Hi everyone, I'm Mark, a game designer based in Singapore, making a video game about a dystopian future Singapore. My team, General Interactive Co., is an indie studio that made Terroir, a winemaking video tycoon game. We're working on our second game, Chinatown Detective Agency, a pixel art cybernoir point-and-click adventure game that takes place in Singapore in the year 2032, when the global economy is in near collapse, and governments are unable to effectively provide services to their citizens, including policing. In a world where Private Detectives are at the front line of justice, Players find themselves uncovering mysteries and conspiracies as protagonist, Amira Darma, former INTERPOL cop.

We draw heavy inspiration from the classic Carmen Sandiego series, The Da Vinci Code, L.A. Noire, Sin City, The Maltese Falcon, Black Mirror and Twin Peaks.

Our Kickstarter is live right now, and we've been getting some pretty amazing support from our backers and the game dev community - expect a few folks redirected here from our other channels.

Proof: https://twitter.com/genintco/status/1243518722733756416?s=20

Ask us anything at all!

EDIT: Hey everyone -- it's 1:40 out here in Singapore, so I'm afraid I'll have to call it a night! Thank you to everyone who asked their questions. I hope I was able to give you the info you're looking for. We take away a lot from these kinds of engagements - as devs, it's easy to develop tunnel vision and miss out on some details that might end up making the game better. So I'm really grateful for that. Lastly, I'd like to apologise to the people who were offended or disappointed with the way we started the AMA by getting friends and supporters to post starter questions (all 3 of them). I hope you aren't too upset with that as we really, truly didn't mean to do anything in bad faith. At the end of the day, we just wanted people who might be interested in this particular AMA to see it. Thank you all so much again!

Comments: 128 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

shittysportsscience79 karma

POST DRAMA EDIT: Sorry y’all wasn’t trying to derail and seems like some bad advice was given on the AMA but the team is moving to full transparency, so u/Mfillon, will there be an educational aspect to the game like Carmen Sandiego?

A few questions:

  • Why are most of the accounts that are asking you specific questions 1 month old?
  • Why have those accounts published links to your kickstarter campaign in the last day or two?
  • Did you pay your employees to post questions on your AMA?
  • Most importantly, how do you feel about astroturfing on reddit?

deadlyhausfrau31 karma

I have to point out the this kind of thing may sound like a good idea on paper, but it can turn off players who perceive your marketing campaign as fake.

For example, I was kind of intrested by the description. As soon as I started looking at the people making comments and reading the thread, I was no longer intrested because I didn't feel like I could trust any of the reviews or feedback.

MFillon-35 karma

I get you, but the thing is none of the questions or the answers are lies. None of them are meant to mislead you or say anything that is untrue. We've got people from our community helping us out by asking questions on an AMA -- and I answer them just to give you more information on the game dev process and how we came up with the ideas. If you were intrigued by the concept of the game, does it really matter that it was because we got someone to ask a question to get an AMA post going? If that's wrong, and I don't think it truly is, I apologise. But in a market that's already incredibly difficult for the little guys like us to break into, getting people interested in the game is a Herculean task -- so help in the form of 'seeder' questions really doesn't sound that bad to me.

deadlyhausfrau42 karma

So you're more or less doing a guided presentation, not an AMA?

I feel like the best way to do this kind of thing is with complete transparency. That is, ask people from your community to mention that they are a member of your community or that they had been following the game in their posts so it doesn't seem like you're trying to make it look more popular with random people.

Either that or mention in your replies that you recognize them from whatever place. "Hey Jen, glad to see you made the trip over from Facebook! Here's the answer. " "We didn't go into this in our discord chat, but..."

By doing that, it looks like people are so interested that they're coming from several different platforms. By pretending that they uniquely found this post, it looks like a set up.

MFillon4 karma

You're totally right - I'll ask those people who we knew who asked questions to edit their questions to mention they're not strangers to the game. Thank you for the explainer, I honestly didn't think it was wrong -- but I see it differently now :)

MFillon-9 karma

Oh, there's no astroturfing going on at all. I can't really speak for the rest of them, but sure, a couple of the questions were posted by people helping our game out - it's nice to have some starter questions to get the post going. I don't pay 'employees' to post questions on AMA -- we're not a company. We're a group of 3 indie devs who are trying to make a game - we're not an evil corporation trying to exploit anyone. We're just here to talk about our game.

shittysportsscience18 karma

Astroturfing (def): the practice of masking the sponsors of a message...to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.

