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Best of the best in Games Design, Ninjar Studios, swiftly and silently lands in Nottingham, and takes the Tech sector by storm.

Home / 19 Castle Gate / Best of the best in Games Design, Ninjar Studios, swiftly and silently lands in Nottingham, and takes the Tech sector by storm.
Steve Riding from Ninjar Studios
Steve Riding from Ninjar Studios
Tucked away in the attic of a Georgian Mansion in Nottingham, converted into office space owned by Exeid, are a group of like-minded games design geniuses who are busy at work on their next big (and secret) project. The team of four co-partners; Charles Machin, Phil Ronaldson, Barney Williams and Steve Riding all have enviable industry experience, and together created a company from which the games sector can expect great things. This company is Ninjar Studios, who have a clear mission to create fun, engaging games, and to be an ethical company that everybody wants to work with. Today, Exeid talks with Steve Riding, one of the four, about his history and views on the future for Ninjar. Tell us a bit about your background in games design? I got into games design accidently whilst I was at University, after reading some magazines and playing arcade games. I was making so much money that it seemed like a good move. I bought a Commodore PET, a really early computer, and started making my own games in my spare time. A short time after, I was ready to further my skills and bought an Atari 400, which was graphically more advanced. I spent a lot of time writing games for the shop owner from whom I’d bought the computer, and he would publish them. I gained my first experiences as Imagine software in Liverpool, which shut down six months after I’d been hired, so the next move on my career ladder was at Icon Design Lethorian where I worked as a programmer and team leader. I was then promoted to studio manager, but in the evening I worked on a project for Psygnosis, where I was offered a job as a producer. I looked after external games companies and was given the brief to create great games and develop games companies. I’ve worked on some great products like the Toy Story game for the Sony Megadrive, MickeyMania for Disney/Sony Imagesoft, as well as the genre-defining Formula 1 games with Bizarre Creations. I stayed there from 1989 to 2000 before working for another company, who were the first to make the precursor of today’s smart phone. This was demonstrated on the Nokia Stand at CeBIT in Hannover in 2001. New challenges awaited me at Traveller’s Tales, which was originally an external company. There, I met Jon Burton, famed for Lego Games, and currently an executive producer of The Lego Movie. I built the Oxford Studio where we developed Crash Bandicoot, Twinsanity and Super MonkeyBall Adventure for Sega, creating a great team at the same time. My career then took me to Singapore for a couple of years, for a job in a company called Ksatria. It was an attractive country, with a great cricket ground, and I had a free apartment and 4 flights a year as part of the company benefits. It was fantastic experience and my family had great holidays there. After a couple of years, I came back to live in Nottingham, and started working at Lockwood Studios in the Lace Market. From there, I set up Ninjar Studios to start games design in Nottingham. How did you come to set up Ninjar Studios? At the beginning of the year, we put forward a bid for an Australian based company and won the project and they seem to be very happy with us. I think because we work very hard and spend a lot of time communicating with them, they feel safe. After gaining the contract, we moved into the top floor of Stanford House through Exeid. Our company is made up of some really talented people  all of whom worked together at  Lockwood Studios in the past in various positions. Phil joined a little bit later after leaving his previous company. We all sat down together and came up with the game pitch, and then took it from there. We organised the company so that we are all able to remotely access the office from home if we need to. I commute from Oxford at the start of the week but occasionally work at home, so it’s important that we have that access if we need it. Generally, we all really like to be in the office together because it’s a good working environment and we can bounce ideas off each other. CharlesMachin NinjarWhat does Ninjar Studios do? At the moment we’re working on an IP (intellectual property), provided by the company in Australia, so our current platforms are iOS, Android and on PC and our target is to finish this project by December. We have a lot of other games design lined up as well, and are looking to expand and take on new people in the New Year. We’ve already discussed with Exeid our plans and we are excited for them to find us some more space. At the moment we can’t tell anybody what the IP is that we’re working on, because it’s not been released to the public yet. We are very excited to add it to our case studies though. Every day is a lot of hard work and in this industry, you need to be passionate about what you do otherwise it’s easy to become complacent. BarneyWilliams NinjarWhy did you choose Nottingham to set up your business? We chose to set up in Nottingham through convenience above all else. The other three partners live in Nottingham, and I’m the only one who commutes from Oxford. Nottingham is a really centralised location as well, so it’s very accessible for travelling and meetings. Nottingham as a city itself is quite forward thinking and innovative, it has everything we need within walking distance, and the prices are not too extortionate compared with somewhere like London. Nottingham is not as crazy as London, and it doesn’t take hours to get anywhere. The tech industry is a key sector in Nottingham, and with the growth of the new Tech City here, we thought it would be quite a perfect place to grow and flourish. There is so much good talent coming out of the universities and colleges as well, that it’s really a fantastic place to start and grow a business. We really happy in our office, Exeid have done a great job in making us feel at home, the technical people too. We feel that we have a good community environment here and there seems to be a good network. What’s the future for Ninjar Studios? Hopefully we’ll be a lot bigger this time next year, but it’s rather about being profitable rather than how quickly we can get to 100 odd people working for us. As we do grow and develop though, I have learnt through experience that a business should be a good working environment and a place where people enjoy working and coming in every day, and where they can feel that they can contribute. We’ll be hiring super smart people, and treating them how they deserve to be treated. We want people to surprise us every day with their new ideas and creativity. We want to develop into a company where people can have a laugh and a joke. We have a lot of projects lined up for the future, and obviously, with all our years of industry experience, we’ve grown a number of connections that we maintain good relationships with. The main thing is for the future is finding the right people to work for us. It’s fine being really intelligent, but if you have a rotten personality, it’s going to create a really negative working environment. We’re really looking forward to expanding in the future and cracking on to make Ninjar Studios leaders in the industry.  

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