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Own Kingdom: A Game Remake that Built the Team

September 22, 2014 — by Mariia Lototska

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In July 2011, Eldwin Viriya took a leave of his job as a lecturer of basic algorithm and data structure for a semester to take a GRE test for the master’s degree. Having passed it successfully, Eldwin discovered he had a lot of free time. He decided to use this time for self-development and made DragManArds in 1.5 months. This Flash game really sparks the light of game development spirit in its author. Later, his company, Own Games, created DragManArds’ remake Own Kingdom, a fantasy medieval strategy game where you need to protect the kingdom from waves of monsters. He describes it as an experience of tower defense games with a taste of war games.


Get the Taste of Making Games

When I first created DragManArds, I used MochiAds for monetization, since that was the only monetization option that I knew at that time. I didn’t even know about Flash sponsorship back then! The result turned out interesting: I got a lot of feedback from real players in Kongregate, some fan messages and suggestions, and also managed to earn more than 200 USD in the first month (which was cut down to only a quarter in the following month, and to almost nothing for the rest of the month).

It felt amazing to actually experience the thrill of launching a game, but the best part was when DragManArds dragged me into the gaming ecosystem of Indonesia. Groups such as Gamedevid allowed me to get to know game developers of the country, as well as big companies like Blackberry and Nokia.

Own Games Team - left to right - Raynaldo - Jefvin - Eldwin - Okky - Agustian
The current Own Games team: Raynaldo, Jefvin, Eldwin, Okky and Agustian

Remake DragManArds: More Features, Better Graphics

In late 2011, Nokia held a game developer competition for their feature phone platform. I asked Jefvin Viriya, my brother (who was still in high school) to help me make the game in time. Having submitted a mini game named Beyond the Well, we came out as the third winner in the competition, and since then, we continue developing games together under the name of Own Games.

We started attending local gamedev events here in Indonesia, one of which was Game Developer Gathering. After this gathering, Kris Antoni from Toge Productions invited me to a meeting with Mochi Media. I got a chance to show DragManArds to their representative and received good feedback about the game. He said he was interested in being contacted again if there’s any sequel to the DragManArds. This meeting made me believe that my game has a lot of potential within.

The meeting with Mochi Media made me believe my game has a lot of potential.

At that time, working on a new Flash game would have been really hard for us. Firstly, Own Games already had a good amount of players from Nokia Store, and we want to keep them happy with our creations. Moreover, I was also busy with my day job as a lecturer, and my brother got overwhelmed with his high school final exams (not to mention that he didn’t understand ActionScript at all). So we continued our life as usual after that time.

A few months later, Nokia launched Lumia, a Windows Phone smartphone. Until this day, Own Games was focusing on feature phones only. We were working in native J2ME and were not really familiar with modern game engines. Then I noticed that one of my juniors had graduated from the bachelor program, and I invited him to work together in Own Games. The first thing he did in the company was port DragManArds to Lumia. The results turned out great: DragManArds  got a gold medal in the Lumia Apps Olympiad in December 2012.

DragManArds Gold Medal from Lumia Apps Olympiad
DragManArds’ gold medal in Lumia Apps Olympiad in December 2012.

Then I finally decided to quit my job to completely focus on Own Games. On April 1, 2013, Own Games transformed into an official company. Agustian, a 2D artist, also started to help us out. It was really a big move for us: before he joined, we were short on manpower and, what is more, he had a degree in arts and experience in making games. The first objective became clear: remake DragManArds with more features and better graphics.

Learning From Mistakes and Feedback

DragManArds already has a lot of versions: Flash, Windows Phone, Blackberry 10, and even J2ME. Having received a LOT of feedback, we planned a lot of stuff that we wanted to implement in the remake. It turned out to be a lot of tasks. But as Agustian is a talented artist with experience in game industry, I could fully dedicate myself to improving the gameplay and user experience, and our programmer had proven himself successful in making the Windows Phone and Blackberry version of DragManArds, we believed we’ll make it.

