1 team, 7 members, 10 years together. 10 years is a period long enough for many changes to take place, and it is amazing that not just one or two, but all seven members have managed to stay together over the period. However, this shows that having a clear direction and vision is important. It is probably impossible for people to stay together without any reasons. Two couples within the 7 members have tied the knots and this made their relationships even stronger, These 7 members are the team behind RedPig Games, which was started in 2000. I met up with CEO Shin Bong Cheol, the man who lead the team together.
We can do it as well!
Shin Bong Cheol graduated from the ’93 cohort of the Visual Design School in Busan University and year 2000 was the turning point in his life. A senior who was giving part time lectures at Busan University made the following proposal: Let’s make an online game together! At that time, CCR’s Fortress was enjoying immense popularity. When asked how he felt as a designer after seeing the game, Shin gave the following answer:
‘It’s definitely a popular game. However, we can make something of that quality as well.’
This is how he started his company in 2000.
The company was called Dream Media and together with the current 6 members, the senior who proposed the idea and a few others, they had a team of around 10 members. It was a team made up of seniors and juniors of the same university. The company was also located in Busan. In the first year, they released a game called ‘Battle Marine’, where the main character was a submarine ship. The game proved that their confidence was not unfounded. Upon its release, it recorded a high of 20,000 players online at one time and also boasts of 2.5 million users. For a short period of time, the popularity of the game even exceeded Fortress.
With increased confidence, the team went on to develop a shooting game ‘Beetle Wing’. CCR saw their potential and approached the team, publishing their game. By 2003, Dream Media has came up with 3 online games and Shin wanted to develop new games (at that point, he was not the CEO of Dream Media). Together with a few members, he set up an online game developer enterprise, Top Pig, in Feb 2004. ‘Let’s move to Seoul within 2 years’ With that they managed to move to Bundang in 2006 and in 2007, they released their first product.
Their first game is NaNaiMo, a casual shooting RPG game. It was an interesting product that that point in time and it has all the game features available in the industry. However, it took a long time to develop the game. The game was first picked up by Nexon and released in China via Tencent. The game had a record of 130,000 simultaneous online users and enjoyed popularity in China. However, Tencent intervened with the game development and their direction started to change.
We should do what we want to do
Tencents was not satisfied with Nanaimo’s achievements. They felt that there is a need for a bigger scale product that can be enjoyed by adults if they wanted the game to be a big hit. What Tencents wanted was a MMORPG game. Nanaimo was a casual game targeted at teenagers and women. MMORPG games are where the money was good and at Tencents’ request, they started on a project named NX.
At that time, Shin was the head of the developer team 2 and he decided to leave the company together with 14 of the 20 plus members in the developer team. Instead, he chose to invest in Top Pig instead. If he had stayed on, he might have an easier time. However, they felt that it was difficult to do what they were good at in Top Pig.
‘With the start of project NX, Top Pig has decided to move its focus to MMORPG. However, majority of our team, including me, were more comfortable with casual games. We personally are more interested in that area. We felt that we should do something that we like, and are good at. We do not want to do something that does not really appeal to us.’
The 14 of them, including the 7 from the original Dream Media team, set up REDPIG GAMES in Nov 2011. The company name was made to give off a charming and cute image. It’s fitting to their image.
RedPig Games has a total of 19 employees to date and their office is in Gyeonggi Province, Yongin City. Their advantage is that they are already very familiar with each others’ working styles, having worked together for years. 5 or 6 years is the average and there are also people who have been working together for more than 10 years.
The company started with a starting capital of 350 million won, but it is not enough to develop good games. This is why they have been actively sourcing for investors recently.
We will make Korea’s own ‘Angry Birds’
RedPig Games’ first projects are smartphone mobile games Jungle Bell and Zoo Cross. Both are puzzle games and users earn points by matching 3 items in a row. These games will be released shortly later on this month.
Top Pig is focusing heavily on PC games while RedPig Games will be focusing on smartphone mobile games. Besides the 2 games that will be released soon, there are also 3 other smartphone / tablet PC games in the works.
‘Looking at our own lifestyles, we seldom use the computer outside of work. Other people will probably be the same. Using the smartphone or the tablet PC, we are able to complete our stuff and also enjoy the process. We feel that this industry will be bigger than the PC gaming industry in the future.’
RedPig Games is also developing Korea’s own version of a game similar to Angry Birds. Although it will be a similar concept of adjusting the angle to shoot at the target objects, the team is spurring on its developers to create a different feel and adding new fun features. They are also working on a social network game whereby you can run restaurants, decorate them and also design characters. In addition, they have a smartphone version of RPG which is set to be released in June next year. The basic storyline behind the game will be to expand their territories, upgrade characters and to gather all the hidden heroes in the virtual world to form an army to defend against the attacks of devils. Although the company is now a specialized developer enterprise, they hope to turn into a company that also offers game services. To achieve their goals, they are also recruiting people familiar with the service aspects of gaming.