Listen, I was intrigued by the concept but obfuscating through planted questions (even if you’re excited to share about specific aspects of your game) makes this campaign seem shady.

I worked with an indie studio that used this technique and they pocketed the Kickstarter money and never published. Just be real and people will respond.

Also you should ask for a refund if you paid a digital marketing company to help pull this together.

MFillon-8 karma

That's really quite unfair and also a very aggressive stance towards a small group of people just trying to make an indie game. I'm sorry about your past experiences, but to judge us like that simply because we're getting some of our friends to help us out is really rough. In any case, I've already asked those friends and people helping promote the game to label themselves as such in their questions in the hope that it will meet your purity criteria.

HeavenPiercingDrill-12 karma

They're an indie game studio, remember Unidan, you're not an intellectual, Reddit has been a sponsored social network for a years now, get over it

MFillon-4 karma

Thank you, I truly didn't think it was a bad thing. I thought getting friends or community members to ask the first few questions would get rid of the obstacle for some people of being the first to ask a question.

ffs_555520 karma

[deleted]

MFillon-3 karma

Thanks for this. The Kickstarter campaign wasn't the intended focus of the AMA - the game was (with a demo that is playable already available for download). We aren't really a start-up first time developer either as we have shipped a game prior to this one. I think what we were hoping to do was build a community by getting people interested in the game. At the end of the day, the mods will be the last word on whether this AMA is alright, and we're totally happy to abide by their views on it.

goldfish_microwave6 karma

How developed will the feet be in the game?

MFillon4 karma

This has been a topic of furious debate among the team for months now. The verdict: not very developed.

jeremythefreeman6 karma

Want any help with a free Thai translation of the game?

MFillon3 karma

Are you serious? If you are, the answer is a massive 'yes' and I hope you'll PM me!

jeremythefreeman3 karma

Done!

MFillon4 karma

Thanks so much!

Quetzaltototl1 karma

Can I help with the Spanish one?

MFillon1 karma

Hey! PM me!

danielfletcher5 karma

There aren't any official resources such as Wikipedia or CIA World Factbook to almanac to find the answers in like you had to with Carmen Sandiego? I know in 2020 a game won't ship with an actual 400 page paperback book like Carmen Sandiego games did, but not sure from the Kickstarter page if it is just to use all of Google or if you're limiting where it's from.

MFillon3 karma

When we design the puzzles and clues for the game, we like to make sure that the answers to those clues are easily obtainable from online research. You're right in that we don't have the luxury of shipping an entire almanac out with the game (I just bought an old copy of the game on ebay with the almanac, jeez those things were heavy), but I wish I could! Instead, as you mentioned, most of the answers you'll need to finish the missions will be found with quick search on Wikipedia or Google -- but the depth of the research you'll need to do increases as the game progresses. We're even thinking of optional missions that will require some proper full-on research from multiple sources.

danielfletcher2 karma

I couldn't remember what Where In Time shipped with and just had to look it up. Was a desk encyclopedia. Lol I still remember the smell of mine from the Sega Genesis version.

MFillon1 karma

A whole desk encyclopedia? I imagine it probably wasn't any heavier than the almanac, but still, that's massive. I have sadly never played Where in Time -- I recently read this really cool article about the history of Where in North Dakota. Amazing read.

Colloqy2 karma

I had this game. It’s a pretty small encyclopedia, but about an inch and a half thick. It was fantastic! I love history so it was definitely a great memory from my childhood. When will this game be coming out?

MFillon1 karma

I loved the games because I was so into history and geography as well (I had a world map on the wall right above my computer and I'd look at it all day when I wasn't playing, just in awe at how big the world was). We don't have a concrete date of release, but we're thinking some time around Q2 of 2021. Thanks for the question!

DuMaNue4 karma

I guess I have to point out after the whole drama that I am in no way affiliated by the game company...

My question is, will this game be available for Mac?

