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A History of Korean Gaming

Table of Contents

Part 1

Part 2

Back to the Index


소프트라이 Softry / ST Entertainment

Founded:

March 1993

Status:

defunct (May 29, 1998)

Key People:

:
CEO Softry
최태진 Choe Taejin:
Head of business department STE
:
Producer (1993-1996)

Website:

www.stgame.com (offline)


게임스쿨 Game School

Founded:

December 24, 1998

Status:

changed to Gana Games (2008)
changed to Gana Kids (2009)

Key People:

김재송 Kim Jaesong:
Director (ca. 1998)
:
Director (ca. 1999)
김재중 Kim Jaejung:
CEO (ca. 2003-2006)
:
Director? (2007-2008)

Website:

www.gameschool.co.kr


게임스쿨 Game School

Founded:

uncertain

Status:

active

Key People:

:
Director (2007-present)

Website:

www.gameschool.co.kr


게임스쿨티지씨 Game School TGC

Founded:

2008

Status:

active

Key People:

:
CEO
(2008-2013)
:
Director
(2010-present)

Website:

www.gamesschool.co.kr
www.gameschool.ac.kr


Emerged from a hardware distributor called Try, Softry was originally formed as a licensee and publisher for foreign games, but changed its course before anything was set, determined to propel domestic game development1. Therefore, Softry consisted not only of a development department, but also entertained an educational facility, the Game School, founded in July 1993 as the second game development school after the Goldstar Gyoyuk Center2. Softry was founded by the former game producer at Topia, Doojin, and the initial instructors were all former KETO members, as the Daou development team called itself after parting ways with the company, so they could claim some of the most experienced staff in the country1.

In early years graduation would require a finished project, which was then sometimes published by the company. However, out of dissatisfaction with the working conditions and payment, most teams would leave the company soon after, most famously Sonnori, the developer of Softry's first published game and biggest success, Astonishia Story.

In 1996 Softry took over Deka Team (Twins, Mutant DNA), which from then on served as their internal development team3. One year later, the Company itself was assimilated by the EnK group and officially renamed as EnK Digital, although the ST Entertainment label was kept4. ST eventually regained its independence, but on May 29, 1998, not long after the IMF financial crisis, it had to file for bankruptcy5.

Game School, however, survived the demise of Softry, and this is where things start to get complicated. A new company called Game School was formed in December 1998. It is not certain how close its ties to the Softry Game School were, but the new school always referred back to its roots in 19936 and celebrated its tenth anniversary in 20037. This Game School then changed its name to Gana Games in June 2008, which seems to have been more of a game publisher rather than an educational institute, and finally to Gana Kids on February 12, 2009, becoming a publisher of educational children's books8.

A Game School kept existing, though, under the leadership of Im Donggyun, who had been with the institute since 20049 and just kept going on until today.

But there is also another Game School, whose path has been much more winding. It actually started out with the official name Games School TGC (note the extra "s"), led by Kim Hyeonu10, who had a past as a tutor at the older game school11. Despite the slightly differing name, it originally used the exact same logo as the previous Game School12, and Kim Hyeonu reportedly used to introduce himself as the 9. CEO of the tradition-rich institute13. In 2010, the school announced a joint effort with the publisher Aurora Games, changing its CI according to the developer. At this opportunity Kim Juyun, a founding member of the original 1993 Game School and CEO of EDU Holdings joined the Aurora Games School as its new director14. Later the company changed its name to Game School TGC, leaving the TGC off the company logo.15

So now there were two institutes by the name Game School, each claiming to be the successor of the 1993 Game School, but apparently they went either unnoticed or disregarded by each other. The troubles only began after Game School TGC entered the publishing business in 2013, landing a contract with the developer N.Dolphin Soft for the game Eclipse War16. On August 14, less than two months after the game went online, N.Dolphin Soft shut down the servers, putting the blame on Game School TGC's lack of marketing, terrible conditions and breaches of contract for the game's failure and the developer's downfall17. Additionally, N.Dolphin Soft got into contact with Im Donggyun's Game School and claimed that Kim Hyeonu had knowingly deceived the company, feigning to carry on the tradition of the venerable Game School18. Suspicion also was raised by the fact that the name of the company's representative on the homepage was suddenly changed from Kim Hyeonu to Yi Daeho. Im Donggyun then proceeded to sue Game School TGC for the misappropriation of the name19.

