constituent bricks (orientation, ordering) for each, and then the code to disassemble one model, swirl the bricks around (when unneeded ones were surreptitiously swapped for those in the target model) and reassembling into the target.
I wrote the mini-game where you fire cannonballs to knock off the castle defenders. My memory is hazy about which of the other mini-games I worked on; there was a lot of collaboration between the developers on each game.
3 The cutscenes were realised using the game engine, i.e. not pre-rendered, and played out "in situ", with Pepper and other characters entering a cutscene directly from gameplay. I developed the tool-set used by the animation team to set up the sequence of camera locations, animations (camera, character body and facial expressions), etc. that form the script of a cutscene. We were targeting multiple languages and I was mindful that the duration of a sentence in English may be slightly different for the same sentence in Norwegian; over the length of a cutscene, this could cause some noticeable synchronisation issues! I came up with a system called (IIRC) “the cutscene Pianola” which allowed animators to insert synchronisation points into the cutscenes, whereby the animations would remain in a "holding pattern" until dialogue completed.
I also remember the cutscene where Pepper hands over a pizza being one of the hardest to achieve - transferring ownership of the pizza from one game character to another wasn't as straightforward as it might seem.
And Pepper's shadow on the ground was really tricky (and thankfully not my problem!)
The cannonball mini-game involved some nice maths to calculate the angle of the shots from the castle. Probably the first time in my programming career I looked back at old GCSE maths & physics books to find/derive the equations of motion for projectiles.
4 Hmm. Nothing comes to mind...
5 I think I have a sealed copy of the game, and an unused Lego Island 2 skateboard stashed somewhere in my loft
1. I had four songs in the game, I was also working as a voice over editor at the time. This was my first job in the games industry. I probably had a couple of songs that were started but then stopped because they were not going anywhere.
2. We had almost complete freedom, we generally had a brief but for the most part it was just a suggested genre.
3. I don't think I have any of the original files, it's possible that there are a couple of bit's on an old demo cd somewhere. All of the music is available on youtube, also all the Lego Drome Racers stuff too.
1. It was my first job after finishing my MSc in Music Technology. My initial interview was for an in-game programmer, but I didn't get it. However, I was called back for a second interview for the role of audio tools programmer.
2. As a tools programmer I wrote an application to help the sound designers overlay sounds, change volumes, panning, etc to see what works. I think I also worked on other tools like exporters, etc, but I can't remember details.
After a few months as a tools programmer, I 'graduated' to an in-game audio programmer. I wrote the low level audio engine for the PS2. It was basically the interface between the hardware and the higher level libraries we were working with in the company.
3. There are a couple of things, but I don't know if they are of particular interest.
It's also a bit of hearsay involved! I think the game we were working on when I started writing the audio engine was Lego Soccer Mania which was supposed to come out well before the World Cup for marketing reasons. Unfortunately, despite of many late nights, we missed the deadline, but that was a combination of promising them a very optimistic completion date (even though the team leader had asked for more time!) but also, in the middle of the game and after going through several milestones, the Lego team changed and the new people pretty much tossed out the front end, so we had to start the front-end pretty much from scratch with only 4-5 months left to completion!
Another interesting moment (although not Lego related) was when we finished Lego Soccer, we spent a few weeks twiddling our thumbs until we were tasked with creating a proof of concept DJing game for Microsoft. In the end we didn't get the contract, but we did go to Bristol for some 'research' which involved going clubbing!
4. I left the company the December before it closed down. I think the only things I have are the discs of the 2-3 games that I worked on.
I think that about it. I'm sure there are other guys and girls with a lot more in depth knowledge of what was going on.
1. It's so long ago, hard to think of anything significant Are you interested in any memories from that project or just ones specific to the development of the game?
2. I worked on all the character controllers in the game. Which included camera work, animation control, a tony hawks style skateboard controller, all vehicles.
3. Can't really remember which minigames didn't make it. Originally there was meant to be a much bigger skate park with all kinds of skateboard tricks but in the end it was reduced to a half-pipe. I don't remember any worlds being cut though.
4. Sorry no, it was way too long ago
Jeremy Sleet sent the following message at 10:23 AM
The project was split in to two teams based on platform (Playstation 1 and PC). Although I was on the Playstation 1 team my work on controllers was used for both. The atmosphere on the Playstation 1 team was generally very humorous and we laughed and joked a lot. There were no plans to have any other skaters in the game as the AI system wasn't robust enough to handle them. It was just meant to be Pepper doing skateboard tricks in the skate park and around the islands.
1) the development was pretty shambolic. We pitched a nice cinematic that won the gig but fell way short of ability to deliver a great game. Spent ages on making a pretty environment whilst incorporating little to no challenge. The fact the show was flop didn’t help.
2) I was involved as a concept artist and also textures.
3) whole game was canned\
4) yep still have a bunch of concept art in the loft.
1. That's not something that I can recall much about, as I wasn't at Asylum for very long. I was one of a number of contractors working for Asylum - most people working there were doing so on a contract basis. The studio culture was not very good at the time, and there wasn't much inter-discipline communication, and it wasn't a friendly place. I worked on the PC/PS2/Gamecube version, I did hear that there was a GBA version but I didn't have anything to do with it.
2. I worked for Asylum from June to October 2002. I very vaguely remember working on pathfinding, enemy behaviour and AI, and I remember working on code to do with the main character being able to jump and climb, to be able to grab the edges of moving platforms etc. I honestly can't remember much of what I thought of the game while I was working on it, but I can remember it looking quite good for the time, and that it potentially could have been fun? Most of my work was engine related and was also used in Curse: Eye of Isis, another game by Asylum.
3. I did hear that it was canned. I’m very surprised to learn that it did actually come out. I just did a google and found Nick Ferguson’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ijwsEwNlEo I was surprised to see that the animation of the main character never got fixed, he still has the strange dead arms when he jumps.
4. Sadly not! I have no fond memories of working at Asylum and was glad to leave it all behind, when I quit. Hope that helps If I remember anything else, I’ll let you know!
Art from Leigh Christian and Georgina Mackenzie: https://archive.org/details/taskmaster-euripides/sk14.jpg
1. What can you remember about the development history of LEGOLAND. (Any notable points in it and such)
We had a team of 6, 3 artists and 3 developers – there was also a Line Manager (who ultimately dropped to Lead Programmer after I left the project).
Originally, there was to be a PC version and a Playstation version – the PC version using the most powerful graphics adapters at the time in addition to the new Pentium MMX and Katmai instruction set.
The entire development team were invited to Legoland park design in Windsor to understand how real theme parks are developed. In many respects this didn’t have any bearing upon Legoland the game per se, but it was a nice day out. The game covered the 5 (I think) main Lego worlds of the time, and each world was to have appropriate fun mini-games. Concept art was produced for western and jungle mini-games in addition to the general flow of the games. The games were derivative of then already retro arcade games like Frogger and Zaxxon.
I remember that very early on, Lego Media decided that the game had to run on bare PC hardware without graphics adapters because the target market of people having Intel 740 or better was too small. This caused us to have to highly compress the animations. I went for the popular FLC (Flick) animation format for the in-game graphics – this worked incredibly well since the Lego Castle animation rendered larger than the 640x480 screen on a bare x486 pc.
As an aside – the sheer size of the Lego Castle showed up an unexpected problem, and the ZOOM OUT mode was added as an unplanned solution – basically rendering more map but at 50% - the whole map was another little hack based on the same thing however I think we would have needed the map view regardless.
The Proof of concept which was a small working demo was put together fairly quickly, and it contained pretty much all of the mapping and background tools for the finished game – the game is constructed of a grid for the iso view, plus an overlay layer of sprites that are just drawn into the background or over the base-board – in tandem with a flag per square indicating whether it was editable by the player or not, we had the ability to portray maps that were neither square nor rectangular by seemingly cutting bits out. The proof of concept only contained a handful of non-animated attractions and plants in the wild-west theme – mini-figures could not enter those buildings at that time.
The Playstation version of the game was canned due to the lack of any kind of power in the Playstation hardware. Generally a PSX 1 could only render around 300 rectangles per frame, and Lego Mini figures are notoriously curvy – even more-so than the Lara Croft mesh at the time! On canning PSX, the team was reduced to 4 plus a manager.
