Welcome to Britsoft Focus. This is a weekly series from Kotaku UK that focuses on the British development scene, from single-person projects to world-straddling studio blockbusters. You can check out previous articles here.
Almost as soon as I start chatting to Billy Thomson, co-founder and now creative director of Ruffian Games, you know this guy’s the real deal. “I started in ’96 at a company called DMA Design in Dundee…” he begins. A company, I ask? “THE company,” Thomson laughs. “The company in Dundee at the time, anyway. First game was Grand Theft Auto, second was a terrible game called Tactics, then I went onto GTA 2, and then after that I left DMA.”
Let's catch our breath. Ruffian Games is based in Dundee, the home of DMA Design, though its roots are more directly from another linked studio, Realtime Worlds. It all starts with the re-branding of DMA Design as Rockstar North, and what founder Dave Jones went on to do next - which would (eventually) be to set up RTW and make Crackdown. Garry Liddon, Gareth Noyce and Billy Thomson worked at RTW on Crackdown before leaving and co-founding Ruffian Games to make Crackdown 2. The studio has subsequently worked on plenty of projects, and suffered some terrible luck along the way, but Dundee's rich gaming history is where this story begins, and continues.
“Initially Dave Jones had started a new company called Rage Software, so I was headhunted to go there," says Thomson. "Worked on a really small game called Mobile Forces, first-person shooter game, did that, and then after that Rage went tits up, fell to bits, and Dave kept the company going but rebranded it to Realtime Worlds, and he started work on a game that he was trying to get signed with Microsoft. That eventually became Crackdown.”
The Rage years, for Thomson at least, were an illustration of how projects come together and fall apart at the big-budget level. “Realtime was in Dundee, so Crackdown was developed in Dundee. There was a period after GTA 2 where me and Steve Banks, one of our designers at Ruffian as well now actually, we were both on GTA 2 and we were meant to go through to Edinburgh after. So we had Sam Houser on the phone giving us a deal and stuff, and it was all done and dusted, and it was ready to go, and then I got a phone call, and so did Steve, kind of like, ‘Stay in Dundee. We’ve got this great game. It’s gonna be on-,’ at that point the Unreal Engine, which was fucking amazing at the time.”
"We managed to get the David Beckham licence at a point when Beckham was just about to go into the fucking stratosphere, and they released the worst game ever."
“So we were sold this brilliant game. ‘I’m gonna give you a full team. We’re gonna develop all the levels.’ Like 3D level design, which we’d never really done before, so I was really interested. If we went to Rockstar, we knew we were gonna be mission scripters and nothing better, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make-, I wanted to do design and proper 3D level design. So when we got the chance to go and join Rage, I was all over Unreal Tournament and Quake at that time, so the chance to go and develop a proper like 3D first-person shooter was amazing for me. So we just jumped and went there, and everybody else from DMA had basically-, well, not everybody. The good guys went through to Edinburgh, it’s true.”
It would never quite happen at Rage, not least because the company showed itself unable to capitalise when it did get some luck - like scoring the David Beckham license at a point when the footballer had become a household name. “It went really badly,” says Thomson. “Like you said, we managed to get the David Beckham licence at a point when Beckham was just about to go into the fucking stratosphere, and they released the worst game ever with the most bankable footballer on the planet at the time, and it just went downhill from there.”
And what of the dream project with the Unreal Engine? “Mobile Forces, by the time we finished it was a rush just to get it done,” says Thomson. “It was the first FPS in the Unreal Engine that had vehicles and stuff, and so we put proper vehicles in and had a good wee game, but it was never - it never had the polish it needed, and they never had the resource. So it literally just came out and went right in the bargain bin. Nobody went anywhere near it. And yeah, at that point Rage were gone. They were-, I remember the negotiations at the time, in order for Dave Jones to continue the company on and then rebrand it as Realtime Worlds, he had to finish the game, and he had to pay his own money for, I think, the last five, six months of development for Mobile Forces. Then he basically said to Rage, ‘Look, I’ll give you the game if you give me the company and the guys, and then we’ll rebrand and go from there.’”
Martin Livingston is on the far left in this picture, and Billy Thomson's in front of him with the grey top.
