Metal Slug developers slept in the office on stinky futons


Legendary pixel artist Akio Oyabu reveals how the team behind Metal Slug worked until 5am in the morning and rented futons to sleep on.


Akio Oyabu, the phenomenal pixel artist behind classic games like R-Type and Metal Slug, joined Twitter back in April, and one of the first things he shared was the initial piece of concept art that led to the creation of Metal Slug. The game is still much revered today for its incredibly detailed and characterful pixel art, so it was wonderful to see the genesis of this much-loved series.

Akio previously worked for Irem, where he worked on the astonishingly beautiful shoot ’em up R-Type. But he left, along with several other developers, to form Nazca in 1994. The studio began creating games for SNK’s Neo-Geo system, and 1996’s Metal Slug was by far their most popular title. SNK, impressed by the team’s efforts, went on to acquire the developer.

Now, Akio has shared a few more details about the working conditions in Nazca’s early days. Alongside a drawing of himself crawling out from underneath his desk, he says:

From the beginning of the year until Golden Week [an annual week of national holidays in Japan], MetaSuru [a contraction of Metaru Suruggu, i.e. Metal Slug] warriors work overtime until around 2:00, and after Golden Week, sleepovers begin at the company for about eight months. As soon as the morning meeting starts, we crawl out from under the desk, eat cup noodles and go to bed around 5am. I was looking forward to Sundays off.” (Translated by Google)

He adds that there were four or five “dotters” (pixel artists) working on Metal Slug, and that it was “tough”, but a “fun memory”.

In a follow up post, he explains how the Nazca staff would rent out futons to sleep on in the office. “It’s surprisingly fluffy and comfortable to sleep on, but it smells like an unfamiliar old man living in the pillow,” he says, adding, “the secret to a good night’s sleep was how I could find a pillow that didn’t smell like an old man”.

The accompanying picture shows the Nazca developers apparently sniffing futon pillows to check for signs of old-man smells.

Akio’s charming pictures add a comical touch to the endless hours of work that went into creating Metal Slug, although they act as a reminder that crunch has been a perennial problem in the video game industry for decades. That said, the endemic blight of overwork in the games industry is slowly, ever so slowly, being addressed in modern times, not least through unionisation.

The latest entry in the Metal Slug series is Metal Slug Tactics from Leikir Studio and Dotemu, which is set to be released on PC and Nintendo Switch, although the release date has yet to be announced.

Read more: R-Type | Artist reveals “controversial” origins of its iconic boss

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