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Game Developers in India

Gaming is a great form of recreation and is now even becoming a profession for some. But has anybody wondered what makes these games great and who is responsible for that? The credit goes to the game developers. A game developer is basically a software developer who develops video games. There are many platforms for games — these days, you have PC games and console games. These are further sub-categorized. PC games include single- player games and online games, while console games have a wider range from Sony’s PlayStation series including the PSP, Microsoft’s gaming console Xbox and Xbox 360 and even Nintendo’s Wii and DS. First thing a developer needs is to narrow down on what he / she needs to specialize in.

A game cannot be made over night — it needs great thought, planning and execution before it can be made available to others. With this comes the need for an efficient workforce to back it all up. Typically, a game development team consists of programmers, game designers, artists and the management. India has abundance when it comes to programmers in the IT sector. Designers, artists, sound engineers, producers and testers are the ones that are mostly outsourced by companies when needed. But before you even think about getting into this field, you need to have the passion and creativity for games and what really goes on behind the scene. When it comes to programming, you need to be proficient with C/C++, have knowledge in 2D vector math, 3D math, knowledge of Direct X and Open GL. And yes, before all this, you need to have a BE / BTech degree. You can’t expect to approach a game developer by saying you have an idea for a game. If you want to be a game designer who works on levels and artwork, you need to know Adobe Photoshop, CorelDraw, 3ds Max, Maya and other such 3D animation software. Again remember, creativity must come from within. If you do not want to join the corporate world and want to stay independent, you really need to prove yourself and must have extensive knowledge in the above mentioned. In fact, to even approach a game developer, you need to have the proper paper work including a game design document (GDD) which could be anywhere between 2 to 200 pages a level. Just imagine the sizes of GDDs for MMORPGs, the amount of work going into each dungeon and level.

The game development industry is estimated to reach $65 billion by 2011 in the US. In India itself, NASSCOM says, it’s expected to value at $212 million. But the question here is, when will India reach that level and are the companies here moving at the same pace as those in the US? Companies need to provide, not only to the Indian market, but possibly even a much wider user base, when it comes to game development. There are several companies in India that have begun to tap this Gold Mine. Outsourcing or off shoring has become an integral aspect in the production of most international game titles. Game development studios across the world are looking to outsource visual art elements such as game characters, vehicles, racing tracks, sports arenas and various game environments for games that are being developed. Many Game companies in India cater to this need and are contributing to some amazing upcoming games. All of this may sound great though it doesn’t come easy. Aspiring Game studios need to match high quality expectations to be able to deliver on such international projects. Did you know that Indian game companies have contributed to games like Microsoft’s Forza motorsport, EA’s Battlefield Modern Combat, Atari’s Asterix and Obelix XXL2, Project Gotham Racing 4, Colin McRae Dirt, Guitar Hero and many more. So where does India stand with all of this?

Some companies prefer to stick to a more traditional approach of gaming, where in people play games for leisure. Such games are called casual games and one such company present in India is Zapak. If you visit their website (www.zapak.com) you will find a huge list of games to choose from and these are mostly all browser-based games with a multiplayer aspect to them. Zapak has also won awards for their games including the UN Award for Excellence in Creativity for their game Laadli and when asked about how long it took to create the game, they claim, “It took more than 45 days to create Laadli and it cost us about Rs. 1.5 Lakhs.” Talking about creating their games, “We have in-house developers and we also outsource our projects.” Zapak has games which are meant for the Indian audience but Mr. Saagar says that they have recently even started Zapak World which is meant for the world audience also. That’s a really good step in India to create such a base. The platforms Zapak uses to create their games are Flash, Macromedia and Unity.

Recently FX Labs released the game Ghajini, which is based on the movie with the same title, with elements of the movie present in the game itself. We spoke with Mr. Sashi Reddi, Founder & CEO — FXLabs Studios, and asked him about the status of Game Development in India and he said, “We, at FXLabs, believe that the gaming market in India while still in its infancy is ripe for growth. As a company, we are betting that the market for top notch games based on recognizable Bollywood properties is the clear path to success. We are confident that consumers will perceive a high level of value in the products that we make, and it should serve to cement FXLabs in their minds as the premiere developer of games for the Indian market. FXLabs is making a significant investment in this particular market opportunity.” Talking about Ghajini, we asked him how long it took them to make the game and also about the workforce that was used, he replied, “We take about 9-12 months to produce a game like Ghajini from Concept, Design to Implementation. The Ghajini game was completely built out of our own studios in Hyderabad. The main production team for Ghajini game consisted of about 30 people which included programmers, artists and testers.” On asking him about the game Ghajini and the technology involved he said, “We have adopted the latest DirectX technologies for Graphics in our games. For Ghajini we wrote a lot of good Shaders, but we had to pull them out of the game to maintain compliance with lower configuration graphics cards that are prevalent in India. Our survey of Indian hardware market made us aware that the masses don’t have advanced 3D graphics cards and if we were to reach the mass audience we had to lower our specification for Graphics card requirement to most widely available Intel Integrated Graphics Chipset(G965). We had to optimize our Engine to run on low end graphics cards, while not compromising on game play. DirectX 10 and advanced graphics is available to the Indian audience today with the current generation AAA games, but the masses who don’t have a 3D accelerated graphics card would have to wait for about a year to be able to play the current generation games.”

