Interview with Gun Kim

  For all you box art fiends out there!
Tomak: Save the Earth: Love Story: Limited Edition

    Though some may scoff at the idea, Korean games can be just as innovative and out-there as the best American or Japanese products. No one exemplifies this spirit better than Seed9 Entertainment, creators of Tomak: Save the Earth: Love Story. We talked to Gun Kim, president and programming director at Seed9, about his company, its games, and the future of Korean gaming.

   Many thanks to Seed9's Ryan Lee for setting up the interview and translating both sides.

GIA: It's been a while since we saw you at E3.  What's new with Tomak?

GK: Tomak is now in the Korean market.  It was June 8, the date it came out.  Now we are preparing for mini game console version of Tomak.  It will be only for Korean for now though.  And Japanese version of Tomak will be released soon.

GIA: How has reaction been to the game so far?

GK: It was really good at the show.  First of all, we met you guys.  And lots of publishers from here and there showed pretty good interests in our game.  Specially, several Japanese and Chinese publishers wanted to talk to us for details.  After the show, we got lots of Japanese fans.  We ourselves were really surprised.  There were already  several Tomak fan homepages by Japanese gamers and a couple of press from Japan visited our Seoul office for interviewing our team.  So, we can say that the reaction was even bigger than we expected.  ^^;

GIA: Where did you get the idea for Tomak?  Specifically the part about the severed head.

GK: Well, I can't really remember where I got the idea.  The concept was "something different and not seen before."  Maybe, I was looking at the plant pot and our graphic designer in the office when I got the idea.  Well, not sure. ^^;  Rest of ideas came out after lots of meetings with team.

GIA: Who is the favorite girl in the game of those in the office?  Does Tomak become angry or sad if you ignore her in favor of someone else?

GK: Our team members say that the girl in the internet café is the prettiest and the girl from blind date has the best personality.

Angry Tomak?  Well, because Tomak is the goddess of love, she doesn't get angry, but she feels sad and jealous sometimes when she was left out and lonely.  During the game, you will read the saying, "Can't believe that the goddess of love feels jealousy."

GIA: Who is the character artist for the game?  They've done an excellent job.

GK: Thank you very much.  Miss Ji-hyun Kim designed funny faces.  Mr. Jung-ho Son, who is the art director, designed Tomak's normal faces and other characters.  You might feel our characters are little bit different from ones you have been seeing in U.S. games.  Oh. The funny thing is that, you might've seen Miss Ji-hyun Kim's picture or Tomak CF from our homepage.  Didn't you notice that funny faces of Tomak really look alike her?  Well, she even has her own fan club.

GIA: What was the reasoning behind having Tomak's moods and desires change so drastically every day?

GK: Well, for me, loving and caring someone is very difficult and complicated things to do.  We always try to figure out what my girl friend wants and thinks, don't we?  So, we try to simulate those kinds of stuffs more detail to make you feel real love after you solve all the problems and worries with Tomak.

GIA: Do you believe that the gods sent AIDS to punish us, as you imply in the introduction to the game?  Isn't a sexually transmitted disease an ironic punishment for humanity's lack of love?

GK: Well, I think it kinda makes sense.  Of course, it's about the sex without love.  You know the god doesn't like it.  Let's not get too serious about it. ^^;

GIA: Are there any plans for a sequel?  May we suggest adding the use of vines as rudimentary arms and hands for Tomak?

GK: Haha.  That's pretty good idea. Thank you.  But we don't want to make a sequel with same concept.  Maybe there will be new game with characters in Tomak.

  Kawa ... wait, this is Korea.

GIA: How long has Seed9 been in business?

GK: We made a team to make a game in 1998.  About two years later, last August 2000. SEED9 Entertainment has been incorporated.

GIA: What else are you working on right now?

GK: The next game is Musical Simulation Game.  It will be a new genre.  The title is Booroo Booroo Groove.  We will put everything we have in this game.  Please keep your eyes on our new game.  We are planning to release it in Spring next year.

GIA: Are there any plans to try to release games outside of Korea?

GK: Japanese version will be the next for right now.  The actual deal will happen soon with Japanese publisher.  Also, we are preparing for showing Tomak at Tokyo Game Show.  We are planning to contact other countries after the deal with Japanese publisher.

GIA: Many of our readers are familiar with the Japanese and North American gaming scenes, but not Korea.  What's it like being a developer in such an emerging field?

GK: The history of developing game in Korea is quite short compared to Japan and U.S.A.  So, it's pretty understandable that you are not familiar with Korean games.  Although we think that we are pretty lucky because we're getting whole lot more attentions from lots of gamers in Japan, U.S.A., Canada and even Europe than we expected.  Well, we just started.  You will see much more stuffs from SEED9 and other Korean developers in the future.

GIA: As we understand it, the gaming boom in Korea is largely due to Internet-playable games in cyber-cafes.  Is there enough of a home market to support single-player games like Tomak?

GK: That is quite true.  Lots of developers and gamers are paying more attentions to online games.  Not every online game is successful and not every offline game is failure.  Online or offline is not the issue.  The important thing is that lots of Koreans play games and love games.  PCs have been popularized at homes, schools, works, and cyber-cafes through the nation.  Korea is big market.

GIA: What chance of success do you think a videogame console, rather than a PC, would have with Korean developers?

GK: The games for console.  Simply, we haven't had a chance to make them in Korea.  But lots of developers are interested in console games now including SEED9 Entertainment.  We think that the chances are there if we make OUR games, which is very unique and different from others.

GIA: Recently, the esteemed American game developer Richard Garriott teamed up with a Korean development house to bring their online RPG to the U.S.  Do you see this kind of thing happening more often in the future?  Do you think Korea has a chance to become a power along with Japan and America in game design?

GK: I was really surprised, too.  I think that big and small deals will keep on happening.  For the information, we signed the contract with some company in U.S.A. for using our game engine in their software.  Hm ... The power along with Japan and America ... why not?  I don't think it will take that long.

We really thank you for keeping your eyes on us.  We wish you good luck.  Thank you.

GIA: Thank you!

Interview by Nich Maragos, GIA.
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