WipEout Fusion
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

It's hard to think of WipEout without also thinking about The Designers Republic, the Sheffield-based agency that built the franchise's look and helped it become one of the trailblazers of the 32-bit era.

What you may not realise is that The Designers Republic – which was founded in 1986 by Ian Anderson and Nick Phillips – only worked on the first three titles in the WipEout series.

While it's long been rumoured that the reason for the split is that Sony asked the firm to pitch alongside other agencies to gain the contract for WipEout Fusion, Anderson has actually confirmed what happened on both the company's official site and within the pages of the book A To Z Of The Designers Republic.

Anderson explains that, after helping to create the design language of WipEout, WipEout 2097 and WipEout 3, the series began to become a little less exciting. "For most of us who were creatively involved it increasingly felt, edition after edition, like the future was becoming a franchise. What seemed futuristic pitched 100 years ahead to, say 2097 (back in 1996), started to feel potentially antique the further into the future we travelled. In terms of gameplay and cultural impact, it felt more like TV re-runs than Blade Runner."

However, as was previously rumoured, this was only partly why The Designers Republic and WipEout drifted apart. It's often been said that the agency doesn't like pitching for work and would instead allow its reputation to do the talking, and, as Anderson explains, someone at Sony did indeed make the fatal mistake of asking his company to compete with other agencies for the contract.

"Ultimately, a chancer with no involvement in the first three WipEouts asked us to pitch ideas for the fourth edition (of a game we'd designed). No thank you. Mission complete. Game over."

The fourth game, of course, was the aforementioned PS2 title WipEout Fusion, which divided both critics and players when it arrived in 2002. The series would continue, returning to the same visual style as its forerunners – but without The Designers Republic's involvement.

The agency would later work on the WipEout spiritual successor, Formula Fusion, which would eventually be released under the title Pacer.

[source thedesignersrepublic.com]