100 All Time Favorites - the first indigenous in-house game, to be created from scratch by Ubisoft Pune may not be available in India yet, but it's the first officially Nintendo licensed title to be created by an Indian team.
The game provides an all-in-one selection of 100 board games, and card games like Solitaire, Poker, Mancala (an African game), Backgammon, Chess, Chinese Checkers, and Draughts.
"It took six months of preparation and training, and then 8 months of production work for us to make this DS game." says Jithin Rao, producer at Ubisoft in Pune.
Not all the 100 games are unique, about some of them give new twists, and have to be unlocked by solving puzzles and standard game modes. "There are two versions to Draughts, one is American and one is a Polish. The Polish version is played internationally, we chose to use the Polish version, when working on the American version." says Jitesh Panchal, lead game designer for the game at Ubisoft.
"We came up with about 15-30 of our own original games, those games you reuse the assets that you play the classic. Mixing the rules and graphics of various games and bringing them together. This was to be all limited in a 32 MB cartridge."
Around 40 people from Ubisoft India were involved in the project - four artists, four designers, 18 programmers, and a ten member testing team from Pune.
At a meeting in their Pune office, the five member team that incubated an early version of this game - Jithin Rao, Jitesh Panchal, Luell Lopes as art director, Ankit Dutt Mathur, as programming lead, and Allwin Navamani as QC lead shared their insights and experiences about working in the game industry with Digit. These will be featured in an article about game development in a future Digit magazine.
The early version was incubated by this team, who started it as a training project, working on making a game of Draughts. "After a month, we were told to put 99 other games." The team had six months for preparation, most of which went into brainstorming. "We had to make sure that all the board and card games were covered, so that even a kid and an old man would like it. We had to learn all the rules of each game." they said
"We thought we would be able to do it since, we were from a mobile gaming background." Most of the team members worked at the Gameloft Pune studio which was later acquired by Ubisoft in May 2008. The company has around 160 employees currently.
"It was a very novel experience, we got a lot of help from our HQ. Three programmers went in for training as well to Quebec. We had a couple of expatriates, who came in from other Ubisoft studios to help us streamline the processes, and give guidelines."
"We initially had a team of programmers and testers, and now we have artists, game designers who have joined the studio. Since January, we have had a staff increase of 35 percent." says Aurelie Busollo, HR manager at the Ubisoft office.
On the QC side, the Pune office has worked on Cell-Factor Psychokinetic Wars on the XBL and the PSN, games on the DS on the Imagine series, and Just Dance on the Wii, to name a few titles that were completely tested here.
"The creativity of Ubisoft Group goes into creating new IPs on consoles, deliver high quality games, and build multiple experiences around these new IPs" said David Blanchard, Studio Head at Ubisoft Pune.
"Here in Pune, we are trying to go in two directions to consolidate ourselves in the online and handheld space. The handheld is a great way to explore new platforms, such as the iPhone. At Ubisoft, we have been on the DS market from the beginning. Handhelds also provide a new opportunity to explore cross-platform gaming experiences." he said.
“We are also currently looking at social networking gaming, and we want to move to MMO-oriented gaming as well. These will be for a global market. If we go this way, they will be accessible in India too. We don’t have a game for just the Indian market, but it can be something to look into, and we will think about it." he said