- Education: Art at Farnmouth College, UK
- Joined Sony/Millennium: 1993
- Born: Hinkley, Leicestershire, UK
- Previous Jobs: Digger (Amiga Game), Creatures, Silverload
What did you do before working here?
I was a book illustrator, I had just finished college in Farnmouth and I was just trying to make a living but couldn't, because there are so many illustrators out there. So I tried computers. At Farnmouth we did technical drawing and life science - taking animals apart, drawing the insides, looking at butterflies.
Ripping their insides out? Are you the one that takes the team's cuddly toy camel apart? I heard that someone cut the tail off at a Christmas party.
That's right. They dismembered Calvin the Camel. People have done all sorts to him. He survived it though. I've taken him on holiday. He had a good time.
Where did you take him?
I've taken him to Madeira and Greece. He's been to South Africa. Camels are meant to travel.
Not meant to sit there and have it's tail pulled off?
Yeah. It's got big floppy feet. They're there for a reason.
What's this story about the monkey?
That was the programmers. I've got nothing to do with that. I called it Chunky the Monkey and it just stuck.
How did you get to work here?
I just turned up here. I arrived with my portfolio - I had no computer experience whatsoever, and I came here entirely on the strength of my portfolio. And the management here said, "Right, you've got two weeks to learn D Paint". I had never touched a computer before. We had Apple Macs in college. But we hated them.
You thought that using computers wasn't doing 'proper' drawing?
Yeah. But I realised that computers were the way forward. They were taking over the easiest jobs. That's why we didn't like them. But now we know why - it's a production thing and it works incredibly fast. It's cheaper. So I had to join in.
So you had to put the paint down?
Yeah, I haven't put paint to canvas in two to three years.
So you haven't got this creative urge to. . .
All the creative juices get taken out during the day.
Do you rush around being a dramatic artist or are you down to earth?
I'm pretty down to earth. If I get uptight I take it out during kickboxing.
Have you always drawn?
Yes, almost since the age of six. I did not fit any standard. The teachers said "oh, Jason, his mind wanders in the classroom." But, I am an artist, I am different. I did not think I was going to work on games or these kind of animations. But I fell in love with the animation. It allows me to really see my images move while before they remained static. They become something else, it gives them life. I wanted to illustrate children's books, but now I just want to stay where I am. I am much happier as well.
Has MediEvil got a lot of FMV?
It's got about fifteen minutes of it. And there are a couple of scenes that I would have liked to put in but as a last minute decision we decided not to because they didn't quite link in with the story. So we took them out. But it doesn't matter as the story is told better. The FMV is throughout the whole game. There's is a two-and-a-half minute intro that tells you what happens at the beginning. And within the next four to five levels there are about fifteen seconds of animation each. Then the story builds and the timeline of the FMV gets longer and longer and longer telling you more and more of the storyline and getting more exciting.
So there's a bit at the end, as well?
Yes, there's an outro as a reward that goes on for about two minutes. You don't get any FMV's if Dan dies. If he completes the game, there is the reward outro.
Which is your favourite bit of the game?
I like the ghost ship. I have always liked galleons and ships and stuff like that.
Coming from Leicestershire in the centre of the UK!
Yeah. Something you don't get to see very often where I come from. That's my favourite one. The galleon. The ghost ship. This bit happens almost at the end. It's a ship in the clouds and you also get to play it in the game as well.
Did you ever feel constrained working in a creative team?
It's good to get other people's opinions. I don't mind that at all. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but at the end of the day, we are all moving towards the same goal. If you only have your opinion it just doesn't work. There are probably a whole lot of people who disagree.
So do you play games as an artist or a gamer?
Both really. I kinda like Crash Bandicoot 2. I like a lot of racing games, I like a fast game. I like the look of Command and Conquer, but my mind span just can't hack a computer game that lasts longer than fifteen minutes. It has to end in fifteen minutes.
Do you find that because you are a creative person, you can't just get on and enjoy playing them because you are always looking at them with a creative eye?
Precisely, I just look for the inspiration from films, books, comics. I do like to look at a wide variety of visual material.
What tools do you use for graphics?
Alias and Matador. I've got about three years knowledge of Alias. I would like to try some more software packages out, but Alias seems to be the main thing to use for development suites and stuff like that.
Have you not used Softimage?
