Rekka Bellum

Misc games

Concept art

Misc art for projects that were cancelled, many from studios that no longer exist (Hibernum, Sava Transmedia)

Sava Transmédia shut its doors in 2014. I worked there for 2 years, from 2011 to 2012. I was there when it started, I was one of the first 3 artists to be hired. The studio grew big, fast. Tascan had big plans. It is sad though, because they had an amazing team. I'm not just saying that either, the people working there had serious talent.

The issue with this studio is that they got onto the Zynga 'free-to-play' wave too late, the projects were well-made but they were not especially memorable, emulating successful titles, and relying too much on beautiful art than fun, and interesting game mechanics. Despite all this, it was a very fun time for me.

The Japanese studio I worked at is still alive. It grew into a big, big company, but when I was employed there in 2012, we were working out of a very, very small studio in Shinjuku. It didn't have much heating in the winter, nor air conditioning in the summer. I remember, my boss brought a literal giant block of ice, and a fan one time to cool us down (it did not last). That did little to cool a room full of people, working from monster computers. I was also there when they moved into a bigger office near Shin-Okubo.

I had a lot of fun there, and this job permitted me to live in Japan for a little while. I wasn't paid much, but at least it helped me earn some money to spend on exploring Japan. My main issue with this studio, was that at the time, they did not respect their employees, neither their time or their health. Many of the projects I worked on while there were never released, shelved, forgotten.

I worked at Hibernum Créations for a mere 3 months in 2014, after moving back to Montréal from Japan. My experience there was... not great. They hired me to kickstart a project, I was the lead artist, but it took a while for them to put anyone else on the project (other than me and the creative director). I was put on other studio projects, making textures for Fruit Ninja Kinect. I was not pleased. I accepted the job because I wanted to work on original content, not brands.

My project did start, eventually, but while original it was paid for by a client, and they were not responsive, at all. I was sending files in the void for them to validate, it was silly, but I did it anyway. Meanwhile, we got another artist for the team, and programmers, and we were able to start working on our prototype (despite not having any validation from the client). I felt that at that point, they were just trying to keep me busy. Either way, I was pleased, because I got to draw original stuff. Then one day, after nearly 3 months of development, I was called into a meeting, and my creative director, and lead of the project, told me that it was shelved, which I knew meant that it was cancelled, never to be seen, by anyone ever.

t wasn't cancelled because the art was bad, or because they didn't like our ideas, they did away with it because the previous game they released was not successful enough, and now they didn't think that doing a similar kind of game was worthwhile. Hibernum assigned me to another project that same day, to work on art for a brand project. It involved Disney princesses, and I just couldn't do it. I resigned that same day.

This is not what I wanted. I think that maybe I wasn't ready to work in an office again, I had just returned to Montréal from Japan and I took the job too soon, but also, I broke my clavicle in a bike accident and was quite miserable.

I know I was lucky at the time that I was able to make the choice to resign, I know that not everyone can afford to do that, not everyone can afford to live by their values. I don't blame anyone for staying somewhere, even if it means doing a task they don't like. Although, I am not a firm believer in job security in the game industry. Friends of mine that needed their jobs, eventually got laid off, and depending on your situation, that can be a very stressful affair. Anyway, it doesn't matter because the company filed for bankruptcy in August 2017.

These studio experiences left a sour taste in my mouth, I felt cheated out of projects I cared about, time and time again. I deduced that the kind of work I wanted to do was just not valued in game studios anymore. Hibernum took on brand projects because it was a reliable source of income, and I get that, but I know that this is not what they wanted for their studio. They wanted to make original works. I also know that being successful at that is hard, even harder when you've got a big team to manage, and to pay. Sava and Hibernum grew too big, too fast. I wish Toneplus well, it's still chugging along. I hope that employee health is a priority.

It sucks that shelving fully-formed projects is typical for this industry. People might say that I ought to just accept it, or to get a thicker skin, but my issue is that to find value in my work, to get through projects, any project, I have to make myself care. I cannot work on a project that I do not care about, and when a thing you care about gets buried, time and time again, it is hard to stomach. It is entirely possible that me and this industry are just incompatible. I can't not care, I just can't.

I stayed quiet on my experience at these places for a while, but now in Jan 2022, I think that saying what happened is important. It's a tough, tough industry... and many of these studios make the same mistakes.