Level Up KL 2021 was held as an online event featuring an array of game development talks. The variety of topics ranged from the rise of the blockchain gaming market to the growth of the Southeast Asian game development scene.
VirtualSEA had the opportunity to catch up with various studios at the event, glimpse at several up-and-coming games and hear some interesting stories behind their development journeys. Here’s what we found!
RAgent and its solo developer Riz Zulkifli is working on an action-horror arena game called Hunter A Hunter. The game blends the idea of a frantic chase like Pacman with shifting, scary realities – the game has playable worlds inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins. According to RAgent, Hunter A Hunter will also be the first symmetrical multiplayer horror game, meaning the players pursuing each other in a queue while the true hunter, who is AI-controlled, is trying to eliminate them all. Beyond the exhilarating experience of being chased by ghosts, Hunter A Hunter also wants to deliver a meaningful message through the art of horror of which a person is rightful or sinful by victory or defeat, respectively.
The game is currently undergoing development for the symmetrical multiplayer, starting with a total of five players. However, a singleplayer mode is available as a sneak peek that comes with highly customizable game modes. These modes can be stacked for players that have the interest to taste an adjusted or new experience. You can check out the demo here.
Twilight Foundry Games (Malaysia)
The lovely and lo-fi visual novel Sunset Satellite was born of a team of friends who joined the Toge Productions game jam and felt the desire to tackle difficult issues about owning a pet in a visual novel. Covering life in the pandemic and the mundane and magical moments in between, Sunset Satellite is a romantic experience with that artsy vibe people love. You can check out the game jam version here.
Founder and studio producer William Chong not only hopes to launch Sunset Satellite as a fully fleshed-out cinematic visual novel, but the young Twilight Foundry team from Malaysia is already in talks of developing an action game for their next venture. The passionate developers also have plans to help build an ecosystem for the local game development scene in Penang. The studio aims to be an example of diversity and opportunity for upstarts who want to see the Malaysian indie development industry thrive and survive. Follow Twilight Foundry Games’ updates on Facebook and Twitter.
IFiO Studios (Malaysia)
Game Director Irfan Hadi described the action-adventure game Endura as a game about delivery and the experience of traversing through an immersive world. The young developer started as a solo dev who received an IPCC grant from MDEC to begin on his projects. Today, IFiO Studios is a growing team working on Endura’s fast-paced grappling and slinging action and a fascinating story touching mystical and paranormal elements. With a variety of playable characters and multiple challenges, Endura is shaping up to be a fantasy epic about high-powered couriers!
Endura has been in development for three years. Its current alpha is looking strong and has even garnered recognition in the local game development scene. The studio is currently hard at work on the playable demo and is looking at a 2023 full release for the game. Fans and interested parties are encouraged to provide feedback and follow the development of this exciting title on Facebook and Discord.
Eternal Dream Studio (Indonesia)
The discussion about mental health has progressed further in modern society, but there are still ways to go for its visibility. That’s why CEO Lucky Putra Dhawarman and his team at Eternal Dream Studio are putting a lot of heart and soul in The Sun Shines Over Us – as evidenced by the game’s beautiful story premise, artwork, and soundtrack. The game hopes to inspire and educate through shedding light on peer pressure and bullying with its deep and hopeful high school story.
Developed in collaboration with publisher Niji Games, The Sun Shines Over Us was already released on October 7 – right on time for World Mental Health Day. Eternal Dream Studio aims to continue making heavy story-focused and meaningful games in their portfolio, reaching out their heartfelt game experience to new audiences. You can follow the release of the visual novel and news on new games on Facebook and Discord.
Moredoor Interactive (Malaysia)
The Nusantara region is rich in culture and mythology, becoming an ideal inspiration for Moredoor Interactive‘s roguelike action RPG, Nusantara Adventures. Managing Director Azfar Tomi believes the art of video games can have a positive effect on popular culture, where local stories and myths can be reimagined and reinvented in new and exciting ways. Currently, the game is on track to finish its pre-alpha development by January 2022. After this accomplishment, the team is gearing up to engage the community surrounding their project.
In the future, the studio is looking to explore the VR space and has visited various opportunities to take their video game craft into the next dimension. Whatever direction their games take, the studio aims to highlight local cultures in their design and stories. You can follow news on their games on Facebook and Twitter.
Please note that the screenshots are a work in progress and not the game’s final look.
DreamTree Games (Malaysia)
DreamTree Games is working on the episodic storytelling game DeLight: The Journey Home, featuring a blind protagonist, a loyal dog, and life in the time of war. The series released two chapters in 2020, and the title’s deep themes and gameplay have garnered interest from a global audience. Director ZhiWei Tan is pleased with the reception of their DeLight series and hopes to deliver according to the expectations of the game’s eager fans.
Despite the pandemic, the DreamTree team has been able to work together in a remote setup. Players can expect a new update coming up at the end of 2021. While pushing development on DeLight, the studio is also working on an exciting new IP focused on Malaysian life and culture to come next year. The team is cooking up a way to capture Malaysia in a video game, which will be a treat for local and international players alike! Follow DreamTree’s story-driven titles on Facebook and Twitter.
Forust Studio (Malaysia)
Forust Studio worked on The Company Man for three years, persisting on the original IP through a global pandemic. In an even more impressive feat, this is Andrew Teo and team’s first video game developed, produced, and shipped. This success has been bolstered by the team’s dedication to the project, as well as the support of the local indie scene. The result is an action-packed 2D side-scroller, inspired by the perils of corporate life – a well-known struggle for the game’s audience. This witty and thrilling adventure continues to please fans with the addition of new challenges like gauntlet rooms.
