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In Conversation with Shailesh Prabhu
Sep 5 2021
In Conversation with Shailesh Prabhu
Listen on Apple Podcast | Listen on Spotify | Listen on PocketCasts | Listen on Amazon Music | RSS FeedThank you all for tuning into our podcast. This is our attempt at archiving the history of game development of Indian creators, through their own stories and voice. We hope you find it interesting and engaging. If you have any thoughts and suggestions, please come by our discord and have a chat!In this episode Yadu and Arjun talk to Shailesh Prabhu, founder of Yellow Monkey Studio, about his roots in the Indian games industry, the early days of the indie scene in India and much more.People in the podcastShailesh Prabhu -  Nair - Rajiv -  from the podcastYellow Monkey Studios - online - interactive - Technologies - Sharma - of the Tentacle - - A Stitch in Time - VideoFinger Footie - Just a Thought - - Israney - on Kongregate - - Software - Not Commute - - - Joshi - Menon Madathil - Europe - - 3 release cancelled in India – ArticleSaint Young Men - - Mob - Evil Village - - Ring - Souls - TranscriptYadu Rajiv 0:06 Hello, and welcome to the GameDev.in podcast. In this episode Arjun and Yadu catch up with Shailesh Prabhu to talk about his history with the Indian games industry, the early indie scene in India and much more. Alright, today we have Shailesh Prabhu with us, who is the founder of Yellow Monkey Studios, and maker of many, many awesome games, and also communities as well. And many other things as well, which he will tell us what he has been doing for his entire life now. Over to you, Shailesh.Shailesh Prabhu 0:45 Hi. I'm Shailesh. I. I've been working in games for I don't know, since 2004, or five, I think. Yeah, for almost nine years, nine months. I was at Yellow Monkey, which I founded and ran for that long. Yeah. I've worked at a bunch of studios in India. And before that, and after Yellow Monkey, I worked at a bunch of studios in Copenhagen, and then distributed work studio. And then now in Malmo, in Sweden. Yeah, I've worked on different scale of games from casual to hyper casual to AAA too. And we had a small community, which we're we're also running back back when I was in India, which, which Yadu was also I think, part of local indie game devs long ago. And I've helped, like, with some other community initiatives that were active in India when I was there. So yeah, that's, I guess me.Yadu Rajiv 2:13 That is the briefest brief intro that we've had, I guess.Arjun Nair 2:18 A good intro. shailesh. But when you start before you started Yellow Monkey Studios, did you just start on a whim? Or did you have some professional experience? or What was your gateway into starting your own studio?Shailesh Prabhu 2:33 Yeah. So I mean, I was always interested in making games for for a while before that. And I didn't really know much of what for many studios there were and what kind of job opportunities there were for making games in India. So I always kind of had this in mind that, you know, maybe if we have to make games, it's gonna be like, we'll have to do our own thing. But yeah, I did. Right out of engineering college, I got a job in a games publisher that was publishing. It was called Ragnarok online. It was a Korean MMO RPG being published.Yadu Rajiv 3:17 I remember getting a CD with a Skoar or Chip or something.Shailesh Prabhu 3:23 Yeah. And yeah, I was working there for a few months. And it was basically like, yeah, Philippines based publisher was publishing the game here in India, actually, not here. But, and then soon after that I was working, I found myself working for Dhruva Interactive in their mobile games team. And then soon after. *cough* Sorry, yeah, so I worked after that for a bit that Dhruva Interactive and then I had to move back to Mumbai, because Dhruva was based in Bangalore, and I had to move back to Bombay. And then I took up a job at Nazara at the time. And when I was at Nazara, I was like, already doing a lot of things in the value chain of game development. And also, we had helped them, me and a bunch of friends, helped them create the team there at the time. So I found myself thinking that, well, here, we helped them set up the team and we were also doing a lot of stuff right from development to conceptualizing, to marketing, and of course, design and production. So I just felt like since we were doing pretty much everything it was, it wouldn't be the most outrageous thing to do it ourselves. And then me and one of my university friends Avin, we decided to, you know, quit and start off working on something a bit more creative than what was really happening in India at the time and so we started Yellow Monkey. And we worked on our first game, which was a point and click adventure for for the Nintendo DS. That was how we started.Yadu Rajiv 5:33 Were you always doing design at Dhruva and Nazara, were you focused on? Okay.Shailesh Prabhu 5:43 At Dhruva it was mostly again, design at Nazara it was doing design as well as production. And also like marketing and stuff like talking to publishers and talking to the ISP, not ISP. mobile network store owners, this was back in the day of pre iOS App Store days. So pre smartphone game, Arjun Nair 6:11 The primitive days. Shailesh Prabhu 6:12 Yes. Arjun Nair 6:14 Then we were still hiding in cavesShailesh Prabhu 6:16 Yup.Yadu Rajiv 6:18 So when you started Yellow Monkey was, was it just about kind of the iOS boom starting up? Was was it? Was it around that time?Shailesh Prabhu 6:29 No, it was a couple of years before that. I think we started in 2005. And at that time, we were working towards like we wanted to do more, something more interesting than what was happening in India, because in India at the time, it was all mostly all Bollywood, cricket, and astrology kind of stuff.Arjun Nair 6:56 What's wrong with astrology?Shailesh Prabhu 6:59 Well, I mean ...Yadu Rajiv 7:01 It's all in the sky. Shailesh Prabhu 7:03 Nothing is wrong if you if that's what you want to do. But you know, you can make money in a lot of ways. It's just that we didn't want to do that. So you're thinking of doing something more, like more video games.Yadu Rajiv 7:16 So you're saying you didn't want to make money Shailesh? Shailesh Prabhu 7:18 Yeah, isn't that evident?Arjun Nair 7:23 Long winded way of saying that. Yeah.Shailesh Prabhu 7:25 Yeah. So we decided to work on we wanted to do like some console PC style games. And we realized that, since we already had a background in mobile, maybe the next best step would be to start off with handheld console. And both me and Avin, really loved our Nintendo DS at the time. So we were we started on working on a DS, adventure game. We got a publisher interested, we got lots of very amazing mentors at the time, and it was good. But then the publisher went bankrupt in 2000, in 2008, along with all the fallout of the crisis, the financial crisis, and then we were like, okay, in 2007, the iOS store sort of like started. So we were like, okay, it's, we need to be able to be in a position where we can make smaller stuff, if we want to survive, we need to be able to make smaller stuff and publish it ourselves. So we're not depending on publishers as such. So that's when we decided and the platform that we could do it on at the time was iOS. So that's when we switched to iOS.Arjun Nair 8:38 And during this time, did you set up an office or were you working out of your garage?Shailesh Prabhu 8:45 Yes, so we started off, working out of my bedroom slash office, it was large enough to host two tables and me and Avin to work from there every day. Eventually, as we grew, there was like another room in my, in my apartment, which was like, well in my mother's apartment, which was large enough to have like, five-ish tables and a little bit extra space. So it was in the it was on the ground floor, yeah, we operated the studio from there. Arjun Nair 9:36 Awesome. So when you started off, what games were you planning to you know, start off with? What was your initial ideas?Shailesh Prabhu 9:47 Yeah, so the first one was like, as I said, an adventure game kind of humorous little bit on the on the lines of like, Day of the Tentacle and those kind of games. Yeah, something like that. It was called Mortley. Yeah, it was called Mortley - A Stitch in Time was about this weird character that was made up with stitched up body parts, and you could swap them with other things to gain abilities and solve puzzles. Once that once we couldn't finish that, that was pretty evident. We started working on iOS. And then we started looking at what were the strengths of the platform. And so we looked at doing like, a touch screen football game, which was the first one we released on our on our own, we were doing some project work at the time to also gain some finances and you know, do some get some experience. But the first one we released was Finger Footie. And that was more like a touch screen top down soccer game, which we felt, which looks really bad now. So it hasn't aged well. But the idea there was just like exploring what kind of controls would work well on a touchscreen game for for a soccer game, because at the time everyone was putting, you know, those on screen keypads, which are game pads, which I wasn't a big fan of still still not a big fan of. So yeah, that was the first one. And then we wanted to ...Arjun Nair 11:25 Typically how would you pick a process like, did you analyze the market or did you just approach an idea and say, Oh, this works well for this kind of mobile device or hand console? And then work on that idea? Or was it more like a market oriented ideation process?Shailesh Prabhu 11:44 Yeah, it was never really market oriented. For us. It was like looking at strengths and weaknesses, like, what was our strength? And what were the strengths of the concept or the platform we were working on. So with Finger Footie the it was, and also It's Just a Thought it was more about just exploring different kinds of like, doing something a bit more experimental and looking at control schemes and like, figuring out which what fits best for the game. By the time we did Huebrix it was more about like, okay, we know what our strengths are, and what kind of game can we make for this platform using those strengths? Like, we never had a proper Character Animator slash artist of that time on our team? So we were like, Okay, how can we? How can we make a game with what we have, that can actually be, you know, something, to look up to look at something that might have a decent chance of success. So, like, after Finger Footie, and It's Just a Thought our focus was more about like, okay, we know what the what we can do on the platform. And then we were like, Okay, what can we do in terms of like, production realities? And shape the idea around that.Yadu Rajiv 13:12 How kind of much of success were these games at that point? And how do you in a way, like, this was, it this was when free to play was, I guess, to like not in the picture as much, and everything was pretty much premium. And at that point, you were also kind of experimenting with your own kind of an artistic process. So how did that all kind of blend in at that point?Shailesh Prabhu 13:46 I would say like, by the time, It's Just a Thought was out, I think free to play was already kind of the thing was like, but we still I think it was 2011 when it came out. So there was some free to play out there by then. I would say, with our first two games, we weren't super successful, but we managed with Finger Footie. We actually managed to, like make up like, get a response from some people at at Apple and get some feedback from them and like, okay, you know, this yeah. And that that was further. Actually no, it was more around… It's Just a Thought. When we when we released It's Just a Thought. We actually won an award in Spain for the best original idea. And then we got featured by an article on Touch Arcade I think which was talking about. I don't remember which publication it was, but it was talking about five great games that were that were kind of crushed by being hard holiday releases. We were stupid, we released release around the holiday season that time. But, so that, and then when like when we wrote to like, Apple and stuff, we also got some feedback, which was really good. We were featured in a bunch of countries. For that game, not any major market, but it was like the first time we got featured at the time that for that game, we also got featured in India. And the weeks we were featured, we were the top paid games in India at the time. And it's a funny story, because those weeks we sold like five copies per week. So this was this was still early, I think 2000 2011 2012. So yeah, but still, I was. It's a funny little anecdote I like to useArjun Nair 16:13 Did you reach out to these publications, or did they reach out to you? And I mean, how do you get eyeballs? And those kind of press internationally? Shailesh Prabhu 16:23 Yeah, I think part of my thing was always to make sure, like, we were reaching out to all the people. For the first two games, I don't like we didn't really receive so much attention till we got, like, that article that we got featured in and that was, I don't know, if it was because we reached out or they liked the game or something. So it's hard to say. But we were we just found out that we were on that list. And and you know, and subsequently, like we made more of an effort to like, make sure, okay, the these publications kind of covered us. So we should write to them. And yeah, and those kind of deep, not deep, but you know, those kind of like just being aware of where we can get some attention to our products and to the games, things like that...Arjun Nair 17:23 The reason I asked was or currently, I think many people use the social media to basically proactively advertise the games. But that still doesn't ensure you know, any mass media kind of coverage. So yeah, I was curious, does it makes sense to actually leverage social media now now in this current situation more than, you know, to your traditional media? coverage kind of thing? I think, yeah.Shailesh Prabhu 17:55 I mean, I think there's, I think with this kind of stuff, there is no real one answer, you have to do everything. Or, I would say you have to do as much as you can do. Obviously, everyone and every team has their limits. So I would say, do whatever you can, in your limits. If it's only social media, then sure. If it's social media, and traditional, like campaigns do do that, if you can also do like paid campaigns, do that, like do whatever you can to ensure the game reaches an audience because you have no control over what's going to work. And sometimes random things can work and just set off a chain of events. Arjun Nair 18:45 Yeah. So then you did Huebrix right? After It's Just a Thought, or did it come, came after that, right? That was a nice little puzzle game, which was a bit different from what you had done previously.Shailesh Prabhu 19:05 Yeah, so when we, after It's Just a Thought we were like, okay, you know, what was interesting with that game was like, the concept and the idea and like, the music and little bit of that kind of stuff, but not really like, wasn't really super strong on gameplay. And then we were like, okay, but also, to be fair, it was like a very short production time. So this time, we got a little bit of money from the award that we won, and we also got some money from our project work. So we were in a position where we could say, Okay, now we want to do something where we can actually devote it some time. So let's, let's make a game that we really want to. So then, as I said, before, we went back to the to assess our strengths and we were like, okay, we can make something that doesn't really rely so much on character art and then the most prominent genre that came to mind was puzzles. And so then we started reading a lot of like existing puzzle games, and I was of the opinion that we should be able to make a puzzle game that we can prototype on paper. So we can just like, quickly, you know, come up with the ideas and like scrap them or iterate on them. And then then we actually did actually manage to come up with Huebrix on paper. And then we were like, okay, we can make a small flash prototype. And Krishna was working on that at the time. And then we tested that with like, around 100 people, and we saw that testing really well. And then we started like, okay, growing the game from there.Yadu Rajiv 20:52 I remember the flash prototype ending up in Kongregate as well, I think, and the website. And then you had like, after you finish the levels, you could just go and buy the game. Yeah, that