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Why are collaborations between indie studios so common in India?

Why are collaborations between indie studios so common in India?

With the Indian game development scene a largely indie-dominated one, studios realise the importance of working together.

Many Indian games have been, and continue to be, developed in tandem by multiple studios, often across long distances.

Indeed, PocketGamer.biz recently spoke to Shailesh Prabhu, who has relocated from Mumbai to Copenhagen but plans to continue collaborating with developers back home.

To find out more about that collaborative spirit in India, and the practicalities of making it work, we ask our Indian Mavens:

  • Have you worked on a collaborative project? How did you make it work?
  • Do collaborations result in better games?

 

Chirag Chopra Founder Lucid Labs

Couldn’t stop myself from being the first to reply, as collaboration has been a key part of both our games.

Our last game - Stay, Mum - was a product of some very good collaboration of an artist sitting in Malaysia and the sound guy from London.

The reason I chose to work with the artist in Malaysia is because I just loved his style and wanted him to do the artwork for our game.

Since the artist is a core part of the team and you really need to do brainstorm every day about some thing or the other, at first I found it really hard to communicate and exchange ideas. But then, since all of us were equally motivated about the game, things worked out pretty well.

We started using simple collab tools like Trello and had a lot of Skype calls. And since there isn’t much time zone difference between Malaysia and India, it was hardly a problem.

I really enjoyed working in such an environment because it reduced the amount of joking around and unproductive sessions you have while all of your team members are in the same room - not that I am against that, but I found that this kind of remote collaboration really helped us focus on making a great game.

Collaboration has been a key part of both our games.
Chirag Chopra

And as a result, our next game is being developed in a remote collaboration environment as well.

I don’t know if it results in better games or not, but it surely fits my style of working since it gives me more productive time and less bullshit.

I don’t know what is better, working in a same room or remote collaboration, but for me, I am not going to stop working with people from other countries just because they are not here with me.

When you find people who share the same vision and passion for your game, distance and countries are not even something worth considering.

Shailesh Prabhu Founder Yellow Monkey Studios

Shailesh Prabhu is an Indie Game Designer from India who has been designing games for over ten years. Seven years ago he founded Yellow Monkey Studios and is the recipient of numerous game design and entrepreneurship awards around the world. Socioball, HUEBRIX, It’s Just a Thought are some of his recent games. Shailesh is also an excellent cook, loves playing tennis, gardening and DIY projects apart from sporting facial hair.

Socioball was a collaborative project between the awesome force that is Apoorva Joshi and I.

We were both in different cities (Mumbai and Pune) and we used a lot of email, Skype, Hangouts and most importantly git (bitbucket + sourcetree). It worked really well for us.

In my opinion, the hard part about making it work is not the logistics but finding people you are in sync with about the vision for the game. If this is off, it can possibly derail a project or kill motivation.

Many times, I have initiated collaborations with developers but the interest seems to wane after a while - I guess it also has to do with the type of person you are collaborating with.

The hard part is not the logistics, but finding people you are in sync with.
Shailesh Prabhu

But if you choose carefully and not just because a person is ready to work with you on revenue share, it can be really good.

Good collaborations have both parties equally invested in the game and that drives the game forward. A good collaborator can bring diverse opinions to the project and also bring the kind of motivation that may be hard to find otherwise.

Many a time, the collaborator may have a specific skill that may be useful to you for only a particular project, or they may be working on a particular project that interests you.

This helps you keep your team small and costs low, too.

Amit Goyal Co-founder SuperSike Games

Our current work-in-progress project, One More Pass, is a collaborative effort between us and Shailesh Prabhu.

With us based out of New Delhi, and Shailesh based out of Mumbai and Copenhagen, we made sure that things kept moving forward by creating workflows with the help of multiple tools such as Trello, git and of course regular Skype calls and emails.

The point Shailesh mentioned is important, I feel. More than the technicalities, it's more important (and difficult) to find collaborators with a common vision and a compatible work ethic.

Collaboration is usually not out of necessity.
Amit Goyal

Collaboration involves shared decision making, hence trust is also an important factor here. In my opinion, finding people who fit well with you and your working style is the first step to successful collaborative efforts.

Collaboration is usually not out of necessity. If the idea is just to close a skill gap in your team, you can hire a contractor to do the job. I think collaborations are great opportunities to learn and improve with your peers.

One More Pass has benefited greatly from collaboration. Ideation would often be a free for all over Skype calls, but the different points of view, coupled with a shared vision of what our game should be, helped us come out with some really unique and fun ideas for the game.

Rituraj Behera Co-founder Cympl

My name is Rituraj Behera and I am Co-founder of Cympl, an Indie game studio started back in November 2012.

I had begun my career as an application developer but I always loved playing games which attracted me to the fast growing mobile games industry.

