Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

[Inudstry Interviews] Ashley from SMG Studio

Joining The Switch Effect on today’s Industry Interviews is SMG Studio, an indie video game company founded in July 2013 and based in Sydney, Australia. With a plethora of incredibly fun and creative games over multiple platforms, it seemed only a matter of time until SMG Studio arrived on the Switch. Death Squared, released on the eShop earlier this year, has been met with high praise (and rightfully so!).

Death Squared is a cooperative puzzle game for 1, 2, or 4 players and is all about teamwork! Having to guide colored robots to their respective goals may sound simple in nature, but very difficult to execute. Along the way, you will die…A LOT! Thankfully, your voice over guides will be there to entertain you along the way and encourage you to keep going! With 80 challenging levels and a whole bunch of bonus challenges, this is a game that is going to test your endurance, ingenuity, and patience!

Firstly can you introduce yourself and tell us about what you do?

Ashley and I am the Studio Head at SMG. Which means I do a lot of different things at SMG that don’t involve the actual coding or design of our games. I do the boring and sometimes fun stuff the developers, artists, and designers don’t want to do.

What got you into game development and how did your company SMG Studio come about?

Myself and the founding team all worked in advertising. SMG was spun off from an agency I run called Soap and we’re all ex-Flash developers who collectively made hundreds of flash games over the years. My first flash game was made back in 1999 while I worked at Kinkos. Just as Flash 4 was introduced. One of the other founding members is Mark who founded Flashkit back in the day also. I actually spoke at his Flashkit conference in 2001!

How many people are on your team?

We’re 18 people, which makes us one of the largest in Australia (which is both cool and a bit sad). We started as a team of 4, but we have a lot of games under our belt now (8) and there’s so many more we want to make. We have increased in size for our current major game which we hope to reveal in the next few months.

What inspires you in life to work on your games?

I personally like seeing millions of people play our games. I find it much easier to entertain people with a game than it is to think up the next awesome useful app. People will always want to play games and have fun so it’s a great career. Games also encompass so much like art, design, technology, commerce, psychology, storytelling and much more that you can never stop learning.

Further to that, how did Death Squared end up in the style and genre that it has?

That’s all down to Pat who was the father of the game. He designed and built the core prototype of the game at a 48hr game jam and we just went from there. The co-op puzzle game was driven from his desire to have a game he could play WITH his partner; not VS. There were too many VS games where it’s all about beating the other player. Working together changes the dynamic for couples, parents, kids, etc. when they play. Someone who isn’t as good can still enjoy it just as much.

What are the feelings shared around the office for your awards/recognition of Indie Showcase at PAX Australia in 2015 and Indie Mini Booth Selection at PAX East & West 2016?

Me personally I have won so many advertising awards I’m kinda numb to them. I know that sounds bad, but then I realize people in the team this is their first game and their first awards and I realize I’m too cynical. The awards mentioned are great as they come with other things. Being selected for the Indie Mega Booth and Pax Showcase helps get us in PAX to then showcase the game even more.

To be honest getting a hand written letter and a custom Amiibo made from the fan felt like winning an award.

Custom Amiibo sent to SMG Studio by a fan…so cool!!!

What are yours and your teams thoughts on Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch?

There’s a few diehard Nintendo fans that play it all the time. There’s many of us that have become Nintendo fans because of it. The format of it (portable, but also can dock) and the idea that co-op built in is what I think made it stand out from the Vita. It’s great that it’s not just the same thing as the other consoles only with a different control scheme. It really does allow for different ideas and games to be created.

Death Squared is the first SMG Studio title to be released on the Nintendo Switch. What about your game makes it a great fit for the hybrid console?

The Switch is built for co-op and that’s where our game shines. Also our levels are pretty easy to chip away at with some lasting < 30 seconds and others a few minutes. So you can tackle a couple of levels on your commute. Well, I’ve seen people spend 45 min. on one level, but that’s when you can’t solve it. 

Although only available on the eShop, there was an extremely limited “physical” edition released in EB Games in Australia. Can you shed some insight as to the creation and decision to produce this limited version?

We had a lot of people want a physical edition (Switch players definitely have a strong love for the carts). We couldn’t afford to do that (it’s also a LOT of work and time) so we decided to make the case and goodies inside as interesting as we could and release a small batch for fans. We printed them on special silver paper, numbered them, hand signed and added some stickers and pins to the package.

I have all the details now on how to do physical release and I think for our next larger Switch game we’ll make sure it’s considered from the outset.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Thanks for the support. Some players may not realize that we really do appreciate the positive word of mouth and feedback from fans. It goes a long way.

We also have some new games coming to the Switch in 2018 and a few other surprises. 2018 will be a big year for us. I wish I could say more, but a lot is still not revealed.

Thank you again for taking the time to speak with The Switch Effect. We are thoroughly enjoying Death Squared and hope everyone downloads it off the eShop today!

Use the links to follow SMG Studio.

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