Back in the mid to late nineties a lot of amazing things were happening in the world of Video Games. The Playstation 1 was in full force and the N64 console was in its infancy on the market. You might be asking why is she telling us this? The answer is simple: Paul Reeves. Over the last week I've had the absolute pleasure of chatting to Paul about his work and contributions to the gaming world which include working on the first Grand Theft Auto game (PS1) and helping develop games for Nintendo. Who better to describe what he does than the man himself with this quote taken directly from his website:
I'm an artist, actor, writer, and now moving into filmmaking. I've worked in the video games industry as a 2d/3d artist and animator for several different games companies including DMA Design AKA Rockstar North, Gremlin, Nintendo, Codemasters, Steelmonkeys, and Extra Mile Studios. I'm venturing into film making and writing my own material.
I interviewed Paul about his work and I'm happy to bring it to you here on Juicy Game Reviews. I am also ecstatic to reveal some never before seen artwork for a game Paul helped develop called Zenith. The picture is the only known piece that survived the game's cancellation so remember; you've seen it here first!
#1 Tell us a little bit about yourself and your gaming history
Despite the use of the word "little," in there, this is a big question. It all started for me when I didn't like to ask for an Atari 2600 back when every kid was getting one. Even back then at that age when I was 9 or 10 years old, I was very conscious of £199 being a hell of a lot of money for a toy, so I didn't say that I wanted one. When Christmas came around I guess I was hopeful for one, but instead I got this little black thing with weird little rubber keyboard buttons. I was totally deflated. But I put on a brave smile and connected it all up. Two weeks later I was making my own simple games. So I was the first person in my school to have a Spectrum, because everyone was into the Atari 2600. I was mocked at first until they saw the games on the Speccy were far superior and that I was actually making my own games too, even though they were just simple things like blocks moving around other blocks. So things quickly changed as more and more kids got Speccys or one of the other many different computers that started to come out. I eventually upgraded to a Commodore 64 and then to an Amiga 500. The Amiga was a massive change and seemed like alien technology at the time. it was with the Amiga that I really started to like the artistic side of game making.
Back when I first got into games at DMA in the mid 1990's, the only computers that could create the high end 3D models and 3D animations for games and VFX for movies were Silicon Graphics / SGI machines and they were hugely expensive. At DMA I had an Amiga 3000 which was mainly used for creating textures and 2D images and an SGI Indigo 2 machine for all the 3D work and animations. An SGI Indigo2 cost $43k back in 1995. There were no other computers in the world that could create 3D models and animations to this level. So if you wanted to do this kind of thing you either had to be seriously wealthy or work for a games company. Unlike today when you can pick up a really good pc for just a few hundred pounds. So it was an exciting environment to have a job giving you access to this amazing tech. And what made this particular time all the more extraordinary was that the industry was on the verge of a massive change, in fact probably the biggest change that has ever happened to the whole video games industry. This was just before the launch of the Playstation 1, Sega Saturn and N64. The whole industry changed when those consoles went on the market. On no small part due to Sony's marketing campaign, it all changed from being a pastime that was mostly indulged in by and targeted at kids, to become a form of entertainment for everyone. It was a pretty unique time to be in the business. We got to work in many different areas of the games and were given free rein to let our imaginations run wild. I actually recently met up with a guy who started at DMA Design at the same time with me and we both agreed, that if we were to enter into the games industry for the first time now, we would find it far less exciting. The games industry is still cool today, but at that particular time it was just incredible.
Making of a Queen By Paul Reeves
#2 I understand you worked for DMA Designs (later to become Rockstar North). How did you land the job with DMA?
I simply applied for the job as an artist at DMA from an ad in a newspaper. Although I was one of those bedroom Speccy and C64 programmers, I never really thought about a job in games, I was more interested in being an artist making sci-fi book jacket illustrations like Chris Foss. But I saw the ad and was curious, so I applied and got the job. There wasn't really any specific qualification you could study for a job in games. I studied Scientific & Technical drafting and I had a lot of cut away illustrations of vehicles and machinery in my portfolio, and it was that stuff that caught the eye of the Art Director at DMA. Those technical illustrations are what swung it for me.
#3 What games have you specifically worked on?
