Taking multiplayer out of the box

Game industry veterans Ong Kwang Seng and Koh Chun Keat are taking games out of the box.

Even as the industry focused on creating big budget MMOGs, of which both developers had experience working on, the two saw the future of games beyond installation CDs, to the ease of always-on multiplayer browser games.

Leaving senior development positions on triple A games with international studios was not an easy decision. Visions and ideals did not equate to execution and logistics such as equipment and staff.

However, the promise of greater creative freedom and a more mobile development environment in a small team saw the two co-founding casual game developer Lionstork Studios overcoming the hurdles of starting a new games studio to create games that entertain and contribute back to society.

Two years and several games later, Lionstork is comprised of a five man team, each with more than five years of development experience. Today, the studio has created several interactive multiplayer games for social media platforms such as Facebook, starting with the Facebook MMOG Leoguards.

We chat with Kwang Seng and Chun Keat about their latest multiplayer game, Sarah Ghost: The Sewer Defenders and their casual strategy game, Call of Hens, both of which will be featured in the upcoming Singapore Game Box tournament to be held at the end of the year.

Sarah Ghost: The Sewer Defenders is an action adventure game slated for release on Facebook later this year.

1. What is Lionstork's design philosophy when it comes to developing games?

Kwang Seng: We want to build fun games! Just like our logo, we’re the small little lion that hope to be able to deliver bundles of joy and delight to everyone around the world, and make games that challenge conventions as well as inspire the hearts and minds of people. At the same time, we are also very keen in educating through our games. We've always believed that people learn best through play.

2. What are your plans for Lionstork in the future?

Kwang Seng:
I hope that what Lionstork Studios will be able to achieve would be to create international products and IPs that people would love and relate to.

I would like to rejuvenate “old school content”, where main protagonists embody good moral concepts through actions. I hope that the players of our games walk away with a lighter and brighter sense of the world, instead of returning home to play gloomy and sinister content after a long hard day of work or school.

Chun Keat:
To make the world a greater place! We would like to build games that (indirectly) encourage learning and challenges people to think about things from other perspectives. It’s about bringing idea generation and education to the general masses, just like how “Angry Birds” managed to teach physics, yet provide entertainment at the same time. We hope our games and products can inspire people and change lives for the better.

Time your clicks carefully in Call of Hens - there'll always be a weak spot somewhere.

3. Two of your games have been included in the SGGB competition - do you have any hints or tips for participants?

Kwang Seng: Just relax and enjoy the game! Once you grab a good feel of the game pace and get immersed into the environment, you will be able to excel in it.

For Sewer Defenders, my advice would be use the potions wisely and frequently to minimize down time. Try to kite the monsters one by one so that you can take them off and minimize the damage to your own character. Also, get potions from the “Store” in the lab! It’ll help a lot especially in battling the hordes of rats in the last level.

For “Call of Hens” , time your clicks carefully and always look out for the weak spot within the level. Some stages can be cleared just by removing a single block.

The games are not really competitive in the sense of players competing against each other. I would say the challenge arises from the player competing against themselves, and the desire to reach for a higher level of mastery with the games.

Careful item use in Sewer Defenders is one of the keys to victory.

4. What do you think are the best features of each game?

Chun Keat:
For Sewer Defenders, I think the ability for the player to transform is a feature I like most. The transformation is achieved in the game via the green potion – it boosts your character’s movement speed and attack damage greatly. However, the character can only remain in transformation form for a short duration, so players have to strategize which part of the game they should use it in.

We have a building component as well, which will be added in the future. Watch out for it in the game’s Facebook release!

For Call of Hens, I would say that the last level is the one I enjoy most. It really shows the importance of the base tiles to an entire structure. Without a good foundation, just the removal of a tile can cause the whole structure to topple over, which I find very meaningful and applicable to real life.

5. Which of your games is your favourite?

Kwang Seng: My personal favourite is Sewer Defenders” as it has more story and depth. There is a lot we can do within the game, like choosing between paths with different rewards, different monster encounters, and managing the character’s inventory/potions. We’re also trying to build more interactive elements to the game with new environments, such as completely dark areas that require a torchlight to navigate through.

By Leung Wai-Leng

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