Interview with Afkar Media

Under The Ash, Under Siege, and Quraish are a few of the existing and coming games created by the first Arab game developer; Afkar Media. Afkar Media has successfully managed to create intriguing quality PC games to prove that the Arab world is capable of innovation as well due to the unique nature of their games that are inspiration by the suffering and real survival stories of the Middle East, the Arab world, and the Islamic culture as a whole.

O3D: Please tell us more about Afkar Media.
AM: Afkar Media is an Arab game developer located in Syria. We were established as a merger between the digital publishing department of Dar Al Fikr in Damascus and Sharikat Tiqaniyat Mutatawira STM (Advanced Technologies Co) as a fulfillment of the combined visions of Mr Hassan Salim and Radhwan Qasimiya together. The announcement of the merger was finally made after four years of negotiations. Afkar Media resembles a unique self-contained cooperation and completion as the Dar Al Fikr supplied its experience in production and marketing, while STM supplied its experience in performance and development so that they both contributed to create Afkar Media.

O3D: Could you please tell us about the motivations that pushed you into exploring the world of gaming and what difficulties you faced on your journey?
AM: We have been motivated to engage into this genre due to the natural need in our community for new sources of digital media that reflect our own needs to express our own identity and our ability to create and innovate just like any other modern culture in the world. The lack of products that reflect our Islamic and Arabic culture is clear and we are in a serious need of professionals that could supply our markets with products that could reflect our identity and yet be appealing to the youth. I would not like to talk about the difficulties that we faced because they are way too many to count.

O3D: What projects is Afkar Media currently involved with?
AM: We are currently putting the final touches on the project of Quraish, the first Arabic 3D strategy game, we are also undertaking a collection of 3D projects for various media clients and we are going to announce a very big surprise soon.

O3D: What inspires Afkar Media during the making of their games in relation to topics, games, and game developers?
AM: In relation to topics, the recent and old Islamic history is our primary source of inspiration and in relation to technology, we look up to the European and American gaming industry, and in particular Activision and EA Games. We are interested in different games at different times; we are currently into Call of Duty, Doom 3, Medal of Honor and Age of Mythology.

O3D: What is the average time required to complete a game project?
AM: It takes a period of two to three years to produce an acceptable game on a commercial level.

O3D: How many team members are involved in a single project and how are they classified?
AM: The minimum number of members involved in a serious project is 25 persons. These can be distributed as a project manager/CEO, a production manager, a lead programmer with three programmers or more (AI programmer, game play programmer, and an engine programmer), an Art director, a texture Designer, a GUI and a 2D designer, a Lead 3D designer, a templates team, an animation team, a character designer, a level designer, a scenario writer, a translator, a SFX engineer, a audio engineer, and there are also temporary and limited team members such as the music composer, the storyboard designer, a research and proof reading team, quality control team, Beta testers, marketing team and legal agents that deal with the contracts of distribution and legal responsibilities. Making the long story short, you shouldn’t be surprised if the number of people involved reaches a hundred or more in the process of making a game.

O3D: How does the process of character and scenery design take place?
MA: The character designer draws pencil sketches of everything that happens in the game according to the comments made by the game designer and the project manager. The making of these sketches takes at least three months.

O3D: Does Afkar Media believe in the blending of technology and art in the process of game development?
FK: All videogames are built on four main pillars that are resembled by the word TACO. These are Technology, Art, Concept, and Originality. A successful game features specific amounts of each element to create their own formula that reflects their experience at financial and marketing strategies.

O3D: What are the 3D programs that are used to create the 3D aspects of your games?
AM: We use a collection of programs such as Softimage XSI and 3D Studio MAX, along with some other programs that we created ourselves at our offices.

O3D: What are the technical specifications of the computers used by Afkar Media?
AM: We try to use computers with different specifications to be able to have most of the different features available in the market. We allocate our programmers to computers of moderate performance and allocate our designers to computer of higher performance. The spectrum goes from 1.6GHZ P4, 512, GeForceFX, and ATI VGA Cards to 3GHZ P4 machines with 1G RAM and Advanced VGA Cards.

O3D: What qualifications are required for an individual to enter the world of game design and development?
AM: An imaginative mind and a strong will to continue patiently without initially getting much in return.

O3D: Are there any plans for you to develop games for home game consoles?
AM: We would love to make console games, but we are a performing body only and require a client to ask us to create any project. If we get a project of this type we would take it for sure.

O3D: What is your final message to the fans of gaming and digital arts in the Arab world?
AM: We ask everyone not to underestimate or feel ashamed of the love for videogames. We ask everybody to try and get engaged in this field and support each other while we are at it. We also ask everyone to fight piracy because it is the reason that stops so many from working at this field.

© - The Creative Adventure - May 2005
© Afkar Media owns the copyright to all their character designs and artists scenes. Under The Ash is a registered trade mark of Afkar Media. Afkar Media is a trade mark of Afkar Media Co. All Rights Reserved.