Asia Dev Watch: Big Bad Robots

This month, GameSpot Asia speaks with one of the former developers of Fung Wan Online about his indie startup.

After checking out Cabal Software in Singapore, it's only fair for gamers in Asia to find out the gaming climate of Singapore's neighbors up north, specifically in Malaysia. Big Bad Robots' modus operandi is to create original social-oriented games for online play and for the iPhone, with emphasis on old-school fun. The Selangor-based company has been around since 2006, and it currently has a game out; a cocktail-mixing puzzle game called Last Call for the iOS.

GameSpot Asia managed to have a word with producer Terence Tan. He works alongside associates Jason Spykerman and Jordan Phang from Zombie Gecko for the upcoming game Comrade in Arms.

GameSpot Asia: How did you get started in developing video games?

Terence Tan: I got started in developing video games about 10 years ago when Ultima Online came out. I wanted to do a massively multiplayer online game. Prior to that, I had been working in systems integrations, writing transactional software for banks and getting involved in the early e-commerce (and wearing a tie).

The first game company I started, Web.Works Interactive, was a victim to the burst of the first Internet bubble. I set out with a bunch of talented individuals to set up Phoenix Game Studios in 2001. It's worth noting that I don’t need to wear a tie anymore.

We developed a full 3D online MMO role-playing game called Fung Wan Online. Although we evaluated several commercial engines, I quickly realized we were talented and ambitious enough to do it all ourselves. So we built all the technology and designed the entire game. At that time, nobody had developed a full 3D game in Malaysia, let alone an MMOG.

If I am not mistaken, we are the only ones to have done it from ground up in southeast Asia to date. We had features, such as raids and arena combat, way before World of Warcraft.

Honor and Money: coming soon on the Mac.

GA: How did you get started in the indie video game scene in Malaysia?

TT: After a brief stint working for other people, I quickly realized I wanted to develop games and wanted to do it on my terms. I wanted to do some original games that I had knocking in my head for ages. Working as a producer, I realized in any team, really, only a core set of people are doing things, and if you could distill that and add great ideas, you could do a lot.

GA: Are you planning on branching out to different platforms besides the iOS and PC for your future titles?

TT: Our prior goal was to work on all the platforms, but that was just too ambitious. Now that we are focused on the iOS, Macintosh, and Android, I doubt we will have the time to look further than that for now.

GA: How is the scene in Malaysia progressing? Is it viable or nonexistent? If so, why?

TT: I've been around long enough to know that the industry works in waves. Malaysia has been more involved in game development going further back than most places in the region. At one time, we had over 200 people working in the industry, but now, unfortunately, many of the companies have gone dormant.

I think the indie scene in Malaysia needs some proper collaboration and some organization. Unfortunately, three things stand in the way: ego, greed, and--for lack of a better term--"kiasu-ism." In short, game developers in Malaysia just need to find their feet again.

Getting burned in Last Call, a bar simulator on the iOS.

GA: What do you wish to see improve in the games development scene in Malaysia?

TT: I am working with some indie game developers to see if we can cooperate in better ways, specifically on working to share marketing and promotion of our products. I believe that bigger companies can help by working with smaller developers recognizing the talent that indies have while compensating them fairly for their services.

They can also help by working with these companies to fill missing gaps (that is, art for teams that need more art, design reviews, and the like). It's in their interest to grow talent and even to have more game companies in the region.

GA: Do you have any future projects you can talk about?

TT: Right now, we are working on porting Honor and Money to the Macintosh while at the same time working on an untitled casual game on the iPhone and iPad. We always have two or three projects going at any one time. I am working on a few prototypes of some multiplayer, social, and augmented-reality games. None of the games are close enough to shipping to say much about them though.

GA: Terence Tan, thanks for your time.

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