We’ll get to Ruffian themselves soon, I promise. But we can’t skip over Crackdown, the game that would put Realtime Worlds and Dave Jones back on the map - for a while at least. In a post-GTA 3 industry, developers everywhere were looking to get their own open-world titles off the ground - but most would end up as low-quality clones. There are nevertheless real gems and among them is Crackdown, a game that has its own identity, and it’s surely no coincidence it came from designers like Thomson who really had been there and done that.
“The thing that we did and I think we did right was that because we worked on GTA, we knew what GTA was about, and so we knew what not to do,” says Thomson. “The way that we looked at it at the time, right, you go within a mile of GTA and you’re fucked, because they are better than anybody at that. Don’t try and take Rockstar on at that kind of game. You’re gonna fail, you are just gonna fail. So what we did instead was we created a fairly light living breathing city, so we got the sense of the city as much as we had to in order for it to be believable. But we never took it to the level and depth and variety that Rockstar did even with GTA 3 or going into Vice City and stuff. We pushed a completely different angle, which was go superhero, go kind of way overboard, go as far away from a really in-depth story as possible.”
"You go within a mile of GTA and you’re fucked, because they are better than anybody at that. Don’t try and take Rockstar on at that kind of game. You’re gonna fail."
“We’re trying to make an arcade game in a way, and this other thing we went for as well was what we called kind of RPG-lite, which was to pay attention to what the player is doing. So if the player enjoys jumping around, if the player is always driving cars and running guys over, or if the player likes firing explosive weapons, then allow them to progress in that skill. So we ended up with loads of skills at the start.”
This early focus on systems was what made the final game shine - Crackdown ended up having a minimalist structure that both encouraged and rewarded the player for doing what they wanted. One of the best gaming stories I’ve ever heard was a friend talking about his weeks-long quest to find the last Agility Orb. Even now it feels pioneering in the freedom it allows players to find their own route and grow in their own way.
“Well there was nobody we copied,” says Thomson. “That’s the only thing that I can say. It’s difficult in games to say you were one of the first, because there’s too many games, but I know for a fact we didn’t copy anybody. All we were trying to do was come up with a skill-based system that paid attention to the player and reacted to that: so if you like jumping and climbing up buildings, let’s make you jump higher and go even faster. If you like shooting people in the head, let’s make it easier to shoot them in the head. If you like blowing shit up, then let’s make explosions much, much bigger and have more fun. So we went for that.”
“The other thing that was more Dave Jones than anything else was this structure, because Dave really likes games that have got absolutely no structure at all, completely freeform. To the point that the design hated it, because the design team always wanted some level of structure, because it’s very hard to add in any level of difficulty balancing, progression over the period of the game, if you don’t know what the player has done before and where they likely are. So we always wanted to get to some level that was just a wee bit more structured that we could have a better gauge on where the player was, and what you’d done previously, in order to better balance what they were gonna do next. Dave didn’t want that at all. He was like, ‘No, no, no.’”
“To the point that the guy that was meant to be the final kingpin could be killed at the very start, and we were just like, ‘Jesus fuck, how do we even tell a story? There’s no story.’ And that, that was one of the reasons that in original Crackdown there was absolutely no story. It’s still not my thing. I still prefer a tiny bit of structure in my games.”
Ruffian’s story really begins here, after the release of Crackdown and when Dave Jones and Realtime Worlds moved on to the ill-fated APB. “Crackdown 2 never happened with Realtime Worlds, they turned it down,” says Thomson. “There was an offer there but Dave was focused on APB. So after that I got the opportunity to start a different company by pitching to Microsoft to do Crackdown 2, so I did that and it went really well.”
Thomson’s putting a slight gloss on the fact that, while he’s rightly proud of what Ruffian did with Crackdown 2, it was a project bedevilled with problems that the original never faced. ” Crackdown 2 had a lot of development-based problems in the sense that we never had time to make the game that we wanted to make,” says Thomson. “We had a little over a year and a half.”
I find this incredible – especially given that the original Crackdown had five years in development. “That was nearly five years yeah,” says Thomson. So Ruffian must have learned a lot from the experience? “Hard work [laughs] Yeah, I mean, we had the same engine, right, but what we were adding was 16-player multiplayer, so we had to completely rewrite all the networking. We had to rewrite the crowd system because the crowd system in the original Crackdown is smoke and mirrors, it’s not real, whereas in Crackdown 2 if you see something in the distance you can fire a rocket off in the middle of nowhere and blow it up, and when you drive towards it it’ll be there. So we created a proper, like, system that would dynamically alter from long-distance crowds into actual interactible NPCs.”