Interestingly, the fidelity of the game was greatly reduced when it became clear that we couldn’t render the mini-figures on the PC with anything like the quality that they were pre-rendered in 3D Studio Max. This is why the finished game has real-time rendered mini-figures, but pre-rendered objects. If you had early screenshots at all, you might be able to see the game with high-quality prerendered mini-figures. The problem was that they couldn’t ride on the attractions that turned them upside down – too many frames to pre-render you see. One of the Directors Peter Harrap came up with a method of saving the seat positions out as a side effect of the 3DS MAX rendering process, I then expanded on this and came up with a method of using the Z-Buffer from the render to mask figures that were essentially placed after the attraction was rendered. There was a much simpler way of masking for buildings based on rendering just the front wall and rendering it after the mini-figures in those buildings.
The mini games were dropped fairly early – I think that they were initially a ‘nice to have’ but the time budget was nowhere near enough!
I notice that you’re linked with Richard Teather – his team was spun up toward the end of the Legoland project, and my programmer was moved into Richards team to work on cross-platform 3D libraries (3D hardware is NOW a thing – woot!). Their department came up with the 3D roller coaster – the cool math guy Damian explained it to me once, something to do with conservation of energy and such – nice!
During the end phases – the game took an age to debug. Given that I was the only programmer, our manager Andy Ware came onboard as programmer once more to get the thing across the line – well done Andy!
2. Also related can you remember any content that got canned/removed from it?
All minigames were removed from the game. Only two were designed. Wild West Lego got a Frogger type game where you had to lasso galloping horses without getting trampled. Jungle had a kind of River Raid type game, but it was 2.5D so it kind of had a Zaxxon look to it. I thought that the Jungle game looked ace!
I also mentioned that the entire PSX version was killed early on – to be fair though, they’d be hard pressed to real-time render LEGOLAND on an XBOX ONE X with any reasonable fidelity! So in hindsight that was probably a good move.
The only thing that I can add is that I had my eye on a few glitches that in a perfect world would have been nice to fix – A) The zoom-out as mentioned before was a knee-jerk reaction rather than pre-planned I always wanted to work out how to stop the path edges from varying in width B) Some of the MiniWorlds were “L” shaped I had in my head a plan to rewrite part of the cell renderer so that it could do proper “L”s instead of popping them in a rectangle, and C) The rollercoaster was cool, no doubt but I wanted to work out how to position hedges and flowers right next to the roller coaster without the coaster showing through. All small things that I didn’t have time for – I never saw the final game though, so maybe Andy fixed those?
I suppose also a tentative link to removed content, an anecdote if you will: Back in the day LEGO as a brand had an ideology that abhorred violence – a good thing to have when you’re making toys for kids. It kind of ran along the lines of “We can make a small plastic sword and we can make a small plastic gun, and they are pieces of plastic – if a child want’s to imagine that these are guns and swords, then that’s fine, but we can’t make an animation in a game that shows a bank-robber’s gun with smoke coming out of it!” – The upshot - Data Design had to re-render those cut-scenes. I can feel the irony now that they have Marvel and Star Wars franchises (amongst others) – sparks and smoke galore – ah it was a happier time!
3. What can your role being like?
Krisalis was ace. We worked in a couple of two-story buildings connected by single-story corridor type things. There must have been around 8 rooms with programmers and artists in, and then the admin and sales types in the front office and the Director’s office respectively. We were free to wander around and chat, communal kitchen etc. That may seem counter-productive, but although there was time wasted, we had genuine interest in the other projects going on in the building and there was a real exchange of ideas going on constantly. We had the usual memes about how the bosses don’t pay us enough for this crap, but really it was good. I’m not sure that such places exist in the Games industry anymore. I honestly don’t think that there was any animosity between any of the staff at all – and I’ve had the privilege to work with (and be bailed out by) some of the most talented artists and developers in the business. The beauty of Hindsight, and the fact that I now run my own business really helps me appreciate the Admin, and the Sales Reps (including the MD) that performed all the smoke and mirrors that hunted down the money, closed all the deals and got me paid – a greater team you will not find.
The end of the my work on the LEGOLAND project was pretty much day after day of debugging, so not nice - I can’t really let that taint my feelings (because it happened at the end of every-single project – ha ha), but I worked for Krisalis for many weeks after serving my given notice, it suited me, and Krisalis were happy for me to keep working until I absolutely had to move on, and I think that in itself is testament to the treatment of staff in those days by the three directors at Krisalis.
4. I've about heard the sequel to the first LEGO Island game was being worked on at Krisalis for a bit (I've also heard about it under the name LEGO Fantasy), do you know anything about this?
Hmm – I don’t know. I do remember that there was a project where proper human type characters existed in a real-world type scenario, but there were Lego characters, some kind of fantasy thing. I don’t think that Lego liked that aesthetic, and it may have been reworked, I don’t recall it being launched whilst I was there. I believe Ross Goodley (or Godlike as he was sometimes called) was the lead on that. Apart from that, the other Lego game at Krisalis was LEGO-Chess, which I quite liked.
I just thought of a little oddity that also got dropped - due to games like quake having their own scripting language, we had one too - I designed the language, wrote the interpreter and then realised that it didn't actually help us write the level/scenario files so I went with a task/to-do list style solution instead which was much easier to work with. It had constructs similar to (switch) in C, but they auto selected an AI factor/probability and injected that selection straight into the case block. As I said, very interesting but ultimately overkill.
Yep I was around from the start to the end. Myself Anthony ward , ross, and possibly 2 more, but names escape me. That was team. We were up in the loft room at Krisalis. It was a great time, so much fun. We had a producer called david upchurch who would come in every once in a while. He looked after all the lego games then, we had lego chess going on the ground floor with another team of about 5 people
As far as I can remember it was going to be an animated tv show. Lego wanted a game tie in. But because we were both doing R and D at the same time I think anything went. I was in charge of animation and characters, Ant was on worlds. Ross was code and we had a junior coder join later and another artist.
It was all pretty vague . it started out as this adventure game, almost like tomb raider. It was a girl who had been sucked into the lego world. I think the cartoon was going to have a bunch of kids being brought into the world and you went on various adventures in lego worlds, such as Egyptian and tropical.
I think the animation side fell through and all of a sudden it went to this lego kid on a bike delivering pizzas. I know at the time we weren’t too happy about the change lol. But we did get the engine running and have this lego dude with a base ball cap on running around. At the time it was all really , really basic stuff. I think it was pc based, not even sure ps1 had come out then haha. But it was a lot of fun to work with the guys. I do remember getting drafted on to help the guys out on lego chess for a bit to get it out the door. We did this and then im pretty sure after that lego island go canned. I moved on pretty quick after that, I think Ant stayed on for a bit. Ant and I still stay in touch almost weekly not sure what happened to the rest of the team.
I got involved with the project on the second iteration, having worked on one or two other pitch demos at Blitz, the first iteration of Lego Football was being worked on by a different team. I didn't know much about it, but I heard through the rumour mill that the client wasn't happy with the direction of the project, and Phillip and Andrew opted to get a new team to attempt to salvage the pitch. I never saw the first iteration, but I think it had a greater focus on playing football.
The managers of the new team got together and planned out what they could do within the time available and re-use as many assets as possible from the original. They planned out and we made a short demo of a 3rd person adventure where the main character (named Striker) would control a football, and shoot the ball at puzzle triggers to advance thru areas. Enemies would attempt to take the ball away from Striker, so there was some rudimentary football basics involved as well. There were Wild West and Medievel themed levels.
I distinctly recall the managers planned to create the new demo without any overtime, just good planning. This was a concept unheard of, with the trademark crunch periods being all too standard. However, they pulled it off - no overtime was required, all work was completed within the time available, and the client was happy and moved forward with the project! Unfortunately other external forces caused the project to stall so it never got further, but it felt like a success at the time.
I recall creating a set of animations for Striker, lots of standard movement anims, but always keeping control of the ball at all times.
