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  • A Look Back at Silicon Dreams' LEGO Work With Richard Hancock


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    InBXLtS.jpg?1
    One of the several scans from Rich's notebooks.


    Introduction

    Since 2017 Richard Hancock (Silicon Dreams Studio designer) and I have spoken off and on about his involvement in the development of LEGO Island 2 (which he was lead designer on) and Island Xtreme Stunts, along with the tie-in setline of the latter title. Initially, I didn't have permission to share my correspondences, but thankfully times changed.
     

    I have sorted through my countless messages with him and divided them into different sections for each project, with LEGO Island 2 being further split up due to his large role.



    LEGO Island 2

    Development History Memories

    To start off with let's go over his memories about how Silicon Dreams Studio got the project. Work began in late 1999 when LEGO Media producers toured Silicon Dreams.

     

    Quote

    Also, i'd been part of an R&D team who after 3 years of creating tech and games had their projects cancelled. It just so happened that at the time
     LEGO were looking to do a follow up to the original game and had a meeting with us and were so impressed with the tech, they gave us shot and after i put a load of ideas and mini games together they gave us the gig. From that, the 2 Island games were created, along with LEGO Soccer which was made by a different team who worked downstairs, they had previously worked on the WLS and Own soccer games. Our sister company also got the gig to do the LEGO Racers games, as they had done Rollcage which was a successful racing game.



    He also noted he created around 50 minigame concepts during the pitch.

    While this was covered in a voice call we had, I'll note that the project the engine was originally made for was RAW (Reengineered Attack Weapon in full) by the same team as LEGO Island 2 (internally known as Team 4). A version of this title was shown to LEGO Media, with Rich saying some "blood and guts" were removed.

     

    Quote

    nothing springs to mind ... the only thing like that I can remember is I created a document with perhaps 50 different mini games which had mockups and info of how they'd play .... this along with the engine we had created for another project, got us the gig initially



    According to him, Whack-a-bot was one of the first minigames concepted

    Also, he did find that animation along with others. Check the bottom links to see them.

     

    Quote

    I remember spending some time designing the whole thing, and then working with the teams to figure it all out in detail ... at that point some things got shuffled around.
    I think I may still have an animation I created for the Whack-a-bot game ... that was like one of the first I did and when we implemented it, it just worked so well!

     



    And OGEL's content came last in the development of the game, with the game developing chronologically.
     

    Quote

    In general the game was worked on kinda chronologically, so the OGEL stuff was implmented last

     

     

    goU5sp5.jpg
    Early sketches for the Matching Mummies Tomb.


    Cut Content

    During our initial talks, he told me what he could remember about the cut Rock Raiders content.

     

    Quote

    In LI2 there was an entire world with mini games based around the Rock Raiders play set which was set under the main island. Development didn't get much further than the design stage though, as we realised there would not be time to complete it.



    He also remembered the plot involved Pepper trying to find Power Crystals to power something on LEGO Island.
     

    Quote

    Rock Raiders were all about underground drilling ... you must be familiar with the play set. I can't remember specifics, but the games were based around drilling for gems to power something on the island above.
     



    When I showed him the Titanic animation Jim Southworth shared, he mentioned it originated from a concept for an underwater title unrelated to LEGO. 
     

    Quote

    I remember that before we started the project proper, there were a few concepts kicking around, and one of those was a side scrolling platformer, set on a sinking ship that you had to escape ... we like the idea, so it was translated into LEGO; hence the Titanic level...



    He also believed the Pirate animation Jim Southworth shared was just an early concept while they were experimenting with ideas.
     

    Quote

    I thiiiiink I remember us getting a load of assets from LEGO and we were just trying stuff out and if it worked and got approved, we'd use it!



    AV8f5qX.jpg
    More early LEGO Island 2 notes and sketches, this time mentioning Rock Raiders.


    Additional Trivia

    First off he remembered they used Maya, likely 2.0, to develop the scenes before exporting them to a format the engine would understand.