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The DragManArds remake, Own Kingdom, needed much more effort than expected.

I was too optimistic back then, and set the deadline to 3-4 months (DragManArds was made in 1.5 month by me alone, right?). But we weren’t able to finish everything in that time. As any new startup, we faced many challenges, both technical and not. I often argued with Agustian about how he used a lot of time to draw some tiny details that cannot even be clearly seen in the final game. Meanwhile, our programmer had to work remotely from another city because his father had a serious illness. In the end, he realized that he didn’t have enough time to develop anything and left Own Games. So we lost our programmer, our art assets production took more time than planned, and my entrepreneur’s soul was still on a very early development stage. I used to get a salary each month, now I had to pay salaries each month – It feels totally hard in the beginning even though you are already aware of the risk.

I used to get a salary each month, now I had to pay salaries each month. Feels hard in the beginning.

A few months after our programmer left the team, we met Ray Naldo, a former junior in the university where I worked. But we didn’t want to give him the pressure of developing a game as big as Own Kingdom for his first time. So we decide to make Eyes on Dragon, a 3D endless runner. During its development, we also got some help on 2D art assets from Okky, Agustian’s junior.

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Eyes On Dragon: project for the new programmer to adapt.

Meanwhile, Jefvin was learning C++ and tried to make Own Kingdom for Windows Phone 8 using Cocos 2dx. The WP8 version eventually became the finalist of the Indonesia Game Show. During our presentation at the competition, the judges called Own Kingdom’s gameplay a unique and promising one, but pointed out that the program was crashing and the buttons weren’t working smoothly. Even though we didn’t win the competition, this encouraged us to go on with Own Kingdom. But, sadly, once again, we had to put development for WP8 on hiatus when we realized that Cocos 2dx for WP8 didn’t support mp3 files.

Back to an Abandoned Game

A few more months had passed. Eyes on Dragon was published. We were happy with what we made, and decided to go on with the development of Own Kingdom. Ray started learning Unity 4.3 for 2D, Agustian and Okky made more art assets for the game, and Jefvin and I kept improving the game design, level design, and also the whole gaming experience.

The second development phase was not easy, but definitely better than the first one. Continuing the game that was once abandoned is for sure not an easy task, since most of the courage is gone. What is more, there were two desires we struggled with: to make the game better but, at the same time, finish it as fast as we could. Yeah, that’s shameful. Nevertheless, coming back to Own Kingdom had positive sides, too: we already knew that the game is worthy and that a lot of people wanted to see it completed. What is more, now we had a bigger team and some experience. Eventually, we managed to finish Own Kingdom in April 2014.

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In April 2014 Own Kindgom was ready.

The development of Own Kingdom is a long journey, and we realize that it has not ended yet. But we are really happy with the growth of each of us. Agustian has started to become more efficient and effective at allocating his energy to finish the work in time. Ray got a lot of experience in making the game using Unity in both 2D and 3D, which opened the possibilities to reach more platforms. I became more familiar with project management, and got a whole new experience in leadership. But the most valuable thing that makes me really grateful is how Own Kingdom turned Own Games into a more solid and powerful team.

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Own Kingdom turned Own Games into a more solid and powerful team.

Own Kingdom is available in Windows Phone Store and Nokia Store (Nokia X only), and has recently been launched on Android.

Video Coverage

Anders Jeppsson: Multi-Platform Connectivity Challenges Dedicated Hardware | Casual Connect Video

August 8, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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Anders Jeppsson shared some advice with developers at Casual Connect USA: “Developers need to monetize on more than one platform because it is getting more and more crowded, and they want to focus on adding end user values.”

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Anders Jeppsson
Anders Jeppsson

Anders Jeppsson, Global Head of Gaming at BlackBerry, has broad ranging responsibilities involving everything from speaking at gaming conferences to meeting with game developers of all sizes to working with internal teams on APIs, tools and social services such as Scoreloop and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). And, of course, he defines and drives the overall gaming strategy for BlackBerry.

