Inspiration can strike us no matter where we are, and even tales of faraway places are enough to get our imaginations going.
One Malaysian studio has taken an unconventional approach with their upcoming game, making it that much more exciting.
Midwest 90: Rapid City by Malaysia's Hidden Chest Studio is a unique post-apocalyptic restaurant tycoon game that takes place halfway across the world in a small town in South Dakota, USA.
This led to the game getting some attention in the US, with American outlets praising this upcoming title's portrayal of the midwestern United States.
IGN Southeast Asia spoke to the creator of Midwest 90: Rapid City and how the idea formed in the first place
Introduce yourself and your history within the gaming industry
My name is Keshavar Ganesparan - but everyone calls me Kesh, and I am the co-founder and game director at Hidden Chest Studio Sdn Bhd.
Hidden Chest Studio is a little indie studio based in Malaysia that consists of myself and co-founders Alex Tan and Tan Yi Ming and a small support team.
Prior to this, I did work for a while at the defunct E-One Studio back in 2012 - initially as a community manager and then other roles as time went by, including producer.
How did the idea of Midwest 90: Rapid City come about and what made you choose a Midwestern theme as opposed to a Malaysian one?
The idea of Midwest 90: Rapid City was actually inspired by my friend's restaurant in Petaling Jaya - Betty's Midwest Kitchen.
One night when I was eating one of their famous burgers, I looked outside the restaurant and started imagining, "What if there were monsters outside trying to get it?"
That was the genesis of the idea, but I had really little to no clue what the 'midwest' actually was, besides it being in the USA. After a lot of research on the American midwest, I chose South Dakota as the location for the game.
It's a very humble but interesting place especially with its native American heritage, the historic Black Hills, which was famous during the American gold rush, and the Sanford Underground Research Facility which is located at the Homestake mine - once the largest and deepest gold mine in North America.
In addition, there are also minuteman missile silos buried below the surface nearby to the alien landscapes of the Badlands. All these elements made the perfect recipe for an interesting story and right at the centre of it all is Rapid City. That's why the game is set there.
Malaysia is my home and a great place for a video game to be set in or based on, but I believe when it comes to works of passion, you should follow your inspirations and see where it takes you.
How has time actually changed the original vision of the game?
A lot has changed from the original vision.
As it is right now, Midwest 90: Rapid City is a restaurant tycoon game with a strong narrative component - a feature that isn't common to games in this genre.
There were a lot more unique components to the original idea than just the engrossing story but we had to cut all that out because we didn't want to be out of our depth, and because we have a very small budget to work with.
I daresay at least 60% of the original vision is on the cutting room floor. But I don't see that as a bad thing - we get to focus on making the core idea as interesting and fun as possible and I believe we have become better developers because of that.
Who is the target audience?
We are making this game for anyone who likes the idea of running an American steakhouse, watching it grow from a small four-table joint in a small town to a big restaurant with multiple mouth-watering monster dishes on the menu.
The catch is, you have to deal with the occasional monster attacks. We got a lot of inspiration from the Netflix show Stranger Things for the atmosphere of the game and tone of the narrative so fans of that series can also look forward to M90.
And then fans of games with desolate settings like Fallout will certainly enjoy the world we are building around this game. But rather than a post-apocalyptic setting, we choose to set the game in the future during a New Great Depression.
What were some of the challenges that came about during the production of the game?
As with most indie game studios like us, working around a small budget is the most challenging thing.
I'm sure it's been said a thousand times before but it's especially true here in Malaysia where it's difficult to find financial support other than from the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). And although we are truly grateful to have them, MDEC can only do so much.
The other challenge has been the pandemic. Working from home helps us save costs and it's easier than ever these days with all the communication and project management apps de-incentivising office space.
But I feel games consist of ideas that have to be effectively transferred from the director’s head to the rest of the team. And the best way to do that, especially in the initial pre-production phase, is through face-to-face sessions.
What are some of the neat and easy-to-miss Easter eggs that you have hidden in the game?
M90 is still pretty much early in development, so there aren't any neat and easy-to-miss Easter eggs in the game... yet.
What is your advice for budding game developers to create their own game concepts, stories, settings, and characters?
Be courageous with your ideas but also get a lot of feedback from the right people.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends in the restaurant, film, and game industry to share my concepts with and their feedback and opinions have been priceless. It helped me understand what I want and what works.
I'd also repeat this common knowledge - your team matters. A good team can get anything done and that's how I feel about my team.
In your opinion, what is the secret sauce that all games need to be a success?
For a game about the American Midwest, ranch sauce is the secret sauce. On a more serious note, I can't answer this right now but I will when I find it.
When can we expect the full release of Midwest 90: Rapid City?
We have no fixed date for the full release, but we do plan for an early access release of Midwest 90: Rapid City at the end of October 2021.
Are there plans to expand the series further in the future?
There are just too many things on the cutting room floor to go to waste and a very big story to tell beyond Rapid City. I would like nothing more than the chance to bring that to people who will find something special in Midwest 90: Rapid City.
The full article originally appeared on IGN Southeast Asia
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