Game School TGC countered by producing evidence that they had obtained the permission of Gana Kid's current CEO Jeong Sangweon to use the name, and also a cease and desist order to Im Donggyun. Furthermore, former Game School CEO Kim Jaejung apparently was supporting Game School TGC as well20. Im, on the other hand, had conspicuously registered his trademark for Game School just a few weeks before the incident and stated that the original trademark from 1999 does not refer to an educational institute21. At the time of this writing (November 25, 2013) both institutes continue to operate under the same name, and it remains to be seen how the court decides on the matter.


Games

어스토니시아스토리 (Astonishia Story) - IBM PC (July 1994)

Developed by Sonnori Team when they were part of Softry, this game is introduced at the Sonnori profile.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Sonnori
Softry

Publisher:

Sure

Genre:

RPG




天下無敵 (천하무적 Cheonha Mujeok) - IBM PC (October 10, 1994)

Cover

After the enormous success they had with Astonishia Story, Softry could pretty much do what they wanted and it would still have been successful, and it appears they were dead-set to use up all of their reputation at once. Cheonha Mujeok is easily one of the worst fighting games ever.

The art style is somewhat attractive and sports a couple of interesting characters, notably the only North Korean fighting game character ever, who has some weird snakes around his arms. The fighting controls are nothing short of a catastrophe, though, rendering the game positively impossible to play.

Frustrated with how things turned out (and reportedly also with the payment), many staff members lead by director Baek Namkil (who had also created Daou's Janggun-ui Adeul) left Softry soon after the game was finished to found Yeonwoo Soft, where they developed the much better game Mutant DNA.

Advertisement

Quick Info:

Developer:

Softry

Publisher:

Sure

Genre:

Fighting


Cheonha Mujeok (IBM PC)

Cheonha Mujeok (IBM PC)



슈퍼액션볼 (Super Action Ball) - IBM PC (March 1995)

Super Action Ball (IBM PC)

With the new producer/director Jeong Bongsu on board after the leave of Baek Namkil, Softry tried their hands on a association football fun game, which turned out surprisingly playable. Still the game doesn't offer too much beyond the standard arcade and two-player modes. In terms of sheer fun, it's also no Kunio Kun by any means.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Softry (RGB)

Publisher:

HiCom

Genre:

Sports


Super Action Ball (IBM PC)



포인세티아 (Poinsettia) - IBM PC (October 19, 1995)

Cover

Softry had serious problems keeping its staff together. A traditional RPG with active time battles similar to the 16- and 32-bit Final Fantasy games, Poinsettia was the last game Jeong Bongsu produced before founding his own company as well, Future Entertainment.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Softry

Publisher:

Multi-City

Genre:

RPG

Theme:

Fantasy


Poinsettia (IBM PC)

Poinsettia (IBM PC)



타르타로스 (Tartarus) - IBM PC (August 1996)

Cover

After Softry lost most of their staff for at least the third time, Tartarus was their first game to be developed by the newly hired Deca Team. At first the SRPG makes a rather good impression; it has an interesting story about a dark future war on a newly discovered continent that is totally not America, the pixel art is beautiful, and after some wandering around in the starting area to trigger the right events, the first battle if fun and promising for the things to come.

Then, however, the story pulls a stupid plot twist that gets the entire squad save for the leader killed, which leaves the hero wandering into the world on his own. The field map is full of respawning enemies that might as well have been random encounters, as they hunt you down relentlessly, forcing players to engage in combat all to frequently. What was fun with a complete party of six, now becomes a dull exercise with hundreds of drawn-out encounters that always play out the same. Enemies level up with the character so they always remain capable of killing him in 2-3 shots thanks to a much too high random factor in damage calculation.

It all wouldn't have been too bad if one could make fast progress through this unpleasant phase, however the short-term goals are cryptic as hell and their triggers glitchy, so the next dozen-or-so hours are spent wandering around aimlessly in search for them. All the while enemies constantly keep on attacking for more boring confrontations, of course.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Deka Team
Softry

Publisher:

Seemac

Genre:

Strategy
RPG

Theme:

Military


Tartarus (IBM PC)

Tartarus (IBM PC)



마이프렌드 쿠 (My Friend Koo) - IBM PC (June 5, 1997)

Cover Art

My Friend Koo tells the story of a little boy that fusions with some kind of meta-fairy tale hero named Koo, and then they (he?) go on to save tha land of fairy tales from the grasp of an evil wizard. Though many stories featured are not technically fairy tales, each level is based off a typical candidate for mixed-up children stories, starting with Peter Pan, to Snow White, Pinnochio, The Wizard of Oz and so on. But each world is corrupted, with the actual protagonists of the story ending up as the villain, so the Koo/child hybrid has to set things right (read: beat the shit out of them).