A very incomplete list of other members of the team as much as I can recall would have been:
Scott Orchard - technical manager
Dave Manuel - creative manager
Dave Flynn - artist
Ben Rackham - animator
George Harris - programmer
Soo-Lyng Lyle - artist
Chris Sandell - artist
R. Fred Williams:
So a lot of dragging things up from memory (a check reveals I’ve got source, but not art / level assets or executables), this is a project that got past pitch, progressed to playable demo, and then got canned. Can’t remember if we were doing dev on PS2 or original xbox, but would have been targetting those plus gamecube.
Lego soccer. Not actually a soccer game (think Go go Beckham! on the GBA, a platformer where your “weapon” is a football, in 3d, and you’re more or less where this was).
Only one level, IIRC, with 4 sub-bits, all set in the wild west:-
(1) Break into the town (kick ball at two targets)
(2) Run down a street where three mexicans try to get the ball, and then do a “which of us has the ball?” dance.
(3) Another western street where something resembling a soccer game occurs (a couple of opponents plus a goalie, and a goal. Much tackling back & forth)
(4) Boss fight. Enormous skeletal bull / minatour thingy, defeatable via a “make it get its horns stuck in the wall, kick the ball at it”, three hits and it’s out, deal.
(I was mostly doing gameplay / opponent AI programming)
Data Design Interactive
1. How did you get involved with Data Design Interactive (DDI)?
I started working at DDI / ArtworldUK in February 1999.
2. What specific projects can you remember working on?
My first experience with the Lego IP was working on a single asset for the Playstation 1 version of the “Lego Rock Raiders” game. Even though I wasn't credited on that particular game, it was still a valuable experience since I was a complete rookie at that time.
Thereafter I was trained up in-house using Lightwave3D software, to model 3D versions of the Lego blocks that we then used to build up 3D versions of Lego Sets.
In early 2000 I started helping out on the monthly “Lego Adventures” Print-media Comic (a 3D pre-rendered comic), and later I took over from the previous artist to lead the comic production in the studio.
Later I was also involved in Lego related cinematic trailers for games and TV adverts
Towards the end our Lego Adventures Comic, we got involved with some 3D pre-production concepting of lego characters. I'm not sure it was ever used for the final factory produced model but it was great fun working on the lego figurine versions “Master Yoda”
and “Princess Leia” of Star Wars Lego sets.
We also worked on some cinematics for the Lego “Duplo” universe which was aimed at a much younger audience.
3. Tying into the previous question, do you have any fond/amusing memories from working on them?
Yes, our team had plenty of office antics.
Lego had very strict guidelines and had professionals who looked over everything that was submitted to make sure the IP stays true to it's character of being “a wholesome kid's toy”.
So inadvertently lots of amusing situations appeared from time to time.
One such memorable time was during the (above mentioned) concept design phase of the Princes Leia Lego figurine. The design was submitted to the head-office team in Denmark. Feedback came back that said she should be a bit “sexier” since she was a Princess and a romantic lead (at least in the movie that is)
Hmmm... how do you make a square torso figurine sexier do you ask? Well I added a low-cut dress, and hourglass waistline in the torso stickers.
Immediately they wrote back... no, that's far too sexy now! This is a kids toy!
Puzzled, I them showed him some of their own pre-approved figurines from the “Knights' Kingdom” Lego series where the Peasant women figurines were particularly...how shall we say “well-endowed”. Suffice to say, this version of Leia never made to unto the production line.
(To see what I mean...Google search the following: “lego knight's kingdom peasant woman”)
4. You were in a staff list I've found for a "LEGO Soccer 2000" title that went unreleased. Can you remember anything about it? 5. Lastly in the goal of archival, do you have anything leftover from your time at DDI?
Sadly, I can only vaguely remember that game, since it was so long ago.
It was shortly after I joined Data Design that I learned that we had just acquired LEGO as major client. So it was a new beginning for both of us.
As far as I remember Rock Raiders was the first time LEGO had dipped their considerable blocky toes into the then new digital pool.
The Rock Raiders video game had 2 important goals for them. One was to test the video game software market and the other was to generate new characters and vehicles for their traditional block market. They were very keen to try new directions. Very shortly after starting work on Rock Raiders they launched a Star Wars theme, beginning the trend of licensed LEGO products.
We had great fun in the art department designing prototypes for the Rock Raiders range. Some of the attempts, with modifications, were adopted by LEGO. I can’t now recall exactly which ones made the final cut but there were more than two or three.
However, the real buzz round the studio was creating the animations for the intro section and the cut scenes between the levels of the game. The LEGO characters, backgrounds and vehicles had to be first built and then animated. I was just starting out with my forays into animation on Lightwave, so my early contribution to the animations was quite limited. Most of my time was taken up with modelling the various bricks, characters and the custom components that were the building blocks for the range. I was also involved in environment designing, both for the animations and actual in-game graphics. It was a great time to be a digital artist, the work involved was very varied.
There was a lot of discussion with LEGO whether the characters should move as solid plastic figures as they really were (which was stilted) or be allowed some bending in the inflexible plastic joints, creating a more natural expressive motion. Eventually the ‘flexible motion’ option was accepted, to great effect. From then on all our animations had ‘bendy’ LEGO characters.
It is interesting to note that many years later, when ‘LEGO the Movie’ hit the international screens, I noticed that this decision was reversed with the film company and ‘inflexible motion’ approach was adopted. To great comic affect I must confess.
I learnt a lot with the Rock Raiders cut scene animations and was able to fully partake, and much later to actually direct, the later LEGO animation projects. Projects like; Lego Island, Lego Creator, Lego Racers, Lego Chess, Lego Alfa Team and of course Lego Harry Potter. Most of these later video games were not developed by us but the in-game cut scene and intro animations were. LEGO was pleased with our animation efforts in Rock Raiders and insisted we provided animations for other the companies that were developing the video games. This meant that unencumbered with the day to day problems of developing ever complex video game engines, we could concentrate solely on providing LEGO animations for these other developers. I’m sure that they in turn were relieved that they were not involved in the extra work that the animations demanded.
In 2002 I was particularly proud of the in-game animations and TV adverts my team produced for LEGO media’s Harry Potter range. I was head of animation by this time and directed all the TV adverts and in-game animations.
LEGO would send us the new boxed sets so that we could examine and then digitally build the components of the ranges in Lightwave, the companies preferred 3D modelling and animation software. Over time our studio became stuffed full of LEGO sets from all the various ranges. Great for lunchbreaks as an alternative to Unreal Tournament!
Because of our experience with developing Rock Raiders and the shear amount of digitally modelled LEGO assets we accrued over time, we were perfectly placed to get involved in the first ever fully computer generated comics.
Nothing quite like this had been attempted on such a large international scale before. The digital comic LEGO Adventures Magazine was soon followed by LEGO Mania USA and a bit later the Butt-Ugly Martians comic not for LEGO but for Just Publishing.
The comic production took up quite a bit of our time. First the new range had to be built and then characters posed and lit, finished and rendered. After the storyline presentation was approved and any requested changes made, the artwork was finally sent to the publishers. All this, every month, had to be fitted round the other projects I was involved in.
So it was no surprise that due to pressures of work on other mainly animation projects I had to hand over the digital comic production side to my up and coming colleges. I think they went on to do some fine work for the then new but short lived Bionicle range.
These comics were translated into many languages. My favourite moment came when I was given a German language version of the LEGO World Club Magazin (German spelling) I had helped produce.
I still have it on my shelf!
Teoman Irmak is a fine artist who has been actively involved in the computer games industry since its conception. His experience in various forms of digital art has been extensive as his artwork has ranged from the very early video games to the first ever fully rendered comic magazine and has progressed to game animations and TV commercials. His art has been featured across many formats and technologies and has been seen the world over.
His recent work is personal in nature and lies exclusively outside the commercial realm.
Teoman Irmak from a fine art background ended up in computer graphics via a stint as a commercial artist illustrating, among other things, computer magazine covers. For several years he illustrated most of the covers of these key magazines, using traditional methods like oils and inks. While most artists could dream of being featured on the cover of a magazine at least once, he was at one point, exclusively responsible for most of the covers, of most of the computer magazines! He was even featured simultaneously on several monthlies. And at the time was acknowledged as quote “Practical Computing’s favourite cover artist and fiction illustrator” – (Practical Computing November 1984.
