What it takes to be a Game Developer in India?

AID Poster for the Webinar

Got invited to give a webinar at AID Bangalore for Game Development in India. This talk is about an overview of what type of work goes into making a video game. And in turn talks about what it takes to be a workforce in that development, be it as a game programmer, game artist, or a game designer. This talk is open for anyone interested in getting into game development. This is friendly to all audiences, but with a higher focus towards game programmers. I also share my journey into the field.

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Link in bio. . With Gaming becoming almost omnipresent across several platforms globally, the number of opportunities are also remarkably on the rise. In the past few years, with the demand for online Games skyrocketing, Game Development has also become  one of the most sought-after professions. For all of you out there aspiring to make it big in Game Development in India, here is an opportunity to understand what it takes to make it big in the profession. Right from the various career opportunities to the best employing studios in India to the best courses to be learnt to realise your dream profession, you will learn what you seek from a pro with an illustrious professional background.   Mr. Shiben Bhattacharjee, CEO & Founder of an Indie Game Development Studio, Dhantra Studio will throw light on these aspects and many more in a live interactive session, 'What does it take to be Game Developer in India? Mr. Shiben has been with DreamWorks Animation and also in the working committee of SIGGRAPH Local Chapter. He has several years of creative experience in Hollywood animated feature films and has also worked for Big Tech. An IIIT Hyderabad graduate, he is currently working on 'The Vaanar Game', the second big release of Dhantra Studio.   Enroll soon and make the best out of this opportunity.    . . . . . #gamedevelopment #gaming #gamedev #gamedevelopmentindia #dreamworks #vfxartist #technicalartist #gamedesign

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Post comments for any doubts and discussions. Thank you!

What Bollywood Nepotism Problem tells us about Indian Work Ethics

Sushant Singh Rajput‘s demise has strengthened the discussion around nepotism. The mystery around his death is increasing day by day, and it has become a national issue and is slowly turning political. However I am more interested in talking about what this tells us about the Indian Work Ethics.

Nepotism in Bollywood

Lot of people call it a “debate”. Is it really though? Nepotism is sort of a feudal monarch system which goes against meritocracy, which then produces low quality products with no accountability. Some nepotism is tolerable, but an industry wide dominating one? Absolutely not. Nepotism in Bollywood is not a debate, stop calling it so, and start calling it a problem.

While Shekhar Gupta feels through his experience there is some level of meritocracy, do note that his definition seems that of Meritocracy of Fame instead of Meritocracy of Talent. Fame can be bought by money and clout but not talent.

The Charade of Bollywood Awards

While we can debate what he meant by meritocracy, my main point aligns with what his main standpoint also is: Respect for the Job and that essentially is what I am going to expand into.

Do Star Kids have it Difficult

We saw defensive positions from some self made people on this topic. Tapsee Pannu‘s spine seems to swing like a pendulum according to where the contemporary verdict gravitates. Swara Bhaskar and Anurag Kashyap are simply slaves of political frustration and their statements are predictably out of spite. Varun Dhawan danced around the bush as he must be knee deep in some clique.

But the one that actually catches attention is Ayushmann Khurrana. He defended Star Kids saying that they have it difficult given the audience judges them hard no matter how well they try to do.

It is a weak defense against the sea of second chances Star Kids keep getting. I think it is fair that the audience is tough on people who otherwise have it easy, to balance the situation out. Having said that, I strongly disagree with Khurana because I have not seen Star Kids give their best. Even the seemingly best out of the lot, Alia Bhatt, has no range and is limited in doing the same cliched role of a 20 something angry confident loud girl. There are countless more actresses who are at the same mediocre level as her, but the fact that it is still Alia who keeps getting movies, makes my disagreement with Khurana even more. And we haven’t even started on why the below mediocre Arjun Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Tiger Shroff etc. keep on getting movies over and over. By the way, here’s a quick funny jab on Jhanvi Kapoor before we move further.

