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Ones to watch: Xbox 360's most promising developers

The BioWares and Treyarchs of tomorrow

A great developer can come from nowhere. Just look at Rocksteady Studios, known for little more than some entertainingly gruesome electric death animations before it sprung Batman: Arkham Asylum on the world in 2009. In the latest OXM list, we single out a few of the more gifted (or at least, interesting) developers that have yet to hit the big time, from two-year striplings to firms a decade old.

Hopefully, one of the outfits below will go onto win some landmark award or other next year, and we'll be able to link back to this feature with an air of utterly monstrous smugness. Feel free to do a little crystal ball gazing of your own.

1. Playground Games
Only founded in 2010, Playground's accumulated experience spans hundreds of years. Its top three - Gavin Raeburn, Ralph Fulton and Trevor Williams - are Codemasters veterans, and many of its rank and file hail from Project Gotham studio Bizarre Creations. All of which makes the company rather well-suited to the task of building the first Forza Motorsports spin-off, an open world affair which seeks to squeeze a significant proportion of Turn 10's automotive anorak-itude into a brighter, friendlier, and more choice-driven wrapper.

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Operating out of Leamington Spa, Playground expanded massively in mid-2011 after securing the contract with Microsoft. Raeburn and his cohorts would like to continue working with established franchises, but aren't ruling out intellectual property of their own, should the opportunity arise. "We just wanted to play at the highest level," he told Edge earlier this month, discussing Playground's formation. "Original IP wasn't vital to us."

In the same interview, Fulton paints the portrait of a fluid office culture where neither mistakes nor new ideas are allowed to stagnate. "Nobody gets too comfortable at any desk. Very regularly if you're working on a new feature with a new group of people, you'll move to that group. The reason things go wrong in development studios is that people aren't talking to each other, so we try to facilitate [communication] as much as possible." From the looks of Horizon, the approach is paying off.

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