A potted history of Creature Labs and Gameware Development

The story starts back in 1996, when Millennium Interactive Ltd finally completed Steve's Grand's brain-child project, the first incarnation of Creatures. Months (even years) before its release it was clear that the potential of what had been created could extend beyond appearing in just one product. imageWith a goodly amount of time, money and effort, the core ideas Steve had developed might be widely applicable in other areas of computer science, outside the games field. Indeed, Steve's own interests were much wider than in programming just the one product, however entertaining it might be. This core technology (and the approach to building artificial life that it took) was dubbed 'Cyberlife' and - so as to signal its desire to focus on taking the development philosophy embodied by Cyberlife forward - the company (Millennium) declared its intent by changing its name to Cyberlife Technology Ltd (CTL).

image Accordingly, the company then split its activities between the development of the nascent Creatures technologies and the ongoing development of more 'traditional' game products, which were aimed principally at the Sony PlayStation market.

After a few months, these two activities were formally separated when, in July 1997, the PlayStation games division was sold, in its entirety, to none other than Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) itself. That division became Sony's Cambridge studio and has since gone on to enjoy great success - producing amazing PSOne and PS2 games like Medievil, Medievil 2, C-12, Primal and the soon-to-be-released Ghosthunter.

Meanwhile the (now much smaller) Cyberlife company moved to new offices in Cambridge's Quayside area, where it quickly set up a division focused specifically on research and development (R&D) and sank a large proportion of its funds into that. Meanwhile, managed by Toby Simpson, many of those who had worked on Creatures during its later stages of development started work on its sequel. Creatures 2 was duly launched with great success in late '98 and work began immediately on another sequel (Creatures 3!) as well as the first product aimed specifically at a younger market, Creatures Adventures.

imageBy now it was time to make a clearer differentiation between CTL's teams: the technology group was already being referred to internally as Applied Research and that name stuck; Steve Grand's long range R&D group, based in Somerset, became the Cyberlife Institute; and the entertainment group was christened 'Creature Labs'. The well-known logo was designed (by Lisa) and soon the CL abbreviation (for Cyberlife) became more associated in the minds of users with CL (for Creature Labs).

Unfortunately, for one reason or another, the Applied Research division was unable to find sufficient funded projects to sustain itself and eventually this proved too great a drain on the company's finances, while the Creature Labs division was earning sufficient funds to cover its own development costs (at least). So, the board of directors decided close down Applied Research and Steve decided it was also time for him to return to a solo career. He went on to set up Cyberlife Research as a completely separate entity, having been granted the right to use name Cyberlife by the company.

It was at this point, in November 1999, that Cyberlife Technology Ltd formally changed its name to Creature Labs Ltd and set about focusing exclusively on developing entertainment products.

image At that time, trading conditions for smaller games developers - particularly in the UK - were already starting to become rather difficult and despite the successful completion of Creature 3, Creatures Adventures and Playground, Creatures Docking Station, Sea Monkeys, the R2-D2 toy and many other projects, the next three years saw Creature Labs struggle to make its way. Everyone involved worked manfully to get us through the financial difficulties, but despite our best efforts and with great sadness, the company was eventually forced to shut its doors and was put into liquidation in March 2003.

At this point the story might have ended - were it not for the fact that, like most people involved in this field, we don't just work in the games biz, we live for it! So quitting was never an option. Now it so happened that a business associate of CL's, Jeremy Cooke (who has a long history in the games industry and is a Creatures fan to boot) was already running an operation called Gameware Europe (Ltd) and was aware of what had happened to CL. Jeremy was able to put together sufficent resources through GE to purchase all of CL's assets from the appointed liquidator and so they were rescued from complete limbo. These assets included the all-important 'intangibles', like the 'Intellectual Property', the work in progress and the technology, as well as the more concrete items such as trademarks, stocks etc.

image However, the name Gameware Europe was not descriptive of what we planned to do, which was to continue to work with those assets - as well as to develop new ones. GE therefore became a 'holding company' and we created Gameware Development Ltd (which is also owned by GE) to actually carry out (develop!) the works - and it is Gameware Development that we all work for.

So the name Creature Labs, its history and the 'brand values' associated with it are still very important to Gameware Development. image Now and into the future, anything we do with the Creatures property will continue to be branded with the Creature Labs name and logo. We view Creature Labs as a 'division' of Gameware Development - and that's why Creature Labs gets its own section on the Gameware website and why we're so chuffed with how the egg-shaped logo ended up finding its way into Gameware's own 'G' logotype.

In truth, GD wouldn't have existed without CL, CL without CTL and so on back through time. But then again, without GD then CL would slowly have become just a dim and distant memory...