With clients such as Square Enix, Lucas Arts, Namco Bandai, Top Cow, and Stan Lee’s POW Entertainment, Studio HIVE is Thailand’s number one art outsourcing studio for concept art, comic book illustrations, and images for various branches of entertainment. Close to celebrating the company’s second year of existence, founders Skan Srisuwan and Kan Supabanpot have gathered an impressive track record of clients. Their next goal is to do the same with videogames with their first big game project being based on the well-known Ong Bak movie license.
Busy bees in Bangkok
Srisuwan and Supabanpot have been best friends for years and have always shared a passion for games and the industry that creates them. “We always knew we’d end up working together to create something beautiful,” Supabanpot admits. Before the dynamic duo founded Studio HIVE, Srisuwan was still working at another art studio, where he developed illustrations and designed for Square Enix’s game Front Mission Evolved. Supabanpot was busy founding the ThaiGamerNetwork to work with and support foreign game publishers and distributors in their efforts to promote video games in Thailand, and (because of the heavy piracy rates) stimulated the purchase of legal game copies.
When Srisuwan’s previous job encountered some changes, the event signaled the duo to start working together. They set up the company in 2010 and left for the Tokyo Game Show a couple of months later to talk to some of the biggest names in the game industry. Carrying a thesis project of some game design students that they had just hired, the duo bumped into the likes of gaming legend Hideo Kojima. Supabanpot notes:
We purposefully didn’t talk too much business with them, admits. But the Tokyo Game Show proved to us that meeting these high profile people isn’t that hard at all.
Thanks to the thesis project that the young group of developers had made before being hired by Studio HIVE, Srisuwan and Supabanpot were able to acquire a deal to develop the video game for the next installment of Ong Bak movie franchise, which is planned to be released sometime in 2013. At that time, Studio HIVE’s own art team was also hard at work to finish a new project for a graphic novel called Romeo & Juliet: The War from 1821 Comics and Marvel legend Stan Lee.
Our livelihood as the supplier of quality artwork and illustrations is providing us with a very profitable and stable source of revenue. That income isn’t wasted and is directly put back into our company in order to move forward and adapt.
Those revenue streams are also currently financing the finalization of their Ong Bak project, which a team of more than ten has been working on tirelessly since October of last year. The game is already in its final phase of being extensively polished.
A different approach
With a hefty amount of experience with only international clients, both gentlemen frown upon the traditional Thai business culture they’ve left behind. Supabanpot adds:
Our internationally oriented attitude is what makes us the best in Thailand and allows us to stand out. Our end goal is to slowly decrease our artistic efforts and shift towards game development in the near future. We never had a doubt about the direction we wanted to take.
Finding the right staff to set out into that new direction is hard with such an attitude. Under Srisuwan’s creative direction, the team at Studio HIVE now consists of some of the most elite artists in the country.
People who come to work with us start feeling the pressure to perform by themselves. They mostly create that pressure themselves, which causes some people to leave the studio on their own when they discovered they weren’t up to their tasks.
To earn a spot in Studio HIVE’s team doesn’t just require you to be a top notch artist, but also to have the passion for entertainment and to be able to not take yourself too seriously. “We strive to sustain a company culture that is focused on comradery and friendship,” Supabanpot adds. “If you don’t fit in there, you’re free to go.”
Now that Studio Hive’s reputation is growing and gaining more ground doing concept art for more game developers, including for mobile games, the stream of job applications from game professionals has also started pouring in:
That’s why our plan is to start focusing more on young game developers. We will select the most talented ones and also offer them various ways of further education under the studio’s care.
Doing what you love most
The confident attitude of Studio HIVE not only translates into a straight forward attitude, but also a spotless reputation and a collection of A-list clients. A quick overview of the studio’s portfolio makes it hard to question the capacities of creative director Srisuwan and his dedicated team of artists. But what’s the secret behind their success? According to Supabanpot:
“We only work on what we want. We don’t work on games for kids or casual games to rake in the money. We’re not big fans of how people try to make money by using games as advertising or educational tools. We choose our own projects based on how cool they are. After all, we’re running a young company and only want to create cool things. Working on well-paid, but especially very cool projects with clients such as Lucas Arts and Square Enix also makes our team incredibly happy and proud of their work.
Getting those high-profile gigs is also partially thanks to Studio HIVE’s own agent in the United States who, for a commission, helps the studio get connected with these big shots. It’s a pretty good deal for a young studio such as Studio HIVE. But with their reputation on the rise, the studio receives an increasing amount of these assignments.
As their art team is now very stable, most of the studios attention is focused on their Ong Bak game.
Dealing with the business side of things and the game being based on an existing well-known IP has proven to be much more difficult for us than I initially thought. We are very lucky that Ong Bak’s production company Sahamongkol Film international is very supportive. The most fun part for us was when we figured out the main concept of the game from the treatment we received from Sahamongkol. We had to make sure the game would get along with their treatment, but we actually received a lot of creative freedom and space to come up with various of elements in this game by ourselves.
The success of the Ong Bak game will definitely be a determining factor in Studio Hive’s future as a game development studio, making it not only an ambitious first project for the young studio, but a relatively risky one.
We obviously have the goal to develop our own franchises one day, like we have always wanted. But are we ready for that yet? I’m not so sure about that.
Studio Hive’s work on the Ong Bak game will shed more light on that soon. The game itself has still not been revealed to the public and no information has been disclosed. It shouldn’t be a surprise to know that a well-defined art style and state-of-the-art visuals were one of the first elements in the game to be finished.
What we can share is that the Ong Bak game is full of detailed characters, lively and brightly colored environments and filled with influences from Thai culture and mythology. Studio HIVE is currently in the process of finishing the final touches on the project, but no details are yet available about when the game will be publicly presented or officially released.