Wan Hazmer Wan Ab Halim is the guy who gave Final Fantasy XV – one of the biggest role-playing (RPG) games around – an exciting Malaysian twist. Thanks to him, Malaysian staples, namely roti canai, satay and teh tarik, will be forever featured in the popular game.

Published last year by Japanese game developer Square Enix for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and soon, Microsoft Windows, the 15th edition of the Final Fantasy series has shipped over 6.5 million units in physical and digital sales worldwide.

Final Fantasy XV’s success is undeniable, and Hazmer is elated to have played a role in its creation, and giving it, however small, a Malaysian feel.

Hazmer was the lead designer in its Culture team, tasked with designing cities and dwellings. He felt that Lestallum, one of the towns that players will come across in the game, has a culture similar to our own.

“I am not pressured to represent Malaysia everywhere I go, but I did feel the need to do so. I didn’t want to be just another game designer in the company, and I wanted to let out all of my ‘Malaysian-ness’ in the game,” says Hazmer during an interview in Kuala Lumpur. He also stresses that the elements would not have been included unless everyone on the Final Fantasy XV team decided that they were a perfect fit.

The addition was a bittersweet experience for Hazmer as it also marks one of last times he has a say in the Final Fantasy series. Hazmer has ended his employment in Square Enix after working on Monster Of The Deep: Final Fantasy XV.

The departure isn’t sudden as Hazmer had planned his exit strategy from Square Enix five years ago.

“I told my director that once I am done working on Final Fantasy XV, I am going to take all that knowledge and experience and start my own game company. I want to give back to the game industry,” he says. His new company, which will open for business some time this month, will not just be an IP creator.

Final Fantasy XV

Wan Hazmer introduced a bit of Malaysian culture to Final Fantasy XV. Photo: The Star/Sia Hong Kiau

“It will be an industry supporter and provider of opportunities as well. I want to meet new talents, shape the industry better, and provide my know-how and experience to the people who haven’t had the opportunity to work in a triple A company,” he explains.

He is grateful for the experience that he gained working with Square Enix for seven years, and is particularly keen to emulate its working environment at his new company.

“It takes a certain level of creativity to convert your life experience into a game. I always believe that a good game designer designs games, but a great game designer designs less, and experiences life more.”

Hazmer is happy that the local gaming industry is booming now, a stark difference he says compared to when he left for Japan in 2008. “Back then, the game designers were just doing their own things and would most probably meet up for coffee and discussions once a month. Now it is different. There is a community and they are putting great games out there,” he says, adding that Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) plays a crucial role in the ecosystem.

“MDEC has been giving a lot of support in terms of funding, infrastructure, connecting local companies here to companies overseas, and even connecting the local companies among themselves.”

Hazmer hopes more aspiring game designers will use the available platforms to get into the industry.

“I would like to assure everyone that a career in the game industry is a proper job that pays. This is a big industry, with billions of ringgit in value,” says Hazmer.