But as technology moved on he soon switched to digital art and entered a then very young ‘Computer Games’ industry.
A fresh and vital art form was being forged and every new breakthrough was news. Digital or Computer Art had quickly circled the globe, becoming the first truly global instantly popular art form. He featured in many articles and interviews and promo videos. Being hailed as a “Technostar” and “Screen idols of computing” – (Mail Wednesday Feb 21 1990).
His graphics, for the time, were among the most varied and exciting ever seen. This brought him to the forefront of this new and crucial art form.
Many important commissions followed. In 1992 he was invited to produce submarine simulation graphics that featured cutting edge 3D art for the Royal Navy.
Hoechst the German pharmaceutical company asked him to produce art for their promotional minicomputer game in 1995.
He worked closely with Henderson Morley Bio Technologies on their corporate graphics a year later.
His rendered 3D artwork has been featured in Graphic books and several comics. Recently he has been interested in directing short computer animations for promotion, games and TV adverts (mostly for LEGO). This and similar projects has helped him become one of the most multitalented digital artists working today.
His artwork has been featured on many of the old timeless classics like Gauntlet, Black Tiger, Scott Adams Adventure series, The Sorcerer of Claymorgue Castle (-winner of the Golden Joystick Award), Masters of the Universe, The First Samurai etc. and more recently The Harry Potter series 2002-2003, Nickelodeon Video game, and the first ever fully computer generated comics; LEGO Adventures Magazine, LEGO Mania USA 2001 and the Butt Ugly Martians comic magazine 2002.
He currently devotes his time exclusively to personal projects that are outside the commercial realm.
1. Can you remember any interesting/notable moments (As it sounds like there is, haha) in the development history of the various titles?
How much time do you have? I remember joining Artworld to look after development and they were working on various titles Lego Rock Raiders being one of them. I had a background in art and animation and was quickly put in charge of the development of the animation and art on RR. We had a good relationship with Lego. I worked with the guys and we turned out some great work for Rock Raiders. On the back of some meetings in Billund (Lego hometown) we secured more animation work for various Lego products and even their adverts. What I didn’t see coming was how ‘cheap’ we would do them.
My biggest recollection was myself and John Saull (the audio engineer at the time) stood in my office with a microphone dangling from the roof as I recorded voices for the animations. No one wanted to pay a voice over artist.
I cant have been that bad as I ended up as the unofficial voice of Lego for a year.
My other big moment was meeting George Martin. We used two brilliant musicians for the animations and they worked out of Air studios. I went to meet them and they introduced me. I had trouble trying to explain I did Lego ‘films’ to the man who produced the Beatles…
2. Can you remember any canned/removed content in the development of the games?
HA.. yes but not ones I can mention here. It’s amazing what anyone will do with animated characters when bored and working late, that’s all I will say
3. LEGOLANDs credits note you as being responsible for the storylines, any particular notes on how these came to be?
The honest answer? The same way I am still writing scripts, I just seem to dream them up somehow. I remember the intro animations for each world just seem to visualise in my head and that was it. I would storyboard them, pass them to the animators and say “create an animatic of that can you, let’s see how if it works”.
4. Do you have anything left from the development of the various titles?
I always hoard things. I kept some prototype Rock Raiders models I was given by Lego, a rare F1 racing car kit too. I think in my loft there are copies of the games too.
1) Not really no. I was apparently the Lead Artist during the pitching/prototyping phase (although I wasn't actually told this until I had already decided to leave the company). I left the company as the game went into production. You should try Rob Dorney, he might remember more.
3) We built everything ourselves. We did get reference but I don't remember exactly what.
4) I do have some pre-production/prototype screenshots somewhere on a disc. I might have a video too. Originally it involved drilling out tunnels, I'm not sure how the final game turned out as I've never played it.
Dates for the videos he shared:
Cave is 3rd Nov 97
Cavern is 21 Nov 96
Level is 05 Nov 97
Telecave is 21 Nov 96
Videos he shared: https://archive.org/details/cave_20210924
How did Intelligent Games get involved with LEGO?
Lego hired a consultant – sorry I can’t remember his name – to scout out development companies to work on Lego games. He knew my co-director Kevin Shrapnell and we ended up on his shortlist. That led to the initial meetings. It also helped that we were quite close to their original offices in Hammersmith, London and that we really wanted to do games that were ‘hit-driven, brand-led’.
Can you remember any notable points in the development histories of the games?
Some random recollections:
Originally, we wanted to call Lego Stunt Rally ‘Lego Moto’ as a sort of echo or follow-on from Lego Loco which proceeded it. Personally, I still think it was a shame to change the name. Also, the Lego producers insisted on a rather limiting control mechanism for the game that, in our view, reduced the fun.
We also worked on a CD-ROM that went into the Droid Developer Kit (Lego item number 9748) which was fun, especially at the intersection of two huge worlds of geek fandom – Star Wars and Lego.
I have very, very happy memories of visiting Legoland in the UK and Lego HQ in Billund at the beginning of our work for them and getting behind the scenes tours and, most memorably, going down into the lego vault where they have every lego kit and going back in time year by year through the archive shelves and seeing my childhood unfold in front of me. I was such a lego geek as a kid but what was especially moving was seeing kits that I had had at a very early age – 4, 5 and 6 years old – where my memories were very limited and then having a flood of childhood memories come back to me when I saw the boxes. Like Proust’s Madeleine but in ABS plastic rather than cake!
Do you have any fond/amusing memories from working on the various LEGO projects?
Lego Loco had a feature where you could send little postcards in trains to other people over the internet. A sort lego train email system. It was super-cute. But lego people were worried that it might expose children to swearing so they asked us to put a swearing filter in and sent us a list of swear words to block. It was a short list and so we asked our team to come up with a longer list. In an hour over lunch we added hundreds of words to the list!
One of the many easter eggs in Lego Loco was that you could get the viking statue to do a moony. We had a visit from a very senior lego person during the development and the programmers demoed this ‘feature’. There was a sharp intake of breath from the producers but the exec roared with laughter and the easter egg stayed in the game.
A lot of the Lego characters in Lego Loco are modelled on people who worked at Intelligent Games. Their faces are immortalised as minifigs in the game.
In an archived post from your site, you mentioned an earlier design being completed for LEGO before Loco. Can you remember what it was?
I really can’t. Sorry. We normally proposed three or four ideas to a client so it may have been some other game idea or perhaps something that Lego wanted us to work on.
Lastly, do you have any momentos/artifacts from the development of Intelligent Games' LEGO projects?
I still have the original Lego Loco box that came with a tiny lego set – one of those hand-propelled train cart things. I don’t have much else, unfortunately. I stupidly sold my Droid Developer Kit and most of the Lego docs stayed with Intelligent Games after I left the business in 2000.
1. How did you get involved with Intelligent Games?
I met up with a guy at art college whos brother worked for Codemasters. We spent a summer working on Micro Machines. When I graduated, I applied for a job direct at IG.
2. What can you remember about the development histories of the projects?
Loads, but this would be an essay. If you have specific questions, I can answer these.
3. Do you have any fond/amusing memories from working on the various LEGO projects?
My favourite anecdote was while working on LEGO Loco, we had added several small animations to objects in the game, event easter eggs etc. One of these was a 'temporary' animation of one of the statues taking a p*&s (to keep the developers amused) One day we got a visit from one of the Christiansen family (thinking about it, it may have been Kjeld) So, we're all standing there giving a demo, and this statue pulls down it's pants and takes a leak..... you could hear a pin drop.... Then Kjeld starts laughing his arse off. He thought it was great. We took the animation out of course, but that gave me an insight into the Danish sense of humour and what a nice bunch they are.
Another memory was my first visit to LEGO headquarters in Billund. Walking through the R&D department was a childhood dream. Seeing all the archived LEGO sets from the past, the museum, and most surprisingly, the number of LEGO sets they had designed over the years but never released, like a wonderful Vikings range, Jurassic Park etc.
