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Chattin' with Slitherine

by the NWR Staff - January 23, 2001, 7:25 am EST

Jonathan Metts gets a chance to speak with Slitherine Software, the team behind Tyrannosaurus Tex, one of the most ambitious GBC games ever. Get to know this developer!

I recently got the chance to pose a few questions to Iain McNeil, head of Slitherine Software. His company's first game is a first-person shooter for Game Boy Color called Tyrannosaurus Tex, featuring incredible 3D graphics and two-player deathmatches. Amidst his search for T-Tex's publisher, Iain found the time to jot down his answers and offer some great insight into Slitherine's past and, more importantly, its future.

Of course, Tyrannosaurus Tex is your company's first game, but what games did the staff work on before coming to Slitherine?

Iain McNeil: As Slitherine our main experience comes from developing the revolutionary game Tyrannosaurus Tex for GBC. Previous to this we have worked on titles for Psygnosis (Colony Wars, Psybadeck, Colony Wars 2, Wipeout-X), Westwood (Red Alert, Dune 2000, Dune Emperor), Maxis (Simisle) and Eidos (Urban Chaos, Deus Ex) among other less notable titles, so we have a wealth of experience.

What are your influences? Obviously comic books are one; which comics inspire you as a developer?

Iain: There are a number of games that have influenced us ranging from Monster Maze to Quake. We're also huge strategy game fans so Civilisation, Dungeon Master, C&C, Masters of Orion, Warlords and Dark Reign are up in the favourites. (I'm not sure about the comic side of things as thats Dan's domain and he isn't here)

Slitherine has gotten a lot of attention for creating the one and only first-person shooter for GB Color. What kind of new techniques did you use to accomplish this feat?

Iain: Ben's created large data tables of pre-calculated information which are stored in memory and used rather than calculate them on the fly which has allowed the 3D environment to run at speed. The game is written entirely in assembler and there are areas of self modifying code which are also required for speed. We've also written our own hi-colour and link cable code.

Does it bother you that many publishers don't want to release GB games that don't have a well-known license?

Iain:Its very frustrating for us. We think we have a ground breaking game and we just cant it published. We're still talking to a few people so there is still hope someone will release it but we cant say for sure.

What are your programmers doing while you look for a publisher for Tyrannosaurus Tex?

Iain: At the moment resting. When we find out who is going to publish the game they will probably put it through their own QA system and generate a few bugs. We'll get the programmers back on the project when this happens.

Once you get accustomed to the GB Advance hardware, do you think Slitherine will be making another FPS for it? Or would you rather branch out into something much different?

Iain: We'd like to do a FPS, but we also don't want to get shoehorned into being a handheld FPS developer. We are interested in all sorts of games so we want to branch out into other things as well. We're interested in RPG and strategy games on the handhelds or maybe on the bigger consoles/PC.

If it ends up that you can't get a publisher for T-Tex (hypothetically, of course), would you consider porting it up to GBA?

Iain: Its a possibility, but because of the different hardware, there is not very much we could use between the 2 versions. It would probably be more likely that we would try and find a publisher that had a brand/license and wanted a FPS on the GBA. We don't want to get caught in the trap of having no publisher again. We just cant afford to develop another game and not have it released!

Do you see Slitherine expanding into console development any time soon?

Iain: Its a possibility. We're always looking for new opportunities so we'll see what happens :-)

How is your relationship with Nintendo right now?

Iain: We haven't really got much of a relationship with them. There are a couple of people we've talked to that have been quite helpful, but at the moment we're not even an official GBC developer. For some reason our application didn't go through. Something else I've got to sort out!

Anything else you'd like to add?

Iain: We're currently looking to recruit experienced GBC/GBA and PC programmers. We're based just south of London, so if anyone is interested then send CV's to me at:

Slitherine Software UK Ltd

The White Cottage

8 Westhill Ave

Epsom, Surrey, KT19 8:LE

or to iain_mcneil_uk@hotmail.com.

Thanks Iain!

For more info on Slitherine Software and Tyrannosaurus Tex, check out the official company website at http://www.slitherine.co.uk!

Interview conducted by Jonathan Metts

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