James Bond Q&A: Karl Hilton (@KarlHilton1) and Tony Wills

Karl Hilton
Studio Head (Nottingham), Sumo Digital Limited

Lead Artist on GoldenEye, Karl shares his memories of a British console classic.

Where did your career in videogames start? I originally did a BA in Architecture and then went to the NCCA at Bournemouth to do an MA in Computer Visualisation and Animation.

What is your first gaming memory? I always loved playing arcade videogames and as soon as the first 8-bit home computers like the ZX Spectrum came out, I got my hands on one and started buying and writing games to see what they could do. I wanted to make Space Invaders and Galaxians.

Did you study any programming at school? Not really. We did a tiny bit of BASIC programming on the BBC Micros in school in Maths lessons, but I did all my learning at home.

How did you get into the industry? I sent off a lot of applications, mainly from the back of magazines, and went to a lot of interviews! I think I had 5 or 6 rejections before Rare offered me a position.

What was working at Rare like in the early Stamper days? It was great fun. We had our own ‘barn’ at the back of the farmhouse and we were left alone to get on and make something good. We worked some long hours but we had a lot of fun and didn’t mind at all. The quality of the final games was the driving force for everything that was made at Rare.

Where did the original pitch for GoldenEye come from? It was Martin Hollis who took the project, on condition that it would be made on the Nintendo 64 console, which was still in prototype at that stage, and that we could make an FPS. The initial idea was to have it more ‘on rails’ as we had played VirtuaCop a lot, but we quickly realised we could do a lot more on the console due to its potential power.

Can you tell us a little about the development processes at Rare, how you managed such freedom and creativity working with a licensed product? As a team we were generally well protected by Rare and Nintendo from the realities of publishing and marketing and were able to just focus on making the game. Nintendo trusted Rare to make something good and Rare trusted the team. The licence had little in the way of restrictions on it so we had enormous freedom to be creative. We did not have any regular milestones to hit, other than the alpha date (which we comfortably missed) but, we were given time and space to make the game as good as we could.

Have you played any of the new reloaded and reimaged versions of the game? Only very briefly to see what they were like. I enjoyed them.

Are you pleased that your original game has inspired new releases and a new audience? ‘Re-booting’ a popular old game can offer an opportunity to enjoy the experience again and it’s very flattering that GoldenEye was strong enough to have this done. I don’t think you can expect the current generation of gamers to be that impressed by the original but it does offer some historical context.

Tony Wills
Facial Animator, Foundry 42 Limited

Having cut his teeth on the groundbreaking Actua Soccer at Sheffield’s Gremlin Graphics, Tony leds motion capture for Eurocom’s secret agent exploits.

What was your first computing and gaming memory? I can remember my dad bringing an Atari VCS home from work one day in a plastic bag. It played several very similar bat and ball games in black and white, awesome!

Did you study any programming at school? I did a computing A-level but was mostly a self taught programmer. At around about the same age, I was playing a lot of games on my Amiga and was just hooked.

Where did your career in videogames start? With Gremlin in Sheffield, working on motion capture. I was looking for a summer job and found an advert for a “computer games assistant” in the job centre. I did a CV with the company logo on it, got an interview and was lucky enough to get the job.

You worked at companies in Sheffield and Rotherham, what were they like? Things were quite corporate under Infogrames but the early days at Gremlin were very exciting.

When did you first get involved with the GoldenEye games? Eurocom put a lot of effort into developing Quantum of Solace (PS2) which was released in 2008. The game got a pretty good reception so the company began talking to Activision about a new Bond game, which turned out to be GoldenEye.

Did you play the original N64 game as inspiration? Not at the time but I had completed the N64 version whilst working at Gremlin.

Did you collaborate with the original team? Not really – it became clear fairly early on that this was going to be a completely new game rather than a straight remake. So it was all done through Eurocom, Activision and EON (the licence holder).

Did you work on any of the earlier Bond releases? Yes, we did a lot of mocap for Quantum of Solace so there are some very nice action scenes in the game.

Why did you choose the Wii as the first console for the reimagined GoldenEye? Activision knew the original GoldenEye had sold very well on the Nintendo 64 so they hoped to emulate that success on the Nintendo Wii.

Can you give us an idea of how much motion-capture footage goes into a game such as GoldenEye: Reloaded? Yes we did around 70 days of capturing for the game and spent the best part of a year processing and animating the resulting scenes.

Did you get to work with Daniel Craig himself? Unfortunately Daniel is always very busy with his filming schedule so I never got the opportunity to work with him directly. We did have someone from Eurocom fly out to LA to attend the audio recording session with him though.

 

First published as part of the Games Britannia festival in 2012.

 

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