Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Article - GAMES THAT MADE ME!

Purnima tells it in her own words how she got into games and design. Plus a few words of advice.

Purnima Iyer

My gaming days started with good ol’ hide n seek, scrabble, paper rockets, playing cards and many more non-digital games. The one that I was most fond of was “Name, Place, Animal, and Thing”. A person chooses an alphabet from a pool of alphabets or calls it out and everyone participating in the game will have to come up with a name, a place, an animal/bird and a thing (object) that starts with that alphabet. It was a perfect edutainment game. Game that helps you explore new words makes your thinking process sharper, triggers a healthy competition, and all this while having fun. I don’t know who originally came up with the game. It was just passed on via friends.

Scrabble and Monopoly were and still are my favourite board games. I’m sure a lot of people will agree with me. The main thing with these games were the social factor. The pure joy of sitting around with friends, joking and gossiping, and occasionally cheating!

My first digital game started with ‘Tetris’ on a Game Boy clone; the simplicity of the game still makes it one of my favourite games ever. Then there was the NES clone with ‘Mario’: the game that was/is played by majority of the world population. Probably the first digital game I played which had a two player mode. I remember the weekends where the entire family sat down together and took turns to play ‘Mario’ and ‘Duck Hunt’. Then of course there was a ‘Tank’ which allowed one to create your own levels. That’s where I started analyzing the game. I started working on my own levels because I loved the game.

I got my first computer only at the age of 16. Yes, I started late but I think it was a great thing for me as I ended up playing non-digital games a lot! The first thing I played on the computer was well, ‘Solitaire’ ;) Soon enough one of my friends introduced me to ‘Age of Empires II’ and then there was no turning back. The strategy, the historical events, the civilization, their significance, everything was so beautifully covered. The AI difficulty stayed true to the settings chosen. Once I finished playing the entire “Campaign” mode, I was awe-struck. I started creating my own Campaign customizing it and personalizing it with my friends’ names as rulers, creating my own story and map. I didn’t even realize what I was doing then, but it seemed that the Game Designer in me was waking up.

Soon enough Warcraft III, GTA, Zeus, Caesar III, Quake, PoP, NFS, Ragnarok and a lot others followed. I was mostly drawn to character driven fantasy based RPGs and RTS games. I loved the character customization and the seeming influence of the characters in the game world.
On my first job, I was asked to design an RPG. I remember how I almost cried looking at the Dungeon & Dragons manuals coming my way. It was a dream come true! That’s where it began for me on a professional front and since then, I knew this was what I wanted to pursue. I did take my occasional breaks where I moved on to being a software programmer and an application designer. But once a game designer, always a game designer. It’s something you can’t just throw away.


Remember, it’s not about how well you play a game or how good you are at it. If you want to be a designer, enjoy the game, then analyze it, then create something on similar lines with twists or an entirely original concept if you have a great idea.

An often neglected part of game designing is the Game Design Document. Documentation is merely the process of transforming your ideas to paper so that others can understand precisely what's going on. Remember, these “other” people may inhabit a different planet from yours and may not necessarily even know anything about gaming (something that's quite true in the Indian game industry which is populated as much by non-gamers as gamers). It's more than just writing stuff. It's
about putting together images and words in such a way that if someone else were to look at it, they would instantly “get it”. The document can be an art form or a piece of rubbish depending on how you approach it. That's why it's called game designing.

I also believe that putting your ideas to paper is also a great way to revisit some of the fundamental principles behind the game, to remould it, to make it clearer, and to polish it to a high degree.

There's plenty of material on the Net on fundamentals, ideologies and various game design methodologies. Refer, observe and create! One should never stop learning. Be humble and be the best. :)

- Purnima Iyer

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Interview: Purnima Iyer (Club Rare and Raring)

Rare and Raring interviews Purnima Iyer, our first member of Club Rare and Raring.
Please welcome the very first member of 'Club Rare and Raring', Purnima Iyer. Purnima is a fellow game designer and a friend who I've worked with during the good old days of Indiagames Ltd. Presently the co-founder of Pinaka Interactive (a game and interactive media designing studio), she has also worked as an application designer at Prinics Co. Ltd. While she displays a lot of qualities that make her a natural choice for being on this list, the major reason why she makes it here, first, is because of her 'game design comeback'. That's after a brief application design hiatus in South Korea. It wasn't just a come back, but she went ahead and founded a game designing studio. Purnima keeps entertaining us through her games, blogs and very descriptive articles on food. So let's begin.

R&R. Since how long have you been designing games? 
Purnima. Professionally since early 2006. 

R&R. What is the most memorable game that you've designed and why is it memorable to you?
Purnima. It was a mobile RPG in the lines of Neverwinter Nights. It's memorable to me because it was the very first game I designed. And also, I cherish the time where I was given complete freedom to design the game, with the amazing D&D manuals for company.

R&R. What is your area of expertise in game design? (Mechanics, Game-play, Genre, Platform)
Purnima. The Indian gaming industry expects you to be an all-rounder. So professionally I've not been able to concentrate and nurture one aspect of game design. However, I personally feel that Game Mechanics is what I would call my area of expertise.

