development info - Kingsley Stephens Interview

Interview by Cameron Sawaya.
Kingsley Stephens was a Crash Twinsanity developer (Gameplay Programmer). Big thanks to them!
  • What was your role while working on Twinsanity?
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 favorite moment(s) while working on the game?
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 the easiest and most difficult part of developing Twinsanity?
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.
  • If you had more time with the game with the experience you have now, what would you change?
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 :)
  • 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: Not sure about that one.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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: I wasn't part of the team that had to deal with them.
  • 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 Twinsanity's engine?
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.
  • 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: That is a good question and I am not sure about that one.
  • What was the most technically advanced feature (for the time) that Twinsanity had?
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.
  • Are there any hidden easter eggs/secrets that are hidden in the games code or assets?
K. Stephens: Not that I am aware of. I didn't put any in.
  • Did the TT Oxford team work very smoothly together or was there a lot of conflict/disagreement on the game?
K. Stephens: I felt like the team worked smoothly together. My perception though was that tension was introduced when the American producer arrived.
  • Do you remember working on any of the cut levels that didn't make it into 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 revisions).
  • Do you remember this texture from the development days?

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 missing.
  • 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!