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Korean indie dev Funnylocks “We made Unstoppable for a global audience”

More and more South-Korean indie game developers take aim at the PC and console market. Like Seoul-based Funnylocks with their recently released horror action shooter Unstoppable. Set in a New York office building in the 1990’s, the game plays out as a action-filled mini series, including cutscenes that unravel the plot. “To ensure authenticity, we referenced American dramas, cartoons, and games from that era when designing everything from the characters’ clothing to office props.”

Funnylocks was founded by Chae Hee-sang, who now operates as CEO. In a career that spanned many years he worked at eleven different companies, from large overseas corporations to small scale startups. During that time he crossed paths with Cho Si-wook, now the lead game designer at Funnylocks Game Studio. Si-wooks’s deep passion for game development inspired Hee-sang to take a leap of faith. “Leveraging his accumulated experience, I decided to create a game company dedicated to making innovative games”, he says. “The operational funds are sourced from government subsidies in Korea, where the gaming industry receives substantial support. Among the various initiatives, promising games are identified and given additional backing.”

The ten team members have diverse backgrounds and specialties, hailing from a number of different industries. “We aim to free our employees’ individuality and creativity from any constraints”, says Hee-sang. “There is a prominent wall at the center of our office. Everyone is encouraged to express their thoughts freely by posting them on the wall. The guiding principle is simple: no one is allowed to delete or ridicule each others’ opinions. And every Monday, we conduct a meeting based on what is on the wall. This collaborative approach and collective process shaped all of our work, giving birth to Unstoppable.”

New effective strategies

The inspiration behind the game came from an article Hee-sang read about a clinical trial conducted by a multinational pharmaceutical company involving young orphans. “The irony lies in the fact that a ‘clinical experiment’ is meant to create a drug to save lives. Yet, because of such experiments, there are victims.” The concept for Unstoppable, where office workers are infected by a mysterious gas, followed after discussions with Lead Game Designer Cho Si-wook. “We decided to blend the isometric point of view with a souls-style gameplay. And by varying the attacks and weapons of the infected, players have to constantly figure out new effective strategies.” The team blended reality and comics when deciding on the visual style of the game. “Essentially, we crafted cartoon-like characters within a highly realistic setting.”

Unstoppable being the debut game of Funnylocks, it’s no wonder the new team had some tough times during the project. According to Hee-sang, completing development on time and on budget was by far the most challenging aspect. “Every second counted, emphasizing the importance of time over money”, he says. “Each team member prioritized their tasks, and I took measures to enhance the focus and dedication of every employee. Also, Unstoppable was crafted using Unreal Engine 5, which can be challenging for a smaller studio.”

Global audience

The Funnylocks CEO has ambitions to grow the company beyond South Korea’s borders. “We have a strategic plan for the next 10 years”, reveals Hee-sang. “We are planning to release two more games in the Unstoppable universe, and port the trilogy to console. In the long term, Funnylocks aims to establish a U.S. subsidiary to make a more significant impact on the global market. From the outset, Unstoppable was always developed with an international audience in mind rather than just a domestic one, and I am eager to hear from gamers across North America, Europe, and beyond.”

“One significant factor for us to focus our efforts on Steam is the saturation and intense competition within the domestic mobile game market. Plus, various Korean indie games that launched on Steam have experienced considerable success. This is why I believe Korean indie game developers are increasingly shifting their focus to platforms like Steam, where their game skills can be enjoyed by a global audience.”

Instantly identify

Hee-sang’s aim is for people to instantly identify a game by his studio by seeing just a single scene or gameplay sequence. “I believe it’s essential to establish the uniqueness of Funnylocks. We feel that our company should prioritize elements such as art, sensibility, and humanity. We’ve crafted Funnylocks’ distinctive style by integrating these values into our game.”

Unstoppable is available now on Steam.

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.

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