On Tuesday evening, in Redmond Washington, Microsoft was attempting to wow crowds by unveiling their latest console to a gathered crowd of onlookers and the media. But arguably the show was stolen by the unveiling of the newest member of the popular Call of Duty franchise, Colin the Dog. Meanwhile, at the exact same time in a faraway land, Quistis the Dragon is busy roasting a meal consisting of a hapless bard garnished with the leaves of a nearby forest, attempting to prise open the armour of the previous knight who dared to venture into his cave unannounced with his claws, seemingly a world away from a life that, at one point, he was a large part of. “I’d say I’m quite pleased for him, really.” Quistis tells me as I sit down in his cave a few days after the event. “There’s a degree of sadness that I never got that opportunity, but in all honesty seeing the furore around the beast, I could have foreseen…. issues. I do enjoy my privacy.”

Quistis isn’t just your typical dragon. Back in 2010 he was contacted by a small team of games developers, looking to include him in their debut release. A game that was to cross the bridge between popular off-road rally simulations, and dragons. “I wasn’t too familiar with the gaming scene at the time,” Quistis recalls “but there was this bearded fellow who many of my dragon-friends had been speaking of. They noticed him around while on their daily kingdom flights, always just out of view but staring with awe and intent. One had even claimed they saw him paint himself gold in the hope that a dragon would pick him up and take him to the treasure pile in his cave.” That man turned out to be Hank Omodo – a self proclaimed dragon expert. Given the insular nature and rarity of the species, it wasn’t long before Quistis had a personal encounter with Omodo.

Hank Omodo - Dragon Expert on Dragon Rally in 2011

Hank Omodo – Dragon Expert on Dragon Rally

“I was asleep on my treasure pile, when I felt the brush of whiskers against my tail. I spun around, and there he was. But rather than cowering in fear, his eyes were wide with glee. My normal reaction at this point would be to charbroil his flesh from his bones, but as I reared my head, he interrupted me with a proposal. He asked if I would be interested in working on a project with him and a man named Gwynevere Scales.” The proposal came as somewhat of a surprise to Quistis, but he had heard good things about the games industry from fellow dragons; “My brother had actually worked with a company called EA on a title they called “Dragon Age” about a year or so previously. He had a good working relationship with them, and he told me they’d managed to capture his majesty well, even going so far as to be on the cover.”

Gwynevere Scales, lead developer on Dragon Rally, pictured in 2011

Gwynevere Scales, lead developer on Dragon Rally, pictured in 2011

The project that Omodo was proposing turned out to be Dragon Rally. A multi-format game that promised to marry the concepts of high-octane thrills from the popular genre of rally simulation, crossed with dragons. Although he wasn’t too familiar with the “horseless metal carriages” known as cars, Quistis was intrigued by the brazenness of the man, and joined the Dragon Rally project in late 2010. “By this point, the game was aiming to be announced in early 2011. One of the first things the DR team wanted me to take part in something called “Motion Capture” in which they put hundreds of ping-pong balls over my body to get the most accurate depiction of a dragon in a game ever.” Famously, the amount of ping pong balls required subsequently caused panic later in 2011 when the London Olympic commission feared they wouldn’t have enough ping pong balls left over for the Olympics the next year. It gave Quistis his first taste of controversy within the industry. “Scales was excellent at damage control, he never once threw me under the proverbial bus (not that a bus would have done much damage) and fought to keep me on the project at every step of the way.”

The Dragon Rally cover art, unveiled in early 2011

The Dragon Rally cover art, unveiled in early 2011

As development on the game itself continued, Quistis had his eyes opened to the game development process from a unique perspective. “I was amazed at what these computer things could do. They told me they used fifteen polygons for every one of the many thousands of scales on my body. I was so impressed at the level of care and attention just spent on my character model, and they got all my points of articulation, including the way I open my jaw to spew bursts of red-hot flame to my enemies.” What surprised him the most, however, was how well the two elements seemed to gel together. “Even from my perspective of limited familiarity, I was quite excited at how the game was going to turn out. You would be driving your horseless can over a large hill, and then I’d see myself swooping majestically through the air towards it, ready to cook all who were unfortunate to be caught in the path of my searing flame. Only the best players would be able to avoid their fate, and there was always a thrill seeing myself take the charred metal shells off-screen, presumably to be added to the other spoils kept in my cave.”

Come May 2011, the public reveal went into full swing with trailers, previews, interviews and posters blasted out to the games media at large. The public lapped up information about Dragon Rally, even with the lack of screens and the focus on mainly concept art. “It was certainly the busiest time for me – though I wasn’t comfortable with doing face-to-face interviews, I was regularly asked if I could help with the PR side of things and answer interviews via email – Omodo had to type for me, because quite clearly my claws are not suited to a keyboard.” A smile comes across Quistis’ lips “And I won’t lie, there were a few fair maidens who wanted me to take them to their tower, if you know what I mean.” Endorsement from Jason Bradbury at the Video Game BAFTAs that year was the cherry on a very happy few months for the dragon, feeling something he hadn’t felt in quite some time – mainstream acceptance.

Sadly, despite promises of a 2018 release date, things went south for the Dragon Rally developer. “Well, my contract was only really for a year – with the option to extend should the need arise.” Quistis heard less and less from Scales, and had heard nothing of the game itself in any of the media for several months. Reports came out about concept artists suffering from burnout and PR stunts that were blocked by authorities for going too far. There was also the talk of the mistreatment of interns, but Quistis wouldn’t be drawn on that. He would however, tell of us of how his relationship with Omodo took an odd turn: “At one point he asked if I’d be interested in describing dragon mating practices with him, perhaps even doing some mo-cap work. But I wasn’t comfortable with it. I felt it would cheapen the integrity of the game somewhat. He seemed disappointed, but understanding.”

An image allegedly by a concept artist working on the game several months into development.

An image allegedly by a concept artist working on the game several months into development.

The Dragon Rally Studio itself went dark in 2012. “The next time I heard from anyone on the project was Omodo in late 2011, he was now doing something for company called Bethesda and asked if I could record some lines remotely for some RPG game he was working on. I have no idea what happened to Dragon Rally.” There have been rumours that Scales is still continuing work on the game behind closed doors, while talk of a Kickstarter to continue development has been frequent but without any results. Quistis doesn’t hold any ill-feelings at all though. “I was definitely paid well for my work.” he tells us. “There aren’t many of us dragons left, and we’re still facing a lot of the same issues we’ve been facing all our existence. I think I’d prefer to just quietly destroy knights in my cave, but I wish the team the best of luck.”

We contacted both Scales and Omodo for comment, but sadly neither of them responded to our emails (except from an auto-reply from Omodo which said he was away “testing out his new wings”) – but Quistis has some advice for the most popular canine in gaming right now: “Don’t let the fame go to your head. It’s all well and good essentially drowning in bones and bitches, but eventually all that stuff goes away. I’ve got an egg now, and I just want to raise him in the right way with a good head on his shoulders.” Leaving Quistis to his treasure and his young family, it’s clear that he’s enjoyed his time as part of the games industry, but he recognises it’s time for someone else to have the limelight. If Dragon Rally ever does appear, Quistis will certainly be amongst those playing it with his egg when it hatches, but if his progeny don’t get into the games industry, that’s fine too.

(Quistis declined having his picture taken for this article. At least we assume that’s what we took the melted camera he sent back to mean.)

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