Zombies get an Asian twist and win over Chinese market

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Chinese Zombie War (CZW) has so far been downloaded 500,000 times and comes with its own brand of a rich mythology.Chinese Zombie War (CZW) has so far been downloaded 500,000 times and comes with its own brand of a rich mythology.Chinese Zombie War (CZW) has so far been downloaded 500,000 times and comes with its own brand of a rich mythology.

By Palau Shavin

In case you didn’t know, the world is fascinated by zombies. With the success of the Resident Evil franchise (both in the video game world and a little less so in the movies) as well as The Walking Dead television series, not to mention the big budget Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z earlier this year, zombies are not just cold corpses but are blazing hot.

And they’ve caught on in Asia too, thanks to the efforts of three Malaysian video game developers who have mined the rich mythology of the east to breathe new life into the zombie phenomenon.

Chan Kam Wai, Lim Soon Aik and Wong Yee Hsien are the founders of Tomato Animation Sdn Bhd, which is behind the highly popular and addictive 3D CG animation game, Chinese Zombie War (CZW) 2.0, presently available only from the Apple AppStore.

CZW 2.0 was launched in May 2013, and has so far been downloaded 500,000 times and has been certified as a hit (gauging by its ranking in App downloads) in the all-important China market, as well as in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Tomato Animation Studio’s success in penetrating the China market with their first ever fame is indeed a major coup, as they are competing with thousands of game developers, many of whom have a lot more resources and experience.

But, as Chan, who goes by the name Charlie, explains to Business Circle, they are dreamers and gamers who believe they have the right combination of factors to hit a chord with players.

Chinese Zombie War is a novel, story-driven game that also has an emotional touch,” says the boyish looking Charlie.

“It was inspired by the Chinese Ghost Story, and the story has some elements of romance too,” he adds.

The plot revolves around a Taoist monk who ends up having to battle zombies in the jungle with the help of a female ghost. The monk uses weapons in the form of talisman to destroy the zombies who, unlike the western cousins, don’t stagger around aimlessly, but hop rather animatedly towards their prey.

Charlie, 29, explains that they did a lot of research into Chinese mythology to ensure there’s depth to the story.

“We have a rich mythology to delve into, and we don’t need to import the things from the west. We have our own ghosts, ninjas, samurais, warrior monks and heroes. For us the storyline and plot is very important. There’s a balance between the action and the conversation. You feel for the characters, and even cry when they die.

“The game is free to download and play, but players can purchase items within the game, such as talismans, to get past zombies and some situations. The player determines the storyline, actually, by what he decides to do,” says Charlie, who became enamoured by video games after playing his first on the Atari computer back when he was nine.

He met his future partners while doing his degree in 3D art at Multimedia University. Both Charlie and Lim were recruited by game developers Codemasters in 2006, even before they graduated, and Wong was their supervisor at the company.

They worked with Codemasters for three years before decided to pool their resources and start their own studio.

MDeC lands a helping hand

“At first my parents, who are both school teachers in Seremban, were not very supportive of this career, and tried to convince me to take a bank job. But they gradually realised that this was something that was my dream,” says Charlie.

Luckily for them, Lady Luck was smiling down on them, and they managed to get a grant from the MSC Malaysia Integrated Content Development Programme (Icon), one of the government initiatives run by the Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC) to drive forward the app developing industry in Malaysia.

CZW, which cost RM100,000 to develop, has so far generated US$30,000 in revenue for Tomato Animation, and the founders have big plans to take CZW even further.

“The prototype CZW –version 1.0 was released in 2010, and we let it run for a year to test out the market and see what areas we could improve. Then we started work on CZW 2. All the work was done in house – from the storyline and storyboard, animation, coding, gameplay, even music,” says Charlie.

Come Dec 21, the app will finally be available for Android devices, which will greater expand the reach of the game. Tomato Animation also plans to release an updated version of CZW on the same day, which Charlie says will include new levels, in-game objectives and different weapons.

Besides this, Charlie says they also have plans to develop an animated series, as well as a comic book and sub products, such as T-shirts, toys and key charms. So look for a Chinese Zombie hopping its ways to you soon.

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