Hatchlings Games

Web Gaming 2.0 Revolution

How to be a Great Game Designer

Dustin BrowdenRaph KosterTim Cain

Rand MillerWarren SpectorBrian Reynolds

Alexey PajitnovTim SchaferTan Zie Aun

He is actually Tan Zie Aun aka nowing, the game designer of Encephalon and Creative Director of Quasr.
Tan Zie Aun

He should really grow a beard don’t you think? Then he’ll look very much like a great game designer doesn’t he?

Disclaimer: Except for Zie Aun, we are not associated with any of the game designers above. We took their pictures from websites.

Top posts by Zie Aun aka nowing:

July 10, 2007 Posted by | Game Industry, Humor, Sharing | , | 4 Comments

How fatherhood affected game developers

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, husbands and dads! Since this is a company blog, I will stick to writing on topic. But since of us are not father’s yet, I can’t answer the topic question. I certainly wish to though but I think that have to wait until Quasr and our next game succeeds.

For Father’s Day this year, I went home and had dinner with Dad. I don’t go home that often but I certainly hope to do so more often for the rest of the year. When I told my family that Zie Aun, Sufiyan and I will most probably visit Shanghai for GDC China this August, they were eager to join me. I wish my dad can come for a few days too.

Back to the topic question. As I was researching for this post, I saw a father’s day feature on Gamasutra entitled What Father’s Day Means to Game Developers. The article contains interviews with many game developers, including Rob Pardo (Blizzard VP Game Design), Noah Falstein (President, the Inspiracy and an acquaintance of Iris), Sid Meier, etc.

Rob Pardo and daughter Sydney on Wo

Rob Pardo’s 7 year old daughter Sydney is a Level 54 Warlock!

June 18, 2007 Posted by | Game Industry | 1 Comment

Tale of Tales’s Tale

One day, when I am searching around the Internet using Google service, I found this website called Tale of Tales. And guess what I found, a very interesting and new game called “The Endless Forest“. For me, it is one of the unique game that I played before. The game is ACTIVATED through screen saver. I manage to contact the game designer for a little chat and have a brief idea what happening in the game industry at the other country.

To me, it is always fun to be connected with all the game developers and have discussion on the game development scene. Previously there is a lot of game industry related events held here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. But now, it is so silent and boring that I am planning to organize an informal one soon. I miss those days where developers gather together and talking about their experiences.

June 13, 2007 Posted by | Game Industry, Malaysia, Sharing | 1 Comment

Quasr FAQ

Q: Qu- Qu- what?
A: It’s pronounced ‘qway-zer’.

Q: What does it mean?
A: The name came from the astronomy term ‘quasar‘, or ‘quasi-stellar object’. We used the name because… it sounded sci-fi. Or something. Please proceed to the other questions while no-wing figures out how the name came about.

Q: What happened to Encephalon?
A: For those who have been following our blog, we did mention about Encephalon more than once in the past. Encephalon was the old name of Quasr. Encephalon is Quasr.

Q: What is Quasr?
A: Quasr is a game. It’s hard to put it in a specific genre, but let’s just say it’s a Web Trading Card/Board Game. That’s quite a mouthful.

Q: Trading card game you say? I see no trading features on the site.
A: The beauty of web games is that development cycles are fast. At this point we’re still working on adding cool features and eye-candy to the site.

Q: Cool! So what features will you have? When will it be done?
A: There’s no such thing as ‘done’ in web development, we’ll be adding features and polishing up the game as long as we don’t get hit by a bus or something. These features should be available by the end of next month:

  • User subdomains (http://username.quasr.com)
  • Forum
  • Art community
  • A full-fledged game client
  • Card editor
  • Deck editor
  • A lot more new cards

Q: Wait, an art community in a game site? Card editor? I don’t get it.
A: Quasr was developed with more than just a game in mind. While most trading card games exist in paper form, Quasr is fully online (though that doesn’t rule out a paper version in the future), and thus allowing both developers and players to have bigger degrees of freedom.

A big feature of Quasr is that players are able to modify their own cards, for example giving a card better stats or a new power, even naming the card itself or giving it new art from the art community. Quasr is not just about playing a game, it’s also about contributing to the community.

Q: That sounds like a great idea! I’m telling my friends about this!
A: We’re glad you feel the same way as we do 🙂 Please tell your friends about Quasr, the game gets better with more people.

April 3, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Game Development, Game Industry, Games, Gaming, News, Quasr, Quasr Updates, Web Gaming 2.0 | 7 Comments

Ever paid RM60 for a piece of cardboard?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

That’s how much the above card costs on the first day the set was released (or more appropriately, ‘pre-released’). RM60 is slightly more than US$17.

Looks so cool, doesn’t it? One big black ball sucking up dead bodies. The bigger version looks even better.

