Like the majority of people who play mobile games, I have never experienced life in Singapore back in the 1940s and 1950s. What I know about that era is what I have gathered from reading books, watching films and listening to music of that time.
On books, an excellent resource to learn about the psyche of the Malay community in the old days is the book by A. Samad Said called Salina. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.
But books are not visual media. Readers need to imagine for themselves how these places look like, how people talk to each other, how they dress etc. This is where films come into play. Without the many films made in Singapore in the 1950s; I would have had to grapple in the dark and Satay Club might not have been developed at all. Even if it is, it would not have been any good in terms of bringing out the mood and feel of that era.
Having said that, a question comes to mind. What good is staying true to an era long gone and presenting it to a pop culture audience far removed from it? Will they get it?
It's like recommending Charlotte Brontë to fans of J.K. Rowling. Some will get it. Most will run away.
In order to connect with my contemporary audience, I needed to fashion my game in such a way that is rooted in the current pop culture but yet has that nostalgic charm. This is the idea I got from Baz Luhrmann's film The Great Gatsby. His vision of F. Scott Fitzgerald's work is to make it palatable to the contemporary audience. He even changed certain elements in the actual story to do so. By doing this, he had somewhat alienated the hardcore fans of the book but the major audience viewed it favorably. I am of the latter.
What I learned from him is his use of music. In his film, he did not stay true to the actual music used in the 1920s and 30s. Instead he used electro swing and electro jazz; music from that era that has been fused with the current contemporary pop music. This I feel is a very good move to connect with the younger audience.
I paid very close attention to the visual details in his film; the night scene most particularly. This scene had inspired the look of the night time scene at Beach Road and the Alhambra Theatre that I created in pixel art.
But why don't I just get the actual film footage of the Alhambra Theatre in the 1950s as visual reference? I did try, but the footage was scant and it was grainy and in black and white. I needed something more but it was hard to come by.
I had to reimagine the Alhambra Theatre and the place it was at. I hope I did a good job.
(to be continued in the next post...)