Friday, 29 March 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone! Sincerely from your friends here at E1 Studio! 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Meet the developers: Susanne Chan

This week I chose to interview Susanne Chan, one of the gameplay designers here in E1 Studio.

She is warm, friendly and a highly intelligent individual with a remarkable amount of patience. She’s the kind of person you would like to sit next to in an office.

Unfortunately, we sit at opposite corners of the studio and she has been real busy of late. This kinda got in the way of me getting to know her better.

But that’s why I love this blog.

It’s a great tool for me to connect with my colleagues here at E1 Studio.

Hey Sue, let’s start off with a little bit about your background. Where are you from?

I was born in Switzerland and raised in Penang. I studied in international schools there. Penang's a nice island, quiet city living without the hassles.

What were you before joining E1 Studio?

I was naturally drawn to writing from an early age so it's no surprise I pursued it as a career. Started as a journalist after college then became an advertising copywriter. After 10 years of being a commercialism monger, I grew restless. I had been interested in game writing for years so one day, I decided to take the plunge.

What is your role in the development of the Hoodwink series?

I am the Project lead for Hoodwink 2. I help to steer its creative direction and supervise gameplay design.

Can you share with me your all-time favourite game? Or the game you find most memorable?

It's really hard to name just one. If you twist my arm, I would have to say Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
If I could list my top ten, I would say: Dreamfall The Longest Journey, Beyond Good & Evil, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M's Way, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Bastion, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Planescape: Torment, Dishonored, Fallout and Arcanum.

Which game designer do you look up to the most?

There are four actually. Chris Avellone, Richard Lemarchand, Danien Chee and Sean K. Dunkley. I admire the narrative and character depth in Chris Avellone's games.

I had the opportunity to attend one of Richard's presentations about player engagement. It was pretty inspiring and made me think about game design in a different way.

Danien Chee and Sean K. Dunkley are great as they have been giving me advice about game development from time to time, helping me to broaden my views and grow.

Also, this might sound corny but I am also inspired by my co-workers who are able to teach me something new every day.

If you could play any kind of character you wanted in an RPG, what would you be? 

A demon space pirate who crash landed on a Conan the Barbarian-esque world. (You did say it could be anything)

What song/band/artist are you currently listening to?

David Guetta. I've been turning myself deaf listening to his music, especially those from Nothing But The Beat album. I like how his style changes to match the various singers.

What’s your favourite painting?

I'm a fan of Art Suydam and have a collection of cards featuring his artwork. His drawing "Mysterious Worlds" is my favourite. It reminds me that there could still be beauty amidst horror.

What do you usually have for breakfast?

My favourite is pancakes but that is more a lazy Sunday brekkie. Charcoal bread with butter. Soft boiled eggs with pepper and soy sauce. Hokkien Mee (when in Penang). If I don't have time for breakfast, I run on Swiss coffee.

Are you a Dog or a Cat person?

I grew up with both but I love cats. Or more like am cat mad. It's one of the first things people remember about me. Here's a pic of my cat, Brat. Dopey isn't she?

Any advice for the budding game designers out there?

Don't be afraid to think big. You can always distil the good parts from there.
Never be afraid to fail. You can always learn from your mistakes.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Everyone's learning something new every day.
Most of all, go out and experience life. It's the best place to find inspiration and ideas for your game.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Meet Leon Willett

This week on F5 Quicksave!

We received a lot of praise for Hoodwink’s soundtrack and all that credit should go to one person, Mr. Leon Willett.

Leon isn't a newbie to composing music for games; in fact he was nominated for several awards and even bagged some. His work on Dreamfall received universal praise and Mike Kendrick from The Gateway said; 

"Leon Willett has done for Dreamfall what John Williams and Danny Elfman have given to Hollywood"

You can find out a lot about Leon's work through his website but I wanted to learn more about the man behind the music. So I sent him a few questions which he gladly took the time to answer.

What is your favourite game and is there a specific genre you favour?

As a composer I favour the adventure genre. I’m passionate about this kind of games, and the focus on plot can afford the opportunity to compose some quite meaningful music.

As a player, I like very geeky games that require a lot of thought and planning. I’m not into causal gaming. For instance, I was in a WoW arena team for a while. On weekends, I like to play large online battles with Shacktac.

Hoodwink Main Theme

Which game score/soundtrack were you most impressed by, or the one you found most memorable?

I always liked Giacchino’s old “Medal of Honor” scores. In fact, I liked them so much that I soon got into composing for games after I heard them. In those days symphonic scores were still a rarity, so I found them special. I wanted to do that too!

Who is your all-time favourite composer?

I’m torn between John Williams and Joel McNeely.

What is your favourite musical instrument and why?

I think it’s easy to tire of any instrument if you hear it too much, so I can’t really pick one.  This is why I like the symphony orchestra as a medium; almost limitless colours and textures.

What are you listening to these days?

This might sound bizarre but I don’t listen to music very often. If I do put something on, I prefer spoken word. I’m a fan of Marc Maron’s show, WTF; or I might put on some stand-up comedy albums.

