Steve Hughes and I spoke a bit back about his work on LEGO Island 2 and Island Xtreme Stunts. During our conversation he revealed several facts relating to technical and cut features from the development.
An image of a prototype of Island Xtreme Stunts Pepper he shared.
To begin with, I asked him about what he could remember about the development history. A standout fact to me was the fact that LEGO Island 2 was originally supposed to use stiff limbs like the original LEGO Island.
a. I remember that before the Lego games started our team was in a state of flux. We were looking at a number of ideas for games (I recall a golf game – and some spy game called ‘Sneak’ or something). I don’t remember how the Lego game came to start – but I do remember an enormous buzz around the idea – the dev area was suddenly full of Lego stuff – bricks and kits and that.
b. I think we got off to a false start with Lego. We made a standard API for mini games and wrote a load of games that were mostly shooting games of one sort or another. Then Lego told us we couldn’t do any shooting in the game so we threw a load of games out and wrote a bunch of others. I think the rock raider stuff got thrown out at this point, along with that Jungle Run game which was really fun to play. Sort of Indiana Jones meets Pilot Wings
c. Lego 2 was something of a nightmare toward the end. We used a standard API to write all the mini games, and shared a lot of utility code between them. I think that was a pretty sound idea, however some of this shared code was fundamental stuff, so if it got changed or bugs got fixed, then the whole game needed a complete playthrough – which was 8 hours or something like that. We did some very long hours as a result of that issue. I recall my longest onsite was 44 hours.
d. Actually I still have a few Lego relics – I may even still have the original Pepper minifig prototype, I can probably find you a picture somewhere.
e. Finally, LI2 and XS were a learning experience for all companies involved. I remember that in the beginning we weren’t allowed to let the minifig legs bend, which made animating them almost impossible. I think we did a demo and it got shown to a bunch of their execs to show what the issue was. By the end of XS I think both sides of the partnership had become a lot more flexible, and I like to think we played a tiny part in the birth of the very famous Lego game franchise we see today.
How did you get involved in the making of the games and what can you remember about your role with them?
He then told me about how he got involved with development of the LEGO Island games, revealing details about several unreleased Silicon Dreams Studio titles he worked on beforehand.
a. I was lead on Lego Island 2 and PC lead on XS. Although to be honest, it was all pretty anarchic so the idea of leadership was a relative thing (possibly laughable!). I worked on a number of things at SD before this – including the various football games, a title involving snipers, the ‘sneak’ title and a very ambitious title called Raw.
b. Raw was a game where you played an escaped genetically modified creature that used to be human (looked like a big slavering dog iirc) and you were trying to get closure on what had happened to you – which led to a bunch of quest type paths etc. The more you killed, the less humanity you retailed until you eventually lost control of the character and you lost.
c. There was also a rooftop thing I remember with jumping about from roof to roof and searchlights and stuff but that’s all hazy – cant remember what game that was.
Next up, I asked him about the engine used for LEGO Island 2, which apparently was known as SDLib.
After the Lego titles I moved to the core tech team. The main game library was SDLib. This had been used and evolving since World League Soccer. There were 2 layers: SDLib layer was generic across all platforms, and then there was a platform specific layer with implementations for the various platforms below that. I did a load of work on the animation engine, and the main scene engine, and did some culling stuff etc, before the whole company disappeared in a puff of accountancy.
Another picture of the prototype of Pepper.
Lastly, I asked him if he could remember any cancelled/removed content from the game.
a. Missing levels, rumors etc. There were a number of levels cut as there was no place for them. Can’t remember specific ones. I think part of the missing content rumor came from a blog I remember seeing ages ago from someone who had decoded the data files and found a load of minifigs that were not in the game. Well, these are explained by an Easter Egg which to my knowledge has never been found. If you finished the game, then went to a certain spot and did a certain ‘something’ with the controller then a cave opened up. Inside there was a minifig for each of the dev team, and if you interacted with them they did a single special move. This was very deeply hidden, or possibly even left out of the game as mastering was a complex business back then with a lot of failed builds.