Industry Insight: Supergiant Games

 

A look at a reasonably new games studio that has a tiny team but still manages to produce games to combat the industries big budget titles.

Supergiant Games is an independent studio founded in 2009 and based in California, it is staffed by a total of eight people. Five of these work from their studio whilst two of them are based in New York and one is based in LA. While they only have one game out currently, Bastion, a massive success which holds some similarities to that of an indie game. The production of the game was undertaken at Rao’s (one of the co-founders) father house in San Jose, whilst ‘Cunningham delivered his 3000 plus lines of dialogue in Korb’s Brooklyn closet-cum-sound room’. (Edge magazine, issue 240). The key to the games success is down the teams roots in high profile game development. It has won more than 100 awards and sold over 500,000 copies. Another reason for Bastion’s success lies in the team playing to its advantages, instead of focusing on  what they couldn’t achieve as a small team, they worked on a game that would play on the groups strengths.

One thing that stands out to me about Supergiant’s working process on Bastion is how free-flowing it is. For instance, they would have a basic level, write some script, then go back to the level and make the level fit the content. This is interesting as it is what I am trying to do on my current negotiated study brief, and I always expected that with the bigger companies they have a very stricter  way of working to their deadlines. With Supergiant they seem to have gone down the experimental route, allowing for changes at all times.

Following the success of Bastion the team invested on their current studio, stating that even though they managed to pull Bastion out of the bag, it was much easier to collaborate when they were co-located. The actual studio is one that has been constructed with this collaboration in mind; they have no dividing walls in sight, giving the studio a democratic atmosphere. The working environment in this studio is very flexible, in the Edge article Kasavin details how the group get together and talk about what they will be doing that week, then the go off and get on with it collaborating when needed. The in office hours aren’t specified as the team primarily work individually so most work from home.

This look at Supergiant Games has really opened my eyes to this side of the industry, these are the key pointers I want to take from it:

  • There is nothing quite like the experience of working in a high profile game development team. This is how Supergiant differs from some other independent companies who struggle to finish games; they already had “good production discipline” from going through this process numerous times.
  • Play to your strengths
  • Having a line by line way of working is a lot of fun but also a lot of work!
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