12/12/2011

Vietnam gamer relives Dien Bien Phu

Vietnam’s best-known exports are probably rice, coffee and Nike shoes but one software developer hopes to start changing that with the international release of a Vietnamese shoot-em-up computer game early next year.

Vietnam’s best-known exports are probably rice, coffee and Nike shoes but one software developer hopes to start changing that with the international release of a Vietnamese shoot-em-up computer game early next year.

Nguyen Tuan Huy of Emobi Games claims “7554″, set during the war of independence against France in 1946-54, is the first major video game produced by a Vietnamese developer.

The game is named in commemoration of 7 May 1954, the day the Vietnamese army – which had evolved from a band of guerrillas under the leadership of general Vo Nguyen Giap – finally overran the French positions at the battle of Dien Bien Phu.

At a time when many economists and analysts are fretting about how Vietnam can move from low-cost manufacturing to a more knowledge-based economy, Huy is one of a handful of Vietnamese tech entrepreneurs leading the way.

The country’s budding tech sector has already attracted interest, with eBay taking a 20 per cent stake in a Vietnamese trading website and DeNA, a Japanese mobile gaming company, acquiring a Hanoi game studio this year.

With little prior experience in computer games, it took Huy and his team of young developers three years to develop 7554, which resembles popular Western shoot-em-ups like Medal of Honor.

It cost 17bn Vietnam dong ($817,000)  to develop 7554, which Huy provided himself. Given the prevalence of software piracy in Vietnam, he is not hopeful of breaking even, which would require 100,000 sales.

Overseas sales, however, would certainly help. He is targeting the US and Japan initially although a cheap price tag of $12. That is in proportion to the international limitations of the game, with English subtitles but only Vietnamese dialogue and no online gaming option.

While multi-player online gaming is incredibly popular in Communist-ruled Vietnam, Emobi did not develop this option as it judged that it be would be too politically sensitive to allow local gamers to take on the role of the French army and “kill” Vietnamese soldiers.

Other differences with similar games include the more limited weapons options, which, he says, is designed to better reflect the reality of combat led by a people’s army.

Emobi Games has submitted 7554 to Steam, a leading US digital distribution platform for games. Huy is waiting to hear whether it will be accepted.

He hopes the game will establish Emobi’s reputation and help it develop more profitable forays into the fast-growing online gaming market.

“Vietnam has a domestic computer game and online gaming market of $150m,” Huy says. “The overseas market also has good potential for us but we need more creative ideas and technical knowledge.”

LỌC THEO