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Ruffian: Most successful games today have "persistence of life"

Crackdown 2 studio focused on "great core action games"

Ruffian Games producer James Cope has revealed the studio's focus for Crackdown 2, and for games after it, saying the studio wants to remain a one-project team, delivering "great core action games."

While demoing the game, and allowing attendees to play a multiplayer match for the first time at Dundee's NEoN event on Saturday, Cope also stressed how important online play was for Crackdown 2.

"The games that are doing well now are the games that have persistence of life. You need to be able to keep your disc in people's disc drives," he said.

"If you're doing that you're onto a winner. We play games online, and we want to bring that element of quick skirmish action. We always thought Crackdown was perfect for online and always wanted to do it like this."

Ruffian Games was formed in January this year and its work on Microsoft franchise Crackdown 2 was confirmed several months later.

The studio, said Cope, began with a staff of 15 and now, 11 months into Crackdown 2, has reached 49. But that team will remain focused on Crackdown until after its release next year.

"As a company, we've got a really strong belief in staying as a single project company. We feel that enables us to make the best games possible.

"We're not putting people with really great skills in the position of having to manage multiple things. You always get that situation where one game, one project, becomes more important than the other and you dilute your key staff across that. We want to stay incredibly focused on making really great core action games. That's where the future of the company is."

The growth of the Dundee-based studio, Cope added, is something it's been proud of. "We've not just got a game that's on good track, we've got a company that's on good track as well."

And he admitted recruiting talented staff has been helped by the closures of other key UK studios.

"It's a little bit sad to say, but we've been fortunate from timings of closing of other studios. There's an ebb and flow to the games industry and studios are born and die. And we became a little bit lucky when a couple of key studios went under, like Midway. That helped us a lot."

Ruffian's setting up in Dundee created "a little bit of tension", he said. "Realtime really wanted to make a sequel. For one reason and another Microsoft couldn't sign the project at that time, and Realtime are trying to do APB and the timing just didn't line up."

Subsequently, Ruffian was formed by former Realtime World employee Billy Thomson, and Gaz Liddon and Gareth Noyce of Xen Group; Xen being a resource company brought in by Microsoft to help Realtime complete the original Crackdown.

The studio's been lucky, said Cope, that many of its key staff have an already-established working relationship with publisher Microsoft, making the design process for Crackdown 2 that much easier.

"There have been some things Microsoft wants to see. But they line up really well with what we want anyway. It's about retaining that franchise and not going too far away from that original franchise idea but also put it into new directions. That's a difficult design balance but we've actually been lucky. But not through lack of hard work. We've had a very good relationship with Microsoft. Some of our key staff have had dealings with Microsoft for a long time. We worked on games like Fable 2, PGR4, things like that, through Xen. So we've had this long-standing relationship.

"You always get objectionable bits and pieces, like, how difficult the game's going to be. The developer always argues they want it to be more difficult than the publisher wants – that's normal. And it's good we can have a healthy laugh and chat about it. We like them as publishers."

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Kath Brice