Fiona Sperry (above) joined Criterion in 1997, when the studio was building its console debut, the Dreamcast hoverboard racer TrickStyle. After launch, she became head of studio, appointing Alex Ward as creative director and restyling Criterion, which had spent its early years building tech demos for Intel, as a committed maker of console games. Little wonder, then, that after setting up Three Fields Sperry and team opted against joining the industry-wide rush to mobile.
They tried, in fact, and had a prototype of DangerousGolf up and running on iPad pretty quickly. But hardware limitations, and business considerations, put them off. “It’s a very different audience, price point, business model,” Sperry says. “It’s very challenging. And it just wasn’t as much fun as making a console game.”
As former head of studio at Criterion, Sperry appreciates the freedom Three Fields offers more than most. In 2004 she became general manager of EA’s entire UK studio operation – some 400 staff – and is clearly relishing being freed of all that corporate red tape, even though Criterion had a better time of it than others.
“We actually had a lot of independence at EA,” she tells us, “as long as we made good games to the dates they wanted. But we know ourselves too well. We like to do a good job, so if there’s someone else paying us we’ll change our plans to fit what they need, rather than just do what we want to. It was largely about being independent; about freedom, which was a word we used an awful lot in our first year.”
That desire for liberty led to Three Fields’ founding group deciding to run the studio with their life savings, rather than seek external funding. “It’s a very British thing to do. Californians think we’re crazy: ‘You’re doing it with your own money? Why on Earth would you do that?’” The studio’s Britishness is reflected, too, in Dangerous Golf’s price point. In a riposte to years of US publishers ignoring exchange rates and swapping pound signs for dollar symbols, Dangerous Golf’s base price will be £12.99 in the UK, with the cost in foreign markets properly calculated from there.