Background on more top-tier developers

DEVELOP 100: Profiles 11-20

This month we’ve published the 2011 edition of the Develop 100.

Sponsored by Gamecity: Hamburg and based on data compiled by Metacritic, the Develop 100 ranks the world’s games developers based on their critical reception.

Below you will find profiles of some of the best studios that made the top half of the list.

For all Develop 100 coverage, and more studio profiles, go here.

11. One Man Left

Studio’s 2010 Release
Tilt to Live

Founded: 2010
Location: Montgomery, Alabama, US
@OneManLeft on Twitter

Formed by programmer Alex Okafor and artist Adam Stewart, One Man Left rose to fame with its first project Tilt to Live.

The universally adored game puts a near-unique twist on the 2D arena shooter; it removes the shooting. Charging players with evading a swarm of bullets while triggering an eccentric range of defensive mines, like a classic arcade game, Tilt to Live’s apparent simplicity masks a depth of scoring intricacy that is all too rare. It’s also slick, boasts atypically tight tilt controls for an iOS release, and has succeeded with a subtle DLC strategy.

Having established the game as the Geometry Wars of the iOS generation, One Man Left is now at work on multiplayer-focused, turn-based strategy title named Outwitters.

12. Jean-François Geyelin

Studio’s 2010 Release
PewPew 2 (iOS)

Debut: 2009
Location: Singapore, Singapore

Also famous for:
PewPew (Android, iOS)
PewPew2 (Android)

From a critical point of view, Jean-François Geyelin is one of the most successful one man development outfits on the planet. His iOS arena shooter PewPew2, which recently underwent an Android makeover, has met favour with both reviewers and consumers.

Offering frenetic old school action, it struck the delicate balance between familiarity and innovation that every sequel faces with absolute precision.

Geyelin, who programmes while undertaking a Master’s degree in computer science, is a shining example of the return of the lone coder, and is already considering his next title, which remains a complete mystery other than the fact that it hopes to offer local multiplayer. If his success proves one thing, it is that mobile-centric microstudios should not forget about the world beyond iOS.

13. PlayDead

Studio’s 2010 Release
Limbo (XBLA)

Founded: 2006
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
@PlayDeadGames on Twitter

Founded by Arnt Jensen and Dino Patti, PlayDead is the company behind the current darling of XBLA: Limbo.

The monochrome platformer, which spawned countless aesthetic copycats, offered a sharp, eerie, and sometimes genuinely unsettling platform game defined by refined design, cunning puzzles and a mysterious ending that continues to fascinate players.

The game’s success is such that at the time of writing it was poised for a physical release in a boxed compilation of the best three titles from XBLA.

Little is known of Playdead’s next project, other than that it is underway, and has been conceived to appeal to the tastes of those that enjoyed Limbo.

14. Fishlabs

Studio’s 2010 Release
Galaxy on Fire 2

Founded: 2004
Location: Hamburg, Germany
@Fishlabs on Twitter

Also famous for:
Waterslide Extreme (iOS) (with Dare Digital)
Snowboard Hero (iOS)

Fishlabs started life in 2004 when Sony Ericsson’s K700i, the first 3D-capable mobile phone for the mass market, saw release. Founders Michael Schade and Christian Lohr worked with a small team to create a BMW Mini promotional game.

Since then it has established itself as a studio renowned for world firsts, staking claim to releasing the earliest example of a mobile FPS, and the debut of the 3D open world racer on a phone.

In 2008 Fishlabs began to release its first iOS titles, moving the studio into a space where it has enjoyed particular success. In the wake of the triumph that was Barclaycard Waterslide Extreme, Fishlabs has delivered a number of popular titles, including 2010’s Galaxy on Fire 2.

15. Matt Rix

Studio’s 2010 Release
Trainyard (iOS)

Founded: 2009
Location: Toronto, Canada
@MattRix on Twitter

One man development outfit Matt Rix started work on iOS puzzler Trainyard in 2009, at a time when he envisaged the title would see release on a site like Kongregate.

At the time, the project was called PaintTrain, but after Rix’s employer encouraged the team to learn iOS development, it became apparent his game was destined to make its way to an Apple device with the help of the popular Cocos2D iPhone framework.

After refining his iPhone development experience crafting a small tic tac toe-based game called Quaddy, Rix was ready to begin work on Trainyard.

On release, the game delighted fans and reviewers, and as word of mouth pollinated the minds of gamers across the globe, it became one of the year’s most popular iOS games, and was featured by Apple.

