In Conversation with Abhi from Visai Games

The story about a tiny amazing narrative cooking game, Venba

  
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Thank you all for tuning into our first ever podcast. This is our attempt at archiving the history of game development of Indian creators, through their own stories and voice. We hope you find it interesting and engaging. If you have any thoughts and suggestions, please come by our discord and have a chat!

On this episode, we talk to Abhi from Visai games, who is creating an amazing narrative cooking game where you play as an Indian immigrant mom, who immigrates to Canada with her family in the 1980s.

People in the podcast

Abhi - https://twitter.com/brownmoney__

Shagun Shah - https://twitter.com/ShagunShah

Yadu Rajiv - https://twitter.com/yadurajiv

Notes from the podcast

Venba - http://venbagame.com/

Unity - https://unity.com/

Yarn Spinner - https://yarnspinner.dev/

Night in the Woods - http://www.nightinthewoods.com/

Idli - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idli

Puttu - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puttu

Biriyani - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biryani

Cooking Mama - http://www.cookingmama.com/

Cook, Serve, Delicious - https://www.cookservedelicious.com

Overcooked - http://www.ghosttowngames.com/

Porotta - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parotta

Tirukkuṟaḷ - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tirukku%E1%B9%9Fa%E1%B8%B7

Lungi - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lungi

Full Transcript

Yadu Rajiv 0:07

Hello, and thank you for tuning in to the game dev dot in podcast. In this episode Yadu and Shagun catch up with Abhi from Visai games, to talk about his roots and the secret spice behind his up and coming narrative cooking game, Venba.

My first question was basically going to ask you what your last name was, but that should be fine, because I couldn't find your name anywhere so, but it doesn't matter.

Abhi 0:36

Maybe I know we just started recording, but maybe you can cut this part out. But yeah. The reason I hide it is I had people reach out to me through channels that I didn't expect them to reach out. And I'm just that just struck me a little, like, you know, I'm very private that way. So, people reaching out to me like, like, Instagram, Twitter is fine. But if they're finding my LinkedIn, I feel like you know what I mean?

Yadu Rajiv 1:05

That is what I was trying to find.

Abhi 1:11

I don't mind sharing it with you. But like, if it's random people that are messaging again. So that started happening. So is that okay, I need to hide my last name and stuff like that. I'm glad it works. So..

Yadu Rajiv 1:22

Yeah, yeah. So it was kind of difficult. So I mean, basically, just kind of get an idea of what what like, like, maybe we can just get into it. So how did you get into games? How did this happen?

Abhi 1:38

Yeah, um, yeah. So I my parents brought home, the knock off console back home when I was in Chennai, it was called The Terminator, the black with the blue buttons, I'm sure all of you know, I played the crap out of that system. I think it was like 10 games for 999 there was like 999 games, but it was the same 10 game games over and over, so I played the crap out of that but much to my parents disapproval. And then Ever since then, like there was no stopping, like my dad he worked at a bank, But we wanted to get into [unclear], like he brought home a computer [unclear] that way. So I, I naturally installed video games like lion, King, Aladdin, and all those things that some guy gave it to me at a book fair. So I was very much interested in video games that way. What was a, I think the turning point for me was I played Pokemon. But I played it at an emulator. Not like in the physical device, I didn't even know it was meant to be played on a physical device. I played it on a computer, so but you can't catch all 151 unless you trade with other people on the physical device. So I only got like 135, and no idea how to get the rest, there was no internet. And then, and then, my parents announced to me that they're moving to Canada, and it was I think, 11 we finally finished moving when I was 12. And then I come here, and it's an Xbox 360 ps3, it's a whole new world, you know,

Yadu Rajiv 3:28

Skipped a couple of generations there.

Abhi 3:30

Exactly, as a way, Pokemon was meant to be played on like, not a computer. So learning all that, and I, you know, I've made a bunch of games with my friends houses and things like that. I was I always wanted to do it. This is the point that I'm trying to get across. And then around grade 12, which is when you decide like, you know what you're going into sort of thing. I chose computer science, because my reasoning is that my parents are, my family is not going to buy game design as a career path. So I thought, you know, I learned the, the approved method. And I will I will get into games as a programmer. And that way you can get my foot in, and that way like you, my parents are happy too. So that's that that was my thinking in grade 12. And it's eerily that's exactly what happened. So when I graduated, my last year at university, I competed in a video game making competition. I did really well with my team in there. So I got a job at a mobile game studio. And that's where I've been since.

Yadu Rajiv 4:42

So So how did Visai happen?