Hot on the heels of the release of The Company Man for the PC market, Forust Studio is hard at work to make the game available for a whole new audience on the Nintendo Switch and releasing new localizations. The game’s remarkable and charming 2D animation hopes to make a second coming in the form of a brand-new title, especially with all the lessons learned from Forust’s first venture. Time will tell – and we’re here for it! Follow them on Facebook for more updates.
Gamelobb is a game development and art services studio, but they are also working on their own franchise and passion project: PVPVE arena multiplayer Battle of the Rim. This fantasy battle arena game is currently in its fourth year of development, and its current art and gameplay show that it is a very promising addition to the beloved genre.
Director Kian Ming Lee envisions Battle of the Rim to be the next massive mobile esports title. Noting the success of the genre for Southeast Asian audiences, the game seeks to incorporate the region’s rich culture and mythology – adding it into the project’s lore, character design, and game strategies. The studio is hard at work to deliver pre-alpha and a game trailer that will capture the hearts of gamers itching for a Southeast Asian spin on their favorite mobile arena games. They aim to launch a closed beta in 2022 and a full commercial release in 2023. You can follow their development journey for this epic game on their website and Facebook.
Hidden Chest Studio (Malaysia)
Small town fantasies become promising game concepts in the hands of Hidden Chest Studio. Midwest 90: Rapid City is a unique survival game set in a classic American Midwest restaurant in South Dakota. The premise was inspired by a monster takeover fever dream at Malaysian restaurant Betty’s Midwest Kitchen, and when the development team got together, the rest became history! It’s this fascinating setting that has earned the attention of American gamers hoping to see this fantastical cultural representation.
Hidden Chest Studio’s team has found a good balance between working in the pandemic, employing a collaborative but flexible approach to keep the team trucking on towards their game’s completion. Midwest 90: Rapid City‘s Early Access is coming soon. The game hopes to see a full release in October 2022, and if all goes according to plan, a sequel may be in the works and even some exciting ventures into the VR space. Follow the game’s weird and wacky world come together on Facebook and Discord.
Mason Games (Malaysia)
The power of hypercasual and hybrid casual gaming is observed all over the world, and Mason Games is having a go at building their own portfolio of addictive and fun experiences. The team comprises members with expertise in game distribution and marketing, headed by CEO and Founder Daryl Lau. The focus is to develop and publish games with unique Asian elements that will be played by a global audience. The Malaysia-based start-up might have been established just this year, but they clearly focus on their identity and pursue their most delightful ideas. Some examples include upcoming game ideas inspired by Wayang Kulit and a parking game featuring popular vehicles from the Southeast Asian region.
Mason Games already has two games under their belt, the most recent one being Scoopy – The Ice Cream Adventure. But they aren’t just sitting on their laurels – the team has tons of game ideas and aim to develop and publish 50 more by the end of 2022. You can follow their fun new ideas on Facebook.
Ranida Games (Philippines)
While Ranida Games has been around since 2015, and their openness to different projects and fresh new ideas keeps the studio relevant in the local Philippine scene. The studio made their name through a series of sports-related titles which appealed to different kinds of gamers in the global market. To support even more unique projects, they spun off their indie publishing arm Ranida Labs. Managing Partner Walter Manalo also envisions the opportunity to launch and support more Philippine indie studios, and together with well-established developers, put together Project PIGI.
One of the projects under Ranida Labs is a collaboration with solo developer AngryDevs: the one-on-one mobile fighting game Vita Fighters. It is a game that capitalizes not only on the love for competitive fighting games but on important figures in popular culture, inspiring nostalgia and laughs. The game is available on mobile, with new features like additional characters being added to the base game. Follow more Vita Fighters news on Twitter and Discord.
All these interesting conversations with enthusiastic game devs gave us at VirtualSEA another reason to look forward to the late 2021 and 2022’s lineup. Here are some of the insights that we gathered:
The Many Flavors of the Indie Game Scene
Horror games – especially ones that can easily go viral on Twitch and YouTube – are the mainstay of any indie scene. Once upon a time, most Southeast Asian games featured monsters and jumpscares. Today, there are so many interesting styles and aesthetics on full display, showing modern indie game developers’ varied capabilities and passions. Visual novels, action RPGs, hypercasual mobile games, and more have their own distinct style and story to tell.
While we at VirtualSEA love horror games, it’s nice to see more developers branding out!
Creativity and Work Culture Through a Pandemic
What is it like to be a Southeast Asian game studio working in the pandemic?
Of course, there is difficulty in not being able to discuss and address pressing problems. Despite the power of Zoom and messaging apps, a big chunk of the collaborative indie game dev experience was lost – but still, our heroic indie studios pressed on! Thankfully, the flexible nature of indie development makes it quite easy to adapt to the remote work setup, and studios can become productive in this pandemic.
That said, tight-knit game development communities that are willing to help each other. Unlike very big studios who might keep their trade secrets close to their heart, a lot of resources and experiences are being shared. Different studios do not see each other as competition but rather as comrades.
LevelUp KL 2021 was a great place to learn what’s up in the world of Southeast Asian game development, as well as a wonderful way to mingle with passionate game devs and industry leaders. We look forward to more events to strengthen the ties between local and regional game communities!