What it takes to develop a Filipino video game – as told by Ranida Games

Ever wonder what it would take to create a Filipino video game?

As Told By… takes a closer look at today’s issues, as told by those impacted the most. Today, we’re looking at what makes a truly Filipino game, as well as what local game developers have to say about it.

There are some games that are inextricably tied to their country of origin. The most obvious of these would be games from Japan. But outside the land of the rising sun, games such as The Witcher (Poland) or Metro (Russia) have identities inextricably linked to where they came from.

With this in mind, we couldn’t help but wonder how a game taking inspiration from Filipino history would look like. Luckily, we here at Variable were able to talk with a game company that’s keen on doing just that in our latest episode of The EXP Show with Franz and Bea: Ranida Games.

A game of Philippine heroes

Variable featured Ranida before. In a previous article, we talked about Bayani, the fighting game featuring characters based on Filipino historical heroes.

As the story goes, Bayani was inspired by a social media post by actor Epi Quizon on how he had to explain to students why his character in the film Heneral Luna never got up in his chair. The team realized that the students were not aware that Quizon’s character, Apolinario Mabini, lost the use of his legs due to polio.

This eventually led to the team at Ranida—with help from artist Anthony Dacayo II, who created the initial character designs—creating Bayani. The idea is that people can become more familiar with heroes from Filipino history by playing the game.

To this end, all of Bayani‘s characters are creative takes on Filipino heroes from our Spanish colonial past. Indeed, future updates to the game promise to expand its coverage even more. The team shared with us details on a character inspired by Lapu Lapu and another representing American colonization.

Over the years, many games have shown off the culture and history of their country of origin. For example, CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher series, based on the books of the same name, borrow heavily from Polish and Eastern European folklore.

Then there’s the myriad of Japanese games, such as YakuzaNiohSamurai Shodown, Sekiro and more, that put the country’s culture and history front and center.

That said, there’s one thing that these games have that locally developed games, such as Ranida’s Bayani do not—a budget.

The big hurdle faced by Filipino video games

Games cost money to make—both for big triple-A games like the Witcher 3 and indie Filipino video games like Bayani. Sadly, there isn’t much investment in locally developed video games yet. As such, very few local studios can go about developing their own IPs, let alone create one that celebrates our culture and history.

Most locally developed games like Bayani are smaller, indie titles whose developers often have to scrounge for money and do odd jobs for other companies to get their games out the door.

Ranida is no stranger to this, having developed a game for the Philippine Basketball Association, PBA Basketball Slam: Arcade Edition, before working on Bayani. In addition, the members of the team are also doing other jobs, albeit at the cost of Bayani‘s development.

It’s this issue of funding that has held local game development studios back.

To address this, Ranida partnered with other indie studios to form the Philippine Independent Games Initiative, or Project PIGI for short. This project hopes to take up-and-coming indie developers and show them the ins and out of independent games development. This, of course, includes the business side of things, including how to look for funding for their games.

Should the initiative be successful, we might finally see a Filipino video game that can match something like the Witcher 3, an expansive role-playing game that draws from local culture and history.

Ranida has already said that such an RPG would be their dream game.

But in the meantime, Ranida is plugging along doing smaller games. They’ve just launched the open beta for Fighting Pride: The Manny Pacquaio Saga, a mobile game based on the life of the famed boxer turned politician’s career.

Hopefully, the games like these can continue to get the studio’s name out, eventually letting them work on bigger projects.

You can learn more about the challenges faced by local video game developers by listening to our latest episode with Ranida Games.

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Franz Co

managing editor | addicted to RGB | plays too many fighting games

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