Why would two established, independent and well reputed service companies form an alliance, and in so doing, turn their two companies not into one, but, instead, into three? Doesn’t it normally work the other way?
The Mustard Corporation is a company of writers and designers with credits on over 30 published games, writing the original screenplays for, or script editing titles such as Broken Sword: The Director’s Cut, Planet 51, Just Cause, and the Driver series.
They also have experience as voice directors, voice producers, casting producers and motion capture directors, as well as working as writers and producers in TV, radio and cross-media. To top this off they’ve picked up Writers Guild and BAFTA nominations for Neil Richards’ exemplary writing on the Broken Sword series.
Nimrod Productions are specialists in music supervision, recording, mixing, production and creating bespoke music compositions for developers. To date, their extremely varied project list of over 90 titles includes the Driver series, Split/Second, Far Cry 2, and Killzone 2 as well as picking up three Develop Award nominations.
SO, WHY MANA?
Both companies had contributed to voice recording projects in a variety of ways, but neither ever shouldered the full responsibility to the client. With both companies working at the service end of the industry, often for the same developers, it became clear they shared a similar vision of the future and possessed the ideal fit of complementary skills; for Mustard no one knew their way around studio equipment, sound integrity and post production better than Nimrod.
For Nimrod, no one knew their way around scripts, casting and working with actors than Mustard.
Maurice Suckling, of Mustard and Mana explains: “Mustard and Nimrod fell naturally into a union – we had shared experiences, a shared trajectory and were looking in the same direction with each of us missing a specific jigsaw piece.
On top of that I’ve known and enjoyed working with Marc and Rich in some capacity for such a long time it all came very easily. The chances are, the kind of people any prospective alliance needs aren’t just out there, but both the parties probably know each other already. We began as partners – working in our respective areas.
But we noticed on Pokémon Battle Revolution, and then again on Wii Fit, that Nintendo needed reassurance and explanation when seeing emails predominantly from Mustard addresses at the start of the project as we cast and handled pre-production, and then predominantly from Nimrod addresses as the project phased into the delivery of the post produced files.”
Marc Canham, of Nimrod and Mana picks up: “There was no question of us abandoning our respective specialisms and businesses, but we did start to wonder if a clear identity for our joint voice-recording work would make things clearer for clients; besides, by that stage Mustard and Nimrod were so comfortable working together it felt like a natural evolution to formalise our partnership. If it works it works, and the level of trust and cohesion that comes from a formal arrangement isn’t just a boost to everyone, it helps define your identity and goals – the whole enterprise gets an additional kick out that.”
Both Nimrod and Mustard see real advantages in being three, rather than one.
“Mustard and Nimrod still absolutely exist independently of each other”, says Sucking. “Nimrod still compose and licence music, and Mustard still write and design. But now there’s Mana as well which we jointly own, and, with some shared key personnel, Mana focuses solely on producing high-quality voice recordings.
“The identity of each company is distinct and we’re very happy to provide a specialist service in any one of these areas – separately. But should a client have a need for music, script and voice recording to all be outsourced and they see benefits in bringing it all under one umbrella we can respond accordingly.”
“Mustard, Nimrod and Mana all bring in trusted support staff as appropriate,” adds Canham. “But the key personnel do the heavy lifting, and make the key creative and organisational decisions – we don’t work like an agency subcontracting the work out. If you hire us you get us.”
All of which means Mustard and Nimrod can specialise across the considerable breadth of their respective and over-lapping areas, while Mana’s clients benefit from a unique voice recording service wielding three core strengths.
Firstly, Mana offers a its customers a deep understanding of the high audio standards required within the discipline, thanks to the heritage of its founding organisation.
Secondly, it can leverage practical knowledge of game story, character, dialogue, narrative and design.
Finally, Mana promises the deliver extreme flexibility when answering a to any given client’s particular needs.
Mana is the child of an intriguing and distinct alliance. In a changeable and demanding industry, games companies of any stripe need to consistantly produce top-tier results, regardless of the project – fusing the knowledge and experience of two distinct companies has allowed the creation of an impressive third, which has already proven itself capable of doing just that.