Be The Game

By Samir Makwana Published Date
01 - Jul - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Jul - 2007
Be The Game

From playing games to creating them... level up!

If you've seen the best real-time strategy games like Warcraft III, thrilling first-person shooters such as Half-Life, and have had multiplayer fun with Counter-Strike and Quake 3 Arena, you love them. Have you ever, though, given a serious thought towards actually making a game? Will it fetch you money, fame, and success? It can. A career in games is a lucrative option.

Gaming is a no more a niche market. According to the latest reports from IDC India, India is one of the fastest growing markets for computers. Here, the PC ownership ratio is 1:50, amounting to 22 million installations. In the past five to six years, India has grown as a potential market for the global game development biggies.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India recently conducted a study on online gaming. It found that the online gaming industry here is worth Rs 210 crore. The study also found that youth in the age group of 17 to 25 years are the key drivers of the online gaming segment. Yet, the industry faces issues-high cost of enabling proper infrastructures in accordance with international standards, recognition and support of game development and related courses, and negative perception among parents.

"The global game development market is expected to grow to $42 billion (Rs 1.9 lakh crore) by 2010 from $21 billion in 2006-a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 18 per cent. India is becoming an outsourcing hub for animation and game design and development," says Raman Madan, regional manager-Media and Entertainment Software (APAC), AutoDesk, who are into the business of software technologies for the simulation, animation, media, and entertainment domains.

Since 2002, game development in India has picked up. Earlier, a number of India-based studios and companies were involved in developing and testing game projects for companies in the west. But in the past few years, gaming behemoths like Electronic Arts, Gameloft, and FXLabs, along with the Indian players like Jump Games, Dhruva Interactive, Trine Game Studios, Lakshya Digital, Game Shastra, and others have been active in the game business in India.

"The Indian gaming industry is fairly nascent, and immense opportunities are available for game artists, game programmers, and for related tasks as the development studios continue to grow rapidly in India," says Tony Garcia, CEO, FXLabs Studios.

It's All About Growth
India is looked upon as a talent-hunter's paradise by companies into animation and gaming. The game development industry also hires animation professionals from that industry. According to a NASSCOM report, Animation and Gaming India 2007, about 16,500 animation professionals were employed in the animation industry in 2006. This figure is expected to exceed 26,000 by 2010.

With prestigious international developers setting up development centres on Indian shores, the scope of opportunities is simply vast"
Ninad Chhaya, Executive vice president,Operations and production, Jump Games

Even so, finding highly-skilled professionals to match global standards still remains a challenge. There are different areas in the gaming industry, such as design, development, testing, and distribution. Game development borrows a lot from the animation industry-the growth of the gaming industry is closely tied with that of the latter.

Game Development: This involves the conception and nurturing of a game, starting from an idea and finally to a working game. "A person seeking a career in game development can pursue a bright career in the different functions, which might be creative and/or technical," says Reena George, general manager, human resources, India Games.
Within game development lie sub-segments such as design, programming, production, visual arts, and audio.

Game Testing: Testing is part of the general game development process, but quite a few companies and studios in India offer testing services exclusively for games to western countries. Those passionate about games and who have good power of observation might want to choose this option. A game tester plays games, observes its working, and finds graphical, audio, and bugs related to the programming. Although the job profile of game testers appears rosy and has lots of fun packed in, they are required to play games for long hours. This might cause physical strain to the eyes, numbness in the fingers, and more!

Business And Distribution: People from the business studies and marketing management domain fit this work profile best. Game distributors promote gaming content. Distribution strategies, dealing with content providers, identifying target audiences, customer feedback and management, etc. fall under this job description. They share information with client companies about gaming habits, tastes, and the preferences of the target audience.

Let's go on to the job functions to be performed at each level within game development.

 Teams And Designations
Functional Area Job Title
Design and CreativeGame designer, level designer, technical designer, script writer
ProgrammingGame programmer, AI programmer, network programmer, R&D-engineering programmer, physics programmer, tools programmer, graphics programmer, animation programmer, technical writer, software architect
Visual ArtsConcept artist, texture artist, material specialist, environment artist, storyboard artist, 2D/3D modelling specialist, texture specialist, 2D/3D animator
ProductionGame producer, executive game producer, line producer, localisation producer, network game producer, multiplayer producer, advertising producer
AudioMusician, SFX (sound effects) artist, sound engineer, sound programmer
Business and OtherSales, marketing, and other top management profiles such as chief executive officer, chief operating officer, vice president- design, programming, production
Testing    Game tester, platform specialist (PC, console, mobile phone, handheld)

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Each function in the industry has levels of hierarchy. For a few of the common designations and sub-segments in game development, refer the table Teams and Designations.

Design: A game designer is a jack of all trades. He has a variety of interests and understands the technical side-programming and graphic design. An understanding of psychology and its implementation can be helpful. Knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI), too, helps. Tasks here include conceptualisation of a game, design documentation, and working closely with other teams so as to see whether the game is being developed in accordance with the concept. The game design team has a lead designer, who usually evolves by working as a graphic designer or game programmer.

Programming: Graphical elements such as animated characters, game levels, background textures, and sound effects are coded to work together with the game engine. Good coding skills with command over programming languages such as C , Python, Java, Flash, and other software used in game programming are required.