Abhi 4:46

So in that specific mobile game studio, I make a an artist named Sam Elkana, he's Indonesian, Him and I have like very similar tastes and opinions about games and things like that. So we always shot around game ideas and like, you know, we should make our game together. I was making this like mythological Indian game for us. I pitched that to him. And then we made a superhero game called balloon man, and like we were making it. And then I had the idea about Venba, which is like, you know, so I remember I even texted him like one day, I was like, Hey, here's a here's a scene from the game. What do you what do you think about this game? And he, he immediately liked it. And he liked something like, that gives me a lot of confidence. So we started moving forward with that. And that's how Visai happened basically.

Shagun Shah 5:43

So tell us more about Venba? About the game? What inspired you?

Abhi 5:49

Yeah, for sure. Um, so yeah, so as I mentioned, I texted him something, it was like a scene from one level of the game, which happens towards the end. Like, for me, something was bugging me about, you know, the dynamics between parents and their immigrated children. Not especially not, not specifically, I think it's across all cultures. And that's why I think Sam, who's, you know, not from India, was still able to relate to it, because he's also, like me, a first generation immigrant. So I felt that a lot of media that existed around immigration issues, focused on people like me, or the second generation kids, you know, oh, they have it really hard because of the cultural identity crisis and things like that. And that's true to an extent. But I felt like there's not enough focus on the parents, you know, who have a really strong identity already back home, but they choose to give that up to move here. And then, because they're bringing up their kids here, there's a disconnect. And it's just an unfortunate incident, they have different values. And a lot of times I saw that people are regretting even coming here in the first place. So that was really bugging me a lot. And I wrote that into a little conversation. And I sent that to Sam and he said, that same thing is bugging him also. And I really like that. So we decided to me, you know, and I said, like, you know, what do you think about a game that explores this with food as the as the bridge, you know, as the gameplay mechanics and he really like that, so we set the [unclear] that basically how Venba started.

Shagun Shah 7:39

That's, that's an absolutely fantastic story. That's so interesting to hear, you know how, yeah, because I think there's no one's quite seen a game like Venba. And it seems very much like, almost like a cultural critique in some ways, or a bit of a cultural narrative. And so lovely to see as well. So So how long have you been working on Venba for?

Abhi 8:00

So we started, so we're still only working part time on Venba, which I think a lot of people don't know;

Shagun Shah 8:07

Oh no, wow ok.

Abhi 8:09

So we, we are both fully employed at our respective day jobs. Like the way it works here is that you know, you apply to different publishers, we get funding, and then you can just build the whole thing right, I still have to support like, my parents and stuff like that. So for me, like quitting my job and pursuing that indie dream, it's not an option. So I've been working on when, only on the, on the weekends, and weekdays after work and things like that. And so as Sam, um, but, you know, we've been making really good progress, I feel. But we started, I think we started like, pre-production, sort of early 2020, like first quarter 2020. And we, I would say, we started like, full on production, like, end of last year or beginning of this year, started.

Yadu Rajiv 9:02

How do you feel about all the feedback that you've been getting getting about?

Abhi 9:06

Yeah, I, it's completely unexpected, is what I'll say. Because when I pitched this to sam, the attitude that we both had was like, let's make this and it'll be something that we made. Whether or not people play, I honestly thought, like, you know, maybe two or three people will play it. But the reception has been, like, very complete opposite to that. I had, I had no idea that would happen. So, you know, we sort of had to like, Oh, no, this is a thing now. People are expecting things to live. So we have to like, you know, we can't just do anything, you know, we have to meet people's expectations. But I think that's part of the pressure.

Shagun Shah 9:51

So, we know it takes a ton just sitting here the various elements of your journey, probably because there's only relatable elements there. when we talk to, when you go around the Indian games industry, you sort of ask people, how they, how they got in what their journey is like. And that's part of the, our own quest to make this archive. And the common thread is often that we wanted to keep our parents happy. So we went and did a degree, which would keep them comfortable and be like, Okay, my child is not going to is going to get a good job is going to have that sense of job security. And then they sort of segue into games. That's one very interesting thing. But I mean, speaking specifically of Venba, it's the it's it's very interesting to see the the appetite that one has, or that the global appetite for games that talk about different cultural content and talk about narratives that you don't usually have a spotlight on, that don't involve fighting.

Abhi 10:50

Yeah, yeah.

Shagun Shah 10:51

You know, I'm assuming that I remember when I'm so I've been following Venba a lot. And correct me if I'm wrong, but the protagonist is essentially a middle aged mum.

