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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 11:14 GMT
Inside a video game developer studio
The BBC News website meets the team from Climax who developed the game Ghost Rider for PlayStation 2 (PS2), PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Game Boy Advance.

Find out more about the key team members' roles in creating the game by clicking the links below.

James Sharman - Technical LeadGlenn Brace - Art DirectorSam Barlow - Lead DesignDave Owens - Lead CoderRob McLachlan - Lead level designMark Simmons - Game directorSaul Marchese - Lead Environment artistNick Hodgson - AnimatorMarcus Burden - UI artistPaul Christey - Lead SFX


As technical lead it is my job to understand the systems we are developing for and the technologies involved in assembling all aspects of the game.

I work with art, design and the rest of the programming team to set the limits they must work within to fit the capabilities of the console.

With the three main development disciplines often competing for resources on the console, it is my responsibility to ensure it all fits together and updates the screen at least 30 times a second.

All jobs have an upside and a downside; sometimes I feel like the bad guy who is telling art or design that they cannot have quite as many polygons, textures or enemies as they want, but at other points in a project I get to be the hero putting in the tech that gives a final bit of polish to everyone's work.


My main role on the game was to take responsibility for the pre-production and ensure the project got off to a good start, artistically as well as production-wise.

Ghost Rider screenshot
The game is based on a Marvel comic book series and film

This broke down into a number of areas, including establishing the vision with the publisher, 2K Games.

We met with 2K and Marvel very regularly in order to plan out the design and visual style. We also went on location on the movie set and worked with the film's art team and directors, which helped us sync up the art style and needs for the game and movie.

Being a title heavily based on a known Marvel license, a lot of concept work was required for approval purposes, which helped serve us in the form of a heavyweight pre-production phase allowing us to preconceive and plan the games content at an early stage.

Each character, for example, had to go through many iterations and approval before we even committed to the production of the game assets. Again this was a great opportunity for us to evolve the game world and art style.

Working alongside the design lead was a key and integral part of the early stages of production. As soon as the design was starting to take form, the methods and pipeline for producing the required art assets had to be agreed and proven.

So finalizing the pipeline and building up the full art production team was a challenge, but a large and enjoyable part of my role. Working alongside the lead artist we worked together to ensure the art quality and production milestones were being met.


The lead designer is the equivalent of a movie director for games, but he is less glamorous and has no loudhailer or special chair with his name on it.

It is my job to lead the creative direction of the title, to define its vision and to manage the team of designers who are responsible for crafting the raw stuff of the game.

The storyline, the control scheme, the behaviours of the characters, the abilities and tools the player characters has - all of this is designed and documented by the design team.


I was in charge of the level designers on this project.

The level team designed, built and populated all the environments in the game.

We start as basic as you like, on paper or round a whiteboard, trying to think up a theme for the major level segment.

Ghost Rider screenshot
Ghost Rider is a stunt motorcyclist who gains supernatural powers

This could be an underground military base or a demonic carnival zone with evil bomb-throwing clowns.

We split these up into different arenas or zones, like a laboratory or a ghost train, and then thought about the visuals and gameplay we could use in each.

We then created basic 3D versions of the zones, known as "grey boxes", which are dropped straight into the game, where we run the character (or bike) around and check that things work the way we planned.

The grey boxes are eventually given to the artists, who will make them look pretty while we begin work on the game logic.

After the programmers have got the features working, we implement things like cameras and enemy wave patterns.

For the PSP version we got to make some fun multiplayer levels and test them by playing against each other.

It is almost too tempting to add a pit full of spikes where you know everyone always takes a shortcut, then hear them howl as they pile into it.


I am the game director on Ghost Rider, which means I have overall responsibility for the project.

I am the person ultimately responsible for the development of the game. For a game to be commercially successful for our business it needs to be developed to a fixed budget and timeframe.

Any "slippage" on either of those two things will affect the budget on the development.

The quality of the game is very important too as it has an influence on what we work on in the future.

I create the team and manage them to develop the project.

I work closely with the lead designer, lead artist, lead animator, lead programmer, and outsource manager, and together we manage all the artists, animators, designers, programmers, audio technicians, writers, quality assurance technicians, and outsource partners that create the game.

I also have to liaise with the senior executives, PR, and the publisher who all have separate vested interests in the project.


I was responsible for leading the game's level building team.

I had to ensure the level designers' ideas were interpreted correctly into realistic and interesting environments and that they retained the look and feel of the game world.

Ghost Rider screenshot
The character has the power to project fire as a weapon

When you have a large group of artists working on a game it can be difficult to achieve a consistent style, so regular reviews of the levels would highlight any deviations or mistakes.

I was the final quality control, replacing British street signs for American on the US highway levels, removing trees from hell and making the water flow in the right direction around the sewers.

Working closely with the designers and programmers to keep the environment team on track and within technology budgets was key to getting the game looking as great as we could.

Many of the software tools were being used for the first time so an important part of my job was training and supporting the junior members of the team to give them a better understanding of the production processes.


As lead animator on the project, my job required me to make the characters move within the game in a believable fashion that also fitted the style determined by the lead artist.

I have a very creative job as it was often left up to me to determine precisely how an animation would look in the game.

The designers would come up with an idea for a movement and it was up to me to create that movement under some technical and artistic restrictions.

For example, they may want a monster made out of rock, punch the ground, but it would need to be done in a certain number of seconds and without moving certain parts of the body.

There was always a battle between animators and designers between making the animations look cool but also making it suitable for game play.


I was the user interface (UI) artist on the project.

The UI allows the player to interact with the game, feeding them vital information, indicating buttons that can access options, menus and so forth.

It is something that the player will see throughout the entire game experience and it must look slick and reflect the game's style and branding.

As a UI artist I take a design created by the design team and create all the graphics needed to make it come alive on screen.

I work closely with a dedicated UI coder to create everything from the front-end menu screens to heads-up display elements that include power bars, energy levels, lives and so forth that the player sees when they are playing the game.

We have to consider the style of the game and brand in creating a user interface that is slick, effortlessly conveys information and is intuitive for the player to use.


My role as the lead programmer is to ensure that all programmers on the team worked within the timeframes set out in the schedule, and to ensure they were working to the game design and technical specification drawn up for the project.

The main responsibility is to work with the programmers on the team to ensure they are able to work to the best of their ability.

Ghost Rider screenshot
Ghost Rider uses a fiery motorcycle chain as a whip

If anyone was behind on a task, due to bugs or technical problems then I worked with them to address the cause.

This information is conveyed to the other leads, and the producer of the project, so that all team members are aware of the current progress of the programming tasks.

I feel very fortunate to be able to be in my chosen career.

Not everyone is able to take a passionate hobby, and build it into a career.


Special effects (SFX) artists are involved in creating all the cool stuff that gives the game its wow factor.

We create whole range of effects to help aid and bring life to the game from creating environmental effects, sky domes and fiery torches to explosions and blowing stuff up.

The SFX team were tasked to enhance the Ghost Rider character for all of his attacks such as the penance stare, link attack and upgrade attacks.

Creating SFX can involve using a whole range of techniques from key animation, scrolling textures, dynamics and particles.

Code support and in-house tools had to be developed to make it possible to accomplish required effects.

We needed tools so we could use particles, attach effects to animations and view for instant feedback directly on the PC.

For SFX to work appropriately and effectively it's really important to work well as part of a team.

We frequently communicate with animators, environment artists and other members of the team to understand how the effect could work and be created.

With such a talented team it was not hard to make the game look fun and enjoyable to play.

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