Role: Lead artist, concept artist, lead designer (on respective title) - Sony Cambridge
MediEvil - Sony - PS1 (1997)
MediEvil 2 - Sony - PS1 (2000)
MediEvil PSP (remake of original design) - Sony - PSP (2007)
MediEvil is a third-person fantasy action game featuring the adventures of hapless, skeletal knight Sir Daniel Fortesque. The world of Gallowmere has been thrown into darkness and the dead have risen to become the ghoulish army of evil wizard Zarok. The side effect of Zarok’s spell is that it has also brought back to life Daniel Fortesque, a bumbling knight with delusions of heroic grandeur. Dan must prove his would-be heroic credentials and return the land to the living, even if it means ending his own un-dead life.
MediEvil was a light-hearted but spooky family game with a rating of 7+.
The MediEvil series of games from Sony Cambridge are still fondly remembered by players of all ages across the world. To this day the team receive emails from fans asking about a new MediEvil game, and there are fan forums scattered across the Internet devoted to Sir Daniel Fortesque – which isn’t bad for a game first released over ten years ago!
MediEvil was originally conceived by Creative Director Chris Sorrel as "Dead Man Dan." The game was to be an homage to the old arcade game Ghosts and Goblins and a love letter to the gothic works of Tim Burton.
|A selection of very early designs for the first Medievil. Coloured pencils/crayons on paper.|
Early development - history
Younger readers familiar with today’s gaming technology might find it hard to imagine the time of MediEvil's development, when 3D graphical games barely existed, with no Mario in 3D, no Zelda in 3D and certainly hardly any first-person shooters as we know them today.
I had scratched the surface with 3D graphics on a game called Strike some years before, but that was a very crude attempt at 3D modelling. When the team started work on MediEvil everything was new to us, these really were pioneering days! I remember marvelling at our first animating 3D object that walked across a flat plane, or the time when we got our first textured landscape up and running. These breakthrough moments usually came at around 2:00am, after we had pulled many long nights. All of this was stuff developers wouldn't think twice about today.
Crayons and grids
I was the first person to join the project with Chris. I remember doodling various versions of Dan and even at this early stage I knew this game was going to be a whole lot of fun. Many of the initial concept drawings were done at a time when Photoshop was in its infancy and Maya did not even exist. Therefore, most of my concept art was drawn on paper using crayons. Level designs were created on large pieces of card in biro pen. I would use coloured pencils to draw an object or a section of landscape as a three-dimensional grid and actually colour in the textures on the drawing, so that an artist or coder knew where to apply the textures. This crude method was known as "per face mapping". It was game design by the seat of our pants, and it is a testament to all our ingenuity that the results turned out to be as good as they were.
Game development jazz
We really were just having fun making a game and learning as we went along. It felt like the game development version of playing jazz. We had no external "direction groups" telling us how we should make a game, no "marketing guys" telling us our ideas were too niche and not commercial enough. We had no interference at all and just made the game that we wanted to play.
MediEvil started out being developed by "Millennium Interactive", an independent games developer and publisher for which I worked at the time.. When we did an early games demonstration to Sony, they were so impressed with our work that they bought the whole studio in order to have the team work exclusively for Sony. So began our careers with Sony.
|The original MediEvil team, there was a lot of hair in those days!|
My job on MediEvil was to design the art and set the visual style. During the project I also became the lead designer owning to my experience in game design on previous titles. I pushed the game (with Chris' blessing) into more of a Zelda-like direction and added a lot of details to the story of the world and its characters, as well as writing the preliminary scripts and working on the VO recordings. It was great to be allowed so much input into the game and I believe the partnership I had with Chris made the game into the success it has become.
All the team really pulled together and I believe our enthusiasm for the subject matter shines through in the final product. MediEvil was very much ahead of its time and "the Zelda" for Playstation. It turned out to be a game that would set the template for the future of the Sony Cambridge Studio.
Great word of mouth
On release MediEvil gathered a great word of mouth reputation amongst gamers for its gameplay and attention to detail. It made Edge magazine's "Game of the month" (a month after its initial review) and appeared on a number of TV shows.
In 2000, the sequel to MediEvil, MediEvil 2, won the BAFTA award for Best Console Game.
This page shows artwork, design and press articles about the two MediEvil games (Resurrection was a remake of the first game and did not directly have the involvement of either Chris or myself, although I did revisit my role as the voice of Sir Dan).
This is an article from the magazine RetroGamer on the game celebrating its ten year anniversary, with an interview of myself and Chris Sorrel.
