The man who introduced roti canai in Final Fantasy XV is now on an important mission.
IN 2009, Wan Hazmer Wan Abd Halim signed up for a one-and-a-half-year course at a Japanese language school in Tokyo, Japan solely for the purpose of writing a proper 10-page video game proposal.
He then submitted the proposal to several Japanese gaming companies to try his luck.
Hazmer’s determination landed him a position as one of the lead game designers for Final Fantasy XV, working with Square Enix, a renowned video game developer company, in 2010.
Final Fantasy XV is an action role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix, and is the 15th instalment in the company’s Final Fantasy series. When Hazmar joined Square Enix, he was determined to learn as much as he could as he knew he would return to Malaysia one day to liven up the local gaming scene.
After seven years with Square Enix, having been involved in projects such as Final Fantasy Type-0 and virtual reality Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV, Hazmer is finally back for good.
He founded gaming studio Metronomik in December last year to begin his mission of developing the local gaming industry.
Hazmer started playing games when he was 5 years old after his father bought him a computer.
“But when I wanted to play console games, I would go to my cousin’s house as he had all the latest games,” he says.
When Hazmer turned 16, he realised that he always had issues with the storylines in the games. This gave him the idea to pursue a career in the gaming line.
“I wanted a career in game design but there were no such courses back in 1997,” he says.
As a result, Hazmer enrolled in a computer programming course at the Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology, now known as Asia Pacific University.
After graduating and working in the advertising industry, Hazmer started creating games between 2006 and 2007. His best effort, Ballistic Wars, won awards at the Casual Game Design Competition in Kuala Lumpur.
After this successful start, he decided to go further but was undecided whether to go West or to continue his passion in Japan.
“Most of the books I bought covered western philosophy in game design but not the Japanese. I finally decided to go to Japan to learn more about gaming,” he says. During his stint in Square Enix, Hazmer was in charge of the culture team where he was given the geographical location of cities in the game and he had to populate the places with culture elements.
He introduced Malaysian food culture into the game, including warung (mamak stalls) elements, roti canai as a food that must be eaten for battle, as well as our beloved teh tarik.
BACK ON A MISSION
“I feel that the creative industry in Malaysia has so much potential, if it is properly nurtured.
“Some people say we do not have enough culture to make games. Some even say the culture we put into games is not relevant to gamers in the West.
“I wish to change this perception,” he says.
Hazmer and his team of 14 are currently working on the game No Straight Roads, a third-person action game that is tied to many musical instruments.
His favourite music genres — rock and EDM (electronic dance music) are the two main genres in the game.
Designed for personal computer and PlayStation 4, the game is now at its pre-production phase.
Hazmer says a lot of ideas have been solidified and the production process will begin in May. In the game industry, a game usually takes between two and 10 years to complete.
“I believe you can come up with a game in one year. If you can’t, it could be because the director is putting too many ideas into that game,” he says.
No Straight Roads will be completed in December and be released in January next year.
Besides coming up with a game per year, Hazmer plans to collaborate with artists to create more music-skewed games.
His bigger plan, however, is to focus on the culture part in gaming as well as highlight creative thinking especially in education.
“The Japanese are able to successfully incorporate their culture in animation. Why can’t Malaysians do the same?” he asks.
“It’s not just good graphics but the user experience and how seamlessly it connects with their lives,” he says.
Towards this end, Hazmer has already signed a collaboration contract with Polytechnic Metro Kuala Lumpur and is currently in talks with few other universities in conducting workshops on creative thinking in gaming.