We love it when a guest of ours lets rip, and Dave Swan is more than up to the task! The graphics artist/illustrator supremo is mostly known in our circles for his work on the Discworld games inspired by Terry Pratchett’s series of novels. So here he is to divulge all on the canned versions of Discworld, working on games like Primal Rage and Manx TT, and his current projects (which you can see videos of below).
How did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry and what was the first game you ever worked on?
Well it was as simple as answering an ad in C&VG, Teeny Weeny Games advertised for an artist. Got hired after a week’s trial. At the time all games artists seemed to have been programmers, they’d been made do the art because they weren’t much cop as coders and nobody had the heart to fire them.
I just missed the tail end of Fido Dido, a game I just found out never got released and went straight onto the beginning of Wolverine Adamantium Rage (video below – Ed).
What was your exact role on Primal Rage and are you surprised we haven’t seen a sequel?
One of a long line of conversions I did, PC this time, so get everything working in 256 colours. Sitting for months, fiddling with colour bars and reducing the sprites. I think Primal Rage was a victim of the times. Games were going 3D and it wasn’t that great!
What was it like working on Lemmings 3D and why do you think it failed to match standards of its predecessors?
I worked on the Saturn conversion of the PlayStation game, i.e. making everything look worse to fit into SEGA’s chimera.
Lemmings was fun and I don’t really know why it didn’t take off. Didn’t make enough money? The public choose what gets a sequel with their wallets.
How did you get the opportunity to work on the amazing Discworld adventure game and were you a fan of Terry Pratchett’s books before you started work on this title?
Well it wasn’t an opportunity, it was an order. “Dave, do this!”, I did it. I wasn’t really aware of Pratchett although he seemed nice, eccentric and a nice soul. We had a launch party and everybody got very drunk.
What was your exact role on the Discworld games and how do you reflect back on them?
I just did sprites, such a long time ago I don’t remember which! Sorted some of the backgrounds, I remember converting a cross into a tree on one, did all the icons.
But most artists on the game weren’t that pleased with it. The look was set by some of our superiors who quite frankly couldn’t draw for toffee and we had to follow them.
Out of all the Discworld games you worked on, do you have a personal favourite and can you explain why?
I’d have to say D1. All the idle screens of Rincewind knocking on the screen had the typical western cartoon 3 fingers, something that’ll get you NO sales in Japan (Yakuza and all that) so I had to go through every frame and add a digit.
Thing is, the Idle screen saved several purchasers from being burgled. The police told us there had been several cases where houses had been broken into, nobody there but from another room burglars could hear Eric Idle shouting, “Hello, is there anybody there????” Burglar runs! I feel a warm glow in my heart.
You revealed in the comment section of a video in regards to unreleased Atari Jaguar games that Atari Corp. approached Perfect 10 Productions in order to port Discworld to the Atari Jaguar CD. What is the story behind that anecdote?
Well it never went further than laughing at them down the phone. Atari were famous f***wits and a bit of an industry joke. Reckoned they were gonna sell 3 million CD units, LOL.
You also revealed that Perfect 10 also worked and completed the fabled CD-i version of Discworld that was previewed in CD-i Magazine, which was never released for the system. Can you also tell us about that?
As far as I know it was finished, I can only think it got canned on quality grounds. The CDI was a hunk of junk and moved the backgrounds at about 5 frames per second.
Although work on the Jaguar CD port of Discworld was never started beyond discussion, do you think a port to the platform was feasible?
Well that wasn’t even a discussion. The Mega CD was considered, 16 colour backgrounds though,,,,,
Do you know if any build of the CD-i version of Discworld still exists?
I haven’t a clue but it’d be like looking at awful Stop Motion Animation. A guy on the team recently got offered thousands for a copy but It’s gone into the mists of time.
Do you feel there is room for any future Discworld games, and if so, which direction do you think they should go in?
Of course. The fans are there, you could do a big 3D third person adventure but now there’s room for a sumptuous 4k 24 frames a second animated point and click.
You have also worked numerous FIFA titles such as FIFA Soccer 2003 and 2002 FIFA World Cup. What was it like working on these games and can you recall your experience of working for Electronic Arts?
Hell on f**king earth! These games are big machines and I was a tiny tiny cog. I modelled haircuts… Footballer sodding haircuts for over a year. Just thinking about it makes me want to jump out the window.
