Pushing it to the Climax: interview with Climax Studios CEO Simon Gardner

Matthew Jarvis
Pushing it to the Climax: interview with Climax Studios CEO Simon Gardner

Climax may not be a company you'd associate with being an ‘indie' developer.

Over its 25-year-plus history, the company has actually worked with some of the industry's most iconic video game IP.

Starting out with console ports of Diablo and Warcraft, before moving onto its original Silent Hill games (Origins on PSP and Shattered Memories on Wii) the firm remains a popular partner for major publishers looking to expand on their already successful IP.

In fact, Climax CEO Simon Gardner says that the number of outlets that are capable - or willing - to do this sort of development is becoming a rarity.

Over the last few years quite a number of our traditional competitors have disappeared,” he recalls.

They either evolved into other companies by doing more of their self-publishing or went out of business.

Certainly, we're finding that we get a lot of approaches now – and one of the common themes we hear is that there are fewer reliable developers left that companies can go to.”

The latest in Climax's shared-IP repertoire is the upcoming Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China.

The game adopts a 2.5D side-scrolling format, which is in stark contrast to the fully 3D worlds of Ubisoft's main series.

It also features a character previously only seen in the novelisation of Assassin's Creed Revelations and the short film Assassin's Creed: Embers: female Assassin Shao Jun.

Ubisoft was looking to do something that would allow them to explore other characters and environments within the Assassin's Creed universe, and which would allow them to satisfy fans' requirements for those,” says Gardner of the title's origin.

The problem with their main games is that they take quite a long time for them to produce. But they know what scenarios and characters they're going to be doing quite a way out, and I think this was a way of going: ‘Yes, we can address some of the appetite here for fans by doing a more contained experience.'”

"You see things come and go, and other things come and grow; if you don't jump in straight away, you're not a leader."

Simon Gardner, Climax Studios

Gardner says that the chance to work with an existing franchise is often granted to Climax by a publisher looking to build on its own IP.

But the studio is unafraid to pitch to publishers, either. After it created Silent Hill: Origins, it was Climax that then approached Konami with the concept for its popular Wii Silent Hill game.

Shattered Memories was something that we very much pitched into Konami and said: ‘This is the next thing we'd like to do with the Silent Hill franchise',”he explains.

So, with a personal interest in the classic horror franchise, would Climax consider returning to the world of Silent Hill?

Yeah, I think so,” Gardner responds.

We made two Silent Hill games and we're particularly proud of Shattered Memories; it was a really groundbreaking game.

I'd love to explore more with the psychological profiling that we did in that, and the way that the story had multiple branches in it. It was interesting, it's something that we could develop further.”

After nearly three decades of work on PC and consoles, 2015 will see Climax take a diversion into a completely new platform – virtual reality.

The studio's debut virtual reality title, Bandit Six, is set to be one of the first titles for Samsung's Gear VR headset, which impressed the firm when it got to play with it.

Samsung demoed the early prototype of the Gear VR to us, and I was just really taken with it,” he says.

I was excited in a way I hadn't been for a long time. I brought an early development kit back to the UK and put a team on it straight away.”

He adds: We took a risk. You see things come and go, and other things come and grow; if you don't jump in straight away, by the time you actually do get involved you're not a leader. I thought: ‘Not with this one. We've got something here, so let's go for it.'”

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