Microprose - miscellaneous projects
This page just has a few minor projects worked on at Microprose. None are particulalry exciting, but I'm trying to be complete as far as possible.
Pizza tycoon was a German game that Microprose wanted to rebadge and add to their tycoon brand (Transport tycoon, rollercoaster tycoon), although the game was very different in style.
My initial job on it was to localise it by creating English language version graphics for any graphics that contained German text. However, many of the original character graphics were done in a style far too similar to that of the MAD artist Don Martin – which was obviously bad if the game was to be sold in the US (contrary to what has been written elsewhere on line Don Martin was not involved in the game at all).
This meant that we had to replace many of the character faces. I took the route of creating a set of famous faces (such as Einstein, Lenin and Prince Charles) along with more bizarre ‘heads’ (such as paperbag man a mummy and the fly).
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Spectrum animated cartoons
Adventure game graphics
Last Ninja 2
Microprose Misc (Pizza Tycoon/Navy Strike.
XCom - Terror from the deep
XCom - Apocalypse
XCom - Alliance
Citizens (Ghosts of games that never were)
Master of Orion 2
Flaklypa Grand prix
Blitz Pitches (Ghosts of games that never were)
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Each face had to have a small range of expressions and a blink frame for animation. Also the colour palette was fixed, so only about 32 already predefined colours could be used.
It was a bit of a slog – but fun in the way that short deadline tasks can be. While I did most of the faces, there was a very tight deadline for this so a few were done by other Microprose artists.
Transport Tycoon - easter eggs
The graphics for Transport Tycoon and Rollercaster Tycoon were excellently created by Simon Foster (who was a freelancer and who worked directly with Chris Sawyer).
Microprose however wanted a few small ‘Easter eggs’ adding to the game and I was tasked to create a few small sprites including a submarine conning tower (which I think was meant to relate to the microprose submarine game Silent Service) and a few sprites based on the XCom craft and UFOs (to tie into the first two XCom games).
They turn up randomly from time to time as a sort of ‘Terror site’ and can sometimes be seen flying across the screen.
This was a game that was commissioned from Rowan Software.
It was a mixture of flight sim (for which Rowen were justly renowned) and tactical management that had the player controlling patrols and threat interception across three distinct world hotspots.
The game was almost complete, but was considered too text heavy and complex, mainly because it lacked an intuitive interface and required a steep learning curve.
Because the game was almost complete only graphical changes were really feasible, and addressing fundamental interface flow issues was impossible.
I was tasked with creating a quick UI makeover that used large icons and made the game flow more intuitively.
It was a really interesting task, and one of the first times I really had to plan out a complete complex UI system.
I concentrated on making the information and options read more clearly and tried to remove excessive information and complexity.
Although the changed interface was a huge improvement, some of the recommendations were impossible to carry out in the time/budget and in the end the final changes really didn’t go far enough to make the game more mass market.
Microprose ended up selling the game onto Empire interactive rather than publish it under their own name. It was published in 1996 and didn’t do awfully well.
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