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Ireland’s Impact On The World Of Gaming

Ireland’s Impact On The World Of Gaming – In this article, Craig O Reilly examines the rising Irish Stars of the Videogame Industry

At 37 years of age, Brendan Greene was living on around 300  euros a week. He was employed as a wedding photographer who occasionally made websites, but his true passion was video gaming. In his spare time he took an interest like many enthusiasts do in the vibrant modding community. For those who don’t know, modding is when games come with tools that allow players to make their own games, or create new modes.

Greene had seen the cult Japanese film “Battle Royale”, where a group of students are dropped on an island, handed weapons,  and told the only way to get off is to become the only survivor at the end of the experiment. This seemed to Green like a pretty good idea for a videogame. He tried to implement the concept. Eventually when all he had was a social welfare payment, he used it to host servers where his own mods could be played, most likely expecting nothing would come of it.

Most of his mods were for ARMA, one of the more realistic military first person shooters, and though Greene made no money for his work, his remarkable creations quickly captured the attention of Sony Online Entertainment, who saw gamers playing them on the popular streaming service Twitch.

In something of a quiet miracle, Green’s life was changed forever when they made an offer for him to develop a battle royale style game for them.

Now, Player Unknown Battlegrounds, or PUBG,  has taken the world by storm becoming one of the biggest selling games of all time. The strange thing is that many of its players may be unaware that Greene grew up in the Curragh. His upbringing around old army barracks led to the inspiration of the maps he made for PUBG and other games. Though the concept of Battle Royale gaming has since been used in other games like Fortnight, it was this Irish influence that paved the way forward for how an interesting open-world level design could define the FPS genre. There’s also been an incredible contribution to how the physics of games work by Irish innovators.

If you played some of the most revolutionary games of the past two decades, like Halo 3 or Assassin’s Creed, you will see a certain Physics engine responsible for the way enemies fall, or debris explodes from a well-timed grenade. Take for instance the popular Dark Souls series, where the bodies of enemies can be kicked over a cliff edge, or clump like a sack of potatoes to the ground after a well timed heavy attack. The expectation that this is becoming more-life like is so common that you only really notice it when it’s not there. What you may not have known, is that the studio responsible for developing this technology is Irish based.

Havok was formed back in 1998 by Hugh Reynolds and Steven Collins from the computer science department of Trinity College. The company has won numerous industry awards, and their technology is so prevalent in the industry that if you can think of a popular game released over the past twenty years, there’s a good chance the physics engine is built with tools created by Havok. Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Brawl and the critically acclaimed Half-Life 2 have all used some version of Havok to name but a few.

It’s surprising to think the technology has its origins in a college we walk past every day in Dublin. So next time you’re gaming, take a look at the box and see if it has the Havok engine logo on it. More often than not you’ll find it there. Just another part of Ireland’s contribution to gaming history.

John Romero is something of a legend of video game development. He was co-creator of Id software’s Doom, one of the early PC first person shooters that defined the genre. To this day, doom is still hugely popular, and this years Doom Eternal was one of the biggest sellers of 2020. For many, Doom was the first game they ever played in 3D, and it would have been one of the first games they played on a PC. It’s heavy metal soundtrack, gory art design and lock-stop violence exuded 1990s culture, drew controversy and praise.

Romero was responsible for designing the original version of Doom which came free with magazines and in stores at the time. Their idea was that the game would be so popular that people would automatically buy more levels if they had the install base in place. The approach worked beyond wildest expectations.

Now John Romero and his wife Brenda Romero of Romero games have moved to Galway.  As for why they chose to move to Ireland, Romero was full of praise for the country, as he post himself on the internet forum Quora back in 2015:

My wife and I love Ireland. The country is absolutely breath-takingly beautiful, and the food is amazing. The people in Ireland are so friendly, polite, and helpful. There’s no better place to raise kids and we have four in the house. Ireland’s game dev scene is doing better than ever and everyone loves hanging out and talking about what they’re doing – they’re not secretive. People are real here. And how about 4,000 castles in the country?

Their company just released Empire of Sin, a gangster themed turn based strategy game, and aside from that, Romero has for the first time in 20 years went back to making levels for Doom, presumably some of those ghostly old Irish castles helped him with the level design?

In any case the future for the Irish gaming scene looks bright if these few stories, and there are many more, are anything to go by. The Irish game development scene is thriving, and looks to only grow more in the future.

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