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Moon Studios’ Thomas Mahler on the studio’s first ten years

Ori and the Blind Forest developer Moon Studios was founded back in 2010 before becoming a Microsoft first-party studio just a year later. Then and now, the studio is spread throughout the world, collaborating over great distances to make its games. On the cusp of Ori and the Will of Wisps, Stevivor caught up with co-founder, Thomas Mahler, to discuss how the studio has changed in the last 10 years.

“We are a very different studio now,” Mahler began. “When we shipped Blind Forest, we were just a small upstart with 20 people at max. Now we are a studio of 80 people from over 43 different countries all across the world, and that in itself is just unbelievable. We grew four times in size. Scaling back over the past four or five years has been quite the undertaking on top of making games. Now, there’s a Moon ecosystem that exists for people all around the world.”

The increase in staff members has taken some of the day-to-day pressure off Mahler, a former Blizzard Entertainment Cinematic Artist, and his co-founder Gennadiy Korol. It also means Mahler’s role has changed considerably.

“You get things done quicker — there’s is no bottleneck,” he said. “On Blind Forest, I was doing so many things at once; if I was doing level design at the moment then I probably stopped with story. I just couldn’t; there are only so many hours in the day.

“The more you grow as a studio… you suddenly have to have more meetings, you have to teach people and so on. So it’s kind of like SLI with graphics cards, right? It doesn’t scale the way you immediately think.”

Moon has tried to ease employees into the fold with new technologies bundled as a program named Apollo. When an employee logs into it at the start of their work period, it provides a set of tools needed to perform a required job. Despite efforts like this to grow and streamline production pipelines, Mahler said Moon tries to stick to its roots.

“The whole way the company is structured has really changed a lot, though we still try to keep that indie spirit. We still have people working in their bedrooms in their pyjamas,” he said with a chuckle.

While the success of Blind Forest meant Moon needed to grow four times as large for The Will of the Wisps, Mahler says he has a clear goal in mind when it comes to the studio’s future.

“Our goal, actually, is to stay a really tight studio,” he said. “We don’t ever want to become a studio that has hundreds of people. Our goal is to just hire the most elite talent — people that are so passionate and talented that have worked for 10 or 15 years in the industry already. If you give them a task, they’ll do it three times faster than your normal person, because they’ve done it plenty of times before. They have this confidence that they can shoot out an amazing level simply because of their experience.”

Ori and The Will of the Wisps heads to Windows PC and Xbox One on 11 March. The title is part of the Xbox Game Pass program. Stay tuned for more on Ori before release, or read our most recent preview here.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist nearing twenty (TWENTY!?!) years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.