     

    Quote

     

    we recently got Maya (I think ver 2.0) and so were using that .... had separate 'level' scenes in Maya which were used to export directly to game ..... this was PC, PS1 had a different process

     

    A new feature in Maya was LODing with distances ... so we exported that data directly and used that in game ... again, this was PC ... I remember exporting the main Island used to take around 20 minutes .... so any mistakes (and there were many) you wouldn't find out for twenty minutes ....



    Next, Rich stated he believe the hand-drawn picture in Pepper's house came from Tim Green, a LEGO Media producer when asked.
     

    Quote

    I don't remember exactly, but have a feeling it was Tim Green the producer



    Rich also remembered being given several documents for reference, along with being offered LEGO Island 1's assets. However, due to being unfamiliar with them, they decided to start from scratch.
     

    Quote

    I think I recall getting something from LEGO which was used on the first game, there was a document of characters old and new and we had our pick of which ones best fit

     

    Quote

    I have a vague memory of look over some data from LEGO from the first title and deciding it would be quicker to rebuild things, rather than try and salvage ... often the way!



    Lastly, there is one last intriguing piece of information relating to the Oasis Fisherman. The notepad scans he shared stated, and I quote: "The Oasis Fisherman is Pepper's D...", as unfortunately the page got cut off before that bit.

    When I asked Rich about it, he confirmed the "D" stood for "Dad" in full.

    Quote

    BTW, I found that notepad, and the work at the end was indeed 'Dad' ...


    t69YZ9E.jpg
    Several notes, including the one that states the Oasis Fisherman is Pepper's dad.


    Island Xtreme Stunts (Setline)

    Rich didn't just work on the LEGO Island games, he also worked on the LEGO Island Xtreme Stunts setline, which was the first time LEGO brought in outside developers to Billund to develop sets.

     

    Quote

    There had been games of play sets and play sets of games, but Xtreme stunts was the first title where the game and play sets were designed together. Myself and a few of the other developers went to the HQ in Billund and worked directly with the real lego artists and designers of play sets to come up with the style and items for both the game and play sets that would be used.



    He could also pinpoint that development started in June 2000, due to the fact he got his passport at the same time.
     

    Quote

    I got my passport like a week before that trip, and the passport is dates June 20th 2000. 



    DFQsZ4y.jpg
    A sketch of LEGO Island 2's dino park section.


    The Silk Road
        Rich Hancock worked on a pitch of his own for the early Silk Road stages of the development of LEGO Island 3, which later became Island Xtreme Stunts. His concept was for a perpetual LEGO Island MMO that he recalled was inspired by Asheron's Call and Everquest during a voice call. 


    0cVX1NX.jpg?1
    His notes on the concept.

     

    Island Xtreme Stunts (Game)
    Rich took a different role on this title, mostly working on the skateparks and vocals for the music tracks,

     

    Quote

    I took a slightly different role in xtreme stunts but still worked on art and design and wrote the lyrics for the songs on the radio which we recorded in-house.



    He revealed that the PS2 port was supposed to have waves, but were removed due to tech limitations.
     

    Quote

    The water in XS was supposed to have actual waves which moved up and down and washed along the shore, but the PS2 didn't quite have the power to do that and run at a decent frame rate.



    Also, he mentioned that LEGO insisted on the half-pipe introduction being a thing, despite slowing down the loading times.
     

    Quote

    that was a demand from LEGO and despite us explaining it was a bad idea due to the potential issue of loading times, they foot their foot down

    so the first part of the game is basically waiting for the game to load, before trying to control what is essentially a very poor 5 second long mini game, and then waiting for the entire thing to load again ... great decision there


    6Gn17Jf.jpg
    A sketch of Castle Island for LEGO Island 2.


    Playlist of Gameplay Concept Videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEUNWSJBAhZtk8D237fShLSlUXsSiIv-E

    Source Files: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ftzrp41rtoq4arz/LEGO Animations-20200503T203732Z-001.zip?dl=0

    Imgur Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/8RYapGu

     




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