One of the contemporary criticisms of Crackdown 2 was that it was set in the same city as the original - even though, this time, it had been partially destroyed. This decision, presumably, was an outcome of the shortened development cycle?
“That was the argument to me in the first place. I wanted a new city. The argument to me was, ‘You can’t build a city again from scratch,’ but in destroying the city we build the city again from scratch. Every single model in that is brand new. So the argument that was presented to me in the first place to not do it... well, it turned out wrong.”
“It’s not the game we pitched in the first place,” says Thomson. “We pitched a three-year project with a completely different story and a different-, the whole thing was different. That was very nearly signed, but ended up not being what they wanted at that point in time. So we ended up doing this smaller game, and then we had to make a very particular window, which meant that that’s the amount of time you’ve got. So we had to reshuffle the design to make something that would make sense. That was where the whole Freaks thing comes from. Like, the Freaks were a side mission in our original design, but then they ended up becoming the whole thing because it would work, it was something that we could do in the time that was there.”
Martin Livingston is a designer at Ruffian Games, and started on Crackdown 2. “I think we did a pretty damn amazing job for the time we had and the people we had to do it, but there’s still times when I look it now, and I still go back to play it from time to time with friends, and I think, ‘I wish I’d put a little bit more into this position.’ We spent a week putting bins and street lights in there. I think, ‘I could have done more of this, and more of this...’”
"I live in Edinburgh so I was like, nine in the morning, drive to Dundee, work, finish at 11 o’clock at night, drive home, sleep, and wake up and do the same for months and months."
But this is hindsight – during the development, Ruffian was in full-on work mode. “Oh God yeah I remember,” says Livingston. “A lot of us were in their first job in the games industry, so it was that classic thing of a lot of us trying get their badge of honour. ‘We’re gonna do long shifts. We’re gonna work two days without sleeping,’ stupid stuff that at the time was kind of a bonding experience because we were all doing late late nights. I mean, I live in Edinburgh so I was like, nine in the morning, drive to Dundee, work, finish at 11 o’clock at night, drive home, sleep, and wake up and do the same for months and months. But everyone loved it. Everyone was absolutely invested in the game. Everyone wanted to do a huge huge game, and I think they all wanted it to have a bit more time and a bit more budget. I still think we’re all happy with what came out, even if I know now that it could have been better.”
After Crackdown 2, Ruffian moved onto pitching other projects and had some terrible luck. “To be honest it’s a bit of a blur for me,” says Thomson. “We did a lot of pitching. Some of them were actually signed, and something would just blow it to the side. We were about four or five months into the development of what would have been a fucking good game, in my opinion, a really good game with a really nice strong movie licence tie in with Universal, which could have been great, and then that particular division at Microsoft got cut. Our game was in that division, so it was really sad, because our whole team and the people at Microsoft, nobody even wanted it to go, it’s just - it is what it is. It’s a restructure, and we were one of the casualties.”
This was a dark time for Ruffian, with the studio coming close to the wall - what kept the lights on was becoming something of a Kinect specialist, and working with other studios. “We really struggled after that, actually, because that was our main bit of income,” says Thomson. “We had some money in the bank, so we kept going on, kept pitching. And it costs a lot of money to pitch, especially when you’ve got, like, 30, 40 guys working for you. We came so close to closing at one point, and then we managed to get two projects on the go, and then that kept us going.”
“But yeah we worked on Kinect for maybe four different projects. We were on Kingdoms for a while, which ended up being Ryse, so we worked with Crytek for a little while. They wanted a multiplayer version of the game, and the combat they had at the time was terrible, it was awful. So we got a version of the game in the Cryengine and what we did was we used our engine that we’d developed Crackdown 2 for, and we basically built a prototype in seven weeks and did character models. At the start of Kingdoms it was a first-person brawler, and it was all about this, like, really brutal visceral, kind of, up close and personal combat where you were, like, nose to nose with the guy fighting with him, as if you were in the front line with sword and shield.”
