MANY people enjoy playing video games as a hobby — subduing villains, saving people and earning points in a virtual realm.
The complexity of creating games is also a given.
Ding Shen, meanwhile, enjoys both creating video games and playing them.
Growing up in Kajang, he was fond of rock climbing and video games.
He also watched Disney movies and the Power Rangers cartoons, which he credits for giving him vivid imagination.
His earliest memories of video games involve booting up a Windows 95 computer to play games with the use of floppy disks.
He was already an active gamer during the golden age of video games, when Super Nintendo, Nintendo Gameboy and arcade machines were thriving.
While growing up, he loved games such as Super Mario World, Megaman X and Final Fantasy for their gameplay depth and narrative focus.
Ding Shen then discovered his calling in computer class at secondary school.
He used Adobe Flash to make interactive web pages and became intrigued by them. He started to experiment and managed to make a game out of it.
After seeing his cousin’s joyful expression from playing his creation, he decided to learn digital animation at The One Academy with the aim of joining the video game industry.
Today, he is a technical artist at Passion Republic, a Malaysian video game development studio which has worked on titles such as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Mortal Kombat X and Batman: Arkham Knight.
He also creates mobile games for his personal game development studio, O.P.Neon Games.
Ding Shen is adept at the technical side of 3D computer graphics such as rigging, creating a skeleton for a 3D model so it can move and scripting (the process of creating actions using code).
He also has a good grasp of animation, thanks to his studies at The One Academy.
He also designs game art. As for programming, he codes using C# to create game mechanics and logic in Unity or Unreal Engine 4.
Ding Shen starts his work by conceptualising an idea. In the case of his popular mobile game SumiKen, he drew inspiration from Capcom’s Okami as he loved the ink-painting art style.
Then, he prototypes the game to see if it works well and is fun to play.
He then codes the game, draws the artwork and integrates it into the game engine.
These processes need multiple changes to improve the product.
It took him four months to create SumiKen. He burnt the midnight oil, often finding himself still working on the game at 3am while still juggling his day job.
Ding Shen’s proudest achievement is SumiKen: Ink Blade Samurai, his first mobile game on Android and iOS.
The game, featured in the SEA App Store, was selected as one of the Indie Prize finalists at Casual Connect Asia 2017 in Singapore. It has attracted over 40,000 downloads. Ding Shen is amazed at its success as it was his first try and he did not work on it full-time.
As technology is evolving at a rapid pace, he has to adapt to the ever-changing environment by learning new techniques.
“I want to create memorable and fun games. I want to blow people’s minds and package the elements in a game. If you are interested in games development, his advice is to have thirst for knowledge, never be afraid to ask and take action.
“You just have to be willing to learn. And most of all, love what you do.”
What is your work philosophy?
Compete with yourself, be better than what you were yesterday.
Who do you look up to (role model) and why?
My mum — for teaching me to be hardworking. My dad — for teaching me to endure the challenges of life.
What do you do in your free time?
Create and play games, rock-climb, cook and spend time with family and friends.
What would you be doing if you were not in games development?
Backpack and go around the world. Hike to the top of a mountain.
Do you have a preferred programming language? If so, what and why?
I prefer to code in C#. It’s the language I am most familiar with and it’s simple.
Do you have a dream job or are you living your dream?
I am having fun doing what I am doing currently. I am living my dream already. I just wish to improve my skills.
What do you think of game developers in Malaysia? Are they competitive on the global platform?
Of course! At Passion Republic, the artists are driven and constantly improving their craft. But the game industry is changing at a rapid pace so we have to catch up too. Locally-made game PostKnight hit millions of downloads on Play Store recently. Malaysian game developers can compete on a global level.