When I set out to create this blog, my intentions was not to just post my opinions on video games, post videos or images that I like. I wanted to be able to write about indie developers from the Middle East, to be able to promote them in a region that did not see video games as a legitimate medium to work in.
A few days ago an indie developer from Lebanon called Evileggplant Studios released their first game titled Straw Hat Legacy. I was able to get in touch and interview the two guys who started up the company, Wael Ouaijan and Avak Avakian and was able to ask them about their name, how it was dealing with Apple, about the shape of the game development community in Lebanon and a few other questions.
Why (the name) “EvilEggPlant Studios?”
Avak: Well Evileggplant has been a part of my life for a very long time, when I was younger, I used to despise eggplants so much! so eventually I started using it as a gaming nickname, and then when the time came to pick a name for our company, it was really a no-brainer, I mean seriously though Eggplants are Evil!!, they might even take over the World someday!
What are the studios goals? What do you aim to bring?
Wael: At Evileggplant Studios we aspire to develop high quality games for all our customers. Targeting diverse genres of games, we introduce fun and unique gameplay, graphics and storylines.
Who are some of your inspirations (like artists, game designers, cartoons, anime, comics, or anything really)
Avak: It will be very tough to give an answer that does justice to most of what inspires me, and being an artist yourself you know how important it is to always stay inspired. So off the top of my head:
Cartoons/Anime: One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist, Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Tekkonkinkreet, anything Pixar, Kung Fu panda, Triplets of Belleville, Wanted (graphic novel, not the movie ofcourse :P)
Are you planning on just making games or is your studio planning on expanding into other fields?
Avak: For the time being we are just concentrated on making video games, On the short term we will stick to mobile devices, and eventually; when the time is right, ease into console gaming. That is what we love to do and hopefully we will keep on doing it for a very long time!
Do you plan on releasing games strictly for the iPhone, or do you plan on expanding onto the iPad or even Android devices?
Wael: Our initial product is not just limited to the iPhone. We have expanded it to include all Apple devices, including iPad, iPhone, and iPods, given that they are third generation devices or above. We hope to expand even further in the mobile industry to cover all mobile devices that support gaming.
How has it been dealing with Apple? Was it a simple process to get your game accepted into the App Store or were there some obstacles?
Wael: Dealing with Apple thus far has been a very pleasant experience. The process itself is systematic, and straightforward. Apple has shown a significant amount of care in making sure developers projects are given the opportunity to be presented to the world.
What game(s) are you playing now?
If you were stuck on a deserted island and had to choose 3 games, what would they be?
Avak: Only 3?? That’s torture! Considering I would not have an internet connection, I would have to go for Zelda: Wind Waker, Final Fantasy 7, and SSX Tricky.
Wael: MGS 3, Assassins Creed, and CoD: Modern Warfare 2
Anything else the public should know about the studio?
Wael: At Evileggplant Studios we value our customers greatly and want them play a big part in contributing to the games growth. Through competitions and events, we strive to make the games development a game for the customers. Showing that their direct interactions and opinions really do matter.
What’s next for the studio, planning another iPhone game?
Wael: We currently have a big library of games, which are awaiting development, and are currently underway for the development of other titles. Furthermore, we are working on the first update package of Straw Hat Legacy.
The game developing community seems non-existent in Lebanon. Besides the Angry Birds look-a-like “Birdy Nam Nam” and Straw Hat Legacy, I personally don’t know of any others (They might be out there, but they might have lacked marketing) Are there any specific reasons you think why the game developing community in Lebanon is in that shape? Is the money/market just not there right now for companies to start up?
Wael: The issue inherent in Lebanon especially with Apple is that the Lebanese economy does not encourage game development using Apple’s programming language. Therefore, anyone who plans to develop using Apple’s OS would have to self-teach. Additionally, the Apple AppStore in Lebanon is not a very significant portion of the global market, and does not maintain enough users who actually contribute to purchases on the AppStore. This may lead potential developers away from developing for Apple products. That being said we hope that the games that we produce will prove to people all around the Middle East that video games do have a bright future.