After playing through a bit of Trine’s Ra.One last week, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that India can’t churn out decent video games. We have the money, we have the manpower, Lord knows we have the manpower, but there’s one crucial element I feel we lack and that’s creativity. If you look at both the movie as well as the Indian television industry, half of it (or even more) is full of blatant knock offs while the other half is full of formulaic crap that’s being churned out since the dawn of time. While the rest of the world dabbles with a plethora of genres and concepts, Indians are content with their sas- bahu crap, reality TV or painful slapstick humour that’s as funny as a kick in the family jewels.
Unfortunately this lack of creativity and need to copy the West has trickled down to India’s gaming industry as well. Most of the big budget and highly publicised Indian games released till date have tried to emulate certain high profile Western games and failed miserably. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that in India, gaming is not subtle. It’s supposed to be loud, in-your-face and of course immature. Shahrukh Khan while talking about Ra.One was as excited as an eight year old tweaking off caffeine and while some may find that endearing, it’s kind of awkward to see Indians haven’t fully comprehended the fact that gaming isn’t for children anymore. Even at events like E3, you’ll see some producer forcing enthusiasm or pasty white people dancing real awkward to a motion controlled dancing game but that’s balanced out to a certain extent when actual games take centre stage.
Coming back to Ra.One, I actually went through the game’s press release and there were probably all of five words (or even less) on the actual game itself. What genre does it belong to? What can you expect from the game? Why should I even bother with it in the first place? Nothing was explained to me except for the fact that Shahrukh Khan and Sony were really excited to make a game. Well, if Shahrukh Khan’s excited, it’s bound to be good right? Why didn’t you say so in the first place?
It turns out SRK was involved in the production of this game at every step and to quote him, “I was extremely happy with the interactions with SCEE team in developing the game. They understood the vision I had for Ra.One”. So I don’t understand who dropped the ball here. Was his concept a broken one to begin with, was it so ambitious that Trine Studios just couldn’t execute his vision or did Trine release an unfinished product because they were under tremendous pressure to release the game on time? And while I’m sure a ton of money must have been spent on this game, it boggles my mind why a little more wasn’t spent on quality testing.
Is this the best we can do?
While playing the game for all of ten minutes, I lost count of the amount of times my character just clipped through pretty much everything in the game be it tables or a railing. The game was also painfully imbalanced so once you got caught in an attack pattern, 9 times out of 10 you won’t be able to break out of it and he’ll pummel you to death – in seconds.
Considering the amount of support this game got it’s kind of aggravating when you get such a shoddy product. Off the top of my head, I can name maybe a dozen games that probably had half the budget Ra.One did but turned out to be ten times better. Log onto Steam, Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network or even the Indian indie scene and you’ll come across enjoyable games that don’t aspire to be the next Uncharted or Battlefield. They are perfectly happy in their 2D avatars because they have their concept and gameplay nailed down. They’re confident of gameplay and work within their means so even if their game isn’t made using bleeding edge technology, it’s cute and quaint in its own way. And most importantly, it’s fun.
Now some of you may think Indian game reviewers should be more lenient to Indian games because they’re made in the country but to them, I ask this, “Are these games being sold at cheaper rates?” No, they’re not. In fact they’re being sold at full price for which you could buy better stuff why should I sugar coat the truth to our readers who at the end of the day will shell out their hard earned money on these games. It gives me no perverse pleasure to thrash a game just because it’s made in India. If anything, a well made Indian game would make me real proud. There’s also a select few who go right ahead and attack reviewers claiming it’s real tough to code a game and if I/we can’t code to save our lives, we shouldn’t be criticizing Indian games. By that logic, I would never be able to criticize a movie because I can’t act as well right?
This article was not meant to discourage budding developers but to make them realise that they should not blindly capitalize on movies, people or popular sports just for the heck of it. They also need to understand that as paying customers we are used to a certain amount of quality and if their game can’t deliver that quality, go back to the drawing board, burn the midnight oil but come back with a game that’ll blow our socks off.