Late in 2015, longtime game designer Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro (Deadly Premonition, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die) took a break from his position at Osaka-based Access Games for health reasons.
That sabbatical seemed to stretch on until last October, when Swery -- after becoming a licensed Buddhist master monk -- confirmed he was leaving Access for good. Fellow devs who have been following his work should know that he isn't done making games. Swery is back, and he has a new indie studio: White Owls Inc.
Opened in Osaka, Japan this month, White Owls seems to be a relatively lean studio (so far the only staffers listed on the website are Swery and his stuffed monkey Sharapova) with a wide remit: everything from games to books to potentially VR and educational initiatives.
To get a better sense of where White Owls comes from and where it's going, Gamasutra briefly corresponded with Swery via email. Here's an excerpt of our conversation edited for clarity:
Why are you launching White Owls Inc.?
Starting in November of 2015, I left my company for a year-long period of medical treatment. During that time, I started to feel a sense of danger in regards to the large separation between the Japanese market and the international market, as well as the changes happening in our era, and with my own philosophies. I really wanted to do something about this, but I was unable to fill that void within the unique environment that is a (Japanese) company.
Midst my internal struggle, I received some advice from my fellow creators in the West. "Instead of spending time trying to change the people around you, you should go independent and actually focus on doing what you believe in!" It made perfect sense! So I immediately started making preparations to go independent.
What inspired you to name your new company "White Owls"?
In Ancient Greece, owls were seen as servants of the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena, and were also symbols of intelligence.
Owls watch over the darkness of the night as humans sleep, and can see things we don't even know of. Perhaps the people of Ancient Greece thought of the sun setting as a metaphor for death, and believed that people only gained true wisdom in old age.
It's been 20 years now since I started working in the game industry. I've now gained a new way of thinking that I certainly wasn't capable of when I was young, acquired new wisdom that I hadn't previously, and have started to take a new step forward. I wanted to work the word 'owl' into the name of my company because I felt it fit perfectly with this new stage. I also imagine our owl to have pure white wings, in order to express our strong desire to never turn evil (black) as developers.
How big is White Owls now, and how big do you want it to be?
We're still a small company. But each staff member has years of experience working in the game industry, and more than anything, they're all brimming with motivation and creativity. I'm proud to say that I've assembled a team of elites who each have a strong spirit of defiance.
Interior of White Owls Inc, feat. a pig
Additionally, we at White Owls have no intent to grow sluggish and obese like our previous workplace (Access Games). I want our company to be the equivalent of a muscular, extremely productive athlete.
What kind of things do you want to make at White Owls?
We want to create games for YOU, the people who like us. Games that are bizarre, scary, grotesque, and dreamlike, yet also have a strange realism. Games that remind you of the past, that are comical, and sad yet lovable. Those are the kind of games we'll be making.
In order to make my ideas into realities, I've signed a contract with Blake Rochkind, an agent from UTA. In the near future, I'm pretty sure this white owl will be soaring out over the entire world!
In the end, I'd like to use this space to thank my family, who've always supported my health, and all my fans who've been cheering me on day in and day out. Thank you so very much. That's it.
I Love You All!!