Case Study: Grip Games “Atomic Ninjas”

Hello Jakub, let me congratulate you on your latest effort Atomic Ninjas! When I downloaded the free demo onto my PS3 the other night, I immediately fell in love with the cute characters and the very stylized visuals. Only when I went through the tutorial, I realized that your game had a very unique game mechanics at its core, too, with enemies that could only be hurt indirectly. How did you come up with the idea for Atomic Ninjas, and how did the gameplay evolve during the game’s development process?

It all started with the idea of having a simple “pick up and play” 2D platformer. We have iterated through several ideas, testing various mechanics and we came to the idea of indirect killing quite soon, as that was clearly the feature that was the most fun. We continued iterating and tested literally hundreds of ideas. Before our ninjas became ninjas, they were secret agents, simple boxes, even space cabbage!
Working with ShiVa was actually also part of the design process. The ease of working with ShiVa allowed us to do some things that we originally didn’t think would make it into the game because of our time schedule. But thanks to for example really easy menu design and great support, we had much more time to add some extra features and visual effects to the game.

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The game is available exclusively on PlayStation 3 (PSN), which makes it one of the very few games made with ShiVa for current-generation consoles. Please give us a peek at what ps3 development is like, both in terms of porting your game with ShiVa and the process of publishing it through Sony’s console marketplace.

ninja06The first thing to say is that ShiVa played an integral part in the successful development of Atomic Ninjas. As an Indie Developer, you always want to 100% focus on your game, with as little technical hassle as possible. And that’s what ShiVa allowed us to do. It simply worked and we were able to start prototyping on a PS3 within days.

That’s of course only one side of the development. The actual process of getting games to the PlayStation Network is still quite rigid, with some major bumps on the road, but we have years of experience with the platform and with Sony in general, so it went quite smoothly. The overall development period was about 10 months.

We are also considering other platforms. Right now, it is much more a question of which platforms make sense for Atomic Ninjas, rather than porting difficulties.

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Personally, i have not heard of your Company GRIP GAMES before, but looking at the portfolio on your website, you have been in the business for quite some time and created a number of games already. You are located in Prague, Czech Republic, known to gamers for not only being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but also home to Illusion Softworks/2K Czech, the developers of the popular MAFIA game series. Is Prague the Czech game development hotspot?

ninja02The Czech Republic has a long heritage of games development. Prague is definitely one of the hot spots, but there are very interesting teams all over the country. The most of 2K Czech sits in Brno. There are some very talented mobile developers in Ostrava. Disney Mobile studios is just a few feet away from our offices. There’s Amanita Design, the makers of Machinarium. A lot of talented people, really. Most of our team is recruited from those established studios.

We started as a PlayStation Minis developer and created several PSP games and then moved on to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. But we also did some iOS and Android projects. Some of our games that you might know are The Impossible Game for the PSN, Foosball 2012 for PS3 and Vita, and One Epic Game for virtually everything with a display attached to it. In total, we have created and released more than ten successful games for a wide range of platforms.

Most of your previous efforts were 2D games, and even Atomic Ninjas, although it uses full 3D environments, has a 2D style of movement. Many indie games these days are 2D side scrollers with unique takes on the genre, and your game fits perfectly into this category. What is it that makes these style of games so popular in the Indie scene?

That is an interesting question. I think that the 2D side scrolling genre simplifies certain gameplay mechanics and is very well-known. This lets the innovative ideas in many games really shine. The developers don’t need to deal with complex 3D worlds, but instead they focus on making that unique key feature great. 3D worlds are fantastic for immersion, 2D worlds are better for innovative ideas. 2D games are also simpler for the players, I believe.

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Finally, where can we get Atomic Ninjas, how much does it cost, and are you planning on porting the game to other platforms?

Atomic Ninjas has been just released for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita via the PlayStation Store. We have implemented many cross-platform features in the game, so for instance when you make progress at home on your PS3, you can launch your Vita and pick up right from where you left off. You can get both versions of the game for 9.99 Euro. The game is exclusive to the PlayStation Network for the moment, but you never know where and when those pesky ninjas might appear!

Thank you very much for the interview! We wish you all the best with Atomic Ninjas as well as your future endeavours!


About Grip Games

Founded in 2009, GRIP Digital s.r.o. is a privately owned developer and publisher of games for game consoles, PC and mobile phones, based in Prague, Czech Republic. The core of the Atomic Ninjas development team consists of Jakub Mikyska, art director Jan Cabuk, and lead programmer Ondrej Mocny. The team working on Atomic Ninjas is 15 people strong.

Formed by professionals and enthusiasts with experience from AAA to casual mobile games, Grip Games develops creative and fun games. Among Grip’s most successful titles are Foosball 2012 for PlayStation®3 and PlayStation®Vita and One Epic Game for PlayStation®Portable and mobile platforms.

Grip Games also work with other studios and bring their games to the console platforms. Grip Games’ ports of “The Impossible Game” and “MiniSquadron” are among the most popular and successful games on the PlayStation®Store.