This is from Starglider One.

Michael Powell, one of the head honcho's of Particle-Systems, took a little time out to
answer a few questions about I-War. Read on to see what he had to say...


(Starglider One) What was the inspiration for I-War?

(Michael Powell) Our inspiration really came from 2 previous games we worked on: a game called SubWar 2050 for Microprose which I did and Glyn's Amiga space simulator - Warhead. We wanted to do a space game as the first Particle Systems production, and combine the highest possible standards of art and design with accurate simulation and addictive gameplay.

(SO) How did you come to the decision to use the BRender system? What other systems did you consider?

(MP) Our first prototype system used OpenGL! That was long before the days of Quake and 3dfx though, so it was purely wireframe. At the time we made the choice, the only API's out there were BRender, Criterions Renderware and Intel's 3DR system. We wanted to buy in an API rather than write our own because we believed (and still do) that it is how you use an API that matters, and the visualisation skills that you bring to it. BRender was the fastest and the best documented of all of them.

(SO) A lot of people consider I-War to be the 90's version of elite (but without the trading). What are your views on this, and did you think about adding a trading element into the game?

(MP) Given our background in mission based simulators and storyline-led games, I-War was always going to be the way it was. We did consider a trading element but quickly ruled it out, we do believe that a team should stay focused on the core aspects of a game, and not try and make it all things to all people. The BC3K project shows the immense difficulties of trying to cover all possible bases.

(SO) What aspects of the game did you contribute to?

(MP) I worked on the game concept, overall code framework and game engine design, alongside Glyn Williams, parts of the design of the Dreadnaught itself, implemented the missions along with Rich Aidley, and project managed the title within Particle Systems.

(SO) Will there be an I-War 2? What ideas do you have for the sequel (if there is to be one)?

(MP) We're talking with our publishers now about that, there almost certainly will be an I-War 2. I can't say too much about it at the moment, but it will definitely have a more open style of gameplay in terms of the mission design, and raise to a new level the standard of the graphics and simulation.

(SO) Could you tell me a bit about your background (previous games, companies, computers you used/played on etc...)?

(MP) I started out with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and worked in the steel industry for a few years. Glyn started in the games industry before me and convinced me you could earn a living at it. The futuristic race-game Powerdrome published by Electronic Arts was my first game, I then worked on a giant-robot game called Cyberfight which was never published, then SubWar 2050 and Vortex on the SNES (using the Starfox SuperFX chip). My first computer was a BBC B, then an Atari ST and Amiga, then PCs of various kinds ever since.

(SO) What other projects are Particle-Systems working on?

(MP) Not much I can tell you at the moment - but we are determined to grow Particle Systems so we can produce more than one title every 2 and 1/2 years, but still maintain the quality standards. There are loads of ideas in the pipeline - not all of them space games - but we still intend to specialise in 3D products with a simulation background.

(SO) There has been a lot of complaints about the Radar System in I-War. Did you have any other designs? What were they?

(MP) Glyn and I came up with the ORB radar design at quite an early stage. Here, we have never really had a problem with it, though we are taking any criticism seriously and will probably redesign this part of the game for future releases.

(SO) What technical difficulties did you encounter when writing the game?

(MP) Many and varied! We spent a long time working on the physical simulation and player control part of the game which took a great deal of playtesting to get right, and an equally lengthy period working on the AI of the non-player ships. They have quite a complex system with competing orders feeding down to control routines which operate exactly the same system of thrusters and LDS that the player does.

(SO) How long has it taken to write I-War?

(MP) Glyn and I started on I-War 3 years ago, the other staff around 2 and 1/2 years.

(SO) What is your favourite game of all time?

(MP) That's a difficult one as new favourites tend to supplant the old ones in my collection. Elite of course, in the BBC days, more recently something like Tie Fighter. Just recently I've been playing a lot of Goldeneye on the N64 - its a bit difficult though - people get stuck in I-War but I've got to say Goldeneye is much harder!

(SO) The 14 minute intro movie has been hailed as the best FMV in any game made. How long did it take to create the FMV?

(MP) Much too long! The intro movie alone took at least 12 months for 3 people to do; Matt Clark, Michael Todd and Andy Turner, with Glyn writing the script and doing the direction. It certainly wasn't wasted time as far as the game went. All the designs and modelling for the FMV sequences were used in the game itself in the 3D models, texture maps and character designs. We tried throughout to maintain a consistent look between the computer generated imagery (CGI) and the real-time sections of the game. I'd like to think we've been pretty successful.

(SO) Name a hairy dog.

(MP) Old English Sheepdog. Why?

(SO) Sorry, it was a german shepherd. Thanks a lot for the interview.

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