Brian Colin is a filmmaker and animator who reluctantly found himself thrust into the video game industry kicking and screaming….
During the golden age of arcade video games, Colin answered a Bally Midway ad thinking, “What does the pinball company want with an animator? They must need somebody to paint on glass because cell painting in animation is a standard thing.” Colin was dead wrong and quite disappointed when they responded that they wanted someone to do art for video games. “I was not terribly excited about it because I’m looking at the screen and games were at the Pac-Man level – 16 colors and big pixels. I had a very fine pen and ink style and I’ve been doing freelance advertising for a while.” Thinking the prospect was going nowhere, Colin’s response to the Bally Midway interviewer was: “I’m really flattered that you want me to do this, but I have a successful advertising agency of my own and you’re going to have to pay me more than $300 a month.” Colin continues, “He chuckled and said, ‘Well, I think we can do better than that.’ And they offered me the job and I was a little upset about it.”
So upset in fact that Colin called his good friend all choked up to lament, “This is it! I can’t turn this down. They’re going to pay me actual money. And that’s better than the beer and popcorn arrangements I got now. Childhood is officially over…”. As it turned out, Colin was all wrong. “Childhood kept going…continued to go on, and still does.”
Fast forward to present day. Brian Colin has become a leading artist, animator, and video game designer. Acting CEO of his independent studio, Game Refuge Inc., he has produced work for such industry giants as Electronics Arts, Midway, Williams, American Laser Games, The 3DO Company, and other notable groups.
Colin reminisces, “It was the best possible time to stumble into the industry. The first game I worked on was the game called Discs of Tron,” which was the second coin-op based on the Disney film and turned out to be a big hit for Bally Midway in the arcades. Colin continued making raster sprite graphics for such hits as Spy Hunter, Xenophobe, and lesser known titles such as Demolition Derby, Kozmik Krooz’r, Zhackery, and a dozen or so others.
His real break-out hit was Rampage. The silly game of antics that made monsters of men who haphazardly consumed experimental vitamins, food additives, or were exposed to radioactive lakes. It set arcade earnings records in 1986 and was eventually ported to more than two dozen platforms. However, it almost didn’t happen.
Colin was always pushing the technology that was available. He wanted big characters and a lot of background animation. The hardware technology at the time just wasn’t up to his grand ideas. He recalls, “the one hardware guy on the team just went into it and said, ‘don’t be ridiculous, we can’t do that – we’ve got such limited number of background blocks – the most you can do is animate a rectangle. What can you possibly do animating a rectangle?’” Colin looked at his fellow team member Sharon, the artist who put the infamous bow on Pac-Man, and said “okay, a building collapsing into itself. That’s an animating rectangle. We cover up the bottom with a little smoke – a few smoke sprites, and now I can do big characters knocking down that building.” Colin notes that “We all got tremendously excited, we all knew we had a hit.”
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