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If reading these page scans proves too difficult to read on some browsers I will post a transcript of the article elsewhere on the blog.
Here is a photo of the lead team for MediEvil 2; James Shepard the Team lead, Andrew Kennedy the Producer and myself, the Art Lead). This is the moment just after we won the BAFTA for Best Console Game for MediEvil 2. It’s now sitting on a shelf at home doing a good job of gathering dust.
Concept art and design - MediEvil (the original)
Presented here is only a very small selection of the hundreds of little coloured pencil/crayon drawing that I did for MediEvil. My art style was rather child like in those days and what I lacked in technical drawings skills I more than made up for in imagination and the drive to make the final in-game art look as good as possible.
Not only did I draw most of the concept art but I also designed most of the level layouts and designs and created a majority of the in-game texture maps.
|My first quick doodles of Dan Fortesque from my note book. I tried out lots of combinations before settling on the one and only.|
|An early drawing of what the game camera might look like. At this stage the game was going to move along a linear path.|
|Early drawings for a selection of levels illustrating the types of camera views we would require.|
|I wanted lots of curves and wonky angles for the game world, this sketch illustrates the type of geometry I wanted to see.|
|A snap shot of a level walk through and notes on how I wanted to see the various elements come together.|
|Medievil was a family rated game and as such our zombies and monsters were more comic book than Lucio Fulci.|
|My version of the MediEvil equivalent of a Triffid.|
|A very silly looking monster. Children love funny monsters with lots of eyes and bum holes to make fart noises!|
|Zarok the Wizard. I imagined as an evil puppet. In the game he was voiced by Paul Darrow of Blakes 7 fame and he loved the chance to really camp it up as a villain.|
|The level design for Zarok's mad factory-esque Castle.|
|And as it appears in the ingame movie sequence.|
|I did hundreds of these little level desgin drawings, they formed the flow and shape of the level designs. They are rather basic drawings as did not have a lot of geometry to throw about and had to be rather inventive with our use of space.|
|An example of a map design for a level. I would draw and makes notes based on the rough geometry of an environment, where the puzzles are, where enemies would be placed and so on.|
Concept art and design - MediEvil 2
A small selection of my work on MediEvil 2. We evolved the overall art style as our engine technology had improved somewhat from the first game and we could throw a few more polygons around and we had a degree of geometry skinning that meant we could deform limbs and faces.
I worked on Dan a little more, making him more rounded and gave him the ability to change facial expressions so we could get a little more emotion into Dan.
|In MediEvil 2 Dan had a number of costume changes. He looked very daper in his hat and tails!|
|Dan now had the ability to take off his head and place it onto a zombie hand so that he could now get into small spaces.|
|An example of the emotional range we could now get into Dan's skull.|
|The villain of MediEvil 2 - Palethorn. A mix of Alistair Crowley and the Godfather.|
|We introduced a professor to MediEvil 2, this chap would help Dan understand his new world. The Prof' would also build weapons and other inventions that would help Dan on his quest.|
|MediEvil 2 saw the intorduction of a love interest for Dan, a rejuvinated Egyptian princess. She was originally called Dawn, as in Dawn of the dead.|
|Dawn wasn't a shy girl, being covered in all those bandages I think she had a kinky side. Hey! This is a family game!|
|After a long sleep Dan finds himself in Victorian London.|
The fans of MediEvil
The MediEvil series of games has a hardcore fan community that are usually found commenting on forums bemoaning the lack of a new MediEvil game from Sony (and NO Deadmund's Quest does NOT count!). Despite there not being a new original game since 2000 the fan base can still be found creating their own fan art, model figures and fan fiction ideas for a new game.
Here is a small example of fandom that I have found on the internet...
|I LOVE these cosplay costume of Dan and Kia, they are so cute! I want to make a game or film about them looking just like they do in these photographs! Adorable.|
|I have seen a few custom model figures based on Dan but this has to be my favourite. I could see Ray Harrhausen animating this Dan in a stop motion MediEvil movie - wouldn't that be cool!|
|This is about as hardcore as it gets - a Dan Fortesque tattoo! That's dedication ot the cause!|
Despite a good solid fan base fro the games, particularly amongst female gamers who enjoyed the less than macho antics of Dan Fortesque, the MediEvil series was never granted a green light to continue in future games and storylines.
Farewell Dan Fortesque you will be fondly remembered in gaming history. Bravo!
Jason Wilson Jan' 2012
Dan Fortesque in GTA!