This is a translation of an interview originally posted on Monolithsoft website https://www.monolithsoft.co.jp/
Two Monolithsoft executives: Yasuyuki Honne and Tomohiro Hagiwara will discuss benefits of "two-base system" - two development offices of Monolithsoft - in Kyoto and in Tokyo.
Yasuyuki Honne - one of the founders of the company.
Tomohiro Hagiwara - one of the directors, who has been with the company since it's beginning.
Q: What kind of work do you normally do?
Yes, so our company work can be broadly divided into the two lines:
- development of original titles such as the "Xenoblade" series which we develop entirely;
- and "partial contract" development of Nintendo titles such as "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" and "Splatoon 2", which we develop only parts of;
I operate and manage as the officer in charge of the Nintendo titles. But that doesn't mean I never touch original titles, I have a long career as an art director, so I receive advice from the development staff about my work and give advice to them about theirs.
Q: What are the development lines for Tokyo and Kyoto Studios?
Tokyo is developing original titles and Nintendo titles, and Kyoto Studio is currently developing only Nintendo titles. Kyoto Studio is entrusted with the art base and graphic details of the Nintendo title, so most of the staff at the studio are designers.
Q: Are you interested in having programmers or managers in Kyoto Studio in the future, just like in Tokyo?
Yes, indeed. Eventually, of course, we would like to develop original titles at Kyoto Studio.
Q: Does that mean you want to create original title yourself?
Yes, of course. It's just a future story. I would like to have a system that allows us to move forward no matter what happens.
Q: Next, Mr. Hagiwara, please.
I'm looking at how people coordinate our own original titles throughout development and the overall management of new projects - how much it costs to make things.
Of course, the on-site producer makes the budget and man-hours, so I look at it and judge whether it is appropriate, and I advise on improvements.
After that, we discuss with other officers about what Monolithsoft is aiming for in the future, including the main goals, and then we will make large and broad adjustments to the entire company. That's the position.
Q: Tokyo and Kyoto studios are geographically separated, so how do you interact with each other?
I make phone calls and e-mails, and I can talk face-to-face with the video conferencing system for projects where nuances are difficult to convey. We are separated physically, but I don't really feel that much distance.
Well, it may be not hard to keep in touch even when we are far away. However, in addition to such communication methods, once a month a producer of Kyoto Studio comes to the Tokyo head office, and in addition to that, I travel between Tokyo and Kyoto when necessary. In terms of development environment, neither is superior or inferior. Are office locations different from each other? From that point of view, Kyoto office is uniquely positioned, with historical buildings really close by, so if you get stuck at work, you can go out and clear your head.
Q: Currently, Monolithsoft is recruiting a lot of mid-career professionals. What kind of people are you looking for?
Of course we are looking at technically skilled people, but also I like to look at abilities to cooperate and flexibility. After all, I think that when you come to Monolithsoft with work experience from other companies, you already might have certain established method of doing work. And without flexibility it would be difficult to switch to "Monolithsoft method" of doing work.
I think there are many important things, but the biggest one is whether or not you have a "passion" for making games.
That is a major requirement. I hate mid-career hires who are tired (laughs). I've been at the development side as well, so I can feel it. Consumer game development is done on a yearly basis, and with the aim of always making users happy, and after completing one game, we will begin making another, so it's a constant process without ultimate end. I think that it is the same for all jobs, but I would like you to be able to reset, rest, recharge, and have a new “passion” and hit the gate of Monolithsoft again.
As for the age of employees, I want to increase the number of young people. Of course, this is not a story of not hiring veterans. However, when hiring a person with a solid career, I would like to hire a fairly solid person with excellent abilities. If there is someone who is specialized in some kind of field or who's abilty is recognized, I would like such people to come.
We want designers who can make a picture that attracts people. When people just look at the picture and say "Oh, this person from Monolithsoft made it."
Also, since we work on a schedule, we need to know how we can be creative in a limited time and how organized we are. I would like you to work while carefully considering the importance of time.
I agree. For example, (in some other companies) the amount of work may be calculated as a group that says "what can be done in one day." Then, the fact that you were able to work overtime will be calculated as "what you can do in one day."
On that assumption, if you schedule tasks in that way, the whole schedule will be just too close. When you actually start working, you may find that some of your employees may get sick and have to rest, or you could not come up with a certain idea in time. There may be a miscommunication. Then, even if you decide to make adjustments, at that point, overtime is expected for normal tasks, and there is no way to make adjustments and there is no choice but to fail on schedule.
In the case of our company, the system is such that the work time is set to 8 hours a day, and the task is worked overtime only when there is a problem, so if we have one month, we plan only what can be done in one month, Therefore, it would be very helpful if employee could manage and grasp this properly before making a schedule.
The delay in development is a very sensitive part. If you have a small number of people, you can manage to get it back, but when the number of development staff becomes large, it is irreversible when you notice wrinkles. So, for such things to not happen, on the projects where I am in charge, when someone is working overtime for more than 3 days, I always ask the leader who is the manager to review the task. That way, you can take steps to move some of the work to other vacant people or to cut it entirely. It is difficult for the management side to make fine adjustments to the schedule, but in the latter half of the project, it is now possible to avoid the situation where weeping amount of planned features are cut.
Q: For those who wish to change jobs, I think the quality of the working environment is a concern. What can you say about that?
Yes, as I mentioned at the beginning, there are no differences in development environment between Tokyo and Kyoto, and so we are able to work with the latest equipment. And we also introducing new software and tools, if necessary.
We also have reference books, games, DVDs, and everything else necessary for development. We try to incorporate as much as possible of what is needed to “make better things”. We try to deal with such points as flexibly as possible.
Q: Is there any training for mid-career hires?
There is a training system for new graduates, but there is no training system for mid-career hires. If you are using any of our tools or tools you haven't used before, we will take the time to teach properly, and we will not have you to study by yourself during non-working hours. Of course, it's obvious, that there's no such thing as suddenly throwing yourself into the workplace and doing your best immediately afterwards, so I want you to feel at ease there.
As for mid-career hiring, we have not provided a training system because we basically present the types of jobs and skills that we are looking for and hire human resources who already can do job and already have necessary skills. Of course, they will need to learn our method of working, so there will be time learn this from the senior specialist or somebody in our team. For example, I think that there are rules for how to name files, etc. for each company, but I feel like these can be learned during actual work on the project.
It may be somewhat difficult to finish the job within the limited time of our work system (8 hours a day). However, when I interviewed the staff after joining the company, they all said that they could properly separate work from home. Especially in a family with children, it's quite natural to be able to return home on time and have family duties on days when there is no overtime (laughs).
Q: Are there transfers between Tokyo and Kyoto?
There are. We appreciate your understanding that a transfer between Tokyo and Kyoto may occur in some cases as this will lead to more flexible development.
Q: Finally, please give a word to those who are considering to work at Monolithsoft.
Yes. I think the environment is equable from top to bottom. It's not a difficult environment to talk to each other, and we try to create an atmosphere in which you have no trouble talking to your boss whenever you came up with something interesting.
As I mentioned a little while ago, we would like to pursue various challenges in the future, so we want to make an interesting game! We want our customers to have fun! I would like to invite those who have the "passion" to join us.