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Developer Interview: Ming-Sheng Lee

April 7th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 2 Comments · Interview, Magitech

In another of my series of interviews with independent strategy game developers,
Ming-Sheng Lee of Magitech games agreed to answer a few questions about his enterprise, its past and its future.

Magitech is a Canadian gaming company that has had a bad run of luck. Its first game, Takeda, had the misfortune to arrive shortly after the almost identically themed but graphically superior Shogun: Total War. Creative Assembly has gone on to international acclaim and huge success.

Magitech has not. Its second game, Strength and Honour, languished for a long time before the company decided to go the self-publishing route in North America. It was mostly ignored. Takeda 2 was released earlier this year and has also eluded the notice of most of the press, though last month’s CGM had my quite negative review of the title.

Why did you decide to do a sequel for Takeda?

I have some attachment to the Takeda game. Maybe it is because Takeda was my first published box game, and maybe because my father used to told me the stories about the Japanese samurai at Takeda’s time since I was very young. From the company’s view, it is reasonable that we start the Takeda 2 because of the feedback from Takeda 1 was not too bad and because it is a setting that we don’t have to do much new research.
Strength and Honor found a number of third party publishers outside North America, but you had to resort to self-publishing in Canada and the US. Did this surprise you?

It is kind of surprise us that the North America PC publishers didn’t pick up Strength and Honor for publishing. Though we did receive couple of offers but we decide to go by ourselves. It is a fast changing industry and overall, it seems the overseas market is getting stronger lately.
Strength and Honor has had almost zero coverage in the gaming press – even on sites that prefer to cover the indie scene – and Takeda 2 has likewise been uncovered. To what do you attribute this lack of attention?

I guess we are just not up to the job in marketing. We are considering hiring an agent for PR next time.
Have you changed how you promote your games so that more strategy gamers can learn about them?

We didn’t really put on any advertising for Takeda 2 or Strength & Honour in the North America market partially because we want to how the market reacts. As our latest title coming up, we will consider put all three products together and launch another demo kits for press.
The original Takeda was released shortly after Creative Assembly’s Shogun: Total War. Strength and Honor came out just after Rome: Total War. What is the effect of having a popular series cover the same ground as your titles?

Somehow, this has a huge effect which I didn’t expect it in the first place. Most people think we are a clone but the releasing date explained itself that it just happened both companies were developing the same types of game in the same time, twice. However, becoming a shadow of a mainstream game makes our games more difficult to stand out. People just comparing these titles without much knowing of what we really are.
In Takeda 2, you have abandoned much of the domestic government level micromanagement that Strength and Honour had. Why?
Basically we try to create a few different product lines. Takeda1 was a simple world mode mixed with plotted missions. S&H is an open world for players to explore. Takeda2 is a mixed of both. It’s not really which one is better but we like to offer players different game-plays in these title lines. And, if players favor one more than another, we will put more work on the popular one.
How big is your staff is Magitech? Does your size pose particular challenges in developing grand strategy games?

We are a really small company that most people wouldn’t believe. However, size doesn’t mean we could create a lower quality game. It is very challenging and it’s definitely an up hill battle. In every one of our games, we have a focus that no other games have. In Takeda series, it’s the formation. In S&H, it’s the personnel system.
What have been the biggest influences on Magitech as a developer?

The biggest influences on Magitech are actually the team itself. It’s not budget, and it certainly not the technology. It’s how Magitech sees what the games fun part about. Sometimes, we will have discussions or even arguments about how a game should be. After clear up the ideas then we will see if we can realize the ideas using our current resources. It’s like reality and dreams; budget is the reality and idea is the dream. Although budget is limiting where we can go, the dream is the one actually driving us.
What’s next for your company?

We now have our new title Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms, code name K3 coming up. It’s built under the same engine as Takeda 2 but with improvements on interface and adding features on RPG. The story is set on China AD189. We expect K3 to be ready by June 2006 and shall be released in summer of fall depends on the regional publishers’ schedule. We are also seeking strategic alliance with other developers and hopefully we could upgrade our games into a higher quality level for the players.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Anonymous

    Thankyou for the interview. I guess that I’m one of few that appreciate this title. Again Thanks


  • Troy Goodfellow

    I appreciate Strength and Honor. I think that it is close to being good, but needs much better user feedback to get there.

    Takeda 2, on the other hand, leaves me non-plussed. I can see how it is supposed to be good, and even see how other people would enjoy it. It does zip for me.