It’s been about two years since Xenoblade developers Monolith Soft have opened a new studio in Kyoto to be closer to the Nintendo headquarters. During a recent creator’s interview at CG World, Monolith Soft shared how the new Kyoto studio has been working out thus far.
The Kyoto studio is located near the famous local junction of Shijoukarasuma, where the staff members can look outside their windows to enjoy the summer festivities from the comfort of their office. Most of the employees in the Kyoto branch consist of artists with their average age being in the late twenties, and a high ratio of female staff members.
In addition to the company’s own projects, the Kyoto studio has helped out with other Nintendo games, too, such as some of the graphics in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and more recently in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
That may seem like a lot of work for a small studio consisting of about 30 members, but the office atmosphere is reportedly very laid-back. The Kyoto studio’s work hours start at 9 am and end at 6 pm. Any overtime work is not accepted without permission from superiors, but when employees do work overtime, they are paid for it, which is a rare occurrence in Japan.
Additionally, employees aren’t allowed to take any work home either, but they are allowed to use office tools and material for personal training purposes within the company until 9pm.
“One of the big opportunities that put the appointed weekly hours into action came from the 2006 occupational safety and health act revision, which demanded a more thorough employee time management,” says director Yasuyuki Honne. He further shares his beliefs that development styles which anticipate overtime work have already reached their limit. With that in mind, Monolift Soft’s company motto, “Zero overtime and creative work allowed” is what they now go by.
As we previously reported late last year, Monolith Soft are still recruiting new members to their Kyoto studio.
“We’re currently looking for people with the required skills of a CG artist, essential illustrative abilities and sense, along with great communicational skills,” mentions Honne, as they stress that game development isn’t all about fun, but that they would still like to have someone with a forward-looking attitude that can work in a lighthearted and fun manner.
In the creator’s interview, newer members of the Monolith Soft Kyoto studio are asked about their thoughts on working there, along with how their schedule has benefitted them thus far.
Background designer, Subaru Genbe, who had previously worked with Square Enix is one of the new members who joined Monolith Soft’s Kyoto office, last year. Genbe who has lived in Tokyo for a long while, has always been a fan of Monolith Soft and decided to change his job in order to be able to work with them and Nintendo.
“Playing and having fun is the most important part. It’s the key to bringing out the fun in graphics,” says Genbe, as he explains that those are the deep feelings they share at Nintendo, which he has learned since joining. According to the designer, he has also learned to put his time to better use, thanks to the results of the appointed weekly hours.
“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,” Genbe explains, addressing how the lenient schedule has been a great benefit, by providing him with free time to relax and brush up on his abilities as a designer.
Object designer Rika Aoki, who recently worked with Nintendo on Animal Crossing: New Leaf also spoke about the benefits of her work schedule with Monolith Soft.
“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,” explains Aoki, also mentioning that she loves being able to visit crowded areas that are nearby, and enjoys walks in Kyoto’s shopping districts on weekends.
More than half of the studio’s members are from different areas outside the Kansai region, but in the short amount of time they’ve spent at Monolith Soft’s Kyoto studio, they’ve become tight-knit group who look forward to continue developing more titles for Nintendo while building the studio’s history, together, in their comfortable and productive environment.