Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Young Siem Reap video game design studio eyes next level



Young Siem Reap video game design studio eyes next level

DirexPlay’s Sok and Sao’s Adventure has been their most successful game to date. Photo supplied
DirexPlay’s Sok and Sao’s Adventure has been their most successful game to date. Photo supplied

Young Siem Reap video game design studio eyes next level

Siem Reap brothers Visal and Rothana Chhourm have been playing video games since they were kids – which wasn’t that long ago. Now, only 19 and 24 years old respectively, they’re making their own.

Visal and Rothana, together with their friend Roeun Malis, are the engines behind a small Siem Reap tech company, DirexPlay, which last month released Wrath of Fighters, a multiplayer fighting mobile phone game in which players can customise their characters, available on the Google Play Store.

The company is starting to make a splash with gamers in Cambodia with their slick, cartoony games, but their success hasn’t exactly been immediate.

The friends released their first game three years ago, a puzzle game inspired by Angry Birds called Hungry ObOb. The result wasn’t what they might have dreamed of. 

“We pulled it,” said Visal. “We didn’t have any experience with game development, so it was buggy and not user-friendly at all. We learned a hard lesson. But we didn’t feel discouraged. Our parents also supported us to carry on with what we were doing.”

So they went back to the drawing board, each with their own different role — Visal as the programmer, Rothana as artist and Malis as designer — and started again. 

Many different elements go into creating a mobile game, from the technical mechanics to the rules, the characters, sounds and so much more including, of course, the goal. The creation process can last from three to six months. Wrath of Fighters took less than 100 days, a record for the team. 

“First we try to think of many different ideas and note them down,” explained Visal. “Then we start brainstorming about those ideas to see which one is the best and most fun. Once we find it, we start prototyping and testing to see if the idea really works. 

“If it doesn’t work, we go back to the first step, and if it does, then we start production.”

Game creators Visal and Rothana Chhourm with Roeun Malis. Photo supplied
Game creators Visal and Rothana Chhourm with Roeun Malis. Photo supplied

It was their third foray that has brought the most success so far. Sok and Sao’s Adventure launched in late 2014, and has since been downloaded between 50,000 and 100,000 times.  

Inspired by Contra, a Nintendo game released in the 1980s, Sok and Sao’s Adventure takes players on a quest to defeat dengue fever, which is represented by giant mosquitoes.

But it runs deeper than that. 

“The game was made to show many cultures from different countries, like Thailand, Cambodia and Brazil. We wanted to show our culture, and to get others to see their cultures in the game,” said Visal. 

“So we included things like buildings, temples, animals and mystic creatures that are unique to the different countries.”

While most of the downloads have been in Cambodia, the second-most popular destination for Sok and Sao’s Adventure is Brazil. While it hasn’t seen the same success, Chasing Zombies, released last year, has still seen more than 10,000 installs, and garnered a 4½ star (out of 5) rating from reviewers.  

Currently, they’re fixing up Wrath of Fighters based on the feedback from users. In a few short weeks, the game has already seen more than 5,000 installs. For the future, they’re still listening to their users before deciding what they’ll work on next. 

Notwithstanding their success here and abroad, it’s still been difficult to make a living from their games. “It’s really difficult, but we still love doing it,” said Visal, explaining how cheap advertising in Cambodia makes it difficult to pull in a revenue stream. 

“We still don’t know how to make an addictive game yet, and we’re still searching ourselves. But the feedback from players is important for our next game improvements.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a