And EA sell products, those products are scheduled and they HAVE to be ready!!!
Out all your games you have worked on, which one are you most proud of and why?
Probably SEGA Manx TT, a forgotten game but we did a good job on that, fitting a Model 2 game into a Saturn it like squeezing a fat man into a snail shell. Big learning experience too (plus, me and Keith both love that game – Ed).
Did you know all Model 2 textures are just Black and White? They’re tinted a colour by the hardware. So we got a shed load of B&W textures from SEGA and bemusedly waited for the colour ones that were never gonna show up! So doing a Model 2 conversion meant the original textures were pretty much just reference (mind blown! – Ed).
Which game did you have the most fun working on and can you explain why?
Again Manx TT, got to travel the world, work in Australia and SEGA Japan. The games industry was just fun then. Not too professional and a game was challenge then. Try getting an artist to do a motorcycle and rider in 160 poly’s with 16 colour textures now!
If you could step inside any of the games you have worked on and live there for a day, which game would you choose and why?
A video game would be an awful place to be, Spend a day riding deadly motorbikes, being on the battlefield, commanding a Mech or driving a rocket sled in Wipeout 2097? No thank you! I did a tiny bit on Art Academy DS, drawing on a screen is my normal life so I’d choose that for a day.
What was your exact role on WipEout 2097 and did you know this game was going to be something so special from day one?
Again, always the bridesmaid, never the bride! I worked on the Saturn conversion, mainly making textures smaller and with less colours, making them worse. Yes, feel the power of the Saturn! Not so much now’a’days but in the past you could get whole teams of people working on conversion after conversion, maybe NEVER doing an original title. Consoles then were imperfect beasts and quite frankly that’s what made them interesting.
How did you aim to make the game stand out from the original and were there any ideas and concepts considered for the game, which never made it into the final version?
Our original version of Saturn WipEout is superior to the PS1 game, well if you ignore the slower frame rate. It handles better and has less bugs. 2097 was a chance for the team to get that game running at 30 FPS. Tantalus’s engine was for the Saturn a power house (still a David to PS1’s Goliath) and our programmers, especially Jon Forshaw (a genius) worked their balls off to get it running at 30 aaaand very nearly did it. Unfortunately it just dropped too often so we locked it at 20, we even tried switching on the buggy Saturn Transparency chip for shits and giggles, We got ugly transparencies and it ran at 8 FPS. So there was a sense of disappointment and ball-lessness after it was released. Silver lining though, before we locked it at 20 we told the games mags it was 30, typically those shmo’s never played it and just printed that it ran at 30 FPS, so job kinda done!
Do you think there is now room for a new WipEout game, and if so, what new ideas would you like to see implemented?
WipEout was a game of it’s time. It gave us something we’d never seen. In today’s industry genre breaking games come out every fortnight. I bet all the newer WipEouts didn’t sell a tenth of what the first couple did.
What is your personal favourite music track in any of the WipEout games? And do you feel the game’s amazing soundtrack helped it become so popular?
Oh the soundtrack was pivotal, It was the 90’s, britpop, raves, there was a revoluton going on and CD’s and the PlayStation allowed the games industry to ride along and be an important part of it. Synth music and Lara Croft’s pyramidal tits. My favourite track? Well, personally I’m a bit rock and roll so its tunes all sounded the same to me but out of loyalty I’ll say the Saturn-only tracks, There was a licensing F-up on three of the tracks. We couldn’t use them so our music guy did three of his own. Rob Lord, he does movie sound tracks now.
Did you ever start work on any games that were never released and if you could release any of these game today, which would you choose and why?
About two thirds of the games I started never got finished, dozens of them. Off hand I can’t think of any worthy of more work. A Battalion Wars 3? But we never even started it. Loyal BW fans though, they deserve one.
Why did you end up leaving the video game industry and do you feel you will ever get back into it?
2008, I was asking to leave with many others in the financial meltdown. I now work for a tiny company that does a few games. We just did Super Arcade Racing. Deliberately simple but fun. I could never go back to a big company. Artists are half programmers now and all the technical stuff leaves me cold.
What are your favourite video games of all time?
I go back to older games generally. I’m playing Shadowman on the DC at the mo. Ranger X, Alessia Dragoon on the Mega Drive and Killing Time on the 3DO are games I seem to keep revisiting.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
Duke Nukem,,,,, need I go on?