One of Sony’s most reliable game studios, Sucker Punch Productions wouldn’t be with us if not for Microsoft.
It was at the massive Washington-based company that the six founders of Sucker Punch first met, working together variously on different projects. With disenchantment creeping in, Chris Zimmerman spit-balled the idea of forming a games development company with co-worker Brian Fleming. The move was on, and another former Microsoft guy in Bruce Oberg joined in.
It was Oberg’s love of the Nintendo 64 console that initially gave Sucker Punch a direction, with Super Mario 64 providing some inspiration towards their debut title, Rocket: Robot on Rails. It was published by Ubisoft – they’d decided early on that they would play to their strengths by concentrating on writing games rather than publishing them, working on one game on one system at a time. Like its inspiration, Rocket was a 3D platformer, which utilised a ground-breaking (for the time) physics engine. It served as good practice for what would come next.
In 2002, it was a raccoon named Sly that kickstarted what would be Sucker Punch’s love affair with PlayStation. Using their proprietary game engine SPACKLE (Sucker Punch Animation and Character Kinematics Life Engine), the PS2 platformer that we knew as Sly Raccoon (it was known as Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus in most overseas markets) made an instant good impression on gamers with its tale of the titular native American mammal thief and his turtle and hippo accomplices. When a game spawns three sequels then it’s fair to say that it was a success.
“When a game spawns three sequels then it’s fair to say that it was a success.”
While trading on Sly’s adventures for several years, another game was in development. It would hit the PlayStation 3 in 2009, and while still a 3D action-adventure, it upped the ante for visuals and gameplay. It was Infamous, the tale of bike messenger turned superhero Cole MacGrath. Once again Sucker Punch had a hit on their hands, with critics and players praising the game’s inventive system of powers and open level structure. Plus, it was just super-fun to play!
Infamous 2 followed in 2011, a couple of months before Sucker Punch was bought by Sony Interactive Entertainment, ensuring that the company would remain faithful to the PlayStation family. Unlike what often happens with such buyouts, the original trio of Zimmerman, Fleming and Oberg remained at the company – and do to this day.
As such, they saw the transition of Infamous to the PlayStation 4 in 2014, with Infamous: Second Son proving successful as an early release for the console. It boasted a new protagonist and was set in Seattle, and also spawned a sequel that messed with the minds of the more numerically obsessed, Infamous: First Light.
Now, six years later, Sucker Punch are unleashing a new IP on the PlayStation public later this month in Ghost of Tsushima. Hopefully we don’t have to wait six years for whatever’s next…
Selected release history
1999 – Rocket: Robot on Wheels – Nintendo 64
2002 – Sly Raccoon/Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus – PS2
2009 – Infamous – PS3
2014 – Infamous: Second Son – PS4
2020 – Ghost of Tsushima – PS4
Ghost of Tsushima launches exclusively for PS4 on July 17. Pre-order from JB Hi-Fi now.