Why ‘Save the World’?

When people ask me why we decided to develop a game like ‘Save the World: The (Mis)Adventures of Luis and Joana’, people have a hard time believing that the idea of this game has been in my head for decades. Well, an idea of sorts…

It all started when my best friend and I were huge NES addicts and would spend hours in each other’s houses trying to beat classic 2D platformers such as Contra, Goonies and Megaman 2 (then called Rockman 2) and Super Mario Brothers 3. We even started sketching game ideas on our school notebooks, drawing and designing levels with intricate events, difficult enemies and bosses, prizes waiting at the end. And I remember the best part about drawing those levels was incorporating all sorts of humor and Filipino pop culture elements into them, making them stand out, hilarious even. I had no idea back then that these sketches on a pad would mean so much to me today.

And then between 2005 to 2008 — I was working as the Business Development Officer and Content Producer for Yehey.com, the most familiar online portal in the Philippines at the time, and we were already fleshing out ideas for our own virtual world! Communities like Gaia Online and Neopets were already all the rage then, so what we were doing was more game-like than anything, and mimicked a great deal of everyday, Filipino life. And yes I was inspired a LOT by what World of Warcaft was doing at the time, and how they were able to incorporate a ton of pop culture references into the game. I was designing characters, locations, writing dialogue, the entire virtual world! And this was just the first phase of a full, 5-part development!

Sadly, it was not meant to be as the project proved to be too cumbersome for our development partner, who had very little experience with building this world on Flash, which was the staple interactive web application at the time.

I buried the idea for this game for a long time, as I jumped into the advertising industry for a while… and then finally to the gaming industry in 2009, where I first started as the Head of Advergaming for Level Up! Philippines, and then eventually, Content Acquisition Director for Level Up! Games, where we looked at games and content from all over the world.

Fast forward to 2015. I had just left my last post as Business Development Director for an awesome mobile game development company, Playlab, and — after learning all I could about the development process — along with my experiences in Level Up!, I felt I had enough experience to understand what made games successful, and how to replicate that success, maybe even launch a few successful titles of my own.

I finally worked up the courage and say goodbye to corporate life, partnered up with a good friend who also worked in the game industry for a decade, and here we are.

When we finally sat down late in 2015, the first order of business was to decide: “what the hell are we going to do?” Then all of these things I had shelved came flooding back into memory, and all this — along with my newfound love for all games Roguelike, specifically the hundreds of hours I’ve spent on games like Binding of Isaac, Don’t Starve, FTL, Risk of Rain, etc. — I sat down on a computer and wrote the beginnings of our story, drew the game on paper, fleshed out the characters in my head and on scratch paper.

Luis, the geek, and Joana, the muse

Luis and Joana were born, and I wrote about their star-crossed love story in a contemporary fantasy setting, with the underlying theme of ‘it takes a world-ending apocalypse before you can actually tell someone else how you feel about them.’ That definitely struck a chord with me, especially since in a way, it mirrored how hard it was for me to propose to my wife.

And as I was fleshing out the story, all of these things around the world started happening — natural disasters, global warming, discrimination of race, gender and creed, even fascists rising to power… I saw monsters in every facet of life. And I thought that what better way to show relevance than to fight through these monsters, save the girl of your dreams, reverse the evil… and save the world!

I drafted the cast to reflect all these issues prevalent today AND as a homage to my friends who have been with me in the gaming journey from Day 0 onwards. I wrote their characters into the game, in one form or another, calling back all of those geeky inspirations and references to Filipino pop culture. I started turning all of this positivity into the heroes and heroines of the game, and I couldn’t stop writing!

Today, we’re at prototype stage, and the story is still writing itself. And every day I revisit my original sketches and original story documents and write in more things to make it more complete. Every day, I look at what’s happening around the world and I want so much to contribute to the change, make things better. Now I’m glad because I see it all coming together beautifully, and I couldn’t be more excited about how everything will finally turn out!