Debdatta

Success Needs the Freedom to Fail

A sharp mind, quick questions, high doses of common sense, loads of candour, a maturity level that stumps any adult and of course a dash of humour. Mix all these ingredients into a potpourri, and you get none other than Debdatta Basu. A game developer since his school days and a graduate from IIT, Roorkee, Deb can converse non-stop and be simultaneously thinking a couple of steps ahead of his conversation.

Were you thinking of game development when you started college at IIT?

“I developed games at school. It was a lot more fun to develop games than applications from the school’s textbook. The subject was interesting enough that I didn’t mind spending long hours learning concepts that would be considered dry or boring otherwise. My education at IIT served to expand my knowledge and formally cement a lot of things I had learnt. I am a great software engineer today because of the curiosity and interest I developed while making games in school.”

What defines a software engineer?

“A software engineer is someone who engineers and builds software. He is identified by what he builds and not necessarily by a job or a designation, or the tools he uses. A great software engineer should be strong enough in his fundamentals to adapt to the rapid change that is a reality of the industry.”

What was your first job?

My first job was at a semiconductor company. I participated in the design and implementation of drivers for graphics hardware.

How did you happen to choose game development as a career?

“I do games because they are fun to build. Game development has many more moving parts than a business application, which makes it more mentally stimulating to work on. Games are a pure technology play. The recurring costs are low to non-existent. That makes for an interesting business model as well. Overall I love games and so far, they have loved me back.”

There seems to be an acute shortage of game developers and other types of talent for the booming gaming industry. What kind of talent should we bring into game development?

“We should target kids who are avid gamers. It requires some stubbornness to pursue a career in games, and kids who are avid gamers already have it in them. Such kids take to gaming naturally.

Young engineers working in the industry are the second set of people who are the ideal resource pool. Many of them want to get into software engineering roles and game development presents a tremendous opportunity to do so. Backstage Pass has the right courses for them to get trained and placed in software engineering roles.”

 

What do you think of game development as a business?

“For a game development business to be sustainable, it has to deliver hits consistently. Many people think the game industry is too risky. But anything is too risky if you don’t understand the landscape. If you don’t know how to lay a brick, then constructing a house is risky.

Success in the game industry is a matter of figuring out what the market wants and meeting the market’s needs with a well-designed product that can sell itself. In game development, it is not about the production house or the star cast as is the case with movies. Gamers love or hate a game purely because of the experience that it provides. So, it is a more level playing ground out there.”

How does one learn game development?

“Today anyone can learn what he or she wants to learn. I learnt to code by building games, and this can be a fun way to get engaged talent into the software industry as a whole. There are plenty of resources available on the Internet for those who are eager to learn. Khan Academy has very good content. Consider Udemy and Coursera as well. Google is good for research.

Software engineering is a constant learning process. Once you know the fundamentals, follow sites like Stack Overflow, The Hacker News and so on. The software engineering community is quite friendly, and when you approach people with a specific and legitimate problem they rally around to help you.”

As a country, what should we do to promote making games in India?

“We should understand that game development, at its heart, is a creative industry. And creative industry can thrive only when one has the luxury to fail. To achieve success in one game, we will have to fail many times. Those who quit and return to other professions should be accepted as normal people. Let our kids and youngsters fail when they follow their dreams. They have very high chances of succeeding in life if we let them fail without fear or shame.”

That sums up Deb’s approach to life. Good luck Deb and all of you who look forward to taking part in the booming gaming industry.

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How Do You Assess A Game?

Assessing a game is an art, science, part intuition and part knowledge.Developing a critique of a game sends you on a journey to understand the various aspects of a game. The journey teaches you more about games than the end analysis about the game.

Here are some broad areas you can look at when assessing a game.

What is the Intent of the Game

The intent of the game can be making money or providing fun or just a passtime or a combination one or more of them.

If the motive is to provide fun, the definition of fun varies with the audience, age, education and so on. For example, for a racer’s game, the primary audience is casual gamers rather than hardcore gamers. Look at the primary audience of the game and see if it satisfies the primary audience. If it does, you can conclude that the game has fulfilled its intent.

Does the Game Engage the Audience

An engaging game puts the players in a state where they lose track of time, feel like playing nonstop, and want to return to the game at the next opportunity.

Engagement is a state of mind. Sometimes the engagement comes through a skill that the player has to master or the challenge to finish a particular level. If the audience returns to the game consistently, you can conclude that the game is indeed engaging. Often, the engagement is provided through unlocking higher levels of the game or providing a leader board where the player can compare herself with all those who are playing the same game. Social features, tasks and rewards, too contribute to higher engagement levels.

Also, check if the game is replayable. Replayability is the art of providing variation when a player returns to play a game. Variation increases engagement.

How is the Game Designed

If the game in question is for casual gamers, then the game should present the levels appropriate to such audience. In other words, the game should not be either too shallow or too difficult. Also, it should reveal appropriate levels based on the expertise of the player as he masters each skill level. The art, the soundtrack, the player persona, the game mechanics, and the overall feel of the game should be geared for the audience.

Conclusion

Analyse all games that you play so that you can master the art of developing a critique of games. The knowledge and insights you gain through game analysis will help you make sound decisions when you develop games.

Happy gaming.