Founder and CEO Chong Lai (left) with the Rock Nano team. (Photo credit: Rock Nano)
By Billy Teo
Here be dragons: What a mash-up of a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) and a card game looks like in action. (Photo credit: Rock Nano)
It’s not that often that a Singapore game development studio launches its flagship game on Sony’s Playstation 4 console – and tops that by releasing the PC version on the immensely popular game distribution platform, Steam.
Yet that’s just how Rock Nano stacked the deck right with ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny, now adapted for the PC under a new name: Deck Casters.
Founder and CEO Chong Lai, reflecting on the studio’s growth, said: “Years ago, we started out as an R&D company dealing with AR/VR, holograms, 3D mapping, IoT and tracking technologies. Coincidentally, all these technologies are suddenly trending now! But our love for art and technology naturally led us to game development today.”
The studio’s labour of love, ArmaGallant, arose out of the development team’s personal game preferences, which include Starcraft, League of Legends, DOTA2, and even Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering.
Hence, the game plays like a ‘greatest hits’ battle arena edition of all these famous games, mashing up real-time strategy with building a super card deck. Gamers know the drill: Players lead squads of magical creatures to battle enemy forces.
IMpact News sat down with Chong Lai for a not-quite-serious chat to get an update.
Congratulations on the launch of Deck Casters! How do you guys feel about this milestone?
It has truly been a roller-coaster journey! Releasing on Steam is just the start of a new marathon.
We have now started developing the software patches, based on the constructive feedback given to us.
Victory in an exciting strategic magical battle is always on the cards. (Photo credit: Rock Nano)
What can gamers expect from Deck Casters?
In Deck Casters, we can listen to gamers’ feedback and respond faster with updated patches that reflect how they want the game improved, or at least, the direction they wish to see the game evolve. It is harder to do so to update for the console version. Hence, our update patches should be as fast as we are able to get the, shall we say, 'Deck Casted', fast.
(Editor: Thankfully, that was the only play on words involving the PC version's title.)
We listened to the gamers and removed the micro-transactions, there's no pay-to-win mechanism as all cards are unlocked, and the match making is now based on P2P (peer-to-peer). I feel that we can serve PC gamers better on the Steam platform.
How has the response from gamers been so far?
Some positive comments, and some very valid feedback that we are planning to address soon with new Steam patches.
What we have observed is that gamers are always looking for new ways to play the game.
What’s it like to develop the same game for different platforms, in this case, the PS4 and PC?
We have to take note of different things, like controls, target audience and even small details like user interface tweaks.
This may sound obvious, but playing games on a console controller is very different from playing with the mouse and keyboard control scheme on a PC.
How did the stint in the Games Solution Centre (GSC) set up by IMDA’s predecessor (MDA) help Rock Nano Global?
The stint in GSC helped us to achieve our goals from day one.
From starting up development to events and business leads, the GSC allowed developers like ourselves to grow our studio. We were able to use GSC as a launchpad to ship our game.
(Editor: The Games Solutions Centre (GSC) was designed to be a one-stop resource centre for games development. In 2016, GSC was relaunched by IMDA as PIXEL to spur and nurture the next generation of digital content creators.)
How would you describe your journey thus far? What movie can we compare it to?
Our 'Heroes’ Journey' so far has been long and enduring!
We started with a 'Call To Adventure' (at GSC), went through a massive 'Ordeal' (difficulties on our Asia Launch), but revived through a 'Resurrection' (Box Disc Worldwide launch with a games publisher).
Our journey is like a bittersweet adventure, which has bonded us together in overcoming challenges, as we all become Jedi.
(Editor: With apologies to Joseph Campbell and George Lucas.)
Your competitors want to know: What are your future top-secret world-conquering projects?
We will continue to improve and expand the IP (intellectual property) for ArmaGallant. Even the huge brands like League of Legends had to first grow a community from humble beginnings.
Concurrently with ArmaGallant and Deck Casters, we are developing a new mystery mobile game which will introduce new ways to play a game – something that has never been done in the market before!
Expect it to be announced and revealed at our partner’s Amazon booth during GDC (Games Developers Conference) 2018!
(Editor: Obviously, Rock Nano has mastered the mystical art of Games Marketing 101 from watching too many E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) announcements).
Always bring cards to a magical weapons fight. (Photo credit: Rock Nano)
What’s Rock Nano’s secret for developing a game for a global audience?
It would be, ‘leave your ego behind and throw it out of the window’ and always listen to the feedback of gamers. Basically, we do our best to make great games for gamers.
We also believe in being the 3Rs (resilient, resourceful, and result-oriented).
Finally, we believe in staying positive no matter how life want to put you down.
Don’t look back or hold back, and simply do it while moving forward.
What would you like people to think of when ‘Rock Nano’ is mentioned?
That all of us here at Rock Nano will do our best to make never-been-done-before “great games for the gamers”, and which are original, creative and fun.
Think of us as a band of good-natured fun-loving people, bonded by the challenges we overcame as a team, the laughter we shared as friends, and the tears we shed together as a family.
But I would stress that Rock Nano Global is still a work in progress, still working towards a thriving culture that is unique to us.
It may be a cliché, but we want to be an innovative place where our creativity can soar, and most importantly, we want to create opportunities, like conjuring something out of nothing!