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The Fool shows a child or youth, while the Magician depicts an all powerful adept. Just as the Fool showed us the price of eternal innocence, so this Magician gives us the fearsomeness of taking on responsibility. If the Major Arcana represents the Fool’s journey, the Magician is the first thing the Fool encounters.

The game that I worked on last year was announced this month at E3. Front Mission Evolved, a game from Square Enix, is slated for release in 2010:

Front Mission Evolved: Trailer

It’s the latest Front Mission sequel. It takes a departure from the predecessors because Front Mission Evolved is going to be a multi-player capable first/third-person shooter instead of the traditional isometric-view tactical simulation game. Another significant break from tradition: this game will be available not just on PS3, but Xbox 360 as well PC.

Looking back, it was a memorable and enriching experience working on this project.

I was involved as the project manager for the concept design during the pre-production phase of the game development. Square Enix wanted Skan Srisuwan – then with Imaginary Friends Studios – to be the lead designer for the characters, mecha and environmental art for the game.

Front Mission Evolved Trailer: Game play

Square Enix had engaged Double Helix, a California-based studio to develop the game (incidentally, Double Helix has Singaporean interns working at their studios under EDB’s exchange programme). The prestigious Japanese game company had reached out to non-Japanese developers because the producer – Mr Shinji Hashimoto – had wanted a make a game with international appeal, and not just for their domestic market.

Skan Srisuwan working on a Wanzer

So how did a Singapore-based Thai artist end up working on this project with Square Enix? 

Back in 2007, Square Enix was a participant CG Overdrive. During that fateful event, Mr Hashimoto chanced upon Skan’s portfolio in one of Imaginary Friends Studios artbook. Square Enix asked for a pitch and Skan worked his butt off to impress Mr Hashimoto’s team. With that, he clinched the job.

I jumped at the opportunity when Skan asked me to be the project manager, and it gave me the first-person experience of game development. Looking back, it’s certainly an adventure that I will fondly remember.

It was a three and a half man team working on the project (me being the only non-artist). Skan and I traded ideas on the designs. Then he would sketch them on his catridge pad.

Thumbnail sketching

Once he’s satisfied with a form or a sihouette, he would get his apprentice, Verawat Verasunthorn (aka Vee) to model it in 3D Max.

Skan and his apprentice, Vee

Skan’s is influenced by Katoki Hajime, and applied the industrial design process to his mechanical concepts. Although there were no requirements to provide 3D models – which was definitely more time consuming, he chose to render his ideas into 3D models so as to check the feasibility of his concepts in 3D space.

3D acceptance test

Both Skan and Vee worked long hours in the studios in order to deliver the highest quality in spite of the punishing deadlines. Meanwhile, Kai provided the moody image boards (set-pieces).

This adventure brought me places…

Square Enix’s HQ in Tokyo

Skan and Kai at the production meeting with Square Enix

Square Enix’s offic in Los Angeles

…and also dinner with legendary figures – Mr Shinji Hashimoto and his team

Pre-Production Wrap Up Dinner hosted by Square Enix, with Imaginary Friends Studios and Double Helix

This is certainly an eye-opening experience that hopefully will lead on to more good things.

Meanwhile, both Skan and I are now back to school – myself, I am upgrading my skills and knowledge for the steeper climb ahead while Skan is now teaching at the FZD School of Design (read more about FZD here) so as to generate more talent resource to staff the industry. The animation, games and comics (ACG) industry, or what the Singapore government terms as “interactive digital media” has been marked as Singapore’s next growth engine – and looking ahead, there’s definitely alot of opportunities, as long as there’s enough talents here (whether local or foreign) to bring in the jobs and investment.

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