Denmark's Io Interactive is one of the Eidos studios that came into the Square Enix family last year when that company purchased the flagging UK publisher. Famous for the Hitman and Kane & Lynch series, Io has long stood out for its dry humor and provocative game content.
Here, the studio's general manager, Nils Jørgensen, recently sat down with Gamasutra to discuss the developer's practices. While the Scandinavian countries have small development scenes, each has at least one strong, major studio -- and Io is Denmark's biggest.
With years of development on its engine and multiple successful games behind it, Io has a lot to offer -- and so, in this interview, Gamasutra takes a peek into its creative processes, trying to find out what makes an Io game an Io game.
A lot of studios have had hard times coming to grips with this generation of technology. Do you feel like you've really been able, as the generation progresses, to get where you want to get and hit your target?
Nils Jørgensen: We released Hitman: Blood Money on 360 back in 2006, I think, just a few months after the release; so, in terms of getting the technology on the right level, I think that that hasn't been a problem for us at all.
But I think that it's interesting to see how the lifespan of this cycle seems to be a lot longer that we can actually really, really try to explore how to optimize in different ways, and I don't think that the boundaries of what we can do with this have been met yet. So the tech guys are really working hard on doing this.
Do you have your own internal tech at your studio?
NJ: Yes. We have our own technology department. We've always used our own internal technology, called the Glacier technology, for the projects that we've done internal in studio. So far, it's produced Kane & Lynch; that's our eighth title, so we've come a long way with that technology.
Is that part of the philosophy of relying on internal technology? Do you find that it has benefits?
NJ: I think that technology is interesting for two reasons: either you get a competitive advantage in making custom technology, or you actually have an opportunity to make it cheaper than middleware. But I think so far what we have done with our own technology, we've really managed to make sure that we get a competitive edge where you can customize it to do exactly what your requirements are for the game.
But at the end of the day, technology doesn't sell games; it's all about the content. It's about what experience you can sell to the consumer, and I think that's always been the most important thing for us. But having great technology supporting people getting that experience is really sometimes a very good help.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
From a creative standpoint, do you have writers internally?
NJ: Well, actually, for Io, we've always been quite strong on the creative side. We've created the Hitman franchise; we've created Kane & Lynch; we've created Mini Ninjas; and we've created Freedom Fighters. So there's actually quite a broad variety of games, and they're all very much developed in-house, so it's our own IP.
It is key for us to get the storytelling and the characters right because I think that's for us probably the fantasy. With both Hitman and Kane & Lynch, we've focused very much on antiheroes, and I think that storytelling is an important part of entertainment and computer games that we've specialized in so far.
I think with the Hitman movie and now the Kane & Lynch movie going into production this fall, we're really, really glad that Hollywood is picking that up and they like the characters and stories that we tell, as well.
I'm more familiar with Hitman than I am with Kane & Lynch, I think, as a series, but definitely one thing that I've found is always interesting about Io's games is a very sort of wry, dark sense of humor. It sets it apart a little bit.
NJ: Actually, Hitman is very well-known for its humor, and that's a big part of our world and our daily life. That dark humor is something that actually resonates well with other people. But also, I think getting this Danish dark humor and combining that with sort of a more international environment works well; at Io, I think we have like 30 percent foreigners from more than 20 different countries, and that means that there is a very international environment in the studio.
So even though Denmark only has like five million people -- and we're by far the biggest game studio in Denmark -- it doesn't mean that we are sort of isolated in this very Danish mentality. We have a very international mentality, and we are very much affected from the outside by cultures from the U.S., cultures from the UK and different places in Europe, and really inspired by Asia. It is very much about combining all those things and making something that really entertains a broad demographic across all the different countries.