MFillon3 karma

Hi! Sorry that you had to give that disclaimer :( Yes, an alpha demo for Mac is already available (but it is an alpha, so please be forgiving!) -- here's the link: https://general-interactive-co.itch.io/cda-alpha

DMagnus113 karma

You just told us where in the world Carmen Sandiego is... My question is why?

MFillon1 karma

Congratulations. You have broken free from the Matrix...

LackIsotopeLithium73 karma

Will you include Lucky Plaza in your depiction of Singapore?

MFillon2 karma

It might! Maybe a few places where you can get some Filipino food in there.

LeaderSigns3 karma

Cool, what other films influenced you as well as Chinatown?

MFillon3 karma

Jeez, tons! Let me see... Gattaca, Zodiac, that one episode in the Animatrix (I think it was called "Detective Story"), an anime series called Paranoia Agent, Dark City, the National Treasure Movies!

LeaderSigns0 karma

Cool, game look great! I love that style and genre so gonna check some of the above out now I have unlimited time in isolation. The Game still out in winter this year ?!

MFillon2 karma

I appreciate that very much -- to be honest, the release date is only a rough estimate, and it's more likely it will be released in the winter / spring of next year (Q1-Q2 2021). We will update our channels with this new estimate very soon.

LeaderSigns1 karma

Nice one, hope it all goes well, look forward to playing it ✌🏼

MFillon2 karma

Thanks!

baltinerdist2 karma

I loved, loved, loved Carmen Sandiego. Played pretty much every version of it that ever came out and I love the aesthetic that you've got going on here.

My question is - any chance you'll consider a Stadia release? Since you're working in Unity right now anyway, they've got native support and a new Indie studio program. Fingers crossed!

MFillon2 karma

Hey! To be honest, we haven't thought about Stadia - in fact, I don't really know much about the dev side of things for their platform. But it's certainly something I'm happy to read up on!

baltinerdist1 karma

Awesome! Here's their dev site:

https://stadia.dev/

And here's the new Stadia Makers program they just announced:

https://stadia.dev/blog/announcing-stadia-makers/

Not sure if you'd qualify, but as long as you are targeting Unity 2019.3 or later and you agree to make Stadia a day and date platform for launch, they offer free dev kits and support and even financial assistance.

MFillon2 karma

Thank you very much for this, I'm going to have a look shortly. I wish I'd researched this earlier!

H0agh2 karma

Did you play Disco Elysium yet?

Surprised not seeing it in your list of inspiration.

MFillon6 karma

I haven't! I've been dying to. Their Twitter account was kind enough to retweet our Kickstarter announcement, they're such an incredible team!

H0agh1 karma

It's a great game and you really should o O.

Seems to fit your theme to a T.

MFillon2 karma

I will certainly give it a try as soon as time becomes available again, thank you!

craftermath2 karma

Where can I pre order said game??? Haha Carmen Sandiego was my favorite game (and one of my fav tv shows) when I was a kid!!

MFillon3 karma

Carmen Sandiego was one of the most important games of my childhood! And yes, the TV show too. Growing up in the 90s, we'd get it right after Tin Tin on afternoon TV. You can't pre-order it at the moment, but if you're interested, you can back us on our Kickstarter :)

SnapySapy2 karma

Are you currently aware of Carmon sandeigos location on Earth?

MFillon2 karma

Sigh, no, I wish I did. She's been jetting from one place to another since 1985!

Austudg31 karma

Will this game be on services like Steam? And if so, Can I buy it?

MFillon2 karma

Yes! Steam, GOG and Humble.

MFillon1 karma

Hi there. We do have Steam page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1172190/Chinatown_Detective_Agency/ but the game is still in development. If you're interested, do add us to your wishlist!

bra1ndump1 karma

What's the second thing you will buy once this game makes you a millionaire?

MFillon0 karma

Ugh, I don't think that's going to happen, hahaha. I think if we hit our target, that'll be the greatest thing ever and anything more is just extra awesome. But let's say I won the lottery -- the second thing I would buy is probably a copy of E.T. for the Atari. Yes, the notoriously bad one.

zephyrusrising1 karma

EDIT: I'M NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE GAME STUDIO. I just liked the pixel art lol

Thanks for making this game about Singapore! It's really cool to see my home get represented :)

But I have one question: Why are there only 4 MRT lines in the game?

