In Japan Net Yaroze experience also helped with jobs -- the three-man team on Terra Incognita all landed placements at T&E Soft, while Kamiyama later moved on to Square Enix. He feels you can see the connections. "I've always thought that I'd like to create a game like Terra Incognita for work, and not just as a hobby. As the Square Enix director and programmer who led projects like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates and Echoes of Time, I can say that the game systems are very similar to that of Terra Incognita."
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
There was even a Yaroze game which went commercial -- sort of. "Total Soccer wasn't really a Yaroze game which became commercial, but it was a game and engine which led to commercial success as a result of the Yaroze," explains Chapman.
"Originally developed as a PC game, it was the Yaroze version which had the most impact. It was shown at [trade show] ECTS in 1998, and through that I met Dave Hawkins, who encouraged me to look into creating a Game Boy Color version. This was released by Ubisoft in 1999 and really changed my career."
Chapman and Hawkins later founded Exient, where things really took off: "The code which built Total Soccer Yaroze evolved into the basis of multiple FIFA games on the GBA and NDS for EA, and also our self-published games, including Dream League Soccer, released in December 2011. What started life as a fairly crude 2D sprite driven game is now a full 3D game with motion captured animation, and a whole host of other tech."
Today he's head of First Touch Games, and continues to develop his soccer engine.
In 2009, Sony's Net Yaroze servers closed, roughly 12 years after the project started. Given how profoundly it affected the lives of everyone involved, each was keen to share their memories and where they see the future of both education and home-made games.
Mitsuru Kamiyama remembers the hard work he and a friend put into Terra Incognita: "When I look back at the game now, it's a bit embarrassing, as it's quite different from modern games. However, looking back, my fondest memory was working so hard with a friend, who helped with the illustration and polygon creation, that we had to carve out time to sleep -- but nevertheless, it was an enjoyable experience."
James Rutherford remembers feeling like a king. "Competitions! SCEE ran a game dev competition and brought about 10 of us down to their London office as a prize. Absolutely brilliant of them, and I felt royally treated. They also hooked up with Scottish Games Alliance for another competition with an awards bash in Stirling Castle."
Robert Swan also recalls the fame and fortune which were (almost) his. "Programming my entry Adventure Game in three weeks for the GDUK competition, getting to the finals in a cool ceremony in Scotland, and then losing to the vastly more polished Blitter Boy by Chris Chadwick. He won £6,000. I was only a bit bitter!"
Like many we spoke to, Nick Ferguson agrees that XNA is a successor: "Most people who stuck with it later went on to have success in the industry. I look back on the Yaroze era with a lot of fondness and probably nostalgia. I like to think that if I was 21 these days, I would be doing the same thing with XNA."
Rob Miles even describes how today students at Hull University are submitting XBLIG titles as part of their coursework, adding: "Net Yaroze was definitely a first step to bringing back the 'bedroom coder'. It was an interesting halfway house for those who wanted to make games for a mainstream device without spending loads of cash. XNA and XBLIG are definitely successors to Yaroze, as are the app stores for mobile devices."
Dr. Henry Fortuna of Abertay thinks back to the students he taught. "Yaroze was an inspiring platform. Many students spent long hours in the laboratory developing code. There were a few occasions, particularly close to coursework deadlines, where the cleaners came to the laboratory at around 6 a.m. to find students sleeping on the floor after a busy night coding!" T
Ian Marshall, also of Abertay, also looks back fondly. "The era was exciting; we were breaking new ground in a teaching and research discipline that now everyone has taken up. The industry support was great -- we could not have done it without them."
Today the Net Yaroze servers are gone and the communities disbanded, the University equipment sold off or binned, while the games exist only on scattered demos or in people's memories. Several compilation demos appeared on OPSM, featuring a selection of the best games (notably Euro Demo 42, 77 and 108), though these can fetch high prices on auction. With other projects replacing Net Yaroze, its enduring legacy is now its games. Of the thousands of projects started on Net Yaroze, over 100 have found their way into the wild. Some have even been ported to Windows, XBLIG, and iOS.
In the effort of preservation someone has taken the files and hacked them into a single, mostly functional disc ISO, available online if you look. This is a good place to start for those curious, though as with XBLIG there are plenty of duds and even incomplete projects.
Anything mentioned on these pages is worth looking into; in addition titles such as Haunted Maze, which makes sublime use of the PlayStation analogue joystick; Samsaric Asymptote, with its distinct retro neon graphics; Hover Car Racing, which is different to Hover Racing and more like Micro Machines; or Decaying Orbit, which is an inventive evolution on the idea of planetary landings.