Steve Ellis of Crash Lab

Monday February 11, 2013

On the first day of Industry week the first lecture that was scheduled was a man who had worked on games like Golden Eye, TimeSplinters 1 and 2 and SW:Battlefront 3, this man is Steve Ellis.

Steve begins his lecture by telling us how the industry works and his background on working in the gaming industry, he told us that he started programming from an early age, “eight years old” he said was the age he started, the skills he had at such a young age soon escalated and it wasn’t so long after he was in primary school he joined a bunch of thirty year olds at a programming class. Steve also told us that he had worked in many positions and some he liked others not so much. Steve explained how stressful and time consuming the industry is, he had once worked for Rare where he did work on the James Bond Golden Eye game, he said “I liked the idea of working on a FPS but I didn’t like James Bond” his team that he was in worked on the split-screen multiplayer side of the game which I find to be one of the best features of the game, but soon after that was over with the company started work on Perfect Dark.

While working on Perfect Dark Steve said that he has had enough of Rare with them being so strict about everything he decided to create his own company in secret, with a couple of his friends that had also had enough of Rare they would meet at his friends house and there they would plan their own little success… TimeSplinters. Not soon after taking the money they all earned from Perfect Dark They funded their own company called Free Radical Design.

From then on Steve and his friends had started their company costing them 50k, they had to find a place to work (base of operations) that was big enough for seven people and then having to learn about legal issues for just encase anything happened. His first game for this company sounded really complicated (I didn’t hear the name of this game so for that I am sorry), something about time and time travel to then having to go forward and then back in time to do…. I don’t know he lost me after that, but it was basically something about time. He then started work on a game that he first called MPG, but we know it now as TimeSplinters, at this point Steve had to hire more people and for more people he needed a bigger office, so after that was all sorted out E3 had come around and TimeSplinters was going to be there, but there were some unhappy faces on the Free Radical Design team as their beloved game had been put at the back where hardly anyone could see it, he said that it got a good press review so at least there were a few smiles. Steve and the team felt like a real company after TimeSplinters was released, it had sold over 1 million copy’s and won a couple of Bafta awards, after that they made TimeSplinters 2 which was also a big success.

Now it starts to go downhill as his company start to have a lot of problems with legal issues and getting bullied by companies and having to change contracts, apparently IDOS are not a good company to sign with according to Steve because they didn’t care about what his company was doing, they then signed with EA which was another mistake because they didn’t care about his company or games, fighting through moral drops and false hope, publishers can sometimes be your worst enemy. Then Codemasters came along, like a dashing knight here to save them from their immanent doom, Codemasters really helped them release their games smoothly.

As it came into the next generation of consoles Steve said that there was a sudden craze for developers to make a WWII FPS game which was the direction Steve did not want to take, but he did still want to make an FPS game…

After a while Free Radical Games had signed on with Ubisoft and Lucas Arts, while his team were working on a game for Ubisoft (HAZE) Lucas Arts wanted them to help make the new Star Wars Battlefront 3, so it ended up with them putting back HAZE and started working on Battlefront 3, Ubisoft were not happy with this and were not sure if they could trust Steve to for fill his contract and release HAZE. Battlefront 3 was soon scrapped and then HAZE just ended up being a mess of a game since they just wanted it over and done with. Soon after Free Radical Games went into administration and resulted in 200 people losing their jobs. In the end CRYTEK saved his company but now STEVE wanted out and have a break from the industry. Eventually he became bored and looked into IOS games and eventually he setup a new company that he now works for called crash lab.

Confetti Industry Week Guest Post By
Ben North