It’s rare to see mobile games with real intellectual and emotional connect. Even rarer to have that combined with addictive and challenging gameplay. Add to that a unique art and narrative style, and we have Lucid Labs! Lucid Labs is a small video game development startup based out of New Delhi, India with a strong focus on experimental games with emotional values and artistic nature.
We got our hands on the founder, Chirag Chopra, and grilled him to no end about his experiences with gaming and the game development journey.
Read on for some interesting insights from a passionate gamer turned developer!
Gaming Central: Hey Chirag, it’s great to have you here with us!
Chirag Chopra: It’s great to be here!
GC: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Chirag: I am Chirag Chopra and I am the founder and creative person at Lucid Labs – a small indie game development studio based out of New Delhi, India.
Academically, I own a Masters Degree in Video Game Design, but professionally, we have developed one game called ROTO which was critically acclaimed all over the world and managed to get featured on the App Store twice under ‘Best New Games.’
GC: When did you get started with playing games? How did you get started with developing games?
Chirag: I don’t remember exactly but my first game was either Mario or Contra on a game console which used cassettes. I was completely hooked, it was so fun and cool. The seed was planted in my subconscious and when I grew up, all I could think about was – games.
I wanted to make my own games mainly because I loved seeing people enjoy a game and I wanted to make them happier with my own games.
GC: If you weren’t a game developer you would be a…?
Chirag: I don’t know, maybe a DJ and a sound producer? I spend my free time playing around with DJ tools. Maybe when I am rich enough, I’ll be a DJ too. Chicks dig DJs!
GC: What game are you working on right now? Can you tell us a bit more about the game?
Chirag: Right now we are working on 2 games. One is a very sweet and emotional narrative puzzle called ‘Stay, Mum’ which is based on the story of a mother and son. I am always excited about experimental games which have some emotional value to it and wanted to explore the genre, so the game is our first try at that. It is very close to release, probably in a month or two.
The other game is not so experimental and a secret project. It is fun and will be enjoyed by a lot of people (including noobs). We will share more details soon. And no, it’s not an arcade game.
GC: On how many games have you worked on so far?
Chirag: Commercially, just one – ROTO. But we’ve participated in few game jams and made some shitty games back then. We still do, we just don’t share them on social media, just to be safe.
GC: Which game development tools are you using?
Chirag: We are using Unity 5 as our game engine and the Adobe Suite for artistic needs.
GC: What is your favorite platform to develop for? How do you choose which platform to make games on?
Chirag: That’s a harsh question. Like everyone else, we would love to make our games available on every platform there is, but right now we are focusing on Mobile since we are a small team and we don’t have much experience for making games on the PC or Console. But in future, we will definitely make something cool for the VR and PS4.
GC: What are the specs of your PC/Mac?
Chirag: I usually work on my Macbook Pro Retina, comes with Intel i5 Processor, 500GB SSD, Iris Pro Graphics and 8GB RAM.
GC: What is the basic structure for developing a game?
Chirag: Basically we start with a concept and try to compare it with other similar games (if any). Once we are happy with the concept and we see potential, we spend some days thinking about its monetisation, progression and stuff. This is followed by a quick prototype to get the feel of the game and see if it’s still fun and enjoyable. Some of our close friends help us in testing the prototype and provide their valuable feedback. If we are happy with the prototype, the production begins! We regularly test the game to make sure it’s on the right path and when the game is 70-80% complete, we usually do a Public Beta to get lot of feedback and improve the game for release.
GC: As a game development studio in India, what are the challenges you face?
Chirag: I am not sure if we have faced any challenges apart from the obvious – money. I think we have access to all the tools like every other country, it all comes down to you and your skills to make it work. People usually talk about their parents not being supportive and stuff, but I don’t think I would be where I am right now without the help of my parents. This is for you, mom and dad!
GC: How did you come up with the game’s concept?
Chirag: I used to write 2-3 concepts everyday when I was in my college pursuing Masters. This concept was the result of that routine. But I didn’t think about adding emotional touches to it, it was only a prototype/concept back then. It was only last year when I thought about a story about a mom & son and tried to merge it with the concept and it worked really well.
