Developing an AAA game is a massive endeavor. It costs millions of dollars, immense talent, and time. That is why AAA game development studios often outsource the work (especially the assets) to other studios to help make the development process more efficient.
One of the leading AAA art solution studios in Southeast Asia is Lemon Sky. Founded in 2006 in Malaysia, the studio has worked with some of the world’s largest brands to create AAA products such as Blizzard Entertainment, Naughty Dog, 2K Games, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Microsoft Studios, EA Sports & Games, Sega, Nickelodeon, Disney, and more.
And now, Lemon Sky’s owner has expanded its business to Indonesia by establishing a new studio in Jakarta called Brandoville Lemon Sky.
The studio began eight months ago, in July 2018. Since then, Brandoville has expanded its team to around 35 staff. Most of them are artists, as well as a small portion for the supporting team such as HR, IT, PR, etc.
“We are growing the admin team right now, too,” said Ken Lai, the CEO of Brandoville and Director of Lemon Sky Malaysia (Ken Lai is Canadian and from Canada. He later joined as a partner of Lemon Sky Malaysia in 2011).”Because we are going to expand our team of artists, we wish to expand the management team first. A hundred percent of our talents are local Indonesian artists,” he continued.
How the studio was started
Later on, Ken Lai explained to us why he decided to establish Brandoville in Jakarta. “One of the reasons why we opened this studio in Indonesia is that there are so many talented artists here. At Lemon Sky, we often hire Indonesian artists after they graduate from college,” he shared.
“They usually work with us in Malaysia for three to five years. But when they reach the age of 27 or 28, they wish to move back to Indonesia because they are not able to get permanent residence in Malaysia. The problem after they move back is that it’s hard to find an AAA studio or high-quality studio there. Most of the studios look for cost-efficient instead of high-quality artists,” he added.
“I remember around two years ago when I first came to Indonesia and had dinner with them, some had already changed career paths and some were helping with family businesses. Even though they did a fantastic job in the game industry during their time at Malaysia’s Lemon Sky.”
“And sometimes, they would joke like ‘hey, why don’t you guys open the studio in here’. Then, we’re thinking and decided yes, actually we can open one in here,” he said.
Although they are under the same shareholder, Brandoville has a slight difference from Malaysia’s Lemon Sky. To establish the studio, Ken Lai said that he collaborated with a strong local partner in Indonesia.
“We have a local partner in Indonesia. But they are a different corporation in Indonesia, outside of the game industry. So they provide us with the legal, admin and HR support,” Ken Lai explained.
Share the same business with Malaysia’s Lemon Sky
As an independent studio under the same shareholder, Brandoville shares the same business with Malaysia’s Lemon Sky. “We do the same projects (with Lemon Sky) right now, and we’re also preparing for an education site later,” said Ken. “But for now, we are focusing on the studio first,” he continued.
Ken Lai also said that Brandoville has the same business model as Lemon Sky. Meaning Brandoville works on AAA game projects and animations from clients. In the future, the company is planning to do IP development for animations and games. But for now, the focus is on AAA international projects.
“We are not the support studio for Lemon Sky. We are independent,” said Ken. “But we work on the same projects with Lemon Sky,” he added.
The studio behind Warcraft III Reforged
One of Lemon Sky’s big clients is Blizzard Entertainment. For years, Lemon Sky has been working with Blizzard to do AAA projects. With more than 300 talents, many of whom are artists, Lemon Sky helped Blizzard bring some remastered projects to life such as Starcraft II Remastered and Warcraft III Reforged.
“Right now, I’m proud to say that we are working on the Warcraft III Reforged project,” said Ken Lai.
In Warcraft III Reforged, most of Brandoville’s projects are included in the assets. Its mission is to bring the modern taste to the classic popular RTS that was first released by Blizzard for PC in 2002. “In this project, we do the character modeling, texturing, and the game animations,” said Ken Lai.
Later on, Ken Lai explained how it worked with Blizzard and Malaysia’s Lemon Sky for this project. “The pipeline for the project is already set, so we also communicate with Blizzard. Lemon Sky produces the job and passes it here,” said Ken.
Besides Warcraft III Reforged, the studio is also working on one of the TV series from Nickelodeon IP. “We have an NDA with them, so we can’t share much about the project right now,” said Ken Lai.
The main challenge when building the studio
As a new studio with a high standard in Indonesia, finding the right talent is Ken’s main focus. “In the beginning, I think the challenge is that most of the talents’ standards are not yet at the international level. That’s why in the beginning it’s very difficult. So we spend time training them,” Ken said.
“Luckily, they level up very, very fast. After half a year, they are beginning to meet the quality standard. Indonesian artists’ mindset is pretty strong. We usually search for artists who have a strong mindset, very passionate in this industry, and not easy to give up. That’s why they put a lot of effort to catch up to our standards,” he added.
“I think they have so much potential and the AAA projects help keep them busy and upgrade their skills,” he concluded.
Later on, Ken Lai also shared his past experience back when he joined Malaysia’s Lemon Sky. “In 2011, I moved from Canada to Malaysia and joined as Lemon Sky’s partner because, at that time, the industry was the same as Indonesia’s right now. Not too many AAA studios, just many small studios that didn’t have the opportunities to work on AAA games.”
“So I decided to move to Malaysia to help the industry grow with local Malaysian partners. I think we were very successful in that, as we now have a few hundreds of talents in our studios. When I came to Indonesia, I wanted to repeat that process. For me, it’s very meaningful when the work can upgrade people’s values and they create a great career for themselves in this industry,” he explained.
The chance to collaborate with other Indonesian studios
When asked about the chance to collaborate with other Indonesian studios, Ken Lai told us that the company is very open to that. “In the future, yes we are very open to this. I wish to unite the whole industry in Indonesia and grow together.”
“The current Indonesian game industry feels similar to Malaysia’s 8 years ago. It’s like a sleeping lion. But it has a higher potential than Malaysia because of its larger population. Just need someone who can provide the opportunity and lead people to the right direction, so that the lion will wake up,” he ended.
Closing the conversation, Ken said Brandoville is still hiring for more talents to join in their projects. He also said that the studio will start to work on its own IP sometime in 2020.
Edited by Devi