Malaysian video game developers take US by surprise

Alex Tan (middle) and Kesh Ganesparan (right) are two of the three co-founders of Hidden Chest Studio, a local video game development company.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia may be known for a great many things, but being a video game development hub is not one of them.

This is quite surprising given the number of video gamers in Malaysia. In fact, it is quite a shame as the video game industry has grown to become a highly profitable multi-million-dollar industry.

Lately though, more attention has been directed towards independent games studios producing games that are essentially works of art.

In addition to being highly lucrative, the video game industry offers an outlet for aspiring artists who want to make games as memorable as they are fun.

Recently, a certain indie video game studio found itself on the front page of international gaming news.

What had it done to deserve such attention? Well, it happens that this studio, which has been developing a game set in the American Midwest, is based in Malaysia and founded by Malaysians.
Midwest 90: Rapid City is an upcoming game developed by a local video game studio based in Petaling Jaya. (Hidden Chest pic)

Hidden Chest Studio is a relatively small video game development company based in Petaling Jaya, founded by Kesh Ganesparan, Alex Tan and Tan Yi Ming.

Their first project, a game called Midwest 90: Rapid City, garnered attention in the US for its creative depiction of the American Midwest.

How and why could this trio of Malaysians come up with such a strange and foreign idea?
The game is set in the American Midwest, where the player has to run a restaurant selling monster meat. (Hidden Chest pic)

FMT had the opportunity to speak with Alex, who was more than happy to share the story of the studio and the video game development scene in Malaysia.

“Kesh came up with a prototype for Midwest 90: Rapid City right before the pandemic and he recruited Yi Ming and I to further develop the game,” he said.

“After we secured the 2020 Digital Content Creator Challenge grant from the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, we formed Hidden Chest Studio together.”

The trio decided to set up shop in Malaysia rather than elsewhere for a number of reasons.

Alex said that the local video game industry has been growing steadily over the years with a few local companies involved in the development of famous game titles such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.

He added, “We are Malaysians and we believe that there’s plenty of talent available here.”

“Many people in Malaysia have the talent and passion to make games,” said Alex, adding that many overseas game companies were looking to take advantage of the low production costs here.

Just having a hobby of video gaming is not enough to be a video game developer though. You must have drive, passion and be willing to work hard.
The idea for the game was inspired by a restaurant in Petaling Jaya. (Hidden Chest pic)

“Creating a game takes years of research and practise in various areas, whether it be programming, drawing, 3D modelling or designing,” said Alex.

“This is why I think passion especially is so important as it will push you through the tough times.”

But why did Alex and his fellow co-founders choose to be game developers in the first place?

A video gamer himself, Alex said that understanding and creating games grew his appreciation of the art and science of video games even more.

He recalled, “Personally I remember the times I would eagerly wait for school to finish so I could go back home and secretly boot up my PSP to play Patapon 2 instead of doing my homework.

“Knowing that we can bring the same joy to people having fun playing our games has always been a dream of ours.”

Being Hidden Chest Studio’s first game title, Midwest 90 seems a strange but creative decision. But it actually makes sense in context.

According to Alex, the setting was inspired by a restaurant in Petaling Jaya called Betty’s Midwest Kitchen, owned by a friend of Kesh.

“One night when Kesh was eating one of their popular burgers, he started imagining, ‘What if there were monsters outside trying to get it?’”

And just like that, Midwest 90 was born.
Unlike most games of its genre, Midwest 90: Rapid City will have a story element included. (Hidden Chest pic)

The game is considered to be of the tycoon restaurant game genre, but it does have an additional feature of a story element, which makes it stand out in the crowd.

“In a nutshell, Midwest 90 is a single player isometric story-based tycoon game where the player runs a restaurant called ‘Midwest 90’ that cooks and serves monster meat.”

The game is only in its middle stages of development and the Covid-19 pandemic has been no help. Besides the inconvenience of conducting meetings and soliciting clients, securing funds has been tough.

“Creating our own game, which is our first IP, takes years of development and work before we can make any sales,” revealed Alex.

“So, we have to scale down our game and find cheaper alternatives to develop it,” he explained, adding that the team was nonetheless optimistic that they could do it.

But will Midwest 90 be a good game? What is a good game anyway?

“In my opinion, whatever game is fun to you, is a good game… At the end of the day, it all boils down to whether you, the player, are having fun playing the game.”

This news is republished from another source. You can check the original article here

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