Although My Friend Koo is an action platformer first and foremost, there are a couple of adventure elements where items have to be used, people need to be talked to, and the hero learns a number of spells that not only serve as means of attacking, but also move certain obstacles out of the way. Otherwise enemies are disposed of with punches and kicks, as well as a number of little helpers, like a unicorn that flies over the screen, taking out anything in its way. The latter consume Koo's life energy, though, and each time all the stars are used up, the protagonist's portrait in the upper left corner counts down his fingers. When he gets killed after making a fist, it's game over. That's not too much of a problem though, as other than most Korean platformers, the game has a saving function, so each of the six levels can be selected individually once reached.

Other than the questionable message of solving any problems with his fists, My Friend Koo is quite an adorable game with many phantastic ideas and cute 640x480 2D graphics. The technical execution, however, is a bit lacking. Screens don't scroll until one reaches the very end, comparable to the first Zelda. Did this pose not much of a problem in a somewhat slow-paced action adventure, however, it becomes fatal all too often in this platformer, when the game requires leaps of faith on every corner. Although the controls are pretty good for the most part, things also somehow happen much too fast when falling into a pit, whereupon the game usually puts the player to the last solid ground touched. This mechanic, however, is rather glitchy, and one can show up on other places, often so confusing that one falls down the same pit multiple times again before realizing what is actually going on.

My Friend Koo has been released internationally through Midas Entertainment as late as 2000.

Quick Info:

Developer:

ST Entertainment

Publisher:

ST Entertainment

Genre:

Platforming


My Friend Koo (IBM PC)

My Friend Koo (IBM PC)



아만전사록 (Arman-jeon Sarok) / The History of Arman's War - IBM PC (September 1997)

Cover

A strategy game in the vein of Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, History of Arman's War is equally complex and neigh impossible to play even with moderate knowledge of Korean. Battles are fought in an RTS mode, but the pathfinding is truly abysmal, so that the only viable strategy is trying to lure the enemy into one's own unmoving and prepared main forces.

Quick Info:

Developer:

ST Entertainment

Publisher:

ST Entertainment

Genre:

Strategy


History of Arman's War

History of Arman's War



붉은매 (Pulgeunmae) / Red Hawk - Windows (March 1999)

Cover

Red Hawk is very special among Softry's games, in that it has been completed by the core team independently after the company went bankrupt.22 Needless to say that the event nonetheless had an unfortunate influence on the game's quality. The game is a traditional RPG in Japanese style. It uses polygonal characters that act in front of pre-rendered backgrounds, very much like Final Fantasy VII. There is, however, no way in which Red Hawk can hope to compete even the slightest. More so than the ugly battle backdrops or the boring ATB battle system that bars any interesting features, the game is killed by the utterly ridiculous difficulty curve in the beginning, resulting in hours upon hours of senseless grinding for those that hope to go on.

Quick Info:

Developer:

ST Entertainment

Publisher:

JoyToon Soft

Director:

Park Jun
Park Jongun

Genre:

RPG

Theme:

Fantasy


Red Hawk (Windows)

Red Hawk (Windows)



Unreleased Titles Softry / ST Entertainment:

94 Korean Series (1994)

후라보맨 (Huraboman) (1994)

Talisman (1997)

Against the Darkness (1997)

Unreleased Titles Game School:

봉신도 (Bongsindo) / Oriental Legend (1998-1999)


References
1.a b Gamechamp 9/1993, bonus insert
2. PC Power Zine 11/2000, page 213
3. PC Champ 10/1996, page 86
4. PC Champ 4/1997, page 94
5. PC Champ 7/1998, page 110
6. Game School History (archived 8/26/2003)
7. Gameshot 7/28/2003
8. Bizseoul.net - Gana Kids Company Profile
9. The Games 11/23/2009
10. Game School TGC Home Page 3/4/2013
11. This Is Game 8/19/2013
12. Game Job - Games School Company Profile
13. This Is Game 8/19/2013
14. This Is Game 3/5/2010
15. Game Job - Game School TGC Company Profile
16. N.Dolphin Soft Homepage 4/23/2013
17. N.Dolphin Soft Homepage 8/14/2013
18. This Is Game 8/19/2013
19. This Is Game 8/20/2013
20. Inven 10/25/2013
21. This Is Game 10/25/2013
22. Amuseworld 12/1998, page 100


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