Leave Luck to Being Rescued – Christiaan Jones

Christiaan Jones
Content Designer
The Creative Assembly

Notable games Christiaan has been involved with:
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Operation Flashpoint: Red River and F1 Race Stars

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Christiaan LARPing as Vincent Le Blanc (deceased)

Brad: Hello Christiaan.

Thanks for taking part in “Leave luck to being rescued” which bears no resemblance to any music based top 5 interviews!

Now, I have previously worked with you through a development cycle so I already know a few things about you. I know you enjoy LARPing, so I’ve set up a very believable scenario to explain how you get stuck on an island with nothing but a few of your favorite games. I also know that your real name isn’t Christiaan, although I can’t remember the story behind this. So why don’t you start by telling me a bit about your LARPing hobby (do you have a good photo I can attach to the post).

Christiaan: Hi Brad!
Firstly, thanks again for trapping me on an island (I think…) and I’ll quickly try to clear up the name confusion; Third child of 4, grandparents wanted family names, I drew the short straw and got them but to save all the arguing everyone calls me Christiaan (family names being Alan-Michael and Harold)! Luckily my last name is Jones so that keeps me humble 😉

I’ve been LARPing on and off since I was about 18 in a few different systems around the UK (Live Action Roleplaying, for the uninitiated, is a mix of cosplay, theatre, a kind of martial art and basically pretending to live in a fantasy-based MMORPG), which are all different sizes and have a different feel or emphasis depending on where you go. I’ve been in many forests and fields, camps and “towns” and even a 2 mile long chalk cave system (it was very dark and cold, but GREAT for atmosphere)!

In the system I currently play in called The Lorien Trust (or L.T.) there’s a good mix of fighting and roleplaying and I try to attend all four of their main events, two of which are in May and two in August. Each main event lasts around three days over a long/bank holiday weekend and you can spend your time trading, crafting, fighting, casting spells, performing rituals (basically uber-majicks) researching about the world, chatting, eating and drinking (there is lots of this!) or pretty much anything else you can imagine doing!

There’s stalls for food or selling kit like weapons and armour and the roughly 2000+ players per event (not including vendors, referees and other hangers on) arrange themselves into one of the many nations, groups and guilds all with their own lands, customs and identities and act on the various storylines or plots, some of which have been going continuously for 10 years or more!

I could go into a LOT more detail, but 1) I’d be here forever and 2) this is less about LARP and more about gaming: Next question please! ;D

Brad: Wow, I didn’t realize how much was involved. I imagined about 40 people in a field shouting a bit and pretending to attack each other!

Alright, so let’s talk about games. I presume you were a gamer from a young age? What was your first console (or PC)? When did you decide to pursue a career in games development and what is your background?

Christiaan: It ‘IS’ one of (if not the) the biggest systems in the country, and most other systems tend to be around the 40+ mark it’s true 🙂

Yeah, I started pretty young with an Apple 2 we used to borrow from the local primary school I went to for a week during the summer holiday to play Oregon Trail and Kings Quest 1 on. The first games machine we actually owned was the good old NES (in the end my parents bought two for us to share!) and I spent many long hours with my brothers in front of it back in the early 90s.

Deciding to go into the games industry was a bit of an accident really. I’d finished secondary school (having done A levels in English Literature, Philosophy and Media Studies) and I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do next! Looking through some university brochures I saw a course in Games Design from Lincoln University. Thinking about it at the time, I’d always been designing one thing or another when I was a kid playing with my brothers: turn-based rules for a LEGO strategy game (with real-time sections for shooting the cannons!), new quests for the Hero Quest board game or even digital stuff using RPG Maker 95 and various MOD tools for Quake and Quake 2. I’d never considered it as an actual job and Lincoln were offering one of the first courses on it in the country so I guess I was lucky to get in on the academic ground floor!

Brad: Ah yes, the NES, I spent countless hours playing Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda on mine and it still works!

Looks like you were always going to end up in some sort of design / games related career then.

Now Christiaan, a shocking turn of events occurs when The Lorien Trust decide to do something a bit different and organize a special LARPing event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You decided to go LARPing as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and in your excitement you climbed down a sewer to hide; suddenly a great rush of water knocks you unconscious and sweeps you away. You awake to find yourself at the foot of a ladder and suddenly another rush of water picks up, carrying with it a load of games. You only get chance to grab 5 of them, one of which can be a collector’s edition (explain why you chose this) along with one complete game soundtrack (this can be from something other than the 5 games you select). With your new haul in hand you climb the ladder and reach the surface, only to find yourself on a desert island and stumble across consoles, TVs and a power supply. What 5 games did you grab and why?

