(SAN FRANCISCO) When the epidemic and US politics have turned everyday life into a dangerous world, employees of the independent studio Supergiant find refuge in the making of “Hades,” a video game in which Hell is virtual, funny, and fun.
The score won players over for the same reasons, especially fans of vintage games and well-crafted stories, and columns apart from blockbuster sequels produced in record time by studios operating like factories.
Even “Hades” won the “Best Game” award at the 2021 Bafta video game in March.
“It’s a very fun game, with a very modern style, and it looks like it’s designed ethically,” commented Mitchell Kernot, author of the videogame blog. “Supergiant is skilled at creating games that are fun to run and also enjoyable for the user.”
In 2009, co-founders, Gavin Simon and Prince of Raw, left Electronic Arts – publisher of titles such as “FIFA” and “Apex Legends” – and moved from Los Angeles to San Jose, a city in California where they worked Supergiant launched from their second childhood home, in The purest traditions start From Silicon Valley.
“My father told us that we should establish our company when we were young, so that we can find a job two years later in case of failure,” Amir Rao said during the PAX video game show in 2019.
After nine months, the two friends had grown to seven years old and were working on “Bastion,” a game whose success launched their small business.
Goodness and demons
Prince Rao now leads a team of 23, trying to instill in them the same spirit it was twelve years ago.
“We have put in place rules to save us from ourselves because we love to work together and we’re the kind that never stops,” he told AFP.
Supergiant bars its employees from sending emails after 5 p.m. on Fridays to prevent them from working on weekends. They have to take at least 20 vacation days a year.
Before the pandemic, they had access to offices in San Francisco, but remote work was really the norm. So the developers didn’t have a lot of trouble finishing “Hades” from home.
“For a lot of the team, the hardest part was when they were not working,” Amir Rao recalls. “Because in those moments they faced what was happening in the world.”
He says the startup was founded on values of benevolence, acceptance of individual boundaries and unexpected circumstances.
“If what makes our games different from others is the people who design them and the way they work, then they should support the entire corporate culture and encourage these behaviors in the long term,” he adds.
Released in September, “Hades” is a role-playing game where players face demon foes in different vaults of the dungeon from which they are trying to escape.
Small budget, big imagination
Unlike the big-budget role-playing games, which have Hollywood-themed graphics and stories, the game’s settings and characters are cartoonish, and the story is full of imagination.
Based on Greek mythology, the player embodies the rebellious son of the god and king of the underworld Hades, determined to escape despite his father’s disagreement.
Everyone worked hard to give them the effect, even Prince Rao’s dog, whose barking was used for the sound effects of Cerberus, the multi-headed dog guarding the entrance to the kingdom.
“Hell is a family drama, after all,” laughs Prince Rao. “Because we organize the Olympic gods who seem like a huge family with a lot of problems.”
With a big plus: dying is part of the fun. “If all goes well, then when you die you won’t be very disappointed because there are so many things that happen.”
Players also appreciate the freedom they have in terms of progression, with different fights depending on their level.
“The game adapts to your skills,” notes Lucas Garcia, a computer science student in California. “I felt good in the match even when I wasn’t good. Their concept is really promising.”