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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK
Top developer's code for success
Shiny President David Perry
David Perry who is blurring the line between celluloid and computer code
BBC Northern Ireland's Neil McGreevy picks the grey cells of County Antrim's David Perry, game developer of the Matrix, who has taken video games to a new dimension.

If video games are the new Hollywood, David Perry is a bona fide Spielberg.

The Lisburn-born wunderkind began designing and programming games in 1981, back when the industry was taking its first baby steps towards global domination.

To date, the 36-year-old is responsible for over half a billion dollars worth of sales and furthering the cause of hi-tech entertainment.

Not bad for a lad who spent his youth in the Antrim towns of Templepatrick and Donegore.

Despite spending most of his free time sipping mochachinos in the baking California sun, Perry has fond memories of the old sod.

"I went to Templepatrick Primary School, then Methodist College Belfast, and actually have fond memories of both.

"I was in the right place at the right time, when Methody got its big government grant for new computers."

Too young to tinker in the school computer room, Perry made his bedroom a den of coding creativity.

Screen grab from Enter the Matrix
The game features 'crazy' car chases

"I sent a game I wrote to a magazine. I think it was a driving game, a black blob avoiding other black blobs. They printed it, and I was really happy.

"Then after I sent them some more games, a check for £450 came in the post. I was shocked, as I didn't even have a bank account. Just imagine how many sweets I was able to buy!

"So, I started writing more and more games. That's when I got the job offer in England.

"I left Northern Ireland because I was offered a job in England that Ireland just didn't have to offer. Even then, the job wasn't remarkable - £3,500 a year to make video games. But that's what I wanted to do. Heck, I would have paid them to let me do it!"

The ensuing Perry hits, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Terminator, caught the eye of Richard Branson's Virgin Games, and in 1991 he was whisked across the Atlantic to head-up such blockbusters as Disney's Aladdin, and 7-UP's Cool Spot.

Then, in October 1993, Perry formed his own company, Shiny, based in California's Laguna Beach.

But a new company needs a bona fide hit to put them on the map, and Perry's saving grace came in the form of Enchytraeus Buchholzi - the earthworm.

Earthworm Jim - the tale of an average worm who stumbles upon a suit, turning him into a superhero - was released to massive critical and commercial success.

Our dirt-crawling hero even had his own surreal cartoon series, with Jim voiced by none other than Dan Castellaneta - better known as the vocal cords behind Homer Simpson.

"I sent a game I wrote to a magazine. I think it was a driving game, a black blob avoiding other black blobs. They printed it, and I was really happy.
David Perry

Many hit games followed, but nothing quite reached the dizzying heights of Earthworm Jim.

Then, in 2002, the Wachowski Brothers - directors of The Matrix movies - came a-knocking with an idea for a game.

"The Wachowski Brothers were amazing. They love games and promised to work on this one."

The resulting game - Enter the Matrix - featured never-before-seen footage shot exclusively for the game - using the cast and crew from the blockbuster film, The Matrix Reloaded.

"They made about an hour of new Matrix footage just for this game," said Perry.

"That's the best gift I think Hollywood could ever give a game!"

Soon, Perry found himself rubbing shoulders with Tinseltown's A-listers.

"We got to deal with them all. We promised to make Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith's wife) a superhero.

Screen grab from Enter the Matrix
In the game you can play as rebel captain Niobe

"I enjoyed him saying that it's good to be able to take control of his wife now that she is in the game. To which she replied, 'That's the only place it's gonna happen!'"

Alas, like so much of Northern Ireland's talent, Perry's departure was permanent.

"I don't get to go back very often. My father was my main reason, but as he got older, he moved here to America so I can take care of him.

"That said, I just saw photographs from one of my employees who went to Ireland last week. There were hundreds of shots of the entire island, including many streets in Belfast I never even dared to walk down!"

With The Matrix game still breaking all manner of records, Shiny's next project remains closely guarded.

When asked what we can expect, Perry remains professionally coy - "You can expect it to remain a secret."

At 36-years-old and President of Shiny in its 10th year, David Perry's work continues to inspire a medium that could threaten Hollywood in the coming years.

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