I would love to have a go, because it has a better rendering engine. I am pretty impressed by the other tools on Softimage like the ray tracing. This means that you can have a suitable amount of reflections and refractions. And you can also have motion blur. Whereas in Alas, you can't get motion blur from ray tracer. You have to go into a ray caster, which is a cheaper rendering system.
What else do you do besides taking camels on holiday?
I do Thai boxing and circuit training. The circuit training I've only done over the past two years. When I first started, I didn't do any exercise and I thought "my body's losing it". So I decided to do some exercising. It clears my mind a little bit. And then I can come back and work better.
So you are Mr Healthy?
No. I still eat dodgy food, drink coffee but I don't smoke or drink too much. I only drink on special occasions. Every now and then. I drink shorts mostly. Brandy. No ice. Straight.
What kind of Brandy? Metaxa?
I drank a lot in Greece. It's like a medicine. I don't care about the brand, as long as it's pure Brandy. My father brought me cheap Spanish Brandy and I didn't like it.
MediEvil Boards Q&A
October 10, 2013
I had the please to speak with Jason Riley. For those who don't know, he was part of the core development team on MediEvil 1 and 2. He was responsible for the creation of the FMV's for both those games, he designed three levels for MediEvil 1, and also created the marketing art for all three games. I emailed him to ask about his work on MediEvil and what he came to enjoy from the series. I thought to share it, so here's the full response:
I'm always pleased to talk about MediEvil, because to me it was a happy time and it certainly shows with overall output of the game. At the time (1995-1997) there was twelve to sixteen internal staff working on that game. and took two - three years to develop. You have to bear in mind - the first year only had one to three people prototyping the story, design and planning. On the whole for the size of the team, the game was rich with events.
The game was fun, because all twelve core members had a say in what they would like as a game. We made a lot of suggestions, but clearly this was Chris Sorrell's and Jason Wilsons game and they would have the final say in which we respected that fact. I enjoyed it because I had the opportunity to do the Cinematics, in which I had learned so much about 3D animation. I had only one years CG experience before MediEvil.
I often look back at the sequences, Wishing to render them out at a better resolution / framerate. I was restricted to the PlayStation One 's movie playblast. I remember the tools for foot locking on Dan's floppy feet were a nightmare, that is why you will see them slide from time to time.
The game itself had a certain innocence about it - nothing was taken seriously. So whatever quirks, whatever inaccuracies happened, seemed to be forgiven, because it was a good entertaining story. You could have a game or a film with amazing CG and effects, but if the story is poor, then it will flop! What a waste of time, effort and resources!
MediEvil 2 - Yeah I enjoyed it - but not as much! I felt a bit rushed. We had to get it done in one and a half years. We managed it. Even so we didn't do another MediEvil until five years later, at that time I was working on two projects - 24 (Based on the Series) and of course MediEvil Resurrection, so therefore I didn't have the time to do the FMV. I did however do some good marketing / cutscene stuff, which I really enjoyed, probably because I had some good discussions about how they will look. It seems I'm happiest when I work on a project and I get to express ideas. I'm at an all time low when the job is - no discussions just do! Although that is rare, so don't let that put you off. There are ups and downs in every workplace.
It seems that the bigger the title - the less say production staff will have, because Senior Staff will have little time to listen to a thousand people (The amount of people, who worked on GTA 5). If you are in a small indie studio, the discussions are more circulatory. Games are getting bigger quantities of staff, the sad part is - sooooo many companies go down, because risk of budget seems to double every generation. Let's put it into perspective. A PlayStation one game would cost one to several Million to make. Now - cost's 137 Million to make for GTA 5, not forgetting marketing! But look at the return, over a billion and climbing!
I've got to say this Winston. Games are hard and expensive to develop. If they were easy everyone would be doing it. I would like to counter anyone that say's "Is that all you do all day - Play games" cliche. The reward comes when you have produced something that is viewed and appreciated by millions. I'd hate to think how much games will cost to develop in another ten Years! Alternatively you could produce the most amazing original game ever made. Look how much Tetris made. You could go down two routes
A - Join the race of an overly saturated market of AAA development and be the best at it - maybe you'll make money from the final product.
B - Think of the most interesting indie game that has never been thought of before and make loads of money (Farmville). Be the First - be the best!
Good Luck with your venture!