MFillon5 karma

Hey! Oh, don't worry, that's work in progress! We're still missing the Circle, North-East and the new Thompson line, but rest assured they'll be there! Dear SMRT -- please please please don't announce a new line before we release the game, please!

mbakfia0 karma

There's also the Cross-Island Line too ;)

MFillon1 karma

OMG you're right - the Lime Green line. Thanks for reminding me! haha!

zephyrusrising0 karma

Given that Thompson-East Coast line is only going to be complete in like 4 years' time or something, I'm sure you guys will be fine. All the best with the game and I can't wait to play it once it comes out!

MFillon1 karma

Thanks again!

mbakfia1 karma

Thanks for the AmA! I'm quite excited to play the game in its entirety.

1) How is the game design suitable for audiences that have various disabilities?

I'm saying with these videos by GMTK in mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NGe4dzlukc&list=PLc38fcMFcV_vvWOhMDriBlVocTZ8mKQzR.

2) Also, how much violence/gore/nudity/sex/coarse language is there going to be in the final version? I'm thinking of the age suitability for the game.

MFillon5 karma

Hey! You know, to be honest, I didn't think about gamers with disabilities, and now I feel kinda bad that I didn't. Thanks so much for the video, I'll be sharing that with the team.

As for the age suitability of the game, it definitely isn't for children. I guess the objective for me was to create a sort of conceptual successor to the original Carmen Sandiego games for people who grew up playing them but are now in their late 20s and over - people who may want more mature and complex stories. There won't be a lot of gore and the violence certainly won't be gratuitous. Plenty of coarse language. There will be some nudity in some situations, but considering it's pixel art, it's not going to be overly graphic.

I hope that helped!

Corpal_0 karma

Congrats guys for your project, looks pretty cool!

What made you decide to start a Kickstarter campaign instead of looking for a publisher or self-publish your game? How long took you to prepare for the crowdfunding platform?

MFillon3 karma

Thanks so much for the question!

To be honest, there wasn't a lot of interest from publishers at this stage in our development as the game is still quite early on in the dev cycle (we're still a few months away from a proper beta demo). But more importantly, if there's a chance to make a game with no one to answer to except our own vision, I'll take that chance any day -- we're fiercely independent that way. I want to tell stories without the fear of ruffling feathers.

The whole process of preparing for the Kickstarter campaign was craaaaazy stressful. We started all the way in December - so from there to this point, a good four months of preparation!

Snowfan0 karma

Do you think Singapore will be as boring in 2032 as it is now?

MFillon2 karma

I totally don't think Singapore is boring at all! I've lived in more boring places :)

WildeOpen1 karma

That's adorable. You obviously have never or will never, or have never wanted to do any drug. The perfect Singaporian.

MFillon1 karma

Oh, I'm actually not Singaporean. And I've had my fair share of 'fun' :)

Zenobiya0 karma

Which parts of Singapore do you plan to feature in the game?

MFillon4 karma

Almost every district, to be honest. If you're from Singapore, you'll be interested to know I'll feature some of our more "interesting" places like Yishun, haha! I myself live in Chinatown, where the game is set. We'll be sure to cover as much of the island as we can, but a majority of the action will take place around the downtown core.

mbakfia1 karma

I'm hoping for more cool landmarks, but til then I guess.
I hope there's some mall stuff - especially if you guys can feature some of the older buildings (a little bit of hidden agenda, but it would be super super cool if you can document some of the buildings that are slated for demolition removal soon :P)

MFillon5 karma

You know, I was hoping to feature a lot of the landmarks I find cool, too. In fact, I was hoping to feature Pearl Hill way back during the early days of development, but you know what happened -- they demolished it, so it's a bit of a balancing act as we want to make sure most of the buildings we feature in a game set in 2032 are still around when the game is released in 2021 haha!

Norgeroff0 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

MFillon5 karma

It is... hang on let me run to the bathroom... the handle and body is like neon blue, and the bristles are a neon yellow. I like to live dangerously.

AVIS93-4 karma

What can you tell us now about the mysterious Fractal Killer mentioned in the KS page?