seems to have been useful at that point, I guess. Like a small demo, right?Shailesh Prabhu 21:09 Yeah, I think we tried it like to, to direct traffic from HTML, flash websites to iOS, but I think the switch of platform was very difficult. Like, we almost got very, very little conversion on those flash redirects to App Store. But it was, as I said, it was like one of our ways of doing whatever we can to get the attention to our paid product, which was the iOS one. So yeah, it was it was fine. I think a lot of people played the game on on Kongregate and some of these other flash websites. So it was good.Yadu Rajiv 21:54 The Huebrix do better than the other games, as expected and, and by that time, I guess free to play was kind of getting predominantly, I guess, bigger and bigger as a as a way of releasing games out. So in hindsight, like, what do you you have any thoughts about releasing it as a premium product versus releasing it as a free to play maybe?Shailesh Prabhu 22:27 Yeah, so Huebrix did substantially better for us. Again, we reached out to all our, all the people who had like, shown any interest or like any sort of like, positive feedback, or not positive feedback, any feedback, like anyone who we had gotten responses from, we reached out back, like, hey, here's our next game. And, you know, tell us, please tell us what you think and, and just initiating conversation, and we got good response. And eventually, we also were, like, active on some forums and stuff. And we got really good features for Huebrix we got and that time, it was like new and noteworthy features on on iOS in the US store, which was really big and also, on the Google Play Store, we got featured on the first page. We didn't get banner features in any of those, but it was still pretty, pretty important, because like being on the front page of the stores, is especially like the best way to get downloads, especially for a paid game. So yeah, since we got some of that, in major markets, like US and Europe, we, it did much, much better. It's probably the most successful game, we are close enough to the games that we did after that as well. So yeah, one of the most successful games we worked on. And the second part of that question was, yeah, by then definitely free to play was the de facto for mobile. Like all the games are free to play at that time. Except, like most of the indie titles, they were still doing premium stuff. So we were trying to just like, we were hoping that we would also be exist in that niche. It worked somewhat okay for us, I guess, I think with regards to if we would want to have published it, free to play. It's hard to say because I think you need to design a game ground up from free to play for it to work as free to play. You can't just make a game and then just be free to play on top of it. It's very hard. It's very unlikely because like free to play. Of course, you can do like a here's like the light version, or like, you know, here's like 20 levels. And then if you want to play the full game, you unlock it by doing one purchase. And there are some studios that have had amazing success doing that model, or like selling something simple, like the ability to save your progress, or, you know, just one purchase that's meaningful. And, and that kind of free to play, I guess can be added on a bunch of games ... Arjun Nair 25:31 That's more like the shareware model, right, like, that's what ID [software] did they distributed the first level and then to purchase the whole game.Shailesh Prabhu 25:39 Yeah, you can, you can, yeah, you could say that shareware or like, sometimes it's also some functionality. I think some games did that. Like you could play the whole game. But you can only say, if you if you buy if you buy our premium premium unlock feature,Yadu Rajiv 25:56 I think Does Not Commute did that with? Yeah, yeah, it was just interesting.Shailesh Prabhu 26:01 And that was really successful for them. Like they did really well with that. And I think all of their games had like this kind of thing where they had one purchase, but you could play all of their games pretty much even without that purchase. So that was, so yeah, shareware. But then also like some other interesting models, but like something like that could have probably worked. But I think other than that, largely Free to Play is designed to identify people who want to spend or who can spend in your game, and then allow them to spend as much as they can. And if you don't design for that behavior, you can't, it's very difficult to just like, take a premium game and say, okay, now it's going to be free to play. Right? Without a lot of work. So, no, I don't think I would have wanted to release it purely as free to play.Yadu Rajiv 27:00 Post Huebrix we interestingly see a lot of collaborations with different folks, do you wanna jump in and talk about them? Maybe? Including Socioball? Bluk?Shailesh Prabhu 27:14 Yeah. Yeah, it was really fun. Actually, I must first met Apoorva, actually, I first met Apoorva's dad at at a conference, he was showing Apoorva's first prototype for Socioball and I found that very endearing and it was nice. And then I waited around to talk Apoorva and I was talking to him, and he was he's really smart. Really, really smart. Probably one of the smartest people I know. At the time, I guess I shouldn't say that, because I'm old. But yeah, and he had a lot of energy. And he really wanted to, like, you know, look at how the game could could be made commercial, or like, how could the game actually be sold and who he should be talking to, and those kind of discussions and I was like, you know, you can definitely make it commercial, but you're going to have to polish the game a lot. Because at the time, like the model for I mean, polish is such a weird word, but it's just like, you know, make the UX really good and like, have very little friction in in the UX. And like, there were some features in that game, which are quite technical, which users or gamers are probably not really going to care about, and how to make them a little bit more lean. And so then we worked a lot on that we actually started the they developed the game round up. It was even a new engine. So everything was from scratch. So yeah, it was a lot of fun. And I forgot what I was talking about. But yeah, so so then we decided to after like, having a bunch of these chats about how we could work together and how we could help with Socioball and what my vision for it was and what his vision for it was, and it kind of matched so we we decided to work together on that. And that was that was super fun. Similar thing happened with Bluk, I think. I think we are I also met him at a conference and then Deepak and we just really hit it off and I was seeing all the prototypes he was working on and he was seeing stuff I was working on and then I was just like giving him lots of feedback on like, hey, you know you could try this with Bluk can try that Bluk and like, it got to a point where we he was like sending almost like weekly builds and like we were doing reviews and at some point we were like I think we should just like work on this together. Cuz. Yeah, and then that's how it went. It was both experiences were really good. And I would love to work with either of them again, someday, I guess. Yeah.Arjun Nair 30:13 So then what happened with the Yellow Monkey Studios, right for all these games that you did? And it looks like you were experimenting and finding new stuff to do. Yeah, but then you took a different turn from there. So what happened there?Shailesh Prabhu 30:31 Yeah, so after after Bluk came out, I think me and like around, even during Bluk was being made, I think around me and Manu, my programmer at Yellow Monkey he, we were working on Skysutra, which is like this weird platform game versus two player, local multiplayer platform game, where you create the platform for your opponent as you play was an interesting little experiment. Experimental game, we showed it around with some showcases and conferences, got people who played it, and enjoyed it. I think at least, it seemed the same fun. But production realities were difficult. The team was constantly churning. And also, at the time, I was quite disillusioned with the game dev scene in India, I was quite involved in some community activities. And I really felt that people involved were letting the community down in a big way. I ...Arjun Nair 31:52 Yadu, what is this Yadu? Shailesh Prabhu 31:55 It was not Yadu I can say that. But, but and also at the same time, I just felt like a little bit of a creative void in India, like, I think was not so much interesting what was happening. There was a lot of like, I don't know, Ludo, card games, those kind of stuff. Like maybe 10 people's working the entire country who was like, interesting.Arjun Nair 32:24 Yeah, some point we were doing the same kind of games over and over again, with the same Teen Patti, Ludo or something else.Shailesh Prabhu 32:32 Yeah, aren't we still? But yeah, so and then I just felt like, you know, during my years before this, like for like promoting the game, I was traveling a lot to different countries. And I really enjoyed the Nordic game conferences, which happened in Malmo. And I made a lot of friends here. And I just like, it just felt like home to me. Like it was so warm and welcoming, like, not the not the weather, but the people had, like so many meaningful discussions. And like, so many amazing games that I really liked, were being made in this tiny part of the world by Copenhagen and Malmo. So at some point, we were like, we were also prototyping another game, which was like a music based brawler, rhythm based brawler. And a friend's studio in Copenhagen was working on our rhythm based jazz narrative game, called The Gentlemen. And they just asked if, if I would like to come over. And like, we were exchanging a lot of tips and like, what we wanted to do and things like that, and how the gameplay would work and, and they just felt that I would be a good fit. So they offered me if I would like to come over and take on the project. And I had, I had a chat with Manu as well, and seemed like he also felt like it was a good time to like, look at other things. So then we, so then, yeah, I moved to Copenhagen. And worked at that studio for for a while. Unfortunately, that game did not come out because that studio went bankrupt, as they had some huge unpaid bills from one of their major clients. So even though this game had the money to to be developed, because we got a grant from Creative Europe, we the company itself had to go bankrupt. So we couldn't really use that money. It was very sad. So yeah, yeah. So really fun game and then a really amazing team at Cape Copenhagen. I loved my time there. So then that happened. And and then once you have a full time job, I think it's it's harder to give attention to side projects. So side projects have been slower. And but still there, I guess. Yeah.Yadu Rajiv 35:17 So how are you kind of keeping yourself busy on the side? What are what is brewing? Maybe?Shailesh Prabhu 35:23 Yeah. So after, when I was in Copenhagen, and Deepak and me worked on another prototype for a game called Warigami, which was about folding things folding space and time. Basically, it was like a puzzle game masquerading as an action game, sort of. But it was, yeah, about folding space time. And we got like a Danish Film Institute grant for the prototyping. And we worked on that. And that was a lot of fun, I still believe in the idea, and then maybe I'll work on it a bit more if Deepak has time. And then that that's pretty much been the last side project that I took to any major playable state. After that, around that time, the Danish company I work for went bankrupt. So I had to move Sweden. I moved to Sweden to Malmo and took took up another job, and, and then another one, and which is where I am now. So yeah, and now, most side projects haven't really reached that far. But I'm thinking of doing something narrative and music based again, but in a very different way to the two ideas I worked on before. So we will see if any of you guys are free and want to you know, prototype.Yadu Rajiv 37:01 Yes, are you kinda going back to your roots, maybe back to Mortley and you know...?Shailesh Prabhu 37:11 No no not really, I mean, not those particular ideas, because like, but I do enjoy single player narrative experiences, or like, puzzle experiences as well or so probably somewhere around or like some kind of action as well as fine. So it's somewhere in those years I enjoy, like, I don't really. Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't say never. But I think like my mind usually goes to these kind of games, I guess. Arjun Nair 37:48 You get time to participate in game jams, or things like that? Shailesh Prabhu 37:54 It's hard. I think with a full time job being also a bit older. I don't want to be up for 48 hours. Yeah. I don't want to be up for 48 hours and make a game I'd rather just do it. You know, during my work time when I'm feeling productive, like, rather than like, Yadu Rajiv 38:14 Hey, I think we discovered a new niche where, you know, for old timers.Shailesh Prabhu 38:21 8 hour work jam, 8 hour game jams, say like, for over a week. Yeah, exactly. A work week. Yeah. So not not so much. I mean, I sometimes take part in or sometimes I just like, do a little bit of like hanging out at some of these jam when used to just like, oh, look at the energy or like, check out the games that's happening, but not that much jamming. No.Arjun Nair 38:52 But do you feel more creatively fulfilled? Like, I mean, that's one of the reasons you left India though, right?Shailesh Prabhu 38:58 That is part of the reason. And I think, like, I do, yes or no, I think I can still like I feel closer to be able to do the things that would be interesting, or at least, you know, I talk a lot with like people and like, who are doing stuff that interests me. And then there's like, it's always inspiring because you see, others work and you see, okay, that's an interesting approach or things like that. So yes, I do feel more fulfilled, but also no, because I don't have a strong project that I in a good enough state right now. But that might change. So we will see what happens... Arjun Nair 39:47 Intriguing!Yadu Rajiv 39:49 On a slightly like different note from but from something that you just mentioned, is that those people that you have around you and the community that you have there , how sort of different is it from here? Is that a is a? Is that a lack of? Like, similar minded people? Or is it because there's a cultural difference in how people approach these things? So I'm just trying to ask, mostly because I'm also kind of trying to see, we see that the out of like, I don't know, like 1500 people on our discord 30 people talk every week. So like, so it's, it's a sort of weird cultural thing? I don't know. Shailesh Prabhu 40:36 I think it's, it's hard to say exactly. It's also difficult because I'm entering here, when the industry is already in mature state, whereas back home, it's, it's still, it's still maturing, and it's gonna mature for a while, I think. What is different here is that, like, there are people who have made games that have been more critically and commercially acclaimed or successful, or one of the two, and then then there's like, interesting perspectives and a lot of them. So you know, you can, you can take what you like, from all of these different perspectives. And that's, that's kind of nice. That's, that said, like, from a community point of view, I think. The big difference is that the if I think, like, if I talk about, like, Malmo or Copenhagen as a community, they are like, one city, and there's like, all the community concentrated there. But when you talk about in India, like, usually the communities have been pan India. And that's, that's very different. Because we can't have easily like, hey, let's all go to, you know, let's have a play test evening at the coffee shop, or at a bar, and like, you know, 10 people show up to their games. That's very difficult. We did one such event just before I left in Mumbai. And actually, we did have 10 people with their games. And that was really fun. But I really think that community efforts need to be ground up and not top down. It can't be an India wide thing. It needs to be city based things. And you know, okay, there's 50 game developers in India, in Mumbai, and then okay, you know, 10 of them will show up for meetups every, every month or something like that. And that will scale upwards more, and you'll have more meaningful conversations coming out of that. No disrespect to what you guys are doing. But this is my yeah.Yadu