What this tells about Ayushmann Khurrana is that he doesn’t respect his job (and the same goes for the other mentioned self made people). And before you point finger at him, I think this extrapolates to the audience at large, and we need to look in the mirror.

The Indian Audience

There is a saying in India, “Content is King”. While there is nothing wrong in that, the devil lies in the details. While it means the heart of the story is what matters, what it also says that the Indian audience does not care about the quality of the content as long as it is entertaining.

An example can be that of a movie made with bad lighting, bad props, bad editing, bad acting, bad vfx, but is considered an acceptable content as long as it is borderline entertaining. Not just that, it is alright to watch a 320p mp4 file of camcorder recorded pirated version of that movie. “I can watch the content on my device, what’s more do I need? Better Sound? I can hear the dialogues just fine. Better lighting and colors? I can see Katrina’s cleavage just fine. Better VFX? Better Editing? What do those things even mean? Irrelevant, I have the content, and content is King”.

Don’t get me wrong. There is content out there which is intentionally made crude in a certain department. Very good example is the Western show South Park and a very good Indian YouTube channel Make Joke Of. Barring some exceptions, I think you know where I am getting into. Using all kinds of shortcuts, just put together some content, and the Indian audience will consume it. Yes, it is called “Jugaad”.

The Jugaad

The thumbnail there is a click-bait jugaad too.

I love jugaad for what it is. I love that we Indians have make shift solutions for our daily problems. In our kitchen variety of things are made in same utensils, while a Westerner will have a type of pot for every single dish. At our desk, we make do with low supplies and a good enough computer, while a Westerner will have a dedicated device for every nuance of their desk’s activity. We make do with a single vehicle for the entire family, Westerners have a work vehicle, a truck and an older car which the kids get to drive.

While Jugaad makes us light on nature, it should not be confused with efficiency. Jugaad is what it is, a make shift solution, to a temporary or a rarely occurring problem. Unfortunately we have started applying jugaad to our permanent daily life as well as it seeps into our day jobs too. Whether we are talking about a labor, a house keeper, a software engineer, a government official, an artist, or a business man, we use jugaad in all aspects of our work.

Anyone who has gotten a house made, must know how much you have to micro manage or pay heavy to get someone to micro manage so that the house is made properly. One miss and you will find a broken tile, a bent window, missed grotting, leaky plumbing, misaligned platforms, sloppy paint jobs and what not. Decades of jugaad has made us to subconsciously do jugaad in our jobs too. And while you as an Indian gleefully agree, look yourself in the mirror, you do this in your work too.

Bollywood – The Grand Jugaad Gala

Naturally, Bollywood, an Indian industry, is not free from this problem. Star kids are the best example of jugaad. They have a name because their parents have a name, so people have an inherent curiosity about them. So instead of going through hours of reels of auditions of talent, movie producers just go with these Star Kids. And their naturally sloppy job is responded with, “arey chalta hai, I don’t mind it, at-least I got to see a rich kid’s skin”.

Unfortunately this trains them not to work on their craft, they just choose to look good on screen, which every random Instagram townie can do these days. Kareena Kapoor Khan off-late said that it is really the audience who have made them. If we are not interested, we can always not watch their movies.

See the full display of how a 20 minutes space is provided by a journalist to a privilege person’s thoughts on YouTube here

Even though the undertone was of over confidence and arrogance, there is truth in those words. We have been talking about their low quality performance on screen since decades now, so then why do we keep watching them? We have made them, so can we break them like she is saying?

Respect for Work

Hate me for this all you want, but we Indians have low respect for our jobs. And that’s why we have a lower ask for a job well done. In complete contrast, Westerners have great work ethics and high respect for their jobs. This reflects in their film industry, Hollywood. As much as it is a theme park of shallowness and consumerism, you must agree that it is full of talent. You do see nepotism here too but it is not industry dominating, and every single actor/actress has theater experience. They can sing, dance and some can play instruments. They are DAMN talented. And if they are not, the audience is not having it. The audience works hard in their job, and will not tolerate garbage on their screens. It makes sense.

