- As lead designer of Final Fantasy XV, Wan Hazmer always intended to take everything he knows and start a company in Malaysia.
- The company is called Metronomik, and is now working on their first IP: No Straight Roads.
- Besides the game, Wan Hazmer envisions Metronomik as playing a producer role in the Malaysian gaming ecosystem, because Malaysian developers need to analyse their work with a more critical eye.
When Wan Hazmer started work as the lead game designer for Final Fantasy XV, he was always upfront with director Hajime Tabata that all of the skills and know how learned will be flying back to Malaysia after the game is finished.
He ended up staying in Japan longer than intended, but his homecoming culminated in the launch of his own gaming company—Metronomik.
Starting out with RM300,000 initial capital, the team behind Metronomik is well underway into their first IP (Intellectual Property) five months since their launch and a few investors under their belt.
But Wan Hazmer has a gleam in his eye for more.
“We need to have more IP creators that are critical,” he said about the Malaysian scene.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant when I say this—I want to wake people up,” said Wan Hazmer.
These days, a single click of a button can put your game on Steam or the iTunes store to compete with apps and games offered from all over the world.
“It might feel and look good in Malaysia, and it might be special compared to other Malaysian games—but how does it compare to Call Of Duty? God Of War? Even Angry Birds? Monument Valley? Will your game sell?”
He thinks that many of us make games based on specifications—for example, some will say that they want to make an action game, and talk about the bells and whistles they’d like to add to it.
“But they don’t offer experiences. The emotional context of the game,” said Wan Hazmer. “These are the things that I learned while making FFXV: the mindset asking if Final Fantasy XV will beat other games available. How do we make Final Fantasy XV relevant again?”
He envisions Metronomik taking on a producer role—to help ingrain that critical eye into the local scene.
Wan Hazmer wants more of the unique Malaysian point of view to make its way to games, and was adamant that this needed to be more than just injecting Malaysian elements into existing game templates.
“When it was announced that I was starting a game company, many [were suggesting that I] just make an MMORPG starring Hang Tuah.”
“That is one of the most shallow ideas I’ve ever heard,” he said.
“You’re just replacing the main character with Hang Tuah. What about the rest of the legend? How about the world of Malaysia at the time? That’s important. What’s Hang Tuah’s story? I feel like people always just want to replace something with something else.”
But it’s more than just shoving in Malaysian-isms into a game and shouting about it.
“It’s not just about pushing our identity. What’s important is how we view the world, how we view food, how we view war, how we view things is different than how the rest of the world thinks. If we can actually sell that, then I think people will recognise the Malaysian industry is something to be reckoned with.”
And while an IP is very much part of Metronomik’s vision, they want to offer something more. In fact, Wan Hazmer thinks that creating an IP is just Metronomik’s first step towards proving their worth in the Malaysian ecosystem.
He wants to help bring the Malaysian game scene closer together, to educate them and to facilitate collaboration. And he’s already begun collaborations with educational institutions such as Politeknik Metro and various others.
“We don’t have a good producer position in Malaysia, and I’m hoping to change that.”
In the long run, Wan Hazmer is even playing with the idea of creating a cultural hub, to help both entertainment producers (like game producers, for example) and traditional artists collaborate.
In his opinion, many Malaysians only have a shallow understanding of their own culture, and meanwhile many traditional art practitioners can’t find a way to connect with the younger generation. He thinks that a volunteer-based organisation can help both ends of the spectrum.
All of his principles reflect strongly in the game that they are creating.
Wan Hazmer’s vision as a producer extends far, but as for Metronomik’s unique point of view as a game developer, Wan Hazmer wants it to focus on one core—music.
But he doesn’t mean rhythm games.
“I know that everyone loves music, but why isn’t everyone playing music games? It’s because [not everyone has the] hand-eye coordination needed.”
As opposed to a normal rhythm game where good hand-eye coordination gets you the points, Metronomik is doing it differently.
“Let me just change that game a bit, where you have to control and move character left and right to avoid the bars. What happens? Now you have an action game.”
The current IP they’re working on now is called No Straight Roads—an action game starring an indie rock band trying to topple an EDM-based record label— a game very similar to Nier Automata or God of War.
To help bring this vision to reality, the small team also includes Falk Au Yeong— the music engineer behind games like Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts.
They’ve also brought on an ex-director from international advertising firm Ogilvy to help create advertising campaigns based on the EDM-centric villain company within the game—all in a bid to create a nuanced in-game world.
“We’re going to have a lot of these musical references, and it’s not just [something shallow like] putting Micheal Jackson on stage. It’s relevant in the sense that: how do you treat music?”
“Why does a musician play music? Why do you listen to a specific kind of music, or support this band? Why do you criticise someone else’s taste? Your own connection and values towards music; in this game, we question that a lot.”
Therefore, No Straight Roads features long bosses—each with its own story and message. But whether those messages are geared towards them or the players, Wan Hazmer will let the players parse it for themselves.
Metronomik also includes a 3D sculptor from Lemon Sky, a creative director who was the illustrator for Street Fighter 4 and 5, and even a 3D modeler who wants to try their hand in writing stories, which Wan Hazmer is happy to facilitate.
“I don’t want to just hire a bunch of veterans,” said Wan Hazmer. “Then you might come up with a game that’s already out there.”
His current 15-strong team was stitched together from Wan Hazmer’s own work connections, and from a viral Facebook post calling for talent. It’s a mix of both fresh blood and old souls—a mix of expertise and a fresh point of view.
With a tentative release date slated for sometime in early 2019, Wan Hazmer knows that No Straight Roads will be joining a crowded game market. So to mark a difference, he will not be joining the business race.
“I’m not going to join the free to play model, the Gacha system, the loot boxes. I know it makes money, but I want to come out with a quality game.”
Wan Hazmer is determined that with a team of 15, they’ll only work on one IP at a time. This is to ensure that the team gets to focus on a good product, while a relatively short time can help discipline the team from adding too many unnecessary features that could turn their game into a bloated one.
Eventually, the goal is to bring on more members so that the team can work on more IPs in one go, without sacrificing their beliefs, and without having to clock in any overtime hours.
- To find out more about Metronomik’s day to day updates, you can check out their Facebook page here.