Rajiv 43:03 No, no. No, but what's interesting is that I think a lot of us are generally doing ground up things anyway. I mean, if there are people in Calcutta or in Delhi and Pune and Bangalore, there's a bunch of us here, even even places in Kerala and all that. So like, all those, it's just like, the discord or whatever the community and all that is primarily just one more meeting point for all of the people to kind of get together, like you were saying, the meetup in Mumbai, like we do demo days where we have like, a huge amount of people come up come with, like, lots of games, where feedback is kind of given and all that. So. So. So yeah, so like I that is that is. So that is, I guess, 1 more thing to kind of keep in mind when you're doing more things.Shailesh Prabhu 44:01 Yeah, maybe like ground up. Arjun Nair 44:04 Sorry. Sorry. Go on Shailesh. Shailesh Prabhu 44:06 No, yeah, I think like, those kind of ground up events are super important. But then again, another difference I would say is that Malmo or Copenhagen or a lot of these cities are so small themselves, like when you have I know it sounds very crazy, but it's super, like it's super accessible to be in either of the cities and go to any of their events like in Mumbai or Bangalore, for example, you have to sit in a four hour traffic jam if you want to go to an event. I know it's a very silly sounding reason, but it's very practical. Yeah. Yeah, like people get annoyed. I have to go and meet I don't even like there's also already anxiety about going and showing your game to a bunch of strangers who, who sometimes you might think oh man, but they have their shit figured out. I have to go and show them my shitty game and then our shit and wait for four hours in a f*king car Sorry, I have to wait for four hours in a car to do you know, are in a train or whatever, and to insanely crowded trains. So I think it makes it more difficult to for people to go and be out there in these bigger cities. I know I did a, I helped organize a Global Game Jam site in Mumbai once where one person showed up. Yadu Rajiv 45:26 I Remember this.Shailesh Prabhu 45:28 Yeah. So. So yeah, you know, yes, the good stuff.Arjun Nair 45:34 I remember attending couple of events that Yadu and team had organized long back when they were meeting an Indiranagar I think. I think one of the events was at some Indiranagar cafe shop or something like that.Yadu Rajiv 45:48 That's probably not me. Bangalore is that way, like kind of a cultural hotspot? Probably. But it's probably larger. And, and thankfully, and, and there are a bunch of different people also trying to do similar things. With with differences also, like, when it's just to kind of hang out furnaces or showcase your stuff. One could be a jam. So yeah, so that keeps happening in Bangalore that was kind of blessed with, like a level. There's also that concentration of a lot of industry folk, which I guess also kind of helps out, which is, I guess, the same case with Malmo as well, where, like, like, a lot of the, like, the like a lot of people who are working in games is also concen- concentrated in a particular area. Whereas when you compare like that to India, like we're all spread out. Shailesh Prabhu 46:46 Yeah, exactly. Yeah.Arjun Nair 46:48 The Bangalore video games meetup was more of a gamers thing, right, though?Yadu Rajiv 46:52 But it was primarily a lot of game developers as well.Arjun Nair 46:55 Yeah. Because when I tried at one of those, it was mostly yeah, I think, to the point that Shailesh was making game developers seem to be turning out a lot less themselves. As opposed to, you know, video gamers are generally public who like to play games. Yeah, so that seems to be a bit of a cultural difference that we don't even now demo stuff or like to show stuff to other people. And I'm also guilty of that.Shailesh Prabhu 47:24 I mean, it's not just demoing, it's also like, just, you know, meeting talking about, or like, you know, even talking about some other game you played, it's just like, the knowledge exchange needs to be fast and furious. I don't know. I mean, this is also just like, me, giving stuff from the top of my head. So I don't know, this really is the reason what I think, also, I think, like, there are very few, like games that have like really broken through that I've like, come from India, and I think that makes a difference. Like, you know, something like, a huge hit from India would would inspire a lot more people to do something like that. And like, yeah, I mean, I think we're slowly getting more and more interesting games that are coming out. But it's that one massive. It's also hard to, like, probably blame everything on one missing hit. But like, I think it would inspire a lot of a lot of people to dream and like, try things and yeah.Yadu Rajiv 48:39 So in terms of so since since our focus is mostly on free to play, and you see a pattern in the last 10 years of the kind of games that we were making here. Like what is what could kind of drive that shift? Do you have any thoughts on that?Shailesh Prabhu 49:01 I think there's like two sort of industries happening. One is the Ludo, Teen Patti, those kind of games industry and they're, they're, I guess, making some money from what I understand then there's like the, you know, people that are trying to make PC or console or, or premium stuff. And then I think they're also like getting slowly more and more success as as, as they learn more and more as time progresses and they're getting more exposure. I think these two will continue to move in parallel, right? Like, because I don't see like people who are chasing the Teen Patti but the user base going after going after PC, or Console, Double A or triple A or indeed, triple I, whatever you want to call it, kind of games and vice versa. Right? So I think these two things will move in parallel. And obviously, I think like, since we have a lot more people, I think trying to do the VC funded slash Free to Play slash Teen Patti, Ludo style games, we probably will hear a lot more about that, too, in the recent future. So I don't really expect like overnight things to change. But I think slowly, things will. Actually I don't know if I answered your question. I started rambling at some point.Yadu Rajiv 50:52 Are you keeping an eye on what's happening here, though, from you know, I people in touch with you, people showing you stuff or you like seeing things happen?Shailesh Prabhu 51:03 Not so much stuff. That's been like, I haven't seen so much stuff. Like people aren't really sending me stuff. But sometimes. And then sometimes I like, I mean, I know some what what's happening, because I'm also on the discord group that you run. And yeah, like, through social media and stuff. But there's like, you never know, there's always someone hiding in the shadows. So yeah, I would say have some some sense of what's happening.Arjun Nair 51:41 I'm going to ask you Shailesh a straight up question, and you should give me a straight up answer. Should we make mythology based games given that our culture is so rich, and you know, mythological history and steeped in traditions? Why haven't we made a mythological game that's successful? Actually, we have made a couple. We have made a couple of them. They're quite good. But yeah, what's your general thought on that?Shailesh Prabhu 52:06 The tricky part is that our mythology is based in religion, that is still followed very fervently, and very actively. Whereas I can do whatever to Thor, and no one will really care. Or, like, in a mythological sense, like, you can put him in a comic book, and you can make him do outrageous things that probably didn't actually exist in in the mythology, right, like teaming up with the Avengers, for example, like, but like, for us, you could probably make a comic book based on Ramayan, which some people have. But it still needs to follow some sense of like, some version, like, we also have, like, 1000s of versions of every single myths that exists, right? Yeah, like minor variations, you still probably need to follow some of those, like, you can't just like put Ram fighting aliens with Superman. Like, that's not gonna happen, I think. Arjun Nair 53:17 You could have a Ramayan Thor crossover? Shailesh Prabhu 53:21 Yeah, I mean, you need to talk to Marvel I guess. But I think like, that's the thing, like, it's also a religion that's being actively followed. So anything you do will be like, looked at with extreme with, with a magnifying lens. And if you, you will offend someone, and it may become a big issue. And that might also you know, like, I mean, we had Fallout banned in India, for example, for having a cow or mutant cow, like, are you? Are you do you really think that it would be okay to make? I mean, you might be able to get away with it. But it's not always gonna be the case. Your creative freedom will be very limited, I think. Yeah,Yadu Rajiv 54:09 I think you see, you really do see kind of parallels with film. Like, I remember, Scorsese made the Last Temptation of Christ. And later Mel Gibson also made the, the Passion of Christ I think both films like for actively, like one was actively sort of kind of put down, while the other was kind of raised up if I remember, like, people in church asking people to go and watch the Passion of the Christ, whereas the other one was kind of, so especially yeah, what do you see with an act of religion? and how it can really affect how he kind of,Shailesh Prabhu 54:45 Yeah, it's tricky. It's difficult. I mean, maybe someone will do it and you know, it will be amazing. I don't know. But I also I, there's so many things to make games or like make stories or things about we don't necessarily have to restrict ourselves to those things.Yadu Rajiv 55:09 A manga with Jesus and Buddha together, Saint Young Men Shailesh Prabhu 55:13 Oh, yeah, yes, yeah, yeah. Yadu Rajiv 55:17 So I guess it also there's ...Shailesh Prabhu 55:19 Also American Gods TV show, right? Like it has like Gods from all over. But I think that yeah, you can do stuff like that when you're not here or when you're not like you're not in India and not from India, maybe you're, I'm not sure, given the political landscape, how it will fly. If you try something very colorful.Yadu Rajiv 55:40 I think you're perfectly placed for doing something with Mahabharata.Shailesh Prabhu 55:43 I mean, I actually do like Mahabharata, it's quite interesting. As a story, there's lots of interesting characters. I don't really know if I want to make a mythological game. We'll see. Never say never, but not right now. At least. Maybe someday.Arjun Nair 56:06 So what are you up to nowadays? I mean, you said you're working on. You're trying to continue working on that small game Warigami. But what is the general life in like in on a day to day basis?Shailesh Prabhu 56:22 Well, I have a day job, which is also in games. It's at a big triple A studio called Shark Mob. And, yeah, I work there, most of the working day, so then I have very little energy left to work on other things. So things are very slow. I'm not really actively working on Warigami as much. I would like to, but not right now. And but I'm like, slowly thinking about another idea, which is like, musical narrative game. Maybe doing like a very light prototype of that soon. So. But other than that, it's mostly just like, you know, life things, work and cooking. I love cooking. So I cook a lot. I have two cats so I annoy them a lot. And play with them a lot. And generally, I play tennis a bit. So trying to keep keep good mental health, because it's also very important to to try to keep your mental mental health good. And focus on that.Yadu Rajiv 57:36 How has this last year been? Was it, was it easy?Shailesh Prabhu 57:43 I mean, it wasn't the worst for me, I think, because I have worked remotely before as well. And yeah, as I said, having two cats at home is really nice, because just makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Even on depressing, rainy days, which we have a lot of here. Yeah, so it's, it's been good. It's not been as hard as things can get. I also think like Sweden has been very relaxed with their, like, they don't, they never really had a proper lockdown. So you could still, like we were very responsible, very responsible. So we didn't really go out much, but like, you know, every once in a while, you could still do something if you really wanted to, for your sanity. So in that way, it was fine.Arjun Nair 58:49 Are companies abroad, generally more understanding of, you know, employees basically being able to do something creatively on the side. Because here in India, I know many companies don't actually encourage that, or there are strict restrictions. That's also one of those cultural things you were talking about. I guess.Shailesh Prabhu 59:11 I think it's yeah, I think it's depends on the company. But I have met a few companies here who are okay with you doing stuff on the side. And you can also negotiate that with with the company. When you start off like a I have these projects that I'm already doing and they are not really competing with the stuff here you guys do. So you know if I work on this in my spare time, you can negotiate those things. At least that's what I found. And then if they're completely unwilling to budge on it, you know, you can decide like okay, is this the place I want to be in? Are there are some places that probably don't allow you to do stuff on the side. But yeah, I don't know. I've never, I haven't been in that kind of place so far.Yadu Rajiv 1:00:06 How has how different is it? I mean, since you've worked at both these, both in India, and both in India and Malmo and, and remotely? Shailesh Prabhu 1:00:18 CopenhagenYadu Rajiv 1:00:19 Yeah, yeah Copenhagen. Shailesh Prabhu 1:00:21 Yeah. Yadu Rajiv 1:00:22 So like, what do you kind of I know that you've worked here at different places at different times. Also, things definitely changed by now. But kind of your experiences so far? How, like, if you were to kind of go back to different things, how would you work differently? Or be, you know, kind of put the steps put your foot down on certain things? And how do you what do you want to change things? So?Shailesh Prabhu 1:00:50 Oh, yeah, I think companies in India, at least a lot of them, do not care about their employees at all. Like, I worked for one company, which, which, after 10s of reminders, didn't even bother refilling the hand soap in, in the toilets for the employees, and then us employees had to like, pool in to buy soap for ourselves. So and like, you know, turning off the air conditioning at six, when asking people to crunch till 11pm, or 12pm, or something in a huge office full of computers in heat and humidity. I don't really think like, a lot of companies don't care about employee, the employees. And I think that's very problematic. And it's just actually horrible. That said, I think, at least from what I hear a bunch of that has changed now. And that's good. Hopefully, we'll get better. But still, I feel like it's much more employee centric, here. Like, what do you want to do what where you want to grow, which which direction, like, all those things can affect the kind of role you have or which direction you want to take your career. And people are very flexible to those kind of suggestions if you're working at a place. And also, I feel like, generally, the support systems around here are also quite strong. So there's, it's good, like people feel more secure to to be themselves even in the job, because, you know, it will find something else, or at least they have some support system. It's yeah, I think I really hope that more Indian companies start treating their employees as like, huge resources and not as like, labor or employee or, you know, just shut up and do what I tell you to kind of mentality, which I saw a lot of back home when I was working there. That said, I know there's a lot of new companies that that don't do it that way. And I hope there's more of them. Yeah, right. Hey. Yeah, I guess. I think that answers your question. Maybe? I don't know. I ramble again, sorry.Yadu Rajiv 1:03:37 So do you I know that you want to get back into kind of tweaking Warigami and and, and going into this new narrative, based game as well. So are those like the immediate future plans? But are there any far future plans that you're kind of sitting on or thinking about coming back to India, maybe?Shailesh Prabhu 1:04:07 Yeah not really thinking of going back to India. I think it's in a very different place now than than when I left. Lots of.. lots of; I mean, you guys are aware of how things are back home. But long term I long term it would be nice to have like, like a good good healthy side gig or like my own you know, games going again. So yeah, that's that's on my mind. I don't know when or how but someday.Arjun Nair 1:04:56 Shailesh Prabhu 2022, so that's your that's your future plans is it?Shailesh Prabhu 1:05:06 I mean, we'll see. I mean, 2022 is around the corner already. So I don't, it's crazy. But I don't really have anything right now that I know will be in store for 2022 for me. But hopefully I can at least get another good prototype going and just like maybe build up a small team to work on stuff on the side.Arjun Nair 1:05:41 Yeah, Yellow Monkey Studio still exists right. On paper?Shailesh Prabhu 1:05:46 The company is closed down. The website still exists, but the company is defunct. Yeah, a, we lasted nine years and nine months. Arjun Nair 1:06:02 Awesome. Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:04 I think. Yeah, I think I don't want to revive that exact company, either, because it has it has its own history and on people who helped along the way. So whatever, I do probably will be something new.Arjun Nair 1:06:22 Nice, just a very off topic question. What games are you playing currently?Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:28 Currently, I just finished playing Resident Evil Village. And I will probably play WarioWare next. Arjun Nair 1:06:43 Two ends of the spectrum. Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:45 Yeah, and then I'm waiting very eagerly for Elden Ring. Arjun Nair 1:06:51 Yes, yep. You have a PS5? Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:53 Yes, I did get one. Arjun Nair 1:06:55 By god.Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:58 To play Demon Souls Remake. Yeah. Yeah, but I'll probably play. I play a lot on my Switch as well. I really like my Switch. I think it's only console for me.Yadu Rajiv 1:07:15 Okay. Thank you so much for doing this. Shailesh Prabhu 1:07:21 Thank you. Thank you for having me. Yadu Rajiv 1:07:25 I feel kinda awesome about this.Shailesh Prabhu 1:07:28 Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having this old irrelevant guy on your podcast again.Yadu Rajiv 1:07:35 Hey, that makes us old and irrelevant too. Arjun Nair 1:07:41 All right. Shailesh Prabhu 1:07:42 Awesome. Thank you. Arjun Nair 1:07:43 Thank you. Yadu Rajiv 1:07:45 That is the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in. And we hope to catch you next time. If you want to talk about this episode or anything else, please drop by to the gamedev.in discord This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit gamedev.substack.com
In Conversation with Armaan from Frostwood Interactive
Aug 1 2021
In Conversation with Armaan from Frostwood Interactive
Listen on Apple Podcast | Listen on Spotify | Listen on PocketCasts | Listen on Amazon Music | RSS FeedThank you all for tuning into our podcast. This is our attempt at archiving the history of game development of Indian creators, through their own stories and voice. We hope you find it interesting and engaging. If you have any thoughts and suggestions, please come by our discord and have a chat!In this episode Yadu and Arjun talk to Armaan of Frostwood Interactive about his roots, inspirations for Rainswept, Forgotten Fields, and his next secret project.People in the podcastArmaan -  Nair - Rajiv -  from the podcastFrostwood Interactive - LinkRainswept - LinkUnity - LinkHow I quit my 9-5 and became a full time indie game dev - VideoTwin Peaks - LinkMemories of Murder - LinkEGX Rezzed - LinkForgotten Fields - LinkRami Ismail - LinkDino Digital - LinkChit fund - LinkNeon Bedlam - LinkPoets of the Fall - Late Goodbye - LinkSilent Hill - LinkInvisible Waves - LinkMichal Michalski - LinkGoa - LinkAudacity - LinkAdventure Creator - LinkAlan Wake - LinkSilent Hill 2 - LinkLast life in the Universe / "Reung Rak Noi Nid Mahasarl" - LinkDavid Lynch - LinkFull TranscriptYadu Rajiv 0:07 Hello, and thank you for tuning in to the gamedev.in podcast. In this episode Yadu, and Arjun talk to Armaan of Frostwood Interactive about his roots, inspirations for Rainswept, Forgotten Fields, and his next secret project. So I guess I'll give a quick intro, I am Yadu. I mean, we have met Armaan, and I've met before in the IGDC. With the help of a bunch of people, we run gamedev.in. And this whole thing is basically like a way of trying to figure out whether we can kind of archive histories of game designers and developers who kind of make up our industry. How can we preserve this for a future generation, at the same time, also help kind of up and coming developers and also, so yeah, so all these kind of this is kind of where we started, when we thought about doing this kind of a podcast kind of a thing. So it's primarily archival in nature. And then we thought it will be interesting for people to just catch up and also to talk about what they're doing, who they are, those kind of things. So that is where I am coming from, this is Arjun, Arjun?Arjun 1:26 Yeah. Hey. So I think I joined GameDev(.in) very recently. So my role has been to basically set up these chats so far. Basically, we're trying to have these conversations with all the indie game devs in India, at least, you know, their journey, document their journey and stuff. But my role so far in the industry has been as a professional programmer. So I've been in industry for some time now. And I thought it's time you know, that. And I've been very, you know, closeted kind of individual. I don't, I'm very private kind of individual. I don't mix with people. So I thought it's time to, you know, go out and meet someone new, faces and stuff. So, and Armaan I actually met you in 2019. In IGDC. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think you may remember me, and others lost souls, traveling through all the booths, you know, trying to check out stuff.Yadu Rajiv 2:20 This guy's selling steam keys.Arjun 2:24 That's what caught my eye like in the sea of commercial people. There's this one guy is selling steam keys ok, I had to check him out. So yeah, so I guess that's, that's us. Maybe Armaan, you can talk about yourself?Armaan 2:40 Yeah. So I'm a game developer working solo under the name of Frostwood Interactive, and I've released two games so far. One was Rainswept in 2019. And the other one recently is Forgotten Fields. And yeah, I was an architect before that, but wasn't really interested in architecture. I guess we can go more in details later. Arjun 3:01 Yeah, yeah. Armaan 3:02 And yeah, so just a game developer, and I'm working on the third game now.Yadu Rajiv 3:07 So our first question was, who is Armaan? I guess we kind of answered that. So how did you get into games?Armaan 3:17 Um, so I was always interested in games. But you know, back when I was exiting school, and during college, there wasn't much of a scene in India, right. So it was very difficult. So I kind of gave up on that dream. So I went instead into art and went into architecture, didn't really like architecture, started getting into films, and tried working on a TV set for a couple of months. Didn't like that. And then I returned to architecture did a job for a year and around then this indie scene started kind of picking up. So I realized that I could possibly learn unity, put something on Steam. So I did a lot of research and yeah, just made the shift. Arjun 4:07 So you're actually, you actually have an architecture background? Armaan 4:10 Yeah. Arjun 4:11 Okay, so how did you pick up programming and all that stuff that came with Unity?Armaan 4:15 So I still don't really program much. Because Unity and you can use all these visual tools. Yeah, so a lot of node based stuff. I did try you know, a little bit of programming, learning a bit of that. And you know, when you get stuck when you when you want to do something custom you need to program so it's, yeah, I mostly don't do programming but I kind of make do without it.Yadu Rajiv 4:41 So when when did you kind of formally start Frostwood and how did that kind of happen? Was it the first game or?Armaan 4:51 So around 2017 I was doing the architecture job. And yeah, around then I was also researching and trying to learn, you know, how to how to work with Unity and everything. And yeah, I knew that I wanted to make the first game Rainswept which would be a murder mystery. And as it started getting more and more serious and it started sounding, you know that this could actually work. I started finding, you know, trying to figure out a exit strategy from architecture, trying to transition. So about six months of learning unity and doing the job at the same time. And then I quit the job and launched a demo. And around that time, it kind of became formal once I left the job. And after that, there was one and a half year more of development, which I did from home.Arjun 5:46 What gave you the idea for Rainswept? Yadu Rajiv 5:50 Very film noir! Arjun 5:52 YeahArmaan 5:53 Yeah. So I mean, those are always themes that I was in love with. So Twin Peaks is a show, which is like one of my favorite shows of all time. And if I had to creatively express myself or make something, it would be something like that. You know, small town, rain, mystery, that kind of stuff. Also another movie Memories of Murder, which is I forget his name, but the same director who made Parasite, which has really blown up recently. That is another movie, which was a big inspiration, another murder mystery. So yeah, when, you know, I decided that Okay, I'm going to make a game, it was going to be all those topics, and it just kind of came together on its own.Yadu Rajiv 6:37 You, you self published, sorry...Arjun 6:40 yeah go on go on go onYadu Rajiv 6:41 You self published Rainswept, wasn't it?Armaan 6:43 Yeah.Yadu Rajiv 6:44 So? And are you thinking about kind of putting it out on other platforms? And how has it been getting on Steam? How was your experience with all that?Armaan 6:57 It wasn't too difficult, actually. Yeah, surprisingly, simple. But I guess if you don't keep it simple, you can probably you know, have a bigger impact also. So I kept it simple. And I just did everything on my own. And year after release, I went for EGX in London, EGX Rezzed, and then I met some publishers, so they have ported it to consoles it released last year on consoles. So yeah, a year after PC, it had some, you know, sort of, like, I could show the game to the publishers, and they were interested in Yeah, it's on PS4 switch and Xbox now.Arjun 7:36 So during this time, how did you finance yourself?Armaan 7:39 So I was living with my parents. So that is oneArjun 7:41 That helps a lot. Armaan 7:43 So that was one tension, you know, taking care of and Yadu Rajiv 7:46 Remember children, parents are good!Arjun 7:50 Yadu with his experience. Armaan 7:53 Throughout development, I was at home and most of the budget was really low. Like, I didn't have voice acting. I didn't have anything. I ran a small Indiegogo campaign. And it didn't reach the goal. But you still get to keep the money in indi- Indiegogo. So it was not even a like I think it was 90,000 or something. And yeah, marketing and testing was done from that. I was working with a freelance marketing person. So yeah,Yadu Rajiv 8:22 In India or generally? Armaan 8:25 Not India. I just found them online. So yeahYadu Rajiv 8:29 Was the same person who's done marketing for.. Armaan 8:33 No, no, no, Yadu Rajiv 8:34 No, just curious.Arjun 8:37 But what kind of marketing did you do apart from just this guy doing the marketing for you? Armaan 8:42 Actually, the marketing, which I've worked with him was only for the campaign, Indiegogo campaign. And in the final release it almost like I told him my budget, and he was like, that's not even a fraction of.. you can't get marketing done for that. In the end, I kind of ended up doing marketing myself for the final release. He just gave me a press list for that budget. And it was an email blast, basically. And I think the biggest impact was the reputation that was built from the demo, which was released on Game Jolt and itch.io and that led to followers on Twitter and Twitter then became, it's still the main place where you know, people are discovering whatever I put up.Arjun 9:29 Okay, you didn't go to Reddit?Armaan 9:30 Yeah, Reddit as well. So Twin Peaks subreddit and everything. Yeah.Yadu Rajiv 9:36 Yeah, that kinda makes sense.What would you say? Were your, kind of, your key learnings from putting out Rainswept and, like if you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently or...Armaan 9:52 Um, marketing needs to be you know, if it was better, I'm sure like it would have had an exponentially better release. Because, you know, whoever plays the game, they really love it and they're like, why has nobody heard of this? So that was one big issue. So for that you need budget. So probably, you know, these publishers you have nowadays, like, obviously, Annapurna is very huge, but they have a name of their own. So if you can get into that half of your work is done. So that would be what I would aim for. But what really worked was, as I said, the demo, like putting a demo on free demo on Game Jolt and itch.io, it was like, free publicity. There was like, 10s of 1000s of people playing that demo and waiting for the game.Yadu Rajiv 10:39 That's great. I mean, I didn't know that Game Jolt had such like a large indie audience that could actually convert into, you know, actual paid players, which, which is kind of great to know. Armaan 10:53 That is, it's interesting. Yeah, go ahead. Yadu Rajiv 10:56 No, no, no, I was just gonna say like, it's, I don't know, if people nowadays think of Game Jolt. Rather, they would go for itch, generally directly, but they don't know about the Game Jolt community and how it was back then. And all that.Armaan 11:09 Yeah. I mean, I'm honestly not very sure either how it was before. But what I have noticed is releasing a paid game on both itch and Game Jolt really doesn't convert. But when you put a free demo, it really helps. And you get a following. Yeah.Arjun 11:27 So how did it do on Steam? Yadu Rajiv 11:30 What are the numbers? Tell us tell us? Armaan 11:32 It's done pretty well. I mean, I stopped following the numbers about a year ago, I was just like, okay, I can sustain myself that’s enough and I'm not gonna worry about the numbers, but I'm not sure must be about 10,000 by now units.Arjun 11:52So, so did the, did the community from itch and Game Jolt help drive the steam sales? Like did you rely on wishlist and stuff?Armaan 11:59 Yeah. So there was a bit of, you know, from sending people to wishlist, the game from itch and Game Jolt and there was also a feedback form I had put in Rainswept. So once the game finished, a Google form would open up and I got a lot of response on that. And I optionally asked them if they wanted to share the email. So a lot of people share the email. So I made a mailing list and just email all of them for all the updates and everything. Just the...Yadu Rajiv 12:28 It's like a very positive time to ask for something. Like, right as I finished the game, they're like, Hey, you want to you know, share your email? Sure, why not?Armaan 12:37 Yeah. And the game, the demo ended on a cliffhanger. Like, it was just when it was getting interesting, you know, murder, mystery, and everything. So I watched a lot of people playing the demo on YouTube, and they would all scream. They call me evil and everything. So they were like, I need to follow this, I need to know what happened. So.Arjun 12:57 So when you came to IGDC, like, what were your expectations with? You know, you set up a booth and everything. And so what were your expectations and did it meet them?Armaan 13:07 Um, I don't really remember what I was expecting. Arjun 13:13 It was not memorable, if that's what you're saying.Armaan 13:16 It was just like, okay, now I have something that I can show. So, you know, it was after release, I guess I was a little unsure showing it unfinished. But once it was finished, I was like, Okay, let's see what the reaction is, and maybe get the word out that I'm making games and see where that leads.Yadu Rajiv 13:35 So, I mean, it isn't, you know, I mean, how did you find out about the IGDC? And also, did you know about the local community or, you know?Armaan 13:47 So I was there a year before, I think, either 2018 or 17. I just came to, you know, just see the exhibition. And I didn't really interact with many people, unfortunately. But yeah, I was just like, checking it out. So I didn't really meet anyone. And but when I, you know, had my own booth and everything, I was like, Okay, this is a very close knit community where all the devs know each other. And it was a lot of fun, actually, like, a lot of friends. And it was nice to see these guys coming on the first