Tech: Mike Oldfield's Odyssey

August 8, 2002

Metro (UK magazine)

Tubular Bells may have sold more than 10million copies but that means nothing to the computer games industry.

For the last two years Mike Oldfield has been moonlighting as a games developer and recently made his first effort available to the public, despite working under the shadow of the industry's reticence to his creation.

In Music VR Episode 1: Tres Lunas, Oldfield has developed a game unlike anything currently available, and on which not one publisher would take a risk. But global stars don't need corporate patrons and, instead of waiting around, he has taken the

DIY route and made the game available onthe web (, timing its release to coincide with his new album, also called Tres Lunas - featuring a second CD with a demo of the game.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, music plays a fundamental role in the game.

It has no plot, no specific adventure and, importantly for the development team, no-one to kill. Inspired by early flight simulators and Oldfield's love of open spaces, it consists of an enormous virtual universe that's explored while listening to the ambient music of the veteran musician.

The game has been eight years in the making, with Oldfield conceiving it in 1994 when only big silicon graphics machines were capable of virtually reproducing his vision. But few people had access to these and

Oldfield wanted something everyone could play, and he's been waiting for PC technology to catch up with his innovation.

Mike Dooley, the software developer who's worked solidly on this project for the last two years, said: 'Mike was using programmes I'd written eight years ago to make 3D models on the old silicon machines.

Ever since then he has been ringing me up regularly to see if PCs were good enough yet to handle the game and I kept having to tell him to wait.'

The technology has now caught up and Tres Lunas is a reality. In this vast virtual universe there is no competitiveness or point scoring and the player - who flies through canyons, swims with dolphins and visits other planets - is asked to do little more than explore the surroundings with child-like wonder.

'Children love just wandering around and exploring, and when we get out of our play pen and into the garden for the first time, it's magical,' explains Oldfield.

'That gets squashed out of us once we go to school and have to compete, pass exams and get a career.

The rivalry and jealousy takes the innocence out of us and I wanted to put it back in.'

Oldfield hopes to make an updated version of the Music VR, when PC graphics can achieve the photo-realism found in modern animated movies.

Until then he is returning to the music studio to re-record Tubular Bells for its 30th anniversary next year.

Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield