Lucid Labs is a small indie team based in India, formed by a group of students right after participating in a 24-hour game jam and assuming they had made the best game in the competition. Because of the community feedback and praise from their trainers, they decided to complete the game and make it available to the global market to enjoy even more appraisals. This debut game is called Roto. Chirag Chopra, the founder of Lucid Labs, shares the story of the game about big balls.
Chirag Chopra also presented at Casual Connect Asia 2014:
An Announcement That Turned Students Into a Studio
Since we all come from a video game design college, news about various game jams come our way very often. One usual day, as we were about to go to the lectures, we saw a poster about the Global Game Development Student Competition on our notice board. We got excited: this was a 24-hour game jam on a weekend, so we could easily participate without missing any lectures or assignments. Also, it was a wonderful opportunity to hang out with global game-makers.
The rules of the game jam were simple: develop a small game/prototype on a given theme. After about three hours of brainstorming and rejecting ideas, we finally had a concept in mind. Priority was given to something casual that could be made, polished, and tested within 24 hours. And then the work began. Since the game had to be made really fast, we decided to use an engine which is easy to use, yet powerful. Sujeet suggested Construct 2, so we decided to enter the Browser category, because it was easy to make HTML5 browser games with that engine.
College Dorm: The Place for Instant Testing
One positive aspect of developing a game while living in the college dorm is that we could have some people come over to our room, make them play a specific portion of the game, and get instant feedback. This helped us make a good prototype, crafted on community feedback, and make sure we were creating something good.
Since our game was pretty simple and straightforward to play, I decided to keep it as minimalistic as possible in terms of art. I experimented with basic colors like grey and black (I love grey and black) and got good results. After hours of no sleep, playtests, and hard work, we had a good game in our hands. We decided to call it Black Sun. It wasn’t for any specific or racial reasons. It’s was just because the game had big black balls.
It was time to submit the game, get some sleep, and hope that we’ll win. The results were announced in about three months. Unfortunately, no one won in our category of Browser Game. Nevertheless, two games, including ours, won an Honorable Mention, and we received a $1000 cash prize. We were really happy and sad at the same time: disappointed that we didn’t enter the Top 3, but happy since no other game did either. On the other hand, we were glad that the jury appreciated our creation, and it was enough to motivate us to complete the game and release it.
After deciding to work on our game further and bring it to the global market, we knew we needed more members in the team. And here goes another advantage of studying in a video game design college: you are always surrounded by creative people. We needed one artist and one level designer, and I already had perfect candidates in mind: Ankush Madad (one of the best level designers in the college) and Rahul Narayanan
(one of the best artists in the college). They were the perfect addition to the team. After explaining to them the concept and our vision, they instantly agreed to work with us. Now, Lucid Labs had five members in total. Woohoo!
Going Mobile, as Suggested After the Game Jam
Production began instantly after we set up the team and made sure everyone was on the same path. One common feedback we got after the game jam was to port our game to touch mobile devices. We knew we had to do this, and it was easy, since our game had a very simple tap control scheme. But going mobile meant that we had to switch from Construct 2 to some powerful engine for mobile devices. Sujeet recommended Corona SDK due to its superb performance and usability. Our programmer was comfortable with Corona, since he has prior knowledge of Lua – the language used in the SDK.
The whole game code was re-written in Lua. In about a month, we had a small prototype ready for Android devices. Just in time for GDC 2013! We decided to take the game to GDC India to showcase and meet some publishers. Everything was planned and going smoothly, but, as we discovered later – not for long.
GDC 2013 – The Big Luck and a Disappointment in Publishers
We had attended GDC India previously in 2012, but this time, it was special. Now we had a game in hand and were looking for potential investors/publishers. Those two days were spent talking to numerous people and showing them the game. Surprisingly, we managed to grab the attention of a couple of publishers, who got interested in publishing the game and investing some money into it. That was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in all my life. A small team of students from India, who had no prior experience in the industry, managed to attract publishers for their first game! What else could we possibly ask for?
After coming back from one of the best GDCs ever, it was time to decide and choose the best publisher (in terms of deal offered). This was very hard. Eventually, we decided to go with one who was somewhat new in the scene, but offered a good deal. At least, that’s what we thought.
We started working on legal things and lots of other stuff. We also changed the overall theme and art of the game in order to please the publishers. But soon we decided it was a bad idea, and realized Roto plays best when accompanied by its original minimalist art style.
After about a month of negotiations with our preferred publisher, we decided to look for other opportunities as well. Maybe this was a bad idea, but it helped us get a broader view of how things work under a publisher. Call us immature or naïve, but we realized we were not meant to work with a publisher. Not because there were restrictions, we just didn’t like the idea of selling our own game to someone else.
We decided to drop the idea of getting our game published by other people and said a big NO to everyone. I’m sure they were really upset and angry with us, but at least we chose a path which WE wanted. We were even more excited about self-publishing.
“What the Hell is Black Sun?” Means Time for Changes
“What the hell is Black Sun?” This was the most common question people asked us when we told them about the game. The name sucked. It was obvious that we had to find a new one which could match the game and sound less racial. I have no idea how Sujeet came up with the name Roto, but we all liked it.
The development was in full production. Meanwhile, we were looking for events and awards to showcase our game and gain exposure. One such opportunity was the Indian Creative Tech Awards. We decided to give it a try and submitted the game. To our surprise, we got nominated for two categories – Excellence in Browser Gaming and Excellence in Mobile Gaming. The results are still due and we are quite positive in our expectations.
Thanks to our level designer Ankush, we created a lot of new levels for the game, making it even more viable for the global market. And Rahul helped us refine the art and make it even more polished and beautiful (yes, it is beautiful for us :P). Rahul also created a lot of visual feedback for every action in the game. This was something that the game lacked since its early prototype.
The Game Needs Sound!
All of a sudden, we realized we needed sound for the game – initially, it was completely silent! How could we publish the game without any sound? We didn’t think about this at all before. Fortunately, I have a friend who is studying sound design, and I thought he might be the best candidate for this job. I explained the game to him, as well as what kind of sound and music would suit it best. Samples started coming in. A lot of samples. But the team was somewhat not happy. Not because the sound guy was bad, mainly because his style of music didn’t match our vision of the game.
I started looking for another sound designer. A video game sound designer, to be precise. After looking almost everywhere on the social networks, I found The Perfect Guy.
The guy who had worked on games like Watch Dogs and The Crew, agreed to be our sound designer – Ash Read. Un-f*cking-believable! I still have no idea how I managed to convince him to work with our game. Ash’s music is one of the most important assets in Roto. Apart from being one of the most talented sound designers ever, he’s one of the best people I’ve known in life.
Finally, we’ve released our game on Android. iOS is now the priority and we might bring it to Windows – depending on the demand. Meanwhile, the team is preparing the next update to the game, with new level packs and, possibly, a new game mode. Right now, our dream game is still Roto and we want to make it big, not only in Asia, but all over the world. We don’t want to get rich or become millionaires. If we wanted that, we would have made this a paid game. We just want to create a fan base which loves the game and is always excited for future updates. We want to tell the world that people from India can create unique and fun experiences for the world. The proof of this is already coming our way: we’ve been featured on IGN and the biggest website in China.