day and high fiving each other like, you know, everybody know everyone. This is cool. And in terms of, I don't know, like, you know, these indie games, which are like, not mobile, maybe, you know, those kind of games are like, really a handful. So that was also a nice surprise to see these kind of games being made.Yadu Rajiv 14:48 Cool. So, so when did you start to kind of now I mean, I see now that you're already started working on something new and interesting on Twitter. But when did you kind of stop with all the updates or interrupt and then kind of slowly start thinking about, or was it like you're already thinking about the next game?Armaan 15:10 Um, I guess when people stopped reporting bugs, and I had a little bit of like, okay, now what do I do? So I had some time to start thinking about the next thing after Rainswept was Forgotten Fields. So I have talked about this online a lot. And in the Kickstarter campaign, the whole thing was, you know, the first game got over, and now it was time for the second game. And it was quite difficult to come up with a new idea on demand that way. So I spent almost six, seven months trying to, you know, prototype different ideas. Yeah, so that was after Rainswept.Arjun 15:49 So did this idea for forgotten fields, actually… so you are saying its not organic. You actually had to work towards making it.Armaan 15:58 Yeah, so rain, so it was organic, because that was an idea I was wanting to talk about. And suddenly, now that idea was done, and now I'm like, Okay, now this is a job. Now I need to put something out. And I guess there was a lot of pressure or something. So I couldn't come up with anything. And yeah, eventually, I, you know, kind of cliche, I decided to write about that, about not being able to try and come up with an idea. And, yeah, I mean, there's… it's a very long story.Arjun 16:28 The meta is in the game also right. Armaan 16:30 Yeah.Arjun 16:31 Protagonist doesn't have a proper idea and stuff.Armaan 16:34 Yeah. And I, I don't know if I would have made that, ordinarily, like, if that idea inspires me, but I felt like I had to make that. Otherwise, I will never be able to make something. You know, I'll never be able to [bleak] the, break the block of sorts. And yeah, as soon as I started working on it, two, three months, and that idea, I started getting a lot of other ideas. So ...Arjun 16:57 So why did you take the Kickstarter approach with this one though?Armaan 17:01 Um, first of all, like crowdfunding is a great way to market your game. So like Yadu knows, during Kickstarter, he told Rami Ismail about the Kickstarter. And when he posted about the campaign, it was like, an explosion, like, we just reached the goal. So yeah, when you start talking about your campaign, it's a lot of marketing. So that's good. And it took a lot of pressure off launch also financially. And it allowed us to, you know, go have a bigger marketing campaign.Arjun 17:44 But doesn't it come with its own pressures, like now you have to give those milestones? targets? whatever they are called,Yadu Rajiv 17:54 How has your Kickstarter experience been?Armaan 17:57 I mean, I'm not planning to do it again, there is that.Yadu Rajiv 18:04 That speaks a lot.Armaan 18:07 Ideally, you would have like, I was talking about publishers, a big name publisher, if they can handle everything, if they can support you, that's amazing. Yeah, there's a lot of pressure with rewards and everything, even though you know, people are not putting not, you know, or messaging or anything. But personally, you're like, Okay, I have to do this. I have to make an art book. I have to make posters. So that's a big distraction.Arjun 18:32 I think Yadu, was it in our group for some place, I heard someone saying that. Making game is only half the thing in Kickstarter. The other part was actually, you know, giving out all these making stuff. The content for the rewards was taking out a lot of the time. Yadu Rajiv 18:47 Too much of the time YeahArjun 18:48 Was it gamedev or some other discord; one of those groups? I mean, I heard it somewhere. So that's why I was wondering if Kickstarter is, and you're doing the solo most of the time, right?Armaan 18:57 Yeah. So this game I had a publisher in, based out of India, so it was their first game as well as a publisher. And they are Dino Digital, based in Mumbai as well. So there was a lot of help from there, especially in all this marketing and handling Kickstarter, getting organizing people. So for the Kickstarter also, we had another person freelancer helping us. Neon Bedlam, Bedlam, Neon Bedlam. So yeah, it was kind of a three party thing for the Kickstarter. So that helped a lot.Yadu Rajiv 19:39 So, about the, I mean, I kind of, I suppose it's the amount of work that you have to put into a Kickstarter, and you're already kind of already kind of getting a like a committed user base or you're committing to a bunch of people could probably be slightly more of a pressure then sit and work on something on your own, find a publisher, which seems like then this you can kind of take the load off of your head. And then focus on ...Armaan 20:09 Yeah, there is a kind of an unspoken pressure. Like, nobody's you know, the backers aren't saying anything they always patient andYadu Rajiv 20:19 They are behind the scenes just standing there.Armaan 20:23 Mentally, it's like, Oh, God, I gotta I, which is a good pressure in a way, because you're always thinking, I have to make it worth it because they've put the money down. So you know, you feel like they've put their faith in me now I really need to come up with something worth it.Arjun 20:41 It's like chit fund, right? Everyone has put their chits and now you have promised some reward for it? Yadu Rajiv 20:48 Yeah.Arjun 20:48 So do you think forgotten fields was affected by all these things? First of all, you felt that you had to create an idea for the game, then you had to create a Kickstarter campaign around that and stuff like that.Armaan 21:00 The campaign didn't have much of an effect that way, but you're definitely coming up forcibly with an idea. And like six months later, I had to tell myself that Okay, enough of thinking of new ideas stick to something. So I don't know if that was the best idea. And you know, it was not organic. I kind of constructed it in a way. Arjun 21:22 Right.Armaan 21:23 So, yeah, and that part definitely affected it.Arjun 21:29 And what were the new one that you're working on?Armaan 21:32 Yeah. So this is, I mean, I didn't have that issue. Now. The block issue. So ... yeah, after finishing Forgotten Fields, sort of a month of month or two of, you know, giving support and everything. I just started watching movies, which is a good way to get inspired, watching my favorite movies and everything. And yeah, my dad told a story about some, some haunted stuff, you know, he was like, he was just telling his experiences with [the] paranormal and ... so that kind ..Arjun 22:09 [unclear] stories about these things.Armaan 22:10 What is that?Arjun 22:11 Dads have the best stories about, you know hauntings and things.Armaan 22:15 Yeah, my mom was like, you know, why? Why are you talking about all this stuff? So I was like, Okay, we'll talk about it later. This is giving me ideas. So I wrote them down. Just about spooky stuff. And you know, it goes to sleep, and he meditates and everything. So he sees stuff. So I like this is great. So I started coming up with a horror thing, based in like, it's very different from what it is now. But like, based in rural Japan, an old man is haunted and everything. kind of funny, kinda scary. But yeah, I kind of thought a lot about that idea. And it was kind of No, not going anywhere. But the haunted house spooky thing kind of stuck. And it changed to a person in a hotel. And there's a song by Poets of the Fall, Late Goodbye, which has a video as his guy just driving in a dark road, which always, you know, get got me excited. Once I was watching that I was like, I want to make a game which is like that, that aesthetic, which is also a bit of Silent Hill, and a bit of Twin Peaks in a way, you know, dark roads and driving and motels and everything. So that haunted idea kind of became like a motel thing. And I've watched a couple of movies about some hitman who was lonely and stuff. So yeah, these ideas just started just mixing together. And this that is where I am now. Like I have I know what it is about exactly. Like the whole story is planned out.Arjun 23:42 Is that, is it something that you can reveal to us? Like, what, what is this game about? Or is it like under wraps?Armaan 23:48 Yeah, I mean, it's so early that I don't know what to talk about, or talk about. But it has, I mean, the aesthetic is kind of scary, but it's not really a horror game. It's mostly about a person in a motel. And he's kind of seeing stuff. He's kinda getting scared. And it's over a night. Just one night story. Yeah. And yeah, the player has to kind of yeah, I really don't know what to talk about what not to talk about, but it's kind of a mystery in a way. Yeah, and a lot of paranormal stuff. YeahYadu Rajiv 24:33 Do you have name yet?Armaan 24:35 Not a name...Yadu Rajiv 24:37 A working title.Armaan 24:39 Yeah, there's a movie Invisible Waves, which is a Thai movie, which is also a huge inspiration. So it's currently called Invisible Waves. But in brackets ...Arjun 24:51 Heard it wrong first time Armaan 24:55 In brackets working title, but so I had the like, I don't know if you know had the crash. The whole project was lost.Yadu Rajiv 25:02 Yeah. Yeah. We heard; I mean, yeah. You posted on Twitter Armaan 25:07 Four days ago, Yadu Rajiv 25:09 Clouds. I mean, Unity Cloud.Armaan 25:13 That was horrible. But so because of that, I had to make a new, completely new Unity project. So now it's called Invisible Dreams for now. Changed the waves to dreams. Yadu Rajiv 25:24 Right. So I yeah. Interestingly, I saw that you were working with Blender. And so kind of going back, Rainswept was like all very 2d stuff. And then suddenly, you have this game - Forgotten Fields, which is like completely 3d stylized. How was that? How was that technical challenge? Was that a challenge?Armaan 25:49 In the beginning, I was really frustrated with Blender, because I was like, What is this? You know, I was posting on Twitter, like, what is this software? Why is it so difficult? Can I use SketchUp instead? Because I have practiced with SketchUp as an architect.Yadu Rajiv 26:01 Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I was also wondering whether your architectural background really helped in this part.Armaan 26:06 Yeah. So as for design, and you know, making buildings, it's really helpful, because I don't have to look up the standards online. I know how much a door or step is. So once I just stuck with Blender, and it became really easy after a while. So yeah, Forgotten Fields. I didn't have any textures, no UV mapping or anything. Because that looked really complicated. I had a little bit like four roofs and stuff. So yeah, I tried to keep it simple. But once I got over Blender, it wasn't really challenging. It was fun, because you have a 3d space where you can just, you know, make everything and then you can decide where to put cameras and stuff. So it's a lot of fun. And now with the third game, I'm going, you know, all textures, because now I'm confident with 3d so I can do that as well.Arjun 26:57 Are you still doing it solo?Armaan 26:58 Yeah. I mean, there is someone who makes music. His name is Michal Michalski, found him online. So he's made the game music for both the other games. There's an indie game, The Cat Lady, which is I think, 2013 or 12. So he made the music for that. Also, it's a pretty hit, indie game. Right.Yadu Rajiv 27:25 Cool like so tell us about sort of, like the reception after releasing of Forgotten Fields on Steam? And sort of, I remember it seeing it on a couple of festivals also. Armaan 27:40 Yeah.Yadu Rajiv 27:41 And how has that kind of been also?Armaan 27:44 So it's been interesting. Like, personally, people who I know, like, compared to Rainswept a lot of people that I know, didn't play it, you know, like friends and everything. Everyone wanted to play Forgotten Fields, because it was inspired by Goa. It's very personal. So a lot of people, especially in India, and my friends and family, they can all relate to it a lot. So in that way, the reception has been really good. Like, my friends are like, Wow, what a game like I can see our adventures and this and all our memories. And so that way, it's been great. Commercially, compared to the Rainswept, it's been lesser, and I think it's the same reason because it's very personal and very subjective. So a lot of people can't, can't relate to it at the same time. And the story, you know, it's not like, if you say a murder mystery in a smaller town, it's like everyone knows what it is, and they want to play it. But a writer with a creative block goes home, and the whole house is being sold. It's a bit like okay, not very, not a very commercial idea. Maybe. Yeah.Arjun 28:52 So what do you think went, you know, kind of right with Rainswept and something right with Forgotten Fields? And vice versa? Like what went wrong with both of them?Armaan 29:06 Yeah, mostly it was the idea. And being inspired, I guess. So Rainswept I was just motivated all the time. I was just having a lot of fun. Because the idea was something that I love. With Forgotten Fields it, it was kind of forced in the beginning, but as I started making it, and it was about Goa, and I started putting sort of my own life into it. It slowly started becoming interesting. So yeah, getting the right idea is pretty important so ...Arjun 29:40 You mentioned marketing also, right?Armaan 29:43 Yeah, and it's interesting, like forgotten fields had a lot of wish lists at launch. I think Rainswept had about 5000 this had about 10 to 13,000, but the conversion was low. I think one of the big things with Forgotten Fields was moving into 3D, it was maybe not buggy, but it was clunky. So you know, small spaces, you're in a house and the characters to walk around and the cameras that pulled back. So the players keep getting stuck in all the furniture and everything. And so there are a lot of reviews talking about that. And bugs which were fixed later. But I think you know, the damage is done. So, yeah, polish is something that I've learned from Forgotten Fields, like how much ever I improve it now, like, it doesn't make much of a difference, especially being an offline single player game. But yeah, so now I'm like, okay, third game, months and months of polish, like it has to be a really good experience of zero bugs and very polished.Arjun 30:47 I think it does help, you know, fixing the bugs before you push it out. Release, like how Cyberpunk has been received.Armaan 30:54 Yeah, once the damage is done, its done. Arjun 30:57 Yeah yeahArmaan 30:58 And then you it's hard to, it's hard to catch those issues sort of alone. I mean, there is a person who does QA testing. And but it's just me and him. But once you release it, even he was like, how are these people running into these bugs?Yadu Rajiv 31:15 Yeah. Yeah, I guess it's, it's always a case like you will always, probably never catch all the bugs. So it's bound to kind of come up.Arjun 31:27 So you mentioned you use Blender, you use Unity. Do you use any other tools? For your dev? Like, what about audio and stuff like that?Armaan 31:38 Yeah, audio, not much our little bit of balancing and stuff on Audacity if required, mostly, they're free sound effects or sound packs online. And the music is made by you know, somebody else so ...Arjun 31:53 And on Unity, you said, you're using some package for that for setting up the game?Armaan 31:58 Yeah. So there's a thing called Adventure Creator. Adventure Creator, Yeah. So yeah, that's a really good tool, and you know, with the really good community and support, so that takes care of a lot of things. And it's not restricted. Like you can do anything. It's very free form. So like, the first game was a 2d side scroller. The second was a 3d isometric. Now it's going to be first person, so you can make whatever you want, right.Yadu Rajiv 32:25Ah. Got one more small bit of information. Yeah, FPS interesting.Arjun 32:37 So, you've been doing indie dev for how long now Armaan?Armaan 32:40 2017 was when I quit my job, mid 2017. So Exactly. About four years. Doesn't feel that long? But yeah.Arjun 32:51 I quit my job in last year, December, no November.Armaan 32:57 Okay, very recently, Arjun 32:58 September, last year, September. Armaan 33:00 Almost a year. Arjun 33:01 So I'm a noob in this indie journey right now. So I'm quite like curious, like, how has it