SEA-inspired game Ghostlore made possible by COVID pandemic, says Singapore dev

·Contributing Editor
·5-min read
Ghostlore key visual, an 'Eastpunk' Action-RPG inspired by genre classics like Diablo. (Photo: Ghostlore)
Ghostlore is an 'Eastpunk' Action-RPG inspired by genre classics like Diablo where you will fight monsters from the colorful ghost folklore of Southeast Asia. (Photo: Ghostlore)

While its indie-style graphics certainly has a charm to it, Ghostlore's unique take on Southeast Asia's colorful local and regional ghost lore is what really makes this 'Eastpunk' Action-RPG an interesting title.

You play as one of six classes (well, four at the start) and battle your way Diablo-style through randomly generated maps based on Southeast Asian locales and explore Seaport, a town loosely based on Singapore, complete with its own giant Merlion statue.

You'll battle monsters such as jiangshi (Chinese jumping vampire) and pontianaks (Malay tree ghost), and endure the irritating calls of the Asian koel bird (that uwu bird, for Singaporeans) as you cast spells and swing melee weapons.

Currently in Early Access on Steam, the game has sold over 4,000 copies, according to Andrew Teo, the creator and one of the two developers working on the game.

Yahoo Gaming SEA spoke with Teo about how Ghostlore came to be and how the COVID-19 pandemic made a difficult project for a solo developer (at first) possible.

Solo beginnings

34-year old Teo started working on the game back in 2018, when he wanted to make the "sort of game" he enjoyed when he was young.

He works in a mobile game studio by day and dedicated his nights to working on Ghostlore.

"I didn’t have a clear direction for the game back then, as my goal was simply to create a working prototype where the player could control a character to fight monsters," said Teo.

In 2019, the Pontianak monster in his game prototype was received well by his day-job colleagues, and from there he was able to solidify the concepts of the game to focus around Southeast Asian myths and folklore.

The main hub of Seaport was a mishmash of "Kampong Glam, Singapore River, Harbourfront, and Chjimes" according to Teo, with the time period set after World War II.

Screenshot of Ghostlore's main town and hub of Seaport, which is loosely based on the developer's home country of Singapore and even has its own giant merlion statue. (Photo: Ghostlore)
Ghostlore's main town and hub is Seaport, which is loosely based on the developer's home country of Singapore and even has its own giant merlion statue. (Photo: Ghostlore)

However, progress was slow, as he could only work on the game on the weekends, or at nights if he had the energy.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned things around, as he had now had more time to work on his own thing without wasting time commuting.

After posting on Reddit to share about the game, Teo was contacted by his now partner, Adam Teo (no relation), to collaborate.

And in what seems to be the new post COVID-19 normal, Teo has only met his partner a "handful of times in person".

"He actually reached out to me via Reddit DM after seeing my posts. We started regularly corresponding online, and eventually we created a shared repository on Github and just started pouring our resources into it. So it wasn’t like a formal process of hiring somebody and there wasn’t really very much to it," said Teo.

The hard work pays off

With a target launch of 7 April, 2022 (Good Friday) for Early Access, Teo kept a tight schedule, working on his day job from 10am to 7pm, then focusing on Ghostlore from 8pm to 12am. Weekends and public holidays were very much spent working on the game as well.

"It was very stressful. We released on Good Friday and I took a couple days leave to make sure everything was in order. We were catching and fixing bugs right until the hitting of the release button," said Teo.

"I was also quite worried about how the game will actually be received as a commercial product, where it has to compete with the likes of games like Elden Ring, Lost Ark, and Genshin Impact."

Screenshot of Ghostlore. (Photo: Ghostlore)
In Ghostlore, players will fight against hordes of enemies based on the ghost folklore of various Southeast Asian countries. (Photo: Ghostlore)

The developer also felt very stressed as the game progressed from being a hobby project to an actual game, as he didn't want to let the people who were following the game down.

"The biggest challenge is polishing the game and getting it to be the best it can be. There is a never-ending list of little things that could be done to improve the experience," said Teo.

Teo added that while the first 90% in a project is easy to overcome, it's the last 10% that makes something great instead of just being good that takes the most time and effort. He also mentioned that marketing the game itself was hard, and the admin stuff he needed to do was "quite tedious."

For now, Teo is working on updating the game with more features, as well as adding more maps, monsters, and additional side quests.

He also plans to introduce ways to customise characters.

Lastly, Teo also mentioned that interested parties have also reached out to them to discuss the possibility of bringing the game to consoles.

So it's possible that Ghostlore will be ported to say the Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation, or even the Xbox in the near future.

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com

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