Minority is an independent game developer founded in 2010 with a clear goal in mind: To create meaningful experiences with a AAA level of quality.
The company has 15 developers at the moment. Their first game, Papo & Yo, has been in the works for over 18 months, and obtained an amazing response during last year’s E3 and this year’s GDC.
Minority was founded by Creative Director, Vander Caballero and Rezolution Pictures, an award-winning film and television production company responsible for the widely-acclaimed documentary Reel Injun. Vander was previously Design Director at EA Montreal. The entire team came together in fact after years of experience in the big studios, including EA, Ubisoft and Eidos Montreal.
We spoke with Minority’s Design Director, Ruben Farrus to learn more.
NextMontreal: Why did you decide to start an indie game studio?
Ruben: We learned a lot in the big studios. Overall it was a fantastic experience, but we were tired of the politics and the lack of freedom that came with being inside of the big corporations. We couldn’t stand the idea of spending another 3 years of our lives working on another shooting game. We all came here looking for more creative challenges.
NextMontreal: What are some of the biggest challenges?
Ruben: One of the biggest challenges for a startup like us is to maintain the cashflow coming in, so we can keep all the talented developers we hire for our projects. The video game industry is in constant change, and this can have a big affect on small companies. Our most difficult task is to assemble a roadmap for the following 3 to 5 years that guarantees cashflow.
NextMontreal: Papo & Yo is your upcoming game – what was the inspiration for that?
Ruben: Papo & Yo is inspired by the troubled childhood of Creative Director Vander Caballero, who had to deal with a father with an addiction problem. The game’s main characters are a young boy named Quico, and his best friend Monster. Monster is a chill beast that has a very dangerous problem: an addiction to poisonous frogs. The minute he sees one, he’ll scarf it down and fly into a violent, frog-induced rage where no one, including Quico, is safe. And yet, Quico loves his Monster and wants to find a cure for him. As Vander put it, “When you’re living with someone suffering from an addiction, you’re always struggling to save them — even if you know deep inside that there’s nothing you can do.”
NextMontreal: When will it be released, and on what platform?
Ruben: The exact date is to be determined, but we’re shipping in summer 2012. It will be out as a downloadable title on PlayStation 3.
NextMontreal: Have you been working solidly on Papo & Yo for 2 years since Minority was started?
Ruben: Yes. It started as a 4-person project (a designer, a programmer, an artist and an animator) and has grown to a 10/15-person project.
NextMontreal: How is the company funded?
Ruben: Initially Vander and the other partners used part of their personal savings to bootstrap and pitch a first playable version of Papo & Yo. This demo helped close a deal with Sony and win our first application with the CMF (the Canadian Media Fund).
While we’re exploring these and other options for future projects, we really love the CMF, and we think that’s a fantastic resource for startups in Canada.
NextMontreal: Do you guys do work aside from Papo & Yo? Work-for-hire? Is that common for indie game companies?
Ruben: In our case we haven’t done any work for hire yet. That said, we’re not snobs about working for hire; We will evaluate these kind of opportunities if needed, but our main goal is to develop our own intellectual property.
NextMontreal: What are your thoughts on Montreal’s indie game community?
We think we’re in an exceptional environment for independent developers. We have a massive development community, there are organizations like the IGDA Montreal Chapter, the Mont Royal Game Society, and universities like Concordia that actively support the community in different ways. At a national level, organizations like the CMF and others can help you greatly with the funding of your independent projects. To be honest, it’s difficult to think of a better place in the world right now to start your own creative adventure.
NextMontreal: Why aren’t there more indie game developers?
Ruben: Montreal is lucky enough to have some of the best studios in the world, which offer (most of the time) fair working conditions to their employees. To leave this safety net behind and follow your true passion can be a very difficult step. But we think that this is slowly changing, and more and more people have been making the jump to independence over the last two years.
NextMontreal: What would make indie game development better in Montreal and Canada?
Ruben: What we’re probably missing in Montreal is some kind of startup incubator that would encourage the developers that are still on the fence about going indie. As I said, going independent is a big step, both psychologically and financially; an accelerator or incubator would provide some safety to these developers, and would help to grow the scene significantly.
NextMontreal: What’s in store for Minority over the next 6 months?
Ruben: We’re hard at work finishing Papo & Yo and more specifically, making sure we can ship the game as polished as possible. I imagine that after that we will party hard, and take a small break! At that point the team will be able to start working on other concepts that have been in pre-prod over the last few months.