|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2010)|
|Fate||Merged into XDev|
|Founded||1984 (as Psygnosis)
2001 (as SCE Studio Liverpool)
|Headquarters||Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom|
|Mick Hocking, Group Studio Director|
Formula One series
Colony Wars series
|Services||Video game development|
|Parent||SCE Worldwide Studios|
SCE Studio Liverpool was a video game development house headquartered at Wavertree Technology Park in Liverpool, England. It was part of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios. Founded in 1984 as Psygnosis by Jonathan Ellis, Ian Hetherington and David Lawson, the company later became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment, and at the time of its closure employed roughly 100 individuals comprising two development teams. Mick Hocking oversaw Studio Liverpool's operations as its last Group Studio Director, a position he continues to hold within Evolution Studios.
Studio Liverpool was the oldest and second largest development house within Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's stable of developers, and is best known for the Wipeout series of futuristic racing games, with the first instalment released on the original PlayStation in 1995. The studio is also known for the Formula One series of licensed racing games, and the Colony Wars series released on the original PlayStation. As Psygnosis, they were the original publishers of the Lemmings series.
Reports of Studio Liverpool's closure surfaced on 22 August 2012, with Edge quoting staff tweets. Staff were told the news by the vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe, Michael Denny. In a press release Sony stated that after an assessment of all European studios, it had decided to close Studio Liverpool. Sony said that the Liverpool site would remain in operation, as it is home to a number of Sony World Wide Studios and SCEE Departments.
Founded by Jonathan Ellis, Ian Hetherington and David Lawson, the Liverpool-based Psygnosis was indirectly born from the ashes of the defunct 8-bit game company Imagine Software, where Lawson was one of the founders and Hetherington was Financial Director. After the collapse of Imagine in 1984, the name and trademarks were bought by Ocean Software, while the rights of the software remained with original copyright owners. After Imagine, Lawson and Hetherington set up a new company called Finchspeed which used Bandersnatch (one of Imagine's much-hyped but never completed "Megagames") as the basis of what became Brataccas, the first game published by Psygnosis.
The name of another Imagine Megagame – the proposed but never developed Psyclapse – was later used by Psygnosis as an alternative label for some of their releases, such as Captain Fizz Meets The Blaster-Trons and Ballistix.
Psygnosis produced only one title in 1986 called Deep Space, a complex, difficult space exploration game. The box artwork was very distinctive with a black background and fantasy artwork bordered in red. This style was maintained for the best part of ten years, with a Psygnosis game being easily identifiable on a shelf of miscellaneous games. For the next few years, Psygnosis's releases contained increasingly improved graphics, but were marred by similarly difficult gameplay and control methods.
The original company headquarters were located at the Port of Liverpool Building at the Pier Head in Liverpool, but soon moved to Century Buildings in Brunswick Business Park (also in Liverpool), and later moved down the road 200 metres to South Harrington Building in South Harrington Dock.
Although Psygnosis primarily became a game publisher, some games were developed fully or partly in-house. During the early days, artists were employed full-time at the headquarters, offering third-party developers, who were often just single programmers, a very high-quality art resource. This had the result of allowing Psygnosis to maintain very high graphical standards across the board, something for which the company became most famous. The original artists were Garvan Corbett, Jeff Bramfitt, Colin Rushby and Jim Bowers, with Neil Thompson joining a little later.
Closely following in the path of 1987 hit Barbarian with what was becoming a trademark high-quality introduction, Obliterator, released in 1988, contained an opening animation by Jim Bowers (now a digital matte painter for the movie industry) with the main character looking directly into the "camera". His face is animated with bewilderment that turns into anger, at which point he drops his guns and shoots at the observer. This short scene would further pave the way for many increasingly sophisticated intro animations, starting with 2D hand drawn sequences, and then progressing into FMV and 3D rendered movies created with Sculpt 4D on the Amiga. Eventually, Psygnosis would buy many Silicon Graphics workstations for the sole purpose of creating these animations.