The drive to achieve quality, or to look for quality, doesn’t just randomly occur in our minds. It comes from respect for one’s labor.

But what am I trying to say? Be a Westerner? No! While they have good work ethics, their culture is really wasteful. And if the image below reminds you of one of your big Indian cities, say thanks to your love for the Western consumerism culture.

Earth Suffers as Consumerism Spreads
Don’t believe the tip of the Western Culture Iceberg. This is what is below the Water. See the post related to this pic here.

“You went all gaga over West before this Shiben, so what is this?”. Again, my point is about their good work ethics, not culture. West is not the best culture to look up to, as we Indians don’t want to be wasteful, we have enough problems as it is. If you go to villages which are away from Western influences, you will never see this rot.

Let’s look at how the Japanese function. They have really good work ethics and on top of that they live very efficiently. Their culture encourages minimal living, leaner homes, light on nature and low wastage. Jugaad is not in their dictionary and the quality of their work is top. They have really good work ethics and high respect for their jobs. They are facing environmental problems too, but they are responding really well to it as well.

The Modern Progressive Culture to look up to – Japan

We need to find respect for our jobs within our Indian societal context. We have to find examples in the quality of Hollywood and in the functioning of Japanese culture and we need to use Jugaad in the right places at the right time. Respect what you do, do it with focus, do it with love, don’t just do it to collect the wage. There is a primitive satisfaction you get out of job which is well done. A short film in Love Sex Robots series tells this very nicely.

Conclusion

Coming back to Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged murder, barring the various conspiracy theories about Bollywood underground mafia and dark secrets, bottom line is they have that clout through your money, which you have given them over time. So who is to blame?

The main take away for us from the Sushant Singh Rajput’s case is to have respect for our jobs. While we see a sign of people waking up to this as the Sadak 2‘s trailer is taking the brunt, tomorrow if you forget all this then Sushant’s death is in vain. The supreme court, CBI or Maharashtra government can do absolutely nothing if tomorrow you go and watch some jugaad of a movie and give them your money (or time). Don’t expect an iota of change if you will continue to watch the movies of the famously and proudly untalented.

We are in the mainstream workforce in the global market, have respect for your work, and start demanding good work from others too. If we will continue with Jugaad everywhere, then expect no change on that screen, and a decade later expect Taimur to be shoved down our throat, because, well, we will deserve exactly that.

Does Indian Politics fit the Western Left Wing and Right Wing Dichotomy?

We don’t realize this but most of the television that we see is based on Western pop-culture. A lot of the food we eat and the clothes we wear, is based on Western ideas. Technology and Science also come from West. So is the language this post is written in. Even life philosophies seem to be dominantly coming from Western influences today. We don’t realize this but West is completely normalized in our minds.

This is not a critique of West’s dominant prevalence, but a call to analyse it. It is sitting accessible in our mind, let’s use it as an opportunity. We are not force fitting things into the right or wrong blocks, but just observing things for what they are. We will explore West first (पूर्व पक्ष), and then look into how that fits (or doesn’t fit) India.

Western Philosophy Pattern

Most of Western ideas stem from Western philosophy. It is based mostly on right or wrong, moral or immoral, yes or no, ethical or unethical, on or off, heaven or hell, good or bad etc. This can be generalized as either-ors, or bifurcations, or the best way to describe as dichotomies (partition of a whole into two subsets). This is a convenient approach for decision making and to solve problems, “Here’s two things, now choose one of them”. Today’s science and technology also follows this philosophical pattern. Computers are based on binary switches (on or off) and all concepts are extrapolated from that. Science in general works on the cold hard division of whether it works or it doesn’t. There is no acceptance of a spectrum of functioning. If the science falls below a certain success rate cutoff, it is “not science”. West also has its nuances though the binaries & positivism have taken over the dominant space.

