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Playing Catch-Up: Gremlin/Eurocom's Chris Shrigley

Playing Catch-Up: Gremlin/Eurocom's Chris Shrigley

November 7, 2005 | By Frank Cifaldi

November 7, 2005 | By Frank Cifaldi
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Today’s Playing Catch-Up, a weekly column that dares to speak to notable video game industry figures about their celebrated pasts and promising futures, speaks to Bounder programmer, Eurocom co-founder, and Gremlin Graphics veteran Chris Shrigley.

Shrigley's career can be traced back to his college days, writing the text adventures Pub Quest and Mad House for the Commodore 64. In 1984, while lazily daydreaming at a local park, Shrigley and a group of friends came up with the idea of a top-down platformer starring a tennis ball as the lead character. A prototype of the game, which eventually became known as Bounder, was enough to secure Shrigley a job at Sheffield-based Gremlin Graphics in 1986. There, he contributed programming duties to a handful of games, including Future Knight, Skate Crazy, and Bounder's sequel, Re-Bounder. After freelancing for Codemasters and programming Action Fighter for an early incarnation of Tomb Raider developer Core Design, Shrigley helped found Eurocom Entertainment (now noted for licensed titles such as The World Is Not Enough and Batman Begins), where he designed and programmed two games for the Nintendo Entertainment System: Magician and James Bond Jr. (or John Smith: Special Agent, as it was known before the licensing deal).

"Around the time I was finishing up James Bond Jr. on the NES, Eurocom went through a bit of a cash crunch, and we were put onto a 3 day work week," Shrigley told us, via email. "This was a real problem for me, as I'd just bought a house and had a kid. Money was tight, and I began entertaining the idea of a move." Shrigley was set on reuniting with a good friend of his, Andy Green, at California-based Cinemaware. "Unfortunately, Cinemaware suddenly went bust. But Bob Jacob, the President of the company, quickly set up a new company called Acme Interactive." Shrigley aced his interview, packed his bags, and moved his family to America in 1991. "You can't imagine what an adventure that was," he said.

Shrigley's most notable contribution to Acme was Batman Returns for the Sega CD, praised for pushing the system's scaling ability to its absolute limits during the game's driving segments. In 1994, Acme was purchased by comic book publisher Malibu who, at the time, planned an incredibly ambitious line of videogames based on their superhero properties, under the guise of Malibu Interactive. Gamasutra readers may remember mention of Malibu in a previous Playing Catch-Up feature with composer Tim Follin. "Malibu sort of bought Acme, but I think Acme and Bob [Jacob] definitely got the better end of the deal," he said. "I remember Bob courting Malibu's owner Scott Rosenberg, who was I think an old friend of Bob's. Bob was very into comics and really wanted to own a part of a comic book publisher, and seemed very pleased at the merging." Shrigley left Malibu 1994 to take advantage of an opportunity at Disney Interactive, acting as both Project Leader and Programmer for the oft-praised Gargoyles for the Sega Genesis. After freelance software engineering roles on Electronic Arts' NHL '98 for the Genesis and Interplay's VR Football '99 for the PlayStation, Shrigley finally settled into his current home at Mass Media Inc.

"I've been there for 6 years or so, and it's mostly okay," he said. "The company is stable, or as stable as a games company can be, and the working environment and people are top notch. Oh yes, and my commute to work is 15 minutes, which is always a plus!" As a Senior Computer Programmer, Shrigley has contributed to a good deal of Mass Media's output over the past seven years, including the Windows-based Star Trek: Deep Space 9 Dominion Wars, Pac-Man Fever for the Gamecube and PlayStation 2, a handful of Game Boy Advance ports, including The Lost Vikings, Rock 'n Roll Racing and Blackthorne and, most recently, the Full Spectrum Warrior series on PlayStation 2. "Currently I'm working on the PS2 version of Full Spectrum Warrior 2: Ten Hammers. It's a port from Xbox, and is proving to be an extremely challenging project. Squeezing a final generation Xbox game into a paltry PS2 is a feat that Jesus Christ would probably marvel at. Or at least David Blaine, maybe." Shrigley has also kept his creativity honed by working on a number of side-projects outside of the studio. "I wrote a little independent game last year with and artist friend, and I'm working on a set of indie game publishing and development websites. Actually, I seem to be doing a lot of web stuff recently. I'm also getting ready to launch a big Los Angeles events website. Not very "game-y", but I like to go where my interests take me, and keep my skillset broad!"

[Frank Cifaldi is a Las Vegas-based freelance author whose credits include work for Nintendo Official Magazine UK, Wired, and his own Lost Levels website.]

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