This month in Indie-Ana Co-Op, we're talking with Malaysian developer Sim Yih Chun, the one man development team behind Nerdook Productions and the recently released Vertical Drop Heroes HD. One thread that comes up again and again throughout our talks with devs is the passion they have for making games, and Sim certainly has that. Whether it's Flash-based, board, or full-on PC games, he wants to make games and wants them to be fun.
Co-Optimus: Tell us about Nerdook Productions and how you got started in games development. You’re based in Malaysia, correct?
Sim Yih Chun: Hello, my name is Sim Yih Chun, though I’m more commonly known as Nerdook. Nerdook Productions is actually just one guy (me), and I’m the coder, designer, artist and animator for all the games I’ve released. My music skills are not quite up to par, however, so I usually work with a bunch of musicians on the music for the games, including my wife, who’s just absolutely talented!
Yes, I am based in Malaysia… in the state of Sarawak, on the beautiful island of Borneo. I started my career in the oil and gas industry, and in my spare time, mostly on weekends, I dabbled in Flash game development. I’ve always been interested in games of all kinds… I spent most of the afternoons in my teenage years drawing little cartoon men on cardboard, cutting them out, making custom dice, and, uh, “convincing” my brother to try out the home-made board games I made. When I found out you can make your own games on a computer, I was thrilled: my very first PC game was made using simple VB script in an Excel spreadsheet. In 2010, after a series of rather simple Flash games, I made the surprise hit Cluesweeper, and that led to sponsored games and eventually on to full time game development.
I’ve released 25 games on various Flash portals so far, mainly sponsored by Kongregate, with a combined count of over 50 million plays worldwide for all those games.
Co-Optimus: Tell us about your first full PC title, Vertical Drop Heroes HD.
Sim: Vertical Drop Heroes HD is a complete remake of one of my earliest games. The original Vertical Drop Heroes is about 4 years old now, and that was an early experiment in procedural level design for me. Vertical Drop Heroes HD takes the spirit of the game (“vertical scrolling, procedurally generated, platformer-RPG hybrid”), and overhauls almost everything else. It has a completely new engine, being built in Gamemaker Studio instead of Flash. It has a new game structure, a new level generation system, a lighting system, new artwork, a TON of new skills, enemies, bosses and levels. In the original, you started out as a weak peasant, and opening cages allows you to morph into various heroes. In the HD version, the game generates three random heroes, generated from all the weapons, upgrades and skills you’ve unlocked in previous playthroughs, and off you go on a randomly generated adventure!
The original Vertical Drop Heroes saw you changing your hero class by rescuing other heroes in locked cages
Co-Optimus: Why the transition from Flash to full PC?
Sim: It’s more of a sideways expansion, actually, because I released a Flash game just last month as well. Flash is great to work with, it has a huge audience, and a relatively low barrier of entry, but it has its limitations as well. The main limitation, for me, is the lack of easily accessible graphics acceleration. I experimented with technology like Starling, which allows Flash to access the graphics card of your PC, but found that it was all rather overwhelming. In the end, I switched to Gamemaker Studio and loved how easy it was to get everything going!
Another reason for making full PC games as well is for financial reasons. I have a daughter now, and while the Flash gaming community is awesome, making ONLY completely free to play browser games might not be the smartest financial move, going forward. Therefore, I decided it’s time to widen my horizons, learn new skills, tackle new challenges, and try my hand at making something much meatier than my usual Flash games.