Making a Game in Two Days - I do it because it's fun

* What do you think life looks like for those who work at a game company?
In our Peopleon series, we dive into this question by speaking directly with those who do the work at Krafton. Today we look at PNIX, one of Krafton's affliates possessing a unique company culture. PNIX creates games rather quickly with the majority of their titles undergoing 8 to 10 months of development before they are officially released. They also hold a game making contest every year. We spoke with them in-depth.

"Hello Mr. Hahm. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise. I am Seung Won Hahm, and I belong to the Golf King team here at PNIX where I'm in charge of level design for 'Golf King - World Tour.'"

"Could you be a little more specific on what it is that you do?"

"I make the golf courses which are used when playing the game. I design the terrain and those that do the art take that and form the rest of the map."

"As I understand it, Mini Golf King and Golf King World Tour are PNIX's flagship games."

"That's right. When I first started at this company, I was the one in charge of level design for the Mini Golf King project. After that, I was put on the Golf King - World Tour project."

"I'm curious as to how you came to work for PNIX."

"I studied interior design and architecture when I was in university. After I graduated, I did some work in interior design before entering the gaming industry. I discovered that, even in this field, there's work I could do related to spatial design. Also, I always felt that interior design has a lot of overlap with game level design given that it highlights the act of design over artistic sensibility.

"This may be a bit obvious, but isn't there a difference between designing a level in a game and designing an actual space?"

"There are physical limitations when designing an actual space, but when it comes to working with virtual space, one doesn't have as many of these restrictions. There are also so many people that use the space as well. Furthermore, the design of an actual space requires people to use it as the designer had intended, but when we're talking about people who play games, they explore and use spaces in ways that had never even crossed my mind. I find that to be really interesting."

"Doesn't the level designer also have to know quite a bit about game development?"

“Of course. I primarily design the space within a game, but until that game is fully finished, I also have to understand all of the other necessary work that goes into it. I also need to communicate with the game developers. Before I started working here, I didn't know anything about game development. The people I work with have really taught me a lot since day one. I used to approach them with so many questions.”

"Did you know anything about PNIX's games before you were hired?"

"I first came to know about PNIX from their mobile archery game, 'Archery King.' However, I didn't know that they were a game company specializing in casual games. During my interview for this job, I was shown a prototype version of Mini Golf King, which was in the middle of development at the time. I was told that I would be handling the level design for such games."

"Your interviewer really let you in on quite a lot."

"Right. So, I knew exactly the kind of work I was going to be doing when I got hired. Also, during my interview, I decided to make some pretty ridiculous requests, even though I was completely new. I wanted to have a say in what I was to make right up until the very end. If not, then I wouldn't be interested. Having said that part, I was told not to worry because I was going to be handling most of the responsibilities involved in level design myself anyway." (laughing)

"Has it been difficult at all since you began doing the actual work?"

I applied here because I wanted to be independent in my work, but after I actually started doing it, I found it to be extremely hard. (laughing) But after saying what I said during my interview, I kind of had to see it all through... So, I had to do a lot of studying. I've grown a lot from that whole process.

"What would you say is a defining feature of PNIX's mobile games?"

"I think casual games have to be simple and easy to play. Simple, but difficult to master, and they should be fun. I think PNIX's strength lies in this area. Because you can pretty much control everything with just one button, you know."

"Are games something you've always had an interest in?"

"Games are my life. You could say I go to the internet café on Monday and I don't come out until Sunday... That's because I used to play WoW (World of Warcraft) and even now I'm constantly playing a lot of different games, including those made by PNIX." (laughing)

"If you were a regular WoW player, then you must not really be into casual sports games, right?"

"Ah, actually my favorite thing about WoW is its 'battle pets.' (laughing) So, I kind of enjoy casual games too."

"As you mentioned, you've been involved in the development of PNIX's golf games, so does that mean you know quite a lot about golf?"

"At first, I didn't know anything. Actually, Mini Golf King is different from real golf, so that wasn't an issue. As for Golf King World Tour, my friend, who is a pro-golfer, had her caddie take me to a golf course and from there I was able to learn little by little." (laughing)

"How long was Golf King World Tour in development before it was officially released?"