Christiaan: Certainly one of my strangest adventures I think (also, I’d have probably been dressed as Donatello, but that’s neither here nor there really).

So, on to my choices. I’d like to start with the Game soundtrack if I may and that would be the original World of Warcraft (WoW) soundtrack. I’ve chosen not to include WoW in my main list for two reasons: firstly, because I won’t have internet connection and the servers have to close some day and secondly because it somewhat bias’ the list and there’s SO many other games I’d like to include!

So my choices (in no particular order) are:

1)  Diablo 3 Collector’s Edition (PC)

OK bit of a cheat this one as by taking the collector’s edition of Diablo 3 I get Diablo and Diablo 2 plus all the expansions already saved on the USB stick but my choice is still valid (plus I’m a sucker for an art book, especially those done by Blizzard)! Actually one of the first great games I played on the PC, the Diablo series is probably the best hack-and-slash RPG out there, despite some… odd choices for the third instalment. The story is great without being overly complicated and the replay value is frankly, HUGE. Randomly generated dungeons and item drops, unique creatures (in the later instalments) and simple but addictive gameplay make this a series I constantly come back to (even today I have both Diablo and Diablo 2 installed on my PC). The way the characters interact with the world too by breaking open barrels and opening chests and sarcophagi made you feel like you could have an impact on the actual environment and made the huge AOE attacks all the more satisfying! Special mentions goes to the dark tone, the gore, the story and best of all: sounds design. Those town and cathedral tracks from Diablo or the haunting desert theme in Diablo 2 make me feel I’m right back there, seeing them for the first time not to mention the death sound effect when you kill goatmen is still one of the most visceral and satisfying sounds ever! 😀

Brad: What a great choice, selecting a collector’s edition with the previous 2 games included and giving you a massive amount of content!

2)  The Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim (Xbox 360)

I think the best quote to describe Skyrim is paraphrasing Douglas Adams: “Skyrim, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to Skyrim”. The fact is though, that there’s just so much to do in it and that’s only with one playthrough. The main quest is suitably long and epic and feels like a real challenge, spanning not even a quarter of the map. You can play for 60-100 hours without even exploring all of the over world, let alone many of the dungeons, tombs, houses, coves, caves, shrines, underground cities etc. The combat is really satisfying rewarding skill and timing, the stealth is a tactical challenge and the magic makes you feel really powerful but is balanced by being tough to use against a variety of creatures (who, thankfully, don’t level up with you so you can be killed by a skeever). If nothing else, I’ll be playing this game for a long time, island or no island! Also Dragons.

Brad: Again, another great choice. I have probably spent about 100 hours in that world and that on just one playthrough so I’m sure you’ll be able to sink plenty of hours into this.

3)  Terraria (PC)

An Indie title to add variety, but not placed here without good reason! I got into Terraria fairly early on in its life (when it first arrived on Steam actually) and I loved its 8-bit style and huge depth. Like minecraft only much simpler, Terraria was like when you go exploring as a kid out into the unknown. Most of the time you’d come back with nothing but sometimes you’d stumble across a place you’d never been or a cool dell or something you’d walked past many times before but never noticed. That feeling of adventure and exploration and finding “new” places always excited me and Terraria feeds directly into those memories. Taming the land to my whim was another favourite pastime of mine (sadly only in-game!) and building towers and fortresses to strike out into the Corruption, Jungle or the Dungeon made me feel like i made real progress in a changing the environment, something you don’t often see in games. The amount of tweaks and updates the developers made after release added even more depth (sometimes literally!) to the experience and I still go back to old worlds and characters I’ve created just to “rediscover” what I built in other playthroughs, even months apart. Almost the definition of epic replayability.

4)  Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (PC)

 Yes I know, another Blizzard title, but this really is the game that made me fall in love with these guys in the first place. Epic storytelling and fantastic FMVs set the scene for an epic game where, even though you’re playing an RTS, you always feel like the story is centered around you, and the character you’re playing. The way the game shifts gear through the Orc, Human, Scourge and Night Elf storylines and gets you to experience their sides of the story as well as try out the unit combinations and racial quirks is almost flawlessly executed. The little in-game scenes between characters really give the title life and the gameplay balancing (which to Blizzards credit is STILL ongoing today) mean the game feels easy to pick-up and difficult to master, like all great games should! While I didn’t play online multiplayer as much as I could have done, LAN sessions with my friends at uni and hours playing against the computer opponents on the sprawling maps are still some of the best times I had with an RTS. Also, Arthas is awesome.

