In April of 2006 I transferred from the Harry Potter team at Electronic Arts' UK Studio to their Criterion Games studio in Guildford - home of the excellent first person shooter game BLACK and the the BURNOUT series of driving games. It was a great opportunity to join a new team, hook up with some old friends that I hadn't worked with for a very long time and to get involved with projects the likes of which I hadn't worked on before.
As sometimes happens in the games industry, you find yourself working hard on projects that ultimately never get published. Whether the studio you're working in changes its focus, the project doesn't work out exactly how you'd hoped it would, or due to financial reasons, the fact of life is that sometimes projects get shelved. And, for me, in my first year-and-a-half at Criterion, despite many hours of non-stop, and immensely enjoyable work, none of the projects that I worked on made it to the shelves.
Early in 2008, myself and my Producer buddy, Jeremy Chubb were asked to take on the online efforts at Criterion. After the release of the open-world driving game, Burnout Paradise, the Criterion website and all things associated were in need of some attention. It was a welcome change of direction and an opportunity to try out something new (since apart from this site, I'd never done anything else with the web), so Jez and I set about wading into the world of the Internet.
In addition to creating and reporting stories on our news blog, one of my roles was to take on the job of web engineer/designer, and, over the course of the year, I found myself doing a whole heap of stuff including rebuilding the Criterion website twice (which thanks to the wonders of the Wayback Machine - this is the version of the Criterion Games website that I worked on - Christmas 2008.) (The two redesigns came about as we experimented and learned more about what the site needed, with the second version looking clean and slick to reflect the new Criterion look.)
In addition to the site, I worked on the launch of Crash TV - Criterion's video podcast. Rolling up my sleeves in those early weeks when we knew nothing about podcast production I became cameraman, editor, special effects guy and co-presenter. It proved to be a lot of work, but we managed to get the programme out regularly every Friday and in early summer, saw it rise to the #1 slot in the iTunes Games and Hobbies slot.
My final project at Criterion involved the design and implementation of the Criterion Games Network - a social network/live web page accessible both from the PC.and the front end of Burnout Paradise on the PlayStation 3 and PC. This finally went live in February 2009 bringing Facebook-like functionality for players of Burnout Paradise allowing them to compare statistics and receive live news updates from the Burnout Team. The work we did on the Burnout Paradise Network helped in laying the groundwork for the creation of 'Autolog' - the socially connected centre of Criterion's subsequent award-winning title Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.
Having spent 13 years working away from home, in January 2009 I made the tough decision to leave Criterion Games and find a place of work closer to my family. The team gave me a wonderful send-off, which made leaving much more difficult.
Four days after leaving Criterion, I began working at Eurocom in Derby - a chance to renew friendships from my time working with them on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as well as some old faces from my time at Core Design many years before.