What are your thoughts on dubstep?

I love it! A breath of fresh air; the biggest thing to happen in dance music in the 2000s, in my opinion.

What are you currently working on?

I’m pitching to a couple of games, and will make an announcement if/when I’m commissioned to write a new score.

What do you like to do when you aren't composing?

I like a trip to comedy club, playing video games, or a long walk. Sometimes I like to pick up an old classical score and read it like a book, really taking it in. I also like chess puzzles. I do the one in the paper every day.

Will you be working on Hoodwink Episode 2?

Yes, I’m set to begin work on the score quite soon.

Picture sourced from
What was it like working on Hoodwink with E1 studio?

Great! I love the plot, characters and look of the game. It was a really nice opportunity to go out on a limb and compose a 40’s big-band jazz score. It was pretty special, and very enjoyable.

Have you eaten any Malaysian dishes before?

Sure, one of my favourite restaurants is Malaysian. I like the sate (satay) dishes.

Thank you for your time Leon and I can’t wait to get swept away by your next master piece. And to anyone reading this, I recommend you to listen to his other compositions and share them with your friends.

They are bound to fall in love with it.

Until next time gamers. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

Meet the developers: Johann Lim

Welcome back!

It’s been a while since I have written about someone from E1 Studio, so this week I will be introducing you to Johann Lim (That’s pronounce “Yohan”), a grammar Nazi and more importantly, one of our gameplay designers.
Too bad girls, this dish is hitched. You should settle for a Subway Teriyaki instead.
It was tough interviewing Johann, we had too much in common and our focus kept going off tangent. Ben and Jason, the guys from our mobile division- Touchy Interactive, were sitting nearby and constantly butting in too.

Here’s an example of how the interview went-

Yours Truly: Which college did you go to?
Johann: I studied at the Imperial College of London. The “College of nerds, geeks and doctors” 

However at the mention of “Imperial”- the Star Wars spell was invoked and Johann, Ben, Jason and I trailed off into a conversation about Palpatine’s elite guards.

Moving forward…  

After college he worked in IT and even joined a friend to start a company doing GPS stuff. Too bad for him (although fortunate for us) that GPS thing didn’t work out. However at that junction,  Johann got the call of theatre!

Naturally I asked him if his time working in theatre had given him an edge in game design


My time in theatre was crucial in the "unlocking" or "releasing" of my creative side. You can't imagine how "stick up the arse" I used to be in my younger days. Furthermore, the many trainings in performing for theatre helped with the different aspects of creativity, teamwork, self-motivation and project-based work (ie working with a deadline).

A great example is improv. 

On one level, it's great for impulsive, intuitive, immediate idea exploration - you just have to do / say something to contribute RIGHT NOW. You have little time or space to be shy / embarrassed about what comes out of your mouth, or expressed by your body. On another level, it's great for teamwork - you're all working together to create an interesting scene. Additionally, there's a rule where you cannot negate what someone else has done / said - so you're always working together based on the immediate reality.

Theatre in general is a good example. The scale of the production is big, and there are so many moving parts and so many people doing different things. It's not unlike a games development company. And there's practically no way one person can handle everything (sure sure there are exceptions, but you're not the exception sorry!) so you have to trust people to do what they have to. And if they let you down, then just pick yourselves up, learn useful stuff from the experience and move on.”

So theater had thought Johann a few things about being a game designer. But love for the stage alone doesn’t cut it.

You need to love GAMES.

I asked him how long has he been into gaming and- Oh my, what a surprise! Johann has always been interested in gaming! Just like the rest of us.

However it’s possible he started earlier than most of us here in the studio. His older brothers were the culprits that got him hooked. They would play “Wizardry” on the old Apple II e, and Johann would watch in wonder as they progressed down wire frame corridors and read text that popped up at every turn.
So what was Johann’s all-time favorite game?

“. ... this... is an impossible question” said he.

“There are many games I love for many reasons. Nothing stands out above the rest in every situation. I'll list some and why I love them, how's that?

Here’s Johann & Shern. 
Just smile for the camera guys and I promise to go away
Stratego  - introduced me to strategy games

Ultima 4-6 - introduced me to really deep and meaningful RPGs

Company of Heroes - one of the best implemented RTSes

X-Com (the old one, haven't played much of the new one yet)- one of the best tactical action games ever

Star Control 2 (now The Ur-Quan Masters 2)- one of the best all-round experience games ever ever

Super Contra (SNES) - introduced me to 2P co-op and made it so seamless

Half-Life - made FPS’s a story-telling engine, awesome

Puerto Rico (board game) - beautiful level of complexity without overdoing it

Dungeon Lords (board game) - brilliant implementation of the PC game (Dungeon Keeper) and great fun

Magic the Gathering (card game) - the depth, complexity and creativity of design is astounding; and it keeps getting better!

Populous - playing god is kinda fun

I'm sure there are more, just can't think of them right now.”

