Yok Chivalry, co-founder and creative director of Sabay Osja, the award-wining and first Cambodian game development studio, has been enthusiastic about video games since his childhood, not only as a player but also in his dream to develop a Cambodian game franchise for the international market.
Last year, his company made history by becoming the first Cambodian developer to employ augmented reality (AR) – the technology made famous mainly through Pokemon Go, in games designed as smartphone apps. Now, Chivalry is working to give the studio another first by venturing into the untested waters of developing the first Cambodian game for consoles such as Xbox, PlayStation and Switch.
“Although we now have many Cambodian developers making smartphone games, I am sure those who are into consoles want to play Cambodian games on their devices.” he said. “We want to be a local pioneer in this field.”
In May 2017, Chivalry presented his ideas for Angkorian, a scrolling 3D action-adventure video console game, to his colleagues at Sabay Osja. They loved the concept, and since then he has led a team of three animators, an artist and a programmer who are turning the idea into reality.
Angkorian is set in an age of heroes at the height of the Khmer Empire. The evil Tusakan, a powerful demon who controls the powers of darkness, has stolen the Sacred Crystal from the Temple of Light at the top of Kulen Mountain. Now it is up to the game’s three dauntless heroes to fight Tusakan and his minions and return the Sacred Crystal to the temple, restoring peace and harmony across the land.
The player can choose to play as one of three heroes, each with their own special skills, weapons and combos. Monny Cheychesda is a young Bokator martial artist adept with a dragon stick; Panchak Tepi is a beautiful but deadly female archer; and Singhak Kiri is a muscular military man who smashes enemies with his lava hammer.
While Angkorian is inspired by famous video games such as Devil May Cry, God of War and Overwatch, it has many original features that give it a distinct Cambodian flavour. The game play takes place at famous historical sites such as Angkor Wat and Phnom Kulen, while its storyline and brilliant artistry depicts the historic life and beliefs of ancient Cambodian culture.
“We do not only want to create a game that people play for fun, but also the one that shows foreign players the cultural aspects of Cambodia and its people,” Chivalry said. “Meanwhile, local players are also more likely to support a video game with such features because of their strong sense of nationalism.”
While the blueprint for the game has 10 levels, each with a different boss, only the first level has been built after nearly a year in development. Chivalry said the main challenge to completing the project has been budget, but investors have liked what they have seen so far.
“We presented this project to developers from developed countries and they were impressed by it,” he said. “We are going to present it to more local and foreign investors to ensure we get the best possible deal.”
He said the final version of the game could be released within a year for Nintendo Switch, and later on other consoles such as PlayStation and PSP. A smartphone version with in-app purchases will also be made available on Apple Store.
While research on the dynamics of Cambodia’s video game market is scant, Ear Uy, CEO of Sabay Osja, expressed confidence that Angkorian would find solid support in the local market.
“Statistics shows there are large numbers of young people as well as a rising middle-class in Cambodia, while research has indicated a local boom in ICT technologies,” he said. “Cambodian people are spending more and more on entertainment while we are also aiming at markets in other countries.”