Vietnamese online games off to faltering start

Of the 55 online games run by distributors nationwide, just one has been produced in Vietnam so far.

Miss Vietnam 2006 Mai Phuong Thuy is invited to be the game's ambassadress, as well as a model for designing a character. (Photo: SGGP)

The market is heavily reliant on games imported from China and Korea, and there is no indication that this will change, because Vietnamese firms have made little or no headway in developing their own online games.

At the beginning of last year, more than 40 online games had been officially released in the local market, but all of them were developed in other countries.

Initial efforts to develop online games have shown that local firms have a long way to go.

 “Thoi Loan” (Age of Chaos), made by the Trangenix team, won four prizes in the VietGames 2006 contest. The game’s plot was based on the “Son Tinh – Thuy Tinh” (Mountain God – Water God) legend.

“Thoi Loan” was hailed and welcomed by many as the first made-in-Vietnam online game.

However, after being accused of stealing a foreign source code, the game turned out to be a failure that was an initial setback for the domestic online game developing industry.

Two years later, a multiplayer online game named “Lang Online” (Online Village), developed by 3DVN Co., Ltd. on LOL engine and operating in a flash environment won a prize for a cultural and educational online game at VietGames 2008. This game also disappeared without a trace, however, for reasons that are not clear.

In January last year, the online-game community was excited about an association forged between VTC Game and its Korean partner, VinaDreamline, to produce games in Vietnam. The companies revealed that it would be a multiplayer online role-playing game. So far, no other information has come out about the project.

Meanwhile, VinaGames had laid the first bricks for developing a Vietnamese online game industry in 2006 as it began developing an online game named “Thuan Thien Kiem” (Heaven’s Will Sword), which received major interest and support from the community and the government.

In particular, Miss Vietnam 2006, Mai Phuong Thuy, was invited to be the game’s ambassadress, as well as a model for designing a character. A delegation from the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, led by deputy minister Do Quy Doan, had visited VinaGames and its game developers before the debut of “Thuan Thien Kiem” on August 12, 2009.

First success

Vietnamese online gamers registered in large numbers to play “Thuan Thien Kiem”. Although the game publisher opened six servers, the game was continuously overloaded as many characters gathered at the game’s starting point.

Fortunately, VinaGames surprised local gamers as they solved the problem in quick time, an impressive achievement because it usually took a lot more time for foreign developers to fix their glitches. Here was proof that Vietnamese online game developers could control their products well.

However, according to the game producer, although the number of members in the developing team has risen to 200 people from just 20 at the beginning, they are facing many difficulties. Some phases of the game have to be processed by other countries as the skills and technology of Vietnamese developers are not sophisticated enough, yet.

The company invested VND25 billion (US$1.25 million) in “Thuan Thien Kiem”. It faced many difficulties in getting permission and approval for the game content, which had to suit Vietnamese habits and customs.

On the other hand, “Dat Viet truyen ky”, an online game developed by Singaporean company, Zealot Digital, had no problems getting the copyright and releasing it in Vietnam, although it is not very authentic, historically speaking.

“Dat Viet truyen ky” is based on a story set during the reign of the 18th Hung King, but its characters wear ao dai and palm-leaf conical hats.

“Thuan Thien Kiem”, with the inclusion of several historical landmarks like the Thang Long Royal Citadel, Mot Cot Pagoda, Co Loa Citadel and the ancient capital of Hoa Lu in its settings, has contributed in a small way to promoting national history and culture.

It currently attracts 60,000 regular players. The game is updated twice or three times per month. However, according to Le Hong Minh, chairman of VinaGames, the number of players of “Thuan Thien Kiem” has accounts for just 10 percent of those of other online games because its story-line is not really interesting and its graphics are not visually stunning.

However, this is just a start for a nascent industry, and several challenges remain ahead. Given the recent crackdown on games with violent content, the potential for developing interesting, exciting and fun-filled games is great, experts say.

With greater co-operation between authorities and the developers of online games, the industry can develop well in the coming months and years, they add.

By Ba Tan – Translated by Vu Khanh

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