SPOTLIGHT: Vasu Chaturvedi

Vasu Chaturvedi is one of India’s most promising up and coming indie game developers. In 2011, he was part of a team of students from DSK Supinfogame that won the BYOG game jam at NASSCOM GDC. He is one of the creative minds behind Circulets, Hashstash Studios’ frantic upcoming tabletop game, and he’s also hard at work on an intriguing episodic adventure game of his own.

And he hasn’t even graduated college yet.

We caught up with Vasu to learn more about his BYOG experiences, his ongoing projects, and post-graduation plans.

You’re about to release Circulets soon under Hashstash Studios. How did this project come about and how did you hook up with those guys?

Circulets began as a 1GAM ( project between Myself, Yadu (Rajiv) and Vidhvat (Madan). In time, Kinshuk (Sunil) joined the team too and together we made the game what it is. Once we were done with what we think of as the core game, we started showing it to friends and the response we got was amazing. We started figuring out how best we should move ahead with turning the project into a real game, and getting it out. This is where Kinshuk and Yadu took over responsibilities for the project and we collectively decided to publish it as a game by Hashstash.

Are you now part of the Hashstash team or is this a one-time collaboration?

This was a collaborative project.

What sort of monetisation are you looking to implement in Circulets, if any?

We are still working on these nitty-gritties and there is no clear plan yet. While the game is fun, it is difficult to communicate that through the app store pages, so we are not too hopeful about the game’s chances as a premium game. Also, the game is not designed in a way where it can be freemium. Releasing it for free is also an option we are considering. As of now, there is no clear consensus and direction on this.

The game seems to have a simple premise. Are there any additional layers of gameplay that you’re building into it by way of different game modes or challenges to give the game longevity?

Yes, we’ve been playing around with a bunch of different ideas for modes that will provide the game more replay value. Primarily, we’ve implemented two modes that allow the players to manipulate time and the number of Circulets they have to collect. We really believe that the game is more about the interaction that takes place between the players rather than the way the game progresses. The simple nature of the game allows players to quickly grasp the idea and create their own methods, rules and strategies to play the game. The open-ended nature of the game allows us to focus more on the core experience for the players.

You showcased a trailer for another game you’re working on at last year’s NASSCOM GDC. What is that game about?

I showcased Sylar at NGDC. It’s a 2D point-and-click visual novel-esque title. It’s a collaborative project between Rashi Chandra and myself. It’s a single-player game, where the player takes control of a female character (Sylar). The game is set in the near future and the gameplay revolves around player choices and how players interact with the environment. Each decision they make impacts elements in the game and according to those choices, the situation keeps on changing, whether it’s about working with NPCs, exploiting resources, or establishing networks.

What platforms are you targeting for Sylar and when do you intend to release it?

Development on Sylar has been on-going and we plan to release it on the iPad as an episodic game, with the first one coming out in August.

What made you decide to go the episodic route and how much of a gap between episodes are you planning?

There are a couple of reasons why we decided to go with the episodic route. Firstly, releasing the game in parts will allow us to monitor how the players receive the game. Since it is heavily based on player choices, the episodic route will help us get more data on the player choices and we’ll be able to get a better grasp of what decisions they make and how to shape their experiences throughout the game, and improve future content accordingly. Secondly, it creates a better situation for us with respect to the development cycle. We’re a team of two and from a development perspective, the episodic route will help us focus on developing content for each part and minimise risk with respect to the design because we’re able to get feedback on the game and its progression, which allows us to experiment with more things than what we would be able to do if we went with a standard release. In terms of the gaps between the episodes, we’re looking at about 3-4 months between each episode.

Both Circulets and Sylar seem like games targetted at global audiences. What is your opinion on companies seeking to make games tailored for Indian audiences?

Developing for a global audience does have its fair share of pros and cons, but I believe that if a game does well at a global level, then the Indian audience will definitely respond to it. We’ve seen great games come out of the Indian market in the past couple of years that target a global audience and that will absolutely keep on increasing. In terms of the Indian audience, I think that It’s a very significant market and the potential an IP can have is really good. Besides, it’s not just Indian developers who have been targeting the audience. Recently, there have been lots of developers outside the country who’ve shown an interest and have started working on IP that targets the Indian audience, so that really goes to show how much importance the market has. Plus, when you account for the increasing smartphone users, it feels like a viable investment. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the perspective of the developers and what way they want to define themselves.

You were a winner in the BYOG contest which was organised by NASSCOM and Indie GameDev India in 2011, and a year later, you hadn’t received any of the prizes that were promised to you by the sponsors. Has there been any progress on that and have you been in touch with the sponsors?

After we won BYOG, we expected the sponsors to reach out to us since one of the prizes was a publishing contract on their portal. For two months, nothing really happened so we had to reach out to them and explain the contest, about our team winning, and what the contract said. After that, we were assigned a representative from their side, who was in contact with us for a week and we were deciding on how the game would proceed. We worked on the game for a month and then sent a build to the sponsors. We didn’t hear back from them and so I contacted NASSCOM and they intervened and re-established communications with the sponsors.

After that, we worked on a second build and submitted that, but the same thing happened and we pretty much gave up on the game at that point because we didn’t receive any sort of communication for months, and there was really no interest from the sponsors. I followed up with a few emails about the prizes and for a few months was told that we’ll be receiving them soon. After this year’s NGDC – a year later – I received an email from the sponsors and they notified me that they’ll get in touch and send me the codes which my team can redeem on an e-store.

So, it was quiet a disappointment for the team, but we were still happy with the fact that we got to learn a lot and had a lot of fun at NGDC. Plus, the jam was a great learning experience for us.

You’re set to graduate from college in a couple of months. What are your plans after that – stay indie and make your own games, or join a studio and work in a larger team?

Circulets and Sylar have been great collaborative experiences for me and working with an independent team has been great. We get to bounce around crazy ideas, take risksm and get to keep on experimenting with more and more content. To be honest, I haven’t really figured out what would be the best option for me yet; joining a studio and working with a bigger team or staying independent and collaborating with teams on projects. Both options are great because all I want to do is make more games.

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