Chris Roberts – Names In Games
This weeks Names In Games takes a look at the career of Chris Roberts. Game Designer and Film Producer, Roberts has had a hand in many well known series throughout the years. Although Born in the US, Roberts grew up in Manchester England; during his teenage years he developed games for the BBS Micro, including Stryker’s Run.
Upon returning to the US in 1986, Roberts got a job at Origin Systems. When Roberts joined Origin, he had the ambition of creating the game he had always dreamed of making — and In 1988 that game was published,Times of Lore. Times of Lore was a massive action-adventure game featuring over 13,000 screens of map, animated water, gradual transitions from night to day, and no loading time. The games interface had a strong influence on Origin’s other titles — namely, the Ultima series. A similar interface was used in Robert’s next title called Bad Blood, released in 1990.
Later in 1990 a game called Wing Commander was published with Chris Roberts as the lead designer. The game received critical acclaim and has since been regarded as a milestone achievement in games development. Although the game was marketed as a 3-d space combat simulator and was indeed 3d in nature, the game was actually 2d graphically. This allowed it to have higher detailed graphics by using 2d sprites as opposed to the 3d polygonal flight simulators around the same period. The game went on to have several sequels and spin offs.
Although credited with lead designer on wing commander 2, Robert’s attention was divided by another game during the development of Wing Commander 2. First announced during CES in 1991, Strike Commander suffered numerous delays and wasn’t actually released until 1993. Strike Commander was a true 3d game with shaded and bit mapped textures which pushed the game to the edge of technology at its release. 4 years and reportedly over a million man hours went into the game.
After Strike Commander, Roberts returned his attention to the Wing Commander series. He devised the original concept for the Privateer spinoff for Wing Commander which went on to be produced by his brother, Erin Roberts. Roberts also was more directly involved with Wing Commanders 3 and 4; These two games featured live action cut scenes starring such names as Mark Hamil, Malcolm McDowell, and the late Jason Bernard, which Roberts himself directed.
In 1996 Roberts left Origin and founded Digital Anvil along with EA Manager Marten Gerald Davies, Origin producer Tony Zurovec, and his brother Erin Roberts. The small studio was based in Austin and gained a publishing deal with Microsoft in 1997. Although Chris and Erin Roberts were working on Starlancer, Chris desired to produce films with Digital Anvil as well as games. Chris Roberts directed the film Wing Commander which was released in 1999, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. The film failed to receive critical acclaim or financial success.
Digital Anvil’s first finished game was Starlancer, developed externally by Warthog and produced be the Roberts brothers. Starlancer has a warm reception upon its release in 2000. Digital Anvil was acquired by Microsoft soon afterwards, which marked the departure of Roberts. This caused Roberts to abandon his position as director of Freelancer although he did stay as a consultant on the freelancer project for a while.
After leaving Digital Anvil Roberts founded Point of No Return Entertainment. The focus of this venture was to produce video games, television, and films. No projects materialized out of Point of No Return.
In 2002 Roberts founded Ascendant Pictures. During this time, Roberts served as a producer on titles such as The Punisher, The Jacket, and Lord Of War.
Roberts is currently involved with Cloud Imperium Games Corporation, which he founded in 2011. Its current project is Star Citizen which can be found at http://www.robertsspaceindustries.com/ where they are in the process of crowd funding for this project.
Roberts full Gameography:
Brute Force (2003), Microsoft Game Studios
Freelancer (2003), Microsoft Game Studios
Conquest: Frontier Wars (2001), Ubi Soft Entertainment Software
Starlancer (2000), Microsoft Corporation
The Need for Speed: Special Edition (1996), Electronic Arts, Inc.
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (1996), Electronic Arts, Inc.
CyberMage: Darklight Awakening (1995), Electronic Arts, Inc.
Dangerous Streets & Wing Commander (1994), Commodore
The Need for Speed (1994), Electronic Arts, Inc.
Super Wing Commander (1994), Electronic Arts, Inc.
Wing Commander Armada (1994), Dong Seo Interactive
Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (1994), Electronic Arts, Inc.
Wing Commander / Wing Commander II (Special CD-ROM Edition) (1994), Electronic Arts, Inc.
Strike Commander (1993), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Strike Commander (CD-ROM Edition) (1993), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Strike Commander: Tactical Operations (1993), Electronic Arts, Inc.
Wing Commander: Privateer (1993), Electronic Arts, Inc., ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi – Special Operations 2 (1992), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (1991), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi – Special Operations 1 (1991), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions 2 – Crusade (1991), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Bad Blood (1990), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Wing Commander (1990), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions (1990), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Times of Lore (1988), ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1988), MicroProse Ltd.
Stryker’s Run (1986), Superior Software Ltd.
Wizadore (1985), Imagine Software