Along with the blockbuster movie ‘Ghajini’ starring Aamir Khan, also released a 3D PC game with the same title developed by Hyderabad based FXLabs. At NASSCOM Game Developers Summit was Imran Khan, Vice President, FXLabs giving an insight to how they went about developing the game with a systematic approach keeping in mind the time constraints.
Imran kicked off his presentation stating Ernest’s (Ernest Adam was the key note presenter of the Summit) quote in the morning session “When you are starting a game you can’t do everything you want to. You’ll have to choose and do 5 things right.”
“That’s exactly what we did at FX labs and this presentation is about the 5 things we did right with the Ghajini game. Intel also played a crucial role and the game was a team effort by FXLabs and Intel” he said.
Ghajini is a 3D PC action adventure game done under Imran’s tutelage as producer and tech lead with a small team and 6 engineers on the technical side. He played dual roles and shared that it was a great experience working on this game. The game sold around 25k-30 k copies which far exceeded what FXLabs expected.
Beginning with the market reality of India, the challenge was to define the market in terms of demographics which impacts the game play and the hardware profile that in term impacts the graphics and art quality.
“Both are crucial to game design as we need to know who exactly we are making the game for and there is no data available in India on gamer types. Finally we focused on the fact that it would be Aamir Khan fans and Ghajini fans who would play the game,” he added.
With Intel helping in the hardware aspect, the other challenges faced were distribution and piracy. While the piracy was tackled with the pricing point that we kept as INR 199, the distribution was taken care of by EROS.
The game production cycle was of 9 months which was broken down to 2 months each for pre production, design and prototype, first playable game, alpha stage and beta testing. While the pre production was going on, the art team created the art pipeline and art style guide and put together the basic design.
“Ghajini is a dark movie and the challenge was to make a game around someone who loses his memory in short spans. Though we had skills for the unreal engine, the price was too high for this project and we chose the Torque engine.”
At the pre production stage, the important things done were to figure out the limitations of the engine to set the game play design boundaries, list out broad technology and the game play features, set tools to automate art production pipeline and to make the Game engine stable and fix memory leaks.
Imran also spoke on the various game development tools that were used in production such as JIRA for QA, 3DS Max and Photoshop for art, Visual Studio, Sun, nVidia perfHUD and Intel graphics profiler for development, Word and Excel for design and SCRUM and Excel for the project management.
Imran said, “SCRUM saved our project. You have a whole lot of what you want to do in the game. It is really helpful and useful. I would say it is necessary to use SCRUM.”
Speaking about concentrating on the art work at the pre production stage he said, “A lot of time went in collecting references. Aamir shot for us and we had references of all the locations and he also did about 30 different reference cycles for us to do the animation like the angry walk, the plank walk, etc.”
With respect to textures and lighting he said, “If you try to light in torque you are going to have a lot of trouble. So we decided to burn the light on the texture and planned it accordingly and it helped us. The torque editor is not the best when it comes to editing the levels and co-coordinating work between artists to use 3DSmax as the main editing tool and export out the level to a Torque mission file.”
Some of the interesting features of the game also include the comic book that goes with the theme of the movie and the initial 3D establishment of the murder scene and characters with the play menu. Imran also mentioned the features that they had left out such as X-Ray vision, night vision, stealth meter, player dialogue and many more.
M.Y. Udaysimha of Intel spoke on the association with FXLabs for over 4 years that started with the Dhoom game that FGX worked on. “Ghajini was the first time when we were able to collaborate with and contribute to the development. Understanding the platform of choice and the capabilities and constraints of the platform is very critical to game development,” he said.
The challenges faced in making the game was how to make it in a PC ecosystem where 3-4 generation of PCs co exist as the refresh cycles in India are very low. “You need to make a game playable without any specialized graphics card. And achieving all this without compromising on a game quality below which we did not want to go, was a major challenge. That's where we played a major role.” said Udaysimha.
Intel provided support by disclosing its past, current and future graphics roadmaps to FX Labs, sharing know how on game engine technologies as well as providing engineering support and optimization tools.
On a concluding note he said “We promoted the game through the Intel sales and marketing team. We worked on making the game in as wide a channel as possible. We became an extended distributor for FXLabs. We are not just about hardware but also do a lot to nurture the ecosystem. We believe in Indian content, good quality Indian content.”