October 10, 2022

Andreas Betsche

The gaming scene in Southeast Asia celebrates itself and its games at Level Up KL 2022

October 10, 2022 | Andreas Betsche

Finally taking place again in person! All visitors to Level Up KL 2022 could certainly agree on this after the event was last able to take place in this form in 2019, and since then, continuing as excellent online variants. Still, the unanimous opinion was that the best way to exchange ideas about games is in person – not forgetting the hands-on experience when you can hold the controller in your own hands and just play the games!

From October 4th to 7th, 2022, game developers, publishers, marketers, and other stakeholders in the games and media industries gathered in Kuala Lumpur to celebrate the latest and greatest games from the Southeast Asia region and, of course, to catch up on the current status and to exchange perspectives in the local and international gaming industry.

SEA Game Awards: Toge Productions wins awards

The event’s highlight was undoubtedly the presentation of the SEA Game Awards, where games were honored in various categories. The jury, consisting of media and industry representatives, had a clear favorite: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly by the Indonesian studio Toge Productions was able to win three prizes, including the renowned Grand Jury award. Malaysian mobile game Postknight 2 won the Audience Choice Award. Other winners included the rhythm game Rythm Doctor, the platformer Faerie Afterlight, the management sim Cuisineer, as well as the games Endura, Determinant, The Legend of Tianding, and Let’s Build A Zoo. The award for best student game went to End of the Line, the genuinely unique project by young game makers from UOW Malaysia KDU. Above all, the award winners show how diverse the indie scene in Southeast Asia is and that the quality is increasing sharply from year to year.

The SEA Games Awards were presented in a stylish ambience.

Learning from each other and mutual exchange

Interested visitors could also look forward to lectures and workshops by renowned members of the gaming scene. From Southeast Asia, for example, Sarah Johana (Toge Productions) gave a presentation on game marketing, a post-mortem on GigaBash came from Passion Replublic Games, and an overview of the games market in Indonesia by Cipto Adiguno (Asosiasi Game Indonesia).

Of course, there was also something about games

There was a lot going on on the show floor!

From the player’s point of view, the show floor, where developers and publishers presented their latest games, was indeed the most fascinating. Many of the games nominated for the SEA Game Awards were playable, as were some other local and international productions on site. Overall, we were impressed by the variety and playability of the titles presented, and we would like to present the highlights to you here briefly:

The two horror games SIMULACRA 3 and Malice, both produced in Malaysia, were definitely among the crowd-pullers. While the former consistently and competently continues the famous found footage horror brand, Malice dares to take an even more innovative approach to the horror genre. This cooperative horror adventure can only be solved together, mimicking the experience of real-world escape rooms.

Malice’s booth was almost always surrounded by players and spectators.

A real “Troublemaker” also caused a stir. The action game from Indonesia turns out to be more and more an insider tip because of its scenario of gang violence in Indonesian schools and the gameplay inspired by the Yakuza series is actually fresh and fascinating.

Troublemaker (Source: Gamecom Team)

Exclusive gameplay was shown by Persona Theory Studios (Malaysia), who are currently working on their mythological adventure Kabaret. Here, players could try out a new mini-game that could loosen up the gameplay of the otherwise heavily narrative-driven game.

We also liked the idea behind KopiCat, a simple but charming game by Twilight Foundry Games (Sunset Satellite). We take care of the cats in a shelter in this idle game, that’s already as cute as it gets The highlight: the game is intended to generate awareness of the situation of street cats and calls for donations.

The Land Beneath Us (Source: Fairplay Studios)

The Land Beneath Us’ USP is innovative gameplay. The latest project from Thai Fairplay Studios (Fallen Knight) is a roguelike in which you must combine rhythm and tactics. The studio is also working on the multiplayer party game At Your Service, which gamers could also try at Level Up KL.

We were really impressed by the title Nusantara Adventures from the still-new studio Moredoor Interactive. In this action roguelike, we explore the mythological world of Nusantara and fight monsters – Diablo says hi. The management part, where we rebuild our village, makes it stand out from other genre peers.

A developer from Moredoor Interactive proudly presents his game Nusantara Adventures.

The minimalistic 3D style of the action brawler Katana Rama caught our attention too. To pumping beats, we chain attack after attack together to trigger longer and longer combo chains and defeat more dangerous enemies. 

For the first time, we also got a glimpse of Never Ending Beyond, which will be a mix of roguelike and Pokémon-style monster sim. It already looks excellent, thanks to accurate pixel art, and the fights are pleasantly challenging.

Hello Goodboy (Source: Rolling Glory Jam)

Things get sweet with the casual puzzle adventure game Hello Goodboy. Together with our dog Coco we explore a colorful world and help the residents with their numerous problems. The dog, the developers told us, is modeled after their own studio four-legged friend!

On the other hand, the already-known titles Rendezvous and Let’s Build A Zoo look better and better. The zoo sim from Singapore (recently released) is soo cute and manages to bring a bustle to the screen that is second to none. On the other hand, Rendezvous gets to combine local culture in Indonesia with the popular cyberpunk genre like no other game. The narrative adventure is due out soon – we can’t wait to explore Neo-Surabaya!

At the Pendopo Multi Creation stand, gamers met for a “gaming rendezvous”.

If you haven’t done it yet, you also had the chance to try out a demo of the award-winning game Coffee Talk 2 and take a look at A Space for the Unbound, which will hopefully be released soon. Due to the number of games presented, it is unfortunately impossible for us to deliver all games here. However, we strongly encourage you to watch out for Monster Nest, Exist.EXE, Matchmaker Agency, The Sun Shines Over Us, and Ping Adventure too. 

A successful event – finally back on site

The consistently positive feedback and the strong response from everyone involved show that the regions of Southeast Asia urgently need events like the Level Up KL to grow as a games market, to learn from each other to network, and just to celebrate your achievements. The organizers of MDEC managed to pepper the offline event with relevant content, guests, and showcases, making it a whole success.

The international heavyweights, Unreal, Virtuous, and PlayStation, gave the necessary weight, but could they have expanded their presence? We are excited to see what the future brings, as the console war has finally reached the region. The console manufacturer from Japan has opened its own studio in Malaysia, and the US manufacturer Xbox has also put feelers to Southeast Asia.

PlayStation Malaysia featured this beautiful Horizon-style shadow puppet (wayang kulit).

It might also have made sense for MDEC not to waste an entire day of the event on blockchain gaming. Sure, the topic is still trending despite the waning hype, but the portion felt oddly detached from the rest of the event, which then tended to emphasize more traditional and creative aspects of gaming.
All in all, however, we look forward to the event continuing next year. This time with even more fantastic games from Southeast Asia and hopefully with the same enthusiasm that was already to be found at Level Up KL 2022 this year!

Andreas Betsche

Andreas Betsche founded Virtual SEA in early 2016 after researching Cambodian mobile games for his Master’s thesis. He has a background in Southeast Asia studies and has worked and lived in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Since he has been actively playing games since the early 90s, combing both worlds in Virtual SEA brought together both of his passions.

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