Rock Nano founder Chong Lai (far left) with the team

Rock Nano founder Chong Lai (far left) with the team

Singapore-based game development startup Rock Nano has announced that it is set to launch its new PlayStation 4 game, ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny at the 30th Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in March 2016.

The event marks the startup’s first global launch, in which it also announces that SONY Japan has offered a buyout for the Asian and Japanese markets.

“It is a testament to the studio team’s hard work and dedication to the product, and a validation for the gamers,” says Chong Lai, Founder of Rock Nano.

The game itself is a mix of RTS gameplay, MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) map objectives, and card-based deck building, where players are in control of magic spells and armies of fantasy creatures in multiplayer battles.

Rock Nano claims to have received positive feedback when they exhibited the game at GameStartAsia and CosFest Good Games Convention in 2015, as well as trials with local and international testers of different genres.

As part of its marketing strategy, Rock Nano has built its own AR 3D ‘magic mirror’ that allows users to virtually try on ArmaGallant costumes, a hologram to showcase in-game characters in 3D, and uses VR for e-sport fans to view live matches.

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Making the impossible possible

In an interview with e27, Chong Lai explains how the game came to be by describing the different types of gamers in the company.

“Some of us favour real-time strategy games like StarCraft; some enjoy multiplayer online battle arena genre like League of Legends, DOTA2. Others like card-based titles like Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering,” he says.

“We challenged ourselves to produce a battle arena game that would actively take inspiration from the best of these different genres. Something that everyone wants to play,” he continues.

Typically, it takes three to six years with a staff 100 to 1,000 and hundreds of millions of US dollars to develop AAA titles. But Rock Nano developed ArmaGallant in about two years with 20 to 30 people, with a budget that is less than 10 per cent of that of big studios.

How did the team manage to do what is deemed impossible?

Chong Lai reveals the three steps that his team took to bring the project to fruition. It begins with having a clear vision of the product, secured with the determination to face difficult situation.

“Don’t be afraid to tear down and rebuild, to delay a launch or push a deadline back. If it means creating something greater, the cost is worth the trouble,” he says.

The next step to take is to build a strong team that consists of the best in the field.

“I started by running Rock Nano Global as an R&D company to build a strong infrastructure foundation … Our team today consists of veterans from Ubisoft and Zealot Digital, who bring their AAA expertise to the table. They help guide our game’s development, as well as train up the younger members of the studio,” Chong Lai explains.

He added that the company is being run ‘like the Arsenal football club’ with limited budget and a combination of junior and senior staff in the team.

Finally, it is crucial to plan the cash flow of the company, which he refers as ‘the most critical bloodline’. Rock Nano is being funded by an undisclosed institutional fund and angel investors. Going forward, the team is looking for strategic investors in the games industry.

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Game is on

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For Southeast Asian startups who wish to enter global markets such as USA or Europe, or even closed markets like Japan and Korea, Chong Lai has some advice.

For game developers, he would like to remind them that the market has changed.

“The gaming world is no longer dictated by the big boys who decide and tell consumers what makes a good game … It is the gamers who inform and instruct each other on whether a game is fun or not,” he says.

“Instead of creating a game that people would need, create games that people would want … which can organically drive the competitive aspect of the product,” he stresses.

It is also important to dig into one’s own cultural heritage –and other countries’— to find themes and styles that can be globally relevant. Inspired by Akira Kurosawa and George Lucas, in designing characters Rock Nano includes elements of different cultures across the world, from Asia, Eastern Europe and even Scandinavia.

Generally, he also believes in the classic principles of being yourself, building good teamwork and performing hard work.

“Surf less Facebook, watch less YouTube, and post less Instagram. Hard work always pays off,” he says.

Image Credit: Rock Nano