Tak Fung – Developer of EpicWin and MiniSquadron

Tak Fung always had an interest in video games, as it was part of the culture in Hong Kong where he was born. His first console was a Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System — or the “Red and White Machine” as it was commonly referred to in Asia. His interest grew to computers like the Amiga and the PC as he immigrated to the UK. Having previously been only a games player, he learned programming at a late stage, after his first year at Cambridge University. Shortly upon graduation in 2001, he joined Lionhead Studios to become a full-time professional developer. He then worked for Lionhead Studios developing the BAFTA award-winning Fable franchise on Xbox and Xbox 360, focusing on the graphical aspects of the games.

After a satisfying career at Lionhead, Tak decided to move into the world of contracting, particularly motion video, in order to pursue his love of graphics and pretty things. To that end he worked on productions for Massive Attack and various films and bands within digital post-production companies in London, notably Passion Pictures and United Visual Artists. With this body of experience, and with the advent of the iPhone and the ease with which one can develop for it, he finally decided it was time to strike out on his own, and he incorporated Supermono Limited, with a focus on his first passion — making fun games!

Working with Dave Ferner, the artist he met at UVA, Tak created the award-winning iPhone game “MiniSquadron” — a traditional shoot-em-up with little planes for the Apple’s iPhone and iPod. This has gone on to be a critical and commercial success, and has now been ported to Android, Palm Pre and will soon be on Windows Phone 7 and SONY PSP. “MiniSquadron” was quickly followed up with “Fox Vs Duck,” an art-house casual game.

At this time, Tak felt that it was time to experiment with more non-traditional ways of gaming. With the speed at which social networks and the technology available through these powerful devices being adopted so quickly, Tak teamed up with illustrator and old Lionhead chum, Rex Crowle, of Rexbox.co.uk fame to make something a bit unusual — a ToDo list that mixes gaming elements to encourage people to actually get things done! EpicWin was released in August 2010 and received worldwide praise, and continues to give people a way to record and carry out mundane tasks with the added incentive of RPG style experience points and collectible items!

What are you working on right now?

Right now I am working on developing EpicWin further, with updates to the existing app including more gameplay features and stronger syncing with established calendars such as iCal, Exchange and also other ToDo services such as EverNote. The idea is to create a more useful base of features before moving on to more fun gameplay features and also to create a networked experience online.

3 trends that excite you?

New technology enabling new games — in particular in the mobile space with more powerful CPUs and features like augmented reality becoming more feasible. Microsoft’s Kinect also is very exciting as a device — there is plenty of opportunity to see what kind of games can be made with that in the future — although the current crop is fairly uninspiring.

The importance of computer security and its affects on the world. With the recent sophistication of the Stuxnet virus and the involvement of unknown but allegedly state-scale sponsorship for it to be developed, it has shown how exposed a lot of the world can be when their computer systems are not secure. Coupled with the fact that serious state assets are being involved (uranium enrichment), it strikes me as a highly dynamic area to keep an eye out for interesting developments.

The exponential rate of change in technology, and the resulting behaviorial and social change in the human species. Social networks, Twitter, mobile GPS tracking apps — all of these things are very close to producing a world that is vastly different from the world of even say 20 years ago. This is a phenomenally quick change, which the human race has had to adapt to, and it already is producing interesting patterns of behavior globally — like Twitter and Iran news leaks, Wikileaks and so on.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I used to draw, but I can now ask Beardy Dave the Artist to draw for me! I also like to talk through scenarios, but I am mostly a very visual person. Visualizing results and combining it with music helps me a lot, and then rapid code prototyping on my part brings it to reality (an ugly reality at first).

What inspires you?

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and more so when they do it with such conviction and against such adversity that it would be insanity by any measure. I am also very competitive, so any achievement where I can compete against someone inspires me to action!

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Attempting to do things in my spare time, when I had all the skills and security in fact to try it full time. I learned that I should stop listening to people who advise on how to progress on a “career,” what is “risky” and what is good for me. Believe a bit more in yourself in a realistic way.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Someone needs to do a charity app on the iPhone that brings together hi-scores and giving before I do! Someone should e-mail me about this!

What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?

Book: Nassim Taleb — “Fooled By Randomness”
Software: XCode on Mac or Visual Studio on PC

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Jason Citron, CEO of Openfeint — the first real social gaming network for mobile:

Is there more to come from EpicWin?

Yes — right now it is only on iPhone — but there is so much more to do and explore in bringing something fun and exciting to the world of everyday chores. A network backend is being constructed, and it is my aim to use my games experience to bring more addictive mechanics and amusing gameplay to EpicWin.

What are you trying to do?

I am trying to bring my ideas to reality. With my ideas I want to capture your imagination — currently through my best skill of coding, technology and video games. And through that, I hope to affect your life in a positive way if possible!