We meet the co-founders of Bahrain’s first ever homegrown video game – Shaikh Ali Al Khalifa and Shaikh Fahad Al Khalifa.
Not only did you launch Bahrain’s first ever game studio but also Bahrain’s first video game! Where did the inspiration for Guardians of Valor come from?
Fahad: The inspiration for Guardians of Valor came from wanting to create a fantasy game with ancient Arabian themes. If you dig deep enough in this part of the world, you’ll find there’s a treasure trove of ideas that could inspire an intellectual property. Babylon, Mesopotamia and Dilmun were part of a very intriguing era and we drew a lot from that to create the fantasy world of Aravia.
What steps did you have to go through to get to where you are now?
Ali: The fact is we faced plenty of challenges as you can imagine. We had to go through a lot of trial and error, but we were determined to make this happen. The idea of a game studio representing Bahrain is very near and dear to us, particularly as two people who grew up admiring the industry. We didn’t have qualms diving into the deep end either. For those familiar with game engines – Unreal Engine 4 [used in the development of this game] is on the cutting edge of a developer’s tool kit but it requires a team of veterans to make the best of it. From initial design to launch, it took us a year and a half which is ambitious for a mobile game.
What kind of response have you had to it so far?
A: Bahrain has been very kind to us with their support. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback and words of encouragement, which drives us to do more. This, for us, is the big payoff. We’re working hard to pitch the game abroad, the United States in particular, and we’re confident that people there will take interest.
Why did you set up Empire Studios in the first place?
F: Who wouldn’t want to be part of this industry? Shaikh Ali and I have been gamers all of our lives and it was the catalyst to take this challenge head on. We’re only surprised we didn’t do it sooner!
What has been your biggest challenge since setting up?
A: We’re perfectionists and we wanted to set the bar high for a first game while still working within a reachable target. Talent would be the deciding factor in that, and as such, you can imagine what sourcing that talent would be like since the industry didn’t exist here before we established ourselves. We were fortunate to find some very talented Bahrainis but we weren’t ready to bring anyone on that couldn’t meet international industry standards. While we intend to create some sort of programme to support locals when we’re more rooted, we decided an ambition such as this meant that Empire Studios should take on a more international identity. Today the people we have are from Bahrain, the US, Sweden, Portugal and Australia.
If you could be any video game character, who would you be?
F: Thrall from World of Warcraft! He’s probably the most influential character in recent memory. Picture Braveheart as a fearsome Orc and that answers why.
A: I’d have to say Jim Raynor, from Starcraft. You can’t hate his epic one liners.
Guardians of Valor is now available to download for free on Android and iOS devices. Visit www.empirestudios.bh.