In the midst of all of this, my time was getting squeezed. I’d come into London on Tuesdays and spend all day in meetings, sometimes with Channel 4, sometimes with the Defcon DS project, sometimes working on Xbox, sometimes on Multiwinia. I’d usually spend at least another day or two working directly on getting Multiwinia finished, leaving just a couple of days a week to do Subversion. But crucially, work was proceeding. I was making huge strides and felt I was right on the edge of nailing the core game – and it was at that very moment, the worst moment possible, that Chronometer kicked in. Chronometer was entirely externally funded by C4, and we’d hired our writer (Chris Hastings) and our concept artists, and the start date was fixed along with the exact duration of three months, with milestones all along the way. It all came to a head just before the project started when I literally begged Mark not to force me to do this project, even though I knew we’d committed ourselves to it months earlier, and there was no going back. So there was no getting out of it, no putting it off – these people were actually coming to my house to work, and I was supposed to be leading the project. This was a hard experience, to wake up excited about Subversion, but to know that Chris Hastings would arrive at around 10am expecting us to work together all day on that project. Ultimately there was only one choice for me – I had to summon my professional alter-ego and give up on Subversion altogether. Between Chronometer and Multiwinia and my weekly visits to London, my time was completely booked up. Subversion was on hold again.
In the end myself and Chris Hastings turned in a pretty decent project on time and to budget, with some incredible writing (his doing, not mine), some awesome concept artwork (again, not mine) and some intriguing ideas in the gameplay and setting that I felt were very unique. We delivered a massive pre-production document to Channel 4 (about three inches thick), complete with designs, scripts, pictures, timelines, budgets, project plans, risk registers, the lot. It was actually very professionally done in the end, something to be proud of. But internally I felt the project was considerably less interesting than Subversion, and was also a long way out of our comfort zone and area of expertise – the project called for a team of artists and some serious engine tech, something we’d never done before.
Multiwinia was finished and we were gearing up for launch during July and August. We followed our long standing tradition of delivering the release builds of the game to Future Publishing in person, taking as many of the writers and journalists and editors out as we can for a curry along the way. Future Publishing basically own all the PC Games mags in England, so this always works very well, and they’re staffed by a great bunch of guys and girls, many of whom we remain in regular contact with. (In fact one ex-future publishing writer was Channel 4’s games adviser on the Chronometer project – small world) But this time around it was a little different. Impossible to pin point exactly, the atmosphere had changed, Future were noticeably less interested in our game this time around than our last visit with Defcon in 2006, and we started getting early hints that something was wrong with the game.
(Introversion at Future Publishing)
Despite several iterations of playtests and interface work, somehow, we’d missed it. Later that night at the pub after demoing our game, some of the writers from PC Gamer came clean with us. You’ve really fucked up the controls, they told us. It was a consistent message from everyone we spoke too. The opinion of this team remains very important to us, not because they are more influential than any other journalist, but because they are usually the first to see the game – their responses usually ‘predict’ the overall response we will receive globally. They are our litmus test on the quality of the game we’ve made.
Another massive redesign followed. Ultimately we solved the interface problems and the game was made immeasurably better because of it. To be clear, we are hugely grateful to those guys at PC Gamer for being so honest with us. We told all the journalists to hold off on reviewing the game, and that we’d supply a new build a month later than planned. Vicky Arundel was clearly annoyed by this – she’d done an amazing job at arranging big online reviews in exchange for great coverage, and now we were ruining that plan. In addition, print magazines need months of lead-time before your review is published. So we were effectively ensuring that the print reviews would all be coming out at least a whole month late after the game launched. On top of this, our first ever Magazine Cover featuring a massive Red Darwinian (carefully arranged by Vic) fell through, and another print mag told us they weren’t interested in reviewing the game.
The game finally shipped on PC (on sale on our website, on Steam, and in the UK high-street through Pinnacle) and we celebrated with a launch party at our house. Tom had always fantasised about building a sales counter that would sit in the corner of the office and tick up whenever we sold a copy of a game. This time around he actually did it, building the device out of second hand parts bought from Ebay and writing custom driver software for it that linked directly to our Multiwinia sales counter. During our launch party dinner and celebrations that evening, what was truly amazing about this counter was how little it was actually going up. I’m not kidding when I say that we actually checked the connections and the software several times to make sure it was actually working, only to find out it was. Even then that very night we knew it was bad, that our whole future was in doubt.
Read Part 3
- Introversion Staff
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