Being well-versed in programming with OpenGL and DirectX is essential. Knowledge of physics and AI is very beneficial. A programmer should have a balance of technological and creative abilities. "Gaming is about technology, action scripting, animating, etc., but equally, it is about game play, creativity, and an understanding of consumer likes and preferences," informs Carlton D'Silva, creative director, Hungama, who are into the media and entertainment business-viz. gaming portal also promotions marketing . 

Visual Arts: Candidates from the fine arts, animation, and the visual arts / visual communication fields are best suited for the visual arts team. Character and background designing and 2D / 3D modelling and animation are the major activities in this segment. This team works towards constructing the visual elements and the user interface for a game. Students trained on animation software packages also get recruited into this segment. Knowledge of software packages meant for graphics like AutoDesk Maya, 3ds Max, Motion Builder, Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint, and others makes up the technological side of the equation. For more about animation, turn over to Life @ 24 fps in Digit, April 2006.

Production: At the core, a project is lead by a producer who supports the project. Like a typical project manager, the production manager's tasks involve budgeting, meeting the requirements of various departments, documentation of reports, and keeping track of project progress. Knowledge of and exposure to design, programming, and visual arts help in their work.

Audio: Professional music composers, candidates with a sound engineering degree, and SFX artists can work in an audio and sound effects team. The background score and the special effects are added to match the graphics, gameplay, and storyline of the game. Sound engineers and artists should have had hands-on skills working with software like Sound Forge, Cubase, Bink, Miles, and such.

We've already spoken about game testing. It is very similar to software testing and validation. Individuals from a software testing and validation background would be a perfect fit for this segment.

Candidates with a business management or management studies degree are the ideal choice for business functions within the gaming industry. Besides activities towards growth and expansion of the business nationally, they look at international tie-ups.

Essential Gear
Many game development companies encourage their employees to play games in their free time, or even during office hours. "The gaming industry firmly believes that those who don't play games can't visualise for better game ideation," says Rohit Sharma, CEO,, a casual gaming portal.

"Passion for gaming is treated as a value-add in reference to the specific function in game development. A good balance between a passion for gaming and the capability to perform the assigned task helps bring out the best", adds George.

We've already spoken about the required educational backgrounds. "Surprisingly, the game masters come from varied backgrounds-from microbiology to commerce," says Naveen H, national manager for gaming, Sify, an online portal that also offers Web domain services and runs game-dromes.

A graduate degree or a diploma is essential for any professional segment. If you're looking at a serious education in gaming, several universities in the US, the UK, Australia, and other countries offer specialised degree and diploma courses in specific aspects of game development.

"Producers could benefit hugely with an all-round knowledge of art, programming, and design along with project management," informs Sharma.

The demand-supply gap in the industry is very wide as of now. "No exposure, lack of knowledge about gaming as a profession, and unavailability of good training schools are the factors that affect the demand-supply gap in the gaming industry," says D'Silva.

Gaming is about technology, action scripting, and so on, but equally, it is about gameplay and creativity"
Carlton D'Silva, Creative Director, Hungama

No courses focusing specifically on game development are available. "India could definitely benefit from courses for game-related functions, especially if they are well-structured and offer an insight into how games are developed, how technology enables the industry, and also provide a background into the industry and the career options within it," says Raman.

What's required is collaboration with international animation and gaming institutes, along with government recognition of curricula for graduate and Masters programs meeting global standards.

Rewards And Credits
Any rewards and/or credits, like in any other occupation, are given on the basis of individual performance as well as performance in a team effort.

Here is a snapshot of how much you can expect to earn. Though it is a niche market of about 50 employers, the remuneration varies across organisations. The ranges mentioned below are aggregated, indicative, and on a per-month basis.

Approximate Remuneration Matrix (per month)
Department Entry Level Middle Level Top Level 
Design Rs 10,000-30,000 Rs 30,000-45,000 Rs 45,000 and above 
Production Rs 12,000-25,000 Rs 25,000-40,000 Rs 40,000 and above 
Programming Rs 15,000-35,000Rs 35,000-60,000 Rs 60,000 and above 
Visual Arts Rs 12,000-30,000 Rs 30,000-50,000 Rs 50,000 and above 
Audio Rs 10,000-15,000 Rs 15,000-30,000 Rs 30,000 and above 
and allied
 Rs 6,000-20,000 Rs 20,000-45,000 Rs 45,000 and above
Testing Rs 10,000-30,000 Rs 30,000-50,000 Rs 50,000 and above 

These figures can be expected to go up by 10 to 50 per cent on the basis of the market situation and demand-supply ratio.

Future Prospects
Gaming is expected to be the next big thing in the entertainment industry. "India, with its cost-effectiveness and availability of skilled resource pool, is already a preferred destination among the global players. Now, with prestigious international developers setting up development centres on Indian shores, the scope of opportunities is simply vast," says Ninad Chhaya, executive vice president-operations and production, Jump Games, who offer game content development services. According to the NASSCOM report, Animation and Gaming in India 2007, the Indian gaming industry for the year 2006 was nearly Rs 48 crore, and by 2010, it is expected to surpass Rs 424 crore.

With all three major gaming consoles now available in India, the three companies producing the consoles will look for local game developers who can work on projects at a global scale.

Industry stalwarts and the available figures say it out loud-game on, people. Grab your controllers!

Samir MakwanaSamir Makwana