In Jeppsson’s free time, he is a very serious photographer and vinyl collector. Since moving to Canada, earlier this year, he has returned to some old passions such as tennis and downhill skiing. And he plays lots of games!

He claims his #1 pastime is listening to music, everything including Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, Ron Sexsmith, The National, The Black Keys, Regina Spektor, Steve Earle, Johnny Cash, Kasy Chambers, Wax, Macklemore, and Adele. He obviously has very eclectic tastes, but insists it must be on vinyl!

Focused on Enabling Great Games

Because he had run his own gaming studio for over 12 years and had worked as Head of Innovation and Chief Visionary Officer at a successful telecom company, he had the experience he needed to head up the gaming strategy when he started at BlackBerry in 2010. The goal when he was hired was to build the easiest and most developer friendly platform, now known as BlackBerry 10.

Jeppsson claims, “Everything from API’s to tooling to documentation to you name it, was built from the ground up to help developers and build successful businesses.”

The Death of Specialized Hardware

With the extremely rapid evolution of mobile devices, combined with the inherent connectivity and sensor setup, as well an extremely broad user base, Jeppsson believes we are entering a new era of “mobile computing.” It is no longer necessary to own laptops, consoles, tablets, desktop computers or other specialized hardware. The mobile device with wireless connectivity can soon NFC connect to any screen with a battery and a WifiDirect chip, and render its data where most appropriate in any given situation. That could be in the living room, in the car, at the office desk, etc. All your data, apps, games and music will always be with you without the need to sync with all your other devices.

In the living room, you could just NFC tap your device to the TV screen and two game pads, and you and a friend could be playing a co-op shooter or poker or an online racing game without the need of dedicated gaming hardware. Or, wherever you go, perhaps on the bus, on vacation or at a friend’s house you will already have all your games in your one device.

Jeppsson asserts, “It’s a very reasonable and realistic scenario that is possible already with a BlackBerry 10 smartphone, and why shouldn’t it be just that simple? As a mass market consumer I expect no less!”

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“Wherever you go, perhaps on the bus, on vacation or at a friend’s house, you will already have all your games in your one device.”

Seriously, this is Happening Now!

“The necessary technologies already exist,” he says, “and with each iteration, mobile devices are becoming faster and faster. OpenGL ES 3.0 is already making its way into devices today, and technologies such as Miracast/Wifi-direct, NFC, Bluetooth gamepads etc. are all here. We just need to let the consumers know this alternative exists today, and I don’t know any developer who wouldn’t want to make their content available to a user base as big as the Mobile one!”

He believes the impact of this trend on the games industry as a whole will be tremendous.

“When “traditional” game developers, who previously only released on PC/Console, start making their creations available on mobile devices as well, even if a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard is required, then this whole idea will take off and enable people (who might never have bought solely a gaming device) to experience interactive entertainment like never before!”

Triumphs and Challenges

The proudest moment that Jeppsson recalls in his career was when Southend Interactive, his old gaming studio, launched its first console game, Deathrow, published by UBI Soft in 2002, on Xbox. “It scored a 9.3 on IGN.com as well as many other review sites, and a few years later was rewarded the sleeper hit of that console generation by IGN,” he remembers. “It was indeed a proud moment.”

When asked about an offsetting challenge, he answered, “My greatest challenge? Every day for twelve years, running a small studio without a strong financial backer.  That is hard!”  But he remembers some smart decisions made during that time that really made a difference,  “We needed to be lean and plan ahead and do a lot of work for hire to make sure we could also afford to develop our own original IP. But one thing we did very right was to build our own technology that, within a couple of days, could be ported to support basically any native-based platform, be it console, mobile, desktop, or prototype hardware.”

Unity Now Supports BlackBerry 10 Phones

At Casual Connect USA, Jeppsson announced, “We are very excited to reveal that with the release of Unity Technologies 4.2 update, both the free and pro versions now fully support BlackBerry 10 smartphones. Unity’s over 2 million strong developer community are now able to publish their games on the BlackBerry 10 platform.”

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