It’s always a nice to share so many things in common with different people but it’s even nicer to find a place where you get to work with these people. Johann, like me, thought game development was completely absent in this part of the world, until he played Company of Heroes with Shern Chong from the studio. After an insightful discussion on the CoH’s mechanics, E1 Studio was plus one designer.

I guess one lesson you can learn from Johann’s story is that you never know what the future holds for you and that you can go down different paths at every turn and still find yourself heading in the right direction.
With that in mind, I was curious to know what Johann’s thoughts on were on the direction video games were heading.
More Magic: The Gathering

“We're on the path to more interesting games. By interesting I mean more exploration in how they're played and how they play. Genres like RTS, FPS, Action, Adventure, point-and-click - all become harder and harder to label as more and more people get into developing games and really pushing the boundaries. There'll be more depth in games, and, over time, better stories told. Fewer "blockbusters" and more indies.

Someone said that "games are the new media" - I think it's too early to say that, but hell it's interesting times for games. It's something that the consumer interacts with, and that is a whole new level of complexity that we're very slowly trying to figure out. This is the Age of Games, and it'll be a century or two before we ‘get it’ ”

So to wrap things up I asked Johann what was a vital characteristic requirement for any game designer?

“Designers always need to seek out new experiences. They enrich your life and you need to draw inspiration from them if you are going to build a game”

In other words, people aspiring to be game designers should get off their butts and do other things besides playing computer games.

I guess it also helps a lot to have some skills in programming like Johann.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Lunch Anyone?

Ahh, the lunch break.

It’s the time everyone craves for, especially after a few hours of good honest hard work. And how it’s spent largely depends on the individual or the company culture.

As for myself, I pop open my lunch box and munch on a dry muesli bar, all the while trying to convince myself that it tastes good and imagining my bad cholesterol levels dropping with each bite. After that I kinda hover about the studio, interrupting others who are busy getting their game on.

That’s right. As lunch time draws near the E1 crew gets together and play all sorts of games.

You got your “Magic: The Gathering” card game players.

Then there’s the board game enthusiast, the current choice is “7 Wonders”

And then there’s the “Street Fighter 4” troupe, ready with their controllers and button mashing away.   
What kind of geekery is this?  Magic The Gathering!? Burn it with fire!!
Das is Street Fighter!  Bring your own controller please otherwise it’s the keyboard for ya! *gasp*
Oooo 7 Wonders, the board game.
“Can I join you guys?” no response……
I’m guessing this isn’t standard practice in most offices but such activities are encouraged here. Probably has something to do with us being a game developer but who can say for sure?

The important thing is the guys are having fun together and probably learning a thing or two about teamwork.

But before you know it, an hour’s gone by and the session is wrapped up. Still the guys are happy, they banter about the highlights of their game or the blunders they made. I can even imagine some of us planning our next move or which fighter to choose in the next match. These thoughts linger as we sit back comfortably at our desks and gradually shift our attention to our tasks.

But there’s still a chance to settle scores! After wrapping up for the day, rematches are often called for and the battles resume.

As for me, I bid the gang adieu and make my way home. 

Skyrim awaits me there. 

Friday, 28 December 2012

Hoodwink on Greenlight

We decorated the Piazza Europa level from Hoodwink for our Season's Greeting Card. 
Happy holidays and Happy New Year! 

This is our most current Greenlight page thumbnail. 
We made several versions since 
we first submitted Hoodwink. 
(see below) 

It's December, and almost the end of 2012.

We had a few good months, taking our first step into the world of game business. With mixed Hoodwink reviews in July giving us a good set of lessons to learn, and the advent of Steam Greenlight possibly letting us propel our games into the limelight.

What you might like to know is that our studio is one of the few offering a series on Greenlight, not just a title. Yeap, our submission is an entire series of episodic game instalments, not just one game. If Hoodwink is Greenlit, all episodes in the series can be yours on Steam as soon as they are released.

There's more good news. Out of the thousands vying for Greenlight, we're humbled that you, the players, had placed Hoodwink within the top 100 games for approval. But getting closer to Number 1 is not easy, demanding our best in creativity and presentation.

As it should be.

Steam is no longer just a storefront; it is a growing hub of serious player communities who can't wait to be involved in a game's creation.

And so, we have for you Steam Group: E1 Studio.

A great place to not just find out about the Hoodwink series, but to get to know our developers, and even game together. Goes without saying that we're hoping that if you've got great ideas to help us make Hoodwink a smashing game for you, then this is the perfect page to shout-out.

Next up for the Hoodwink series; Episode 2!

We've taken to heart, and mind, all the reviews from players and critics for Episode 1. And we're back, fixing what went wrong, improving what went right, and most excitingly, adding what will be new and surprising features for our fans, to bring Episode 2 even closer to a great game.

Getting curious? Visit our page to find out more, fellow players. We aim to make a Greenlit Hoodwink worth your while.

This brings me to the end of my post for the year and with that, all of us here at E1 Studio wishes you a Happy New Year!