GC: What were your inspirations?
Chirag: I am greatly inspired by Jenova Chen and his games – Journey, Flower. He is the only person that inspires me to make games and add some extra value to it in terms of emotional presence. Although I know ‘Stay, Mum’ is very little compared to his games, but this is our first step in that direction and I know we’ll be there one day, if not today.
GC: What inspires you outside of gaming?
Chirag: Nature and people. I love observing the nature and I regularly stalk strangers to observe their behaviour and how they interact with stuff. Sounds weird, right?
GC: I don’t like being observed!
Chirag: Haha, too late now!
GC: What would your dream game be like?
Chirag: Something that will make me a millionaire? On a serious note, I would love to create a game like The Last of Us or Journey – games that leave a lasting impact on the audience and are remembered forever.
GC: How was your game development journey so far?
Chirag: It has been okay, I guess. I have recently quit my job to do the indie thing full time. It is scary but it is rewarding and I get to work on games which I want to make, so it’s pretty fun.
GC: Gameplay, Narrative, or Graphics? Which is the most important according to you?
Chirag: A good balance of everything.
GC: Sci-fi, Mystery,Action, or Fantasy? What would you choose and why?
Chirag: A mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Because who doesn’t love watching things which are way beyond their imagination?
GC: How long have you been working on your latest game?
Chirag: Roughly 3 months.
GC: How many folks are involved in the making of your game?
Chirag: We are a team of 4 – a programmer, a sound designer, an artist, and me who handles game design and other useless stuff.
GC: What is the average budget required in developing a game in India?
Chirag: Depends on the game actually, how big the scale is and the platforms. I am not the correct person to answer this as this is our first game as a full time indie studio. Hopefully I’ll know more after we are done with ‘Stay, Mum’.
GC: What all can go wrong during development? What are the problems you might face while developing game?
Chirag: Worst thing – some hater got access to your workplace and deleted all the project files. We do have cloud backup, so don’t even think about it. Other than that, I remember once we wasted almost 2 weeks trying to figure out a feature of the game and we didn’t know what to do. We tried almost every tool available, asked almost everyone in the community. The only thing we did wrong was that we started developing the feature even before knowing anything about it and if it was achievable. But this was a lesson to us and taught us that whenever you try to do something experimental in your game, make sure there are enough tools and support available on the internet.
GC: What lessons have you learned from developing your game?
Chirag: ROTO taught us a lot about F2P design and how it works. Basically how to sell your game for free and still earn money out of it. Since we published the game with a foreign Publisher, we got a lot of insights about how the market and store works.
GC: Where do you think the games industry will be in the next 5-10 years?
Chirag: I hate to say this but I think VR will have some impact on the industry. I personally don’t like the tech as of now, makes me really dizzy, but I think we need some good games to make it successful. I am looking forward to seeing some cool experiments done with VR. On the mobile, we will see a decrease in play sessions (thanks to Ketchapp and others).
GC: What games did you enjoy playing this year?
Chirag: ROCKET LEAGUE FTW! I got to play ‘Journey’ on PS4 which was amazing. ‘The Last of Us’ is one of my favourites and of course GTA 5 and Project Cars.
GC: Hey, we have to play a round of Rocket League after this interview! We have some hardcore Rocket League fans here!
Chirag: I’m always up for Rocket League!
GC: What is your favourite game at the moment and what makes it special?
Chirag: It has to be ‘Rocket League’ and don’t tell me you are seriously asking me what makes it so special? Cars + Football!
GC: Any advice for budding gamers and developers?
Chirag: Say no to clones! Please experiment and get inspired by games being developed by western developers, we have to step up our game if you want to see India on the radar.
GC: Well, thank you Chirag, it was really fun and quiet a bit of learning as well. Time for Rocket League!!
Well folks, be sure to check out the hit mobile game ROTO, it really has some great things going for it! And keep an eye out for Stay, Mum! We know we will be! And keep checking back at Gaming Central for more interviews, reviews and the latest gaming news.