Mafia Wars, FarmVille, Zoo World, and Pet Society, step aside. Sure, you’ve been the top Facebook games for the past few years. But here at Singapore GameFEST, the locally-made games are finally getting their time in the sun.

 The 3-day event, held at Funan Digital Life Mall from Dec 2 to 4, saw the likes of Tactics Anthem Online 2, Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, Straw Hat Samurai Duels, and Fish-A-Fish taking centrestage.

Of the 4 games mentioned, 3 are for the PC, while Rocketbirds has taken wings to the PlayStation 3, in addition to the PC.

Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Association (SCOGA) chairman Nicholas Khoo said that the 4 games on show are part of Singapore Gamebox, a joint initiative by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

“As SCOGA, we adopted this initiative to promote locally-made games to local gamers,” Mr Khoo said. “So far, it’s looking good!”

This is the second edition of GameFEST License 2 Play. With Christmas around the corner, this was dubbed the Festive Edition of GameFEST. And just into its second day, Khoo seemed upbeat about the reception from gamers and non-gamers alike.

UrbanWire checks out the games and competitions going on at GameFEST.

A booth set up by Nescafé to keep gamers going throughout the day.


The story behind Rocketbirds

Speaking to UrbanWire, Rocketbirds developer Tan Sian Yue explained the creation of his gun-toting fowl, who appear no less furious than Rovio’s Angry Birds.

Tan Sian Yue, the brain and voice behind Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken.

Caption: Tan Sian Yue, the brain and voice behind Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken.

“A couple of years ago, I made that with a small team,” he said, referring to his buddies James Anderson and Tan Teck Lee, who were responsible for programming and background art respectively.

Their effort on the Adobe Flash-based game paid off the following year when Rocketbirds won 3 nominations at the Independent Games Festival in San Francisco – namely the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Best Independent Game, Excellence in Visual Art, as well as Excellence in Audio.

“Sony approached us and said, “Hey, do you wanna make this (Rocketbirds game) for our platform, the Sony PlayStation 3?” Sian Yue revealed. Of course, the trio gamely agreed.

Their partnership with Sony led to the birth of Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken. Players assume the role of a highly-trained military combatant in the form of a cockerel. The mission is one of revenge – to overthrow a world regime controlled by evil penguins.

The budgies battling in Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken are no cute chicks once they whip out their fighting gear, complete with ammunition.

Of course, as this is a third-person shooter, a shotgun, pistol and machine gun – all of which are upgradeable – it’s time to fill up your arsenal. And since both the protagonists and antagonists of this story are flightless birds, the only way to soar is with a jetpack.

Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is also optimised for 3D gameplay, so those with 3D TV sets are in for a visual treat, with total immersion into the game’s sights and sounds.

Here’s an interesting fact: Sian Yue voiced all 10 main characters in Rocketbirds!


Computer over console gaming

For gaming enthusiasts who prefer the computer to the console, Straw Hat Samurai Duels is one of a trio of locally-made online games, the other 2 being Facebook game Fish-A-Fish and card game Tactics Anthem Online 2.

UrbanWire had the opportunity to try out Straw Hat Samurai Duels, marketed by indie game development studio Explosive Barrel.

Unlike most other fighting games where users tap the keyboard to control their characters, this hack-and-slash epic requires players to draw lines with their mouse or trackpads as they slice through enemies. The difficulty ramps up as more foes swoop towards the samurai warrior, becoming faster, stronger, and sneakier as the game progresses .

The original Straw Hat Samurai, to which Duels is the sequel, caught the attention of US-based iPhone game developer Conquest Apps 3 months ago, leading to the release of an iOS-based version of the game.

The popularity of Straw Hat Samurai online inspired another independent developer to create the iPhone incarnation of this Singaporean original.

Luther Chan, developer of Straw Hat Samurai Duels, revealed that 1 of this sequel’s new features is a multiplayer mode. A comic to promote the game will also be coming out soon.


Battling it out: Singapore-China Gamebox Championships 2011

One of the highlights of this year’s Singapore GameFEST was the Singapore-China Gamebox Championships 2011.

Here, 8 contenders – 4 from each country – pitted their skills and strategies against each another on the 4 Gamebox games –Tactics Anthem Online 2, Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, Straw Hat Samurai Duels, and Fish-A-Fish, for the grand prize of $3,000.

The route to the championship’s finals wasn’t easy for the boys from China – they had to outplay 496 other contestants in the Wuhan preliminary round in their quest for glory. This was an arduous challenge they had to face before meeting their Singaporean opponents, who were instantly pre-selected by SCOGA.

The team from China, (from left) Yi Peng, Yu Fanjing, Sun Fan and Yang Guang.

Wuhan natives Yi Peng, Sun Fan, and Yu Fanjing, together with Yang Guang from Xi’an, expressed restrained optimism when asked about their chances of winning.

Speaking in Mandarin, Yi Peng only mustered a wry smile as he muttered, “We have (confidence of claiming victory).” He ended up having to settle for fourth place.

The third spot went to Singaporean Li Jixiang, followed by first runner-up Sun, who was beaten by Singaporean Daryl Teo in the grand final.

Daryl Teo (holding plaque) walked away with $3,000 after beating China’s Sun Fan.

“I feel really ecstatic,” Teo gushed. “I was quite nervous during the competition. It was quite challenging to beat the Chinese team, since none of us actually played these games before.

Teo revealed that he had watched replays of previous games his final opponent played, noting his playing pattern and skill set in order to hone his own strategic skill.