It has been centuries and it seems West is still sticking to this convenient polar approach, instead of exploring if there is anything wrong with it. Convenient does not mean correct.

Western Political Understanding

The political landscape in West is divided into two as well: Left wing and Right wing. Lets focus on america only given it calls the shots. They have the liberal democrats (Left Wing) and the conservative republicans (Right Wing). Well, they do have independents too, but historically they have been able to get an abysmal 5% win. And then there is this practice of bi-partisan-ship (in other words, centrism) which off-late has been thwarted thanks to the Western developed polarizing social media (especially twitter). So overall it is safe to stress that America effectively has only two polar opposite political parties: Democrats and Republicans. West is as West can be: A dichotomous theme park.

Let’s quickly glance at what these parties stand for. It is visible that the Left basically projects itself as a modern counter response to the Right which bases itself on traditional cultural values. I stress, we are not judging, we are just understanding the bifurcation.

Republicans / Conservatives / Right-WingDemocrats / Liberals / Left-Wing
Pro Western CultureMulticulturalism
Soft White People PreferenceRacial Inclusiveness
Exclusive Christian identityIrreligious*
Family ValuesIndividualism
Soft Male Preference, Pro-LifeGender Equality, Pro-choice*
Asserting Two Biological SexesGender Fluidity*
Freedom of SpeechSoft Censorship, Political Correctness
Individual Justice, Due ProcessSocial Justice, Identity Politics
Low Taxes, Small GovernmentHigh Taxes, Big Government
Private Healthcare, Education, No WelfareFree Healthcare, Education, Welfare
Free MarketRegulate Businesses
Tight BordersOpen Borders
Passionate Meat EatingAnimal Rights*
Climate is just fine, No WorriesFix the Climate
National SovereigntyGlobal Order
Western Political Dichotomy (* include contradictions of Islam)

How Americans Vote

American people however, are just regular people. Some are democrats, and some are republicans, and then a big chunk sees a middle ground, and then some who think independently. (This follows a natural four section division explored in Hindu philosophy – चतुष्कोटि). The voting patterns show that there are red states (which vote republican mostly) and blue states (which vote democrats mostly), then swing states (who sometimes choose red and sometimes blue). These swing voters are either seeing a middle ground, or are independents forced to choose between these two parties. Because of this contrasting organic voting pattern, most of the elections are won marginally. Point is, american people are intellectual enough to know the complexity and deserve more than a dumbed down decision of choosing between just the two. But then I am digressing. This is West’s headache to solve (or not, it is up to them).

Application to Indian Politics

Which brings us to India. Going by West’s prescribed convenient route, the majority’s culture gets the de-facto “Right wing” tag, and everyone else, “Left wing”. And this is where we can start OUR judgement given this is OUR culture. Let’s call this indigenous cultures (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Adivasis, Parsis, Swadesi Muslims etc.) as the “Indics”, and let’s map the Right Wing standings to the ethos of Indics.

Right-Wing StandingsWhat Indics Think
Pro Indic CultureYes
Soft Preference to … Brahmins?No
Exclusive Indic identityNo
Family ValuesYes
Soft Male Preference, Pro-LifeNo
Asserting Two Biological SexesNo
Freedom of SpeechYes
Individual Justice, Due ProcessYes
Low Taxes, Small GovernmentDepends
Private Healthcare, Education, No WelfareDepends
Free MarketDepends
Tight BordersYes
Passionate Meat EatingNo
Climate is just fine, No WorriesNo
National SovereigntyYes
Mapping Western Right Wing to Indic Values

Well, that didn’t work out. It’s all over the place. Let’s ignore the West’s prescription for a moment, and try mapping the Left Wing to Indic ethos.

