When Red Hare Studios opened its doors in 2008, its staff primarily worked on video games for entertainment and education, but since 2014 the company has expanded its products to include app solutions for the service industry — including ORCA, its flagship point-of-sale system for food and beverage companies.
Today, there are five DigiPen (Singapore) alumni working at Red Hare Studios, and all of them are helping drive the company’s innovation and success by contributing to ORCA, which has already attracted an investment of $4 million USD.
Those graduates are Teo Wee Keat, Benjamin Seow, and Hoh Shi Chao from the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation program, as well as Tan Shao Heng and Wilson Choo from the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Game Design program. While they all share the same title of software developer, they mostly work on different sections of the ORCA system, such as the core ordering app, the supply replenishment system, the point of sales system, the assembler display system, and reports and analysis system.
Although DigiPen’s curriculum is heavily focused on game development, the graduates at Red Hare say the same skills are transferable to the likes of app development, which shares a similar pipeline.
“We identify all the possible cases for the client, construct prototypes, get feedback, improve, perform testing, and repeat until the product is complete. This is the same whether the feature is a sword trail for a game or providing reports from restaurant operation data,” said Benjamin.
For the other graduates, the scale of the app’s development was a daunting challenge, but one that they were excited to take on. Wee Keat said that he has to be constantly on his toes to fix any potential bugs that crop up in the system. “It’s really different from games where shipping it means it’s the end of the process. With apps, the projects are never ending, and you can’t expect to have quick fixes,” he said.
Shao Heng also added that an additional challenge during the development process is that he has to make development decisions in a way that meets the needs for a specific type of client. “It was a matter of making the right thing for the real-life user, and sometimes it can be hard to imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes,” he said.
Nevertheless, the graduates agree that the end results of having an integrated system used by businesses makes for a satisfying experience.
“Working on an app broadens my horizons as opposed to … just making games,” Wilson said. “It also feels good to know that I’m working on a product that increases productivity.”
Benjamin added that the team has gotten positive feedback from clients on their reports and analysis system app, particularly for the app’s ability to retrieve sales figures on the fly. “Normally reports can take days to receive in the old ways of operations,” said Benjamin.
Shi Chao said it felt surreal when he saw photos of the product being deployed and used in real time at a restaurant with waiters on the ground. “It made me want to improve on the app more,” he said. “I hope that the system has made their lives easier and better.”
By selling and integrating ORCA into other businesses, Red Hare Studios has been able to self-fund new game projects. This is by no means a small benefit, and it’s one of the reasons Red Hare Studios’ founder, Dr. Koh Wee Lit, decided to launch ORCA in the first place. Through this hybrid setup, the graduates we spoke to said they are still able to help out the games team every now and then by working on the studio’s various prototypes.