While most games companies of the mid-to-late 1980s (including Psygnosis) were releasing identical games on both the Amiga and Atari ST, Psygnosis started to use the full potential of the Amiga's more powerful hardware to produce technically stunning games. It was these technically superior titles that brought the company its early success, with the landmark title Shadow of the Beast bringing the company its greatest success so far in 1989. Its multi-layered parallax scrolling and stunning music were highly advanced for the time and as such led to the game being used as a showcase demonstration for the Amiga in many computer shops.
Later, Psygnosis consolidated its fame after publishing the DMA Design Lemmings game franchise: debuting in 1991 on the Amiga, Lemmings was soon to be ported to a plethora of different computer and video game platforms, generating many sequels and variations of its concept through the years. After that, Psygnosis put unparalleled effort in producing Microcosm, a game that debuted on Japanese system FM Towns and was to become technical showcase and flagship title for new Commodore CD32 and SMSG 3DO multimedia consoles: although gameplay was never considered on par with technical aspects, graphics, music by Rick Wakeman and long FMV introduction were among the finest in company history at the time. Phil Morris was Music Manager from 1992-1998 in Liverpool, and chose the Rick Wakeman music tracks and tracks by Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, both Sony artists at the time, for the PlayStation F1 game. Microcosm was probably the first CD-ROM game by Psygnosis to feature voice recordings, produced and directed in London by Phil Morris with Canadian voice actor Kerry Shale at The Sound Company.
Psygnosis also received top billing for creating the "Face-Off" games in the Nickelodeon 1992 television game show, Nick Arcade, with such games as "Post Haste", "Jet Jocks" and "Battle of the Bands", among others.
Acquisition by Sony (1993–2001)
In 1993, the company was acquired by Sony Electronic Publishing. In preparation for the September 1995 introduction of Sony's PlayStation console in Western markets, Psygnosis started creating games using the PlayStation as primary reference hardware. Among the most famous creations of this period were Wipeout, G-Police, and the Colony Wars series, some of which were ported to PC and to other platforms. This was an extremely successful period for the company; in the 1995-96 financial year, Psygnosis games accounted for 40% of all video games sales in Europe.
The acquisition was rewarding for Sony in another aspect: development kits for PlayStation consoles. As it had previously published PSY-Q development kits for various consoles by SN Systems, Psygnosis arranged for them to create a development system for the PS based on cheap PC hardware. Sony evaluated the system during CES in January 1994 and decided to adopt it.
As Psygnosis expanded after the Sony buyout, another satellite office was opened in Century Building with later offices opening in Stroud, England, London, Chester, Paris, Germany, and Foster City in California (as the Customer Support & Marketing with software development done in San Francisco), now the home of Sony Computer Entertainment America. The company headquarters has resided at Wavertree Technology Park since 1995.
The Stroud studio was opened in November 1993 in order to attract disgruntled MicroProse employees. Staff grew from initially about 50 to about 70 in 1997. Among the titles created at Stroud are Overboard! and G-Police. The Wheelhouse—its publishing name—was closed in 2000 as part of the Sony Computer Entertainment takeover of Psygnosis. Some members joined Bristol-based Rage Software, but faced a similar demise a number of years later.
Despite being owned by Sony, Psygnosis retained a degree of independence from its parent company during this period and continued to develop and publish titles for other platforms, including the Sega Saturn, and the Nintendo 64.
In 2000, the publishing branch of the company was merged into Sony Computer Entertainment Europe as a whole, and the Psygnosis brand was dropped in favour of SCE Studio Liverpool, which marked the full integration of the studio within Sony Computer Entertainment. Psygnosis's Camden and Stroud studios were renamed Studio Camden (later merged with Team Soho to form SCE London Studio) and Studio Stroud.
Studio Liverpool (2001–2012)
The newly named SCE Studio Liverpool released its first title, Formula One 2001, in 2001. The game was also the studio's first release on the PlayStation 2, and the first entry in the Formula One series after taking over from developer Studio 33. From 2001 to 2007, Studio Liverpool released 8 instalments in the series between the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3. However, Sony Computer Entertainment's exclusive license with the Formula One Group expired, without renewal, before the 2007 season, marking the end of any further Formula One series instalments from the developer.
