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The Gamasutra 20: 2008's Breakthrough Developers

August 13, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 21 Next

Gamasutra 20 'Breakthrough' Honoree:

5th Cell

Studio overview

5th Cell was founded in 2003, and is located in Bellevue, WA. The studio's first projects were for mobile platforms, including both original titles (Siege, SEAL Team 6) and licensed games (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Full Spectrum Warrior).

In 2006, 5th Cell released PC puzzle game D.N.A. and announced its first DS title, Drawn to Life.

Key staff

Cofounder and general manager Joseph M. Tringali handles studio management and oversees project development and overall company direction. Cofounder and chief creative officer Jeremiah Slaczka has acted as both lead designer and creative director for the majority of titles created by 5th Cell.

Resume highlights

The studio's first DS title, Drawn to Life, capitalized on the unique qualities of the DS as a platform, and the creative aspect that allowed players to use the stylus to hand-draw the game's protagonist and other objects in the game struck a positive note with critics and gamers alike.

IGN gave Drawn to Life an award for Most Innovative Design for a DS title, and it was the only handheld title to be listed as a nominee for Outstanding Achievement in Story Development at this year's DICE Summit.

Notably, THQ's DS sales profits also rose 94 percent over the last three quarters of 2007, an increase that was attributed primarily to Drawn to Life.

What's next

Lock's Quest, a DS title that melds together RPG and RTS elements, is being published this fall by THQ; the game looks like it will further solidify 5th Cell's growing reputation as a company that creates innovative titles that take advantage of their platform.

Our take

"This team started in the mobile space, but wanted to start on original IP for consoles -- and so did. It was a struggle. The team shrank, and so did morale, but 5th Cell managed to release Drawn to Life on the DS, to success.

While the game was far from perfect, the concept was innovative and sound, and proved that original content can and should work on the DS.

This year, 5TH Cell will be releasing another new DS IP, with a decidedly chunky pixel look (Lock's Quest), proving that lightning can strike twice, even when the studio's chosen publisher has a much higher penchant for licenses."
- Brandon Sheffield

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 21 Next

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Chris Remo
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In most cases, games are also made by a lot of people, not just a few. I'm not sure, Mr. Gamemaster, what you would have had us do, considering as you seem to be aware, we do list key personnel--at the end of the day, these companies' games are still made by a lot more people than the few individuals we list, and we're looking to highlight the collective efforts of all of them, because there is no practical way we could have possibly distilled the proportional amount of creative contribution every individual developer made on these games, so we could better highlight this game designer, that programmer, or this artist.

Brandon Sheffield
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ah, grassroots gamemaster. I feel you are accusing Gamasutra of an industry-wide problem, one which we're actually attempting to address directly. We can only know who we know, and we put them in the articles where possible. We can't go in to these studios and evaluate their skills and find that hidden gem. Nobody will pay us to do that. It's the responsibility of two parties, the companies themselves, and the persons themselves. And to be frank, we know way more game creators now than we ever did, and I think lists like these, and extensive interviews with key people in these studios are part of that.

I'm...not sure what you want!

I sure am making a post on the internet. Hi mom!

Shane Stevens
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We can't go in to these studios and evaluate their skills and find that hidden gem. Nobody will pay us to do that. It's the responsibility of two parties, the companies themselves, and the persons themselves.

-end quote-

There IS a completely logical and near-effortless alternative: contacting the developers before these articles are written and polling them directly for key personnel on their staff. For instance, some noteworthy people who work/have worked with Dave Gilbert are Peter Gresser (Lead Musician), Ian Schlaepfer (Lead Artist for Blackwell Legacy/ Portrait Artist for Blackwell Convergence), Erin Robinson (Lead Artist for Blackwell Unbound), and myself (sprites/animations for The Shivah and Lead Artist for Blackwell Convergence).

I'm sure a quick email could've gotten you all this and more, though! :)

Simon Carless
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Fair comment, Shane. We did, obviously, do research on the individuals at companies, but we'd love other commenters to highlight further folks at those firms who deserve kudos. That's what feedback is useful for.

Charles J Pratt
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Look, everyone wants credit for the hard work that they've done, but this is a strange battle to pick, Grassroots. I mean, these are clearly quick little write-ups and mentioning more than one person would not only be impractical, but a little overboard. Frankly, it's nice to see some of these companies, like area/code or Wadjet Eye, get this exposure at all. Do you have a beef with Gamasutra or do you rail over on sites like or GameSpot as well? Seems those places might be more deserving of your wrath.

Gregory Peng
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Truth be told, I still don't have a clue as to what "breakthrough" means. Considering there is at least an ongoing dialogue for the definition of "indie", in comparison this list seems to be formed without a real sense of context or direction.

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"with Activision apparently opting not to publish the title after acquiring Vivendi Games. "

Err... Sorry????

It's Vivendi who aquired Activision & merged it with Vivendi Games. Yes it's true that the Activision board now lead the game branch of Vivendi but still.. Vivendi IS THE BOSS.

Vivendi holds 54% of Activision Blizzard, so I'm not sure you can tell that Activision aquired anything..

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@Grassroots Gamemaster:

Citing other industries and media is no excuse. I find it just as bad in the film industry that the talent of a whole team and the culture of the company that team resides in (which contributes hugely to how a game is produced) is neglected in favor of single-person worship/stardom.

So, I think that naming the companies AND some of the names of the leads there is appropiate.

Just naming the few leads - like you suggest - is just not enough.

Chris Remo
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No, Vivendi Games is indeed now a subsidiary of Activision. Also, Vivendi (the parent company, not Games) owns a controlling interest in Activision.

John Lockwood
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I was going to suggest starting a game version of

someone started but it has no content yet...

Rikard Peterson
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@ John Lockwood: Try

Harold Pichol
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I can't believe how Grassroots Gamemaster is alone on this one! I know the companies, Gamasutra is for game dev people, I'm a game dev dude and all those companies are well known if you have rss enabled and some good feeds.

What is wrong to actually SHOW some people, see the people who make consumers and gamers enjoy and have good time for HOURS. Show the people we want to cherish, copy and celebrate.

Claiming it's unfair for the ones who are not on the picture is pure BS and so lame. If they work on a project they love next time they will, and next time they will demand to appear on the "collective shot for Gamasutra, the gamedev industry bible".

It's all about making change! We're not made in the stone.

I love to see the face of Introversion guys, or have a big picture of Ken Levine or Will Wright or Jon Blow speaking on a video stream... Watching Raph Koster playing guitar and all,

Of course you can be a big fat nerdy gamedev and so what, making efforts like Gabe Newell (he did lose weight and it was not to use Outlook) isn't bad for you.

And it's certainly good for us, gamedev people. Step up and exist!