This is e-mail interview with Kim Jong Hwa aka AmbitiousK, who is a game designer and also a programmer of HandMade Game, Korean student's team. HandMade Game won prizes for Palette and Rooms in the 2007 IGF Students Showcase.

Handmade Game Homepage :

Korean version of this Interview.

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1. In advance, would you present games and members of HandMade Game to our readers?

HandMade Game was built out of some students in dep. of Film, TV & Multimedia, Sungkyunkwan University, Korea. Like the one and only handicraft, we do our best to create games which give player unique experience. HandMade Game doesn't have fixed members yet, because we have selected different people who have abilities and enthusiasm from our department's students on each project. Here are our members who have participated in each project.

Palette ? Kim Jong hwa(Game Design, Programming, Art Design)
Rooms - Kim Jong hwa(Game Design, Programming), Lee Yun jin(Art Design), Lee Soo kyung(Art Design), Park Soo bin(Art Design)
Rooms Mobile - Kim Jong hwa(Game Design, Programming), Jang Soo young(Art Design) - on developing

2. Both Palette and Rooms, which were developed by HandMade Game, won prizes in the IGF Students Showcase. In Korea, it is not a very famous competition, and Korean developer teams hardly participate in it and win the prize in it. In spite of these facts, why did you participate in it? Could you tell us any anecdote interlaced with winning the prize in the IGF?

When I was a freshman, my professor showed me 'Bad Milk', an IGF-winning game, in the Game Workshop class, so I got to know IGF for the first time. 'Bad Milk' was an experimental adventure game that used an actuality film. It impressed me because it was a very unique game that I wasn't able to find.

After that, I surfed web pages like Game Tunnel and and played high-evaluated and prizewinning games, so I got to have a great interest in independent games and IGF.

3. It could be a confidential question, but could you tell us terms and costs of developing each game? Also I wonder if you have been received support of budget or equipments.

Actually, we hardly need any money but food cost, because we work among students. (I think this is one of the most advantageous things when making teams while we're students.)

Palette cost us 200,000 won (200 USD) at food cost and collecting materials, and it took us two months to design and another two months to develop.

When we were making Rooms, food cost came high because the team of five was working, and it totally cost about 1,000,000 won (1,000 USD) at the cost of ordering BGM, filming the character, etc. When we were shooting, the department offered us equipments like blue screen equipments, lighting setups, and cameras. We officially received support by KOCCA(Korea Culture & Content Agency).  It took 2 years to design, and 10 months to develop.

4. [Palette] and [Rooms] are not so-called 'Korean Games.' What inspiration and conception let you make those unique games?

My professor always tells me to give unique experience to players. After I have found importance of independent games from Game Tunnel and IGF, I wondered how those games gave unique enjoyments to players.

One day, I saw a tissue stained with ink and hit on an idea of making a game play using colors, so I got to make Palette.

And I got an idea of making Rooms in June, 2004, and I was a freshman. (It was one year before making Palette.) I got inspiration from a work of a Danish artist during an animation class. It had six separated frames in the picture, and the hero wander from frame to frame to find his girlfriend. It was very interesting visually because of many separated places. After class, while I considered how I can make a great game play on that picture, I hit upon an excellent plan to move rooms like sliding puzzles. I have developed this idea for two years making notes about it and collecting photograph materials on my trips to Japan and Europe.

5. Cultural artists of Korea, especially who are related with overseas, are somewhat pressed or have a sense of duty to make 'particular Korean culture.' I wonder if HandMade Game has ever been this situation. What would you do if you were suggested making something with characters of Hanbok(the Korean traditional costume) or making a word game with Hangeul, the Korean alphabet?

Actually, when the production of Rooms was progressed by 50%, there was an opinion that the graphic was too European, and it would be popular in overseas to include Oriental factors, but it was too far from the original concept, and we couldn't plow up all sources that we had been making. (Somebody joked that it was same with changing pizza into rice cake.) Also, we thought that solid blocks wouldn't be harmonized with organic Oriental sense, so we decided to produce it with the first idea.

When formal factors like a game play and rules are harmonized with dramatic factors like a story, characters, and a visual concept, it would be a very good game. I'll produce a game according to Korean manners if its visual concept meets its formal factors, but if not, I wouldn't. Personally, Cloud of USC is the most impressive game which has harmony of formal and dramatic factors.

6. As a gamer and an artist, how do you think of Korean games world?

It's a quite hard question to answer. Last year, no Korean game was nominated in GDC's Game of the Year, so I wondered why Koreans weren't able to make great works like Shadow of the Colossus.

The Korean games market has been called particular because online games are the biggest mainstream. In my opinion, that is game developers in Korea are pushed into environment which they have to develop online games whether they want to do or not. Online games are obviously interesting and worth trying, but it's not all of games. Without an ability to develop package games, it wouldn't be help for development of the whole game industry in Korea to just change existing package games into online games and make environment which players can compete with each other.

Generally, environment of games market which let players play various games and let developers also make various games has to be built.

7. Could you tell us your favorite games and games that have had influence on you?

* Major games

Commandos : I love extremely minute strategic games like this.

Worms : Exquisite harmony of skill and strategy ? I get vicious whenever I play this.

C&C/StarCraft/WarHammer4K/TA : These are my favorite RTS.

Metal Gear Solid : It has impressive direction like a movie. 

Final Fantasy : It always makes me cry.

World of Warcraft : CanSay, undead necromancer, 48Lv, MingTakKom clan, Elune server in Korea

*Independent games

Gish (Chronic Logic) : An impressive game play using physical laws.

Hamster Ball (Raptisoft) : Simple, but you'll be addicted to it. It has many epigones.

Cloud (USC) : It stimulates susceptibility!! I feel healing.

Alien Shooter (Sigma Team) : Smashing up ignorantly is also good.

Ocular Ink (Pistachio Studio) : As you draw, skills act.

Strange Attraction : A one-button game. It made me think about the relationship between interface and the game play.

Braid : A game play distorted the stream of time! I shocked. (I wasn't able to have it so couldn't play it.)

8. Finally, is there anything you want to tell to readers of Pig-Min?

I have thought that Korean gamers need independent games portal sites like Game Tunnel. Nice to meet you, Pig-Min!

One day, I heard that games are non-mainstreamers, and independent games are whole games' non-mainstreamers. Many of Pig-Min readers would be interested in games development, so I'll tell you. I think all works in any mediums shouldn't have a partiality for either commercialism or artists. Independent games would be the mainstreamers if developers make many works with popularity and novelty.

In last year's GDC, a member of Darwinia which won the best prize of IGF said that "We didn't want any publisher, because we didn't want publisher fuck up our game". Then, I could feel his great affection and pride on his work. I hope that in Korea, independent games developers who have affection and pride on their games will be treated well soon.

Korean version of this Interview.
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