Presto Studios company history
Presto Studios - Company history

* Part one:   The Company

* Part two:   The Making of The Journeyman Project II: Buried in Time

* Part three: Some Arthur quotes

* Part four:   Stills (with different perspective or not included)

* Part five:   GN's adaptions of the directional views

Presto Studios, a game company located in San Diego (CA), was established in 1991 by Michel Kripalani and his friends.

Kripalani, a recent visual arts graduate of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), was working in multimedia production at a company he and a college had launched a year before. It brought him into contact with various people, some of which would play key roles in the development of the company he would establish and the games hat it would produce. Among them were art director Jack Davis, musician Geno Andrews and programmer Greg Uhler.

In the fall of 1990, the first of the CD-ROM adventure games, Spaceship Warlock, was released by a small "garage band" production company called Reactor. One of the "first kids on his block with a CD-ROM drive", Kripalani, was one of Reactor's first customers.

He was intrigued by the game and showed it to his high school buddy, Dave Flanagan. Flanagan and he, along with friends Farshid Almassizadeh and José Albañil, had long been interested in gaming and science fiction. To them, Warlock represented what could be achieved with the new medium of CD-ROM. But they were convinced they could take the medium one step further.

Kripalani (l) and Flanagan early 90's
Kriplani and Flanagan began developing a plot for a massive time travel adventure game in mid-1991, joined by Albañil and Almassizadeh. Within a week or two, they had built a fully-articulated robot in Swivel Pro. It would never appear in the final version of TJP though.

Greg Uhler, whom Kripalani had previously hired as a programming intern at his multimedia production company, was the next addition to the team. With Greg on-board, they began working on a demo to see if their idea would capture the public's interest. The adventure game they started to develop would become known as the first photorealistic adventure: "The Journeyman Project" (TJP).

The house at Mira Mesi. The garage was the shipping department.
(cw) Eric Hook, Dave Flanagan, Greg Uhler, unknown, Farshid Almassizadeh, Michel Kripalani, Gene Andrews, José Albañil

Soon they were living and working out of a house that they rented in Mira Mesa, while working full-time jobs by day. The makeshift "home office" boasted computers in each room with home strung network wiring running down every wall.

The initial concept went through many iterations before it became The Journeyman Project. Caldoria was fleshed out first. Then came the Pegasus device, which was loosely inspired by Princeton's Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor. At one point there were as many as 8 proposed worlds (!).

MacWorld 1992 preview
They worked fast, for already in 1992 a demo was presented at MacWorld 92, which became a big hit.

After the demo they all quit their jobs and survived as long as they could on their savings. When those ran out, they approached friends and family. Fortunately, many of them believed enough in them to invest in their future.

Davis (l) and Andrews early 90's
They hadn't gotten too far into production before they realized that they needed help in certain areas. Kripalani partly solved the problem by calling on two friends whom he had worked with on a project at his multimedia production company: art director Jack Davis and his musician friend Geno Andrews. Despite the 'whimpy' compensation plan ("I'll gladly pay you later for work today"), they were happy to get involved. Andrews, who had been living in Pacific Palisades, even moved into the house in Mira Mesa - a fate he considered worse than death.

With Davis and Andrews on-board, the team founded Presto Studios. The very first title the newly fouded company would release was "Hi-Rez Audio Volume 1.0" (1992 Macintosch), which featured musical performances by Andrews.
Saunders (l) and Hook early 90's

To fill the immediate need for a designer, the group contacted Phil Saunders, a friend of a friend who had recently moved down from Toronto to work for Nissan Design, Inc. in La Jolla. It was instantly obvious that Saunders was a perfect match for the group: he was a first-rate designer and he was dying to get involved in the project (although he later admitted that this was mostly because he saw how desperately they needed help).

Finally, the need for aid in the areas of publishing, distribution, and accounting was solved by the addition of Eric Hook. He was a high-school friend of Greg's who had just graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in economics. He also helped-out with 3D rendering.

(cw from lower left) Jack Davis, Geno Andrews, José Albañil, Michel Kripalani, Eric Hook, Greg Uhler, Dave Flanagan, Farshid Almassizadeh
Inset: Phil Saunders

By then the team had grown into nine members:

Michel Kripalani - Project coordinator, lead 3D artist, programmer
Greg Uhler - Lead programmer, 2D artist
Farshid Almassizadeh - Lead animator, programmer
Phil Saunders - Conceptual design
Dave Flanagan - Writer, programmer
José Albañil - Lead 3D modeler
Eric Hook - Public relations, 3D artist
Geno Andrews - Audio Sculptor, 2D artist
Jack Davis - Art director, lead artist

(c) All artwork copyright Presto Studios
(c) Text 2020