We also spoke with Mr. Anthony Whitaker, the Technical Director of RZ2 Games, and asked him how long and also about the costs involved in creating a big budget game and he said, “It takes anywhere between two to five years to create a big budget title and can cost anything up to even $13 million.” When asked about what games have been created specifically for the Indian audience, he said, “We have mobile games like Jalsa and Ashta Chamma which are games based on the movies with the same name.” We also asked if RZ2 Games was doing anything in relation to DX10 and Anthony replied, “We are not looking at DX10 games for India as that requires Windows Vista and a more powerful machine. Also, it does not have a large enough spread or even market share. We use technologies up to DX 9 and also create flash games. We create games for PC, PS2, Nintendo DS and even the iPhone.” We also asked about other Indian companies approaching them for projects to which he replied, “Other companies like Zapak and FX Labs has approached us. Most of our development is in-house only though.” He also spoke about RZ2 Games creating an MMOFPS, but couldn’t reveal any information on that topic.

Dhruva Interactive is one of India’s oldest Game Developers. When we Mr. K Rakesh Rao, CEO, about how long and how much the Game Development industry has improved, he replied, “Yes 12 years is a long time indeed! While it was really slow for the first 5 to 6 years, things started picking up around 2003, with the emerging mobile games market, and the developer community has grown at a fast clip in the last couple of years. The consumer market is finally growing, thanks to the high decibel marketing and promotion by portals, console owners such as Microsoft and Sony, now an important revenue stream. The developer community is evolving and gaining maturity, many companies are still young, they have much to learn and it will take time to hit international quality benchmarks. Dhruva was lucky to have international exposure right from the beginning. We are working with six of the top ten publishers and have contributed to the development of over 30 AAA blockbuster console & PC games.” About the technology that Dhruva uses in games, he said, “We usually use a DX version between DX7 and DX9 for our target spec, because the mass market consumer in India is primarily using fairly low-end systems and a version of Windows between 98 and XP.” We also asked about the games they create, whether it is for the Indian audience or the Global audience and he said, “We keep both markets in mind when developing games, but our primary source of revenue has come from the international markets.”

When it comes to education, there is definitely a limitation in India with most students looking for an MBA or not even knowing that the option for Game Programming or Game Designing exists after their degrees in engineering. We got in touch with Divij Durvey from Mumbai, who is now studying a Game Programming and Designing related course at Pace University in New York and had this to say, “I have always been a gamer and since I was studying engineering I wanted to pursue it further. When I spoke about my plans to my professors at college, they really didn’t have any advice for me, which lead me to look for a course abroad.” SAGE, the School of Advanced Graphics and Engineering, is an institute where they teach you games programming. SAGE is run by Mr. Priyadarshi Chowdhary, who is the Founder and CEO. We asked him about the courses offered at SAGE and he replied, “We teach only Games Programming and we also have an advanced course where we teach students how to create their own Game Engines. We normally teach students on the OGRE engine.” On their web site, www.sageinfolabs.com, it is mentioned that SAGE has also started a course that teaches console game programming for the Xbox 360. Mr. Priyadarshi says, “We have started the course for console game programming, but people prefer to enroll for PC game programming.” About getting a job in this line he said, “There is a lot of scope and we also have a placement program.” Mr. Anthony Withaker of RZ2 Games said, “We hold many workshops, sponsorship programs and events for colleges like IIT. We have an internship program going on where we currently have three students with us also.” Mr. Sashi Reddi of FXLabs Studios said, “ One of our main aim is to nurture budding talent around this industry. We have been running FX – Learning Academy, where in we get freshers on board and give them immense training around game programming and Art side before starting their actual work with us.”

Here is some advice Mr. Sashi Reddi has given to young adults who wish to pursue a career in this field, “For students who want to get into gaming it is important to understand what is it that they aspire to do in this field. If they are interested in programming games, they should learn programming languages like C, C++ and be strong at Maths and Physics. For people who would like to animate characters or make assets for games like vehicles, buildings, etc. they should learn 3D editing software like 3Dmax and Maya. Students who are interested in designing a game should play a lot of games, understand the different genres of games, possess good analytical skills and be very creative at coming up with ideas for games that would keep people engaged. Best way to start a career in game design is to start writing reviews and walkthroughs for the games you are currently playing.” We definitely know that this industry is going to grow stronger but currently it is moving at a slow pace as in comparison to other countries and from the looks of it India’s Game Developers are catering more towards the casuals games meant for the Indian audience. We still have hope that the day will come when India will be the hub for all Game Development with host to all types of gamers.