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Bookai Racer

D3 Design, Leeds, UK

July 1995-January 1996

Personnel: 
Daniel James, Designer
Danny Gallagher, Programmer, Game
Glynn Clements, Programmer, Engines, Alpha-geek
Andy Robson, Programmer, Tools and Surfaces
Ben Devereaux, Artist
Howard, Project Manager
Darren Melbourne, Senior Producer, Concept

'Man months' in the can: At least 30 on Bookai, over 60 on D3. 

Daniel James writes:

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Bookai Racer was to be the first published product of D3, a company 
that had been struggling to become born for at least a year or two. 

Danny and Glynn had developed in 1993-4 an x86 assembler 3D engine 
that featured gouraud shading, specular highlights and texturing, 
achieving some decent framerates on a 486. A C version debuted in 
summer 1994, featuring bezier patches, cylinders and so on. An excess 
of greeness on our part, strange circumstances in the industry 
(the move to 3D was afoot, but not without many faltering footsteps) 
and errors of judgement (such as pitching to Sony rather than EA) 
caused us to stumble.

We finally got our break in summer 1995 when Darren Melbourne, who was 
heading a company called Phoenix Interactive Entertainment over in 
Harrogate, met up with Danny and saw an opportuity. Darren set us up 
with for a contract with Viktokai, the nascent UK games development and 
publishing arm of a subsidary of Tokai, the Japanese national Gas 
monopoly.

Bookai Racer was to be a 3D racing game in which the player rode - 
ta da - one of six varieties of Dragons. Racing took place on the 
island of Bookai, across its mountains, forests and plains. The 
courses were marked by balloons, towers and so on; so players could 
vary their route (over the mountain, or round it? Depends on your 
Dragon!) Certain RPG elements were added to spice things up, such 
as Dragon abilities (breath fire!) and player weapons (throw bombs!).

Bookai had a very ambitious design; visually we were going to use 
Glynn's bezier patch code to simplify the polygon detail of the 
landscape on the fly. Likewise the dragon's were to use patches 
for their bodies and wings. Finally and most importantly to me, 
the game was designed client-server from the ground up, a la Quake, 
with intended support for racing leagues etc online. (Latency: 
Bookai was intended to be a quite calm game in most races, i.e. 
not too twitch. We expected to get some warping, too)

Viktokai funded us via Phoenix. I wrote the big fat design doc 
that was promptly 'weighed' by the publisher. We had a small 
budget, but we got paid, which was pretty shocking. We worked out 
of a great old office building in Headingly, which unfortunately 
got cleaned out twice by the local baseball-bat & crowbar wielding
RAM-raiders. That set us back, but we had some decent demos and a 
fairly sound technology base. There is no question that we had a 
tremendously talented team, most of whom are still working in the 
industry. 

Bookai Racer was ahead of its time, and I don't honestly know if 
the game would have worked as designed - 3D acceleration consistently 
failed to live up to its promise during that time - but I do think 
we would have delivered a decent game.

Victokai went through some management shuffles. The old producer 
had been to see us once (sound familiar, external developers?) and 
the new one couldn't understand the milestones his predecessor had 
never read. He also didn't understand the distinction between a 
Doom-style Y-axis engine and Bookai's full 3D. Soon their parent 
company got upset, not least around some allegations of corruption
in the UK office, and lo! the cheques stopped arriving. We continued 
working until March, when it was clear that Victokai were jokers and 
Bookai Racer was in the can.


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