Left-Wing StandingsWhat Indics Think
MulticulturalismYes
Racial InclusivenessYes
IrreligiousYes
IndividualismYes
Gender Equality, Pro-choiceYes
Gender FluidityYes
Soft Censorship, Political CorrectnessNo
Social Justice, Identity PoliticsNo
High Taxes, Big GovernmentDepends
Free Healthcare, Education, WelfareDepends
Regulate BusinessesDepends
Open BordersNo
Animal RightsYes
Fix the ClimateYes
Global OrderYes
Mapping Western Left Wing to Indic Values

This makes no sense whatsoever. Indics were supposed to be Right Wing but it is capturing most of the liberal Left Wing ideas. Some Right Wing standings got included too. Thankfully the garbage is rejected (male preference, exclusivity of a religion, identity politics, political correctness, possible homophobia, climate change deniers etc.). And then there are things which don’t seem partisan but plain debatable. Let’s dissect this further.

What the Indian Ethos Stand For

While Indics want National Sovereignty and Tight Borders (due to the problems is has faced off-late), it supports the idea of a Global Order (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्). Its fundamentals have gender equality, and cultural inclusiveness (ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः). It wants Indic religions, alongside other religions, but respects atheism as well. It wants family values while respecting individualism as well. Gender fluidity is fine. Nature is a goddess so protecting it is not just a future investment but a moral obligation.

समोऽहं सर्वभूतेषु न मे द्वेष्योऽस्ति न प्रिय:

I am equally disposed to all living beings; I am neither inimical nor partial to anyone (Bhagavad Gita – 9/29)

And then there are temporally shifting points in which the Indics say, we will trust the parliament. For example, the current government has introduced new socialist policies for the poor and have proved to be very good. So even if we become an Indic socialist country (let’s say like Canada), that’s fine. Another example, the current government is trying to privatize some sectors because of high corruption and operational inefficiency. So even if we become an Indic Capitalist country (let’s say like UAE), that’s fine too! Point is these remain debatable and pro-rata.

We seem to be going all over the place if we are seeing this from the simplistic Western dichotomous lens. In East, complexity is understood since childhood, and whether we are taught the technicalities of चतुष्कोटि or not, the essence is built right into our minds. The Indic cultures are able to absorb all the seemingly reasonable asks of both sides and balance them, while keeping the temporally conditional things as debatable.

The “Left” Wing?

What about the “Left wing” from the Western lens? Sure, what is the Left side left with? Other than some make believe “Right-Wing Fascism” fear-mongering, what exactly will it stand for? It comprises of strict abrahamics, wokes, and some communists. Let’s explore. Strict abrahamics are exclusively conservative so Left Wing ideas are essentially blasphemy for them. Communists can sure stand in the Left Wing, but then the Indics don’t mind some socialist policies themselves, so the commies existence become diluted. What about the wokes? Its not clear what they stand for. Is it Westernizing India? Why though? Because it’s “cool”? “Netflix and Chill”? “Limp and Loose”? Not reasonable arguments. The Indics have all the necessary progressive points of modernity in place. Thanks, but no thanks.

What about Majoritarianism

West

While that was policies, one can try to argue “Majoritarianism is bad” from a democratic stand point, hence majority should fall unconditionally into Right Wing. Alright, let’s look at why West thinks this way. All Western countries are either born out of digesting some cultures e.g. Pagans of Europe, or by expanding while killing them off e.g. Natives of America and Aboriginals of Australia, or run operations by enslaving or colonizing them e.g. Africans, Asians and Indians. If that wasn’t enough they waged wars in Middle East on the basis of some speculations and floored a bunch of nations. While that’s outside home, the condition of minority African Americans in their own backyard is questionable at best and remains debatable in their politics.

Remember we are not judging, just analyzing the thought process. They maintain the optics of “Human Rights” to compensate for their moral failures around the world. They have a general sense of GUILT association with their majority holdings. (Their imaginations of the future is always dystopian and self loathing, such as Avatar, Westworld, Hunger Games, Omniscient, Altered Carbon, Serenity, Star Wars, Walking Dead, etc. and the success of these movies give a hint of their internalized guilt). In their world “Majoritarianism is bad” makes sense.