5) Starflight (Mega Drive) 

A quite obscure title to finish on perhaps and my only “retro” game on this list. There were many different games I could have picked for this last choice: JRPGs and fighting games, old RTSs and point-and-click adventures but Starflight was just a really cool experience and pipped many of them to the post. Not because it has amazing graphics or massive amounts of replay value but because it was a well-crafted, pulpy, sci-fi adventure and it managed to get SO much detail onto such a tiny console. After assembling your crew the universe was pretty much your oyster and you could fight or negotiate with aliens, explore new star systems and planets, and then send your rover to the surface to search ruins, capture animals, mine minerals- basically all the things Mass Effect did, but about 16 years earlier! There’s no character interaction or back stories for your crew but it was all about the universe out there; a macro rather than micro story. Sorely deserves a good remake!

Soundtrack – World of Warcraft (WoW)

Not only is it well-composed, superbly executed and has a wonderful variety of tracks, but it’ll always remind me of the great times I’ve had on that game, ever since I first started playing on the European Beta way back in 2004.

Well, there are my choices! I hope you enjoyed them and they made sense. Cheers!

Brad: Months later a helicopter comes in to rescue you, in typical Resident Evil style a mysterious figure in the distance shoots the chopper down with a rocket launcher. As the burning debris falls you are only able to grab one of them.

Which game did you save?

Christiaan: haha yeah, that is a good ending (curse you Tyrant/Mr. X!) Ooo you bastard; an even tougher call to make now though! I’m torn between Terraria and Diablo 3 but…

I think Diablo 3 has the edge! Oddly, it was the first one to jump into my mind when I read the rest were going to be destroyed. Thinking about it, it’s not only because it contains an art book and Diablo 1 and 2, but I think longevity and nostalgia-wise it’s just a much fonder experience to me than the others. Also the Tristram theme will soothe my soul on the loss of the other titles 😦

About the choices

Diablo 3 Collector’s Edition

Developer – Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher – Blizzard Entertainment
Platform – PC
Release – 15th May 2012

The Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim

Developer – Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher – Bethesda Softworks
Platform – Xbox 360
Release – 11th November 2011

Terraria

Developer – Re-Logic
Platform – PC (Steam)
Release – 16th May 2011

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

Developer – Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher – Blizzard Entertainment
Platform – PC
Release (EU) – 5th July 2002

Starflight

Developer – Binary Systems, Electronic Arts
Publisher – Electronic Arts
Platform – Genesis (Mega Drive)
Release – 15th May 1991

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Leave Luck to Being Rescued – Aristotel Digenis

Aristotel Digenis
Lead Audio Programmer
FreeStyle Games

Notable games Aristotel has been involved with:
The audio tech behind GRiD, DiRT 2, DiRT 3, DiRT Showdown, F1 2010, F1 2011, and F1 Race Stars

Brad: Thank you for being part of the first “Leave luck to being rescued” interview. I first met you back while I was still studying at University when I attended a guest lecture you were giving at York University. We then became friends almost 5 years back when you were still working at Codemasters so I already have a pretty good idea about the games you are going to select. Before we get onto your choices can you give a brief overview of your career so far?

Aristotel: As a teenager I was a DJ (back when one didn’t rely on BPM counters) and upon finishing high-school went on to study Audio Engineering. During my degree I got interested in spatial audio but soon realised there wasn’t any software to do the things I wanted to do. I wrongly assumed I could just “learn” to code and develop the software myself and make that my final project. I soon came to my senses and changed the focus of my final project to something non-software related.

However I didn’t give up on the software, as I went on to study towards a Masters degree in Software Engineering. This time I did pull off an audio related project, but my studies didn’t stop there. Having decided not to pursue a PhD in spatial audio (finally) I instead did another Masters degree in Music Technology, bringing together my audio and software engineering skills.

As part of my first job (Clearec), I worked on the audio software that was bundled with the Nero CD/DVD burning software, including a wave editor by the awesome name of ‘WaveEditor’ and a DJ program by the name of ‘ScratchBox’. Given my background with Djing, that was a pretty cool project.

I later joined a firm (Sonaptic) that developed audio tech for third party consumer electronics. The tech included psychoacoustic bass enhancement for flat screen televisions and portable speakers, noise cancelling headphones, and various DSP effects. The firm also developed the 3D audio engine for Sony that is now in every PSP (PlayStation Portable). However the most exciting tech developed was surround sound for mobile phones, without the use of headphones. Think of it as the audio equivalent to stereoscopic displays (without glasses – like the Nintendo 3DS), only several years earlier. It was integrated in many Japanese handsets, but never took off in the West.

