Interview with Chanon Sajjamanochai, Executive Game Producer of Viqua Games

23 02 2009

One of the greatest things about indie (and casual) games is that you don’t have to live in the USA, Canada or UK to make great games. You can leave in Poland, Croatia or… Thailand. Chanon Sajjamonachai, Executive Game Producer of Viqua Games is a great example of that. Shop-n-Spree, their latest release holds strong in Big Fish Games top 10 sales chart. If you want to know how Chanon makes those top selling games reading this interview will a be great start :)

How did you start your game development adventure? How big is your studio now?

I knew I wanted to make games since high school. Soon I began learning C++ on my own and made a minesweeper clone and a simple top-down shooter. It was extremely hard to find info on making games though here in Thailand. About the time when I got to college, the internet explosion was just beginning, so with my top-end (at the time) US Robotics 33.6K modem I tried to find and learn everything I could about making games.

Fast forward 5 years later, I got bored with my enterprise software development job after a year and decided to resign and start a software company, thus ViquaSoft was born. At that time J2ME games on cell phones was supposed to be the next big thing, so we did a few games for that, but then I discovered the Dexterity forums and decided that developing casual downloadable games on PC was more exciting and might be more lucrative. So we started developing Tommy and the Magical Words and have focused on downloadable casual games ever since.

Right now we have 8 full-time people at our office here in Bangkok. We started with 3 in the beginning about 4 years ago and have been expanding continuously. Right now we’re expanding again and are looking for some more good programmers.

I am impressed by execution of themes in your game. You surely get maximum fun out of it. Who designs your games?

Thanks :)

The answer to that question is all of us. All 8 of us are the designers of our games.

The process goes like this:

First when we need to come up with a new game idea, we have everyone go back and try to come up with some and we meet and have everyone pitch their concepts. Then we kind of vote to choose the best one. But I still have the final say of course :)

Then when it comes to the actual designing, we do a lot of brainstorming together. We try to gather everyone’s ideas for the game and choose the best ones. This period consists of lots of meetings where we iteratively refine the details of the game design.

You could call this design-by-committee which some say is bad. I’d rather call it design-by-passionate-team :) From our experience if it is managed well then it leads to a well thought out design pretty quickly. With this method everyone in the team gets to exercise their creativity and build their game design skills. Just by listening to the more experienced team members discuss about the design issues, the less experienced team members learn a lot. Also each team member has a lot more personal investment in the game’s design and the game’s outcome. In any case, the producer (me) has the final say though.

Everyone understands the reasons behind every design decision which helps a lot, otherwise you have team members arguing and complaining to each other (and me) on design decisions all the time which makes everything go slower.

I believe that if you have programmers and artists just developing according to a designer’s vision without being able to give any input, they will feel like machines. Additionally the team members wouldn’t really be growing as “game developers” as design is a big part of game development. So the aim for me is to build everyone’s skill in game design so that together we can create better and better games more effortlessly.

And it is tons of fun discussing the game designs together, bouncing ideas off each other. During the design phase it really makes work feel like play and I sometimes feel guilty that I have a job that is so fun.

So how do you create a best seller game?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Highs and lows of working on Totem Tribe

18 02 2009

Gamezebo posted today very interesting interview with Yaroslav Yanovsky about making of Totem Tribe. It really adds up to my own interview with Yaroslav. And it seems Enkord acts fast. Just three weeks ago I asked them about community aspects of their site and here it is:

At this moment we are tweaking our website to make more social. We have added forum as we get a flood of requests and/or questions about the game. It’s empty right now, but expect feedback from developers directly if you post questions there.

Now we also added news/blog section on front page to communicate to our players and post regular news about games that we have in development right now.

Go read “Behind Totem Tribe” and mine interview if you haven’t done so already.

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You can rate my posts now :)

15 02 2009

I upgraded to WordPress 2.7.1 yesterday and installed new plugin that lets readers rate my posts. I may need to play with it a bit more because the stars are not so clearly visible below the post, but it works fine and I would really appreciate if you try it out either on older or new posts.

(Side note for Jake: new WordPress has a word count feature available – almost realtime).

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Don’t tell me I lack vision

12 02 2009

Interview with Jake Birkett was very well received. Thanks. Jake is the black belt in Aikido and hippocoder from the Indie Gamer Forums asked Jake:

…as a black belt, how do you feel fitness or other activities contribute to your success?

And Jake says:

the Aikido I do is not violent, it’s about defense. I took it up 11.5 years ago because I was sitting down at a computer all day and needed to do some exercise. Going and doing a regular exercise or hobby is great for taking your mind off work so you can come back fresh. However the Aikido I do has a big “positive thinking” component which has really helped me in my career and home life. So I would say it was integral to my success so far. Any kind of exercise or activity that pushes you into achieving greater things (by making you leave your comfort zone) should help your work, and also it’s good to get different neurons firing which is why I’ve taken up Tango recently.

If you want to see how martial arts can inspire you or motivate to work harder, watch this movie. Dawson is a visually disabled person who does martial arts, also BLACK BELT.

NDA – Dawson Ko from Orange Whip on Vimeo.

Sometimes you have to watch something motivational… after another sleepless night (eh, those kids).

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