16. Firaxis

Studio’s 2010 Release
Sid Meier’s Civilization V (PC)

In-house (owned by Take-Two/2K Games)
Location: Sparks, Maryland, US

Also famous for:
Sid Meier’s Civilization IV (PC)
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution (360)

Firaxis is a studio overseen by a true industry legend. Sid Meier is director of creative development at the Maryland company, which has continued to maintain a high quality bar for the renowned strategy series Civilization. Such is his success and regard that Meier entered the Guinness World Records book in 2008 for winning the most video game awards of all time.

But Firaxis is not just about Meier. The team of 130 that make up the studio have between them created numerous hit titles, including Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Sid Meier’s Pirates and Sid Meier’s Railroads!.

Civilization V is the fifth offering in the strategy game series, and has so far sold some nine million copies; a particularly impressive feat in the contemporary PC market.

17. Dicework Games

Studio’s 2010 Release
Rimelands: Hammer of Thor (iOS)

Founded: 2009
Location: Tampere, Finland
@arzi42 on Twitter

Also famous for:
Diceworks (iOS/browser)

Based in Tampere, Finland, Dicework Games is headed up by CEO Arto Koistinen and Peter Finnberg.

The small team has met with substantial success in the wake of releasing turn-based role playing game Rimelands: Hammer of Thor. The fantasy themed iOS title delicately balances the simplicity the platform’s demographic demands with the depth of a traditional RPGs, and has subsequently attracted glowing reviews and a dedicated community of fans.

Dicework, which uses the popular Unity engine for its creations, also created a self-titled iOS puzzle title. The furiously addictive tile game, available in browser and on iOS, established the company’s reputation for crafting compelling gameplay experiences, and proved that simultaneously giving away and selling your debut product is a viable strategy for fledgling studios.

18. Rocketcat Games

Studio’s 2010 Releases
Super QuickHook (iOS)
Hook Worlds (iOS)

Founded: 2009
Location: Washington State, US
@rocketcatgames on Twitter

Also famous for:
Hookchamp (iOS)

The Hook series of games has established Washington State indie Rocketcat as one of the most critically acclaimed iOS studios.

The team’s games offer a near unique combination of 2D platform exploration and racing elements, built around a rope-swinging mechanic that will be familiar to fans of the early Worms releases by Team 17.

The comparisons end there, however, as thanks to a distinct retro-fetishistic visual style and widely varied gameplay, Hook Worlds and Super Quickhook manage to deliver an experience quite unlike any other.

Formed in 2009, Rocketcat counts owner Kepa Auwae, programmer Jeremy Orlando, and artist Brandon Rhodes as its core team, and looks set to have a very bright future in the always risky, potentially lucrative iOS game space.

19. Nicalis

Studio’s 2010 Release
Cave Story (Wii)

Founded: 2007
Location: Santa Ana, California, US
@nicalis on Twitter

Also famous for:
NightSky (PC)

Southern California studio Nicalis is most famous for its work on bringing 2004 indie PC game Cave Story to WiiWare.

In an attempt to give the universally acclaimed 2D plaformer a wider audience, the studio’s founder Tyrone Rodriguez worked with Cave Story’s original developer – Japanese hobbyist Daisuke Amaya – to deliver a port in 2010 that delicately and faithfully enhanced the original release.

Clearly encouraged by its success, the Nicalis team is now working with another Japanese independent to remake an admired retro-inspired indie game. GR3 Project’s La-Mulana, which evokes the feel and look of MSX games, is undergoing a similar reimaging to that of Cave Story, with Nicalis at the helm.

The studio’s approach to working with cult Japanese indie titles is near unique, and has proved remarkably popular.

20. Crescent Moon Games

Studio’s 2010 Release
Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD (iOS)

Founded: 2009
Location: Avila Beach, California, US
@CM_games on Twitter

Also famous for:
Ravensword: The Fallen King (iOS)
Gears (iOS)

Founded in late 2009 and debuting with RPG Ravensword: The Fallen King, Crescent Moon Games has built itself a solid reputation as developer of iOS titles.

The studio, which has also helped publish other teams’ work, has met the most success with Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD, an impressive iOS fantasy themed RPG that boasts many of the features of its PC and console genre-mates.

The studio, which insists upon a creative method of ‘collaboration, innovation, and unique ideas’, is headed up by lead engineer Russ Menapace and director Josh Presseisen.

The business partners, along with their small team, have already tackled collaborative projects with both Galoobeth Games and Dicework Games (also in the Develop 100, at No.17), and have recently announced two new games for 2011; Deadlock and Paper Monsters.

The Develop 100, produced in association with Metacritic and sponsored by gamecity:Hamburg was published on June 3rd, with Develop magazine’s June edition and MCV’s June 3rd edition.

Click here for a microsite with a list of the 100 and embedded digital edition of the book

Click here for a directory of all the content is posting from the book, including analysis commentary and much more

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