India

In our world, in India however, it has been the other way around. The “majoritarian” Indics have actually been the victims of the aforementioned digestion/killing by the two dominant abrahamic cultures. And surprisingly we are still happily living together. We just want to be vigilant (due to aggressive proselytism) but overall we see those past unfortunate events as circumstantial and want to move on.

Adding further to this contrary, we are still suffering from colonial dividing policies. The farce aryan invasion theory to divide the North and South, and the European casta system to reinterpret वर्ण जाति (Varṇa Jāti) as rigid, were imposed by colonials. We are till date picking up the pieces with Dalits, and are in the process of clearing these mistakes forced on our culture. Point is, the Indics have no guilt of invasions on other cultures and lands, or oppressing anyone in their own capacity. Thus the “Majoritarianism is bad” burden is for West to bear for their own past. Sorry but not sorry, we do not share your White Guilt. Our collective conscience is clean.

Food for thought: Are the abrahamic “minorities” of India really minorities? For all practical purposes, given the global unity of these abrahamic religions, and their control of world politics, trade and universalism, the Indics actually are the minorities in our globalized world. If West is looking to compensate for their moral failures of the past, then in case of India they can fight for the Indicsright to their land. Or at best, not interfere.

The Argument

Specialized bifurcations, in the context of culture, India can be inclusives vs exclusives. Or in terms of modernity, it can be Indics vs Westernizers. Even then, neither are we interested in the pro-inclusive talks of the exclusives (because that doesn’t sound trustworthy and regardless we are inclusive in the first place), nor are we interested in getting Westernized (modernity can very well be achieved without changing one’s culture. Japan and Indonesia are good examples of that). This was just some added demonstration that bifurcations in general don’t really work for the complex India.

For example, it is quite legitimately possible to imagine a Jain politics as one would imagine Buddhist politics as a Naiyāyika or Mīmāṃsaka politics as also of a Vedantin politics. And of course not to leave out Cārvāka philosophy. And so on. Our current (Western based) descriptions of reality around us and the categories by which we understand and describe it are inadequate to capture the reality appropriately. This calls for efforts to better our own abilities as well as the capability of our language(s). This is the continuous effort that such great thinkers as Gaṅgeśa Upādhyāya or Raghunātha Śiromaṇi were doing. This effort stopped owing to the atrocities during the British rule and continued post-independence owing to the rejection of a vast territory of our past. As I mentioned, we are picking up those pieces till date.

Conclusion

India cannot be seen from the Western Left and Right political lens as it does not capture the reality of our polity. Force fitting the diverse Indic परम्परा to the mundane left right Western categories is disingenuous. The Pro-Indics should NOT be called Right Wing. Anyone doing so is being sloppy with their intellect. The political dichotomy of Left vs Right is lazy and underdeveloped even for West, and we suggest them to look into it.

Thanks to Pranav Vasishta and Kiran Varanasi for proof reading, inputs and corrections. Proud to add that this post is published on satyameva.org as well.

Figma – Know Your App Before Developing it – Free UX Tool

There are two things that make a product developers worry. What is the technology that you are building, is it efficient enough, does it function well, is it innovative, etc.. And second, what is the user experience of it? The tech may be killer, but does the experience justify it. UX’ importance has increased many folds in this decade. It is well understood that the only thing, if the user really has of your app, is its experience.

Gone are the days when we will take certain liberties in the interface because the software doesn’t allow some workflows. We used to develop software and then make the UX. We can’t do that anymore. All the right paths need to align properly, all the messaging needs to be perfect, and thus the UX design should be driving the software development. This calls for a tool where you can design the UX of the app before the software development is planned.

There are quite a few such available online. I use figma.com as it is a free online web app. Follow these simple steps to get started and feel comfortable with it within minutes.

