Malaysia’s digital economy is not just about e-commerce and online stores; it also extends to content creation and distribution. Sadly, the fact that Malaysia is a major contributor to video game development often goes unnoticed. The Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is looking to change this state of affairs by increasing awareness of Malaysian game developers; and it is starting by hosting the most ambitious edition of Level Up KL ever.
MDEC’s short term goal for game development is to raise awareness at the wealth of talent available in Malaysia. At the moment, that seems to be working. Malaysian based studios like Lemon Sky and Streamline Studios have been contributing art and animation to AAA titles like Dark Souls, Street Fighter V, Afro Samurai, and the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. In addition to this, Japanese giant Bandai-Namco has designated its new Malaysian office as the worldwide art centre.
“When they launched, they already had 20 people. Before they [Bandai-Namco] started, we brought them around to the universities and colleges around Malaysia, and they started recruiting. So when we look at it, we bring companies in and help them grow. We were recently at Tokyo Game Show, working together with Matrade to allow them [local companies] to access the Japanese market,” said Hasnul Hadi Samsudin, Director of Creative Content & Technology division at MDEC.
This year’s Level Up game developer conference aims to build on the growth of local talent by building awareness of the game development industry. Guest speakers will be coming from across the globe to conduct workshops and give talks about what it means to make video games; as well as open opportunities for local talent to build connections with international companies.
In addition to the speakers, Fighting Fantasy writer and co-founder of Games Workshop, Sir Ian Livingston is also set to make an unofficial visit.
Running from 7 to 9 November, Level Up KL 2016 will include a 36-hour game jam, two days of conferences, discounted Unity certification, and the GameFounders Asia Demo Day.
The awareness and outreach programme is not only confined to Level Up as a convention, but is also being taken on the road to engage schools. The idea is to get young gamers interested in the idea of making games; thus, encouraging them to learn to code and develop software.
“We want kids who play games to want to become game developers. This year, we started Level Up at schools with Unity. We’re going to secondary schools to encourage kids to make games. Most recently, these guys were in Johor at UTM we had 80 students converge to learn about game. We had schools that weren’t even part of the programme ask to join,” said Hasnul.
The programme is set to visit schools from other states in Malaysia, with planned stops in Penang, Sabah, and KL. It will eventually cumulate in an event to demonstrate what the kids have been working on.
In the near future, Level Up KL 2016 aims to bring 400 people together to talk about game development in Malaysia. According to Hasnul, MDEC has been resisting calls to increase the size of the conference; citing that this is to preserve the quality of the interaction.
Early bird tickets for Level Up KL 2016 are being sold for $100 (about RM410), with an additional $50 (about RM200) Unity certification course for those who are interested in it. These tickets are only on sale until 20 October, after which potential attendees will have to pay full price for them. Hasnul points out that entry to the event is heavily subsidised by the government, as the ticket prices do not come close to covering the cost of bringing in 40 international speakers for the three day event.