Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gear up as a Game Developer

Do you love coding challenges, possess an innovative mind and got loads of creative ideas up our sleeve? It is quite likely that you want to shine as a software wizard. But in case the drab backend work of business applications deters you from taking up the job, here is an exciting offer. Train as a game developer and explore the world of creative technology. Of course, the developers ruling the IT arena walk off with the Oscars ever time because they are the guys who make it all happen, who are the unsung heroes of the backstage and who seem to speak a different language altogether that mere mortals do not know. However, application development for computer, video or mobile games has a relatively low entry level across the country. Sure, your interest and enthusiasm are crucial, but you will also require skills and qualifications. The gaming industry is as competitive as any other field and it is not easy to get that first job. But if you have set your sights on the games business. We are here to help you make informed decisions. Here is an insight into the nitty-gritty of game development, the skill sets required and the possible subtypes that you may focus on as a career option.

Making games: Then and now

There was a time when individuals had just stepped into this uncharted territory. Shigeru Miyamoto, who had developed Donkey Kong, and Jordan Mechner, the creator of Prince of Perisa (the original one of 1989) are well known among avid gamers. The computing power available at that time was much less and what they created can be defined as nothing less than extraordinary. However, with today’s exponential growth in the domain of personal computers gaming is nothing short of a team effort. All that one hears today is not the name of a developer but the names of those big corporations that are into game development. Zynga, EA Games and Activision Valve are some of the key players currently ruling this market.

Skills that you need to weave the magic

There are various facets when it comes to game development and you must have a fair knowledge of the sub-domains. While a team of artists create 3D graphics and animation, programmers write complex codes that activate the action and integrate the entire interface with the gaming platform – be it a PC, Xbox or PlayStation. A set of people also work on the audio creation that includes dialogues, music and other sound effects. Then there is a unit dedicated to developing the storyline which will keep the player hooked to the game. Since playing a game only requires tapping the keyboard and moving/ clicking the mouse, it is very important to make sure that the gamer finds these activities sufficiently entertaining and pursues them for hours. What’s more, games have to be sufficiently complex to retain a user’s interest for months, if not for years. Multiplayer games are far more addictive as gamers encounter other human opponents in real time (via LAN or the Internet). And this requires another team of networking professionals who will write a code for the game to be integrated over the network.

As is evident from our discussion, if you are not a team player, professional level game development may not be the right choice for you. One must be accustomed to function in a highly collaborative atmosphere where bits and pieces of graphics or codes are put together by a team to make it a complete whole. So, if you are keen to get into game development, find out what aspect of the process suits your personality and skill sets best and put your efforts into getting better at that. 

Moreover, the old saying that academic qualification will get you nowhere is nothing but a myth. Contrary to popular belief, Bill Gates was not a high school dropout. In fact, he scored a whopping 1590 out of 1600in SAT and was pursuing studies at Harvard. He left after some time, though, as he got more involved in software development at Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS).  So, making a career choice is not easy and entails a lot of hard work.

Opportunities available in India

Game developers in India are yet to make their mark in the international domain. We are a nation of good programmers, of course. In fact, you will find many Indian developers working for gaming giants like EA Games. However, the business has not flourished much within the country and we hardly come across indigenous games developed at the local level.

The first major game from an Indian studio was AGNI, launched by FXLabs, Zapak and Sify. This was way back in 2008 but unfortunately, the market did not give three cheers to this one. The response was pretty cold, to say the least. In December, 2009 the first Nintendo DS game was developed in India at Ubisoft Studio in Pune. This took about 14 months, even though it was meant for the DS system and was small enough to fit on a 32 MB cartridge. So the amount of work required to develop something like Need for Speed is obvious.  

Do not lose heart, though. Here is some good news that will cheer you up. The Indian gaming industry was valued at $200 million in 2008. So, imagine where we will stand if we have a really good product up our sleeves. The returns from a slice of this cake can be simply huge. If a few professionals who have honed their skills abroad, can return and train a team here, things can get a jumpstart.
Additional options for developers

India still has a long way to go before receiving international acclaim for game development. However, there are some softer options available for those who want to shine in this arena. Till we come out with our own version of Halo 3 or something similar to it, we may consider the following:

Attractive games for mobile phones:

The need of the hour is to develop games which can be easily played using a small keypad and which have the potential to retain a mobile user’s interest. A classic example is the basic game Snake which come preinstalled on all Nokia handsets. Think of the design or the game play everything is so elementary that I may not have taken a great deal of programming to write this game. Yet, it has the masses looked and its popularity is escalating. Think of a concept that is simple yet intriguing and that can make your day.

Develop add-ons for games: We may not be in a position to develop a Warcraft 3 Killer. But we can write add-ons or modules for such games. The DOTA add-ons or Warcraft 3 is extremely popular and thousands of avid gamers paly it. So, the add-on market is quite huge and you can tap it strategically to get ahead.

Develop Flash games: Flash games are hot favourites among the Internet users. Although most games can be downloaded for free, players are often asked to shell out extra bucks for playing full versions. A Flash game is easier to develop than other conventional games. And they are easier to play too, so the market is not restricte4d among hardcore gamers. A lot of websites let visitors play games for free and earn revenue from the advertisements displayed.

Game development as a career is a potentially strong option in our country and there is a very huge market for it. Therefore, one who is innovative and can deliver quality products is sure to walk away with the rewards. Put on you thinking cap for great ideation and work on your technical skills. There is a fair chance that you will sprint to the number one slot among game developers in India. 


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