Discover  Fun  Home  Lifestyle  Technology   ·   18 Mar   ·   09:03 AM   ·   6 minutes Read

#LocalBrandSPOTLight: Neo Tegoel Games

  
Credit: Neo Tegoel Games

We’ve previously written about Gloom and Doom by Neo Tegoel Games in this article covering games featuring our fair island. If you were intrigued by our write-up of a game featuring a Singapore populated by fantastical, supernatural beings teetering towards the apocalypse – this is your chance to learn more about the man behind it!

Here is our interview with Drew Pan, the sole developer behind Gloom and Doom and the one-man-studio who runs Neo Tegoel Games.

Hello Drew, thank you so much for doing this! Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Credit: Drew Pan

I’m honestly just a regular guy who loves video games and movies. Before Neo Tegoel Games, I was a lot of things. I was a writer and editor in magazines, did a few years in visual effects and animation, and also had a corporate career in digital marketing. It’s the kind of irregular resume that drives HR managers nuts, but to me it was just a series of storytelling gigs using different channels.

This love of storytelling led to the founding of Neo Tegoel Games, which is all about games driven by stories.

 

How did Neo Tegoel Games come about? What does “Neo Tegoel” mean?

Throughout my career, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to transition into the video game industry, so I took a leap of faith and decided to develop my own game.

Aside from wanting to make games, I also wanted to use this medium to tell non-commercial stories. I believe in the power of stories, so I wanted situations and characters that represent the underdogs in society. The idea is that if you relate to a situation or a character in the game, you feel more connected knowing you’re not alone.

Credit: Neo Tegoel Games

When you’re working in the corporate world, you always have to balance art and stakeholder objectives. Neo Tegoel Games is my way of producing something pure.

As for the company name, Neo Tegoel is a composite of my wife and kids’ names.

 

Gloom and Doom was released on 18 January, 2021. You took just 11 months to make this game from scratch but before that, you already had the idea in your head. Can you tell us how you came up with the story?

I came up with the character of Gloom back in my university days. I saw this old horror movie Ju’on and it freaked me out. But I tried to look at it from the ghost’s perspective, and that was even scarier. Imagine staying in a house and doing nothing except haunting people for eternity. It reminded me of my situation as a university student, not really knowing what career I’ll be going into, as well as a friend who is stuck in a dead-end job, and another friend stuck in a toxic dead-end relationship.

Gloom, on the right | Credit: Neo Tegoel Games

I poured all those relatable “stuck” situations into Gloom’s character. I thought it was a cool idea, but it still wasn’t a complete story. It wasn’t until my wife gave birth to my daughter that I knew; a parental perspective was the missing puzzle piece to complete Gloom and Doom. That’s how the character of Wynona was born, and why Gloom was meant to help guide and protect Wynona.

 

Is there any one character from Gloom and Doom you identify with or do they all share something in common with you?

They say to write what you know, so most of the characters in Gloom and Doom have a little piece of me inside. Gloom has my insecurities and eternal need to validate myself, Wynona represents my feelings of powerlessness, Nathaniel is a zen character that is inspired by that momentary feeling of tranquility I get when I’m in “the zone” and start racking up huge combos in Arkham Asylum. But if I had to pick a favorite, it’s definitely Gloom. The feeling of being unable to steer your own destiny, and being helplessly knocked around by fate and other people were feelings that I kept having, especially in 2020.

Wynona | Credit: Neo Tegoel Games
The art style from Gloom and Doom is very distinctive. It reminds me of the Return Of The Condor Heroes comics illustrated by Wee Tian Beng. Was that an intentional choice, to evoke a 90s feel ?

Yeah for sure. I originally set the game in the year 2000 because of a necessary plot device, but it gave me the opportunity to embrace the 90s – the decade of my teenhood. Back then, I read a lot of X-Men comics, so I actually tried to go for a visual style inspired by the artwork of Jim Lee and Andy Kubert. Of course, I’m not a very good artist so it’s nowhere near their level, but I’m happy enough that people like you can sense that it’s a 90s vibe.

 

How did you start playing video games?

I have always been interested in video games as a young kid, but I think I really started self-identifying myself as a gamer when my parents bought me a Sega Megadrive for my 10th birthday. I had a few games to go with, like Golden Axe, Sonic 1, and Super Shinobi, so those games are burned into my memories.

A SEGA Megadrive | Credit: Hackerb9, Wikipedia
As somebody with a background in video game journalism, can you tell us which video games completely left you completely gobsmacked because the story was just that good?

There are so many of those. Star Control II was a great sci-fi that simultaneously felt epic because of the huge scope, while also grounding the experience with intimate, funny conversations with quirky and memorable aliens.

Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within was an amazing story by writer and game designer Jane Jensen. It combined an engaging fantasy story about werewolves and historically accurate stories from German history in a way that blew my mind. This was 1995, a whole 5 years before author Dan Brown would use a similar method to write Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code.

Credit: Sierra On-line
Drew, you also have a background in screenwriting. Can you tell us the name of one TV series which left you in awe because it was so well-written?

I have so many favorites like Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls, but if I can only pick one then it has to be The West Wing. I worship the words that come out of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplays. I love how his characters are all admirable, and unrealistically hyper-intelligent yet held back by real emotional baggage.

A still from The Teenage Textbook Series | Credit: Yahoo News, Mediacorp

When I originally pitched The Teenage Textbook series (now on MeWatch and Channel 5 every Tuesday night at 9:30pm), I described it as “The West Wing with teenagers.” Teenage Textbook eventually developed in a different direction, but I will one day revisit my idea of “West Wing with teenagers”, maybe with my second game!

 

Will Neo Tegoel Games remain firmly in the realm of narrative-driven visual novels? Or can we expect Neo Tegoel Games to one day give us a platformer or even a First Person Shooter game?

I’m probably going to stay with visual novels for another release or so, to help develop my writing skills from the linear style of TV screenplays to the branching style of games. Plus, I can focus on the writing instead of learning a whole new game engine again.

Credit: Drew Pan

My goal with my games is to tell inclusive stories to reduce the feelings of isolation in the world, so they will always be story-driven in that sense. But you can have narrative-driven games in other genres too. I have a little demo game called “Get the kids to school!” which looks like an old 16-bit RPG, but it tells the story of an overwhelmed Dad trying to get two uncooperative kids ready for school.

That said, I would like to make an adventure game someday, like the Sierra games I loved as a kid, or maybe even one of those walking simulators like Gone Home.

 

What would you like Singaporeans to know about the behind-the-scenes aspect of making video games?

It’s not actually as difficult as you might think. There are game engines out there that can help with the heavy lifting, so you can just focus on the art and story. You’re still going to be putting in a lot of hard work but don’t let programming languages stop you from trying.

Drew’s family dog appears in the game! | Credit: Drew Pan

I encourage any gamer to try making a simple game. You’ll find it an illuminating and meaningful experience, and it’s an awesome feeling to create something. All too often we try to push ourselves up by tearing other things down – it is truly a great feeling to make something instead.

Plus, I found it to be a bonding experience with my kids.

There’s a scene called “Hell on Earth” and a lot of the city destruction was directed by my daughter. I’d be drawing in Photoshop, and she’s sitting beside me saying “smash this window” and “put a burning tree over here.”

Credit: Neo Tegoel Games
Neo Tegoel Games

Gloom and Doom is on Steam! PC gamers can snag the game for $18.50 here.

Aspiring game developer? You can read Drew’s development blog here, on his website.