To non-Magic (or more collectively, non-trading-card-game) players, seventeen bucks is a lot to pay for a piece of cardboard five inches tall and three inches wide. But that’s not the maximum amount of cash people are willing to shell out for a card. The holofoil Charizard of the Pokémon Trading Card Game reportedly sold for US$120 at its peak. Magic’s signature card, Black Lotus, is hitting four-digit sums on EBay.

Looking at online games, people are willing to pay for virtual cash and items, and for people to grind their characters. In short, people are willing to pay for games for seemingly trivial items that lose their value when brought out of context.

The trick of marketing products and services in games is to make said context as non-game-ish as possible. (I couldn’t find a better word)

Products in games are nothing much like, say, celebrity merchandise or stamps (The hobby of kings, the king of hobbies. Right.). People who aren’t into the hobby just don’t see its worth. A game company can try to pull people into playing their game. This is most often seen in roadshows and promotions in shopping malls, where the company gives out free trial CDs and other freebies in hopes that the receiver of said freebies woudl actually go home, install it, play it unti lthe free trial expires and proceeds to play the game. It’s largely a hit-or-miss process, much like traditional TV advertisements.

Coming back about the game’s context, what ‘traditional’ marketing does is they try to pull consumers into the context. In this sense, the barrier between real life and the game world still exists, hence there are terms like hardcore geeks and ‘otakus’, where they are so into a game that they are disconnected from the real world.

On the other hand, some companies expand the context into real life, blurring the barier between reality and game. This is otherwise known as viral marketing, where users of a product or service subconsciously ‘infect’ other people to use the product or service. In this sense, the context isn’t about the game, but of its players, and subsequently the player’s friends, and friend’s friends, and so on.

For a game, it’s even easier to spread the context by providing some non-game services to players other than just the game itself. MMORPGs sell by promoting the community as well as the game; Magic: the Gathering doesn’t just offer a hobby, but a career; XBox Live Arcade provides a platform for developers to sell their games and players to compete for scores. These are some other services a game could offer for a player before they decide to spend money on it.

Related links:
The Idea Virus by Seth Godin, a book on spreading the context.
Web Gaming 2.0, how Hatchlings is doing it.

January 23, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Game Development, Game Industry, Trading Card Game, Web Gaming 2.0 | 1 Comment

We still need a Web Designer

Over the past week, we have received many resumes for the programming positions in Hatchlings Games. We are talking seriously with them now. However, we still need to hire a full-time web designer. This person has to be someone with unimpeachable design sense. She has to be a game player too. She has to be someone who appreciates user interface design of games and the web both. Her design sense has to be modern (she gotta know what that means). This is because our web designer own the look and feel of Encephalon.

The web designer has to be an expert in web design, HTML/CSS and fluent in the discussion of usability issue. Her HTML is more well constructed than the Petronas KL Twin Tower.

She hates Microsoft-style and Friendster’s UI and always strive to beat the sh*t out of their apps.

If you are that person, please e-mail johntanslade@gmail.com.

Related Posts:

January 21, 2007 Posted by | Game Industry, Job | 2 Comments

Web Gaming 2.0: Trading Card Concept on the Web

Edit (May 2007): Quasr.com is now on Alpha Testing. Join us!


This article is the first of many; where everyone in the world can join us as we experiment with the concept of Web Gaming 2.0.Financial realities of Hatchlings Games have pushed us into a scenario where we must maximize Quasr’s chance of success. We should not leave anything to chance. The opportunity on the web and games are so great that the convergence of the two is probably too alluring for any entrepreneur and/or game designer to ignore [read insane competition].

Not leaving anything to chance might sound ironic since our game is based on user generated content; that is, we are already giving our users chances to screw up our game. After some soul searching, reflection and deep conversations, both Zie Aun and Slade came to the same conclusion – that we must trust our users if we aim to be successful in this user-centered future.

At this point, there is a big hoo-ha on the business & design world about the future of content. Pundits and web & game industry leaders insists that majority of content should be user created. Early adopters of such radical concept (i.e. Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, etc) have seen tremendous financial & branding success. Due to technological and an ongoing cultural shift, customers are now simultaneously the producer and consumer of content.

Games are heading towards the same direction too. It is getting harder to start a company, creating games for gamers for a living; but that forces us to think, to start our engine of innovation. We must constantly be thinking outside the box, to innovate and be a leader. Industry leaders (game designers, producers, studio heads) have been discussing emergent gameplay design (few years), planning for user generated content (more recent), and creating successful immersive worlds. The above together with the success of game MODs, MMOGs (i.e. WOW), web game worlds (i.e. Neopets) and even 100% user generated virtual world (i.e. Second Life) are pushing games towards the same direction as web 2.0 services.

