Interview by Cameron Sawaya.
Kingsley Stephens was a Crash Twinsanity developer (Gameplay Programmer). Big thanks to them!
Kingsley Stephens (K. Stephens): I came on board in early 2003 as a fresh graduate game AI/game play programmer. I
had just moved over to the UK from Australia, venturing out into the world. I was
responsible for scripting game play in the AgentLab tool, coding new routines for
AgentLab, implementing gameplay and cutscenes. I built the cinematic camera system
for the cutscenes and rolled out a lot of them. I worked closely with lead AI/game
programmer Ian Moir who built the AgentLab tool.
- What was your role while working on Twinsanity?
K. Stephens: It may sound off beat but one day I was messing around with something. I had this
elephant-like character in the scene with a big stomach. Crash had this punch mechanic
so I was punching the elephant character in the stomach. Then it popped into my head
to spawn a chicken out of his mouth every time I punched him. It was hilarious.
Everytime you punched the elephant a chicken would come flying out of his mouth
making a loud "bok bookk!" chicken sound. Ian was like "WTF???". Needless to say it
didn't enter into the game.
- What was your favorite moment(s) while working on the game?
K. Stephens: Ian's AgentLab FSM tool and the in-scene layout of crates etc made developing quite
pleasant. However when trying to implement boss fights things started getting
complicated. I believe Ian dropped back to a code solution for the school boss fight with
the giant school head mistress lady. Things were really pleasant and fun in the early
days, but as inevitable deadlines loomed and crunch started to set in. By the end of it I
had developed mental problems, came to a dramatic conversion to Christianity and
moved to Japan.
- What was the easiest and most difficult part of developing Twinsanity?
K. Stephens: I would definitely make some of my gameplay easier!! I guess it came from my lack of
experience and not thinking about who the target players were. Especially the early
cavern level with the drill-ant fight and the section where you are racing with Cortex to
escape the drill as it comes up below you. Way too intense for so early in the game :)
- If you had more time with the game with the experience you have now,
what would you change?
K. Stephens: Not sure about that one.
- For the Crash Evolution era, were there any finished
levels/assets/mechanics that were made but weren't on the final game? Do
any builds from the Crash Evolution era exist?
K. Stephens: Yes, David the American producer was American alright! I don't remember the baseball
bat one about David, but I remember Girish bought a baseball bat for some reason...
Though David would walk around with an American football getting pumped up. Then
one day he decided to buy everyone bacon butties (bacon on buns) for breakfast. Not
exactly the most healthy of treats. He would also pull up his chair and just sit behind us
for some reason watching us with his football (maybe I made up the bit about him
holding the football - it's hard to tell after all this time :)
I also found it funny when some of the designers introduced Halo multiplayer to our after
office hours gaming sessions.
Previously we had been playing Quake III Arena. As it turned out the guys who were
rubbish at Quake III were awesome at Halo. Perhaps a generational thing ;)
When winter set in it snowed one day. Coming from Brisbane in Australia where it is
always hot, I'm like "Awesome! Snow!", but meanwhile all the English guys were
anxiously on their phones to their wives and girlfriends. A couple of the guys and me
went outside and played in the snow.
- Any funny stories while working at TT Oxford? (John McCann mentioned
the great story about the american producer with the baseball bat if you
remember that one)
K. Stephens: I wasn't part of the team that had to deal with them.
- What was it like working with the Vivendi Universal production team? Was
there a lot of conflicts with game ideas or did it go smooth with them?
K. Stephens: So AgentLab was Ian's creation. I worked directly with it. It wasn't a scripting language
as such but a visual finite state machine (FSM) editor. You could click to add states, link
states together with percepts, add actions to percepts etc. States could be hierarchical.
It was used to script the behaviour of all the enemies, most boss fights, and to run the
cutscenes. It had a hot-reload feature where you could reload scripts on the fly while the
game was running on the PS2 dev-box. I was extending new actions and percepts in
C++ based on what was required.
- I've recently heard about the in-house scripting language "AgentLab". Do
you have an example of how the syntax looked or how was it used with
K. Stephens: That is a good question and I am not sure about that one.
- Where does a game like Twinsanity's source code/assets/builds go after
the game goes gold? Are they wiped from the TOOL's/PC's? or are they
kept around if needed?
K. Stephens: Probably the streaming system. The lead programmers did a good job on that. There
were no loading screens as the scenery and game mechanics were constantly being
streamed in the background. This did though lead to the advent of "loading caves" that
you had to walk through to connect different areas. I read one review that said that
because of the streaming the game felt relentless as there was no time to pause and
have a rest.
- What was the most technically advanced feature (for the time) that
K. Stephens: Not that I am aware of. I didn't put any in.
- Are there any hidden easter eggs/secrets that are hidden in the games
code or assets?
K. Stephens: I felt like the team worked smoothly together. My perception though was that tension
was introduced when the American producer arrived.
- Did the TT Oxford team work very smoothly together or was there a lot of
conflict/disagreement on the game?
K. Stephens: No, I don't believe I worked on any of that stuff. Most of the work I did went in (with
- Do you remember working on any of the cut levels that didn't make it into
K. Stephens: Ah the "ginger" texture! Whereas in Unity these days you will get a magenta material if
your shader isn't correct, back at TT Oxford we got a ginger texture when a texture was
- Do you remember this texture from the development days?
- Cameron: Big shout out to Kingsley and all of the developers of Crash Twinsanity who put
so much work and dedication into the game we know and love. Without their
blood, sweat, and tears, the game we still love and play, even 16 years after
release, would not exist today. To all Travellers Tales Oxford staff, thank you!