An Interview With The Makers Of Raji: An Ancient Epic
In the year 2016, the video game industry hit a total turnover of a whopping $91 billion and shows absolutely no signs of stopping. Starting only a few short decades ago, advancements in technology and increasing ease of access to computers and home consoles lead games to become more complex as the years went by, turning from something as simple as a Pong game into full blown experiences like today's' multi million dollar projects like Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us, and also spawned an entire new genre in sports called eSports.
However, gaming remains somewhat of a niche in India. While the percentage of the population that had access to and played video games has been quite limited, this number is growing, and it is about time that India joins the world in not just playing games, but making them. Many studios have popped up around India, making their mark on the game development scene, but one studio has set its sights on achieving something much greater. Today, we interview the developers behind Raji: An Ancient Epic, Nodding Head Studios.
Speaking with stuMagz over the phone, game designer Avichal Singh took us through the story of the development so far, and the road ahead.
"On New Year's Eve of 2013, I was in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, visiting its many forts," Avichal begins, on being asked how the idea behind the game came to be, "I was completely enchanted by the architecture of the forts and started to think, it would be a fantastic idea to have a game in this setting."
It was then, after being moved by the architecture and history of Rajasthan, that Avichal along with Shruti Ghosh and Ian Maude, started Nodding Head studios together.
"It took a few short years but we came together and formed the studio," Avichal says, "today we are a team of 7 working on the game, and we've been working a lot," he laughs.
While Avichal is the Game Designer, fellow founders Shruti Ghosh and Ian Maude are Game Artists. The rest of the team has Paras Chaudhary as Programmer, Anirudh Singh who is a Concept Artist, Himanshu Thakur as Animator and Linus Tezlos, the Sound Designer and Composer.
Speaking about the game, Avichal says "We wanted to put India on the map with this game. The early concept art we showed to friends and family amazed them and we thought, yes we have something good on our hands. Some of the concept art you can see on our website and Facebook page has been done by hand by Shruti herself. It is quite a personal project."
Talking about the distinctive Indian feel of the game and how it was achieved, Avichal says, "The forts of Rajasthan played a major role in the design of the world, we knew we had to take it to the world. The initial response even on social media has been quite encouraging."
The isometric view gameplay of Raji: An Ancient Epic, will feature environmental puzzles and a fluid and gritty combat system, "Raji is blessed by the gods in the game and has access to different weapons. We're also adding a power system as well as a Favour of the Gods feature which basically means Raji will get different powers depending on which gods she chooses to favour," Avichal explains, "The combat will have a weight to it depending on the weapon you're using. In the early screenshots, you can see Raji use a Trishul, but there will be more weapons as you progress."
An element of strategy is also involved as Raji, and by extension, the player will have to choose the enemy she takes on first in a fight where she's outnumbered.
The story, as Avichal explains to us, is quite simple, "There's an invasion of the demonic horde, and when she wakes up the world as she knows it has changed, and her brother is missing. At its core, it is a story of a sister looking for her brother, a sibling story if you will," he says, "we didn't want to go with the cliche damsel in distress story and wanted to do something different."
As our interview draws to a close, we ask Avichal which games the team draws inspiration from, "I would say Bastion," referring to a critically acclaimed and universally loved isometric adventure game developed by Supergiant Games, "and Journey. Journey has been a major inspiration because of how it handles its world and just how beautiful it is." We concur, Journey, a PlayStation exclusive, has been an emotional experience to many players, and it is one of those games one must play to truly experience, there are no words to describe it.
Asking about the potential release date of Raji: An Ancient Epic, Avichal says, "I'd say the first quarter of 2019. We're going on Kickstarter this November to raise funds and continue developing. We are very excited for people to see more of the game and play it soon."
Depending on whom you ask, gamers will tell you that games have transcended being simply 'fun' and have become art, a great example of this is the aforementioned Bastion, which combines beautiful art with fun gameplay and is a game which we highly recommend. Raji: An Ancient Epic is perhaps the first game we've seen that has felt so very distinctly Indian and we absolutely cannot wait for the game to release.
oll down further for a short teaser and a look at one of the levels made in the beautiful Unreal Engine 4.