The main platform for distributing such user generated content is the web. User created content requires a widespread and easy to use distribution platform. The web is such a platform. Services like blogs, YouTube, Flickr, and Digg wouldn’t be possible without the web. These websites are successful because they are disruptive. They maximized the web to beat their competitors, which are all traditional content publishers and distributors.

Trading card concept

Trading card games, a genre pioneered by Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: the Gathering (M:tG) has all the basic ingredients of an addictive game: good gameplay (pacing set by tempo, strategic depth, and control-decontrol) and game mechanics (goal-reward / collectability).

If the game is popular enough, it can be extremely profitable for the game developer. Trading card game players are driven by their primal urge to collect, compete and achieve. Pokemon and Yu-gi-Oh are two extremely popular trading card games since the release of M:tG. All three games are still making money for the developers.

The problems game developers face with physical trading card games were usually:

  1. Content creation; the design and illustration of few hundred cards per set, and the cost that goes into it
  2. Printing cost for those shiny cards.
  3. Marketing; as with most game genres, established brands are hard to compete against, even monopolizing.
  4. Distribution; the need to setup distribution channels all around the world.

Web 2.0

Go Digital: eliminate printing cost

By creating an online game (as a downloadable client), Quasr would have solve problem number 2 and in a way number 4. There would be no need for us to print cards. The cost equation for card has changed from the number of cards printed in volumes to the number of cards a person owns.

The more card a player owns, the more profitable Quasr is. The profit margin for a single player increases every time he buys a new card. The server cost remains a constant for that one player.

The Web: the most distributable platform

Having the online game as a downloadable client still doesn’t solve problem #1, #3 and it only partially solves problem #4. To further the solution for distribution, we place the game completely on the most distributable platform – the web.

Without having to download a separate client and asset files, we dramatically increase the chances for site visitors to click on “play”. “Play” wins vs. “Download”. Granting each account a sub-domain (e.g. http://johntan.quasr.com), we increase the desire of players to virally (via links / RSS) spread the game.

User created content

A web 2.0 site trusts its users. It allows users to create, edit and moderate content. The developers of the site are also its users. There is very little distinction between the developers of the site and its users; both are the producer and user of its content. The developers become platform creators or service providers. The concept of internet services can be extended to trading card games.

Quasr too will feature user created content: we allows users to create card and art based on certain rules. We give the players a set of basic cards that they can add abilities and stats to, obviously based on some card-modifying rules. Residents of Quasr can even draw custom art for a card, but they first have to let the community vote for style & quality.

Conclusion

Quasr.com is now up for Alpha Testing, so go and try it. It is still very crude (just like this article) and does not have the user-created features yet. As of now we are still struggling with designing the best gameplay

I hope someone finds an inspiration from here. If you do please leave a comment and start a dialogue with us. We need your feedback. We cannot take this on alone; fortunately we are joined by great game designers such as Raph Koster with Areae. Do join us as we experiment with this, to bring games and immersive worlds to the web.


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January 1, 2007 Posted by | Entrepreneurship, Game Design, Game Industry, Quasr, Trading Card Game, Web, Web 2.0, Web Gaming 2.0 | 5 Comments

A Review on the rest of the MSC Malaysia Game Pitch Winners

A while ago Iris posted a review about two of the five winners of the MSC Game Design Competition. I’ll do the remaining two (not including us), since I stayed longer in the presentation room. Well… I was enjoying the air-conditioning.

My first impression of Riot HQ was that it looked too much like Command and Conquer: Red Alert, because of its urban warfare setting and semi-realistic graphics. However, it turned out to be a totally different game.

Riot HQ places the player as a dispatcher of riot-control robots. Whenever a riot breaks out in the fictional futuristic city, your job is to send in the robots to break the rioters as quickly as possible without resorting to violence. The aim of the game is to protect your citizens’ properties from being destroyed by the robots, thus generating revenue for your city.

There are several types of robots to choose from, unfortunately none that I could accurately recall. I also liked his underlying theme of solving violence without violence, as that is a very important message to convey when people ‘up there’ are viewing computer games as a cause of juvenile delinquence, violence and other social ills. The city graphics looked pretty good, and though the characters looked simplistic they blended together rather well. The game seems fun and balanced from first looks, and I wish Mark success in developing his game.

The other winner was Mystic Order, a card-based role-playing game intended for the Nintendo DS. I didn’t really pay attention to the mechanics, but it sounded original from what I heard. At least its non-violent setting differentiates it from other card-based handheld role-playing games like Yggdra Union.

Putting the game on the DS is very ambitious, especially in a country with high piracy rates like Malaysia. The judges were very skeptical about the developers’ ability to get the development license, and persuaded them to put it on the Pocket PC instead.

