I always find myself shocked when I meet Rob Yescombe. Part of it is purely physical, as he's not exactly a small man and his burly physique and booming voice are always sure to make an impression, but what always amazes me the most is the seemingly boundless enthusiasm and presence which he commands.
Having met him before, I was somewhat prepared for the encounter but it's always a little strange when Rob starts orating about his latest project. Meeting him at Free Radical HQ before Leipzig GC 2007 was no exception and, no sooner had he shook my hand and asked how my trip was (long and boring, since you ask Rob), he then wheeled me into the next room and sat me down at his personal desk.
In fact, he paused only to mock my leather jacket and comment on how I need not go everywhere dressed as The Fonz.
"Sorry, Captain," he said in a rush, "We're still getting things ready. Watch this for now." He pushed a collection of official movie soundtrack CDs out of the way, reached for the mouse, clicked and demanded I appreciate the ‘educational video’ he had made.
Though the story has got a lot of attention for Haze, the game still has some fancy gameplay at its core
The video consisted of him running around the city of Nottingham asking people what they liked most about a game which wasn't even out yet, pausing occasionally to sneak up on his co-workers and whisper in their ears.
It was hilarious, even if it doesn't sound it, but it wasn't exactly what I'd been expecting and my mind started to wander. I paused the video for a moment, took a photo of the office (without disabling the flash and thus disrupting a developer meeting of sorts) and started to root around on Rob's desktop.
As soon as I had found what I had been hoping for though, a folder titled "Lucasarts/Free Radical Super Secret Project", then Rob re-appeared behind me and dragged me away from the PC.
"We can't be talking about that quite yet, I'm afraid. Sorry Chief," said Rob, leading me upstairs to where the preview had been set up. Unfortunately, it looked as though that particular exclusive would have to wait for another day and, though I continued to not-so-subtly press everyone I could for details, nobody would say a thing.
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They wouldn't even confirm or deny if it was a new Monkey Island game, which is unlikely to the point of impossible but something I remain hopeful of. "Haze is what we're here to talk about today, my good man." Rob said, leading me into the games room and introducing me to Derek Littlewood, Project Lead behind Haze.
The room was a geek heaven, with a massive flat-panel TV against one wall and consoles and games everywhere, cables littering the floor like the corpses of long, electric snakes. There were massive cardboard stands for Timesplitters: Future Perfect in each corner, a constant reminder of the level of quality which Free Radical aims for.