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Probably more than you wanted to know about...
Conceived in Canada, born in Swansea. I ended up reading English at Oxford because I'd always (thus far) been good at it without trying too hard, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after my youthful ambitions to be a fighter pilot, submarine captain or astronaut were crushed by an eyesight problem (lazy left eye). This was not a recipe for academic success.
In my final year at Oxford I learned programming (long story omitted), turned out to be good at it, and realised that this offered a more promising field of employment than my degree subject - the microprocessor revolution was just getting off the ground then (1978/9), and anyone who could demonstrate talent could get a programming job (rant omitted).
After working for a while as a real-time assembler programmer in Hampshire, friends in Swansea roped me in to the first course run by a newly-established Parachute Club there. I was hooked, and soon moved jobs to be closer to the drop zone. My new employers went bust not long after I joined, and I spent the next few years lurking on the drop zone and supporting myself by flying (that is, putting up and looking after) tethered advertising balloons. I eventually qualified as a PI (Potential (Parachute) Instructor), and worked at that full-time for a while, also taking a basic qualification in aviation firefighting (CAA Airport Fireman Class 1 - wish I'd kept the certificate), and getting informal flying lessons from one of our jump-pilots.
Some of the people who'd got me the balloon-flying work were setting up their own outside promotions company in London, and offered me a full-time job. Over the next few years I got to go to many interesting places (any number of rock stars' dressing-rooms, the roof space of the Albert Hall, etc.) and meet many interesting people, but luckily I didn't have to kill them. Though a small company, we were involved in some very high-profile work. (For any UK readers who remember the BP privatisation (circa 1988/9), I was responsible for the seven-segment number display idea for the share price reveal (which let us set up the correct number at short notice). The abseiling Royal Marines were a suggestion I'd made as a joke one night in the pub after work - I should have kept my mouth shut.)
I'd largely ignored the 8-bit home computer generation - the intelligent terminals I worked with in my first two jobs were 16/32-bit machines superior to the early IBM PCs (anti-8086 rant omitted), so my first serious contact with computer games (as opposed to arcade video games) came when I persuaded my employers to buy an Atari ST to handle the company accounts, put together presentations etc. I bought Spectrum Holobyte's Falcon, and became an instant addict.
I decided that I wanted to get back into programming, in the games industry this time, taught myself the basics of 3D programming, wrote a demo, and eventually landed a job with Digital Integration, who were one of the UK's top flight-sim specialists. Though I was originally hired as a 68000 assembler programmer, I ended up doing almost every job there was except 2D art - and management (rant omitted), spending most of my time on tools programming, object modelling, level and mission design - and becoming resident military expert.
Though I'd never done any form of military service, I'd always had a sneaking interest in the subject, and in the parachuting world I'd come into close contact with many military and ex-military people, some with exotic and distinguished histories. This gave me some direct insight into the military mind - or at any rate the NCO's mind, a hugely important component of any military organisation (gratifying to any Halo fan, and perfectly true). On background research trips I got to tour several military airfields, talk to aircrew, fly a real Tornado simulator, and walk through an AWACS aircraft.
The project in which I take the most pride was Tornado, on which I also functioned as game designer (uncredited), wrote most of the manual (and some of the advertising straplines) and designed and prototyped the fighter pilot AI and weapon ballistics/aiming.
Digital Integration ran into financial trouble in the late 90's, and its founders sold it to a then-madly-expanding French company, Titus Interactive (libellous expletive-laden rant omitted). We did one PS2/Gamecube title for them (Top Gun: Combat Zones), which sold well, and had a sequel almost complete when they stopped paying our salaries.
Since then I've tried and failed to get another games development job (despite 14 years of experience in the industry), or indeed any other kind of IT job (rant omitted), and am currently hoping to write some Mac OS X shareware before the money runs out. Halo 2 hasn't helped at all in that respect, but I still think it's wonderful - I bought an XBox for the exclusive purpose of playing Halo, and that's as close as I've ever come to violating my oath that I'd never, ever, buy a PC.
This could take a while. Lifelong voracious SF reader (you'd never guess, would you?). Own a library of about 2000 books - the SF section is about two-thirds of the total, the rest is mainly non-fiction, primarily military history (American Civil War, naval warfare, RAF Bomber Command especially), astronomy and astrophysics (nearby stars a speciality), civil, military, aeronautical and marine engineering, architecture, archaeology/history (big subsections on Egyptology and the Byzantine Empire).
My laptop is stuffed with music software, and I compose (though usually no more than snippets) for my own amusement, mainly pseudo-classical, funk/soul and electronica. I used to play several instruments, but now use virtual ones almost exclusively. Curiously, I don't listen to much music. I justify this by telling myself that worthwhile music shouldn't be treated like wallpaper.
I've never yet had a chance to try Halo Mutiplayer (though I have hopes of drawing in my landlord for some cooperative campaigning...), but I've completed both games on Legendary. I came to the FPS genre late in life, and my single-player style has always been excessively slow and cautious (though in office LAN matches I had a regrettable tendency to run about screaming with my hair on fire, spewing rockets), but since Cody Miller's awesome speed-run videos have shown me what's possible, I've been learning to swashbuckle, with some success. My current favourite personal challenge in Halo 2 is boarding the Scarab in Metropolis over the bows, straight onto the deck. One of these days I'll summon the courage to try it on Heroic.
I know very well that I can come over as an ultimate smartass, or even a BS merchant. My love of problem-solving and enthusiasm for building informational bricks out of straw (which I am genuinely good at) sometimes lead me to skip over the gaps in my very broad general knowledge and over-trust my retentive but fallible memory. I try to compensate for this by being ready to recognise and apologise for my errors when they're pointed out, so if you think I'm wrong about something, or making a nuisance of myself, please pick me up on it. I won't be offended unless you go out of your way to do it.
Enough already! I can hear that nice Mr. Wu muttering darkly about his bandwidth. Something about "get a website". I probably should.
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