When working on LEGO mindstorms Droid Developer Kit. I had access to very early Star Wars footage and Minifigs. I grabbed a bunch of Darths from the production line. On the way home from Heathrow, I was assembling them on the train and heard a murmer behind me. About 8 guys in business suits were crowded around trying to get a peek. "He's got LEGO Vaders!" I always find it hilarious that grown-ups revert to 6 year olds when LEGO is involved, but that's the great effect it has on people!
I designed a LEGO character called 'Pelvis' an Elvis impersonator. Everyone liked him, but the Presley estate demanded a ludicrous fee in order to use it. I was sad that he never appeared in any of the games.
We created LEGO voices in Loco, with a made up language, but many people thought it was Danish! We had to put a sticker on the box in the end to explain it and stop people phoning the office!
4. Can you remember any unreleased games/pitches?
Most of what we pitched was accepted, as we were briefed on what they were looking for, but Loco was our very first. Some items changed during development, or were toned down in order to meet deadlines etc. I originally envisaged Stunt Rally to be a more 'free-form' driving game, with more realistic driving physics, but we needed to keep it kid friendly leading to a more 'Scalextric approach.
Here are my answers. Just an FYI… for the most part my involvement was peripheral in terms of decisions and production. All of my impact was on the writing/creative end.
1. How/when did you first get involved with the game?
Wes (Jenkins)and I were friends. I was a comedy writer in LA for 15 years and the co-game designer of Scooter’s Magic Castle for Electronic Arts. When I moved to San Francisco a mutual friend suggested we meet. We got along instantly.
Wes had a long running comedy show on the radio in San Francisco and he invited me to do some stuff for it. When the LEGO project came up it was a natural fit.
2. Do you recall any specifics about what your responsibilities on the team were?
I was one of the writers responsible for coming up with, developing, and writing scenarios and supporting dialogue. Plus, I talked to Wes all the time.
3. What are your favorite memories of the development?
The initial concept meeting was very cool. There were thousands of LEGO pieces on the conference table and we were invited to make stuff while we talked about the project. It worked really well as there is a kinesthetic aspect to creativity. Plus, it was fun!
We were given a lot of creative freedom for humor. I loved working with Wes. Just coming up with whatever we thought was funny and working it in.
The Infomainiac is pure Wes. That was his sense of humor and verbal style manifest. Sort of a half Bob Hope, half smartest guy in the room who both does and doesn’t take it seriously. It was great to listen to him work the characters out.
4. Did you ever hear anything about /get involved with any canceled sequels/spinoffs connected to the game? (I’ve heard about underwater, archeological, a few other ones)
No. I never heard about anything.
He brought me on as a writer for Lego My School Preschool and Lego My School Kindergarten after LEGO Island.
It is possible that there were bigger projects like you described in the works. If Wes was integral, as he should have been, they might have been derailed by his health issues. Pure Speculation.
5. Do you have anything around from the development of the game still?
Yes. In addition to my scripts I have production notebooks etc. But everything is proprietary so I can’t give/show them to you. Sorry.
For some additional background here are some mini bio's of Wes and I from another project we did.
"As Co-Founder, Creative lead, and Senior Producer of LEGO Media International Learning Division, Wes brought the multi million selling Lego Island series into the world. His 30 year career included but was not limited to everything from NASA to Zappa, Stanford University, Disney, PBS and the California Academy of Science. He was at Woodstock, hitchhiked across country, and worked for Bill Graham at Winterland.
Doug has worked with everyone from Boomer icon Shari Lewis to Electronic Arts. After memorizing large parts of his Mad Magazine collection and watching the d*** Van Dyke Show instead of doing his homework Doug went to LA where he wrote comedy for fourteen years. He currently designs children’s museums and attractions all over the country.
The pair has earned several awards and accolades for game design including recognition from the Smithsonian, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, an international EMMA (European Multi Media Association) Award and a couple of Parent’s Choice Awards for their creative solutions."
Hope this helps.
1) I was one of the character animators and also built some of the backgrounds. We were using the old 3D Studio for most of it (pre-MAX.)
2) Not sure about spinoffs; most of the team got laid off after "Island" was done. I think the LEGO company decided to build its own development team after testing the waters with us. So much for job security!
3) I have some samples around somewhere, but will have to look for them. I'll get back to you about that in a couple of days.
4) I had a great time working on this with the team. I'm still in touch with a couple of the members; a lot of us were good friends who had worked on numerous jobs together and gone to Burning Man together as well.
5) Yep; plenty of sundaes! (We needed that sugar energy to keep us going sometimes!)
1. What was your role in the development
I was the lead animator in a very small team of animators. I think we had 4 others. There were also a couple modelers. The art director also did some animation. The credits on the moby game link are a bit confusing. We did outsource some small bits and I recognize a couple names but the majority of the animation was done by me, Justin Brown, David Cherry, Tara Packard and Eric Chin. Jeff Walkup was an integral part of processing.
2. What are your favorite memories of the games development?
I really liked getting creative with the production tools. I saw that 3D Studio output to other file formats other than .3ds. The one that intrigued me was MS Word .doc format. I was curious so I deciphered the animation code as it appeared in text form. I copied and cut and pasted and saved it back out and loaded it back into 3D Studio. I was able to create a days worth of animation dance moves in the pizzarea in minutes. Mind you, this was all before scripting was available in the animation tool. No one I knew had done this before. It was fun and saved time.
3. Can you remember any unreleased follow ups/other LEGO games in development that didn't get released?
I worked on a couple Duplo games while I think follow up Lego games wre being done by another house but I could not tell you if there were any in production that did not get released.
4. Do you have any of your work around?
I do not really have any of my virtual artistry accessible. Sorry.
Would you like to be put in touch with others who worked on the game? As I said, the creative genius behind Lego Island, Wes Jenkins, recently passed away but there is David Patch who was the art director, and Jeff Walkup and David Cherry and Tara Packard. I am connected to those guys on FB. They like to talk about the game. I might also have contact info for Scott Anderson and Dennis Goodrow, the co creators.
Let me know if you have any other questions. And thanks for inquiring.
Let me know if you get this:
1. What can you remember about its development? Few things:
- We actually built an Island out of legs so we can see how things fit together in space
- Getting the sound effects right took some time, it was a plastic world so things sound different
- Getting the code right during the games took some time
2. What were favorite memories from it?
- Voice over was really fun
- Watching the kids play with the game
- I worked with a very talented group of people, this was one of my first jobs out of college, so I was thrilled to be part of this project.
3. Can you remember any content that had difficulties getting into the game?
- Timing was difficult, so getting the games, sound effects and music synched took some time, not sure it was ever perfect.
4. There was canned underwater follow up game, do you know anything about it? No was not involved
5. Do you have anything around from the development still? I still have the CD-ROM and original box with directions on how to play the game.
1. How did you get involved with Superscape?
I began taking an interest in 3D modelling and game development. I had graduated from the Royal College of Art as an Illustrator and because traditional press was changing rapidly, I felt the change was necessary. I went for several interviews and landed a job advert for a user interface designer with the company.
2. What specific content in the games can you remember working on?
I was tasked with UI design and development, this also included developing in game assets and working with the studios SWAT team tasked with prototyping projects for early mobile phone projects, for example Vodafone and Nokia.
3. Do you have any amusing/fond memories from the developments of any of the LEGO titles?
The whole experience was a lot of fun. We were a very tight team. Getting in truckloads of Lego to play with from Denmark was a lot of fun and playing with film guide assets from Warner Brothers. We were also tasked with user testing projects at Lego Land headquarters. We used to travel off site a lot. Great memories.
4. I've heard LEGO Creator 2 was initially going to be much more complex, before being watered down for kids. Can you remember any details about this?
Not really. My memory is that we achieved a great deal and that it was universally praised. I meet so many students I now teach who used to play with it when they were young.
5. You mentioned working on several unreleased projects, were any of these LEGO related? (I've seen a LEGO Creator: Star Wars title was in the works at one point.)
