The History of Bullfrog, Part One

08 Apr 2010

Former Bullfrog Productions designer Alex Trowers has teamed up with Retrofusion to thoroughly cover the well-respected, EA-killed developer's history. In the first half of the article, we learn more about the team's office antics, the development of Syndicate, and how the Dungeon Keeper engine was used for the lesser known Hi-Octane:
For some reason, this era was marked by the introduction of the BB gun. In fact it was quite the arms race with people getting bigger and more powerful guns as we went on. People would keep their weapons close at hand – usually next to their keyboard – and every so often someone would reach out and pick their gun up… which meant that everyone had to pick their gun up. Next would follow our own version of the Mexican stand off at the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as everyone is trying to keep an eye on everyone else to see who would make the first move. Then you’d hear the tell-tale “kerchack” as someone would arm their weapon and all hell would break loose. People would hide behind desks, tip chairs over or anything to get themselves a bit of cover from behind which to strike. The chaos would go on for a few minutes before people started running out of ammo and have to make a dash into no-man’s land to replenish their supplies. This invariably resulted in pain. It was at times like these that I fondly recalled my deal with the evening cleaning lady who’d pick up all of the pellets lying around the office and leave them in a little plastic cup on my desk for the morning…

This was the best time ever. We were making Syndicate and man were we having fun doing so. As with practically all Bullfrog games, Syndicate was created as a multiplayer game first. The idea is to get something that everyone can play quickly then work out why it was fun and try to get the AI opponent to do that sort of thing. It’s a pretty sound policy and one that modern developers shouldn’t overlook. Anyhow, Sean and I would get our friends in of an evening and we’d stay in the office, playing the game. After each game we’d have a bit of a bitch about things we didn’t like or an enthusiastic “wouldn’t it be cool if…” session and then Sean would bang out a new version with those changes in for us all to play again. We’d repeat this sequence quite often until someone would realise that it was, in fact, light again outside and we’d been there all night. Okay, so it was hardly the most socially enriching period of my life but it really was good fun.