Rarely has a computer game caused such a sensation beyond the gaming scene. In spring 2020 The Longing was in the media spotlight. The Washington Post wrote that the game's level of creativity reinvigorates expectations of what games can be. At the beginning of the Corona lockdown in Germany, Der Spiegel titled "400 days of isolation. The game is made for quarantine".
There has never been anything like The Longing: a game that focuses on waiting and killing time. Based on the legend of Emperor Barbarossa, you play a pitiful servant who guards the Emperor's cave for exactly 400 days. That's how long it actually takes to reach the end of the game. With the servant, players can explore the cave and practice patience. Sometimes it takes weeks to open doors or open new rooms, but there are many ways to pass the time, for example by furnishing a room with collected items or reading books.
What sounds boring is tremendous fun. With literally slowing down the player, the game hits a nerve of its time and achieved cult status shortly after its release. The Longing was celebrated at the most important festivals in the industry worldwide and won, among others, the German Computer Game Award for the best debut and the Innovation Award at the Zurich Game Festival. The often quoted "indie studio" called Seufz, which developed the game, was suddenly on everyone's lips.
The studio is located in a modest office space in the east of Stuttgart, in the immediate vicinity of other film production companies such as Studio Film Bilder and Pixomondo. It was founded by Anselm Pyta, Stefan Michel and Benedikt Hummel. All three are alumni of Animationsinstitut.
Anselm and Benedikt already knew each other from school, since seventh grade they have been making computer games together. Anselm finally studied animation and Benedikt interactive media. They met Stefan during their studies. He studied Animation/Effects Producing and, as a producer, supervised Anselm's final project and Benedikt's final project.
"Already during our studies, the three of us noticed that we worked well together in terms of content and that it made sense to join forces," remembers Stefan. Although they could all have worked for established players in the industry, they dared to take the step of founding their own studio in 2017 right after finishing their studies. Above all, because it enabled them to realize their ideas. "I never wanted to work somewhere where I didn't like the content," emphasizes Anselm, "No company in the world really appealed to me, so there was virtually no alternative for me to do something of my own.”
This uncompromising originality is the trademark of Studio Seufz. The special 2D-animation style and the often wild ideas are unmistakable, an own Seufz-style so to speak. "We always lean far out of the window with our concepts because we simply do what we think is good ourselves," explains Benedikt. Fortunately, some customers also appreciate that.
The studio's portfolio is already long, also in terms of commissioned work. Among other things, they conceived the Tapir Tapes, ironic edutainment clips on the subject of revival, or realized a music video of the Freddy Mercury song Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow for the Mercury Phoenix Trust. The clip has over 17 million views on Youtube.
This year they released The Longing as well as the animated documentary short film Just a Guy, which they produced. It deals with the serial killer Richard Ramirez, who was imprisoned in the USA and who, despite his deeds, has an enormous female fan base worldwide. The elaborate documentary was shot by director Shoko Hara, who is also a Filmakademie alumna. Just a Guy has already been shown at many festivals and won a Golden Dragon at the Cracow Film Festival.
For the end of this year, Seufz is planning the release of VR Pigeons, which is one of the few VR games without a controller and is controlled only by head movements of the VR glasses. The game was developed by Maestro Pivetta, who also studied at Animationsinstitut. "We brought him to us because we found the idea so original," says Anselm, "The game solves a problem of VR technology, but is at the same time a parody of that technology.“
The three emphasize, that studying at Animationsinstitut has shaped the direction of the Studio. They perceived their time in Ludwigsburg as a field of experimentation, where they could test their concepts without economic hurdles, which they now pursue with their studio. "The good thing about studying at Animationsinstitut is that you are always supported in implementing your own project ideas," says Benedikt. "And you are not only trained in craftsmanship, but also encouraged to develop your own artistic style," Anselm adds.
Animationsinstitut also played an important role in the process of founding the studio itself. "In the beginning we did not find ourselves in a vacuum, but were pushed in the right direction by the institute," remembers producer Stefan. Already during their studies, they received tips for the foundation through workshops from alumni, who also founded companies. In addition, it was helpful to be part of the institute network. Through the institute's alumni mailing list, for example, they heard about advertised third-party funded projects with which they could finance their artistic projects.
In addition, the now so successful The Longing was the decisive step in founding Studio Seufz. It was initially created at Animationsinstitut. "I wanted to make a film and a game for my diploma," Anselm recalls. But only the film was possible in the end, the game remained in a prototype state. After his studies, Animationsinstitut was willing to transfer its rights to the game, which it held in the same way as it did for all projects created at the institute. "This enabled us to apply for funding for the realization of The Longing," Stefan recalls. "That worked out and finally secured the company's start."
Students who are also considering starting their own studio are advised to be patient. "We are now in a stage where we also earn money, but that took three years," Anselm points out. "You have to expect that the payoff for the work will come very late. After our studies, we continued living financially at student level for some time". Nevertheless, he says, they are now an example of not having to starve when you do things that you think are good yourself.
In fact, the perseverance and originality of Studio Seufz is currently paying off. A collaboration with a streaming platform is just beginning, and Just a Guy could soon develop into a whole series. The realization of a large 2D game called Lucky Tower 3, which follows on from an indie game series by Benedikt and Anselm, is also already taking shape. In any case, a lot can be expected from Studio Seufz in the future.