In short, all the winners looked very promising gameplay wise. Marketing, however, remains a big problem…

Related links:

December 28, 2006 Posted by | Entrepreneurship, Game Design, Game Development, Game Industry, Malaysia | Leave a comment

A Review on Winning Games of MSC Malaysia Game Pitch

The winners of MSC IP Challenge Series 2006: Game Pitch are, Encephalon Trading Card Game by Hatchlings, Cucumber Mosaic by Johaess Reuben Jozni, Urban Sprinting by Jason Khong Wei Siong, Riot HQ by Mark Hayden and Mystic Order by Project Caterpillar.

I need not to do a review of our own game. Just check this out:
First Post [introduction]
Web Trading Card Gaming 2.0 [vision and goals]
Life of a Pawn [game design]
Concepting Encephalon [setting & concept art]

Among all the winners, I only got to watch pitches by Urban Sprinting and Cucumber Mosaic. Wait, it is not because I fall asleep in between the pitch. Blame it on the organizer’s scheduling, they arranged all 3 pitches: Game, Comic and Mobile Content all on the same time. I was walking to one hall to another just to catch a glimpse of everything. So, I will just make a review on two winning games.

I personally like Urban Sprinting the best. In Jason Khong’s speech, he mentioned that the idea comes from a video on YouTube. The video featured a man sneaking around in the department store, snatched some product and purposely trigger the alarm to get security guards chasing after him. The chasing was very exciting because the man was making some stunts and fooling around with the security guards. In the end he ran into Burger King as a hideout I guess. Urban Sprinting is simple, fresh, fun and I think it would sell if it is well executed.

So, based on this video, he came up with this game idea and called it the “Urban Sprinting”. He wanted the game to be done in 3D and so and so… but I think for start(RM 50,000 grant is too little for something big), the game is better in 2D or even pixel art. (Pixel art is cool! Look at Habbo Hotel!) One thing I like about Jason’s pitch, he seemed enjoyed it a lot and like his own game a lot. Yes, I like it too but I wished he could focus more on “Stunts” rather than “Power-ups” in the gameplay. (Everyone likes creating new and cool stunts in GTA right?)

Cucumber Mosaic brought up some laughs. Johaess wanted to bring back some nostalgic arcade games and came up with this game idea. It is a classic arcade game where you have to stop enemies destroying your base by shooting at them. The enemies will surround and attack the base by “sticking” it. I guess that the enemies are sucking out energy from the base. The laughs rained when every one of us figured that the enemies (sperm-like-creature) that attacked the rounded base looked like…
Just plain shooting to hit the high scores ain’t fun or new anymore. So I really hope that Cucumber Mosaic could shift its focus to humorous game rather than a mixture of some classical arcade. (Well, is the Sperm-Like-Thingy that caught all of our attention!)

If someone wants to do a mixture or remake, I have a few advise for you.

Do’s
mixture 1 + mixture 2 + special ingredient(core concept) = new game

Don’ts
mixture 1 + mixture 2 = mixture 1 + mixture 2 = boring

It is fine to make a game by mixing 2 games but do make sure you have the core concept right that make your game stand out from the rest. Do not make a game that adopts old gameplay, mix it together, give it better graphics, technically better and call it new. Well, graphics will come into play if you intend to use your graphics as the special ingredient. For example, Super Cosplay War Ultra by Team FK is a 2 player fighting game that is similiar to Street Fighter. The fighthing characters are some familiar faces we see in manga and anime (Astro Boy, Doraemon, Hunter X Hunter, Tontoro etc). In the surface, this game is different from others in terms of the graphics but what made them stand out the most is their “core concept”, which is “Cosplay”.

Some equation (I’m sick of conclusion):

Urban Sprinting = Grand Theft Auto + Tony Hawk
Cucumber Mosaic = Space invaders + Battle Tanks

Related Posts:

December 27, 2006 Posted by | Entrepreneurship, Game Development, Game Industry, Malaysia | 2 Comments

MSC Malaysia Game Pitch

It was one day away from the Pitch but the Hatchies were still unsure of what to present. Anyway, things always changes in Hatchlings… and it changes FAST.

Game Pitch
(from left) Moy, Kuan, Iris, Jarod, John, YC, Andrew, Wong

In a small, stuffy and filled with softoys workspace at the Incubator, we created Encephalon the Trading Card Game. I will introduce the team and as well as the softoys later in the next post. I’m a game designer in the team. So far, I’ve designed the User Interface of the game… stay tune for more designs in the future of development… Oh, my recent work includes a short animated presentation of the pitch 🙂


“Message from the Dark King of Cosmos”

We presented the funniest pitch of the day and of course, we won tons of claps from the audiences. To know more in depth about the content of presentation, please click here.

Here, I received a late DKoC’s Christmas postcard for the all of you!
DKoC's Christmas Postcard

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December 26, 2006 Posted by | Game Development, Game Industry, Malaysia | 1 Comment