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Meet Nigeria’s Videogame-creating Wizkids
  • Meet Nigeria’s Videogame-creating Wizkids

    Admin 0 0 354 Date: 17 Jan 2017
  • At the recently concluded West African Gaming Expo in Lagos, Akdogan Ali and Umusu Samson Iruo’s combat game, ‘Throne of gods’ was a hit with game enthusiasts. The duo share their journey making a game fashioned after West African deities

    Two heavily muscled warriors, each wielding an axe, fight to the finish. It’s a battle of gods and demons. But they are not just any gods, they are West African gods. This is the combat game created by Akdogan Ali and programmer, Umusu Samson Iruo, called ‘Throne of gods.’

    Seven years ago when Ali had the idea to create a game, it had nothing to do with West African deities. It was a global concept without the present name or African theme.

    “I simply thought of warriors all around,” he says. With time, the idea kept changing. One day he was researching African mythology and began to learn intriguing things about African deities. He suddenly had the desire to narrow his vision to Nigeria’s mythical Yoruba god of thunder, Sango, but soon settled on expanding it. West African gods became the objective.

    “While researching, I realised there was a lot I didn’t know about African mythology and I thought, perhaps this isn’t just an opportunity to entertain people, but to also educate ourselves,” Ali says.

    It was challenging creating the characters based on the research. This was where his creative side came in. “So, its part research and part imagination,” he explains, adding that sometimes he researches a character, a god or demon, and finds a lot of materials he can use to light up his imagination.

    “There were times I had to create something out of just two sentences or even one. So, it took a lot of design and redesigning. The characters needed to have appeal,” he said.

    Recently ‘Throne of gods’ featured at the West African Gaming Expo in Lagos. It was a huge success as people were able to try out the demo version of the game.

    “It was a wonderful; experience,” Iruo says. “I never knew the game had made so much impact already.”

    People came from different places to play the game. Ali and Iruo were interviewed by the BBC and other media platforms.

    The team considered it a big hit for another major reason. They were able to get on-the-spot feedback, which were mostly good. “So we knew we were doing a good job and just needed to brush up on some aspects,” Iruo says.

    But how did the journey begin?

    Born and bred in Lagos, Ali tells the story from his days as a secondary school drop-out. “I knew there wasn’t anything there for me,” he says about school, adding that he felt it wouldn’t benefit him.

    From the beginning, he was told people wouldn’t respect him, but he still wasn’t convinced. In a quest to find his path, he resolved to gain skill and knowledge.

    As a child, Ali had strong enthusiasm for action figures as toys. Also, there was the love for cartoons and comic books like many other children. But his didn’t fizzle out like it did for some. As he grew older, he learned how to sketch and hoped to become a professional.

    Before he left school, he had a burning desire to go into animated film production. To do this, he worked as an office clerk for about two years, with a media outfit and later with DJ Jimmy Jatt.

    Overtime, the internet became his school. Eventually the spark for creating a game ruled his thoughts as the ‘craze’ for games on smart phones began. Google and YouTube became his teachers. “From there, I learnt how to create characters, bit by bit,” Ali narrates.

    At some point, Ali knew he needed a partner to achieve his dream. This propelled him to make head-way and have something to show that person. Before then, he learned designs and game development and it wasn’t an easy nut to crack. Eventually, he approached Iruo and they started working together.

    Iruo used a computer for the first time in 2004 after he concluded secondary school. It started when he came in contact with desktop publishing. Instantly, he became very curious and learned more about computers. So, he dabbled into programming. “I already had the desire to make video games by then and I knew programming was a core part of it, so it was a win-win situation for me,” he says, adding that he has worked as a software programmer, a website developer, a mobile app developer and now is a mobile game programmer and developer.

    Iruo’s role involves writing instructions for devices to carry out in form of applications and software. “I do that with some tools. That’s basically what I do. Type, write for hours and so on,” he explains, adding that challenges they faced were limitations with mobile devices, which they needed to overcome. They had to think outside the box to create a system that is welcome to people. They also had challenges with getting to know the characters’ dialects and the way they spoke. “But that’s mostly on the creative end. I do mostly technical stuff and programming.”

    Ali explained that “The production process is a big challenge and we didn’t learn from any institution.” Then there was the issue of finance. So Ali and Iruo (who is a Computer Science final year student from the National Open University of Nigeria) depended on freelance jobs. They are just two people working on the game and it gets more and more challenging. Ali does most of the creative aspect, while his partner, Iruo does the programming. “In this part of the world, you don’t go to an institution that trains you on how to do all this. I had to train myself and that took some time. Even while we were working on the game, we were also learning,” Ali adds.

    Eventually, the demo version of the game was completed with an epic soundtrack and two characters in combat. “We put that out for people to have an idea of what the game feels like. It’s not a full version and isn’t polished. One could play practice mode and use one of the characters. However, very soon, an update will introduce a female character,” Ali says.

    Ali and Iruo aren’t just looking at now and intend to make the game a franchise. With ‘Throne of gods’ they are looking into the future-ten, twenty years from now.

    Article by Nathaniel Bivan Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/weekend-mag/meet-nigeria-s-videogame-creating-wizkids/177499.html#KgG7OUPfEiH3kdBk.99 Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/weekend-mag/meet-nigeria-s-videogame-creating-wizkids/177499.html#KgG7OUPfEiH3kdBk.99




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