What Makes a Ripstone Game?

It’s been an exciting few months at Ripstone! We sat down with Phil Gaskell, Creative Director & Owner, for his perspective on the buzz around The Queen’s Gambit Chess, award wins, and what it is that makes a ‘Ripstone’ game.

What makes a ‘Ripstone’ game?

I think that our approach to design is one of the defining factors. 

At every stage of game design, we make sure we’re very clear about what we want to achieve for the player. We start almost everything by asking ‘what is it aiming to do?’ first. While this means that the initial design statement may not be super specific to the programmer or artist, it does mean they have a clear destination to focus on right from the beginning. 

The designer can then go back in and refine the specifics of the design without derailing anything – all because that overarching aim was very clear from the beginning.

When I first started in production, the industry approached things a lot more rigidly. This would inevitably lead to games slipping up.

We’re always asking the right questions and are really conscious about getting our code into a playable state as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can experience it together and make sure we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Stunning visuals are another hallmark of Ripstone games. It’s definitely in our DNA to strive to make games that are as beautiful as they can be. 

Even back when we were primarily a publisher, we always focused on finding games that were beautiful. This didn’t necessarily mean photorealistic, just that the games we looked for had to stand out with some sort of intrinsic beauty. 

This beauty is now woven into the design of every game made inside our studios. We make efforts to ensure our game visuals are beautiful enough that the player can use them not only to justify buying the game, but the device they’re playing on too! We strive for our games to be the reference material you use to show off the capabilities of new hardware.

How does Ripstone approach game design differently? 

The key for us is crystal clear communication. Our designers make great efforts to be as clear as possible when sharing our vision, not just with our teams, but with our partners too. From the very start, we talk a lot about the ways in which the design can best serve the purpose. 

Additionally, at every stage of development, we take time to absorb all kinds of feedback and really think about what it means. This helps us assess the way suggested changes would impact our schedules and game mechanics, as well as improve the player’s experience. We never rush our responses to feedback, we take our time to digest it. This then helps us come up with really solid solutions to any problems that may arise.

We also never lose sight of the fact that a game is never made exactly as it was written on paper. Instead, we accept that game design is iterative. We make things, and then we play them. If something doesn’t feel right, we work out the why.

Slowly but surely, our design starts to flow like water. We let the journeys we go down inform us as to what the destination should be. We never set a destination in stone and force a route to it.

Ripstone recently announced The Queen’s Gambit Chess. What’s it been like working on such an esteemed IP? 

The Queen’s Gambit genuinely hooked us all when we first watched it, so it’s very much been a passion project for everyone working here. 

It’s incredibly exciting working on it. The show is full of really evocative locations and great characters. Beth’s journey itself, being a wonderful story of triumph over adversity, really resonates with our people here.

We’re massively excited about being able to weave that IP together with our deep knowledge of chess. We’re already known for delivering great chess games. With this, we’ve set out to create a ‘love letter to The Queen’s Gambit’ and a new benchmark for chess on mobile.

We’re making a game that I know fans of the limited series are going to love and one that truly offers something for chess players of every level.

How does it feel to win gamesindustry.biz’s ‘Best Places to Work’ Award for the second year running?

We’re incredibly proud. The award highlights Ripstone as a place where people feel happy and creatively fulfilled. 

We’ve always been aware that it’s people that make games and we know that our own games thrive when our teams have personal connections to what they’re making. So looking after our people has been and always will be our priority. Winning for the second year in a row is even more rewarding. It shows we haven’t been static. Instead, we’ve continued efforts to look after all of our people and make Ripstone an incredible place to be.