Haven: Call of the King - A logo come to life? Or Not?
Back at the turn of the millennium there was a video game development company called 'Jester Interactive' operating in the small town of Mold in North Wales, UK. They were about to commence work on a game based upon the BBC TV show Doctor Who. Yours truly had been in talks with them about conceptual design for this project, when the Beeb pulled the plug. In this instance there was no real disappointment on my account because I had just received a call from Jon Burton of Traveller's Tales asking if I would supply concept art for their new game 'Haven: Call of the King'.
At this point, I must say that the withdrawal of licence from the BBC had not come as a surprise for me as I had suffered such at their hands before. In 1985 I had been commissioned by Coast to Coast Productions, London, UK, to take over the complete conceptual design work for a 'Doctor Who' movie that they had supposedly acquired the rights to make. I was sent a detailed synopsis to consider and commissioned to paint a promotional image which I duly completed.
DOCTOR WHAT?, 1985, INKS - THE CENTRAL FEATURE OF THIS IMAGE WAS THE TRADITIONAL DOCTOR WHO TARDIS, BUT WHEN THE PROJECT DISINTEGRATED, I PAINTED OVER IT WITH MY OWN BLUE TIME-TRAVELLING MACHINE AND RE-NAMED THE PIECE 'DOCTOR WHAT?', SO THAT I COULD PUBLISH IT WITHOUT GETTING SUED!
The BBC also procrastinated over the Gerry Anderson/Rodney Matthews animation show 'Lavender Castle', and after wasting many, many months refused it without explanation! God bless ITV - they took it! (Click here to read more about this in the third part of my Lavender Castle blog.) Also, if I remember correctly, the same can be said for the proposal of my 'Thunderbolt' show that was made to the BBC by Gerry Anderson some years later.
Moving swiftly on ...
Haven: Call of the King was the brainchild of Traveller's Tales founder Jon Burton. He expressed his desire to use the furry critter, shown below, from my original logo as his primary character for the game.
TRAVELLER'S TALES LOGO, 1994, INKS (NOTE, MY ILLUSTRATION PRE-DATES ITS "CLONE" FROM THE 'RATCHET AND CLANK' VIDEO GAME RELEASED BY SONY MANY YEARS LATER!)
The brief he gave me was to design a more purposeful version of this character. This is what I came up with:
ORIGINAL LEAD CHARACTER (SIDE VIEW), 2000, PENCIL
ORIGINAL LEAD CHARACTER (FRONT VIEW), 2000, INKS
Furthermore, I was asked to consider designing a whole family of his race. Here's a selection of drawings that cover some of the family members, their situations and environments:
FAMILY MEMBERS, 2000, PENCIL
For its day, Haven was an ambitious project that allowed its players to seamlessly roam terrestrial and intergalactic panoramas without restraint (or so I was told?) and was greatly anticipated in the gaming world. However, that's another story - my intention is to keep this blog about my original commission and show some of the concept pencil drawings I did. So, here goes, starting with the chief villain Lord Vetch:
LORD VETCH, 2000, PENCIL
There were designs for every type of aircraft and spacecraft, a buggy, a speedboat, sailing ships, mining robots, buildings, planets and so on - I did tons of the stuff and enjoyed every second!
COCKPIT DESIGNS, 2000, PENCIL (TOP LEFT); MONOPLANES, 2000, PENCIL (TOP RIGHT); SKIDGUN, 2001, PENCIL (BOTTOM LEFT); AND ASYMMETRICAL GUN, 2001, PENCIL (BOTTOM RIGHT)
FIGHTER PLANE, 2000, PENCIL
SENTIENT SPACESHIP, 2001, PENCIL
BUGGY, 2000, PENCIL
SPEEDBOAT, 2000, PENCIL
SAILING SHIP, 2001, PENCIL
THE BARGE, 2001, PENCIL
THE VILLAGE, 2001, PENCIL
THE DOCKLANDS, 2000, PENCIL (LEFT); AND PALACE, 2001, PENCIL (RIGHT)
GATEWAY, 2001, PENCIL (LEFT) AND STAIRCASE, 2001, PENCIL (RIGHT)
THE BELLTOWER, 2000, PENCIL
DARK CASTLE, 2000, PENCIL
As the game development progressed and things were looking good, there was talk of two additional follow-up games and a movie (I started to wonder what I would spend my earnings on!) I seem to remember that games publisher Activision took an interest in Haven, but then it went to Midway for publishing and ... somewhere along the way, the orange, long-eared critter and his race were elbowed out of the game in favour of a young hoody-wearing human that no-one liked! I was privately seething. There followed a series of events involving, to my mind, the ill-timed Haven launch and other considerations that I can only guess at (rumours and speculation abounded), with the result that Jon Burton's brilliant concept and overseeing of the development, together with the hard work of his talented team, did not achieve the recognition and sales figures that should have been theirs. No sequels! No movie!
So, who's up for seeing my concept designs come to life, with what should have been the main character in the driving seat? Yes, well I can oblige you, with thanks to Jon Burton, who released that very footage last year on his new website GameHut:
This short video, titled 'Did Ratchet & Clank steal TT's logo character as inspiration?' has some interesting comments, one of which comes from Jon himself in response to being asked if the entire game was cancelled because of the main character situation. His reply:
"No - the game released as "Haven: Call of the King" with a different character. Ironically Activision (who were originally going to publish the game) didn't think the TT logo character would work in a game so we had to change it. Maybe they had seen Ratchet behind closed doors and worried about the clash, or maybe it was just massive coincidence, but we revealed Haven game at E3 the same time as Ratchet was revealed - so imagine the confusion if they both had such similar main characters. However, I regret not pushing through with our logo character. Ratchet would have probably had to have changed then, as our character had been around for 10+ years already in our logo..." - Jon Burton