To end off the session, I asked CEO Shin why he decided to start his own company.
‘I believe in people.’
Shin believed in the potential of people who are like-minded and the belief that they will be able to create something together was what pushed him to start the enterprise. Like many other entrepreneurs, he wanted to work with people with dreams. When people get together, one can achieve things that cannot be achieved alone. Their teamwork is strong and the games that they have made over the past 12 years proved the point.
[#M_Click here for the original article in Korean|Hide |7명이서 무려 10년이 넘는 세월동안 공동운명체로 살아왔단다. 그 정도면 강산도 변하는 시간인데 한 두명도 아니고 일곱명이 똑같이 일관되게 마음을 지켰다는 것이 신기하기도 하다. 이래서 사람은 같은 곳을 바라보는 게 중요하다. 아무 이유없이 그냥 같이 지낼 순 없으니까. 그러기엔 젊은 날의 마음은 너무 변덕스럽고 세월이 흘러 나이가 조금만 들어도 지치거나 자신만의 세계에 빠지기 쉬우니까. 같이 오래 지내다보니 이들 중에는 두 커플이나 결혼하는 일도 생겼지만 그러면서 더 친밀해지고 결속력은 더 강해진 것 같다. 2000년에 처음 뭉쳐 지금껏 초심으로 게임을 만들고 있는 레드픽게임즈의 7인. 그 중 나는 이들을 이끌고 있는 신봉철 대표를 만났다.
◆그 정도는 우리도 만들 수 있어!
부산대 시각디자인학과 93학번 신봉철 대표는 군 제대 후 학부를 졸업하던 즈음인 2000년, 인생의 전환점을 마련한다. 부산대에서 시간강사로 강의를 하고 있던 선배가 온라인게임을 같이 만들어보자고 제안한 것이다. 그 당시 선풍적인 인기를 끌고 있던 게임은 CCR의 포트리스. 포트리스를 보고 디자이너로서 어떤 느낌이 들었냐고 했더니 그의 대답이 이랬다. “인기를 많이 끌던 게임이었죠. 하지만 우리도 그 정도는 충분히 만들 수 있다고 생각했습니다. 그래서 게임 만들어보겠다고 2000년에 회사를 차렸죠.”
그로서는 첫 창업이었다. 회사 이름은 드림미디어. 신봉철 김진의 정현옥 임영우 노현태 구자만 신훈교 등 7명에 처음 제안을 한 선배 등 10여명이 이때 모였다. 대학 선후배로 구성된 모임이었다. 회사도 부산에 차렸다. 잠수함이 주인공인 ‘배틀마린’이라는 온라인게임을 뚝딱 만들어 창업한 첫 해에 세상에 내놓았다. 이들이 처음에 생각했던 자신감이 근거없는 게 아니었음이 입증됐다. 나오자마자 이 게임은 당시로서는 놀라운 기록인 동시접속자수 2만명을 돌파하는 등 인기를 끌었고 회원수도 250만명을 넘어섰다. 단기간이었지만 이들이 게임을 만드는 계기가 됐던 포트리스의 성적을 앞서기도 했다고 한다.
자신감이 생긴 이들은 턴제 슈팅게임 ‘비틀윙’을 개발했다. 이들의 실력을 본 CCR이 찾아와 이 게임을 퍼블리싱 했다. 드림미디어는 2003년까지 총 3개의 온라인게임을 만들었고 새로운 게임 개발을 시도하고 싶었던 신봉철 대표(그는 드림미디어에선 대표가 아니었음)를 비롯한 창업멤버들이 나와 2004년 2월 탑픽이라는 온라인게임 개발사를 설립했다. “2년 뒤엔 서울 가자!” 부산에서 시작했지만 서울 입성을 노린 이들은 2006년 분당으로 이사를 왔다. 그리고 그 이듬해 첫 작품을 출시했다.
이들의 첫 작품은 나나이모. 캐주얼 비행슈팅 역할수행게임(RPG)였다. 당시로선 재미있는 시도였고 가능한 모든 게임 기능이 구현됐다. 시도할 만한 가치가 있었지만 그러다보니 개발 기간은 좀 오래 걸렸다. 2007년에야 출시된 이 게임은 넥슨에서 처음 서비스를 시작했고 중국에 진출해 텐센트가 서비스를 했다. 텐센트가 서비스를 맡으면서 중국 현지에서 최고 동접 13만명을 기록하는 등 인기를 끌었다. 그런데 텐센트가 개입하면서 게임 개발 방향이 조금씩 달라지기 시작했다.