“We built the system that was all direction based, where you would have different attacks from the four different face buttons, and on a shift you could then use your shield and your sword to deflect these things. There were a lot of tells, just enough that you could react and block, and then when you blocked you would jump in. So it was a bit like a really light kind of Street Fighter parry. So we built that. And we gave it to Microsoft, who’d asked us to look at the prototype, and then they took it to Crytek, and they really liked it, so we went across and I demonstrated the build, and their guy thought it was great. He was like, ‘This is exactly what the multiplayer should be.’ So we got took on for that, and we had a contract in place for that, so we were working on the multiplayer stuff, but then there was a conflict between us and the campaign team because their combat was still shit but we were just meant to be doing the combat for multiplayer, and they were gonna have this weird division between campaign and multiplayer.”
"He didn’t like the fact that we came in and did something that his team had spent, I think, eighteen months on, and it was shit."
“So we were developing that, like I say we’d spent seven weeks on it, it was in our engine, and when we went across to Budapest to meet the team - the lead programmer, he was not a happy chappy. He didn’t like the fact that we came in and did something that his team had spent, I think, eighteen months on, and it was shit. So he was really against us getting the project, and it was funny, he claimed that, ‘There’s no way that you can do this in our engine. It will not happen.’ And we thought, ‘Well, just give us the engine and let’s have a go, and we’ll see how we get on.’ And he said, ‘No, there’s no way. You can’t learn our engine in anything under a year.’ And I said, ‘You license this engine, don’t you?’ And he was like, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, so why license it? If I can’t use it for a year, I’m not gonna buy it. How bad is this engine?’ And he went, ‘I never said that.’ So he got really annoyed.”
“That got us the chance. He was like, ‘Okay, take it. See what you can do,’ and in, I think it was eight weeks, we’d managed to recreate what we’d done in Cryengine, and it was bang-on. If anything it was a bit better, because their engine is a pretty engine. So it was like our gameplay in a slightly better-looking environment with better characters. So we did that, it was all going well, and then one of the Yerli brothers - there’s three brothers, and one guy Avni, he’s the guy that is the bulldog. He runs the show. He’s the money guy.”
“And I remember being in a meeting where he’s got this massive team, and it had got really bad where they were trying to recreate what we’d done, and we kept saying, ‘Just let us do the combat. You go and make the game, we’ll do the combat, and we’ll make it work in the campaign and in multiplayer, and you focus on what you’re good at. You’re good at creating amazing-looking worlds, and you can write the story.’
“So Microsoft are thinking this is great, and then Avni kind of turned to us while we were in a meeting in Budapest and just said, ‘No disrespect to you guys,’ pointing to us, Ruffian, and he just kind of said ‘But why am I paying you to do the job that I’m paying all you guys,’ pointing at his own team, and at that point I thought, ‘That’s us fucked.’ And we were cut from the team about a month after that.”
As well as Ryse and the various Kinect projects, Ruffian moved on to a game called Hollowpoint and partnered with Paradox Interactive. “The game that we started to make was an action game," says Thomson. “It had this nice mechanic a bit like Shadow Complex, where you’re running left to right on a 2D plane, but we’d created this other system that allowed you to fire at other planes with a single press. The AI, all the enemies that you had, would always come from the back of the room. They’d run towards the 2D plane, and if they got to the 2D plane they were right in front of you. So it was kind of like, keep them away from you and if they get up close and personal you switched to just a traditional 2D approach.”
“Hollowpoint was nice. It was a really nice arcade-feeling game. It had a lot of depth, because we had loads of different weapons, we had loads of different abilities with different, kind of, power-ups and cooldown timers and all this kind of stuff. But unfortunately the game that we were making was not quite the game that Paradox makes. Paradox games are these, like, in-depth, really deep strategy games. And what they wanted us to do was create a far more, kind of, depth-based progression system that was really hard for us to just squeeze into this arcade game that we’d made. And it wasn’t the kind of game that we make. We make tight controlled action games. It just never mapped.”
“So we were doing our best to try and make it work. We went to E3, and the guys that we showed the game to, it went down really, really well. They were enjoying it. We never knew this at the time but Paradox were also getting ready to go public and obviously make a lot of money, and I think part of that might have been looking at the portfolio. So it’s like all these really, really in-depth strategy game and then this little weird arcade game that’s stuck on the side that really never mapped to that bigger picture. They were just about to launch Cities: Skylines and Pillars of Eternity, which are two very different games.”
"Honestly, in my whole career I’d never been as shocked. There was no indication that it was coming.”