been? How's the experience been for you so far?Armaan 33:09 Always good, like, I never doubted it or felt bad about it. I was always like, waking up in the morning and feeling happy about it. So I still feel happy, although like everyone's working from home nowadays. So. Yeah, like people now know how it is some people it works for some people. It doesn't work for some people. Yeah. But yeah, I always used to get sort of unhappy on Sunday evenings, and excited on Friday evening. So you know, that thing is broken.Arjun 33:36 Yeah.Yadu Rajiv 33:38 Always excited!Arjun 33:41 Exciting thing is good, right. being excited is always good. Yeah, I often find that anxiety counterbalances that excitement for me. So I'm always like anxious about things about, Oh, god, I'm not earning anything right now. You know, that's interesting. So you plan to stick it out? Obviously, you're making a new game. So you do plan to stick it out? But..Armaan 34:00 Yeah. I think about this, I'm like, not really sure. You know, because this is, I think about doing something maybe bigger or doing something else. But it's like, okay, but I need money. So let's make another game. Yeah. But maybe expand, maybe make a bigger team. Because I have an idea, which is kind of like a dream idea, which I can do relatively soon. But I can't do that alone. So I will need a team for that. I also considered very seriously working at a studio, somewhere I was mostly interested in, you know, like, moving out. And some of these dream companies like the big ones, it's always been a dream to join one of them and see how it is. So I was thinking about that. But, you know, when I was applying for it, and when I was sort of making my resume, I sort of realized that I'm not trained in that way to do a specific task. And indies does things their own way? And it's so, yeah, I don't think that will really work out unless I study something specifically. Maybe even films, like that was the old thing, which I kind of tried for a while. So there are ideas regarding films also. Arjun 35:23 Nice. Armaan 35:25 But yeah, really not sure at the moment. For now it's like, okay, third game, finished the third game. Arjun 35:31 Yeah.Yadu Rajiv 35:32 I have like a timeline for that I kind of just going with the flow at the moment.Armaan 35:39 Every time it has been, like, less time, like I've been aiming to take lesser time than the previous game. So Rainswept took two years, Forgotten Fields took about one and a half. This one, I was like, okay, eight months, we got to do it fast. Because I'm telling myself, you don't need to make such a big game. You don't need to take so long and all those things. I mean, you see a lot of indie games very defined in scope. And doing well. So I'm like, why am I taking two years, the landscape might change in two years. So the aim is eight months at the moment, but like, lesson learned, take all your time. Polish it. So I don't know. Maybe 8 months to a year.Arjun 36:21 Yeah, yeah, take your time. I mean, we'll all be watching your progress with great interest.Yadu Rajiv 36:28 Yeah. So I mean, time. So quick question about back to Forgotten Fields. So like, anyway, kind of, it's very different from Rainswept in terms of the concept and the setting. So is that something that you are kind of thinking of India, Indian kind of anesthetic, or like a as a setting? Or a space? Is that something that you're consciously thinking about?Armaan 36:59 The first thing back then, I thought was maybe take a break from rain, rainy mood? You know, that would be I thought that would be creatively good. So I started thinking about sort of a warmer climate, that was one of the main things. And I had just moved to Mumbai at that time, and I was pretty inspired by Mumbai, very different from Goa, which I was, which had stayed. And yeah, you know, it's a very different aesthetic. India, or even like South Asian kind of buildings, the wires and the detail, the textures, that was one of the main things, but Goa came about as the, because of the whole struggle to come up with an idea. So I just started getting more and more close to home. And instead of Mumbai, I was too new to Mumbai, I couldn't think of any idea. I went to Goa for holiday. And I was like, just swimming in the beach. And I was like, I know, Goa. Like, I should make something about Goa if I make something about Goa, I'll know exactly what to make. You know, I know the atmosphere, I was born there. So yeah, it just sort of came to me. And I was like, this could be interesting.Arjun 38:16 First, sorry. Yadu Rajiv 38:19 No, Go, go for it.Arjun 38:21 No, I was just going to ask, In your first game Rainswept. The intro is, you know, car driving through a forest. Then in your second game, you have this going through fields and you know, so in your third game, is it going to be first person inside the car? How's it going to be?Armaan 38:37 It actually is a car sequence very similar to Rainswept. I mean, I was kind of thinking that like, wow, I'm doing the same thing again. But yeah, it's a car thing. But it's cutscenes. Not first person, right. It's just kind of like that stuff.Yadu Rajiv 38:55 So again, more technical thought sort of questions probably. Did the game festivals on Steam help? And the demos were they good or they were they counter? Or how do you how do you think you have any thoughts?Armaan 39:17 There's no downside to it. Even for demos, as long as people know, it's a demo and it's in progress. But especially these festivals have been really good. I think I'm maybe even better than showing it at you know, in expos in real life, because yeah, the wishlist numbers just shoot up during every festival. So yeah, I mean, I hope they stay even when expos open up.Yadu Rajiv 39:44 Yeah, yeah, I was just thinking, just seeing the PAX thing happening right now. And I was like, yeah, like you can't visit but like, at least it will be great to be part of it in some form. Armaan 39:53 Yeah. Yadu Rajiv 39:54 Yeah. Okay. Well, what are you using for using this same kind of setup for the new game? also Adventure Creator? Unity? Blender?Armaan 40:08 Yeah, pretty much the same setup.Yadu Rajiv 40:12 So if you were to .. go you were saying something?Armaan 40:14 It's just a, you know, third game. So you're even better at those tools. So feel like taking advantage of that.Yadu Rajiv 40:21 Yeah. I think that's something that people should learn that like, you know, stick with something, get good at it. And then yeah, to do really well at it also. So that that is something of a great takeaway for people who are new to game dev also, that we keep shifting tools all the time. not sticking with something. Arjun 40:40 Yep. Yadu Rajiv 40:58 What I want to ask was, are you looking to collaborate on the next game? Or is that something that you're kind of thinking of even. even in a small scale to kind of take the load off you maybe?Armaan 42:59 At the moment? Not really? Um, yeah, so the last game, it was, like, a bit more collaborative. And it sort of didn't work much. I mean, commercially speaking. So I'm kind of nostalgic about how it was for the first game where it was just like, okay, on my own thing. So, at the moment, I'm just going it quite solo. But midway through the project, when you know, it gets more challenging. I'm gonna think about it.Yadu Rajiv 43:35 Cool cool, yeah that makes sense. It's like if you're, if you're solo, solo experience was much more interesting and fruitful...Armaan 43:45 Yeah. Kind of just going with the flow right now. Like, just see how it feels.Yadu Rajiv 43:50 Yeah. So will this be smaller than the other two? Or are you thinking of…Armaan 43:59 Yeah, it is one way it there's only one location, which is also a relief. So it's just that motel and maybe a little, you know, close by. So, but in detail, there's a lot more detail that's deeper, but less wide.Yadu Rajiv 44:16 So, I mean, like is there any, again, kind of thinking about how Goa inspired you with Forgotten Fields, is there some sort of, again, some some sort of Indian inspiration, maybe?Armaan 44:33 yeah, I mean, I could talk for a long time about the inspirations behind this game, because I'm quite excited by them, but they are similar to Rainswept in that way. So I just replayed Alan Wake; Alan Wake is one of my favorite games like the atmosphere. I played Silent Hill 2 for the first time, forced myself to play because I'm pretty scared of horror games.Yadu Rajiv 44:55 Yet you are making one.Armaan 44:58 It's not, it's a lot less scarier when you catch the monster prefab or whatever. Just put it in. Yeah, Silent Hill, Alan Wake and a few Thai films, which is, Last Life.. Last Life in The Universe. Check that out; David Lynch stuff, stuff like that.Yadu Rajiv 45:20 Do you have anything you want to kind of add? Maybe?Armaan 45:26 No, the only thing I was thinking about was Alan Wake and Silent Hill because it's just I'm still sort of inspired and excited by those games like yeah, it's nice to be inspired and nice to have an idea.Yadu Rajiv 45:41 Thank you for doing this actually and taking time out and and I'm, I hope like, it is useful for a lot of people who are out there who want to start up and do their own thing go solo, go indie, you know, and hope this is an inspiration for a lot of people also. Yeah. So thank you so much from both of us and all of us at the gamedev.in and all the listeners as well. Arjun 46:11 Thank you so much.Armaan 46:12 Thank you for having me.Arjun 46:14 All right, guys.Yadu Rajiv 46:17 That is the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in, and we hope to catch you next time. If you want to talk about this episode or anything else, please drop by to the gamedev.in Discord. This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit gamedev.substack.com
In Conversation with Abhi from Visai Games
Jul 4 2021
In Conversation with Abhi from Visai Games
Listen on Apple Podcast | Listen on Spotify | Listen on PocketCasts | Listen on Amazon Music | RSS FeedThank you all for tuning into our first ever podcast. This is our attempt at archiving the history of game development of Indian creators, through their own stories and voice. We hope you find it interesting and engaging. If you have any thoughts and suggestions, please come by our discord and have a chat!On this episode, we talk to Abhi from Visai games, who is creating an amazing narrative cooking game where you play as an Indian immigrant mom, who immigrates to Canada with her family in the 1980s.People in the podcastAbhi - Shah - Rajiv - from the podcastVenba - - Spinner - in the Woods - - - - Mama - Serve, Delicious - - - - - TranscriptYadu Rajiv 0:07 Hello, and thank you for tuning in to the game dev dot in podcast. In this episode Yadu and Shagun catch up with Abhi from Visai games, to talk about his roots and the secret spice behind his up and coming narrative cooking game, Venba.My first question was basically going to ask you what your last name was, but that should be fine, because I couldn't find your name anywhere so, but it doesn't matter.Abhi 0:36 Maybe I know we just started recording, but maybe you can cut this part out. But yeah. The reason I hide it is I had people reach out to me through channels that I didn't expect them to reach out. And I'm just that just struck me a little, like, you know, I'm very private that way. So, people reaching out to me like, like, Instagram, Twitter is fine. But if they're finding my LinkedIn, I feel like you know what I mean? Yadu Rajiv 1:05 That is what I was trying to find. Abhi 1:11 I don't mind sharing it with you. But like, if it's random people that are messaging again. So that started happening. So is that okay, I need to hide my last name and stuff like that. I'm glad it works. So..Yadu Rajiv 1:22 Yeah, yeah. So it was kind of difficult. So I mean, basically, just kind of get an idea of what what like, like, maybe we can just get into it. So how did you get into games? How did this happen?Abhi 1:38 Yeah, um, yeah. So I my parents brought home, the knock off console back home when I was in Chennai, it was called The Terminator, the black with the blue buttons, I'm sure all of you know, I played the crap out of that system. I think it was like 10 games for 999 there was like 999 games, but it was the same 10 game games over and over, so I played the crap out of that but much to my parents disapproval. And then Ever since then, like there was no stopping, like my dad he worked at a bank, But we wanted to get into [unclear], like he brought home a computer [unclear] that way. So I, I naturally installed video games like lion, King, Aladdin, and all those things that some guy gave it to me at a book fair. So I was very much interested in video games that way. What was a, I think the turning point for me was I played Pokemon. But I played it at an emulator. Not like in the physical device, I didn't even know it was meant to be played on a physical device. I played it on a computer, so but you can't catch all 151 unless you trade with other people on the physical device. So I only got like 135, and no idea how to get the rest, there was no internet. And then, and then, my parents announced to me that they're moving to Canada, and it was I think, 11 we finally finished moving when I was 12. And then I come here, and it's an Xbox 360 ps3, it's a whole new world, you know, Yadu Rajiv 3:28 Skipped a couple of generations there. Abhi 3:30 Exactly, as a way, Pokemon was meant to be played on like, not a computer. So learning all that, and I, you know, I've made a bunch of games with my friends houses and things like that. I was I always wanted to do it. This is the point that I'm trying to get across. And then around grade 12, which is when you decide like, you know what you're going into sort of thing. I chose computer science, because my reasoning is that my parents are, my family is not going to buy game design as a career path. So I thought, you know, I learned the, the approved method. And I will I will get into games as a programmer. And that way you can get my foot in, and that way like you, my parents are happy too. So that's that that was my thinking in grade 12. And it's eerily that's exactly what happened. So when I graduated, my last year at university, I competed in a video game making competition. I did really well with my team in there. So I got a job at a mobile game studio. And that's where I've been since. Yadu Rajiv 4:42 So So how did Visai happen? Abhi 4:46 So in that specific mobile game studio, I make a an artist named Sam Elkana, he's Indonesian, Him and I have like very similar tastes and opinions about games and things like that. So we always shot around game ideas and like, you know, we should make our game together. I was making this like mythological Indian game for us. I pitched that to him. And then we made a superhero game called balloon man, and like we were making it. And then I had the idea about Venba, which is like, you know, so I remember I even texted him like one day, I was like, Hey, here's a here's a scene from the game. What do you what do you think about this game? And he, he immediately liked it. And he liked something like, that gives me a lot of confidence. So we started moving forward with that. And that's how Visai happened basically.Shagun Shah 5:43 So tell us more about Venba? About the game? What inspired you?Abhi 5:49 Yeah, for sure. Um, so yeah, so as I mentioned, I texted him something, it was like a scene from one level of the game, which happens towards the end. Like, for me, something was bugging me about, you know, the dynamics between parents and their immigrated children. Not especially not, not specifically, I think it's across all cultures. And that's why I think Sam, who's, you know, not from India, was still able to relate to it, because he's also, like me, a first generation immigrant. So I felt that a lot of media that existed around immigration issues, focused on people like me, or the second generation kids, you know, oh, they have it really hard because of the cultural identity crisis and things like that. And that's true to an extent. But I felt like there's not enough focus on the parents, you know, who have a really strong identity already back home, but they choose to give that up to move here. And then, because they're bringing up their kids here, there's a disconnect. And it's just an unfortunate incident, they have different values. And a lot of times I saw that people are regretting even coming here in the first place. So that was really bugging me a lot. And I wrote that into a little conversation. And I sent that to Sam and he said, that same thing is bugging him also. And I really like that. So we decided to me, you know, and I said, like, you know, what do