"It took about six months to make the prototype version of it. And after the bugs were all worked out, there was another good three to four months where I was involved before the game was finally put onto the market. That doesn't sound like that long of a time for making a game, does it? Most of the games that PNIX makes are released within eight to ten months from when they're first started, and from then on they can be played worldwide. That's the thing about casual games, it's important to beat the clock. You have to be the first one to take on a genre that nobody else is bothering with yet. A halfway decent knock-off should not be allowed to survive. It's a bit tight, but even so, PNIX knows what they're doing when it comes to game development and releasing them to market."

"I take it you're also eager to try your hand at more large-scale games?"

"Oh, for sure. Though they're not exactly large-scale games per se, I do participate in PNIX's Game Jam event every year where I and some of my close colleagues form a team and try creating games that we have always wanted to make."

"Is that like some kind of game making club?"

"When you say 'game making club,' that makes it sound like we spend a lot of time on making just one game. No, Game Jam is where we have only 48 hours to fully develop a game and submit it. It was first held in 2018 and for its first two years we had a time limit of 48 hours. For this year, which is its third year, they decided to make it a long-term event. Now, the company gives us two days out of every month to spend working on our Game Jam project."

"What's the reason behind having this Game Jam event?"

"Oh, I'm not the one who organizes it. I'm just one of the participants. I guess it's because after a while of making casual games, you kind of get thirsty for something more. From participating in Game Jam, we can get many different ideas the more time we spend working on games that we ourselves would like to make. If what we come up with is good, then it has a chance at actually being released onto the market. In this way, it's also beneficial to the company."

"You mentioned that you've been participating in this event since the first year it began. How do you feel about your results?"

"The first year I participated, I got last place, but then for the second year, I won. (laughing) Actually, the first time I took part in the event, I had only been at the company for three months. Even though I was new to the gaming industry, I got really greedy and tried to create a game that most would find difficult to understand. In this event, the staff has to play test all of the entries before casting their vote; and so for that year, most of the feedback I received was about how they couldn't understand my game. When the following year came around, I made a zombie shooting game. I made it hoping to just make up for the participation fee, but the game was actually well received."

"Does this Game Jam event get super competitive?"

"We fool around sometimes and we enjoy ourselves, but yeah, I would say it's pretty intense. I've secretly downloaded some of the other teams' projects before, so I could play and build upon them. (laughing) I get really serious when I'm developing a game. If my opinions differ from those of my teammates, I try to adjust so that we're all on the same page. There are some teams made up of only a few people, but in my case, since there's still a lot I don't know how to do, I formed a team with a group of people who have a variety of different skills like programming, art, UI, and so on. With their help, I'm learning a lot."

"Have there been times when you were disappointed with your work, but found you were able to improve as you kept at it?"

"Yes. The work I'm doing now doesn't require any important skills, but if I wanted to learn something, I could use the opportunity I have during Game Jam for that. Game Jam also offers inexperienced developers the chance to learn a few tricks. I've learned quite a bit myself from participating in the event."

"Have you ever had a moment while working here at PNIX where you felt really proud of yourself for having come this far?"

"While I've never worked at any other game company before getting hired on here, when I look at my friends who are working in the industry, there are times when they are developing games that the opinions they have fall on deaf ears. A big thing with PNIX is that they whole heartedly take my ideas into consideration. That's the best part."

"So, your ideas are guaranteed then?"

"Generally. If in the beginning, the boss asks why I did something the way I did it, I would explain just what my intentions were. If he tells me to fix it, I would further explain what I have in mind. (laughing) There are times when they understand my side of it, and times when they don't, but for the most part, they come to see it my way and occasionally they'll be like, 'See what the players think.' (laughing) I would collect feedback from the players, and then make the fixes. I really appreciate them believing in me and providing me with this experience."

"Lastly, what is your goal as a game designer?"

"Developing a broad skill set. Well, I first want to become an expert level designer. After that, I'll just have to find out what my other goals are little by little."

We had the privilege to chat with Seung Won, who, even as he sees to the release of games every year, spoke about his eagerness to learn new things. We also were able to reflect on what it means to have a sense of accomplishment. Rather than work being the essence of fulfillment, isn't it that which we have earned? We'll be sure to keep you all well informed about all of the tireless efforts that everyday individuals on putting forth right here at Peopleon.


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