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From playing to creating: Gaming buff levels up to start game development studio
By Rei Kurohi
Singapore Digital (SG Digital) Scholarship IMDA
Mr Fadzuli Said, recipient of the SG Digital Scholarship by Infocomm Media Development Authority feels that tech is all about problem-solving. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA/FRENCHESCAR LIM

The recipient of the SG Digital Scholarship by Infocomm Media Development Authority has turned his childhood passion into a job he loves

Who would win in a fight between Frozone from The Incredibles and Elsa from Frozen? What about Mulan versus Moana, or Buzz Lightyear against Wreck-It Ralph?

Thanks to Singapore-based game studio Mighty Bear Games, Disney and Pixar fans can find out
in the multi-platform Apple Arcade game, Disney Melee Mania, in which two teams of three players each do battle in a virtual arena using their favourite characters.

Co-founder and chief technology officer of Mighty Bear Games Fadzuli Said, who is a Singapore Digital (SG Digital) Scholarship recipient, says it was a huge achievement for his company to be approached by Apple to develop the crossover brawler game and be entrusted with so many iconic characters.

“We learnt a lot about how to work with world-class intellectual properties and collaborate with the teams at Disney and Pixar to get the characters right,” says Mr Fadzuli, who has a master’s degree in entertainment technology from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the US.

Seizing new opportunities

Before co-founding Mighty Bear Games, Mr Fadzuli, 40, had worked for the game studio King, best known for creating the smash hit Candy Crush Saga series of tile-matching games.

When King was acquired by gaming giant Activision Blizzard in 2016, the company consolidated its game development teams in Europe and closed its Singapore studio. That was when Mr Fadzuli and a group of fellow developers decided to start their own company: Mighty Bear Games.

Disney Melee Mania, released in December 2021, is the studio’s fourth game. Its fifth title, Mighty Action Heroes is a battle royale-style third-person shooter game currently in development which features Web 3.0 technology like blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Disney Melee Mania may be his company’s highest-profile game to date – and one he is especially proud of – but this is not the first time Mr Fadzuli is working with the entertainment giant. 

In 2008, he worked on Disney’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game Pirates of the Caribbean Online as an intern while pursuing his master’s degree. 

The same year, he was lauded by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech as an example of a young Singaporean taking risks and seizing new opportunities.

Mr Fadzuli grew up with both traditional role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons as well as video games on consoles like the Sega Mega Drive. Fond memories of bonding with friends and family through games as a child motivated him to create similar experiences for those who play his company’s games, which all feature a multiplayer aspect.

“I loved gaming from a young age, but I never expected that it would become my career,” says Mr Fadzuli. 

He knew he wanted to do creative work, so he took up programming and film photography courses after completing his National Service. 

He then pursued an IT course at Nanyang Polytechnic but switched to a game development course which was launched in his second year. In polytechnic, he also discovered that CMU offered a master’s degree in entertainment technology, so he later applied and secured a place there.

Using tech to connect

When it came to funding, Mr Fadzuli knew he would be able to study abroad only if he secured a scholarship as he did not want to burden his parents financially. 

At the suggestion of one of his lecturers, he applied for one offered by the Media Development Authority (MDA), now called the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). He was awarded the scholarship in 2007 and later served his bond with ST Electronics as a game engineer.

Mr Fadzuli says his time abroad allowed him to meet, collaborate with and be inspired by many passionate people working in various aspects of the entertainment industry, from music and film to theme parks and, of course, video games.

He adds: “I learned that technical ability is only one half of the equation when developing games with others. You have to work well with others to be able to communicate ideas.”

Mr Fadzuli also met other recipients of the scholarship, who remain his friends today.

The industry scholarship, now known as the Singapore Digital (SG Digital) Scholarship, offers recipients the flexibility to chart their own tech- or media-related path and serve their bond in any organisation and industry of their choice, subject to approval by IMDA. 

Mr Fadzuli says he tries to encourage an interest in programming and technology among his young nieces and nephews who are curious about his game development career.

“Tech is a very interesting sector to be a part of because it is ultimately about finding solutions to problems,” he says.

“We need more people who understand technology, and who can code and create new products and features. There are many opportunities in tech to break new ground.”

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