On being focused, fast, and following feedback

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Featuring Chong Lai and his team. Chong Lai is the gentleman on the left, in a black t-shirt.

Chong Lai is the founder of Rock Nano. His studio at Blk71 resembles a wild cross between an underground garage and science laboratory; the rooms are spilling with a dazzling assortment of gadgets. You can’t help but notice a glass prism that is projecting holograms of 3D characters skipping about merrily — a scenario where virtual reality joins us in our physical reality — while another gadget has a motion sensor that transforms you into a live, moving game character.

Apart from cranking out this medley of physical hardware, the industrious team at Rock Nano produces games. Their PlayStation 4 game Arma Gallant: Decks of Destiny will be released to the public in 2016 with a potential buyout from an undisclosed source. Chong Lai and his team have the expanse of the world in their mind when they conceptualizes themes for their games:

“We do not want to limit ourselves to conceive small-scale games because our country Singapore is small — we should ‘Think Global, Dream Global, Do Global’. We need to build products with international standards and appeal. Instead of competing among ourselves as Singaporeans, we can support each other and compete with the international market: I think that’s the correct way to set our aim. Singaporeans have the best of both worlds — East and West — and can use this as a strength. Set the standard of your imaginary competitor and strive towards it.”

Games use all kinds of special effects but, ultimately, “the challenge is how to make it fun. What matters is what appeals to the gamer — the consumer — the person who pays the dollars and cents. We have to hit the goal of converting it into revenue, as that is when we can hire more people for more projects.”

How does the team at Rock Nano keep their game quality impeccably high? “We always start by thinking we are not good enough! You hear a lot of people say: my game is the best in the world. When you say that, you stop listening to feedback from people who will ultimately pay you. We gathered a lot of gamers around the world for feedback, and I said to them: don’t tell us the good things, tell us all the bad things. Don’t worry about hurting our ego — we have none!”

In a system where stakes are high and investors are anxious to see returns, Chong Lai advices: “Sometimes, I have to make the right decision. Investors naturally want it to be fast fast fast, but for me, it is not about fast; it is about getting it right with the correct timing. I also want things to be fast. The faster we launch, the faster we get revenue, and the faster we get our profit. But, you need to tune the product to its correct value, so when you launch, your reputation will grow with the product, and then you will ignite.”

On a final note, Chong Lai describes how he stays prolific and productive: “I believe in focusing. If you end up doing too many things, you end up losing focus. It is important to say no to distractions.” But, what about all the snazzy gadgets he has produced? “Of course, in-between, we do experimental things, but the core team stays focused on the games. I personally choose to take a few commercial risks outside the project because… I’m curious!”

Thanks, Chong Lai, for this wonderful interview! Read more about Rock Nano on http://web.rocknano.com/ or visit them at Blk71 #01–10/11.

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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