[Edit: I helped the General Interactive team with this AMA by asking a starter question]

MFillon2 karma

Oooooh boy, okay, I'll give as much info as I can without revealing too much? The Fractal Killer is, like many evil personas throughout history, does not believe that what he is doing is wrong - his ideologies are like a fire that can't be put out, and it drives him to accomplish what he needs to no matter what. He and Amira don't know each other at the beginning of the game -- but they'll soon learn of each other as the game progresses. His origins are key to understanding him. If you decipher the binary code in his character bio, you'll get a clue (albeit very hard to make sense of at this point) to how his mind works.

mbakfia1 karma

I deciphered it and here's what I got

Genesis 3:23-24 New International Version (NIV)

23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:23-24 King James Version (KJV)

23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

My guess is that it has to do with a secret society (maybe like Assassin's Creed) - they want to do something with technology, maybe create a Garden of Eden?

MFillon0 karma

Ugh, I could tell you more but it'll really start unraveling the plot. Let's just say that the parallel of the verse to modern technology, as you said, is a step in the right direction.

Good job, by the way.

AVIS93-7 karma

What makes Singapore a special setting for a game, particularly to someone who's never visited before?

[Edit: I helped the General Interactive team with this AMA by asking a starter question]

MFillon7 karma

When you think of the go-to cities of futuristic Asia, you often think Tokyo or Osaka or Hong Kong, maybe even Shanghai. For quite a while now, Singapore has often been left out of the Asian sci-fi vision of storytellers (at least for the most part). In reality, Singapore is incredibly futuristic and the government embraces the automated future. What makes it even more interesting is that it doesn't have the grime of, say, Hong Kong -- Singapore is incredibly green and clean. Westworld Season 3 was shot mostly in Singapore, and if you check out early shots online, you'll see why it was the perfect setting: amazing architecture, somewhat frighteningly clean and orderly, and despite the very small size, does not feel cramped. When writing the story for the game, I imagined what the city would be like if the government started losing grip - it would present an amazing setting that showcased an efficient, well-run city state descend into the pits of desperation and decline. It's really given me great avenues to create some interesting cases in Chinatown Detective Agency.

AVIS93-11 karma

Sounds like a place I should visit soon! Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply.

MFillon-2 karma

Absolutely!

charlietheunicorn1-8 karma

What is the game dev community like in Singapore? Are there many studios?

[Edit: I helped the General Interactive team with this AMA by asking a starter question]

MFillon2 karma

Hi! Thanks for the very first question, hehe! Believe it or not, Singapore has a very vibrant indie game dev community (aside from having an Ubisoft and Bandai Namco office). If you've heard of games like Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! , Cat Quest and Masquerada: Songs and Shadows -- those are all from local indie studios. I'm sure there's tons more, but I just can't seem to remember any from the top of my head.

The wider region as a whole is burgeoning: up in Malaysia, you've got the studio that brought you the SIMULACRA games, and Larian Studios just opened up an office there to help develop the new Baldur's Gate game. Down in Indonesia, Toge Productions are the guys behind the recently released Coffee Talk.

Back to Singapore, it's a very small but very awesome and welcoming community. Everyone's very helpful, and a lot of them are ex-AAA folks (quite a few from the old and now shut LucasArts Singapore office.

LittleGameThings-13 karma

Hi Mark!

How did you land on Amira Darma as the protagonist for the game? What makes her special/different as a character? :)

[Edit: I helped the General Interactive team with this AMA by asking a starter question]

MFillon1 karma

Thanks so much for this question, I'd love to get into it. The amazing detective/noir movies and games I grew up playing were all men - great, memorable characters like Bogart's many faces (or should I say his only one across multiple movies), Agent Dale Cooper, Manny in Grim Fandango. I wanted to break the mould. I wanted an intelligent, insightful female character that had the guts to take on the city alone. There are so few of them, the most memorable at least for me being Agent Scully from the X-Files. Apart from that, I wanted to show Singapore's diversity as well - the majority Chinese, and the minority Malay and Indian (and other) groups. I wanted to make the lead character a minority, and maybe make it a point of tension or opportnity in some situations. Also, I have a daughter - and I wanted her to live in a world where she could play games with female characters she could look up to. At least that's the hope!