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NinjaBee Team Interview

Game: Cloning Clyde
Company: NinjaBee

Ricky Tucker/StarScream got the chance to speak to Steve Taylor and John Nielson, both of NinjaBee, the minds behind Cloning Clyde and Outpost Kaloki X. Here's what they had to say.

GV: Before we get started, tell us who you are and what role you play at NinjaBee.

Steve: I'm Steve Taylor, president of NinjaBee. I manage things and do production work on game projects, including programming and design.

John: I am John K. Nielson, creator and designer of Cloning Clyde and the guy behind J. Kenworthy Entertainment.

GV: NinjaBee was one of the first companies to really embrace Live Arcade. Why did you decide to go with Arcade rather than downloadable PC games?

Steve: Most of our background and a lot of our passion was always in consoles. Outpost Kaloki itself was originally a prototype for a console tycoon game that we pitched to a lot of companies, but had a hard time getting traction on. Live Arcade was a chance to do original internally-designed games on an awesome console system, so that was pretty much a no-brainer for us. We absolutely jumped at the chance to do a launch title.

GV: How receptive is Microsoft when it comes to pitching ideas for new games for Live Arcade?

Steve: Very! They take ideas from anyone about anything. The problem is that they have thousands and thousands of submissions to wade through, so new ideas have to stand out, meet a bunch of criteria, justify their potential existence on Live Arcade and the Xbox 360, and just plain get people excited.

GV: Was it easier to get Cloning Clyde through since you had already had success with Outpost Kaloki X?

Steve: Absolutely – we had already been through the process of understanding basic ideas, implementing a ton of Live Arcade specifics, and making it through the certification process. However, Cloning Clyde added a lot of complexity to the formula in terms of new technology and various multiplayer elements. These things made the process much more complicated, to be sure.

GV: In your opinion, do you see Live Arcade becoming a great way for independent developers to get their names out? Also, do you think the large publishers might begin putting smaller games up on Arcade as well as releasing “big name” titles?

Steve: Yes to both. Larger publishers have already gotten involved with Live Arcade, either using smaller third-party teams or developing Live Arcade games in-house. But Live Arcade is still an excellent way for indie developers to jump into the fray and stand out with something original and interesting that shows off their passion. Microsoft goes out of their way to support the Indie world on Live Arcade, but has to do so while maintaining a high quality bar.

GV: Any advice for other independent developers looking to develop for Live Arcade?

Steve: Read this excellent interview with Ross Erickson, and pay attention to what he says about the vision for Live Arcade and what he's looking for in the portfolio: Check it out here!

GV: There seems to be a shift in gaming with more players (and some developers) wanting short, fun experiences rather than massive epics. Has NinjaBee found a spot as an “arcade” developer, or are there plans to eventually branch out into larger “boxed” games?

Steve: A weird thing about NinjaBee is that we came from a background of contract work. NinjaBee is the "indie" side of Wahoo Studios, which continues to do traditional work-for-hire development on boxed games. So, we haven't entirely left that world yet, and there are some huge advantages to it (including support from a big company and much deeper financial resources on a single game). However, the smaller original stuff is extremely appealing to us, and we're having a blast working on games like this.

GV: Roughly how big is NinjaBee as a company? How large are the development teams for each game?

Steve: We have about 30 employees working on several projects, on both the Wahoo Studios (traditional contract) and NinjaBee (indie) sides. The team on Kaloki was anywhere from 2-10 people depending on the stage of the project, and on Clyde it was anywhere from 1 to 10 or so. We usually start a team out small and grow it as needed for a given project.

GV: How did the concept for Cloning Clyde originally come about?

John: Well, I wanted to come up with an idea for the Live Arcade that would be doable in a reasonable amount of time, and fit within a tight budget. We had to look at the technologies we had available and consider our perception of what the market would be. We kicked a LOT of ideas around and when all these ideas were swimming around in my head, all of a sudden, the idea of Cloning Clyde popped in there. I recognized pretty immediately that it was the right thing to do, and after that, it started to pretty much design itself out.

GV: From start to finish, about how long was Cloning Clyde in development?

John: It took about a year and a month from concept to completion.

GV: Was there anything you were hoping to get into the game that didn’t make the cut?

John: Definitely! When working on a game like this, it’s a constant challenge to keep the scope of the game limited while delivering as much punch as possible. It’s REALLY easy to let design ideas and things you want to do bloat the budget and schedule out of control. We were constantly picking our battles and making necessary cuts while trying to make the game as great as possible.

GV: Since its release, Outpost Kaloki X has seen a number of content downloads. Are there any plans to release new content for Cloning Clyde?

John: There are no current plans for downloadable content for this game. It is REALLY important and prevalent in our minds though and we are heavily considering it in everything we design and work on.

GV: Pricing has become a hot topic as of late among gamers and the press. How did NinjaBee approach pricing, especially with some companies taking flack for high content prices?

Steve: Pricing is something we discuss with Microsoft – a decision we work out together based on lots of things including our cost of development, their expectations and portfolio plans, etc. I sincerely hope that people find Kaloki and Clyde easily worth 800 pts, and the feedback we've heard so far is that they are.

GV: With the PS3 and Wii also supporting Live Arcade-like features of their own, are there any plans to develop content for those systems as well?

Steve: We haven't announced any plans, but we'd be stupid to ignore these opportunities. That said, we love Live Arcade and plan to continue to make unique Live Arcade games for as long as they let us.

GV: Any hints on NinjaBee’s future projects?

John: Hmm... Nothing we can officially talk about yet. Each game we've done has had some kind of reference to a future NinjaBee game in it. That's a pretty obscure hint, isn't it? We are actively working on future projects that will be just as Live-Arcade-customized and even cooler than Outpost Kaloki X and Cloning Clyde, so keep your eyes open for announcements!

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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