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A while back Sherman3D released the first episode of the Alpha Kimori RPG trilogy on Steam. The game blends science fiction and fantasy elements to provide an interesting storyline while wrapping everything up in some retro inspired 2D visuals. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Sherman Chin, the founder of Sherman3D, to tell us more about the game.
01. Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and the studio?
I am the founder of Sherman3D, the game development company that worked on and delivered over 20 game titles worldwide since 2003 including popular hits like Scribblenauts (published Warner Bros.), Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo (published Activision) and Drawn To Life (published by THQ). I then created my own intellectual property, Alpha Kimori, which I coded as a 3D tech demo but was later continued as a 2D JRPG so that I can focus on its story.
Alpha Kimori is one of the top RPG games on Big Fish Games and is distributed by major online game portals such as MSN, Yahoo and Amazon. Alpha Kimori is available on PC, Mac, TV, and mobile via the OnLive cloud gaming service. After my stint as a mobile social card battle game producer in Tokyo, I am currently working on the final third episode of Alpha Kimori and the Japanese translated first episode.
02: What made you decide to create a JRPG style game?
I have always been fascinated by how JRPGs are able to convey a story with a strong philosophical message. Perhaps some would say that an anime series or a visual novel game would be a more suitable medium for such a purpose but there is something intrinsically more realistic in the experience in connecting with the protagonists when leveling up while being in the shoes of the characters who bring the story to life.
03: What are the games that influenced you and how?
Xenogears has the biggest influence on Alpha Kimori because of its intricate sci-fi storyline and character development. Next would be Chrono Trigger also because of its storyline and gameplay. Just traveling with the party felt less lonely and I wanted to have the same feel in Alpha Kimori. Next, there is Final Fantasy VII which inspired me to really think about the fantasy elements and love story. Finally, there is Grandia II of which I really loved the characters and wanted somewhat of the same MBTI personality types in Alpha Kimori's story.
04: What features of Alpha Kimori are you the most proud of?
As you probably already guessed, the feature of Alpha Kimori that I am most proud of is the story cutscene which plays out like an interactive visual novel. Next would be the turn based battle with fully animated battlers. The party member follow feature is also important to me as Alpha Kimori is very story focused and the key is character development.
05: What was the biggest challenge while creating Alpha Kimori?
The biggest challenge for us is creating all the resources because everything was customized and made from scratch. We had to think about the character concepts and how they all fit into the story, environment and general philosophy of the universe that we were creating. Some people think that RPGs are easy to create with an engine like RPG Maker but getting a team to work together requires a lot of resources and coordinated effort in the creation of all the assets from art to programming in the production of Alpha Kimori. In order to secure the monetary funds necessary for Alpha Kimori, we have to do a lot of outsourced work while working on Alpha Kimori on the sidelines. It wasn't easy and required a lot of determination in order to help Alpha Kimori see the light of the day.
06: What aspect of creating the game was the most fun?
The universe creation of Alpha Kimori was the most fun part. Alpha Kimori has a very wide environment that covers the five elements of fire (city of Arpi), water (city of Ayer), earth (city of Tana), wood (city of Karyu) and metal (city of Bersi). There are also Bidari (city of Angels) and Jinri (city of Humans). These elements are not just present in the environment but the story itself in which the 7 Angel Knights are represented by these elements, of which they are a combination of human and angels.
07: Alpha Kimori 1 is your first Steam release. How did you find the experience?
Steam is definitely a new experience for us as Alpha Kimori was designed to be a more casual sort of RPG when it was first released on Big Fish Games. We had to make many modifications to it in order for it to fit the Steam platform. I honestly hadn't expected so many players to vote us into Steam via the Greenlight process. If only there is a way to notify all the players who voted for us that Alpha Kimori is already up on Steam now. Perhaps more interviews like this will catch their attention again.
What are the future plans for Alpha Kimori/Sherman3D?
We would definitely go on developing the Alpha Kimori series and probably licensing our Alpha Kimori intellectual property to other developers. We want to see our Alpha Kimori universe and brand grow. We are currently working on the Alpha Kimori comic and planning an anime series as well.
What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?
What an unusual question but that would be my air plant genus Tillandsia. It does not require soil and it provides me with some greenery to look at, as well as, the occasional needed distraction from my game development activities.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would just like to add that the most rewarding part in the creation of Alpha Kimori for me is receiving e-mails from people around the world who are truly touched by the eastern philosophy in Alpha Kimori. When I get an e-mail from a person, who is disabled and confined to bed, telling me that Alpha Kimori added a little cheer to her life, or when I get e-mails from depressed people who have found new meaning in life after playing Alpha Kimori, I feel that all the time invested in the creation of Alpha Kimori is worth it.
As the Great Doubt philosophy goes, it is not about the past or the future but our experience in the current time that is our present. Only from now do we see our past and future shaped by our own perspective. Attaching to stubborn beliefs causes us suffering and accepting the moment for what it is frees us to respond appropriately, or some would term, love.