Studio Liverpool also created Wipeout Fusion, the first of two instalments of the series on the PlayStation 2, released in 2002. Next they developed Wipeout Pure for the PlayStation Portable, which launched alongside the handheld in 2005 to significant acclaim, with many media outlets heralding it a return to glory for the series. They followed up with the sequel Wipeout Pulse in 2007 which was later ported to the PlayStation 2 and released exclusively in Europe and the UK.
In 2008, they released Wipeout HD, a downloadable title for the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network service, consisting of various courses taken from both Wipeout Pure and Wipeout Pulse remade in high definition. An expansion pack for Wipeout HD named Wipeout HD Fury is currently available at PlayStation Network, including new game modes, new tracks, new music and new ship skins/models.
On 29 January 2010, Sony made the following public statement: "It has been decided that production on a number of projects within Studio Liverpool will cease immediately due to project prioritisation. Our North West Studio Group has been and will continue to be a vital cog in the WWS family, with a history of producing genre defining games such as MotorStorm, Wipeout, Formula 1 and WRC and this decision will have no impact of the role that the North West Studio Group will play in the future of all PlayStation platforms".
The closure of Studio Liverpool was announced on 22 August 2012. In a press release Sony stated that after an assessment of all European studios, it had decided to close Studio Liverpool. Sony said that the Liverpool site would remain in operation, as it is home to a number of Sony World Wide Studios and SCEE Departments.
Eurogamer was told by an unnamed source, that at the time of its closure, Studio Liverpool was working on two PlayStation 4 launch titles. One was a Wipeout title described as "dramatically different", the other was a motion capture based game along the lines of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. Because of the closure which left the company forming mainly XDev, it is possible if the two games will go to Xdev.
In 2013 a number of former Studio Liverpool employees formed two new studios: Firesprite which worked on the visuals of The Playroom for the PlayStation 4., and R8 Games who are working on the "spiritual successor" to Wipeout. Their breakout title, Formula Fusion, is in early pre-production and due for release in March 2016.
XDev, Sony's external development studio is responsible for managing the development of titles at developers that are outside of Sony's own developer group. It has won 8 British Academy (BAFTA) video game awards and AIAS awards for LittleBigPlanet, 3 BAFTA awards for the Buzz! series and Develop Industry Excellence Awards for MotorStorm and Buzz!.
Games developed or published as Psygnosis
Games developed as SCE Studio Liverpool
|Game title||Year released||Platform(s)|
|Formula One 2001||2001||PlayStation 2|
|Wipeout Fusion||2002||PlayStation 2|
|Formula One 2002||2002||PlayStation 2|
|Formula One 2003||2003||PlayStation 2|
|F1 04||2004||PlayStation 2|
|Wipeout Pure||2005||PlayStation Portable|
|F1 05||2005||PlayStation 2|
|F1 06||2006||PlayStation 2|
|Wipeout Pulse||2007||PlayStation 2|
|Formula One Championship Edition||2007||PlayStation 3|
|Wipeout HD||2008||PlayStation 3|
|Wipeout HD Fury (DLC)||2009||PlayStation 3|
|Wipeout 2048||2012||PlayStation Vita|
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Psyclapse was actually the name of a Commodore 64 game that was never released [but] was to live on as a division of Psygnosis.
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- Wawro, Alex (5 December 2013). "Former Psygnosis/Studio Liverpool devs unite to form Firesprite". Gamasutra. Think Services. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (6 December 2013). "From the ashes of WipEout dev Studio Liverpool rises Firesprite". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Games, R8 (11 February 2015). "R8 Games Working on Spiritual Successor to WipEout". R8 Games. R8 Games. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
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- Official website at the Wayback Machine (archived January 31, 2013)
- Psygnosis profile at MobyGames
- UnOfficial Site Psygnosis on Amiga