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GEMS 2020: Indie game developers continue to rise and shine!

Experts believe that innovative ideas are driving the gaming industry


MUMBAI: When compared to the gaming scene in the U.S. and Europe, India's indie game development space is taking baby steps. But indie creators are making headway and getting noticed. 

During the “Make in India: Indie Game Developers Speak" session at GEMS 2020, industry experts discussed various aspects of their indie game journey; right from their struggles during the Covid2019 pandemic to successfully launching games on various platforms while working from home. Apart from that, they gave insights on how to build a game from ideation to execution.

The concluding session of GEMS 2020, “included and game designer Avichal Singh, Xigma Games co-founder Manwani, Underdogs Studio founder and CEO, Lucid Labs founder Chirag Chopra, , CapeTitans Games co-founder and CEO Kayal and was moderated by Photon Tadpole studios founder and CEO Hrishi Oberoi.

Watch the session here:

The challenges that Indie game developers face are many. For one, they put double the effort as compared to any large-scale gaming company. Two, they work with limited resources. But through sheer talent, grit and passion – they are making a mark.

Take for instance Raji: An Ancient Epic which came out on Nintendo Switch and Steam and became a runaway hit. Nodding Heads Games co-founder Avichal Singh, the lead designer behind the game, shared how the team managed to collaborate on work in the middle of a lockdown.

“When the pandemic started, we had our deadline and we knew we had a crunch. We met our milestone and did not let go of the opportunity. Earlier, the programming team was in one room. But when the lockdown was imposed, we shifted our operations online to launch. That is when we realised how it has slowed down the entire process. Pandemic took a toll on the game’s development,” Singh rued.

Himanshu Manwani, whose Xigma Games recently released The Bonfire 2: Unchartered, experienced the same troubles. The process took double the time while working from home and doing quality analysis was very challenging. “The pandemic hit exactly at the time when we were about to launch the game when we actually needed to sit in one room and discuss. The quality of the game suffered,” he admitted.

Consequently, the game’s initial launch was met with its fair share of negative reactions from users who noticed the glitches during gameplay. However, Manwani continued to work on the issues, the team released a patch which perfected the wonky areas, and now they are getting positive feedback.

Watch more news on games: CapeTitans Games on bridging the gaps in game creation

Debasis Kayal is not a game developer but his company, CapeTitans, works closely with indie creators by investing money in their projects. He noted that the pandemic has given a lot of opportunities to the overall gaming industry. Many new companies were formed during this time. During the lockdown, more people got into gaming, and developers also got the time to explore creative fields.

“For indie game developers, influence or love has mapped towards creation. Some like mythology, ancient history, some like strategy, and accordingly they channelize their interests and passion through their work. The very first attempt that they did to roll out their game was out of love or being influenced by something,” said Vaibhav Chavan.

The Underdogs Studio founder stated that innovative ideas are the driving force behind this industry. He quipped: “Being indie is being artistic. Most of the ideas are already there in the market in some form or the other. It is the independent developers who with their artistic mind transform it into a game.”

Once you have your game conceptualised and developed, what comes next? Publishing a game doesn’t happen in a vacuum, developers need to study the current trends and determine the product’s marketability first, Chavan added.

Watch more news on games: GEMS: Experts on the future of live streaming in India

Because it all comes to naught if a developer’s labour of love flops in the market. Financial success is the stepping stone to other, bigger projects; so it’s important to keep the game’s commercial bankability in mind. Having said that, what drives an indie creator’s work is emotional validation, explained Chopra.

“We want users to have fun while playing our game. Ideas are mechanical stuff. For me, when the first idea hits, I try to work on the prototype and try to get feedback from my close peers. If the mechanics are fun at the early stage then there is a point of going ahead. The idea is to get beyond the mobile game developer,” he said

Ogre Head Studio founder and CEO Zainuddin Fahad joined the gaming industry when he was 19 years old. Cut to five years later, and he still wants to create a game that he can enjoy. Explaining his perspective, Fahad said: “My view is that the game should have a reflection of you and the developer should do whatever they wanted to do. The important question is whether you are happy enough while building the game or not and whether you have enjoyed it while developing the game.”

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