For most Malaysian gaming community, they should by now be familiar with this name, Wan Hazmer Wan Abd Halim.
If you have never heard of his name or known who he is, Wan Hazmer was the first Malaysian to be a lead designer with world-known Japanese video game developer Square Enix Holdings Co Ltd.
He joined Square Enix in 2010 where he was heavily involved in then highly anticipated video game, Final Fantasy XV (FFXV).
And if you have played FFXV, you would have also noticed our two most popular mamak orders; the roti canai and teh tarik are sold in the town of Lestallum.
Wan Hazmer’s intention was not to force our mamak food culture into the game but it was the perfect fit to the design of Lestallum as it has a hot and dry climate.
With all that success, the 38-year-old decided to return to Malaysia where he co-founded game development studio Metronomik Sdn Bhd with his cousin, Daim Dziauddin.
In an exclusive interview, TechSideTales had the opportunity to catch up with Wan Hazmer on what he has been up to.
Could you share how is it like to run your own game studio?
WH: First of all, I’d say that I have stepped away from my comfort zone as being a lead game designer as my role as the co-founder and CEO of a game studio is very different.
On top of my role of dealing with game design (ensuring the game is fun and its user experience), I am also in charge with the IT and HR.
I am thankful that we recently hired an accounting firm to handle our payrolls.
At the same time, I will always check the happiness level of my teammates where their happiness lies in two factors; work style and education.
In term of education, I would often sign up with online courses to ensure everyone is up-to-date as we have a good mix of veterans and fresh bloods.
What is your rationale behind your hiring process?
Well, I did not want to hire too many veterans as we will just make another game, and if you hire too many juniors, we would not be able to produce a game at all.
I decided to mix them both which consequently created a skill gap. With that said, I made my veterans to output whatever they’re working and to explain it to the juniors, in addition providing online courses for them (juniors) so that they can catch up.
It must be challenge for you each day, how do you keep yourself motivated?
To be honest, what motivates me to keep on going is the results that I get from my team.
My cousin, Daim and I had came up with the vision of the game and we tried to make it as ambiguous as possible so that we can give creative freedom to the team.
And when we did that, the team came back with us tremendous results of which happens on every day.
Hence, we do not want to put their efforts to waste and it pushes me to not want the this game that we are working on to fail.
What is this game that you’re currently working on?
The game is called No Straight Roads.
It is about an indie musician who is on a mission to topple an electronic dance music-centric (EDM) record label company, No Straight Roads which has taken control of the city and only allowing their own artists to perform.
So, the player takes on the role as a rebel in this music-centric action game.
And unlike most music-centric games which are rhythm-based, the gameplay of No Straight Road is to avoid the music bars instead of following the rhythm of the music.
It seems No Straight Roads will be something different, why a music game?
I am an avid fan for music games, however, initially, I could not imagine myself making one because the audience for this genre is very targeted and limited.
But things changed, and I wanted to my team and myself to develop a really hot selling game.
At the same time, I wanted to challenge the world on how to make games that have music as theme without being a rhythmic game.
Also, I want to go further to ensure the gameplay and music gel well together where players would not need to music skills to play No Straight Roads.
When can we expect the release of No Straight Roads?
We are planning for a beta release in 2019 first. It will be releasing for the PC, Playstation 4 and possibly on Nintendo Switch.
We do look forward playing No Straight Roads. Do you have anything else in the works?
Other than developing games, I am planning to get involved in education.
At this moment, I am already working with several local universities and colleges where I am helping to change their syllabus, opening myself to students as well as holding talks and seminars.
Personally, I feel very strongly about education as competency is essential for our gaming industry.
In actuality, there are a lot of competent people in our industry but the problem is that when they develop a game, only a handful of them will think about how the game can sell.
Not many of us are able to sell our games on the global stage and I plan to change that.
And to make a change, it starts with the seed and that is through education.
So, in the next five years, I am planning to start up my private primary and secondary school which will emphasis on creative thinking.
Creative thinking is very vital in order to change the creative landscape here in Malaysia.
Last of all, what are your top five favourite games?
This is going to be a tough one but here goes:
- Day of the Tentacle
- Rhythm of Heaven
- Space Channel 5
- Final Fantasy VII and Skies of Arcadia
- Phoenix Wright series