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Something to GRIN About

Simon Viklund and Per Juhlen on the challenges of working with publishers on multiple high-profile projects

Ahead of this year's Nordic Game conference, taking place in Malmo later this month, GamesIndustry.biz took the chance to catch up with two of the speakers at the event - GRIN creative director Simon Viklund and producer Per Juhlen.

Here they talk about the challenges of working on multiple key titles simultaneously as the company gears up for the release of Bionic Commando and Terminator Salvation.

GamesIndustry.biz You're speaking at Nordic Game this year - what made you want to get involved?
Per Juhlen

We'll both be presenting the session, on Bionic Commando: Rearmed. I think it's very important to give people an insight into how we dealt with what's our first ever console game actually - and how to work with Xbox Live and PlayStation Network as distribution media, plus the challenges involved in using them.

Because the common thing when you talk to people is that you're told it's an easy way to distribute games, it doesn't require as much bureaucracy as publishing a title on disc - but actually there are loads of things to keep in mind when you work on downloadable games that are easy to forget.

We want to share our best practices - as well as the mistakes we've made - working on BCR, and hope that other developers don't fall into the same crap we did...

GamesIndustry.biz For those that aren't so familiar with GRIN, tell us a bit about the early days.
Simon Viklund

Well, GRIN started as a small company, really just a couple of people who made connections over the internet and tried to make some demos. That was over 10 years ago, back in 1997 I think it was. It was founded by brothers, Bo and Ulf Andersson, and they managed to get some investment money - that's the point at which I joined the company.

Then we grew from about 12 people to about 250 over the past decade. We started out with PC games, and as Per said Rearmed was our first console game. The aim was solely to make high-end graphics, starting out with Ballistics, before we moved on to Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 1 and 2 for the PC.

But we were looking for new challenges all the time, so we moved from the tactical side of things with GRAW into a more arcade-style approach in Bionic Commando and Rearmed.

GamesIndustry.biz Was the deal to make the PC version of GRAW a watershed moment for the company?
Simon Viklund

Yeah absolutely - because we worked with Ubisoft on that game, and Ubisoft is such a well-known publisher, more so than any of the other publishers we'd worked with before. Ghost Recon was also a well-known franchise, and we hadn't made any sequels or anything like that before, so we were working on stuff that people knew about - and suddenly other people in the business discovered us.

That's when we really started growing as a company in terms of numbers.

GamesIndustry.biz Back to the present, and now you're working on two titles with big publishers, both due later this month: Bionic Commando and Terminator Salvation. Two very different companies there, in Warner Bros and Capcom?
Per Juhlen

Yes, they're very different - it's interesting to work with both. Capcom is a very traditional yet very innovative company, that's created some really great titles in the past. Everyone was thrilled to be working with them.

And then you have the Halcyon Company that owns the Terminator license, and Warner publishing - it's very different working with them on a title, because you have to be in touch with so many different parties on databases. Things can change, and up until the movie is done pretty much anything can happen. You need to be really flexible when working on a movie license.

We try to be a very flexible organisation, being able to handle working with various publishers. It's crucial - we can't have an inflexible pipeline, we need to be able to adapt to whoever we work with.

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