Now on Xbox Live Arcade is Cloning Clyde, a 2D platformer made by Ninja Bee. Recently we had a chat with Steve Taylor, president of Ninja Bee and John Nielson, the creative mind behind Cloning Clyde about their video game studio. “Our studio does traditional contract work as well as ‘indie’ stuff. NinjaBee is the ‘indie’ side of our group, the label we use for original and self-published and self-funded projects,” says Steve about his studio. “NinjaBee previously released Outpost Kaloki X for Live Arcade and our most recent release is Cloning Clyde, also for Live Arcade. As a contract studio, we’ve done other work for traditional publishers, and many of us have worked in the industry before at other companies.” Originally Ninja Bee released Kaloki for the PC, but the game has found a new home in Live Arcade. So what prompted Ninja Bee to take the Live leap with Kaloki?
Steve answers, “Outpost Kaloki started out as a prototype for a full retail console tycoon game. We pitched it to a bunch of publishers, and they all said they loved the game and the art and the feel, but nobody could risk a traditional contract budget on it, because it was too different, and in a genre that traditionally had problems on console systems. We released the game on our own for PC, which was the start of our lives as Indie developers, but Live Arcade became an opportunity for us to realize the original vision for the game – full console controls, a console-oriented design. We were able to add a ton of new content and customize the game extensively for the 360 and for Live Arcade. You can imagine, then, what the appeal is – a chance to achieve our vision for a game and do something original and creative and personal!”
With the one title already successfully on Live Arcade Ninja Bee focused on creating a second title for digital distribution, “Cloning Clyde is the next step down this path for us – a game John really wanted to do and was able to make his way rather than being subject to the demands of another group”. One of the benefits of making a Live title compared to a title for retail distribution is the development cost is “tremendously smaller.” “Our budget is a fraction the budget of traditional games. Like, 10 or 20 or 30 times smaller. What’s amazing to me is how well Live Arcade games stand up when compared to retail games. It’s flattering that Cloning Clyde is compared to games like the Oddworld games which had multi-million-dollar budgets!”
Cloning Clyde is sort of a throwback to the 16-bit era with a blend of puzzles and platforming. John Nielson the creator of the game explains, “We were influenced by favorite cartoon worlds like the Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy, as far as the look and IP. Gameplay was inspired by games like Oddworld, Lemmings, Lost Vikings, Worms, and a lot of other old 2D side-scrollers. But the specifics of this game were sort of an inspiration that struck, and once it hit, the game started to design itself.” In the game you play as Clyde a dimwitted lab rat in a cloning studio who is trying to escape along with all of his new found cloned buddies. To escape the studio Clyde is going to have to splice his DNA to make hybrids like Chicken Clyde. Just how many different Clydes are in the game? “Well, let’s see…There’s Chicken-Clyde, Sheep-Clyde, Ape-Clyde, Rock-Clyde, Mutant-Clyde, Explosive-barrel Clyde, and a whole bunch of unlockable Clydes like Princess-Clyde, Robot-Clyde, LabRat-Clyde etc. My personal favorites has to be Explosive-barrel Clyde. I like exploding on command! They were all fun to make and we’re pretty pleased with how they all turned out,” says John.
One addition in Cloning Clyde that isn’t seen as much in games now a days is two player co-operative gameplay. “I remember playing games as a kid with my little brother, both hunched over on our old PC. Even though, the controls, environment was not ideal, we had TONS of fun. I also played games with friends growing up on various consoles, and the ones that featured multiplayer were always my favorite. These days I love playing games with my wife and kids and it’s still the same story,” says John. However adding in online two player co-op game play was going to be a challenge, but it was something that the team really wanted to add in Cloning Clyde. “I think people see the end results, and it’s probably tough to see all that goes into it, but we supported both split screen and on-line play. Both had their unique set of challenges. For split-screen, we had to do a lot of extra work of setting it up, and optimizing so that the scene could be rendered up to 4 times in some levels, and maintain an acceptable framerate. For on-line play, we had to make sure that ALL of the events in the game could be syncronized from xbox to xbox. There was setting up of leaderboards, lobbies, game-modes, guest support, etc. etc. Luckily we had a great programmer, Brian Roberts, to handle all of our on-line programming. We knew that multi-player was going to be EXTREMELY challenging, especially on our very tight budget, but we felt that with this game, it was vital! Now that we’re all done with it, we know we made the right decision and it was worth all the pains we had to go through” says John about the online gameplay.
So what’s next for Ninja Bee? “Well, some of that is still something we can’t talk about in detail, naturally. We have been actively working on a third Live Arcade title, but it got starved for attention while we finished Clyde and we’re finally making serious progress on that. We have huge plans for original gameplay, new games that include awesome downloadable content, and pushing technology and content ideas with every new game. And here’s a secret: Each of our games has a hidden reference to a future game in it. Somewhere in Clyde is the name of another game we plan on doing for Live Arcade,” says Steve. But what about Cloning Clyde is it a one shot deal or does Ninja Bee plan on continuing the series? “A sequel to Cloning Clyde is not out of the question, but our next game will not be a sequel to anything. Any sequel we did would also have to stand on its own as a great new experience, not just a new set of levels for an old game.”