Before I begin, I need to apologise. I’ve been sitting on this one for quite sometime and should have really kicked this out a little sooner. So a year later, here it finally is!
Keeping to my tradition of pursuing the lesser known spectrum of games and documenting their history, a while ago I came across a particular game called Hybrid, a first-person shooter developed for the Sony PlayStation by MotiveTime Ltd.
If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s very likely due to it’s limited publicity and release, having only seen a release in both Japan and the United Kingdom.
After getting in touch with Jason McFee, the developer responsible for the artwork featured in the game, I was surprised to hear about the troubled development of the game. He provided his in-depth account of the game’s development that I’ve provided below.
“When I first started for MotiveTime I was converting game textures to 16 colour for Test Drive: Off Road. Even got to work on a couple of levels.
They had already finished Virtuoso, and I guess the programmers had started on converting their engine to work on the PlayStation. They got a small team on it to throw some stuff together and start building from there. Nothing was really consistent to start with.“
If you’re not familiar with Virtuoso, it was a video game developed by MotiveTime Ltd. and released in 1995 for the 3DO. An interesting piece of information Jason shared was that the main character in Virtuoso was in fact one of the artists at MotiveTime Ltd., Adam Batham.
The best screenshot I could find showing the main character, courtesy of Defunct Games.
Jason goes on to explain some of the early iterative work done on Hybrid before the development team was unfortunately downsized.
“I was working on easy robots while some of the more experienced artists were creating the npc’s, so we ended up with a mish-mash of warrior woman and machine gun guys. No style had been established from what I can remember but the tests were looking promising. Then the everyone got pulled off the project to work on yet another racing game. Which pretty much left me and Peter Wake to carry on.
If you make it to the end credits, you can see he mentions ‘brought to you by a finite number of monkeys’.. ending with ‘alas no more monkeys’ .“
“The codename for the game was Psalm 69. Peter developed the story, game design, I designed the characters, weapons and artwork.
We tried to pull together everything we had to make it more cohesive. The basic premise was an ancient artifact was being kept by evil corporation Shinco. Four different factions would send someone to retrieve it. After each level was meant to be an image to show the story progression. Finding and rescuing the Shinco scientist being experimented on. Eventually an image to show what each team was using the artifact for. And we worked on trying to make the most out of the PlayStation. Pete did an amazing job.
We were huge fans of Doom II. I was addicted to that game, and then Quake came along. I think I remember PC Mag giving away a disk with 1000 levels. I got through 950. You can see the influence of these with all the secret walls and elevators we threw in. We also loved manga and anime, and that directed us a little.
I also remember building an ED209 rip off in 3D, perfecting the best animated walk ready to go in game, and then Windows had a blue screen of death and I lost it all. We were so short of time that one never made it back in.
The PlayStation was limited though, we couldn’t cross over any section of the map so we tried to build them so they felt like they did. Lots of up and down, going back and forth with window sections so you could see what direction to head for.
If you look at the maps you can see that we really tried to use as much of the space we were allowed for each level. The maps were huge but a bitch to have to texture as the RAM was so bloody small. Using the sprites meant having more on screen but we also had 3D models in the game. Really limited amount of polys with only a few key frames of animation. Which is why we also have the flying drones that dont need any frames of animation.
The selling point for PlayStation was it’s colouring. You could cheat a lot and have the same texture but gouraud shading it to make it look different. And some of the Robot models we would try to get away with some flat shading with no textures. We barely had much room for textures for each level. The texture pages were only 128x128 but I did get to have each set have 24 colours. And a few alpha channel textures for windows and the skylights.
The maps were so big I had to keep the textures as simple so I could keep using them, allowing me to have a few pages left to have at least one fancy room with detail so you knew you were near the important sections. Also, PlayStation had this horrible problem were it would pull the texture from the corners of the poly from one direction. you can see in the playthroughs that the texture pops into place slightly. Even on the damn models! Used to annoy the hell out of me. Was forced to try and keep any detail to the edge of textures so it wasn’t as noticeable. Although I remember one room where I treated myself to some giant circles as you get near the end room.
As a texture artist I really hate the PlayStation.
My next job I worked at I got to work on Xbox. We had so much more freedom for the textures, then we we give them to the coders who would crush them all up to fit on the PlayStation version. Meh. I left Birmingham before the game was finished, and left poor old Pete to finish it by himself. And even he kept getting made to help code the other game the studio was working on.“
A huge thanks goes out to Jason!
I was surprised to see that the game actually shipped with a collection of conceptual art and renders, which can be found by inserting the disc into your PC and looking in the ‘GOODIES’ folder.
I’ve converted a number of images to slightly more modern formats and provided them all below for anyone interested.
Warning, at least one of these is slightly NSFW.
Thanks for reading!