We had a number of titles, a Lego cops and robbers' theme I think, we got as far a drawing and designing a Lego Space based game which featured a space mining colony and aliens. There were a few more I can't recall. The Space theme was the most advanced. Never looked at Star Wars as far as I know. I know a Harry Potter 2 title and Creator 3 were also in consideration before I left.
Attention to Detail
"In terms of cut content, remarkably little actually. I’ve worked in games since with huge amounts of that, but racers 2 was pretty tightly scoped. I know we were trying to get LAN play working for the PC build at one point, but that was dropped because it was proving tricky and it was deemed not important enough to be spending the time on (the Ps2 version was expected to be where most of the sales would be) There were some changes to the plot from what we originally were going with. In the shipped games story mode you took on a series of bosses to improve your car in order to travel to Xalax to take on Rocket Racer. Our original plot idea had Rocket Racer more as a mentor figure to the player, and the games villain was actually an evil corporate guy whose name I forget. (His model is still in the game, he’s the guy in the red pinstripe suit in the sandy bay levels) I think Lego were keen to keep Rocket as the final goal. Our art team did get permission to change his look at least, they gave him a racing suit based on Evel Knievel."
"There were a bunch of cheat codes you inputted on the main menu that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any online guides for the game. Wish I could remember them. They were mostly things to make testing the game easier. Unlock all tracks, max upgrade the car etc... there was also one that changed the camera to a top down one that was kinda fun (some of the tracks weren’t really playable it, or it might’ve been a proper option)"
"Lego were fairly hands off when it came to the overall design of the game. So were able to put in things like the crazy taxi inspired mini game. We were obviously taking a lot of design cues from Mario Kart, although the ‘go through the pits to repair the car’ was straight out of F-zero. Where Lego were strict with us though was the look of the game. I suspect this applies to anyone that makes a Lego game, but we were banned from inventing new bricks (which included using an existing brick but changing the colour to one they didn’t make that brick in). As a result we bought a lot of real sets in so that the art team could make the thing they wanted in the game with real Lego first. Most of Sandy Bay was done that way (including the taxi, we had to create that ourselves as we couldn’t find a Lego City car that could sit two minifigs side by side). I don’t know how the other worlds were chosen though. Xalax was there right from the start, the game was intended to be part of the push to promote the Racers sets that were out around that time. Sandy Bay was just Lego City stuff. Life on Mars was a fairly new theme set at the time, I suspect we pushed for that because the mecha sets in it were pretty fun. Arctic was a good colour choice for us as it gave us a LOT of orange pieces to work with. Adventure was a pretty big deal at the time as well I think, one of the few Lego themes then that had named recognisable characters. That had just put out some ‘land of the lost’ style dinosaurs, so we had to have those."
"I think we were pretty pleased with the car and character creation tools. The interface wasn’t perfect, but you could make some pretty fun things with that. They didn’t affect the car physics though. We tried having the collision based off what you actually built, but it introduced a lot of issues, you’d get stuck a lot, or could build things that made it hard for the AI to get past. So all the cars actually have the same collision physics and motion physics, no matter how big or small they are. I think I remember that some of the music tracks were unused pieces from the ‘Lego Island 2’ game, that was developed by one of our sister studios (Silicon dreams) so there was some shared resource work between us."
1. What notable memories/moments can you recall in any of the games development histories?
I rather answered this in the next question as they were so similar in nature.
2. Are there any specifics you can remember about working on, with the various titles?
I worked on Lego Racers 2, Drome Racers and the Lego Racing attraction at LegoLand Windsor.
Lego Racers 2 was the first game in that particular series. I honestly don’t remember a great deal about it. It was all-new technology as PS2 was a new machine at that point and the studio was transitioning from C to using C++ and modern development techniques. Prior to that we had been writing low-level code in what we would now consider to be a haphazard manner. Lego Racers 2 marked a new beginning in gaming tech within the studio. My memories really centre around the production of that tech rather than of Lego Racers 2 itself.
I do remember one particular time when the technology was coming together where I was watching a snow blizzard fall over one of the lakes in the artic levels with the sun setting low over the horizon so you could see its reflection in the water. The water itself was animated with waves and ripples so the whole thing seemed quite alive. All of this was tech I had written myself. I think that was the first time I felt we had actually achieved a real step forward with the technology and that things we going to work out. Before that, it had seemed like a real uphill struggle.
I think we went through 2 or 3 iterations of the terrain rendering code before it met the performance needs of the game. When I say iterations, I mean alternative algorithms. For a while there it looked like we might be trying to stretch too far. But we got there in the end with that and although looking dated by today’s standards it was quite innovative at the time.
The Lego Racing attraction at Windsor was an interesting project. It came along at the time we were developing Lego Racers 2 and I had to be taken off it for a few months. It involved repurposing the Rollcage Stage II engine and creating a couple of Lego-themed levels out of it, complete with an all-new UI that allowed you customise your character and vehicle. The game itself was fairly easy to build, I think it only had 3 or 4 weapons and these were quite simple by design. The big problem was the networking of it, and this is what fell to me. The attraction worked by running two games concurrently. Where one game was in session with kids racing each other, another game would be being setup with the next set of kids designing their car and character.
There was a central server co-ordinating 3 different lanes, so this is 6 concurrent games. There was also the capacity to add another 3 lanes for the second level we had designed for the game. In the event this was never actually used and they just stuck with space-themed level. The thing with the networking was speed. This wasn’t a loosely coordinated network game, it was very tight. We had to effectively ditch DirectPlay which we had used for networking until that point as it just wasn’t fast enough. So we switched over to plain old network sockets and used message broadcasting without any acknowledgements. This got us the speed we needed but wasn’t the end of our problems. We had to account for packet loss and timing variations in games too as clocks drift across machines. That sounds trivial, but it wasn’t. Initially the game was quite sensitive and took a while to settle down. It involved a fair bit of just sitting there watching it and looking at the data to detect issues and formulate fixes for them. But we didn’t have to fix much, just 3 or 4 things from memory. Then it was solid, for years.
It was during that testing that I had a kind of unique moment in my career. If you can imagine that certainly back in those days, developing games was quite a closed affair. The only real feedback we had on the work we did was via reviews in magazines, but these were written by journalists, and not our actual audience. We didn’t really know how the public saw our games, or how they might have been affected by them at an individual level. It was all quite impersonal. We created games and put them out into the world, but what the world made of them we didn’t really know.
With LegoLand Windsor however it was different. Just as the software became beta-testable we started to allow select groups of families into the event to see how it held up. The lighting in the racing rooms was quite low and what light there was was centred on the vehicles the kids were driving. I was holed-up sitting on the floor in a dark corner of the room, with a monitor in front of me showing me what was going on with the server software and all the technical data. Nobody really noticed me sitting there in the dark, their focus was on the racing.
Oblivious to my presence, for the first time I heard kids talking about a game that I helped to make. Just little things you know, like how they loved a particular weapon, or the volcanic fireballs in the level, or that they just wanted to go around again because they enjoyed it so much and wanted another go. Little kids, you know, with excitement in their voices. It was really nice seeing something that I had helped to bring to life bringing some happiness to their lives, even if just for a moment. It was very gratifying and I felt privileged to have been there, I only wish the others on the team could have been there too but I was alone in doing the commissioning of the game sadly.
After that I returned to Lego Racers 2 to complete its development.
Then, with Drome Racers I really don’t remember too much about that oddly, given that it was the last game I finished at ATD. I remember coding the tornado that appeared in one of the desert levels. I do vividly remember spending a ton of time on the lighting code however. We had a hybrid vertex / lightmap approach. We used precalculated lighting at the vertices where detail in the lighting wasn’t important which was for around 80% of a given level I would estimate. For the remaining 20% where detail was important we used precalculated lightmaps which smoothly blended into the existing vertex lighting. This was really quite a feat at the time and as far I know something that had never been done before.
I also remember coding up dynamic lighting for the vehicles based on the precalculated static lighting. So for example, vehicles would become darker as they entered shadowed areas. This was done with again a novel technique that again, as far I know was unique and utilised a web of 3D vertices which sampled the light at various points in a level and then we interpolated those values across the vertices to solve for a particular vehicle location. It was all pretty complex for its day, but the code itself was lightning fast and resulted in realistic looking lighting for next-to-no cost. I’m fairly sure I have a document somewhere that describes this whole thing in detail.
