Published: 5 February 2017, 9:17 am
Legendary Game Designers: Geoff Crammond (Part 2)
Second part of the chronicles of the man who shaped racing games as we know them
At the end of Part 1, we left Geoff Crammond with The Sentinel (aka The Sentry), released in 1986. If you want to know what happens next, continue reading. If you have missed the first part, you can read it here.
Picking up where I left off in part one, Geoff Crammond had just finished up with The Sentinel and was ready to move on. After this deviation, Geoff came back to the racing genre. Though he still chose to do something a little different. While playing around in a land-roving vehicle sim he created, he discovered how fun it was to jump off of ‘ramps’. This gave him the idea to create a game that incorporated elevated tracks and clearing jumps into the races. This new game also included ‘boosts’ to help with speed and a damage system to counter keeping the pedal to the metal. He called his new game Stunt Car Racer.
Stunt Car Racer was critically acclaimed and won multiple awards after its release. This game also featured a multiplayer linked play mode, allowing an Atari ST to link to an Amiga. This was quite a popular feature for the game. Another good move for Mr. Crammond. A sequel was in the works, but it never saw the light of day due to funding issues.
It was now time for Sir Geoff to create the series that would make him a legend: Formula 1 Grand Prix (released with the title World Circuit in North America). At this time in his career he was with MicroProse, which was in talks with McLaren, a top racing team at the time, for a license deal. Geoff was more than a little excited about this possible deal as he had followed Formula 1 racing since his work on Revs years earlier. He was so eager to get started that he had created a track and car by the time the company had the first meeting with McLaren. Though the deal ultimately fell through, Geoff was so far into production, they decided to finish the project anyway.
He wanted his game to be realistic, but drive-able. This prompted him to introduce steering help into the game. Though many criticized this new addition, Formula One Grand Prix was still a hit. Geoff would go on to make three more games in the series. The second installment, Grand Prix II, interestingly enough, was supposedly used by Formula 1 racer Jacques Villeneuve to learn the the tracks. One year later Villeneuve won the FIA World Championship title.
Grand Prix 3, though seen by many as the weakest installment, Geoff considers it the one he made the most advancements with. This version introduced the all-new wet weather system, including variable water depths and changes in grip. This system even featured parts of the track being dry while others were wet. This was also the version of the game where Geoff completely overhauled the modelling of the transmission system, the tires, and incorporated an active differential system. This was also the first time that the cars could do ‘doughnuts’ and flip upside down. Geoff stated in an interview, “This kind of enhancement was not trivial.” Grand Prix 3 2000 also saw the addition of the ability to collide with debris.
The last game that Geoff would ever release publicly was Grand Prix 4. Working with a team of about 30 at MicroProse he worked on the physics and AI for the game. He also took raw GPS data and converted it into a physics track mesh that would contain everything inside. From there MicroProse finished the rest of the game with minimal input from Geoff save for providing interfaces and things of that nature.
MicroProse was owned by Infogrames at this time and Infogrames was intent on rushing the release to beat EA’s F1 2000. Due to this, GP4 was released with so many bugs it was almost unplayable. Despite this, the game still had a modest commercial success. Work began on an XBOX conversion of the title, but it was never finished. Just 3 months after the release of GP4, Infogrames shut down MicroProse Studios. This was the end for the Grand Prix series and a sad one at that. Fans still continue to support GP4 with their own unofficial mods.
Since the closing of MicroProse Studios, Geoff has fallen off the grid. He has not publicly released a game since 2002. He states that he still plays around with it as a hobby, programming exclusively in C++. He has even created games that will run on iOS, so he has stayed relatively up-to-date. He has no current plans to release anything to the public. Perhaps he will come out of retirement with some new gaming innovation one day. Until then we will just have to enjoy his previous works and wait. Thank you Geoff!