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Cloning Clyde interview with John Nielson


I was recently given the opportunity to interview NinjaBee's John Nielson, one of the many people behind the latest Live Arcade release, Cloning Clyde. The game released today and is one of the few original titles amongst a slew of nostalgic coin-op favorites. A puzzle platformer with a sense of humor, Cloning Clyde is sure to stand out among Live Arcade's current roster. Read on to find out what makes it special.

First and foremost, introduce yourself. What is your role at NinjaBee? More specifically, what role do you play in the development of Cloning Clyde?

At NinjaBee, I am a Project Lead. With Cloning Clyde, I played a larger role. I brought the engine that I had been working on for years and years at home, and also worked as the lead designer, modeler, animator, and programmer.

Give us a rundown of what Cloning Clyde is all about.

Cloning Clyde is a familiar feeling Side-Scroller with a few new twists. Clyde, the dumbest human you could ever imagine, gets cloned hundreds of times in a scientific experiment gone wrong. The company performing the illegal experiments, locks down the facility and Clyde and his clones are trying to escape. You'll have to attack evil-robot-security-systems and mutant chickens, collect your Killer Kenn Action Figures, switch between the Clyde-clones to solve puzzles, escape out ventilation shafts, and mutate your DNA with the local inhabitants to gain special abilities by becoming Chicken-Clyde, Sheep-Clyde, Frog-Clyde and more.

Tell us about the team behind Cloning Clyde.

We had a really small team of SUPER dedicated people. I listed my role above. Brian Roberts handled our leaderboards, on-line multi-player support, and other various programming tasks. Charles Nielson contributed a lot to general design and was our main level designer, and musician. Isaac Stewart worked on background models and creatively arranged the background pieces in the levels. Carl and Cory Adams helped with modeling the background pieces and did some testing. We also had a handful of other Wahoo\NinjaBee employees pitch in help including Shawn Boyles, Brent Fox, Shelly Bjorkquist-Skuza, and more. Steve Taylor managed the project and contributed a TON as far as technical direction, communication with Microsoft and VMC, design and art feedback, and everything else under the sun. Sorry to anyone else who I should have mentioned here. For a full list, see the in-game credits. I should also mention that we worked with VMC and Microsoft really closely through the whole project, and they were both great to work with.

You don't see a lot of traditional 2D platformers these days. What inspired you to make such a traditional design?

Mostly that we had a lot of the technologies already in place. I had been working on a game engine for many years. When the opportunity to work on the Xbox360 Live arcade came around, we knew that to get something out in a reasonable amount of time, we'd have to build off of what we already had. This type of game seemed to lend itself well to the arcade and seemed within scope, and we LOVED the design, so, we took the plunge.

What features make Cloning Clyde stand out among platformers and other Live Arcade titles?

Cloning Clyde is an original game and was made from the ground up specifically for the Xbox 360 and Live Arcade. It takes advantage of the custom shaders to create a pretty unique look. To set it apart from other platformers, we tried to keep it somewhat simple, but added the twist of being able to switch between the Clyde-clones or play multiplayer to progress through many of the game's challenges. Also, we think that all of the Clyde-mutations and unlock-able Clyde-costumes will be fun.

Speaking of the costumes and mutations, Cloning Clyde puts a clear emphasis on humor, which can be a pretty hard sell (see Psychonauts). Do you think there should be more funny games out there?

Funny you should mention Psychonauts. I recently played through that game with my family and we all loved it!

I think for games to really evolve, there should be some risks taken, even if that risk means making a game humorous even when humor is a 'hard sell'.

I think that these days, it's REALLY tough to get any publisher to take a chance on doing a game that has ANY sort of risk involved. Arcade title so far have not had nearly as large of budgets as the retail games, and therefore there is way less risk in them. That's why I think it's a great avenue to be super creative and maybe try something a little new and different. I hope to see a lot of cool new creative ideas come from the arcade.

How has your experience with Microsoft and Live Arcade been? Where do you see the service going? Would you recommend it to other independent developers?

Working on this game with VMC and Microsoft's Arcade team has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I've wanted to make original games for as long as I can remember, and they were totally cool to work with! They were supportive and professional the whole time.

I think that downloadable console games have a SUPER bright future. I love being a part of it. I call it a 'pioneering' effort since it is such a relatively new concept and there are so many areas to explore and try new things.

As far as recommending it to other independent developers, I guess I would recommend that they don't underestimate what it takes to make a game like this. It was tough! And I think only someone REALLY passionate about doing it could have success.

What Live Arcade game are you looking forward to most?

Well, I liked Geometry Wars and I've heard rumors that there might someday be a sequel in the works? That could be fun. I hate to admit that I'm looking forward to SF2 since they are so obviously dominating over us in the 'looking forward to' voting. But by far, I'm looking forward to the upcoming original NinjaBee titles the most. In general, original titles interest me a LOT more than ports or remakes.

Are there any games you'd like to see brought to Live Arcade? Any old console titles or independent PC games?

Actually, I'd like to see more original titles on the Arcade, or at least upgrades with improved graphics and/or game-play. The Xbox 360 is SUCH a powerful system, and I hope that in the future more arcade titles will take more advantage of its capabilities, and blow us all away!

Finally, what's next for Ninja Bee? Are you dedicated to Live Arcade, or would you consider a full fledged 360 title?

I guess anything is possible if the right deal comes along, but right now we are REALLY happy with the Arcade. We feel that it's an area where there are new frontiers to conquer and we feel we can make a difference there.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Good luck with Cloning Clyde!

I've appreciated your time and the thought put into your questions. Thanks again.

There you have it, folks. If you haven't gotten it already, go grab the demo of Cloning Clyde and let us (and John) know what you think.

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