“So it was funny, we went to E3 and did so well,” says Thomson. “I came back and I think I was back two days and had to go on a holiday with my family, and when I got back from holiday Gaz Liddon [co-founder and studio head at Ruffian] phoned me and just said, ‘Paradox have pulled the game.’ Honestly, in my whole career I’d never been as shocked. There was no indication that it was coming.”
Martin Livingston was the producer on Hollowpoint. “I mean, so much was in there, not just the game. A lot of achievements, challenges even microtransactions and this kind of stuff was in there. It was really close. We weren’t far off. We’d been on it for a good year and a half, and I really liked working with the guys at Paradox. They’re a good crowd."
“It just felt, exactly like Billy said, the game that we were gonna make and the thing we’re good at wasn’t quite marrying with what they wanted. It’s horrendous because I really enjoyed making the game, I enjoyed playing the game, it was four-player multiplayer. It was all working, it was all good. It was the closest I’ve ever been to finishing and the longest I’ve spent on a game that’s been cut. I’ve never had that before. Like you said, we were on another game that was, what, four, five months into development and then it was cut for a completely different reason, but this one was just - it was pretty much almost content complete.”
Paradox owns the Hollowpoint IP so, sadly, the game is unlikely to ever see release. Ruffian Games has had some terrible luck in these kinds of contexts and it’s heartening that both Thomson and Livingston, while obviously feeling the pain of cut projects and might-have-beens, remain positive about their partners - who have, whatever else, helped the studio survive and continue making games.
One more story, though, has to be told - because it really is a dream game. At one point Ruffian was this close to re-booting Streets of Rage. “My favourite game of all time was Streets of Rage 2,” says Livingston. “So I was happy.”
“We had one guy on the team, one of the designers, who had a connection with SEGA,” says Thomson. “So we thought, ‘Right, what kind of game would SEGA like?’ And a lot of the guys were like, ‘Streets of Rage is a fucking great game.’ So we thought, ‘Right, Streets of Rage, cool.’ So we went into pitch mode at this point. This is after Ryse. We put together this little demo, a playable demo, a full design, a full presentation pitch, and we shared it with SEGA, with the contact we had. And he was like, ‘This is cool. This is exactly what we’re trying to do right now.’”
You can watch this pitch video here, and weep for what might have been:
“SEGA was doing this thing where they were looking at multiple old games like Golden Axe, Altered Beast, that kind of stuff, and with Streets of Rage they were like, ‘This is perfect. This is exactly what we’re looking for.’ So we went down to SEGA, did the pitch, sat there with all the guys, they absolutely loved it, showed them the video, and they went, ‘Oh, it would be so cool if it was playable,’ and I was like, ‘It is playable. This is just gameplay. That’s what it is.’”
“So we did that, and it was looking really good, and SEGA did all the due diligence, they’d come up, they saw the team, they’d met everybody, they’d looked through the books,” says Thomson. “It was all good, it was all ready to go, and then boom, right at the last minute, they were like, ‘We love the game, we are gonna make the game, but we’re gonna make it with our Australian studio,’ who had basically just come off I think it was Sonic and Mario at the Olympics.”
“So really SEGA had this company in Australia who didn’t have any work to move onto, and then they were like ‘We’ve got this great pitch for a game.’ It was like, ‘Fuck you, man.’ I don’t know [laughs] So yeah, it was really close. We really wanted to work on it, and we had a good design for a game.”
"You can’t blame everybody else. It’s a kick in the balls sometimes but that’s the industry. It is a tough industry."
Despite all this bad luck and, in SEGA’s case, bad behaviour, Ruffian had hedged its bets over the years with work-for-hire on Kinect and, in the case of projects like Hollowpoint, had been funded to make the game. “We managed to get enough work for hire to get a bit of money together to start doing our own stuff,” says Thomson. “And in August 2015, we started actually trying to do that properly. So Fragmental started then and we’ve developed that until now, it’s been out on early access since February. It’s not Version 1 yet. It’s not complete, we’ve still got two big updates to go before we’ll call it complete.”
A full preview of Fragmental will be up on Kotaku UK shortly. The catalyst behind this move, in a way, was Hollowpoint being canned. “It was pretty much immediate, says Thomson. “It was like, ‘We’re all in the room, this has gone wrong. Let’s make a game. What can we make?’ There was none of this kind of, like, feeling sorry for ourselves. It was just, ‘Look boys, there’s no shame here. The game was good. It’s just not the game they wanted.’ And yeah, I still stand by it, Hollowpoint was a good game.”
