James Lo detailed Indigo Entertainment’s foray into independent game development with MashUP Tactics, a project following the “games as a service” philosophy during his Casual Connect Asia speech in Singapore. He hopes the GaaS approach will result in a sustained audience: “If [gamers] like it, they’ll stick to it for years and years to come. We want that kind of loyalty. We want that kind of market.” For details on the company’s strategy, see the video below.
James Lo, co-founder of Indigo Gaming in Singapore and Indigo Entertainment in the Philippines, says he was brought into the games industry by the sight of blood. Apparently, as a child he wanted to become a doctor but discovered he absolutely hated the sight of blood. And eventually he realized game development was a much more appealing career.
Evolving into a Creator of Games
Almost 10 years ago he decided he wanted to create games, so he began researching and, with a small team of developers, began creating his first indie game. But the game was never finished. Next he switched gears to offer the group’s game-development skills as a service, developing advergames for different brands and became relatively successful. Eventually he met his business partners, and together they evolved into the company they are today.
While still in college, James formed his own graphic design studio, providing print and media services to different organizations. Along the way he learned a great deal about acquiring and managing clients and their projects, skills he continues to use daily. He has discovered there are many similarities between graphic design and game development; the main difference is that one designs a visual experience and the other designs the overall interactive experience. So moving into game development was a natural evolution for him.
James was inspired to begin developing games by Final Fantasy Tactics on PS1. Then he discovered the website tacticsarena.com, and this was the tipping point. He wanted to create his own game with his own characters in his own universe. And, as he says, “I set out to do just that. It’s taking a while, but I’ll get there.”
His interest in games started at an early age. He remembers learning BASIC on an old Apple monochrome computer and spending many hours designing games played on paper, keeping a notebook filled with game ideas, cutout tokens, rules and schematics. He also had dozens of notebooks with drawings of characters and other game features.
He continues this pattern of creating on paper today, designing DIY paper toys and posting them on a blog for people around the world to download and assemble. He has also published a book along the same lines. James hopes to expand the business with ActionCraft Toy Box, an app that will let users design their own paper toys, and he’s planned a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.
Indigo Entertainment is still concentrating on work-for-hire, with James focusing on the day-to-day operations, maintaining their high standards and the business operations. Since they began developing their own games he is also responsible for managing that aspect of the business.
Ideas Come to Life
What he enjoys most about his work is seeing his ideas come to life. He describes, “You come up with this cool idea on your way to work, then you talk to your team about it before lunch; at the end of the day you have a working prototype of that same idea, and then after a long while you get to release that idea into the world.”
Of course, the greatest challenge comes with finding a way to persuade other people to try his game; convincing complete strangers, perhaps from some other part of the world, to part with their money just to play that game. But the reward comes when he sees people sitting in a corner somewhere, on a bus, on a train or anywhere, engrossed in the game. Their reactions to the game, their smiles, are priceless to him. And the proudest moment of all came when his son played a game they had developed and continued playing for a very long time.
Putting the Pieces Together
James often finds inspiration for his designs from art, usually concept art. Seeing a sketch of a character generally helps to trigger ideas. Since his creative process develops through visual stimuli, he makes a point of immersing himself in many different possibilities. Then, when he has the idea, he thinks in a manner similar to building with Lego pieces, trying to fit it together with whatever assets he has available. He follows that with brainstorming sessions where more ideas usually emerge.
When a creative block occurs, he steps back from the challenge to do something completely different. Then more brainstorming sessions with his talented team reveal possible solutions.
He tells people who want to create games, “Just do it!” With the many options and tools available in the games industry today, virtually anyone with a passion for game development can create something. He insists, “You just have to start and do whatever it takes to finish.”
He recognizes it is a painful experience to make a pitch to a client and be turned down but maintains this should serve as motivation to go through all the rejections until finally someone says yes.
When James considers what is coming next in the games industry, he is clearly excited as he exclaims, “HOLOGRAMS! Iron Man-level holographic games!”
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.