I did code a number of graphical effects but I can’t really recall the details now, I haven’t played the game in over 15 years at this point so my memory really is hazy. The shadows cast by the vehicles was definitely one of them though. Yeah, I was Mister Lighting on that game.
3. Can you recall any notable changes/removed content to any of the games concepts?
I’m afraid not, I was never really involved in the design of the games so I’m not the best person to ask here. I can’t recall anything getting chopped, if anything we built upon the original designs as we went along but I really was just too busy building technology to get involved with the design side of things. You might speak to Neil Wigfield about this - he was a designer on the publicly released games. If you mention my name I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you out.
The only thing I can recall not being able to fulfil from myself was the water effects on the beaches in Lego Racers 2. I remember planning this for several weeks quietly in my own time, trying to figure out how I could produce an effective looking sea-edge as it merged with the beach. I had it all worked out but I knew it was going to be costly in terms of CPU time so it became debatable just how much I was going to be able to do in this area. However, by the time this job actually came to the top of the schedule we were already in negative CPU equity on the PS2 and were struggling to get the game to run at its target frame rate. So in the end, we decided that an animated sea was a luxury we just couldn’t afford and we did a very minimal job of it. That was a shame really, as I’m sure we could have done something very nice if we had just had the CPU cycles to play with.
4. I've heard a LEGO Racers 4/Drome Racers 2 was in development, can you remember anything about it?
Yes, Drome Racers 2 was in development for a fair while though I never worked on it myself. I don’t think it got much past the concept and design planning phase, it only had a small, core team working on it and was never put into production. For more information look-up Derek Pettigrew as he headed up the effort.
Yeah, we did develop two tracks for the attraction, as originally there was going to be two floors each with 3 lanes for games. As far as I know, the second floor was never fully constructed – certainly not in its first incarnation though the attraction was revitalised some years later so that may have happened then. For the unused, second floor though, there was an Egyptian themed track that was fully developed and ready to go.
I have a very vague memory that we might have discussed doing new tracks at the time the attraction was revitalised sometime around 2008, but that would have been impractical as the tech to produce the tracks was way too old at that point. Plus ATD as an entity was very much dead at that time.
What can you recall any notable memories/moments in any in any of the games development histories?
I remember when we first started on Lego Racers2, we requested that we’d need lots of Lego, obviously as we had to model it for the game. Next thing we had a huge delivery of Lego, all the packs (like adventures, police etc) and we had to assemble it all. The whole office was full of Lego. Every spare desk was filled with it. When we were working on drome racers we were invited to the Lego HQ in Slough, where we met with the guys responsible for designing the Technik cars. It was very interesting as they took us through the design process for the cars, some of these guys were actual car designers from the Auto industry, Lego had recruited them! We also worked with their concept guys to produce the look for the environments. As it was based on the Technik range, the game had to look more grown up than Lego Racers2. From what I remember, there was the concept of the environment being set in this huge drome, where the tracks were a mixture of natural environments with manmade elements. The manmade elements had this cool metallic look to them. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the original concept art from Lego.
Can you recall any notable changes/removed content to any of the games concepts?
I can’t personally as my department was art not design. However, you could try contacting Stuart Tilley as he oversaw design at the time. He is on LinkedIn.
I've heard a LEGO Racers 4/Drome Racers 2 was in development, can you remember anything about it?
I don’t think it ever got any real traction other than they were talking about it, and maybe some initial ideas/concepts.
Is there any chance you have any development materials around still? (Concept art and such)
Yes, the graphical style for Lego racers 2 was set by me. I remember I wanted it to look colourful and almost childlike, I was greatly inspired by games from Square Enix at the time, particularly the legend of mana series. I wanted the textures to have a hand painted look to them as this would fit in with the Lego style. The technology for game engines at that time was very limiting and relied of your own teams’ programmers, you couldn’t just buy as off the shelf engine like Unreal or Unity. Texture blending in games was in its infancy, and I knew we needed that tech to create the island. It was a great effort from all the team to get a new game engine up and running whilst developing the game. The island was made from a greyscale heightmap and the texture layers were controlled through different coloured masks. This is, of course, very common tech nowadays.
When I was creating the textures for the island, there was one particular “large stone” texture that kind of resembled a turtle shell. A fellow artist who was working on another project cottoned onto this, and every day without fail he would just say “turtle island” when he’d pass by my desk. It became rather annoying, but I never let him know that.
1 - 2
I think the most notable moments were the discussions about the physics engine. ATD was good at arcade racers but for this game they (management or producers- I dont know who decided this) wanted a realistic physics engine as they thought it would be more fun.
There were loads of problems getting this implemented and a few months before final deadline they decided to scrap this and go back to arcade but it was too late to get it sorted properly. The result was a very poor handling racing game. LEGO was not happy about this!
I was an environment artist. Art wise there was not so much changed or removed as far as I remember. We had a certain amount of tracks and cars to build and that stayed more or less the same during production.
3 The Drome Racers 2 project was located in a different unit then mine and I didnt visit them so often. I remember them having large technic cars on their desks so I guess they were going to use larger vehicles than in our game.
4 I havent got any concept art on my pc but I might have some work on a backup cd. I'll have a look in the weekend if I can find something for you.
Additional Information 1:
LEGO was so dissapointed by DR, they decided to scrap DR2 all together. This was a massive blow to the company as they needed that money and next followed a big redundancy disaster. I think 75% of the workers had to go.
LEGO even considered getting out of video games forever...
Additional Information 2:
There was a meeting one day where a few people from LEGO came into the office. Tom Stone and some others. LEGO had a bad reputation those days and they made a video showing new and upcoming things. 'LEGO has changed' was the message. It was not very convincing as we didn't like the new technic parts without studs in the office.
They brought in several large boxes with brand new parts, the designers could use them to design vehicles for the games. These boxes were really, really big, and I am still wandering what happened to them after the company closed. Must be worth a fortune now
1. How did you get involved with Stormfront?
I applied for the job. Having had computers wiped out practical in film i went into games. Was there 7 years.
2. You were credited as an artist on LEGO MyStyle— can you tell me more about what this role entailed for you?
I modeled all the duplo characters, made the textures, textured them and then animAted them. Very hard to model As they were smooth and shiny.
3. Do you have any fond/amusing memories from the development of the game?
No. Sorry. I did work 30 hours straight to get a sample character done for a presentation for stormfront to get the project.
4. Is there any specific content you can remember working on?
Only what i wrote above. “We need an animation that does this or that and i would do it. BEcause memory was aT a premium, they we incredibly short. No real character animation.
5. Do you have any materials from the development you would be open to sharing digital scans/copies of?
Ill try to attach a picture of the models i mAde. Im doing this from my phone that is why the letters are so screwed up.
i know it was pitched as an educational game for little kids..I wasn't in on the pitch so that
is that I was told. the game manager wanted to make me a supervisor so I was kept in the loop.
But I was busy figuring out how to model those smooth and shiny characters.
If there was a kink, say in the Giraffe's neck that I couldn't get out we came up with a solution.
Because the animations were so incredibly short I could turn them into a film strip, a series of still frames.
I could then go into photoshop and remove the kinks and then turn it back into a movie.
We did two different games for different twp different age groups. I think one was pre-K. And the
other was for kids the next age up. With one week left before the deadline two local 'producers'
representing Lego tried to change a lot of things but Stormfront refused and the games met the designated deadline.
Interesting note: When I worked at George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) they took on Star Trek
so they would have a guaranteed revenue stream coming in. They then would do three other stand alone film projects
as well. Later working at another company, The Gumby TV series, Art Clockey was offered all the TV spots for the
raisin ads "I heard it through the grape vine". ILM did star trek and kept the company alive. Art did not and his
'Gumby' company ended. I only mention this as it relates to Stromfront.
When we delivered the two games Lego told us we were the only company to actually finish a game. They then offered Stormfront
all their games worldwide. Stormfront took the Art Clokey route and actually said they didn't know how to handle all the money that would
come their way and turned them down. We never made another Lego game. Several years later after we made Lord of The Rings, The Two Towers
Stormfront claimed they only did 'Triple A' games so they rejected many game proposals and eventually went out of business.