Ruffian’s story can sometimes seem, from the outside, like a slightly brutal side to this creative industry. It’s even hard to define what kind of studio they are - indie, AAA, somewhere in-between? “I would say we’re more of a fairly well-funded indie developer,” says Thomson. “Because we do a lot of work for hire, and that allows us the kind of luxury, if you like, to have a small team working on prototypes that might make it.”
Nevertheless I can’t help feeling a little sorry. “Ach don’t feel sorry for us,” chides Thomson. “You’ve got to take some kind of accountability. I mean, things don’t go all wrong for no reason, and you can’t blame everybody else. It’s a kick in the balls sometimes but that’s the industry. It is a tough industry.”
“Paradox kept us going, that’s the thing,” says Thomson. “And I’ve got to say, I really think that Paradox are a good company. Regardless of how it ended, I loved the way they approached development at the start, and I think they’ve got a lot of style and a lot of class. It’s just the game got cut really abruptly. That was the only thing that was a bit of a downer on that. But they treat their guys well, they genuinely do.”
“As far as the future of Ruffian, we’re developing VR prototypes just now. We really like the look of VR, and we’re working on something right now that we like. We’ll need to keep doing work for hire until we’ve got something else to pay the bills on its own, but VR looks good.”
“It feels like VR should get big but it’s never gonna be the only way to play games,” says Thomson. “So if I can have my cake and eat it, I’d like to see us doing VR but have small indie-based games as well, tight controls, more action-arcade-focused games, because that-, I think that’s what we’re good at, and it’s the kind of games that we play.”
“And if I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t like to get involved in major AAA again, because it’s four or five-year development cycle, and you don’t even know if people are actually gonna like it. It feels like you’re potentially killing yourself for maybe not much reward in the end, and I don’t even mean financial reward. I just mean having people say nice things about your game. There’s a kind of nicer feel to indie games where, especially on Steam, you can do regular updates, and if something’s a bit wrong you don’t go to a publisher and ask permission, just fix it and do an update. It feels more free to me. Just, you can kind of do what you like, and you can react to the public and try and do the right thing, I suppose.”
"It feels like you’re potentially killing yourself for maybe not much reward in the end, and I don’t even mean financial reward. I just mean having people say nice things about your game."
“It’s more like kind of the way games used to be. Probably a rose-tinted specs thing, but we didn’t have these monolithic massive games back in the day. I’d like to get shorter dev cycles. Like, releasing a good game every year would be great ”
I end with a question that ends up being about Billy Thomson himself - why the studio’s called Ruffian Games.
“So when I was younger, six or seven, one of my mates, his parents didn’t know me, and I came from a kind of rough background, rough area that I grew up in. I’d done a bit of artwork, it was in a primary class, and all the parents were up having a look around all of the artwork. Do you know when you go around and it’s like, ‘Ooh, look, this wee boy has done this thing,’ or whatever. So my mum and dad were there, and my mate Gordon, his mum and dad were across the other side of the room, and they never knew each other.”
“So they’re standing at my desk, and I used to be half decent at art, I don’t know what happened, but I used to be okay when I was younger. And apparently, Gordon’s dad was looking at it and his mum said, ‘Ooh, look at that, that’s really nice,’ and Gordon’s dad went, ‘Oh, that’s that Billy Thomson. He’s a ruffian.’ And my dad told me about it, and I remember telling the story, because I ended up working with Gordon, Gordon’s still a good mate of mine. So Gordon ended up working with us at Realtime Worlds, and when we moved and started the company, I’d mentioned this story at some point. It was a pub thing, we were in the pub and I’d mentioned it to Gaz and Gareth, who were the other two founders of Ruffian, and Gaz phoned me up one night and just said, ‘I think I’ve got a good game for the company. How about we call it Ruffian?’, and I was just like, ‘sounds alright.’ So that guy gave us the Ruffian name.”
Just as it does today in Fragmental, the quality shone through. And a story that began in Dundee continues there, this small Scottish city that has embraced its rich videogame heritage and - more than any other - is investing in its future. It's nice to know that, no matter how respectable and polished the Abertay graduates get, the city's crown jewels remain these battle-hardened veterans, the bloodied and unbowed Ruffians.