Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Where are they now? - Kevin Pickell

Creative Assembly developed the PC port of FIFA International Soccer but Pickell developed the original Sega Megadrive version

Last week I talked a bit about one of my favourite PC games of all time called Stunts aka 4D Sports Driving and how the game developer Don Mattrick had a big part to play in its development. Mattrick became more of a designer/manager/producer throughout the years but one of the original Stunts team remained passionate about programming right up until recently. For today's "Where are they now?" I'd like to talk about Kevin Pickell.

I wasn't able to find too much background information about Pickell but I do know he's worked in Canada for most of his professional career. Pickell got into computer programming in 1981 and the first computer he created programs for was the Commodore PET. During the early 80s he developed a word processor in assembler and also developed his first computer game which was a clone of Defender (also written in assembler). He also developed a couple of C64 games for a Canadian company called Paradigm Creators: Gemstone Healer and Gemstone Warrior before he got his gig with Distinctive Software Inc. (DSI) in 1985.

Pickell designed and programmed the first Test Drive which was released in 1987 and also programmed its sequel The Duel which was released in 1989. However, his greatest achievement (in my eyes at least) was the development of 1990's Stunts or 4D Sports Driving; Pickell not only designed and programmed the game but he was also responsible for the art too. Interestingly, it was also one of the very few games he actually developed for IBM PC, most of his work going into console games it seems such as 1993's FIFA International Soccer where he designed and programmed the original Sega Megadrive version.

Pickell had (has?) a hobby where not only would he buy actual sports cars (he seems to have a preference for Porsches) but 1/18 scale die-cast model cars as well. It's probably not surprising considering his early interest in racing games that he would end up starting a business that involves cars and in 1997 that's exactly what he did. Pickell's mail-order business started off with die-cast model cars lying about in his garage but soon he needed an entire warehouse to store all of them. He apparently closed the business in 2012 however when it became too expensive to manufacture.

DSI got bought out by EA in 1990 but Pickell worked with them for several years more eventually retiring in 2002 (to focus on his aforementioned mail order business). It wasn't until 2008 that he got back into games development at a company called Foundation9. While he was there, he worked on some console games (that I don't care too much for, but I'm a PC gamer through and through ;)) before leaving the company in 2012.

From 2013 until March this year, Pickell worked at Capcom's studio in Vancouver but he's now apparently "working from home". Does that mean he's still involved in game development? Maybe he's working on the next ground-breaking indie game? Let's hope so but in the meantime, I'd like to thank Pickell for the fond memories thanks to his efforts on that gem of a game Stunts.

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Kevin P. Pickell ]
[ Kevin Pickell's personal website ]

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