you think about a game that explores this with food as the as the bridge, you know, as the gameplay mechanics and he really like that, so we set the [unclear] that basically how Venba started.Shagun Shah 7:39 That's, that's an absolutely fantastic story. That's so interesting to hear, you know how, yeah, because I think there's no one's quite seen a game like Venba. And it seems very much like, almost like a cultural critique in some ways, or a bit of a cultural narrative. And so lovely to see as well. So So how long have you been working on Venba for?Abhi 8:00 So we started, so we're still only working part time on Venba, which I think a lot of people don't know; Shagun Shah 8:07 Oh no, wow ok. Abhi 8:09 So we, we are both fully employed at our respective day jobs. Like the way it works here is that you know, you apply to different publishers, we get funding, and then you can just build the whole thing right, I still have to support like, my parents and stuff like that. So for me, like quitting my job and pursuing that indie dream, it's not an option. So I've been working on when, only on the, on the weekends, and weekdays after work and things like that. And so as Sam, um, but, you know, we've been making really good progress, I feel. But we started, I think we started like, pre-production, sort of early 2020, like first quarter 2020. And we, I would say, we started like, full on production, like, end of last year or beginning of this year, started. Yadu Rajiv 9:02 How do you feel about all the feedback that you've been getting getting about? Abhi 9:06 Yeah, I, it's completely unexpected, is what I'll say. Because when I pitched this to sam, the attitude that we both had was like, let's make this and it'll be something that we made. Whether or not people play, I honestly thought, like, you know, maybe two or three people will play it. But the reception has been, like, very complete opposite to that. I had, I had no idea that would happen. So, you know, we sort of had to like, Oh, no, this is a thing now. People are expecting things to live. So we have to like, you know, we can't just do anything, you know, we have to meet people's expectations. But I think that's part of the pressure.Shagun Shah 9:51 So, we know it takes a ton just sitting here the various elements of your journey, probably because there's only relatable elements there. when we talk to, when you go around the Indian games industry, you sort of ask people, how they, how they got in what their journey is like. And that's part of the, our own quest to make this archive. And the common thread is often that we wanted to keep our parents happy. So we went and did a degree, which would keep them comfortable and be like, Okay, my child is not going to is going to get a good job is going to have that sense of job security. And then they sort of segue into games. That's one very interesting thing. But I mean, speaking specifically of Venba, it's the it's it's very interesting to see the the appetite that one has, or that the global appetite for games that talk about different cultural content and talk about narratives that you don't usually have a spotlight on, that don't involve fighting. Abhi 10:50 Yeah, yeah. Shagun Shah 10:51 You know, I'm assuming that I remember when I'm so I've been following Venba a lot. And correct me if I'm wrong, but the protagonist is essentially a middle aged mum. Abhi 10:59 Yeah, yeah. Shagun Shah 11:00 Who's gonna fix the rest of the books and keep her culture from home? Or memories of home alive? And I mean, there's just a wonderful thing to see. So So tell us a bit more. So you're, you've been working on work in it on across weekends? How have you guys gone about making the game? I mean, what kind of tools have you been using? For example? How have you been structuring work in time?Abhi 11:22 For? Yeah, yeah, for sure. So we use a Unity engine, which is what we use at work also. So I've been very lucky to work with Sam because like many artists, he's, he's very multi talented. He's very technical, he can work inside unity, he can break the animation system, and he can, like he can even use version control like git like, he can use the console. So it makes my life a lot easier. Like he feels only exporting raw assets, you know, I would have to do a lot more work. But so yeah, we've been using unity, we use this thing called yarn to write the story in the dialogues, which is what night in the woods uses. And, yeah, we use, I think that in terms of how we approach the game, um, I had, I had this really specific, like, I wanted to, like I wanted to start every milestone, like Each level has one specific recipe, right? So I wanted to start every milestone before we started a milestone, I would cook the recipe for the entire team, and then they would all eat it. So they would get a strong idea, that was a great idea. And I did that one, but and then the Corona thing happened. So now I'm writing like documents like pages after pages to explain like, Oh, you know, what is in? What is Idli? Or what is Puttu? Or what is Biriyani you know? All these kind of things. But you know, that's part of the part of the picture.Shagun Shah 12:58 Yeah, have you got your mom to approve the recipe though? of everything you do.Abhi 13:03 So my mom and dad it's interesting, they don't approve of video games as a as a medium. So they tell me the story, about how they played Super Mario Brothers on the Terminator when it first came out, and my mom got so addicted to it that she took two sick days to beat the entire game, but on the last level. I don't know if you guys have played it but on the last level. It's like a maze, you have to go in a specific way. It's kind of a BS level. So she was never able to beat that. I don't know if its because she wasn't able to beat that. But she tells me that this medium is too addictive. And it's not good for me like it's evil, you know?Yadu Rajiv 13:50 Come to the dark side. Abhi 13:53 Yeah, so my mom and my dad like I think it's understandable. Right? But they never really understood this as a medium. Party. I feel like it's a mini revenge on my part that I'm making a game about Indian parents in this medium itself, but yeah, so I think I showed her the trailer once. And yes, she she really enjoyed the art. But she couldn't like my dad and my mom, they couldn't really understand. Okay, why? Why is this a game like, you know, like, it's interesting when I talk to the non game people about Venba, the way they look at games is Oh, games are good for like, learning how to drive because you drive or you know, you're like, you know what I mean? Like they haven't really seen the medium as a medium that can carry political messages given like, in no way is it you know, inferior to any other meetings that we have. And, and honestly, I feel that video games is a very global medium. I, I honestly think that, you know, if I made Venba as a film, you know, it might be less accessible to the mainstream film audience across the globe, but whenever, as a game is accessible to all the game gamers across the mainstream, and I think that's because like, you know, from the history of gaming, like, you know that Japan has been like the center of video games, and Americans have been playing Japanese games and games set with Japanese culture. So they will open to that, in a way they have not been open to foreign films. Like, you know, I think a really good, medium and sorry, I filled up but Yadu Rajiv 15:41 No no, it's, it's perfect. Abhi 15:43 Yeah, so I have a lot of passion about this medium. But yeah, um, I think, you know, one day, maybe they'll understand, so we'll see.Yadu Rajiv 15:55 People's definition of what a game is, has kind of evolved over time as well. And the medium has been used by people who don't even consider themselves as game developers or designers. So it's quite interesting. It's, it's like, it's a medium it can, it can speak many things. So that's a great way of kind of seeing it. How is the game shaping up now? Like, how is it going? Abhi 16:21 Yeah, I'm sure you're also a game developer. So I'll open up a bit about the challenges I've been facing. For me, the biggest challenge for a long time was what is going to be the core gameplay mechanics, right? Because when I started researching, okay, I'm making a cooking game, what are the cooking games that are out there, so I saw Cooking Mama, I saw eat, serve delicious, or, you know, cook, serve, delicious, I'm sorry, overcooked bunch of games like that. And for me, they all focus on, you know, the timing aspect of it. It was like cut the onion into 5 pieces within this time, flip the pan 5 times and you know, things like that. And I think, you know, that has value for sure, you know, people will love watching these cooking videos, even if they're not, you know, interacting, don't interact with them, obviously, has inherent value. But for me, I felt that the story that I'm trying to tell, doesn't fit with those mechanics. Like those mechanics are more arcade-y about the story that I'm trying to tell is more serious. So like, how do we like how do we join those? Those two things together, right? So I decided, like, okay, you know, maybe we can do, like, the recipe is broken, you know, parts of it are missing. So it's more like a puzzle game, but not like, not like a super, like, logical puzzle, but like anybody can, you know, play around with it and figure it out, put things together. And to me, like, you know, I'm really interested because I cook a lot myself. So I'm really interested when I cook. Like, why are the recipe stepped the way they are, you know, instead of just following the recipe, like, I think making the player logically arrived at those steps is really fun. But it's also extremely hard, because I haven't seen examples of games that do that. That's one thing. And the other thing is, these are Indian recipes. And they're very complicated. Every Indian, if I'm making garam masala, for example, that's 20 different steps just to make myself, you know, it doesn't make for fun gameplay, you know, so I have to figure out a way to make this fun Make this, you know, not arcade-y, at the same time, make it so that it's authentic and accurate, because people are expecting, like, you know, to learn something from this year, and, and I have to make it fun. So, that's a challenge I've been facing. And it, I was struggling with that for a long time now until I made the Idli level. Um, so yeah, I don't know if I'm spoiling it. Yadu Rajiv 19:09 Is the idli level more of a tutorial level and way easier to get into Abhi 19:14 Just the first level. But it was very interactive. It's like, Oh, you put the plate you rotate the plate, put the [flour] on that kind of thing. So I just had this mantra of play with your food, you know? Because the the approach I was taking was super logical. First, it was like, Oh, the second step has three blanks. So what do you put in those three blanks? You know, and that's not that doesn't make for fun. So it took a lot of trial and error, but the idli level and the puttu level that I'm just working on right now. Both of them meet for very fun. It's not challenging, but you know, it's fun to interact with it. And, yeah, it took a long time to figure that out.Shagun Shah 20:00 So I'm just curious. So we are all, I think both Yadu and I are game developers as well. Yeah. I'm just curious. But when you started building your puzzles, do you sort of I mean, sometimes I look at puzzles, games, puzzles, games are about timing. And I do this in sequence, which is what you were talking about before. They look at things where the puzzle is more of a toy. Yeah. And does this sort of lean more towards that where just even rotating your plates and flipping your pans and thingsAbhi 20:31 The common wisdom, for puzzles. It's like, yeah, you are given a set of things, and know that you need to get here. But you do not know how to get there. But these are all the things that you can do. So how do you get there is what you have to figure out? It took a long time for me to figure out how to communicate that. Any scenario, if that makes sense. SoYadu Rajiv 20:58 How is it communicated, though? I mean, if you can get into the details of it.Abhi 21:04 Yeah. So first, is that I have to simplify a lot of things. But I also have to make sure that, you know, they understand that this is like, it doesn't compromise on the authenticity of the recipe or whatever. So the first thing I had to do was not choose recipes that made sense in to make puzzles, not recipes that I want to see in the game, which hurt me a lot. Because I, how do I, okay, I'll talk to you about a puzzle that I think will not make it in the game. I figured out how to make porottas. In the game, and I think that was really nice. Because when you make porotta, you have to make the, you know, the button and all that. But you have to flip it in a way if you're a porotta Master, you can flip it in the way that you can those plates and you get those layers. But if you're not a porotta master, which most of us are not, a cheap trick, you can do is like you can use scissors to cut lines, into it, but not all the way. So there's that there's that accordion thing. And I've seen like, you know, a lot of people think those shortcuts. So the recipe would be about use scissors, here's your porotta. And here's the end product, and then they have to figure out okay, okay, I got to use scissors to make that accordion shape, you know what I mean? I think that's a good example. Because they're playing with the food. They're trying different things. They're applying different transformations to the, to the flour and dough, you know, But if I had another way, where like, you have to beat the porotta x time figure out what x is, then it's not. It can still be it's technically a puzzle, but it's, it's not fun, you know? Yeah. So that's the difference that I had to understand.Yadu Rajiv 23:03 Are people reaching out with their recipes to be included in the game.Abhi 23:09 People are asking if certain cuisines would be included. For me, yeah, because, you know, I from the outset, I said this is a, South Indian, specifically Tamil cuisine game. And part of it is because I feel that, especially in the West, when it's Indian food, it's represented mostly from North Indian.Shagun Shah 23:36 Yeah, Punjabi food.Abhi 23:38 Yeah, Punjabi food right, which is very different from the food that I grew up eating. Right. So part of part of that is that but the main part is that I don't know, those recipes. I don't, I don't feel I can do justice. I can. I've made like, you know, Butter chicken or Paneer, you know, all these things. But, you know, I'm just like any other guy who looks up a recipe and make like, I didn't grow up with these recipes, I don't feel like I can do them. And I'm terrified of capturing the accuracy or the authenticity you know. So when it comes to Tamil cuisine I'm much more confident, and even if I'm not confident in a certain recipe, I know people who are so I can talk to them and get their input and things like that.Shagun Shah 24:23 Then the most important question is will there be a Venba recipe book DLC at the end of this?Abhi 24:30 Yeah, I don't know if it'll be a DLC but I do wanna include an in game recipe book, that has like, you know, if you're making a idli then you know maybe like in the game maybe you don't get to make like chutney but maybe the recipe book will also have chutney Shagun Shah 24:47 Oh, wowYadu Rajiv 24:49 I think it's like a perfect combination. Like Like how to really release an art book along with the with the game. So it could be like an art book plus a recipe book and I think it will be like, Shagun Shah 24:59 I think that's food photography from the south. From Tamil NaduAbhi 25:02 Yeah.Yadu Rajiv 25:04 So many opportunities there. So, you talked about yarn spinner. So how does that kind of fit in? How does the narrative sort of flow? And how is it structured in the game right now?Abhi 25:17 Yeah. Um, so the narrative at that core, it's about, you know, this mom and her son and the disconnect between, right. So the reason we chose food is for two reasons. One, I realized was that in your family, you can fight with your family, it can be a bad day, it can be a sad day, but you know, the kitchen stuff is still on. Like, I feel like, there's there's incidents where people gathered the dining table, when they're, when they're where they're all super mad at each other, but, you know, you still got to eat. So I feel like food makes sense, to tell the story in each day, regardless of the conflict, because food is something that's constant, you know, like, even if somebody close to you has passed away, or your grief