Friday, April 27, 2012

Chad of React! Games Talks Helam

1:39 PM by Mike ·
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With the recent release of Helam: A Stripling Warrior Quest from React! Games (link) and Deseret Book, I thought it would be great to hear a little about it's design and development. Chad Lee, owner of React! Games agreed to an interview. Our questions are in italics, followed by his answers.

Can you tell us a little about how you got into game design?
Quite by accident. One day, back in 1994, I was having a really bad day at work and for no reason I can explain, I looked in the want ads for another job (while still at work) and saw a small ad for a video game company looking for an artist. I took a couple pieces of paper with drawings on them and applied. They called me a few days later and hired me as a character designer and that is how I started. Since then, I went on to be an animator, which is my favorite. After video games, I went into advertising, then started my own animation studio called Studio 4d1 (link)…which is a dumb name, I know. I did that for about 8 years then started React! Games.

Can you tell us about React Games, how it came to be, the games you’ve developed, how many people work for React Games, etc.?
I started React! Games back in 2008 to remake a game called “Archon” (link) which was developed in 1983. That was our first game, which was released in 2009 and we’ve released over 25 games since then. Our latest, which we’re very proud of is Presidents Run (link)…which started out as a test project and was initially finished in 16 days. We currently have 20 people working here and our projects are quite varied from mobile to PC and Facebook.

How did the idea for Helam start? Can you walk us through the process from idea to actual game? What was your main objective or goal with the game?
I’ve always wanted to do a Book of Mormon game. As a Native American, the Book of Mormon was an essential part of growing up. I learned, as an early child, the stories of Alma, Ammon, and Helaman. We wanted the Book of Mormon to come to life for young kids and what better way to immerse someone than by way of a game. Our designer and co-founder Brad Moss headed up the design and storyline for the game and we pitched it to Deseret Book. They were ready for it and it wasn’t much of a struggle on their end to decide to do it. It was a low budget game in the beginning, but we put in our own money, heart, and soul and went way beyond the budget, but it was something we had to do. At one point, near the middle of production, we almost cancelled it because of various reasons, but a few miracles happened and we were able to finish it all because of the team that was working on it. If you think working at a video game company is all fun and games, I can tell you it is hard work…some of these guys worked 16-19 hour days for weeks at a time to finish the game, and they did it. Since this was going to be the first legitimate attempt at a Book of Mormon game by a studio, we had to make it look and play great. I think we exceeded our goal given the amount of time and budget we had. We finished the game in less than a year.

Any possibility of seeing Helam on the iPad?
If there are enough people who would want it on the iPad, we’d make a version for that too…the game mechanic would suit the iPad very well and that is where I play most of my games.

(So, if you want to play Helam on your iPad then you better let React! Games know!)

Will there be any other LDS themed games coming from React Games?
There is a coloring and puzzle app on the iOS called “Heroes of the Book of Mormon” which is on the store now, but we’ll have to see how the market evolves. Unfortunately, our games need to make money and since the LDS market is niche, there isn’t a lot of demand or an easy way to recoup money for a high cost game.

Do you collaborate with designers from outside of React Games or do you take game design submissions from others?
We generally do our own design within React! although there have been situations where we’ve collaborated with clients and their designers, so yes…we’ve done both.

Thanks Chad for your time. We appreciate it!


Dane Trimble said...
April 27, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Great interview Mike. Thanks for taking your time to do this.

Sarah said...
April 27, 2012 at 5:26 PM

When we were in seminary, the boys in my class always thought it would be cool to have a video game where you got to be Ammon and chop off the arms of attackers in an attempt to protect your sheep. The closest we ever got was a "Stagecraft Creator" version (so very basic) but I think it's great that you're bringing the Book of Mormon to life in an interactive way... I'll have to tell the guys from my seminary class :)

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