Developer Interview Series: Ben Wong

Chris Natsuume and I have been monopolizing this blog way too much; Boomzap has developers all over South East Asia, all of whom are talented and interesting characters (at least, we’d like to think so). We’re starting a series of developer interviews so you can meet the people behind Boomzap and its games.

Our first victim is Ben Wong, an artist from Malaysia – otherwise known as “Employee #1.” (He was the first employee to join Boomzap, after founders Chris and Allan [Simonsen].)

We hope you like this interview, and check back often so you can meet the rest of our team. Cheers!

Luna Cruz – Producer/designer

What do you do for Boomzap?
All kinds of stuff. Probably best classified as “whatever it takes to getart into the game”.

What were you doing before you joined Boomzap?
Was working as an *cough* animation director *cough* in a dodgy company that now does not exist. Before that though, I had a good run of years working in game companies locally; even dabbled a bit on series/production animation in Taiwan for a brief while.

What’s it like to be Employee #1?
Being a pioneer means I had to put up with more abuse from these two than anybody else has to. But, it actually feels good – I mean, working in Boomzap feels good. Not the abuse. The abuse was a joke (of course you knew this).

I’d attribute this to the fact that both Allan and Chris treat all employees as co-workers and friends. And personally, that’s probably why I’d work hard to make things happen. I hate to disappoint friends.

Which projects have you worked on, and how did you find the experience?
I think I’ve somehow gotten my hands dirty on all of Boomzap’s games, with the exception of Braincurve and Magic Lanterns.

How has Boomzap changed since you started?
With the times. We’ve moved from casual gaming, doing genre to genre…to a stint in MMO, to platforms. Only never straying from always trying to churn out games that are fun and enjoyable.

Tell us about your life in Malaysia. What is your typical day like?
Like most working Malaysians, I get stuck in the morning traffic. Have to send some members of the family to work. In town. Real early. Proceed to get me cuppa tea. Then I’d start work once I reach home/office. Lunch depends on work or appointments or errands. You tell one friend that you’ve got flexi-hours… then everyone starts looking you up for lunch (cause you’re always available). You tell one family member that you’ve got flexi-hours… then everyone dumps errands on you (cause they think you’re always available). Such is Life I’d be back, get the day’s work done, hopefully before 6pm so I join the rest of the disgruntled Malaysians in traffic as I need to fetch some members of the family FROM work. In the event I don’t get things done before that, I have the option to work later in the nights… or pull a weekend or two. Like I said – hate to disappoint friends, so I’d try to not keep anyone waiting on me at work.

What’s it like being an indie game developer in Malaysia?
I suspect there’s not much recognition down here. I doubt many know that there are game developers in Malaysia. But I can’t really confirm as I’m pretty much a hermit in the game development community But it was a great moment to read the local daily and see a full article reviewing a good game you made (even though nobody knows you had a part in it).

What is your home/virtual office setup like? (You can share photos if you like.)
Probably not a good idea. I’d like to keep the illusion that I’m a well kept and tidy person.

What kind of gear do you use? (You can be specific about tech… unless you are not proud)
Heck, I’m ol skool. I dig that I’m using a 17 inch monitor the size of a telly. It’s so heavy my computer table’s warped. But it’s been there for a good 5-6years and has done me good (you’ll have to imagine cause you ain’t gettin no pictures).

Specs on the comp: AMD Athlon 64 processor, 1.81 GHz with 1 Gb of SDRAM. I think I have a graphics card…. -___-”

What are the neatest art tricks you’ve learned over the years?
Orange clashes with Cyan. Very much. I think I’ve learned to tone them down to not clash that much now. I think.

Where do you get inspiration for your art? Any favorite artists?
Not really any firm favourites. I admire a lot of works from various artist over the years. I enjoy works by the classic masters: Da Vinci, Rubens, Klimt while in college. Loved Bill Sienkiewicz, Jim Lee, Frank Cho, (comics) in the 90s… The guys at Capcom (whoever you are)…

I guess I’d try to emulate a lot of different styles I see and like. Of course, whether it comes out successful is a different story But anyhows, I think everyone inspires me to some degree… ex-collegemates… ex-colleagues… current colleagues. I think everyone’s got something I’d like to steal off

What games are you playing now?
I’m trying to stop playing Fallout 3. Also trying to stop playing Gears of War. And Guitar Hero. Seriously. I need to stop.