will not outlast your, your hunger, you know, as much as you want it to. So, that's why I thought food makes sense as a gameplay mechanic to tell the story about. And I also thought it would be nice if the food itself carries not only like literal significance of what's happening on that day, but also metaphorical significance. And, and the other thing with yarn and dialogue options and things like that, I find, like, you know, games as a medium, it's really strong here. Because for example, I'm the dad and the mom, they're called Pavalan and Venba. And you know, Pavalan's a little bit better at English members, you know, a little worse, but they're, they're no match for Kavin their son, who has no problem assimilating into the western society, right. So the, we can show that they're speaking different languages by using different fonts in yarn. And that's just a nice, easy way to show that they're speaking different language. And then when Venba is forced to speak English, or when Pavalan is forced to speak English, their text speed is a bit slower than their regular Tamil text speed to show that, you know, they're they're much more articulate in one language than they are the other. So I feel again as a medium. It's just, it's just so easy to do these things that yeah, basically, yeah. Yeah. It's really hard to convey these things in a movie, but it's pretty easy to do it in a game so. Yeah.Shagun Shah 27:44 So so will the game actually feature? Tamil dialogues? Abhi 27:49 Um, it will feature? Yeah, it depends. Your display language will be whatever, your localized language is like, if we support localization? So you know, if you have English and all the data could be in English, but I can't help but include a couple of Tamil words here and there.Unknown Speaker 28:08 CertainlyAbhi 28:09 Yeah yeah, Yes.Shagun Shah 28:10 I think that's the best thing. Abhi 28:11 Yeah.Shagun Shah 28:14 What is your end plan for Venba by? Like When? When will you say that Venba is feature complete and ready for, I guess, early access? Abhi 28:23 Yeah, that's the question of the day for me, at least, I think the major challenge is that we're not working full time. If we are able to find a suitable publisher, or a funding or whatever. I think, you know, I can answer this question a lot easier. But because we're working on our own time, I want to say that the release window, it's really wide will be sometime next year, you know, because I honestly don't have enough information to, like, give you a proper. Yeah.Shagun Shah 28:57 But that still so healthy that you started in 2020. You're still working on weekends. And I mean, I've, I've, I know how hard it is to do two jobs in the same industry across weekends. But if you're doing that, across two years, it's still targeting a release. That's actually really healthy. I mean, how do you find you find it hard to manage your time? Well, on this finances? I mean,Abhi 29:20 yeah, I find almost all of these things hard. But I don't know. It's hard to complain, because, you know, we are in the games industry. So yeah. Like, you know, I'm doing this for a living and I'm getting a lot of good reception. So like, I honestly think like, you know, it's 1000 times easier for me as somebody from India to make a game because I'm in Canada, you know, that's incredible privilege. So, you know, the fact that, you know, I get to have a day job, and I get to make this game that itself I think it's very lucky, right?Shagun Shah 29:59 That's wonderfully cool.Abhi 30:02 Yeah, that that's how we go about it.Yadu Rajiv 30:07 So, quick question again, going back to the narrative bits about it. So where exactly is kind of Venba set? In terms of time and space? Maybe?Abhi 30:19 Yeah, so Venba comes to Canada, sometime in the 1980s, with Pavalan, and then they start a family here is how it goes. And every level it time skips a bit and shows them as they grow older. And as Kavin grows older and different challenges. It's a small, you know, short game, but the reason and they come to Toronto, Canada. And the reason I chose 1980s, is because I feel that immigration is very different now. And the immigrant challenges are very different back then, as what they're facing now. And, you know, like, it's not autobiographical, even though I really do see the similarities from the story and my story, but I feel like you know, I'm very, in touch with my roots, are I naturally think in Tamil and speak in Tamil and things like that. But Kavin, the son, for example, doesn't right! And I saw a lot of kids here, like that, especially the people who came back in the 1980s. And there's a huge push to repress what your culture is. And like assimilate, that's, that's not as much there right now, there's people are being more socially conscious. People are trying to celebrate different cultures. Like the difference is insane. Me going to school, high school year is going to be very different than somebody going to high school now, you know, so it was a lot more different in the 1980s. So that sort of justifies why Kavin wants to disassociate himself from his roots and you know, assimilate himself here, which is the reason why I chose that specific time period.Shagun Shah 32:15 That's a very interesting thing. So, apart from the cooking, and I guess the text, adventure component, are there any other elements or features that you'll be trying to drive for in the game?Abhi 32:29 Yeah, the one that I'm really excited about is the radio feature. So every time you cook, every level, it starts like with, like, her turning on the radio. And then like, time appropriate song is supposed to play, but I don't know, how feasible that is. I actually wanted to license Ilaiyaraaja songs from that time period.Shagun Shah 32:53 You absolutely must. Abhi 32:55 Yeah, yeah. But they're way out of budgetYadu Rajiv 33:00 Did you reach out to them?Abhi 33:01 Yeah, I didn't reach out to him directly, obviously. But I really started making [connection] through a friend's friend, right, you know, and the expense was pretty strong enough for me to figure out, Okay, I probably can't do that. But, you know, I, I know, a couple of music people here. And I'm also talking to a couple of artists back home, even in Chennai, and I'm really excited about, you know, featuring songs that are homages to songs that we used to listen and go off. Because, for me, all I want to do is, this is a small game, and there's small interactions, but I want to cram like, as much as I can, you know, into every frame as well. So people come up with an understanding about, like, if you step into like a kitchen at our home, how does that feel? And I think music plays a big, big part.Shagun Shah 34:03 I think that last thing you said, sort of encapsulates a lot, right? I mean, so is, can you What do you want to? Or is what you said also, what you want to achieve with the game, the end result of Venba is, I mean, how do you see that sort of coming together?Abhi 34:22 Um, yeah, I think that, you know, I am in a position somehow I realized that a lot of people, the reception to this game is unexpected. So as a result, I am now in a position where I'm somehow representing Tamil cuisine and I think that's the responsibility that I cannot possibly do justice to. You know, this is a short, I guarantee like I, regardless of people who like this game or not, I guarantee that any Tamil person who makes this game or even any South Indian who plays this game, they will ask me Hey, how come this recipe or is not in Shagun Shah 35:02 Oh myAbhi 35:04 They will not be satisfied. And they shouldn't be because, you know, there's only so many levels, and there's only so many recipes I can show, regardless of what I pick, I can justify how diverse. Yeah, you know? Yeah. So do so my, to me, a lot of people say, oh, Venba is great, because it's representation. And I think that's very scary. And I actually don't want people to think that Venba is representative. Because I can't represent an entire culture. That's, I think that's insane here. I want to be one small piece of the many pieces that will eventually represent our different cultures. Right? So I don't I don't, that's not my goal. When I when I, when I told this, when I talked about this game to my friend, she said, this is a really nice idea. I think when people play it, they will want to call their mom. For me, they, if people play the game. And, you know, you know, a couple people call their mom, I think that's my goal, I think. Yeah. I think that's a much more achievable goal than this.Shagun Shah 36:27 Oh, that's, that's lovely. Yadu Rajiv 36:31 How did the name come about? When? And is there a story there? Maybe?Abhi 36:39 Yeah, I think I'm really happy with the name. So Venba is a type of poem in Tamil, right? It's couplets, the very famous Thirukkural is called a Kural-Venba. So, you know, it's the closest I can think of is haikus, they have similar flow and things like that. So whenever I sort of, just like whenever is a short poem, I feel like this game is a short poem about this, this family, because each line is a level and, you know, skips and tells the whole story. So I really like the name, but it's also like an agenda. I really like that people are saying the word Venba which is a Tamil word that people have never been exposed to. So that's just my own little selfish happiness. But yeah, I'm really happy about that.Yadu Rajiv 37:34 The the music in the trailer was really amazing. Yeah. Do we do we expect maybe some level of poetry in the game as well?Abhi 37:44 Yeah. So Pavalan, the dad, he's a writer. And yeah, I don't want to promise anything that might have this. Yeah. Yeah, no, no, it's fine. But, um, you know, as backstory, he's a writer back home, who is respected. He's somebody, you know, back home. And but when it comes here, he's just like everybody else. Whatever his talents are, they don't stand out here. So he always has that, that anger. Like, you know, I am more than what you think I am. This, like, is quite anger that he carries with him. Um, so he his only outlet his poetry, right, like he writes. And, like, the name Pavalan itself means like, poet, or writer, and Venba the mom's name is a poem, so I thought that was really nice and tied the family together.Shagun Shah 38:46 It sounds Abhi like you've put a lot of thought into this game, and that it's be- I should say, it's actually more than a lot of thought its become a very thoughtful game, which is just, you know, kudos to you. Um, so. So once you're done with Venba, what are your what kind of other games would you would you like to make at least next?Abhi 39:09 Um, yeah, I have a, I have a ton of ideas. I only have ideas. Shagun Shah 39:17 Because you are a game designer.Abhi 39:19 For me. When I open unity, there's a untitled Project 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then there's Venba. In a way the expectation is making forcing me to finish with the end. You know what I mean? Because the first we have is that we start a project but we don't finish it but finishing it is where it lies, which I'm learning now. Yeah, I have a ton of ideas. I I want to make a I think the first thing I want to do is after each member is take a long vacation where I don't work on my day, job or or Venba or anything. You know because it's really been affecting my physical or mental health, you know. But I know that I'm saying this to you, but I probably won't like once I release Venba. So yeah, I have, I have this image in my head about this alternate universe, seven terminal, of course, where there's like an alien attack in this rural village, and they're able to salvage parts to build a jet plane. But they're like all wearing, like lungis and shirts and stuff like that. But they're still flying the plane and like taking down the aliens. That's the very crazy campy like, really fun idea that I have. That's what I want to do. Next, I'm thinking about one thing that I thought about is that when was very grounded, right, it's, it's a real story about a real family that said in the real world. So as a result, it's also very limiting. Because I can stylize it the way I want to say, because the story I'm saying it doesn't, you know, like even Sam's art, it's very stylistic. But it doesn't, it was a lot of work to make that fit this grounded story that we kind of do. So for the next game, whatever game I make it, I just want it to be like, you know, not set in reality at all. It's just like, crazy, fun. I can do anything.Yadu Rajiv So a quick question again, going back. Are you doing all the writing and character design? And how does it work in Are you kind of doubling with Sam. Abhi Um, so Sam is in charge of all the art which is, which is a humongous task by itself. Um, we're, if we get funded, if you get some grants, we have a couple artists, couple of a producer helping us out in things like that, for the writing. I have the basic story line, but it feels very communal to me, because I talked to a lot. There's a couple people I refer to for writing the consultants kind of thing, where they helped me out with things. Um, but yeah, mostly I'm writing the, like, the character, the motivation into the writing the design. All of that is done by me, which I guess I really shouldn't be. I really like people, more people should be involved. But that's the nature of indie development.Yadu Rajiv So you can effectively looking at funding and publishing.Abhi Yeah, yeah. We've been applying to a couple publishers. We've been also looking at like, you know, different grants and stuff like that. Regardless, the game can come out some way. If you have a bit more money, you can do a bit more nice things. Bit more music, things like that. Yeah.Shagun Shah Got Ilaiyaraaja, get that one song by him.Abhi No, that'll be so great. Yeah. Shagun Shah Cool. Amazing. Yadu Rajiv Thank you so much for doing this with us. Hopefully, it will be somewhat useful to you as well. And to a lot of other people who's kind of listening in.Abhi Yeah, yeah. The the gamedev discord, the gamedev India discord, it brings a lot of pleasure, and joy to my heart to see that it was so active. No, I'm being very honest. You know, because I'm super passionate about these things. And like, you know, if Venba does well, in some capacity, you know, whatever game I mean, let's see, I want to involve more people from back home. Or, you know, there's a, there's a lot of creativity with people back home. And, you know, I think it's a matter of time before people get a lot more creative, a lot more independent stories. Yeah, I would love to I really awesome to see you guys to help facilitate that. And they, I would love to play a part, if I can. So it's very inspiring.Shagun Shah Personally, I think we, Yadu and I have both been very, very excited about the release of Venba, since we heard about it. Yeah.Yadu Rajiv I bumped into it on on Twitter. And I was like, I must see this! who is making this game?Shagun Shah Whenever I see Venba tweets, I'm like, I just need to retweet these. I just excited for them. It's, you know, it's it's interesting that as an Indian, as Indian culture as an as a cultural export is still limited in so many ways. Most recently, the big. The big push we're seeing about indie games come into the country as still about fighting are still mythological and fantasy. And while that cool, it comes with its own set of problems. Yeah. And then to actually have games that are more artistic in nature with with strong game feel with strong stories, that actually talk about the subcontinent in its big milieu of cultures is such a different experience. And yeah, I sincerely hope that Venba is the game that opens a lot of doors for other people to also see that these games are valid. Yeah. And that they can make them that's all, you know, not seeing a presentation. ButAbhi yeah, yeah, I I honestly think that, you know, again, like when I think anybody can make, you know, India, it's a very simple game to make. But I think what's missing is that, you know, here, games isn't taken as seriously by my parents, but I gotta go out I can meet people who are equally interested in this as I am. But I think that missing still in India, right, you know, yeah, it's a growing community. I think that's all that's what I mean by I'm very lucky and privileged. Yeah. I but I think it's a matter of time that we have great things ahead of us, I'm looking forward to all of it. Brilliant.Yadu Rajiv That is the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in, and we hope to catch you next time. If you want to talk about this episode or anything else, please drop by to the gamedev.in discord. This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit gamedev.substack.com