The Philippine gaming industry is on the rise, thanks to a handful of pioneers who are willing to brave both local and international competition. With more well-known companies vying for the average gamer’s attention, however, bringing their creations to a larger market is a tough challenge faced by many Filipino game developers.
Fortunately, events like the annual Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS) give these developers a platform on which to showcase their projects to a broader audience. And at said event, these artists, programmers, and visionaries proved just how capable local talents are at creating world-class games. From horror visual novels to intense turn-based strategy games, these studios had something for everyone.
The following are just some of the game development studios that were present at ESGS 2016:
Founded in 2015, Monstronauts is one of the youngest game development studios in the Philippines. At their booth at ESGS 2016, they promoted games such as Pocket Arcade, which is actually a joint project with fellow developer Kuyi Mobile.
“Pocket Arcade puts classic arcade machines in your pocket,” explained game developer and Monstronauts CEO, Allen Tan. “So it’s got the coin machine, where you just drop in coins and get more coins in return. Then there’s the prize claw machine, and the Whack-a-Mole machine, except in this one, you whack aliens. We plan on including more arcade machines in the game. We want to give people the feeling of going to the arcade without having to leave their homes.”
The game is currently in Early Access on Google Play. The complete game should be available on iPhone and Android devices soon.
Also on display at their booth was Potion Punch, a game that plays with color theory.
“You have to make potions using color theory,” said Tan. “By mixing colors, you make the right potions for your customers. So you’re like a bartending alchemist in the game.”
Monstronauts was one of the Philippine representatives at Tokyo Game Show (TGS) 2016.
Games by Nico
At ESGS 2016, Games by Nico attracted quite a crowd thanks to its award-winning Lithium City. This cyberpunk-themed isometric tactical shooter has players shooting down robotic enemies in a gorgeously stylized, neon world.
Developer Nico Tuason was pleased that people seemed to enjoy his game.
“I guess it’s a good sign that people take their time when they play Lithium City,” remarked Tuason. “They play until the end of the demo. Usually, if people don’t like a game, they only spend 5 minutes playing it. But with Lithium City, I’ve seen people staying for 30 to 45 minutes. So the feedback on the live demo is good.”
Lithium City is still under development, but according to Tuason, it is already 50% complete. He’s hoping for its release on the PC and Mac early next year.
Like Monstronauts, Games by Nico was an exhibitor at TGS 2016.
Another TGS 2016 exhibitor, Unlibox was also at ESGS 2016 to flaunt their projects to attendees.
Chief among those projects was the mobile game Heroes Above, which people got to play at Unlibox’s booth.
“Visitors of our booth enjoyed the game, and are interested in downloading the iOS version which is available as a soft launch on the App Store,” said Heroes Above team lead and Unlibox co-founder, Mik Raquiza.
Raquiza was thankful for the feedback from players.
“Heroes Above is not perfect, and there will always be room for improvement,” said Raquiza. “That is why we appreciate people actually playing the game and giving us insights about the experience. There are also some visitors who are amazed that it is Filipino-made.”
Raquiza has high hopes for the local gaming industry.
“The gaming industry here in the Philippines is really picking up,” he said. “There a lot of great studios that are making good games.”
Yangyang Mobile co-founder Danni Ann Taylan discussed the studio’s latest title, The Letter.
The Letter is a horror visual novel that will be released in 2017 on Steam.
“The Letter is like a choose-your-own-adventure book,” explained Taylan. “You get to choose how the ending will play out. Throughout the game you’ll be given choices, and each choice you make will lead to a different scenario. Your decisions will inevitably lead to a different set of endings.”
Taylan revealed her inspirations for the game.
“I really like reading visual novels,” she said. “I wanted to create a visual novel of my own. I also love Japanese horror films and anime.”
Only 10 people are working on The Letter. Taylan herself plays several roles in its production.
“I do a little bit of everything,” she said. “I have a team of artists that I direct. I also have a team of programmers that I instruct what systems should be implemented in the game.”
The Letter has been in development for only a year. It is the company’s first desktop game, and will be available on Windows, Mac and Linux. There’s also a possibility that it will eventually be ported to iOS and Android.
Dreamlords Digital is working on a post-apocalyptic supernatural horror game called Graywalkers Purgatory.
“Graywalkers Purgatory is our main title,” stated Dreamlords Digital CEO and Graywalkers creator, Russell Tomas. The company started out developing mobile games; the Kickstarter-funded Graywalkers Purgatory will be their first PC and current-generation console title.
“What happens when heaven and hell merge with Earth, bringing their war down to our doorsteps?” asked Tomas. “That is the concept of our game. It’s about the result of that catastrophe, and how humanity is going to try to recover. So you are the hero, you are the prophesied one who will unite everybody to reclaim the world.”
In this end-of-the-world scenario, your characters can use magic to fight vampires, werewolves, demons, angels, and other creatures.
“It’s a turn-based game that plays a lot like XCOM and the early Fallout games. You can recruit up to 40 characters, then you basically travel to various locations to complete missions. Of course, there’s a big epic storyline that you have to follow. There will be a lot of quests, so it will take you between 70 and 100 hours to complete the game.”
Dreamlords Digital showcased Graywalkers Purgatory at the San Francisco Game Developers Conference (GDC) in 2015, where it received an Honorable Mention and was one of the Best in Play.
“We’ve been really happy with the feedback,” Tomas admitted. “When they liked our game at GDC, I thought, ‘not bad for a Filipino game.’ And we were competing against game developers from all over the world.”
Graywalkers Purgatory has been in development for 2 years. It is about 70% done. Tomas is hoping for a first quarter 2017 Early Access launch on Steam.
ESGS 2016 was a pleasant surprise for many attendees, especially those who weren’t expecting such a strong display of local talent. The Filipino gaming industry may be in its infancy, but it is one that is experiencing an accelerated evolution, courtesy of the hard work and creativity of the country’s game developers. Here’s hoping for more Filipino-made games as we proceed into the future! — TJD, GMA News