Category Archives: Vykarian

Back in the PRC

After a 10 day trip to the US I’m now back in Hong Kong. The primary focus of the trip was to meet with potential clients for Vykarian, the Chinese art outsourcing venture. Xin and I visited 5 cities in 10 days, taking an average of 6 meetings per day. I flew from Hong Kong, through Narita, into Los Angeles. From there we visited Austin, Dallas, Seattle, and San Francisco. Xin also visited San Diego.

From a sales perspective the trip was a huge success. The thing that amazed me the most was how much the industry has shifted towards outsourcing in the past two years. At almost every studio we visited we were introduced to someone holding a title such as “Outsourcing Manager” or “Outsourcing Director”. In the company’s previous incarnation Xin spent a lot of time explaining how outsourcing could increase game quality and help scheduling. Now days it seems everyone simply gets it. No longer is it a question of “why” but “how”.

I also spent time on this trip meeting with potential technology suppliers for the new game studio in Shanghai. We checked out various engine technologies, talked with studios that are working on or have shipped episodic games, and got a general feel for the industry’s tech usage. Man, there a lot of shops using Unreal 3!

Across the board we saw some really cool games being produced. I was impressed by the variety and originality of the titles in production. But I had to laugh at the number of times I heard the line “We’re working on combining 1st person dynamics shooter with RPG elements.” I think everyone’s reading the same market reports.

We saw a lot of familiar faces and visited some pretty awesome companies. My two favorites were probably Valve and Nintendo. The sheer cool-factor at Valve has to be experienced in order to be understood. There is a palpable sense of cutting edge culture in the place – from the organization of the development teams, to the technology, and the team members themselves, i.e., “That guy animated Golem.” !! Nintendo’s culture is a little less visible, but the same sense of dedication to innovation is clear. Walking through their massive on-site museum gave me pause… The time I’ve spent playing the products from this company, yikes.

Valve Office Nintendo Museum

There are a lot of interesting trends emerging across the industry, from episodic games, to in-game advertising, mini-MMOs, console mini-games, and a clear focus on trying to break out of the sequel-me-too rut. All in all, I think gamers have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. I certainly wrapped up the trip feeling inspired and hopeful.

At least I feel that way about the games industry. It seems that while I was away… the US turned into a frikken police state! I had my shaving cream confiscated in LA because my zip-lock bag was the “wrong size”. Was YELLED at about my laptop not being out of the bag in Austin. Had my cleaning liquids (shampoos, body soaps) removed from me in Dallas – more zip-lock malfunction. Never mind that the airport security line now looks like the entrance to a mass orgy – passengers must remove all extraneous items of clothing as well as shoes. The current system adopts the “guilty until proven innocent” mentality – we’re all terrorists now. I’ve never felt more un-American in my life. My tax dollars pay for this?!

id freedom

The irony of this all is that upon returning to Hong Kong (A “Special Administrative Region” of the communist People’s Republic of China) I was issued a customs waiver. This waiver allows me to enter and exit the country through an digital customs channel. Swipe your digital ID card, press your thumb to the scanner, and presto, you’re through customs. The people working the X-ray machines treat you with respect and actually act as if they work for you. Not as if you are their prisoner. Viva la difference.

But then, the Chinese are more interested in the smooth flow of business than they are in false threats used to control their populations. Like I’ve said before, this is probably due to the fact that they already exercise 100% “control” over their population. Let’s just hope that after King George gets all the power he’s after he’ll let us go back to feeling like we’re free… even if we’re not.

Thought: Someone should market bottled water branded “Freedom”. I’d like to see the TSA start confiscating everyone’s “Freedom”… but they’d probably make that sort of commentary illegal before it went too far.