Zainuddin Fahad of Ogre Head Studio first started working in the games industry in India several years ago, at the age of 19. He started as an artist making games in GameMaker in his spare time. He enjoyed the work and the things he was learning, but eventually found it all growing stale.
"The outsourcing industry for games is thriving and booming in India but I had realized that we don't have an identity," Fahad says. "We are slogging here working as hard as anybody in the games industry, contributing to AAA games. but nobody knows or even cares about us."
"It's not that we don't have talent over here," he says. "The problem, I believe, is with the vision and leadership, which is not led by aesthetics and designs but rather other things which do not even matter."
According to Fahad, India's indie game development scene is still new, compared to those of North America and Europe. "We are still new to game development and design, and things like meet-ups, game events, even conferences are extremely rare," he says, "which adds to the problem of awareness. There is huge gap in the indie game community here, making it extremely difficult to help each other out and grow as a whole."
The difficulty of traveling to big trade shows like GDC and PAX is another roadblock the Indian indie game community faces. "The Indie scene over here is growing very slowly due to lack of exposure," Fahad laments. "If you check out most of the game dev community on social media [such as Facebook], you will see discussions either promoting their releases, raising funds, or some business spam. There are hardly any enthusiastic talks or debates about game design and mechanics which reflects how our Indie game dev scene is."
Fahad feels that many of the indie studios that arise in India aren't really interested in developing strong IPs, instead taking advantage of the accessibility of engines like Unity and Unreal and the trendiness of the term "indie" to make a quick buck on clones. "PC developers are almost negligible in India. The only games I can recollect is Unrest by Pyrodactyl and Lovely planet by Quick Tequilla," he says. "There are some really good mobile developers like Drop-out Games, Pixel Ape Studios, Yellow Monkey Studios etc who have been doing good games for mobile platforms.
"Slowly but steadily, it is improving and you can see that the quality of games releasing is also going up," Fahad continues. "There are also a couple of gaming events being hosted [in India], like Nasscom Game Developer Conference (NGDC), Indian Game Expo (IGX), and Pocket Gamer, which are contributing to the [overall] development of our scene here."
It was the state of the Indian indie game development scene and a desire to change things which prompted Fahad to propose starting Ogre Head Studio to two of his friends, Neeraj Kumar and Aubhik Nath, in 2014. Nath ended up having to leave the studio, but not before they got started on Asura, a hack 'n' slash roguelite with a procedurally generated skill tree and inspirations taken from Indian mythos.
"It was going to be a hack 'n' slash game, which meant anger, hate, wrath, etc., so I pitched in the idea of making the protagonist a demon instead of a typical hero," Fahad says. "Always super into Indian mythos as well as fantasy stuff, I grew up with games like Warcraft, Total War, Kohan, theWarhammer franchise, Tolkien's world, etcetera. I love vast worlds and intense lore.
"The game design for Asura had enough room that I could imbue it with the influence of Indian mythos with a twist," Fahad says. "We also have always been very keen to show the world a different flavor with regards to fantasy, which doubled our reason to base it on Indian mythos."