I had started the organization with a vision to create high quality mobile games and an attitude to learn & improve everyday.

If you mean collaborative project in terms of working from different locations then that's something I have never experienced myself.

Since starting our studio a few years ago, we have always believed in working together at one place.

The Cympl team

I believe that creating great gaming experience is a collaborative process which requires dedicated time, attention and constant communication among people with varied skillsets to work on a common vision they believe in.

But I completely agree with Shailesh and Chirag that if you share a common vision and passion with others, then geography is not a constraint.

Shaan Mishra Founder, Designer Tryhard Entertainment

Since they have been mentioned before, I'll start by giving props to git(Bitbucket + Sourcetree) as it really helps us to co-ordinate work with team members who are not physically present with us.

We are wrapping up our first project at the moment. However, recently we have been getting a lot of collaboration offers from other studios.

As such, we are considering going for a collaborative project for our next game. It's really insightful to hear all you guys' collaboration experiences.

Ankush Madad Co-Founder and Creative Head Dropout Games

We've had some good and some bad experiences with collaborations. 

We've had some good and some bad experiences with collaborations.
Ankush Madad

During the early days, we had tried collaborating with a few artists from the US and Mexico for some early concepts, but due to time and budget restrictions, those partnerships weren't successful.

Since then, we've had our in-house art team and prefer most of our work getting done within the studio. However, we do collaborate with others for certain aspects such as music.

We've worked with friends and we've worked with complete strangers. In the end, how well we're able to connect personally and professionally defines how efficiently we can collaborate with that person.

Vaibhav Chavan CEO and Founder underDOGS Gaming Studio

7+ years of experience in Gaming Industry. Currently spearheads underDOG Gaming as a Game Designer, Business and Product Guy.

We haven't worked on any collaborative projects as of yet, but we are in talks with some good, fellow Indian indie developers to do so in coming months.

Since all of our games are made in-house right from scratch to the publishing, we only outsourced music and testing of the games.

For music, we collaborated with Arjun from Supersike Games for a trailer music of one of our games. As Arjun has a great background in music, it was the perfect choice and the results were amazing - even more than we expected.

Abhinav Sarangi Co-Founder All in a Days Play

One thing I would like to add is, just outsourcing music or art of the game is not really collaboration. I agree with Amit that collaboration is usually not out of necessity, and that contractors can close skill gaps.

Simply outsourcing is not really collaboration... it is usually not out of necessity.
Abhinav Sarangi

Where collaboration really shines through is in bringing two or more unique skillsets together, which results in a product which the individuals could or would not have made.

As such, successful collaboration is between developers with a shared vision of the game and complementary skill sets.

Collaboration should result in a better product and usually does. In India, traditionally we have not seen many collaborative projects because of the small size of the industry, which makes finding good partners difficult.

But now, with the games industry growing in India, I think we will see more developers collaborating.

Also, with the bar for a good game being set higher year-on-year globally, collaboration can bring out really unique and compelling experiences from India and I look forward to more Indian studios working together.

Abhineet Prasad Co-founder Dastan Games

Abhinav's views here resonate deeply with me. Though at Dastan Games we have not had the chance to collaborate with like-minded developers so far, we are definitely open to it.

Theoretically, it seems that collaboration should yield a better result, but it can only work if the collaborators are all guided by the same principles - otherwise, it could end up as an abandoned project really soon.

Ankush Madad Co-Founder and Creative Head Dropout Games

There's no rules defining what a collaboration should be.
Ankush Madad

Abhinav - in our case, the "collaborations" took place due to skills gaps between different parties and took place out of necessity.

The artists that were collaborating with us had certain kind of art style that was required for our concept. Art style that our in-house team wasn't capable of producing.

We pitched the concepts to those specific artists and they got on board for the project. I don't think there are any specific set of rules that define what a collaboration can and cannot be, or how big or small it has to be.

Shailesh Prabhu Founder Yellow Monkey Studios

Shailesh Prabhu is an Indie Game Designer from India who has been designing games for over ten years. Seven years ago he founded Yellow Monkey Studios and is the recipient of numerous game design and entrepreneurship awards around the world. Socioball, HUEBRIX, It’s Just a Thought are some of his recent games. Shailesh is also an excellent cook, loves playing tennis, gardening and DIY projects apart from sporting facial hair.

I agree with Ankush here. I guess the "contractors for skill gaps" argument only holds true if you have a budget to hire contractors.

For me, most collabs have happened due to me liking the attitude towards game development of the people I ended up working with and the fact that we had some complimentary skills.

We never really have money to hire contractors to fill skill gaps.

Abhinav Sarangi Co-Founder All in a Days Play

Is it because you paid them, or because they believe in the product?

Of course there are no rules for defining the word 'collaboration'.

What I meant was the context in which collaboration was being used in this thread.