R&R. Would you share a few highs and lows you've faced as a game designer?
Purnima. I will state one of each. Both highs and lows had got to do with the others I had to interact with. It seems part of the industry doesn't take game design seriously. There are the certain people who think game designers are expendable. Interestingly, I've noticed that this seems to be a fact with the newbies or the less experienced professionals. The ones who truly understand game development, (thankfully I've worked with some of those genius minds) respect game design and designers; its a big high to work with them. It enhances your skills automatically.

R&R. Share a point or two that you believe in as a game design myth and a game design fact.
Purnima. Myth: Just because you play games, you can design a game.
Fact: Game design is a discipline like any other facet of game development. It too requires analysis, know-how and understanding.

R&R. Any advice to aspiring game designers?
Purnima. Just because you are a good gamer, doesn't necessarily mean you are a good game designer. Try to learn the field, write documents, figure out the mechanics etc. Don't just go on playing games. Understand them!

R&R. Where can Rareandraring readers follow you at? (Twitter, Blogspot etc.)
My Twitter handle:!/purnimaiyer

So that's Purnima Iyer for you, one of the top game designers in India. I thank her on behalf of Rare and Raring readers. She will be writing an article for us very soon. Catch you.

You can check out Club Rare and Raring here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Just like if you wear your jeans long enough, even the odor it emanates after...say 15 days dies off on the 20th day and then there remains no reason to wash it in the first place. I say that I've been gone for so long, it's no use apologizing. And so let's begin.

One day, I was sitting at my desk going through my office mail, preparing my to do list for the day, jotting down points for the daily meetings for the 7 or so projects' that I have been directly or indirectly involved in short, I was preparing for the day. Suddenly one of my Rareandraring Game Designer apparated at my desk and enthusiastically started telling me something. It took me, not more than, a couple of seconds to 'realize that he was there and look up and listen', but he was already talking about MS cup...sachin tendulkar...

'Come again', said I.

Apparently my direct report had, by some snag in the system, been attending a training course that I was supposed to attend. From his gestures and enthusiasm it looked like he'd been thoroughly liking what he had been attending. I smiled. Someone seems to have giving him the idealistic stuff and he was lapping it up. I started listening.

'I wish I could be like Mahendra Singh Dhoni.' he said.

I patted myself on the back for such a flawless analysis of what a company training can be and ultimately yield. (And now you see that I pat myself on the back quite a lot) Anyway, I thanked the system or the person who had made the mistake.

Now you'd expect that I should ask him, 'Why?' . But when you are rareandraring, the raring part takes care of such meaningless questions. Cause my enthusiastic designer had already launched into explaining why he wanted to be like MSD.

'Remember when India won the cricket world cup, he (MSD) was calmly walking behind the team. He didn't crave for the limelight. He let Sachin Tendulkar take the center stage. That's the kind of attitude I want to have in life. ....' he said this and a lot more in one breath.

This conversation took me back a few days when during our design meeting, a topic about 'recognition' had popped up. Naturally, such a topic never pops up when there is an abundance of recognition. I was glad that such a topic came up because it told me that my team was indeed made of people with rareandraring attitude. These guys wanted a forum and an applause for the great work they've been doing. Amazing! More so because it wasn't the lack of recognition from within the team but from people outside. So when he was done, it was time for me to speak.

'So have you posted our latest game's review link on the Facebook?' I asked.

Pat came the proud reply, 'No.'

It was time for me to shine some sunlight up...
 'Even if Mahendra Dhoni breaks wind, it will make news about how he has lost form and how good he was at breaking wind. How did you know that he was in the background when Sachin was supposedly hogging the limelight? Because the camera was focused on Dhoni glorifying his gesture. And Dhoni knows it. He does not try to hog limelight because he doesn't have to.'

I stood up and looked around me. There was a guy sitting at the end of the office room playing Cityville. I told my designer to go and ask him about what game had he (my designer) worked on. All of us (me, my designer and the Cityville playing guy at the end of the room) knew the answer that he didn't know the answer. But I made him go through the exercise. So when he came back, I told him.

'We've just released one of the highest rated (internationally) video games made in India, ever! However, don't go expecting people to know about it on their own. Moreover don't expect people to play your game and somehow visit the credits section to accidentally come across your name. If you've done something that you feel proud of, let the world know about it. There is nothing wrong in publicizing your success when public recognition is one of your core driving factors. MSD can afford to not publicize his work because it's already being done for him. You, on the other hand, need to promote your work to reach that stage where you no longer need to promote it. So the next time when I ask you whether you've published that link on FB, I expect a yes.'


I, as a game designer, believe that the greatest driving force for any true game developer is to entertain people and see them entertained. And when he does a good job, owns the bragging rights for it. If the recognition doesn't come his way, he must on his own volition make sure that it comes his way. Cause like money is to a business establishment, recognition is to an entertainer.