Sauropod: roughly defined by Dictionary.com as a large, herbivorous dinosaur with a small head, long neck, and five toed limbs. When I hear the word it conjures up images of that scene in Jurassic Park where they get their first look at the dinosaurs. The impossibly catchy theme swells, Sam Neill pulls off his sunglasses, and BOOM, giant dinosaurs. Our visit to Sauropod Studio wasn’t quite like that but it was pretty cool nonetheless.
We started out at the residence and took the bus down to the stop in front of Ubisoft. A few blocks away Sauropod occupies a medium sized room inside seemingly the only building in the neighborhood not made out of red brick. The door to their room was large and plain with no indication that it belonged to a game studio. It was unlocked so we opened it on up and stepped inside. I knew that Sauropod Studio was small but I really understood what that meant when we walked through the door. From the entrance area I could see the entire studio; a small kitchen arrangement along with a few sofas and a table in front of us, three rows of desks with fifteen computers total to our right, and a wall to our left. Hanging dividers on the end of each row of desks separated the computers from the kitchen area. Toward the back of the room were large windows that looked out toward the Olympic Stadium with a view akin to what I would like to think a sauropod might see. After touring Ubisoft and Hibernum the difference was astounding. Upon our entry to the space we were warmly greeted by François Alain, game designer and one of the founders of Sauropod. He introduced himself, we took off our shoes, and the tour began.
François directed us on a circular path around the studio, first showing us the kitchen area then leading us through the desks and introducing us to the people who occupied them. We got to meet folks involved with all different parts of the project. Because of the size of the room business, art, programming, and design people all sat very close together. No one was separated from the rest and it gave the impression of a very tight-knit community. Only about half the desks were filled at 11 am, apparently most of the programmers come in around noon. Once the brief walking tour was over François graciously answered our many questions.
He told us about how the studio was formed and the challenges it faced while incorporating and preparing a Kickstarter campaign. We discussed their methods for tracking tasks and the technology they’re using to create their game. The conversation we had with him was genuinely interesting and felt very intimate. After the chat another person on the team showed us the current build of their game, Castle Story. It’s a voxel based RTS/creation game where you make a castle and defend it from oncoming waves of enemies. When it was over we thanked both of them and left the way we came, out into the Montreal winter.
The visit to Sauropod was very different from our other visits. There was no NDA, no secretary and waiting room, no pre-prepared presentation, just a guy telling us about the studio he had sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears to create. Hibernum was a huge change after Ubisoft and Sauropod felt exactly the same way after Hibernum. Sauropod illustrates the incredible variety in the game industry today and should be looked at as a role model for any young entrepreneurs who want to start their own studio.