So that's all I know. Hope that helps.
All the best.
1) How did you get involved in a project. The LEGO project came in through Wes Jenkins who had just finished LEGO Island as Creative Director I believe. Wes wanted to do an educational title which was a fit with LEGO's company philosophy. I don't remember how he connected with Stormfront but I think he knew Don Daglow who was Stormfront CEO at the time. Because it was not a Triple A title many people did not want to work on the project.
2) I was between projects when management asked me to look at and budget with Randy Angle (Programming and Activity Design) 2 projects- pre kindergarten and Kindergarten which would be stand alone products on PC and Mac with 48 activities if I remember correctly. I was brought on as Art Lead and eventually that morphed into Producer on the project. I was thrilled to work on a LEGO product having been a fan of the company since childhood.
3) My absolute favorite memory of the product took place during our first play test. LEGO had hired a child Psychologist (?) whose name I have forgotten but he was leading the testing -collecting data, videotaping child reactions, etc. To give you some context, this is an era when 3D was still very new and everyone had strong opinions on whether a 3D game could create the strong emotional connection people had with LEGO bricks and figures. I don't think we had any working activities so we showed renders of the 3D LEGO animals to the kids to get their reactions. A 5-6 year old girl sat down in the hot seat and the Psychologist showed her the 3D elephant we had made based on the LEGO figure. The psychologist let her absorb the scene for a moment and then said- " What do you think of the elephant?" She immediately replied, matter of factly, "The elephant loves me." You could hear a pin drop in the room. The elephant could not talk or interact with his audience but he had established his emotional connection through the screen. A remarkable testament to the power of LEGO and our modelling team (thank you Jay!).
4) Other games were planned up to 6th grade. Unfortunately, that did not happen. In the same year that we showed the LEGO Pre-K and K games at E3 in LA, LEGO had cancelled a number of games and was experiencing some financial problems with LEGOLand. And free educational software was becoming available on the ever growing internet. I have no direct knowledge of why LEGO did not pursue the other products.
5) I probably do have some but I will have to search for them!
Shout out to Ray Monday (Art Director) and Ken Berry (Concept Artist) who took Randy's Activity Descriptions and turned them into exciting visual scenes which were true to the LEGO brand and .
And finally many thanks to Randy Angle who led the programming team and designed the activities which we then spent a year of our lives bringing to life.
On the VO work.
There was so much dialog. I have never worked on a game with so much spoken word. But remember (and Ray will speak to this) the product was aimed at pre-literates- they for the most part would not be expected to read yet. So all the activities had to be intuitive and easily explained.
Lani Minella was a real pleasure to work with - and so many voices!.Her bio on Wikipedia does not include the LEGO products yet but it should be added.
So, starting with the basics… For the record, would you mind stating your name, your role(s) at
Howdy, I’m Randy Angle, after a long career on many other games, I joined Stormfront Studios
in 1999 as Lead Designer and Lead Engineer on this special project. Later, I helped procure the
contract for, and became the Technical Director on, the Lord of the Rings game for PS2 and
How did Stormfront Studios get involved with LEGO Media?
Don Daglow always wanted to work with LEGO on projects. I believe it was his involvement
with the toy industry early in his career that inspired him to pursue this project.
I gather that LEGO Media initially solicited a pitch for the My Style from Stormfront. Do you
recall what the pitching process was like for the game(s)?
LEGO wanted a educational title, and had approached several studios about doing proposals. I
worked with Hudson Piehl (executive producer), William “Bill” Dwyer (producer and art line
producer), and Ray Monday (art director) on the pitch, budget, and schedule for the proposal.
The Proposal was for PC & MAC and a version for Preschool and Kindergarten localized in
several international languages. I recall that we came in much lower cost and much earlier
delivery than other teams.
It was previously mentioned there were meetings in Seattle with Wes Jenkins and at LEGOLAND,
would you share further details of what went down during those?
The Seattle meeting with Wes was a soft-kickoff and chance for much of the extended team to
meet in-person for the first time. It included Wes the Creative Director and inspiration for these
games, our producer contact from LEGO Media, Paul Melamed the educational consultant, and
our core team of leads from Stormfront Studios. It primarily focused on the visions and working
relationships along with team fit.
The trip to LEGOLAND included the same crew, but this time was a focused indoctrination to
the LEGO way of doing things, including history of the toys and company, how they develop
new products, and their corporate vision. We were able to play with toys, talk about how play
and education work hand in hand, and take photos of the theme park for art reference in our
game. The idea of a theme park setting with unique activities based on location became a
design pattern for these games.
What can you remember about your responsibilities in the development of the titles?
I worked extremely closely with Bill and Ray to establish the ground rules for our team success.
Stormfront had worked on many games, but never with the kind of discipline I had used on my
previous projects. I insisted on reasonable schedules, innovation with creativity and delivering
on time, we would collaborate and support each other to realize that success. Based on our
LEGO meetings with Wes and the educational consultant, we knew we use Paiget’s Theories of
Cognitive Development along with Gardner’s Multiple Learning Intelligences to allow children to
focus on play as a way to learn math, language, art, and music with age-appropriate activities
using LEGO toys. In a matter of weeks, I had over 60 activities for Preschoolers and
Kindergarters with complete game designs and storyboards by Kenn Berry.
I had already started work on a custom game engine that would function like Shockwave, but
allow us to publish these games using my unique scripting languages and player compatible
with PC and MAC. I worked with our senior engineer, Greg Sabatini, to build that complete
engine. We also hired 2 other coders to help script all those activities in my scripting language.
I met multiple times a day with Bill and Ray to align our goals and track progress.
As you were lead programmer on the title, can you remember any of the technical specs of the
As already mentioned, the games were meant to run on both PC and MAC, but not the fastest
or most powerful gaming hardware with 3D graphics or fancy sound cards. These games would
play on the PC or MAC that parents already owned and use 2D graphics, play from the CD-
ROM or install to the hard drive. The custom scripting language and the compression systems
we used meant that games loaded extremely quickly and didn’t bog down or frustrate children
Question 6 Follow-up:
I was told by Don that a custom engine was required-- do you remember details about that?
I was the architect of that 2D game engine with a custom scripting language – it allowed for
hundreds of scripted game objects and incredible loading times thanks to advanced
compression. I’d previously built much more advanced 3D game engines for high end gamer
hardware and consoles, our goal with this one was to make amazing games on a regular PC or
MAC. I mentored our other coders to understand the technical requirements of commercial
software, and how to task and track progress on an engineering team.
It was mentioned that there were additional LEGO My Style titles planned for up to the 5th grade
level. Can you remember how far these got in planning?
The original concept was an extensive line of LEGO educational titles using these theories and
techniques along with our game engine. After these shipped, they did well in the market, and
educators around the world still use and refer to these games. My understanding is that LEGO
abandoned the vision when Wes left the project. I’m afraid I don’t know a lot about that.
Lastly, are there any other important memories/stories that come to mind that you feel we
should know about?
It was amazing working on these games, we had an incredible team, and delivered on time and
under budget. The artists, engineers, composers, sound effects engineers, comedy writer, and
amazing voice talents all worked EXTREMELY hard to make these LEGO MyStyle games
brilliant. I thank them all.
Probably my favorite part of the project was watching while little kids focus tested the games,
sometimes with their preschool teachers or parents. The kids took to these games and activities
with gusto, learning and enjoying every aspect. The adults got drawn in and played with them. I
remember one little girl had never used a computer before, she hadn’t touched a keyboard or
mouse. She was so shy about it I told her a little story about the LEGO elephant and if she tried
our game that would make the elephant so happy. She tentatively grabbed the mouse and
within a few minutes realized it was moving things on the screen and she could click and
activate things, a few more minutes she was playing games. When she was done, in the most
darling voice ever, she asked me if she could keep the LEGO elephant… of course I said and
she wiggled away with a VERY big smile and melted all our hearts. That moment encouraged
me to pursue other toy projects in my career, and I’m eternally grateful.