Bionic Commando Dev All GRINsPublished by wes213 on Saturday, December 15, 2007
Tagged: Gaming, Xbox 360,
Bionic Commando developer GRIN reveals to Next-Gen the opening of a new studio, and the amount of creative influence that Capcom Japan will have on GRIN’s highly-anticipated grappler.
In the US, GRIN, developer of the PC versions of the Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter games, isn’t the most well-known studio. But with 190 people across four locations and a decade under its belt, the Sweden-based game maker is a formidable industry player.
GRIN revealed to Next-Gen earlier this week that it is expanding further with the opening of a Gothenburg, Sweden studio. According to GRIN CEO and co-founder Bo Andersson, about 20 people are lined up to begin work in Gothenburg, and the self-sufficient studio is expected to grow to about 50 staff in total. Doors will open on January 7.
“The new studio is working on a very, very big Hollywood sci-fi brand” for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, hints Andersson. “It’s a real triple-A thing.”
The founding of the Gothenburg studio comes just after GRIN established a beachfront Barcelona studio earlier this year. “Sometimes staff there have this problem of getting sand between their toes during lunch breaks,” a rep from GRIN joked.
With a QA office in Jakarta, Japan and headquarters in Stockholm, perhaps a Stateside presence would be the next step for GRIN.
“One country at a time,” Andersson laughs. “But we have been looking at the US, not only because there’s a lot of talent there, but because of the exchange rate. It starts to become quite beneficial to actually be in the US rather than Europe, which is quite interesting. We already have a collaboration with a partner in Canada, so that’s not too far away.”
GRIN’s catalog of games includes the aforementioned GRAW games for PC, as well as the 2003 car combat game Bandits: Phoenix Rising and the 2001 racer Ballistics. But it’s GRIN’s current project, the re-imagining of the classic game Bionic Commando, that has gamers’ attention.
"We step up to the challenge of Bionic Commando with both fear and respect.”“It was the chief of R&D over at Capcom Japan who actually approached us with the opportunity,” Andersson explains. “It was a very direct contact, and very exciting because we didn’t see it coming. They basically called us up and said, ‘look, we have something we want to talk to you guys about, so can we come over?’”
After Capcom gave a presentation of the brand at GRIN’s office, the studio decided then and there that Bionic Commando was a good fit. The developer’s Stockholm location is currently developing the game.
“I think they were just looking at our attention to detail in regards to not only our technology, but our gameplay,” Andersson says.
With such a revered franchise with a big fanbase, he admits that there is a bit of extra pressure to execute flawlessly.
“It’s excellent. I love to work with big fanbases,” Andersson laughs. “It’s a great challenge. We stepped into the Ghost Recon brand on the PC side, where we had to deal with those crazed fans. So we’re kind of used to that pressure.”
But he acknowledges, “The pressure is larger when you deal with such a renowned publisher as Capcom. Still, we love stepping up to the challenge with both fear and respect.”
NEXT: Capcom Japan's creative influence
Commissioning GRIN, a Western developer, to handle one of Capcom’s most celebrated brands has some fans wary about the outcome. Will it still have some of that Japanese flavor, and how much influence will Capcom Japan have over the game?
Andersson says that Capcom Japan has had a direct influence on creative aspects of the game, with top creatives from games like Devil May Cry and Resident Evil offering their feedback.
Andersson compared the relationship to Capcom with that of Western publishers. “[Western publishers] very much like to have the producer come over and do check-ups,” he explains. “But Capcom is just more like a creative advisor, which I think is really cool. So they’re in on the creative side, and give a direct Japanese influence straight into the game design.
“…The most interesting part is that our game gets thrown around to all the other departments within Capcom. The guys making Devil May Cry and Resident Evil and such. That’s really cool, because you get feedback from other creative directors and creative people from within the Japanese games industry while your game is in development. I’ve never experienced that in the Western industry. For me, that’s unparalleled.”
And it’s hard not to talk about Bionic Commando’s trademark grappling hook and the plethora of gameplay possibilities that feature allows.
“If you really want to push the PS3, you have to be able to pay for it as well.”“I’d say we’re still brainstorming [about how we can use the grappling hook],” he says. “We’re about 15 months into production, and every day someone comes up with a new idea. The first design session was really just two months of throwing stuff back and forth with a wire and doing a lot of concept art.”
He says that he hopes to release that concept art after the game releases in an art book “to show people how long of a process it was to actually implement that mechnanic.”
He adds, “It took us about a year to get everything right.”
“PS3’s as complicated as you make it”
GRIN is developing Bionic Commando for Xbox 360, PC and PS3, so Andersson is able to provide some insight into the challenges of multiplatform development.
“[PS3’s] actually more complicated, because you have to pay attention to the hardware in a completely different way than the PC and 360,” he says, as different development methods are required when working with the PS3’s Cell processor and memory.
“You have to be more careful about what you’re doing.”
But he says that GRIN’s gameplay and controls are written in a separate language that is completely cross-platform. “The only thing that we actually change is the rendering device between 360 and PS3, as well as some of the memory management.
“Where you can do the real magic on PS3 is in the optimization of the SPUs [synergistic processing units], but you’re not really required to do that—only if you really want to push the game and the platform, which is something we’re dedicated to doing.”
Development of the PS3 engine is taking place at the new Barcelona studio, while the Stockholm offices have been developing the Xbox 360 and PC engines.
“So developing for the PS3 is as difficult and costly as you make it,” he adds. “If you really want to push it, you have to be able to pay for it as well.”
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