First posted on 15 October 2012. Last updated on 15 October 2012.
|Amir Irwan is the cofounder of E-One Studio, the developer of Hoodwink.|
For more information, visit E-One Studio.
Malaysian studio E-One's sci-fi comedy adventure Hoodwink is the debut game title from the newly founded indie developer. A throwback adventure with contemporary visuals and design, Hoodwink has left many of its fans wanting more with its cliffhanger ending. The game introduces a cast of eclectic characters and an engaging version of a dystopian world, with some innovative approaches to adventure gaming.
We are privileged to have an opportunity to interview Amir Irwan, the cofounder of E-One Studio. In the interview, Irwan speaks of the history of the company, his inspiration drawn from the classic era of adventure games, the next episode from the Hoodwink series that is forthcoming, and what fans can expect from his studio in the near future.
Check out our gallery of rare concept art from Hoodwink.
- What prior experience, if any, in the game industry did you have before cofounding E-One Studio?
- I came from a background of software development and IT support and was attached to two big corporations which had me spending my time in Malaysia as well as in London. I finally got jaded with the corporate world and decided to form a game company because I've always been intrigued with games since I was small.
But that's just me. My partner, Eko, was in the team that made the first Serious Sam so he took the lead behind engine development. Some of our artists also have experience; they worked on 'Dirt' by Codemasters.
- What was your inspiration to make a point-and-click adventure game?
- Many of us grew up playing LucasArts games, and more recently, great stuff by Telltale Games. The old-choose-your-own-adventure books were also an inspiration for me personally.
- Why did you choose a post-apocalyptic setting for an adventure comedy?
- Fallout and Bioshock were eye-opening in the way they showcase how the greed and vicious politicking of a select few can ruin an entire nation. Hoodwink shows a dystopian future, where mankind is so consumed by his commercialism to the point where it becomes a way of life.
Hoodwink, like the two games, also highlight mankind's adaptability, that no matter how far one may fall, the determination of human optimism can make the best of a seemingly hopeless existence. To sum it up, Hoodwink shows the duality of man at his best and worst.
- Hoodwink was E-One Studio's first commercial game project. How was the company founded? How long was the game in development? How large was the development team? What parts of the game's development, if any, were outsourced?
- The company was founded using my savings back then. I was introduced to Eko, who had the intention of settling down in Asia. He is originally from Croatia, and was about to migrate to Australia until we met up, and I guess the rest is history. Since then I've raised enough funds for us to focus on developing games and stop doing small outsourcing projects to keep us afloat.
Currently we're a 30-man team. Not all of us worked on Hoodwink from the very beginning. We have another project which we are working on for the last 4 years. Hoodwink took us 2 years to build, with the first year involving a lot of experimenting. You could say the real development itself was the next 1 year. Almost everything was done internally; we did outsource the gameplay sound and voiceover to a local sound studio and closely collaborated with them. But most exciting of all, we had the honour of famed game composer Leon Willett contributing to the game score.
- How did you decide on the unique art style in Hoodwink that paid homage to classic cel-shaded animation?
- *laugh* Honestly it was by accident. Some of us who worked on AAA titles development before felt the art assets could be improved further. They requested for more time to fix the graphics and I told them to find a better way. So they tweaked the renderer to give the classic cel shaded look. Some of us are still not quite happy with it. Not easy to please these artists. But as a producer I can't please everyone. In the next episodes we're improving the art further.
- Hoodwink is admittedly a very short game. To what extent is it a technical or marketing consideration to keep the game this short?
- It's a design issue and being amateurish on our side. There were so many things that we didn't do the right way and had cost us a lot of time and money, and because of that the project suffered. We learnt our lessons. Marketing has nothing to do with it.
- What are the business challenges in operating an independent game studio in Malaysia where E-One Studio is located?
- There are aplenty. Availability of market-ready talents; educating the people who control our funds; different time zones with our publishing and distribution partners in NA or EU; reluctance by local talents to embrace the indie culture; lack of business angels community. Other than that, Malaysia is a lovely country to live and work in.
- Crowd-sourcing for funding to develop indie adventure games has led to a mini-renaissance for the genre. What plans, if any, do you have to leverage your current fan base to fund your next game project? Why or why not?
- We are watching the space closely and not discarding the possibility.
Personally I think we have to build a huge fan base first before using the process, rather than the other way around. Just because Tim Schafer managed to raise USD3mil for the genre, I don't think I should be delusional into thinking I can do the same. Our focus at this stage should be on building our community. Any fans who wish to be part of our beta testing in the next episode are welcome to email us at email@example.com.
- How fair or unfair do you feel that the press has been in its opinion of Hoodwink?
- I would say the press was quite right, even though there's always that tension between hardcore and point & click genres.
We knew our first entry into the games business would not be smooth sailing. We made a lot of mistakes, and learnt from them, building this game. We've used this opportunity to gain new perspectives and insights, improving our work process and communication within the studio.
That being said, there are many reasons Hoodwink was an achievement as a first project. We received mixed reviews, but the praise on the premise and characters in the game also warrants us to keep going, as we think these are enough merits for the series to continue.
We can certainly tell you the next installment of Hoodwink is going to be better.
- What can fans expect in the next installment of the Hoodwink series? How many installments do you envision for the entire series?
- *laugh* Now that would ruin the surprise, but there's a lot to look forward to; quirky new cast members, new unique gameplay elements and even more insights into the world of Hoodwink. We envisioned it to be 6 episodes for one season, but having said that, we are listening and will continue to listen to the audience, measure how well received we are, and tweak our offerings along the way. This is an adventure in itself. We are not exactly sure how it will unfold.
- What do you see as the future for the adventure game genre, both as a game developer and as a fan of the genre?
- I see the genre returning to the mainstream, where the tablets/smartphones will have a big role to play to make it more accessible. The genre has taken too many punches in the past, maybe because of our outdated definition of the genre and its design itself, and that has moved a lot of players away from adventure games. This has to change, and it's up to us developers to improve the perception of this genre.
- What lies in the near future for E-One Studio?
- Ever since it was released on Origin, we've been trying to make the game more accessible. We have just recently managed to get it on Gamersgate, Desura, The Adventure Shop, Just Adventure and Zodiac Shop. Now we've submitted the game to Steam Greenlight, and we hope to get some support for us to be listed there as well. This Greenlight entry is for the series and not just for one episode.
As for the second episode, we took in all the feedback from fans and reviewers, and are diving deep into its development. We will make an announcement of it closer to the beta testing opening, which we plan to invite more people to.
Apart from Hoodwink series, we have another project in development which is called "Hidden Dawn", a 3rd person adventure game. More details on that when we are closer to its release.