The Making of Beneath a Steel Sky
The making of Beneath a Steel Sky

Part of the Team in Hull ca March 1992

Paul Humphreys (Character Animation), who had studied at Bradford and Ilkley Community College (B.A. General Art and Design), joined Revolution in April 1992. James Long (Programmer), who had just gained a degree at the University of Hull (BSc in Computer Science), joined the company in December 1992. He became the third programmer, supporting Tony Warriner and David Sykes. Jeremy Sallis, who had studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bristol (1982), joined Revolution in May 1993.

Background painting by Steve Ince based on Dave Gibbons's sketch

Steve Ince (Graphics/Animations) came aboard a few months after Long, in February 1993. He had discovered that they were looking for an artist, and he managed to get an interview. After a meeting with Cecil and Gibbons he got the job. He started to work on Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, but because of the workload he moved over to Steel Sky. Steel Sky was already quite some time in development, but he contributed to it with a number of sprite animations and he painted some backgrounds based on Gibbons's sketches.

Like Temptress (working title Vengeance), the game had originally another title. It was called Underworld, a title that was proposed by Gibbons, but it had to be changed because of the release of Ultima Underworld.

With the success of Termptress, the bigger staff, and technical improvements, the "production values" became much higher, resulting in a game that was six times larger than Temptress. It comes on more disks, has a bigger game world, numerous animations, and unlike the limited score in Temptress, it has a rich score, and it includes voices in the CD-Rom version.

Opening screen

Steel Sky was inspired by Blade Runner and the first Mad Max film. Blade Runner (1982) had blown them away, and the Director's cut (1992) was released just when they were going to produce their second title. Cecil was a big fan of the Mad Max movie, with its open wilderness where anything could happen, and it inspired the location where the game takes place. Another inspiration was the political situation in the UK at that moment, with the minor's strike and the severe recession. The ideas came together in a story about hope within a setting of a dystopian, largely oppressive future.

They started with the story, and fixed the beginning and end of the plot, to ensure that the story would drive the game forwards and that the puzzles would work within its context. A problem was at first how to tie everything together and to give a motivation why the main character was kidnapped. They were stumped, held meetings, lay awake and so on, until someone said "It's his dad", and everything fall into place.

The game was created in sections, which allowed the team to ensure that each part was perfected before moving on.

Sample from script

Dave Cummins (Script/Music) wrote the dialogue for the game. The tone of Revolution's early games was born from a tension between Cummins and Cecil. Cummins wanted to be more flippant with dialogue, while Cecil wanted to be more serious. That, according to Cecil, had been their vision since Temptress, to find the middle ground between Sierra's ridiculously earnest stories and the slapstick comedy of the LucasArts titles, but their personalities and approaches emphasized the tension.

"It's CRAP son"

So the dark, grim word of Steel Sky was combined with the human spirit shining through here and there. The humor, according to Warriner, wasn't added only to prevent that the game fall flat on its face, as is often the case with cases that take themselves to seriously. It was also to amuse themselves.
The Hobbins's - a character in the game - line "It's CRAP, son" probably added a week on the schedule as people fell around laughing.

(c) All artwork copyright Revolution Software
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