Pallav Nawani

IronCode Gaming

Posted by Patrick Talbot.
First posted on 25 November 2012. Last updated on 25 November 2012.
Have an opinion? Leave a comment!

Pallav Nawani
Pallav Nawani is the cofounder of IronCode Gaming, the developer of the Pahelika series.

For more information, visit IronCode Gaming Pvt Ltd.

India is becoming the new fertile grounds for indie adventure game developers. Though adventure games are not as popular in that country as compared to games of other genres, these intrepid developers are fast changing the local game industry landscape by creating engaging adventure games with high production values on a budget. Pallav Nawani of Ironcode Gaming is an Indian indie developer who has made it his mission to make India the new developers' market for computer games. To date, his company has already released Pahelika: Secrets Legends and Pahelika: Revelations. Both are point-and-click adventure games that have been well received by many fans. For this developer, however, such success is only the beginning of a personal dream to inspire other indie developers in India to create more innovative games.

We are privileged to have an opportunity to interview Pallav Nawani. In the interview, Nawani discusses his past careers prior to becoming a game developer, the inspirations behind his games, the challenges of operating a game development studio in India, and what lies in the future for the Pahelika series and Ironcode Gaming.

You had quite a colorful career prior to becoming an indie game developer. What were your previous vocational pursuits? Why did you decide to pursue a career in the game industry?

I started off as an Engineer Trainee at Tata Motors Jamshedpur (which was called Telco at the time). I stayed there for a year, during which I decided that Tata Motors wasn't the place for me. I joined IISC (Indian Institute of Sciences) to get an M. Tech Degree in Satellite Technology & Applications. Following that, I was at Sasken Commn. Ltd. For about 2 years. My work there involved audio/video codecs.

When I decided to start making games, I wasn't thinking about a career. Instead, I merely wanted to spend my time doing something creative and (hopefully) earning money while doing that.

While working at Sasken, I realized that there was no way I could create a complete game unless I focused on game development full time. Also, at the time I was in close touch with the evolving tech world and success stories like Dexterity Software convinced me that the time was right to take advantage of the Internet as a medium of selling games. So I took the risk and dived headfirst into game development.

It turned out that the assessment was right, though I found out a little too late that I did not have the experience to take advantage of the opportunity.

Regardless, we have survived, and we have enjoyed the process of game development so much that we continue doing that.

Pahelika: Secret Legends and Pahelika: Revelations are both adventure games. Why does this genre interest you as a game developer?

The answer is quite simple. I absolutely would love to explore objects of art, artefacts and ruins, structures from the past, learning the lore and the legends that surround them, marveling at the people who created them, and wondering how they had created something so wonderful in the first place.

It was my desire to go through such a magical journey that led me to design games in the Pahelika series, although back when I first decided to create them, the desire was obscured by a veneer of practicality: These games sold reasonably well on casual gaming portals.

Sadly, since I designed the games myself, I can never experience the journey as it is meant to be.

What are your inspirations for the Pahelika series? What religious undertone, if any, are you seeking to explore in the series?

I have already answered the first part of this question – as I mentioned, I wanted the player to undergo a journey of wonder and that is what prompted the design of these games.

As far as other games are concerned, the famous Myst series of games was the obvious inspiration and an important design reference point – I wanted the Pahelika series to be as immersive as Myst itself.

Religion is only incidental to the game; the main motive behind posing philosophical questions to the player was to make the player put the mouse down and think for a little while about the issues involved. The design of the interaction in the first Pahelika game wasn't optimal though, something which was improved in the second game.

How large was the development team for Pahelika: Secret Legends and Pahelika: Revelations? How long were these games in development?

Pahelika: Secret Legends was developed by a team of two people. The game took two years to complete. Some parts of game development process, such as concept art and music were outsourced to freelancers. Pahelika: Revelations also took two years and was developed by team of four people, the fourth person working for a year.

How popular are adventure games in India compared to other countries? How popular are adventure games compared to games from other genres in India?

Adventure games are not very popular in India. There are very few people playing adventure games in India, and most of them are playing casual adventures.

Big ticket adventure games like L.A. Noire are exceptions though, they are generally received well.

As you might have guessed by now, adventure games are near the bottom of popularity charts in India.

IronCode Gaming is located in Dehradun, India. How large is the local indie game development scene?

That depends on how you define 'Local'. If the word is intended for the game development community in Dehradun, then we were the only game developers in Dehradun. I say 'were', because we have recently shifted to Noida, India.

If we talk about India as a whole, then we have a growing Indie game development community in India, which has already grown to a significant size.

The indie gamedev community in India is centered on the cities of Delhi, Bombay and Pune.

What are the business challenges, given the general economic milieu of the country, in operating an independent game development studio in India?

The main business challenge that we face is the shortage of talented people. In India, majority of people who apply for jobs at gaming companies have no real passion towards games. For them, it is just another job.

Furthermore, a lot of people are unaware of career opportunities in game development. Because of this, it is relatively rare that we come across a talented individual passionate about gaming.

Why have you decided to make available the strategy guides for both Pahelika: Secret Legends and Pahelika: Revelations for download from your website for free? How worried are you that the puzzles in these games may be too challenging?

The first reason is that I want players to complete the game. I mentioned before that the reason why the two games exist is that I wanted the player to undertake a journey of exploration and wonder. The journey would not be complete if the player gets stuck on a puzzle, hence the free strategy guide.

Apart from that – yes, the puzzles in these games are tougher than normal for the intended audience. Casual gamers, for which the games are intended, do not have a big appetite for difficult puzzles. Some of them have told me that they don't want to get stuck on one puzzle for more than five minutes.

When you introduce puzzles in a game, there is bound to be a point where the knowledge gap or the communication gap between the game designer and player prevents the player from grasping the puzzle fully, and the player gets stuck. At this point all the fun and the immersion in the game is gone. The player is simply stuck and/or frustrated and unable to progress in the game.

The free strategy guide is an imperfect solution to the problem.

Many popular adventure games have been ported to mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. What plans, if any, do you have to extend development of the Pahelika series to these mobile platforms?

We have ports in progress for both Android and iOS. The ports will be published by a major mobile games publisher.

How do you see the role of indie developers such as yourself in the future of game industry?

Indie developers such as me exist on the fringes of game development community, becoming mainstream only when something we do catches the imagination of the people.

I expect that to continue. I expect indie developers to continue to challenge the norms and boundaries of game development, occasionally extending those boundaries by their ideas.

What do you see as the future for the adventure game genre? Why?

I expect the popularity of the adventure game genre to increase slightly, as the casual versions of these games pull in a newer audience.

However, since most casual gamers never make the leap into the hardcore gaming, I don't expect any real improvement in the popularity of hardcore adventure game.

Unfortunately, that's about the only thing in the future of the adventure games that can be assessed with some degree of accuracy. Other things like design directions and trends are really too hard to predict.

What lies on the horizon for the Pahelika series?

The Pahelika series will continue, albeit after a hiatus.

Right now we are concentrating on other things and games. I also need some time to re-organize my ideas about what the Pahelika series of games stand for and how to better bring out those qualities in a newer version.

When the time is right, we will see another game in the series.

• (3) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink