A Look At Philippine Game Development : ESGS 2015
Game development in the Philippines has progressed in the last couple of years — and it’s only getting bigger from here.
This was the message that game developers, both foreign and local, sent at this year’s E-Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS). With dazzling exhibitions of creations from gaming giants such as Ubisoft, to the creations of our own indie game studios and companies, ESGS has sent a clear message to all who attended: it’s a good time to be a gamer in the Philippines; even more so if you’re looking to create games.
A vibrant and rich videogame culture
Sylviane Bahr is Ubisoft Singapore’s Communications Manager. With three years of external communications under her belt, she flew to ESGS to scout and possibly recruit new talent. “The Philippines is a good place for getting people passionate about video games,” she says. “Many of the staff at Ubisoft are Filipinos and it’s a delight working with them.”
During the two days that the Ubisoft booth was at ESGS, they also accepted resumes from people who want to work in the company. When asked why Ubisoft’s turning an eye towards the Philippines for talent, she smiles. “One thing that we’ve noticed about Filipinos is how creative they are. Their personalities are very easy to get along with — something very important when working with us — and their command of English is very helpful.”
In terms of game development, Sylviane says that the Philippines is starting to catch up to the rest of the world in terms of progress. “That’s why we’re not very specific yet about what kind of positions are we offering,” she continues.
Against the background of the games they’re exhibiting like the newest installments in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and Just Dance, Sylviane is hopeful that the Philippines can grow and foster creative talent like the other regions. “While I am from Ubisoft Singapore, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be working in Singapore if you do make it past the application process,” Sylviane clarifies. “That’s the exciting thing about working with Ubisoft. You can be sent anywhere, as long as you have a passion for game creation.”
Game development and design principles
A passion for game development should also be handled with a pinch of salt. This is what Javi Almirante, from Snack Studios and one of the creators of the game Jumping Jean, is quick to say. “There are so many people who want to create video games now, but I think what can really drive a game is the design of it. That needs creative thought in addition to having the passion for doing it.”
In the case of their game Jumping Jean, it was born out of the question: “What if Mario was actually the bad guy?” Starting with the Global Game Jam 2014, it took them a year to conceptualize, create and release the game. When asked why they decided to take an alternate spin on the Mario game, Javi cites the design of the game as being a key factor. “The design principles of the older games were better and stronger than today’s games. It’s a problem today that people don’t focus on the design as much.”
One thing he can definitely say for sure is that the game development scene is growing. “I’ve had a chance to look over the industry while making this game and while we’re getting there (in terms of making games), we definitely have some areas we can improve in.”
Javi stresses that the Filipino game development community needs to develop games with a creative mindset, not one that is aimed at making money. “With what we’re going, it’s easy to make games now, but difficult to make good ones. Other things can use improvement as well, like the media taking note that this (the game development scene in the Philippines) is a big thing that’s growing and we need to support it,” he adds.
“In two to three years, we’ll have a boom in Philippine game development.”
Buko Studios is a game outsourcing company in operation for the past five years. Founded by the husband and wife tandem of Kevin and Cherry Boase, they’ve been outsourcing and collaborating with local talent to help make games. At this year’s ESGS, they came with games of their own: Air Blaze, Space Inferno and Cybertron. Shooter games inspired by the old games such as Gradius, Space Invaders and Gyruss.
“It came from one of our shooter jams”, Cherry says. “The goal of our jams were to study from the timeline of video games, from the earliest shooters to present day , which is why we intentionally tried to capture the essence of the original games .”
Acting as the studio’s project manager, she lays out some of the difficulties that came with producing their own game. “Funding was limited, but we managed to do it.”
As well as using an alternate game engine to create the game and making sure it ran well cross-platform, meaning having the game work well on mobile devices and consoles.
But Buko Studios is no stranger to challenges. Kevin, the studio’s Development Director, says that he’s also keenly aware of the situation in the game development industry. “I originally came from the UK,” he explains. “There is a lot of potential here and it’s exciting to see the Philippines tackle the challenge of competing globally in game development. There’s already a lot of people who like video games here.”
As he bustles around and helps people with the games Buko Studios has developed, there is a hint of pride in his voice. “It’s not a difficult leap for people who like playing games to start creating them.”
“Admittedly, the Philippines is maybe around five years behind in game development right now,” Cherry says. “It’s fortunate that we’re getting a good start in this, since we have a lot to catch up with the rest of the world.”
She stresses that game developers need to remember that a game that isn’t theirs can be used as an inspiration as long as they are careful not to infringe on the copyrights of the original owner. “In our case, the goal of our games was to go through the same process that the classic games had been through using modern technology, thus the resemblances,” Cherry says.
But aside from that, she is confident in the future of industry. “In two to three years, we’ll have a boom in Philippine game development. We’ll need to remember such things like that in order to stand out and create something special.”
The current predictions for game development have rapidly improved over the past few years. Originally thought to be untenable given an infrastructure that seemed unable to support such a tech-driven industry, the scene has been steadily improving in terms of support.
However, as industry heads have noted, the country as a whole is just getting into the race. Keeping pace in such a high-velocity industry is another thing entirely.
But given the level of support and talent in the Philippines right now, it’s not too far-fetched to think that game development in the Philippines will soon be something else we can be proud of.
From the concepts come to life, games played and company exhibitions, ESGS offered an exciting look on what game development in the Philippines will look like in the next couple of years. From indie game developers to our own studios, it’s high time that a country that loves to play so much finally take games seriously.
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