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The Journey to Creating Shank

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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]Jamie Cheng, one of the founders of Klei Entertainment, started his presentation on the team's development on Shank by showing a graph of Klei's games getting "[m]ore and more violent over time" starting with Eets, then Sugar Rush, and culminating in their most recent game, Shank. Klei experimented with the game early on by creating a quick demo of Shank in Flash and was done over a weekend; a lot of the moves were in and the demo, on the whole, gave them the confidence to move forward. The actual Shank character design came a few weeks later. Within two months, Klei had a very capable demo of Shank with a representative character design, a good sample of moves and abilities and combat flow.[/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]With so much of the game representative in the early prototype, Cheng joked "What did we do for the next year?" Over the next year, Klei worked on the engine, polish, and the necessary work for releasing the game for multiple platforms. Publishers were telling Klei not to show the game, because that would "hinder [their] ability to promote the game." And Klei chose to, largely, ignore that and show the game (because it's "[theirs] to show") at PAX 2009 using a box gotten from Home Depot that was decorated pretty impressively to demo the game to PAX 2009 attendees. [/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]Cheng moved on to discuss the "[t]echnically hard things" for Klei. The first mentioned were that the Playstation 3 port wasn't anywhere near ready for release with Klei only having about four months to their release date. Another issue was the 2GB download of Shank, of which 1.4GB were all in the game's cinematics. The last of the listed big, technical issues during development were the fragmentation issues on the Xbox 360 that were leading to great disparity in loading times and other issues during testing.[/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]Klei worked on thirteen levels in three months after only having two playable, polished levels to show off to people. At one point on Shank's development, their development office also flooded due to a neighbor's dishwasher that flooded their office with water. Despite the flooding, though, their computers (which had their power supplies at the bottom of the case), survived three-four inches of flooding. Somehow.[/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]Some of the post-release statistics on Shank: Average session duration for Shankplayers was 56 minutes. It had a 26% conversion rate on Xbox Live Arcade. And 30% of people who played the game (on normal mode) finished the game. An interesting thing that Klei learned after launch was the difference between "Aggressive vs. Defensive players." The team learned that aggressive players learned and loved the control scheme a lot due to the smooth combat transition, but that defensive players who wanted to run away from fights ran into issues with the control scheme since it wasn't really intended for that play style and it just felt "sticky."[/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]The publisher relations with EA were a mix of "Less Good" and "Good." In the "Less Good" column was "arbitrary deadline," "'olde style' PR" ("press releases are horrible!"), "consumer expectations," and "possibly reduced upside" (versus self-funding). In the "Good" column, however, was the "creative freedom," "'true' support," "multiplatform," "marketing," "marketing," "reduced risk," and "less platform requirements." Cheng, overall, feels that the choice of EA as a publisher was largely a positive thing for the game as, otherwise, the game likely may not have shipped. [/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]"Well, how'd we do?" Shank "sold more in the first 24 hours than Eets: Showdown did [in its] lifetime." XBLA reported 41,000 units in the first week but "multiplatform release was key for profitability." The game has had a particularly "long tail" on Steam, however, and Cheng waxed positively about Steam's role.[/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]Overall, Shank had three months of prototyping, nine months of tools, and six months of miscellaneous other work. The crunch for Shank was largely on the designers and artists as the game was very content-heavy in a short timespan, but the engineers only had to work a couple weekends over the course of the game's entire development. It was a pretty tough time for the team (at times), Cheng said, but overall it ended up working out.[/font][/color]
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[color="#000000"][font="Arial"][size="2"]Cheng ended the session with his "thoughts on the future..." He cited the potential of the downloadable space but that, right now, the ceiling is relatively low. "The best breakout hits in the console downloadable space are making < $10M in profit, and there are comparably low number of games." He added that "the platforms really need to push the numbers upward and keep adding great features if they want this space supported and working in the long run." Cheng cited the role of Microsoft's XBLA "Summer of Arcade" which makes kings out of certain games, but other games get left in the periods before and after and get lost (comparatively).[/font][/color]
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