FAQ: Stewart Gilray

FAQ: Stewart Gilray

By Develop

January 29th 2010 at 12:00PM

The indefatigable UK veteran gets the rapid-fire question treatment

In an industry where there word ‘veteran’ is often thrown at any high-profile exec with more than a handful of years under their belt, it’s hard to brand Stewart Gilray with any label at all.

Stewart Gilray has created games for as many consoles as you can think of.

Since his career started in the late eighties, he’s helped develop games for platforms such as the GameGear, the GameBoy, the Jaguar, NES, SNES, the CBM Amiga, the PlayStations, the Atari ST/E/TT/Falcon, CBM 64, PC, 3DO, iMac, Dreamcast, Xbox 360, Wii, DS…

He’s worked for the likes of Psygnosis, Bullfrog, EA, Argonaut, and in 2000 he oversaw development of the acclaimed Dreamcast title Soldier of Fortune.

Today he works as director of UK indie outfit Just Add Water, having just recently released the PSN title Gravity Crash.



What are you working on right now, and what stage is the project at?

We’ve just finished the PS3 version of Gravity Crash, and are finishing up on the PSP version. We have another 3 projects being actively worked on, but we can’t talk about those yet.

Which aspect of it do you think will impress players the most?
I’d like to think that people will like it because we’ve managed to capture a little bit of the 80s in it. Something they won’t notice is our crazy obsession with pixel perfect collision :-)

What was your first job in the industry – and what was the first game you worked on?
I worked as a freelance programmer in the late 80’s. A few of us set up a small team, whilst we worked on a couple of full price titles such as “Lost Soul” for the Atari ST, and “Rubicon” for the ST and Amiga, we also did the introduction sequences for “PowerMonger” and “Birds of Prey”.

What was the first video game you ever played?
Well I played Pong on some Philips system in the 70s, but the first I remember the title of was either Valhalla or Horace goes Skiing, both on the Speccy.

What was the last game you played? Did you enjoy it?
Over the holidays I played Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time. Loved it. As I did Assassins Creed 2 also.

What’s your favourite game and why?
There have been so many over the years, Damocles from Novagen, StarQuake by Stephen Crow, Metal Gear Solid, Elite, but I think I’m going to have to go for the Abe games from Oddworld, either Oddysee or Exoddus. The depth of character and attention to detail, even for a PS1 game was staggeringly good, and just the right amount of frustration to not piss you off.

What does your work desk look like?

How many hours a week do you get to spend playing games?
I’d say 8-10 at home and at work I have to do some “Research” but not much 2-5 a week.

What area of the industry needs more investment?
I think the whole business model needs a kick up the arse. The recent look at costs between Avatar and Modern Warfare 2 highlighted where Publishers are spending their money and it’s not on development. MW2 had a $50m larger PR budget than Avatar, yet the development cost for Avatar was 4.6 times that of MW2.

This is not to say games need to cost 4 times more than they currently do, just that publishers need to think more clearly where they are spending their money.

What disappoints you about the industry?
I have two pet peeves. The first, from a UK standpoint, the lack of any type government support is shocking, be it tax incentives or indeed promoting our industry, which many believe from games at home POV, started here in the UK in the early 80s.

Some companies have already started looking at relocating to other countries. Secondly the lack of innovation, there does seem to be a lot of sequels this year, 4th generation + etc. Originality seems to be dead if you’re a traditional publisher.

What do you enjoy most about working in the video game industry?
I love the creativity, the sharing and the solidarity that developers have the world over. I’m hard pushed to think of many that aren’t open in those respects. Yes there is competitive rivalry but nothing that is hostile, and we all seem to get on extremely well at the various trade events.

Of all the games you have been involved with in the past, what has been your favourite, and why?

That’s actually quite hard to narrow down, be it the Pinball games from Digital Illusions on the Amiga, or David Braben’ V2000 that we published at Grolier or indeed Gravity Crash on the PS3, It’d have to be Soldier of Fortune on the Dreamcast, we did the port from the PC version back in 2001. The reason it’s my favourite is that the team had a great time making the Dreamcast do so much.

You have to remember this was a PC game that required 64MB or RAM, so to get it running on a console with 16MB of RAM was a lot of work, but we managed to do it in around 8 months at a very competent level.

What websites do you visit most regularly?

VG247, Facebook, gamesindustry.biz, BBC News, NME, Kotaku, Neowin.net, and I seemed to be joined at the hip with twitter recently.

What do you do in your spare time that isn’t related to video games?

Playing the guitar, I’ve been doing it since I was 10, so 30 years now, also concerts, movies.

What’s your favourite book, movie or TV show, and album of all time.

Book - “Roadshow” by Neil Peart.
Movie - tied between “Bladerunner” the original “Rear Window” and “Kellys’ Heroes”.
TV Show – “Fawlty Towers”.
Album – either “Dark Side of the Moon” or Rush’ “Moving Pictures”.

What game would you most like to have worked on?

It might sound a tad odd, but there’s nothing really I can answer to that, well at least not yet.

Which other games developer do you most admire?

I can’t give a single answer I’m afraid, but the short list is, Q-Games, Team 17 and Naughty Dog.