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






Getting the perspective right in this scene was a major headache and it had to have major revisions. Fire escape and view of the city, sketch by Dave Gibbons19

As could be expected after Temptress, some referrals were made in the design. For instance, Union City gets its Turvale Tower, and Ultar's Eatery, one of the locations (CP codes), is the name of a character in Temptress.17 The name of a song in Steel Sky (see below) is mentioned in a line in a book that Diermot finds in the Monk's lodge ("You search, but find nothing").

Judge Chutney uses the same catch-phase "Here's your STARTER for TEN..." as in the game show University Challenge, a British quiz show.18 Other examples are Joey shouting "EXTERMINATE!," which is Dalek's catch phrase in Doctor Who,20 and a direct reference to Asimov's laws of robotics, when Joey wants to use his welder on people (Joey: "That's FICTI0N, Foster"). It also worked the other way around. The game ends with the phrase "BE VIGILANT," which became a catch-phrase for fans and Revolution.21


Referral to the fire escape scene by Steve Ince in Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso based on Dave Gibbons's sketch

Gibbons joined just before Temptress was released (Temptress was released in June 1992). He was sent a rudimentary outline of what could happen in Steel Sky, and he wrote a longer story with lots of new characters and scenarios, and then Revolution added further to it.22
Gibbons drew the backgrounds in pencil.23 He started with roughs, which were sent to Revolution to see if they were technically feasible, and once agreed, he would make the final sketch (see for example the helicopter sketches below).24


According to Gibbons, about 75% of the backgrounds and characters were used in the game.25 The pencil sketches were then colored, mainly by Les Pace.26 The backgrounds were scanned on a Mac (24 bits images, 1000 x 1000 pixels) and then transformed to 320x200 with 256 colors for the PC version.27


According to Adam Tween (one of Revolution's in-house artists), the artwork game in by fax since October 1993, and it took a day to paint each one. They had to explain to Les Pace (who had never worked with computers and hadn't "even" an Amiga) that they didn't want to have the backgrounds to have too much detail, because they didn't scan in as well, and leaving some things a bit vague fitted the overall style of the game in a better way. Because of Revolution's high standards, often revisions were made (see the example below in the Amiga section), and Tween remembers that two guys from Westwood came over and looked at a couple of screens which they said where brilliant, and they couldn't believe it when they said they were in the process of changing them.28

Crashed helicopter (intro)

The backgrounds were designed in view of the sprites, as it was important that the sprites would appear clear on the screen and wouldn't mix with the backgrounds. Gibbons would have liked to design a character as in Prince of Persia or Flashback, but Revolution wanted something more detailed, so the result became compromise.29


This sketch was drawn and painted, ready to be digitized, when it was discovered that the back of the helicopter was at a different angle than the intro suggested

He used Dpaint to create the sprites,30 an EA program that was used for instance to create the backgrounds in Indiana Jones: The Fate of Atlantis. He thought it wasn't fair just to produce finished artwork of everything, and found it interesting and educational to work with Dpaint.




Example of a rough from
Indiana Jones: The Fate of Atlantis in Dpaint

Of course Dpaint was comparatively speaking a stone-age way of working. The sprites were quite rudimentary because they were intended for a certain type of machine. But it was a challenge for him, trying to get a character's personality and expression in a face that was maybe seven pixels wide and nine pixels high in an very limited palette.31



(c) All artwork copyright Revolution Software
(c) Text game-nostalgia.com