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Diaries

[diary one - taking the plunge - october 1998]

As I slouched back in my comfy chair at home, staring into the dark sky outside and listening to the sombre tones of the 'Blade Runner soundtrack (track 12,'Tears in Rain' on continuous repeat) the ramifications of my decision began to sink in. I had traded what was in effect a sure-fire success for something infinitely more risky. Collaborating with Peter Molyneux over the last six years had been an extraordinary experience and also a very successful one. He is one of the most talented people I know and also arguably the greatest games designer in the business.

However, it had always been my ultimate dream to set up and run my own games company. So when the opportunity arose for me to be able to do my own thing I felt I had to grab the chance.

Foolhardiness maybe, but I had to take the plunge otherwise how would I ever have known. You only get one life, so you have to give it your best shot and try with all your might to make your dreams and ambitions come true. So there it was, I had chosen to accept the biggest challenge of my life so far. With these thoughts resolved, my final doubts drifted away and I turned my attention back to working on the plan of action for the next few weeks.

First thing the next day I went into a 'phone call frenzy'. The first call I made was to my good friend, Dave Silver, to tell him the news. He was the first person I needed to get on board, as I was counting on him being the other director of the company. Although he had known that this scenario had always been a possibility, as we had semi-seriously discussed it many times since the second year at university, he hadn't had much warning as to the timing. To my relief he was still as enthusiastic as ever about the idea, and incredibly excited at the prospect.

Dave is an AI expert, but when you look at his background you could be forgiven for thinking that he was some kind of AI!. His academic record is sickeningly flawless culminating in him achieving the highest ever finals average in the history of Cambridge Computer Science - although we haven't ruled out the distinct possibility that he may have hacked into the Cambridge network, found the results database, and altered his exam marks... The next calls that I made were to follow up on some of the informal promises for initial seed capital that had been tabled by some City investor types who knew me. All that remained was to convert their offers into concrete funding. Things were made easier due to the fact that I had known them all for years from my chess playing days, as in another life I was destined to become a professional chess player. Luckily we all saw the error of our ways and realised that although chess was fascinating and one of the best balanced games ever invented (due to millions of hours of beta testing throughout the ages!) it was too narrow a pursuit to dedicate your life to. It is strange how life seems to come round full circle, and people that you last saw in the mists of your past turn up again in the future in totally new surroundings.

I firmed up several meetings for later that week, which meant that two tasks urgently needed doing. A detailed business plan would have to be drafted up, and a name needed to be chosen for the new company. Now business plans are one of the most tedious and time consuming things that anybody attempting to getting funding for a start-up has to do. Unfortunately a sound business plan is a totally essential prerequisite to have any chance of getting funding and actually useful to the company later on. A few all night sessions later and it had been thrashed out, printed and bound.

Trying to come up with a cool and vaguely relevant name that no one else has used before may sound like a trivial undertaking, but I have been involved with doing this on three separate occasions in the past and each time it has grotesquely deformed into a nightmare job! This time I came up with a list of a dozen or so possible names and ran them past Dave. We decided we liked Axiom Software and Elixir Studios the best, but when I checked the names out we found that there was Axiom 'everything under the sun' Ltd, so that made the decision for us and we went with Elixir. For once it had been a relatively painless taskl The dictionary offered the rather flamboyant definition of elixir as 'the quintessential part of any substance'. Obviously I had no clue as to what this meant but it sounded good all the same.

So, armed with my makeshift business plan and some press cuttings of Theme Park, I was ready to take on the might of the City sharks. The battles were just beginning. In my mind I also knew who else I wanted in the team, now there was just the small matter of convincing them to risk all and join the new venture...

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