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Learning more about Paradox Tinto and 10 years of Europa Universalis IV

Paradox Tinto opened doors three years ago as the seventh development studio under the Paradox Interactive umbrella and under the creative vision of Johan Andersson. In this interview filmed at Gamelab Barcelona 2023, head of operations Sonia Linares describes the successful run of the company so far, its focus on Europa Universalis, and the unique studio culture in the sun-kissed city of Sitges.

Audio transcription

"All right, we're in Barcelona for Gamelab 2023 and, you know, being here, I'd rather be in Sitges, you know, because it's too warm today and we're inside this building.
But I recently learned that there is this studio that's going on for three years already in Sitges, which is Paradox Tinto.
So thank you so much for joining us, Sonia. What can you tell us about these three years of life at Paradox Tinto?
It's been hectic. It's been fun and challenging, but I think it's amazing work that the whole team is doing lately."

"So, well, lately since the beginning. And as you said, we're in Sitges. It's an amazing location. It's a dream location.
It's every weekend feels like a little holiday. And then during the week, you kind of go to the studio, do your work, because, I mean, in the end, we're really passionate about what we do and I couldn't be happier.
And, of course, we know Paradox. We love Paradox. We've been covering Paradox for years. It's closer to us in the Nordics, of course, and we know your strategy games."

"So what do you guys focus on? It's mostly Europa, if I'm correct?
Indeed. So this studio was founded by Johan Andersson and me, of course, being backed up by Paradox Tinto, all that great support from them.
So what we are focusing is on keeping alive the franchise, right? Europa Universalis was created by Johan as main programmer back in 2000.
And since then, he's been working on new interactions and right now we're working on Europa Universalis 4 on live content."

"So basically we're releasing DLCs for now.
Anything you can tell us about what's coming up for the game in the next few months?
We actually are working on a new DLC. So there's so little I can tell you because we want to keep the hype and the secrecy until more things are settled.
But yeah, it's going to come up soon, hopefully. This year we also have the 10th anniversary of Europa Universalis 4. So there's going to be a lot of marketing activities, hopefully, as well."

"How do you keep the community engaged with the game for so many years? And do they ask you for a full new release already or do you think they want more coming for Europa 4?
Yeah, I mean, the audience and the fans are quite divided. Some people, I mean, for years they've been asking for more and new interactions, iteration of Europa Universalis 4.
And they keep asking. Some others, they know that when a game goes out, it's not fully built in the sense that you cannot compare it to a game that has been 10 years in development, right?
So the audience and the fans are a little bit torn. They want something new, but they like what they have."

"So I must say that I have zero credit on keeping the community engaged. That's all on the content designers, the game director and the rest of the team that does an amazing job.
I'm more trying to help them and just making sure that everything runs, just building the team and just making sure that we can develop the game.
But if it's any kind of content design, it's not on me."

"That's what you were talking about, if I'm correct, during your panel, how you guys run the studio and how Barcelona sort of different teams are having Barcelona as their home for AAA projects such as Europa, of course.
How did all this come up back in L.A.? How did you guys decide to come to Barcelona, two cities and call this Tinto, which I guess it has to do with the flavor of your games.
I don't know why the name. So what can you tell us about that coming from more of the sort of the classic way that you, of course, knew from EA, etc.?
In these conversations, the name was given to me already, and that was actually something that Fred Vester, our CEO, came up with."

"They love wine and red wine, so I think it's in that direction. And the location as well, it comes initially from them.
They moved to Sigis back in the days and they really liked it and they were like, why don't we open a studio there?
So that's when they brought me in and we started looking and doing a due diligence, like why Barcelona? Does it make sense to create?
I mean, obviously they want to, but does it make sense from a business perspective?
And so we had to start doing the due diligence. OK, now it's Barcelona. We're good on that."

"So what about Sigis? Why Sigis instead of Barcelona? So that's when we did all the research and that's when we chose Sigis, actually, because it made a lot of sense.
Back in the days in 2020, we were in the middle of the pandemic. So we were looking like we were kind of building the team knowing that it was there.
So we wanted to make a studio, well, find a studio where we could be meeting outside in open areas without the problems with ventilation or restrictions from the government."

"We wanted to give as well all of our employees a really good quality of life and for ourselves as well.
I'm not going to lie. It's like we've been, we are veteran industries, sorry, industry veterans.
So we were like, why? I mean, let's use all the learnings from other studios and other experiences and try to build what we would like to see, right?
And where we would like to work. And that's, I think, how we just decided to be close to the beach, be close to places where we can go like for lunch or enjoy the city and the town without having to spend much time on the commute, commuting to the office and just being able to enjoy the city or town in the weekends."

"And I guess having this today, 2023 Barcelona Game Lab, seeing how sort of the ecosystem is richer now, it's growing, proved you right.
Yes, 100%.
Now, three years after you see this and you're like, yeah, we were completely right.
And also coming, as I said, coming from your previous experience at EA and perhaps the classic ways."

"Yeah. And actually, I mean, we had so much to prove as well, because of course, when you see it from the outside, it's like, oh, these people just want to go to the beach and do nothing, right?
So as well, we have so much pressure as well to show the world and the fans and even our like Paradox Interactive that that wasn't the case.
So it's been a hard drive and a bumpy road, but I think we're there and I don't regret anything. I would do it again."

"And of course, the content speaks by itself. So and finally, what can you tell us about the structure of the studio nowadays?
It's, of course, development only. So what is the size of the team? What are you? How are you guys structured?
I guess you have both artists, designers, programmers. What can you tell us about this? Are you hiring, etc.?
Oh, it's always that question that matters. No. So we are around 30 people. We started out a bit slowly and it was a little bit hard at the beginning because, of course, this is an IP that has been developed by Paradox Development Studios in Stockholm for a really long time, many, many years."

"So it was hard to transition everything to us, especially being a new team, newly built. We were some of us a little bit more experienced, but other talent was less like a little bit more junior.
And I mean, at the beginning, there was a little bit of a struggle with Corona as well. But I'm really, really happy how things progressed.
I think that I'm really happy as well with the content we're creating. We've been kind of delivering like, I think, two DLCs per year. And yeah, like fans are really, really happy up to this date on this."

"Do you plan on expanding the studio and perhaps being able to work on two projects at the same time? Or you're fine, as you just said, as you are?
I think all the companies should be a little bit ambitious and not take a project for granted. And you should always investigate or try to find other ways, right?
I think it also depends on the maturity of the team and the studio. And yeah, I think that's an open way. I didn't answer your previous question about the teams."

"I got you in a way as well. So yeah, go on, please.
So we have artists, we have programmers, we have content designers as well. We have a small release team, production team as well.
So it's like a small team. We're in a house, actually, that we made it into an office or we kind of converted into an office. So it's quite different to the rest of the studios, I must say. It's unique."

"Next time I should definitely do a studio tour and know your ways and the way you work, which is pretty unique. So thank you so much for your time, Sonia, and enjoy the show.
Thank you! Thank you!"

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