Next stop was a large video game developer (Codemasters) in England where I joined the Central Tech Audio group as an Experience Audio Programmer. I worked on the audio systems that several game teams used to develop their games. Alongside the development of the tech, there was plenty of supporting game teams and sound designer. After a while I landed the role of Senior Audio Programmer as well as getting to lead the audio tech group. Over the next few years we developed some great in house tech, both tools and runtime. The group grew some more, to cover other non-audio runtime disciplines such as networking, animation, and core systems like IO, memory, and controller input.

Recently I moved to another game developer (FreeStyleGames) as the Lead Audio Programmer. While I cannot say what I am working on, the company has a history of making music games such as DJ Hero, DJ Hero 2, SingParty, and DLC for GuitarHero. The emphasis on audio in the firm is clearly great which makes it an exciting challenge. With the DJ Hero franchise there is yet another link to my DJing past.

Brad: Ok, so FreeStyles Games have decided to send you on a bit of a trip and you find yourself on a plane to attend this year’s E3. Unfortunately you end up in a horrific accident but manage to use your games background to think fast. In true Just Cause style you fashion a parachute out of materials on the plane, luckily enough the cargo hold also has a seemingly endless supply of games both old and new (how convenient)! As you are in a hurry you only get chance to grab 5 of them, one of which can be a collector’s edition (explain why you chose this) along with one complete game soundtrack (this can be from something other than the 5 games you select). Now after that very believable scenario suspend your belief for a moment and imagine that you manage to land on an island and stumble across consoles, TVs and a power supply. What 5 games did you grab and why?

Aristotel: Can I choose digital games, such as PSN games?

Brad: Yes

Aristotel: How do I play them? There won’t be any power supply.

Brad: For the purposes of this exercise let’s pretend power isn’t an issue!

Aristotel: Will there be a sub there?

Brad: Er… will that make a difference to what games you select?

Aristotel: No but I want to know if I will have surround sound and a decent TV.

Brad: Ok, you can have a 7.1 system if you want.

Aristotel: Ok, I’ll have a think about it.

1) Super Stardust Delta

Endless fun… can keep on playing this over and over to get new scores

2) PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe

Same as above

3) Battlefield 3

(after 20 patches to sort all the bugs) – amazing multiplayer… when it works

4) Killzone 3

Good campaign and online, especially with the PS Move! Kill the ISA dogs! I suppose I would take the Helghast Edition of Killzone 3 so that I can have the almost life size head to stare at during make-believe conversations… like Tom Hanks did in cast away with the volleyball.

5) GTA 4

So I can dress as a woman, pick up a bike and pick up ‘issueskid’ (referring to me) on our way to a drive-by-shooting (online)

Soundtrack – Uncharted 2 (Greg Edmonson)

Brad: Finally a few months later a ship turns up to rescue you, unfortunately it capsizes and a wave rushes to shore. In the hurry to rescue your games you only manage to grab one of them. Which game did you save?

Aristotel: Super Stardust Delta!

Brad: Wicked, that is awesome. Did you like your plane accident scenario?

Aristotel: Yeah the plane scenario was awesome… realistic and all. I asked April (Aristotel’s wife) what games she would take and she asked “would I have access to broadband on this island? Cause I would need it if I chose multi-player games…” 

Brad: No, I reckon broadband is out of the question, otherwise you might be able to call for rescue.

Aristotel: If broadband is out of the question then I have to remove Killzone 3, Battlefield 3, and GTA 4!

Brad: Ok, well you get broadband but no headset and you are banned from using the video / voice or message features on the PlayStation XMB. I will not let you communicate with the outside world!

Aristotel: No problem!

About the choices

Super Stardust Delta

Developer – Housemarque
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform – PlayStation Vita
Release (EU) – 22nd February 2012

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe

Developer – Q-Games
Publisher (PAL) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform – PSP
Release (EU) – 6th December 2007 (original version)

Battlefield 3

Developer – DICE
Publisher – EA
Platform – PlayStation 3
Release (EU) – 28th October 2011

Killzone 3

Developer – Guerrilla Games
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform – PlayStation 3
Release (EU) – 25th February 2011

Grand Theft Auto IV

Developer – Rockstar North
Publisher – Rockstar Games
Platform – PlayStation 3
Release (EU) – 29th April 2008