"GROUNDBREAKING” is the first word that comes to mind to describe the first time a Malaysian company, Square Box Vision (SBV), will be working on third-generation console games for the PlayStation 3 (PS3) and Xbox 360 in a partnership with Paris-based international games giant Quantic Dream.
This venture also comes with the financial muscle to carry it through: Malaysian Debt Ventures will fund two projects, which are in excess of RM58.5 million, of which not all will go to SBV (others are also involved).
At present, the Malaysian games industry is relatively small, with few full-fledged studios capable of world-class work. But all that is about to change.
IDC research for 2004 shows that the local online gaming market is worth US$3.49 million (RM13 million) in subscription revenue, and growing. A mere pittance compared to the enormous possibilities available on the international scale.
This is why the deal with Quantic Dream will transform SBV technically into the largest game development company in Malaysia come January next year.
Fifty per cent of SBV is owned by Vision New Media Sdn Bhd, which also owns local two-dimensional and 3-D animation houses POV and Fat Lizard. The remaining stake is owned by Square Box Vision Europe (SBE), which also functions as the marketing and business development arm of SBV.
According to SBV’s chief executive officer Low Huoi Seong, the first game to be produced is the sequel to the award-winning game Omikron: The Nomad Soul called Omikron: Karma. Karma will be produced for the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Nomad Soul was Quantic Dream’s first project and it won more than 20 international awards in 1999. Its gaming engine was also ranked by Time magazine as one of the 10 best technologies of the year.
As video gaming guru David Cage, who is founder and president of Quantic Dream, tells CompuTimes,
“Omikron was one of the 40 games that changed the gaming world.”
According to SBV, the development of Karma is scheduled between July next year and June 2008. Most of the animation and model building will be done in Malaysia, and this will require 35 3-D model artists and animators.
Co-development partner Quantic Dream will bring to the project cutting-edge game development technology and transfer game development knowledge. In that regard, Quantic Dream will work on the game development and level building portions of the project.
The production timeline for SBV for the completion of the two projects with Quantic Dream (Karma and another yet-to-be-announced title) is two-and-a-half years. Both developers are on the lookout for talent who can contribute greatly to the projects.
According to Cage, games today have changed remarkably. Computer-generated imagery (CGI), for example, is very much a part of today’s games, especially in next-generation consoles.
At the same time, game technology transfer is more complex than 3-D animation as it involves tools, expertise and know-how in many things and not just programming, game design and animation, he laments.
Why did Quantic Dream choose Malaysia over countries like India and China which offer lower production labour costs?
“We have travelled around for a year to look for partners in Vietnam, Thailand, China and East Europe. We chose Malaysia given our interest in Vision New Media, who are experienced in (CGI) development, and because of the conducive environment (such as incentives) here.”
Besides, production costs are not the only considerations. For example, processed data outsourced to countries with serious issues in levels of skill and language will need cleaning up, thus requiring more time and incurring more costs.
“Yes, we chose Malaysia because of the lower costs compared to Europe, but that is not the main consideration as a balance has to be struck based on price and quality,”
And Vision, via SBV, offers this balance which Low claims is vital
“to develop high-level skills for the industry, or else we will lose out to countries like China and India. It is equally a responsibility to us as it is for Malaysian Debt Ventures and MDC (Multimedia Development Corporation).”
Asked why it took so long to come up with the sequel to Omikron, Cage says,
“We are not a games factory,”
which can be interpreted as Quantic Dream is waiting comfortably and patiently for its golden moment to secrete its creative juices, much like Spielberg. Gamers can hardly wait.
Source: The New Straits Times Press
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