I felt the context was more from a 'shared vision' perspective, rather than just closing skill gaps.

I guess it breaks down to this question:

Did those artists work with you because you were paying them, or would they have been happy with a revenue share and no upfront payment because they believed in the product?

Shruti Verma Developer Relations NASSCOM

I think the topic is very relevant to the games industry in India.

Unlike other industries, the games industry is more fluid and collaborative. We largely have indie studio set-ups who may not necessary have all the skills in-house.

Collaboration ensures complimenting of skills across teams. Creativity is at its best when teams or studios collaborate.

However, there are challenges to find the right collaborator who compliments you rather than clashing with you.

My recent interactions with the Dutch game dev industry also reflects how important it is collaborate. The Dutch industry believes in collaboration not just within the country, but across borders. Maybe that was the reason we saw some great examples of innovative games.

Indian studios who have collaborated have good quality results to showcase. In the coming years, we should ensure more collaborative work happens across the board.

Hrishi Oberoi Founder Photon Tadpole

Honestly, I didn’t think I would have anything to contribute to this discussion since we’ve never built a collaborative game with another studio (we have, however, gotten some work done externally where we haven’t had the expertise, but I’m not counting that at the moment).

Collaboration has the ability to create great games that would never be possible by just following of a single ideology.
Hrishi Oberoi

Having said that, it occurred to me that we are currently working collaboratively with one of our development partners. Incidentally, it is their idea and their game and we are going to help distribute it.

Each of us are concentrating on the part that we do best, them on the core game ideas and mechanics and us on how to extend that core game idea into a free-to-play game that is interesting and fun for the players and at the same time relevant to the various distribution channels.

In general, my view is that collaborations are essential to doing anything better, including building better games, whether that be collaborating internally with team members or collaborating externally with multiple dev teams.

The key is understanding not only the common philosophy that govern people’s intentions and their complimentary skill sets, but also importantly, understanding the differences between people’s styles and and working through different people’s differing ideologies.

This type of collaboration (provided that it is mutual and harmonious) has the ability to create great games that would never be possible by just following of a single ideology.

Yadu Rajiv Game Designer and Developer

I've wanted to make games since I was in school and I've tried to learn and do as much as I could ever since. I studied English literature in college ( to free up my time for games) and then went on to do graduate studies in Design for Digital Experience at National Institute of Design. In between, I taught design, worked as a ux guy, and co founded a start up - called Hashstash (http://hashstash.in) where I made games. I left Hashstash some time ago and is currently teaching Game design, development and UX at Srishti Institute of Design, Bangalore. I also help with the IGDA Bangalore chapter and other community initiatives across India.

Most of the games I've worked on and the one game we published have all been collaborations.

They worked only because of the dynamics between the individuals involved - the openness when discussing ideas, the clarity in setting goals, tasks and responsibilities and the ability to trust each other and their skills.

The second big reason would be the clarity that comes from having a good brainstorming/discussion session; almost every day on Skype in that first month for us when it came to Circulets.

Also, it goes without saying that tools like Trello, Google Docs and Git played a huge role even when we were sitting five feet apart.

Collaborations need not necessarily result in better games, or any game at all for that matter. At the very least, you may learn something about yourself or about the other, which may lead to better games and collaborations.

Even with no clear results, I am very much for more serendipitous expeditions, just to see what will come out of a collision between these random creative energies.

Goutham Dindukurthi Director Holy Cow Productions

We are currently working on a couple of collaborative projects. One is a racing game for mobiles/tablets and the other is a story book app for children.

Our projects have not been released yet, so I am not in the right position to say how we "made it work".

Although the teams mostly belong to the same parent company, a lot of triple-A projects are worked on multi-site nowadays.
Goutham Dindukurthi

However, from our experience so far I can say that communication is key! I know its the first thing that will come to mind when anyone thinks of a collaboration but its something that needs to be stressed.

Since the people we are collaborating with are not in the same country or time zone, we can't meet in person.  

I think it is really important to always be on the same page. We send a lot of emails and have atleast a bi-weekly call. We also made sure that we set a deadline, crossing which would mean that we stop working on the project.

This puts pressure on both parties to keep working on it specially since we would have other projects running as well and development on this could take a backseat involuntarily.

Simply put, when there is an opportunity to work with good teams and when they have a similar vision, it will lead to a quality product.

Obviously, not every project and every team will churn out an amazing game. The composition of the combined team and how well the teams get along is extremely important.

Everyone needs to love the idea and be willing to take ownership. The teams, or at least the decision makers on either side, need to have the same wavelength and should listen to each other as well.

A lot of triple-A games are indeed collaborations in their own way. Although the teams mostly belong to the same parent company, a lot of projects are worked on multi-site nowadays. This indicates that collaborations do work. 

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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