Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Where are they now? - Lawrence Holland

It's a trap!

For this week's Where are they now? I wanted to take a look at a game developer that was responsible for some of the best flight and space sim games of the early 1990s. Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe and Star Wars: X-Wing were truly immersive experiences for me, despite their graphics looking very dated by today's standards. Anyone else who appreciated these games have Lawrence Holland to thank but what did he do before he made these games? And what is he doing nowadays?

Judging by the fact Holland graduated in 1979 from Cornell University, I'm guessing he was born in the 1950s. But did Holland graduate with a Computer Science degree? Nope! Holland studied Anthropology and Prehistory Archaeology at university and shortly after graduating, spent two years travelling the world on archaeological expeditions (I'm surprised he didn't make games based on Indiana Jones, especially when you consider where he ended up...). Anyway, at some point, Holland realises that computer games were "the perfect medium for combining his professional and personal interests." In 1982 he studied programming in Assembler, COBOL and RPGII and the following year he got his first job in game development at a company called Human Engineered Software (HesWare). Here he worked for a couple of years on Vic-20, Apple II and Commodore 64 games such as a C64 port of the arcade game Super Zaxxon.

It wasn't until 1987 when he got his big break developing a trilogy of WWII air combat simulators to be published by Lucasfilm Games (later renamed Lucasarts). These three games would be 1988's Battlehawks 1942, 1989's Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain and (one of my favourites) 1991's Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. I learned quite a bit about the aircraft used by the U.S. Air Force and German Luftwaffe from this game, so it actually turned out to be quite educational! I also learned about some of the crazy experimental fighters the Germans had as part of their "Secret Weapons".

Holland wouldn't stop there with respect to the simulators but instead of fighting in the skies, the next batch of games he'd develop would be fought long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away. In 1993, Star Wars: X-Wing would be unleashed onto the world and remains one of my favourite space sims of all time (it ranked 64th on the Choicest Games Top 100). Holland would follow X-Wing up with 1994's Star Wars: TIE Fighter and 1997's X-Wing vs TIE Fighter which most importantly introduced multiplayer (the game ranked 90th on the Choicest Games Top 100).

In 1994, Holland's development team became officially incorporated and became Totally Games in 1995.

Holland continued to oversee the development of games in the 2000s such as being the Creative Director for 2002's Star Trek: Bridge Commander and 2003's Secret Weapons over Normandy.

In 2005, Holland made the switch to casual and mobile games and started working at a company called TimeLapse Mobile as its Chief Creative Officer. In terms of games developed by Totally Games, he was Creative Director on 2007's Alien Syndrome (for PSP and Wii) and Director of Development on 2008's PBR: Out of the Chute; neither game was particularly well received.

In 2010 Holland developed an aquarium management game called Oceanis that was published by Shockwave.

In 2013, Holland became Chief Creative Officer for another company focusing on the casual and mobile games market particularly casino games called Asylum Labs Inc. Games they've developed include Wild Party Bingo and Lucky Ace Slots available on iPhones and Android phones.

It seems that mobile and casual games are at the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to Holland's previous work on air combat and space combat simulators but hopefully he's happy with where he's at. Will we ever see another space combat or air combat simulator by Holland? If I were a betting man, I'd say probably not - but wouldn't it be great if Disney managed to provide funding for a third Secret Weapons game? Or another Star Wars space combat sim (considering they're working on the new film trilogy)? Wouldn't it be great if Holland was involved? One can dream.

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Lawrence Holland ]
[ MobyGames: Lawrence Holland ]
[ Totally Games About Page ]

1 comment:

  1. Star Wars looks more interesting than other

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