Glenn Corpes Interview (Bullfrog, EA)

Glenn Corpes has been involved in the video game industry for over 20 years. He spent 8 extremely successful years working for Bullfrog and was involved in massive titles such as Syndicate, Populous, Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper. He then spent 4 successful years as Head of Research and Development & Project Leader at Electronic Arts.


Here at Arcade Attack we feel privileged to have the opportunity to interview such a well respected player in the games industry,  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Glenn for taking the time to answer our questions.   Follow Glenn on twitter @GlennCorpes


Question 1 – Syndicate, Theme Park and Populous were all major successes in the gaming market. When you were making these now iconic games did you ever realise you were working on such ground-breaking games?


Populous was pretty clearly groundbreaking from before it was even really playable. The gameplay came from a really weird place: the rules governing how the landscape blocks fitted together, not by anyone’s genius design. It always reminded me of a Rubik’s cube which is a remarkable bit of weird engineering which also just happens to be a perfect puzzle. Syndicate and Theme Park were released after we were getting pretty cocky about success so were less surprising to be honest.


synd_amiga_ingame_aim_hqQuestion 2 – Syndicate was such a fun game to play and I would often spend hours just mowing down civilians. Did you have any idea at how controversial the game would be perceived by the press before it was launched?


Was it controversial? I know the blood was green in the German version, I suspect we then used that fact to get some press or something. Like all of the old Bullfrog games the story was just there to justify the gameplay, considering it happened that way round I was impressed that it also managed to be a pretty complete dystopian future with even a few original ideas. I blogged about this:


Question 3 – Theme Park really started to get the ball rolling for more random “sim” titles. How do you feel the game compares to the original Rollercoaster Tycoon title and do you feel Theme Park could have had more sequels to monopolise that market?


To be honest I never really liked or played Theme Park or Rollercoaster Tycoon beyond just taking a look. I think the idea that nobody working on Rollercoaster tycoon had seen Theme Park was preposterous though. It even had the ride names scrolling across the entrance in the same way! I guess maybe they were telling the truth though because I know they accused the sequel, Theme Park World, of being an RCT rip off.


Question 4 – Is it true that adding extra salt you your chips will result in your Theme Park punters spending more on drinks? And are there any other clever/random secrets you can reveal about the game?


There was so much of that stuff in there, a lot of it coded by a very young Demis Hassabis. It was all rather too subtle to see though. I know almost all of it was removed from the console versions to save memory and you couldn’t really spot the difference.


Question 5 – Magic Carpet really pushed the boundaries for 3D gaming and almost seemed ahead of its time. What was it like working on such a ground-breaking game?


Magic Carpet was great fun to work on, it was the result of me moving to the PC with it’s lovely byte per pixel screen and 256 colours. It was the result of a year or so off messing with texture mapping, translucency, fog etc… Sorry about the nearness of the fog though, not my fault honest, check out my blog on the subject


Question 6 – Magic Carpet allowed you learn a maximum of 24 spells. If you could adopt any of the spells for yourself to use in everyday life, which would you choose and why?


Which Magic Carpet spell? I can’t even remember many of them. I think I’d rather just have the magic carpet itself.


Question 7 – If you owned a real magic carpet where would you travel to?


That’s a good question. Presumably it would be hard to use for intercontinental travel. Probably hard to go over about 20MPH. I think on a magic carpet it’s maybe more about the journey than the destination.


Question 8 – Is it true that Hi-Octane was a game you and your fellow Bullfrog programmers coded in your free time?




Question 9 – Did it really only take 8 weeks to create Hi-Octane?


No, it only took 7 for the PC original. My contribution was the almost finished Dungeon Keeper engine but a lot of talented people worked their arses off for those seven weeks because Peter Molyneux had asked us to accept the challenge of releasing a game in an otherwise empty month for EA. It was actually a lot of fun to work on.


Question 10 – With today’s improved graphic capabilities, do you feel there is room for a revved up Hi-Octane sequel?


Possibly. For what it’s worth my first iOS game Ground Effect was my take on what had made Hi-Octane fun before it was ruined by too many guns and powerups. There was a point where it was just this peaceful drifty hover-racer. Not really revved up though, it was a few years ago now (aimed at original iPhone) and simpler than Hi-Octane. Updating Ground Effect to be fully cross platform and to use cool new shaders is on my to-do list, just not very near the top…


Question 11 – Theme Hospital has an eccentric sense of humour and was a world-wide smash hit. Whose job was it to come up with such funny and now iconic illnesses such as “Bloaty Head”, “Slack Tongue”, “Fractured Bones”, “Serious Radiation”, “Hairyitis” and “Baldness”?


To be honest I don’t know exactly, Gary Carr was lead artist so has to be a suspect. The reality was that the game had to have silly diseases to keep it from being too dark.


Question 12 – Dungeon Keeper was arguably Bullfrog’s most popular and iconic title. Did you know you were onto something good when making this game?


Peter’s original idea of “a reverse dungeon game” seemed like it just had to work. To be honest, my involvement (the graphic engine and world data management) was over before the gameplay even started and there were famously a couple of attempts at that. It’s nice to see that Dungeon Keeper’s stack-of-cubes engine is sometimes cited as an inspiration for Minecraft by Notch.


battle_engine_aquila_235252Question 13 – Which gaming title that you have been involved in are you the most proud of?


Either Populous or Battle Engine Aquilla.


Question 14 – Which games console/computer do you have the fondest memories of?


Probably the ST as I was solely responsible for that platform at Bullfrog. Other than that, my 15″ macbook pro or maybe the original Gameboy.


Question 15 – Have you ever had an idea for a game which you believe could have been successful but was never released?


Yes, loads of them. (I guess we’ll have to tweet him to find out what they were – Ed)


Question 16 – What are your views on the video game industry of today?


My perspective is slightly limited as console games are something I only see others playing these days. I’m more into smaller indie stuff on iOS and occasionally mac. Free to Play is shit though.


Question 17 – If you could share a few pints with a video game character who would you choose?


For fucks sake? really? I dunno, the square in Tetris maybe?


Question 18 – Are you still involved in the video game industry?


Yes, I’m working on updating Topia World Builder, an arcade-smooth sim where you play the forces of nature rather than a god. I’m also working on a 2D action game called Fat Owl With A Jetpack


– Adrian


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