We always talk about our game, but we never talk about the studio. We think it’s time that you guys get to know the real Saona Studios, the human side of video game production.
It’s not easy to start your own business in an industry with so much competition like the video game one. Leaving that aside, if you are a creative person and you start having a lot of interest in this world, for your first steps all you need is a good story, good graphics, and a bit of money to invest in your project, after that you can start thinking on how to create a community.
There is one thing that isn’t mandatory but in Saona Studios we consider it one of the most important things: having a team.
Maybe some people do not need it because they are good at everything and they like to go solo, we think that is great and very hard, but we prefer to have a team full of diversity, because that way there are more ideas, and when you start a project from the roots, you need all the ideas you can get, doesn’t matter how crazy they sound.
So in our studio, we have a team of 10 people at the moment, we work at an office (although because of Covid we have been working via online as well), and we have different departments: art, development, game design and marketing. We think it’s very useful to have it this way because it lets us have our work very organized and makes the feed-back easier.
Another essential thing for us is having good and honest values. We strongly believe that having very good values can make a difference. The same way you try to buy your clothes from a brand you feel identified with, we want you to buy a video game from a studio you feel identified with.
Let’s chat with the CEOs, Flavio Muñoz and Juanjo Olivares to understand everything a bit better.
Hey! When did you guys realize you wanted to create your own studio to make your own video game?
F: Well, playing video games has always been part of our life. We have always shown some sort of obsession with the industry: listening to gaming podcasts, watching gaming shows and of course playing a lot.
On the other hand, thanks to our background and our other jobs, we were able to look at the industry through different eyes. Videogames are moving fast and new challenging trends are under development right now. Streaming and new ways to monetize titles are things in process and nobody really knows how the industry will be in a few years from now.
Starting a studio and not just being a part of these new trends, but establishing them in some way is a real challenge, but one where the rewards are so big that it makes sense to at least give it a try.
What’s the hardest thing about leading a team?
J: In a team full of diversity and different profiles, the hardest thing is putting everything together. Let us explain this: art wants everything to look good, development wants everything to work well, game-play wants to make sure the game is worth playing, and marketing wants to have content to share with the community. So, at the end of the day, the hard thing is to make a final product that adjusts to a calendar, a budget and to quality standards, always bearing in mind the team’s personal interests.
Do you think it’s easy to be successful inside the video game industry?
F: We don’t think so. If you analize how many indie studios fail every year we are definitely on the wrong side of the equation.
Although, there is always a “but”. If you make something attractive: sky’s the limit.
Long story short, from our point of view, it’s a combination of fun gameplay, good storytelling, and compelling art. Through our review of the industry we have noticed how a lot of studios make many mistakes in these three areas and how they push for the release of a game that is not attractive to end users. The key is to think about what customers would like without fully knowing it yet.
What goes through your mind when things don’t go as planned and how do you manage to not give up on your project?
J: Honestly, we never think about giving up because we do this not as a necessity, but as a vocation. It’s never been our main job, we do it as an extra and that is why we always give it our 100%, we want something very creative and beautiful to come out of our effort in this project.
What made you decide that you wanted a girl and not a boy as a main character?
F: Hahaha honestly it was a decision of the whole team, not fully ours. Your focus as a narrator should be the plot, not the genre of the character. It’s very important you can show an evolution in the main character, with human fears and some wishes. You need to make it real, it doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or a boy but you need to be sure it connects with the audience.
Any tips for all the indie studios that follow you on social media?
J: Truth being told, we are the ones giving the first steps in the industry, so we probably need more tips than a lot of studios, so any type of suggestion is very welcome. But from what we have learned until now, we recommend to surround yourself with a multidisciplinary team and not to fall into any prototype oriented only to one part of the game, you need to invest in all sections, not only in the development one, for example.