News Article

Monolith Soft's Working Environment and Development Culture Emerge

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

No crunching here

It's always fascinating to have an insight into development studios. Rather than being fun-lands in the style of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, they're ultimately rows of desks and, in many respects, look like any other office. Of course what's happening is a lot different, as the biggest studios have dozens — occasionally hundreds — of staff working on small pieces of what will eventually become a whole for us to play.

Development studios don't always come across well, however, with a high profile example being the now-closed Team Bondi, with much talk after the eventual release of LA Noire coming from disgruntled former staffers criticising their management and intolerable 'crunch' periods of excessive hours. Not all studios work that way, of course, and based on a "creator's interview" from Japan that's been translated by Siliconera, Monolith Soft's Kyoto studio seems like a rather good place to work.

In terms of key facts about the studio, it has around 30 staff members — quite a modest number — with an average age in the late twenties and "a high ratio of female staff members"; a stated priority is that overtime requires approval from superiors, with a "laid back" culture and a determination not to go beyond standard working hours.

This studio contributed graphical support towards The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Despite its busy schedule, staff members have spoken positively about the working culture at the company — the following is from background designer Subaru Genbe.

Playing and having fun is the most important part. It’s the key to bringing out the fun in graphics... When the work starts to overflow, the leader immediately reviews the schedule accordingly. I spend my weekends on hobbies and polishing my skills using ZBrush at home.

Object designer Rika Aoki, who was one of those that worked on New Leaf, kept up that theme.

Not only have my skills grown as an artist, but I feel as if I’ve matured more as a person, as well. The appointed weekly hours allow me to work with a mental sense of stability.

Based on the studio's output in recent years, these relaxing and fair policies seem to be paying dividends. Whether due to Japanese health laws, management initiative or a mixture of both, Monolith Soft seems to have hit upon a winning formula.

[via siliconera.com]

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User Comments (33)

ACK

#2

ACK said:

Just for clarification... This article appears to be referencing Monolith Soft's relatively new Kyoto studio (which seems to consist of primarily artists and technical staff, so far primarily supporting products produced by other studios).

Monolith Soft is headquartered in Tokyo with around 75 staff members.

Epicnessofme99

#4

Epicnessofme99 said:

They certainly have hit upon a winning formula, I love this studio and it's awesome to see the men and women behind the games you love.

TheRegginator

#5

TheRegginator said:

Nintendo seems like such a great company to work for. Great job security and fair treatment of employees!

WiiLovePeace

#6

WiiLovePeace said:

Glad to hear they're a great company to work for :) According to wikipedia they're making an unannounced 3DS game, I wonder what it is...

wober2

#7

wober2 said:

xenoblade was such a hidden gem, one of my fav's of all time. Awesome to hear good working conditions make the news!

Yawaru

#9

Yawaru said:

Sadly this is not some new revelation about humanity or working conditions, we've known all along that a positive work environment yields higher quality goods. Unfortunately the reality of the video game development industry is it's treated as a business, not a form of art. Companies are rushed to meet arbitrary deadlines because businessmen and women with no concept of what a game is want to see returns on their investments. But as long as AAA titles pigeon-holed into a tight development schedule with a complete lack of creativity or originality keep making gobs of money, places like this will be the exception instead of the rule.

JGMR

#10

JGMR said:

"Smiling faces make great games, it seems"

Pretty-looking women too I guess ;) (Yes, I have a weak spot for Japanese women)

Best of luck to all these people making "X"!

Melkaticox

#12

Melkaticox said:

@WiiLovePeace Maybe the studio referenced in this interview (the Kyoto studio) is working on it while the bigger Tokyo studio in working on X. It would make sense.

Haxonberik

#13

Haxonberik said:

@ACK Well it did seem wierd thinking that 30 devs could make a game like X while working on AC:NL. Thanks for clearing that up.

Haxonberik

#16

Haxonberik said:

@melkaticox Yeah, I supposed creating items didnt involve the entire team, but still, AAA games nowadays require more than just a staff of 30.

smashbrolink

#17

smashbrolink said:

It's amazing that a mere staff of 30 could create something as incredibly fun-looking to play as X is looking so far.
Why can't more AAA studios take a leaf from their book?

WiiLovePeace

#18

WiiLovePeace said:

@Melkaticox #12, yeah! That's what wikipedia says. Hope it's true! :D

@smashbrolink Nah its a team of ~78 working on X in Tokyo, this is a 2nd studio in Kyoto working on a different game but still run by Monolith Soft.

DarkLloyd

#22

DarkLloyd said:

alot seem to be women in that picture ;) unless they arent which with how asian people can be then im probably wrong :P

WiiLovePeace

#25

WiiLovePeace said:

@JaxonH Hey, yeah! I didn't think of that, that'd be it for sure. Though wikipedia thinks the Tokyo studio did Project X Zone. How does one find out which specific team in a company makes a game anyway? I guess I should pay more attention to the end-game credits haha (I haven't beaten nor do I own PXZ yet though).

The-Chosen-one

#26

The-Chosen-one said:

i really love monolith soft, i cant wait for their new game Xenoblade wiiU. it looks beautifull.
they also made Baten Kaitos i loved that game really. i hope to see a sequel of that game.

unrandomsam

#27

unrandomsam said:

I don't want them start down the path of sequels.

Rather have more stuff like

Disaster: Day of Crisis

I did like Xenoblade but it was a let down for me as I was lead to believe it was pretty much perfect.

JaxonH

#28

JaxonH said:

@WiiLovePeace Perhaps you're right (I wasn't aware of there being a distinction made), but it might just be a game they're lending support to graphics-wise, as the article states they give support for a number of games. Idk, this studio doesn't appear to be fit to work on full titles independently, but I could be wrong

Kaze_Memaryu

#29

Kaze_Memaryu said:

Monolith sounds really good as a workplace - getting things done without forcing the staff to work overtime is always a good way to get the best out of the people.

Dpishere

#30

Dpishere said:

Nice to know some details of the workplace of Monolith, seeing as they created one of my favorite rpg's of all time. Xenoblade Chronicles is a truly magical game and I encourage everyone who has not tried it to do so now! That being said, I am quite excited for X and can only hope it recreates at least a fraction of the magic that Xenoblade had. Don't let me down Monolith!

DarkNinja9

#31

DarkNinja9 said:

that to me is surprising about the staff having that many members :o so many females too which is cool

WiiLovePeace

#32

WiiLovePeace said:

@JaxonH Yeah that could be true as well. We'll just have to wait & see, time will tell whether it's a full game they're making or helping out elsewhere, I guess. A new 3DS RPG with the Monolith standard would be nice :)

Araknie

#33

Araknie said:

Other then X they are also working on a 3DS title, yeah already after Project X Zone.

Amazing team.

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