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In this idiosyncratic “post-mortem” of the latest in Gamevil’s Nom series, maverick designer Bong Koo Shin details the surprising concept behind his latest opus and detais the reason that he feels Nom 3 is the game that “finally merges games and art,” featuring innovative mobile-only missions for an avant-garde experience.

October 4, 2007

6 Min Read

Author: by Bong Koo Shin

TitleNom 3 from Gamevil is the sequel to Nom 1 and 2 and a new type of mobile game, featuring smoother movement than that of its predecessors. Nom travels through more than one hundred backdrops, which are comprised of different combinations of small squares. The squares move and change in various patterns and colors as if they are alive, which resemble a morphing effect.

In general, Nom 3 gives an impression of media art, and I have always tried to bring the borderlines of game and art closer. Nom 3 is a monumental game that finally merges games and art. I recognize that in some situations there may be conflicts between game and art, but I was I was thrilled to find that Nom 3 is the first offspring of the genetic synthesis of the two genres. The Nom 3 project has not been easy at all, but it has been personally meaningful; and I have been able to overcome the difficulties with LOVE.

Nom 3, Inspired by Love

The subtitle of Nom 3 is "A Beautiful but Cruel Square." I remember last Valentine's Day when female co-workers gave out meaningless Valentine chocolates to their male colleagues for the day's sake. Since I was not dating anyone at that time, I was delighted to have the chocolates and finished them right away. As I enjoyed the chocolates in my mouth I thought to myself, "Ahh, they are melting in my heart, beautifully but cruelly." That was an honest monologue slipping out, as I felt both the sweetness of chocolates and the bitterness of solitude. Right at that moment, something came across my mind: "A Beautiful but Cruel Square!" (Most low priced Korean chocolates are in a rectangular shape). All the objects in gameplay except the main character were to be designed in a square form and those squares were to be enlivened and move and dissolve in coordination. On that day, Nom 3 was born.

Nom 3 during gameplay

Beauty and Cruelty

I intended to show the beauty of media art in the form of beautiful but cruel squares. Colorful squares moving on the screen as scattering petals is quite a beautiful scene, however, Nom is hurt when he is hit by the squares. Think if Nom were in love with a cactus? It is the same logic that if Nom falls in love with a cactus and gives it a tight hug, its spines will inevitably hurt him. I don't know if all the love stories in this world are similar to this scenario, but most of them that we go through are similar. That's what makes love so precious.

The Story Blended with Love

In Nom 1, Nom traveled around the world. In Nom 2, Nom traveled through his inner self. Now he knows about the world and himself, but he is missing something: LOVE. It was love that Nom has never experienced before and this strong affection, or love, for someone is blended in the storyline. She is so beautiful but Nom can't hold her. His dream of being with her is so sweet, but the reality isn't. At the very end of the game, Nom finally meets her, but she says that she's leaving him because she loves him. Ironically, Nom is a cactus to her as she is to him, a beautiful but cruel being. Love and the agony of being in love...

State-of-the-Art Code

The behavior of all of the game objects other than Nom in Nom 3 are created and managed by editing tools working on hidden code. Thanks to the hidden code, our team has enjoyed using editing tools making the process quick and fun. Whenever a correction was needed, all we had to do was simply to run the editing tool and fix it, and then we could check the output instantly. The size of the application is very critical in mobile games and with our advanced process we could make the application size only a small fraction of a mobile phone's capacity. We (the Nom team) saved a lot of time from this approach. The efforts of my team's programmers on the editing tools deserve applause.

Mobile Only Design

When you play Nom 3, you will notice that some of the mission requirements are only possible on mobile platforms. For example, the mission may read "Your character must die between certain hours and at certain points," or may require an incoming call to execute the mission and proceed to the next stage. These missions are available only on mobile platforms. Who could have ever imagined such things would be made possible with just a single mobile phone? More "Mobile-only" features will be added to our next project in the Nom series.

Nom 3 boss battles

The Conspiracy

When you see screenshots of Nom 3 game play, you should find them very simple yet vivid. If you play it with game sounds on, you should find it a very avant-garde experience. This follows the theory of visual colors and sounds related to the control function of brain activities. I have designed the game in this way to add an unrealized addictive element to our game. When you go to bed the night you played Nom 3, the visuals and sounds of the game should not leave your head. Trials like this will evolve into a more advanced form and will be continually used in functional games that influence gamers for certain designed purposes, and I am confident that we will be at the very frontiers in this development.


Some level of AI (artificial intelligence) was used to move the squares in pattern, and it was a very shocking experience to see a map which we had not designed during game testing. It was an uncanny map designed by the mobile's A.I. I eventually decided to consider it a bug and had it fixed. Yet if I had more time and could have anticipated such situations, I would have left the AI to design all the maps.

I have to include Nam Jun Paik in the "Special Thanks To" credits because I respect him very much and I could not have made this game without him, and there are even more unrevealed stories about Nom 3 along with Easter Eggs (which I will never reveal!) If Shakespeare, Paik, and Einstein gathered together to make a mobile game, I imagine it would be similar to what we have created as Nom 3.

"For some people mobile may play cupid; it may be the art for some; and it may be science for the others."

[Bong Koo Shin studied industrial graphic design before starting his career as a sound engineer at an arcade game development house in South Korea. He has since created online casual games, mobile content, and mobile games.]

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