At DMA I worked on Zenith, Body Harvest and GTA. After I left DMA I went to Codemasters, where I worked on Micro Machines 64 Turbo. During that time our team created two other working demos for game ideas we came up with ourselves and a batch of other game concepts ranging from medieval Arthurian knight games to vampire killer ones. One of the games I designed in my own time was about a little rock guitarist who used his guitar as a weapon by using rifts and power cords to beat his foes with sound waves. You could use increasingly bigger speakers that he strapped to his back and shoulders for bigger sound booms and different styles of guitars that could play different styles of music. You used button combos to play tunes that were bonus sub games. The working title I gave it, believe it or not was, Guitar Hero. I called it that until I could think of something better. It's funny how the simple names often become the most catchy. This had absolutely nothing to do with the Guitar Hero game that came out several years later. Every game I worked on went through a long name changing process. Body Harvest went through some really weird name suggestions. I think The Human Seed, was the weirdest one I heard. Zenith had some hilarious name suggestions. Cling On, was my favourite. If you're a Trekkie fan, you'll get the joke.
That was one of the most fun times I've had working in games. There was only 6 of us working on Micro Machines for the N64 in a Codemasters satellite office in Scotland. And since that I've worked for other companies on several other games. In all I think I've worked on just over 20 games. Some of which went into full production and some didn't for one reason or another.
Image released by Paul Reeves
#4 What aspects of the original Grand Theft Auto game were you responsible for developing?
I wasn't one of the GTA core team members, but at one point every artist was drafted onto it to meet the deadlines. I created a batch of building textures. When I first started DMA the whole crime element was being toyed with and it was still called Race & Chase at the time. One of the first things I said about it was I questioned if it should be called that for copyright issues as there was a Scalextric toy called Race & Chase, where you could be the cop car or the bad guy car. If you played the cop you chased the bad guy and if you played the bad guy you had to try and escape the cop. It was great fun. I said this to the Art Director and it was met with silence so I was worried I'd put my foot in it. Grand Theft Auto was actually the name that was always kept in reserve because it was considered to be a rubbish name. Someone jokingly suggested to call it Drive Hard With A Vengeance, after the Die Hard movie, and the idea was liked by the Art Director. Luckily it eventually got called GTA. Considering how big the franchise now is and how well the name is known, it's funny thinking back then that everyone thought it was a rubbish name, and it was only called GTA because nothing better could be thought of.
#5 What can you tell us about the mood at DMA when they were sued by Pixar? (Unirally Plagiarism claims)
I wasn't in the Unirally team, and this issue went on not long after I joined DMA. This being my first job, I was witnessing lots of things for the first time. There were so many creative people there and with that came a lot of creative jousting. A lot of people were understandably unhappy about Unirally being pulled as a result of the court case, because a lot of work goes into making a game, but there wasn't really anything else that could be done. So everyone just got on with other projects.
Image released by Paul Reeves
#6 What's been the highlight of your career so far?
I don't know about highlight, but there's several things I had a lot of fun with and was proud off. As you may know, Zenith was cancelled and we, the Zentih team, were put onto Body Harvest. I was sad about this because Zenith was a really awesome game with a great variety of characters of both sexes without sexualizing the strong female characters. So it was breaking a lot barriers on many fronts. So I decided to create some textures that were renders of the Zenith characters and created a decorative frieze that I used on some of the buildings and temples in Body Harvest. Some sharp eyed gamers out there may be able to find the Zenith characters in Java on the temples and in America on some of the decorative parts of the buildings. I hid some other things in there, but won't say what they are. Lots of developers I know do this sort of thing. In another game I worked on for another company, some of my friends were rather unfairly sacked, so I put their faces onto the drivers of some of the cars in the game we were working on. Every game I've worked on I've hidden something in it. Usually it's just some sort of calling card and sometimes it's a bit more cheeky.
#7 What do you do for a living now?
I'm a freelance artist now, and have worked on some games on a freelance basis, but I'm also an actor, writer, stage and film combat choreographer and filmmaker. So I've actually been doing quite a range of things. I've even been a self defence instructor, but I haven't done that for a while now. I've worked on VFX for a few films one that is even Bafta nominated this year. I've worked on artwork for music albums, clothing design and company logo designs and rebranding. My main focus of attention is to make movies that I have written. I'm working on one feature length script that I've written about the games industry. I'm currently working on the production and seeking finance for it. I have some amazing people attached to it already.
Gameboyz - Creating a Video Game Character by Paul Reeves
#8 Where can we find more examples of your work?
The best place to find out stuff about me is my blog where I have links to everything I'm up to. I mostly post news on my updates on Twitter.
And this is my Twitter @Paul_A_Reeves
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