09 November 2017 Department of Computer Science Alum

9 November 2017 – Recent NUS Computing graduates Tan Kang Soon, Muhammad Hanif Bin Ghazali and Eu Yong Xue won the Judges’ Choice Award at the GameStart 2017 Indie Awards, held in Singapore from 14 to 15 October this year.

The team’s game beat more than 20 other games competing for the Judges’ Choice Award and Visitor’s Choice Award. The awards were presented to the best newly-released or upcoming games that were showcased at the event.

The game, Songbird Symphony, was also nominated for the Best Overseas Game award at IndiePlay 2017, an international game exhibition with 200 entries, held in Shanghai in October this year.

Kang Soon, Hanif and Yong Xue founded Joysteak Studios, an indie game development studio, and started developing Songbird Symphony after graduating this year.

Songbird Symphony is a musical adventure game due to be released on PC and Nintendo Switch. Players use the game avatar ‘Birb’ to journey along in the forest, sing and dance with other feathery inhabitants, learn the language of the forest and to discover Birb’s destiny. Players follow along with the game’s music beats to get Birb to sing in the right pitch and dance to the right rhythm.

The idea for Songbird Symphony came about when co-founder Hanif took a Biology course, “Animal Behaviours”, during his undergraduate studies.

“Hanif learned that birds of different species will pick up new songs from one another,” explained Kang Soon, “Hanif thought it would be interesting to make a game that reflects this unique behavior and to present it in the form of a musical show.”

Excited by the concept, the team decided to pursue the idea and to fulfil their dream of developing original games. “We even rejected interviews from Ubisoft and Facebook to meet in my living room every day to work on the game,” said Kang Soon.

The risk of walking away from job opportunities and the comforts of a stable full-time job paid off when Songbird Symphony garnered attention from game journalists and YouTube influencers after the team released a short version of their game on online game portals.

Their game was featured on the front pages of online gaming sites like Newgrounds and GameJolt. Songbird Symphony also won the 2nd Runner Up prize on online gaming portal Kongregate, as well as the Daily 3rd Place award on Newgrounds in August this year.

According to Kang Soon, what made Songbird Symphony stand out was not the music or the gameplay, but that the team truly believed in the game and the story.

“Songbird Symphony is a very personal project for our team. Each part of the game reflects our search for meaning and place in this huge ‘forest’. We want to create a game that allows us to walk with players on their journey of self-discovery, where players will learn more about themselves and the world they live in,” said Kang Soon.