Paul Scully: LEGO Island 2 Programmer

Initially, I asked him about how he got hired by Silicon Dreams Studio. He then told me Steve Hughes played a role:

“I was teaching IT in a Further Education college where I made a good friend in one of the other lecturers, Steve.  He and I both had the ambition to work in the computer games industry.  Within weeks of each other, we got jobs – him at Silicon Dreams, me at a company called NMS.  Just over a year later NMS went bust, and I got a job, after a tip-off from Steve, at Silicon Dreams, joining his team working on the Lego Island 2 game.”

Paul Scully

I then asked him about what content he could remember working on, which included the game’s particle system and minigames:

“I cut my teeth on the game’s particle system – all the twinkles, music notes, smoke, hot-pepper-pizza-fiery-breath and so on.  This work really appealed because it combined close collaboration with the art team with the technical challenge of delivering the effects they desired.  After that, I built the cutscene system.  My last work on the special-effects side was the system for transforming the Lego models from one form to another – this involved defining an encoding to describe the Lego models, their constituent bricks (orientation, ordering) for each, and then the code to disassemble one model, swirl the bricks around (when unneeded ones were surreptitiously swapped for those in the target model) and reassembling into the target.

I wrote the mini-game where you fire cannonballs to knock off the castle defenders.  My memory is hazy about which of the other mini-games I worked on; there was a lot of collaboration between the developers on each game.”

Paul Scully

Lastly, when I asked him what fond/notables memories he had from the development. He then recollected several technical details relating to the cutscene, shadow, and minigame systems:

“The cutscenes were realised using the game engine, i.e. not pre-rendered, and played out “in situ”, with Pepper and other characters entering a cutscene directly from gameplay.  I developed the tool-set used by the animation team to set up the sequence of camera locations, animations (camera, character body and facial expressions), etc. that form the script of a cutscene.  We were targeting multiple languages and I was mindful that the duration of a sentence in English may be slightly different for the same sentence in Norwegian; over the length of a cutscene, this could cause some noticeable synchronisation issues!  I came up with a system called (IIRC) “the cutscene Pianola” which allowed animators to insert synchronisation points into the cutscenes, whereby the animations would remain in a “holding pattern” until dialogue completed.  

I also remember the cutscene where Pepper hands over a pizza being one of the hardest to achieve – transferring ownership of the pizza from one game character to another wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem. 

And Pepper’s shadow on the ground was really tricky (and thankfully not my problem!)

The cannonball mini-game involved some nice maths to calculate the angle of the shots from the castle.  Probably the first time in my programming career I looked back at old GCSE maths & physics books to find/derive the equations of motion for projectiles.”

Paul Scully

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