Singapore is not known for churning out console games but that didn’t stop indie developers Rock Nano. ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny is the first game out of Singapore to be published on PlayStation, paving the way for more to come.
The developers of Rock Nano tell us about their journey to getting their game published and the benefits of having a mixed team of AAA veterans and new grads.
How did the idea of ArmaGallant come about?
Chonglai: ArmaGallant is actually our third try. In our first try, we were being too ambitious. We were trying to crank out an entire storyline that would have required production costs that we didn’t have the budget for. We moved on to our second one which was pretty much just copying other interesting games that are out there. We found it lacked the originality and the creativity that's supposed to define a studio identity. We had to be honest with ourselves and we had to listen to the gamers’ feedback. We were just being truthful that this was not going to work, and that is how we ended up with ArmaGallant. We combined the genres we liked to play and somehow it just came together.
How did you get this project published?
Sam: We came up with the concept of the game and some artwork and pitched it to the Sony PlayStation team when they came to Singapore. We were quite lucky to get it through on our first try. That's how one thing leads to another. Before that, we were doing a lot of commercial work just to survive. We didn't actually make games. We were making VR holograms, 3D tracking of the human body and other R&D technology stuff.
You guys were only twenty developers with only two years of development time. How did you manage to get the game done on time?
Chonglai: We gathered a team of like-minded people. Some had previously worked in AAA Studios, others were developers who joined because they love to make games. I think we got it together because we came up with a game that all of us would like to play. Once you like doing something, it's no longer work. We just managed to pull this off despite a small team.
Darren: The team is a mixture of really fresh graduates and AAA veterans. In order for us to achieve so much in such a small amount of time, we had to make sure we had the right tools and software to help us achieve all this, like Maya and Unity which we used to create the main game.
How did you get those two groups to work together?
Darren: The beginning of the project was definitely difficult because people had different expectations of how things should get done. It was a very fast-paced in terms of integrations and development. Both groups rubbed off each other's ideas and processes. They were open to doing things in a different way.
What was your pipeline like?
Darren: Basically, the team first explored and brainstormed ideas. We would draw the concept of these ideas, or draw different concepts based on the laws we create. Then, we take all the 2D concepts and pitch them to the modeling team. Our modelers would start creating those 3D assets referencing from the 2D concepts and they would create those 3D models from scratch using the different tools like Maya. Then we would add animation and think of different gameplay elements for the creatures, for the game, and then start integrating them as part of the experience.
Without Maya, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to create the high-fidelity 3D set or the quality that we are aiming for.
What is your advice to new developers?
Chonglai: Your idea has to be realistic. We were ambitious. If we had a bigger budget and a bigger team, I think we would have done a better job. Everybody wants a bigger budget but it might not be there. We just had to make the best of what we have.
It’s really important to hire team members who believe in the same concept and the same idea. It's about getting everyone to focus and find common ground. This is always the number one thing that we have to do. Once we set out, we have to go for it, all the way.
What is the game developer community like in Singapore?
Darren: I think the game development community in Singapore is pretty small so a lot of other gamers know each other. It's a mixture of a few bigger studios, a few smaller studios and a lot of indies. We have some indie meetups that we attend. It’s a really healthy community!