Simple Ok Cancel App

Step 1 – First create a project and bring yourself to this screen. Use the top left tools to create a frame and choose it’s dimensions. Now create a rectangle, and a text box inside it. Select them both, and group them together.

Step 1 – Create a “frame” and add a rectangle with some text which can look like a button. Group them together.

Step 2 – This is where magic starts happening already. Select your group and right click on it, and select “Create Component”. This will create a package or a unit of your group, which can be repeatedly used in the rest of your project.

Step 2 – Now right click on the group and do “Create Component”. Rename your component to something meaningful.

Step 3 – Now your button unit is ready, duplicate it and create a “Cancel” button. Note the cancel button’s icon. It is an instance and carries all properties of the source button, unless you override something, for e.g. here the text. Wow!

Step 3 – Duplicate your component, and you have an “Instance”. Change the text to “But I am Lazy”.

Step 4 – Great. Now let’s create two more screens. You can do so by duplicating the existing screen. Make them in a way that they represent what happens through your two buttons.

Step 4 – Create two more screens by just duplicating the current. Treat them as two flows of your Ok and Cancel buttons

Step 5 – Interesting stuff now! Select the main button and Choose Prototype. You can point that button to navigate to one of your screens. Amazing.

Step 5 – Select any button, and like shown, direct it to go to a screen of your choice

Step 6 – Map all the buttons to the screens you want them to go. Fantastic! Your UX prototype is ready for testing.

Step 6 – Now map all the rest of the buttons like above

Click on the top right “play” looking button and you will get a test run of your UX in another tab. And it should work like below.

Your prototype now navigates around different screens through your button according to how you have mapped them

All that was possible within 10 minutes, and you have a functioning user experience of an OK-Cancel app ready to test. How awesome is that?

I have not even mentioned the effects like shadows, strokes, rounded corners. You can also add images, and put things inside a scroll area. Basically you can design your entire app before even thinking about what libraries you want to use for development. Even better, the functioning prototype can be handed over to the programmers to make their life easier. Hope this was of help, let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!

The Making of Krishna Legends – Art, Story and Development

According to the ancient texts, around 5000 years ago, the deranged King Salwa who used to ride in Vimanas (which were speculatively gravity defying flying machines) attacked Dwarka from the sky. Krishna defended the city, and defeated him from the ground. This was a perfect fit to be a game like Space Invaders with Retro Game Mechanics. So the game design came through, but that wasn’t the main inspiration of Krishna Legends.

Inspiration

Visit the temple establishment of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam and a feeling of grandness takes over you. It doesn’t matter whether you are an agnostic or religious or cultural, the sheer scale at which a single Idol drives a massive operational city is really a humbling experience. It brings you down to your roots and leaves you asking the question, as humans, have we figured ourselves out yet? This gives life to Balaji’s idol, made up of just stone, and we perceive that to be an actual presence of something bigger than us.

A 30 square km city with a population of 8000 is dedicated entirely to the Temple

Inspired by this, we traveled more around the country and that made our imaginations run wild. We wanted to share that feeling of epic as well as the richness of the Indian culture with everyone (We talk more deeply about this in a post about Dhantra Studio). This is not in the context of faith, but it’s more in the realm of culture-craziness, “What life must have been in that contemporary era?”. So it was clear where the art style of the game has to come from.

The Art Style

At the time, I was fascinated by traditional Mysore and Tanjore paintings because they are incredibly difficult to make, while my wife, Nupur, is a big fan of Madhubani paintings. I tried Mysore painting style a few times and got some understanding of rounded shapes, repeated patterns everywhere, outlines, keeping things symmetric, preferring orthographic instead of perspective, very little to no natural chaos and not overly fit human figures. Madhubani paintings were good to look for colors.

Yudhishthara in His Durbar – Mysore Painting

This was a big part away from my VFX background because as VFX Artists we love dramatic perspective angles, and creating controlled chaos with Gaussian distribution.

