Brandon Wu led a testing team at Electronics Arts for the The Sims series and was a “numbers” man for Sony Corporation's Network Products and Services before turning indie. At Sony, he was working in the strategy division at the Tokyo headquarters, focusing mainly on consumer Internet, networked services, and connected devices such as the PlayStation Network.
Brandon had sat silently watching an industry make games that were unlike the ones playing in his head. He resigned from Sony in 2010 and founded Studio Pepwuper, with the hopes of appealing to an underrepresented market of casual games that tell a story. Brandon's first game, Megan and the Giant, attempts to appeal to that market.
Game Rant: Your name associating press release worked. What are the elements reminiscent of Pac-Man and Metal Gear Solid in the game?
Brandon Wu: "There's the aspect of when the giant gets big being like eating a power pellet, but moreover in that you are in a confined space, trying to get to certain points and collect items while the enemies are searching for you. I see Pac-Man as an early form of a stealth action game. If we substitute the characters in Pac-Man with characters from Metal Gear Solid and let the player control Snake, you can see that Pac-Man suddenly becomes a simplified 2D version of Metal Gear."
GR: What would you like to say about your transition from business to programming?
BW: "Besides having to learn programming and all the other aspects of making a game, I went through a huge mental transition in terms of how I think about business. At Sony, I dealt with projects that have millions in budgets. With Studio Pepwuper, there's no outside funding, and every penny counts. In my previous job, what I did mostly was planning. Now I spend my time doing things myself and making things happen. I pay close attention to what's happening in the business of gaming, especially on the topics of social, casual, and indie games so that I can keep myself motivated and informed in this fast-moving industry."
"On the personal front, it's been very difficult separating home from work, and work has been on my mind 24/7. The uncertainty of the future is also both exciting and frightening at times. The experience has been very rewarding, and I would love to share it in more detail."
Going from one to another takes a lot of guts
GR: I see "family friendly" and "kid" in the game description. What is Megan's target audience?
BW: "From my earlier play-testing, I realized women tend to like the game better than men, and people who aren't used to playing games tend to like it more than people who have had experience with games. Megan and the Giant was designed for kids (elementary school level), but also for adults who enjoy what can be called children's literature - such as books by Roald Dahl or animations by Disney or Studio Ghibli."
GR: Was Megan the type of game you always wanted to create?
BW: "I see a big missed opportunity in the game industry. We have the traditional games that are very sophisticated, tell great stories with quality visual/audio elements. But they are usually designed with content that only target core gamers (male 18-35) -- action, fantasy, sci-fi, sports, shooting, etc. And on the other end of the scale, we have casual games that cater everyone outside of the core gamer demographic, but often times limited to repetitive puzzle or time management games. Many of these puzzle/time management games are great, but they are not for everyone. I believe there is a market for casual games that tell stories. They don't have to have complicated plots or complex gameplay, but a context to give the player a sense of purpose, and a gameplay that's easy to pick up and enjoy. I think it's human nature to be drawn to stories. We grew up with bed time stories. It is stories that enabled movies to be enjoyed by everyone, and I think they can do the same for games."
"Megan and the Giant actually started as a story, an idea I had while visiting London. It took me a while to decide on a gameplay for the story. Metal Gear Solid has always been one of my favorite games, and the hide-and-seek style gameplay is fun and easy to grasp for most people. In the end, I simplified the stealth action control and gameplay for Megan and the Giant, and limited the scope of the project so that it wasn't too big for me to finish it by myself."
"I've always wanted to make games that I can introduce to my wife, my parents and her parents too! And since none of them play games, I know my games need to be simple to understand, easy to pick up and play, and have characters that they can be interested in. So in this regard, Megan and the Giant is the game I've always wanted to create. It won't win any awards in best visual or audio effects, but it is one game that I can recommend to non-gamers and imagine them enjoying it, and perhaps even lift some of the stigma that non-gamers feel towards video games."
GR: Have any indies or professional studios helped you along the way?
BW: "A friend of mine, Yu Chen Wang, helped me with some concept art. I received a lot of help from the Unity 3D Forum and the Unity 3D community in general (Ruben and Efraim from UnityPrefabs, Aron Granberg, Brady Wright from Above and Beyond Software, and many others ). A few friends helped test the game and gave me really good feedback along the way. (This by the way, was critical -- it's nerve wracking to show people your game, particularly in the early stages, but it's the best advice you'll get. You are working too closely to the game to see its flaws otherwise.) I talked to a few professional studios in the beginning but decided I wanted to make this game on my own so that I can learn as much as possible about game development."
GR: Should hardcore gamers try Megan?
BW: "No. Megan and the Giant wasn't designed for hardcore gamers. I think a lot of them will find the game too easy or too simple, especially compared to what hardcore gamers are used to seeing on the consoles, unless they love stealth action games and want one that they can play on their phones."
Game Rant would like to than Brandon for taking the time to speak with us. Follow Brandon Wu on Twitter @plinan.
Megan and the Giant is available now on iTunes at a release sale price of $0.99.