Some primary features of the traditional art were maintained, but it still needed a modern look. There is symmetry everywhere and everything is made up of patterns. Even the VFX have no chaos whatsoever, they follow the order of a mandala shape. As we became confident that the art style is in good shape now, it was time to in parallel look at what the story can be. We already knew it has to do with Krishna’s city Dwarka under distress.

The Story

The epic poem Mahabharat is incredibly long and is full of parallel running branches of stories of various characters. Quite possibly this is the reason people always fail to make a movie on it but tv shows work out well. After the main events of Mahabharat, Krishna has many encounters with variety of baddies (small tho) and one of those encounters is with Salwa. When Krishna had gone for a ceremony, King Salwa decided to use the absence of Krishna as an opportunity to destroy his city Dwarka.

Story’s main Plot

Krishna had a hint that Salwa, while trying to avenge his friend Shishupal, would definitely cause a havoc. Thus he rushed back, but on his return he found his city depleted of beauty. Seeing Dwarka damaged, he promised himself to destroy his enemies. The whole Shishupal business is then talked about during the cut-scenes.

Most cutscenes happen, with Krishna on the terrace of a building, and Salwa hovering in the sky, exchanging dialogues

We told the story mainly as word exchanges between Salwa and Krishna, on how peace talks fall apart and lead to war. For most cut-scenes we used programmed location to serve dialogues through an animation system, with occasional special cases. Now that we are talking about development, let’s jump to that section of this creation.

Game Development

We chose Unity3D for development given the ease of use and publishing. The core loop was built first with wip artwork and was kept extremely tight. We used optimization not just the ones recommended by Unity, such as load balancing between resources by reading the profiler and maintaining least draw calls looking at the Frame Debugger (We had 4 to 6), we even went strong on general programming level of optimizations too. The tight core loop ensured that we will have no bugs (or till now that’s what we believe because nothing came back from the audience), strong performance (the game works 60fps smooth even on old Kitkat devices) and a small download (25mb) and install size (36mb).

While a small package, assets quality is not compromised at all! Every art is strict to scale of a 1080p screen. Everything was drawn on paper and digitally traced until there was a good hand at the decided art style. At a later point, we were creating digitally directly which sped up our asset creation process.

Initial art was hand drawn sketches traced digitally

Level Design was split between 2 people. One person will create even levels, another person will create odd. This ensured consecutive variety. And we maintained a formula which told us how many enemies, what type, what concentrations, what patterns, should a level have given a level number. This allowed us to design any level anytime and we need not go in a series. This helped us maintain our sanity because designing levels can be tedious along with being difficult.

Difficult levels in the game

We carefully selected Sound Effects and Music to fit our art style. It was not easy to find relevant sound effects. What worked for us was percussion samples from Latin and African countries’ instruments, thanks to zapslat.com. And we found amazing looping music on looperman.com from great artists and we proudly credit them in our game.

Other than Krishna, we added more Vishnu avatars, such as Narsimha, Parsuram, Varaha, Sriram, as well as Krishna’s girlfriend Radha, as playable characters. Krishna in particular is inspired entirely from the Idol of Dwarkadhish Temple (if you were wondering why his eyes are closed).

Krishna, Narsimha, Parsuram, Varaha, Sriram, Radha

Our complete production took exactly 4 months, with some minimal passive updates over the next few months. We called the game “DwarkaDheesh” in the beginning but a fan vehemently encouraged us to have better SEO/ASO and thus we changed it mid way to Krishna Legends and we couldn’t be more happier. If you are interested, you can take a look at the Game’s Presskit here.

A Fun Journey

We wanted to start a conversation around bringing this culture into unfitting art forms, maintaining the traditional art styles, serving in a modern contemporary medium. Combine this with our passion and expertise in video game development and viola, Krishna Legends is a first direct product of that. The response that we have gotten from regular gamers as well as culture experts are in lines of what we had in mind and it gives us the confidence that as Dhantra Studio we will be able to do this with more serious and bigger projects in the future.