Abhi 10:59

Yeah, yeah.

Shagun Shah 11:00

Who's gonna fix the rest of the books and keep her culture from home? Or memories of home alive? And I mean, there's just a wonderful thing to see. So So tell us a bit more. So you're, you've been working on work in it on across weekends? How have you guys gone about making the game? I mean, what kind of tools have you been using? For example? How have you been structuring work in time?

Abhi 11:22

For? Yeah, yeah, for sure. So we use a Unity engine, which is what we use at work also. So I've been very lucky to work with Sam because like many artists, he's, he's very multi talented. He's very technical, he can work inside unity, he can break the animation system, and he can, like he can even use version control like git like, he can use the console. So it makes my life a lot easier. Like he feels only exporting raw assets, you know, I would have to do a lot more work. But so yeah, we've been using unity, we use this thing called yarn to write the story in the dialogues, which is what night in the woods uses. And, yeah, we use, I think that in terms of how we approach the game, um, I had, I had this really specific, like, I wanted to, like I wanted to start every milestone, like Each level has one specific recipe, right? So I wanted to start every milestone before we started a milestone, I would cook the recipe for the entire team, and then they would all eat it. So they would get a strong idea, that was a great idea. And I did that one, but and then the Corona thing happened. So now I'm writing like documents like pages after pages to explain like, Oh, you know, what is in? What is Idli? Or what is Puttu? Or what is Biriyani you know? All these kind of things. But you know, that's part of the part of the picture.

Shagun Shah 12:58

Yeah, have you got your mom to approve the recipe though? of everything you do.

Abhi 13:03

So my mom and dad it's interesting, they don't approve of video games as a as a medium. So they tell me the story, about how they played Super Mario Brothers on the Terminator when it first came out, and my mom got so addicted to it that she took two sick days to beat the entire game, but on the last level. I don't know if you guys have played it but on the last level. It's like a maze, you have to go in a specific way. It's kind of a BS level. So she was never able to beat that. I don't know if its because she wasn't able to beat that. But she tells me that this medium is too addictive. And it's not good for me like it's evil, you know?

Yadu Rajiv 13:50

Come to the dark side.

Abhi 13:53

Yeah, so my mom and my dad like I think it's understandable. Right? But they never really understood this as a medium. Party. I feel like it's a mini revenge on my part that I'm making a game about Indian parents in this medium itself, but yeah, so I think I showed her the trailer once. And yes, she she really enjoyed the art. But she couldn't like my dad and my mom, they couldn't really understand. Okay, why? Why is this a game like, you know, like, it's interesting when I talk to the non game people about Venba, the way they look at games is Oh, games are good for like, learning how to drive because you drive or you know, you're like, you know what I mean? Like they haven't really seen the medium as a medium that can carry political messages given like, in no way is it you know, inferior to any other meetings that we have. And, and honestly, I feel that video games is a very global medium. I, I honestly think that, you know, if I made Venba as a film, you know, it might be less accessible to the mainstream film audience across the globe, but whenever, as a game is accessible to all the game gamers across the mainstream, and I think that's because like, you know, from the history of gaming, like, you know that Japan has been like the center of video games, and Americans have been playing Japanese games and games set with Japanese culture. So they will open to that, in a way they have not been open to foreign films. Like, you know, I think a really good, medium and sorry, I filled up but

Yadu Rajiv 15:41

No no, it's, it's perfect.

Abhi 15:43

Yeah, so I have a lot of passion about this medium. But yeah, um, I think, you know, one day, maybe they'll understand, so we'll see.

Yadu Rajiv 15:55

People's definition of what a game is, has kind of evolved over time as well. And the medium has been used by people who don't even consider themselves as game developers or designers. So it's quite interesting. It's, it's like, it's a medium it can, it can speak many things. So that's a great way of kind of seeing it. How is the game shaping up now? Like, how is it going?

Abhi 16:21

Yeah, I'm sure you're also a game developer. So I'll open up a bit about the challenges I've been facing. For me, the biggest challenge for a long time was what is going to be the core gameplay mechanics, right? Because when I started researching, okay, I'm making a cooking game, what are the cooking games that are out there, so I saw Cooking Mama, I saw eat, serve delicious, or, you know, cook, serve, delicious, I'm sorry, overcooked bunch of games like that. And for me, they all focus on, you know, the timing aspect of it. It was like cut the onion into 5 pieces within this time, flip the pan 5 times and you know, things like that. And I think, you know, that has value for sure, you know, people will love watching these cooking videos, even if they're not, you know, interacting, don't interact with them, obviously, has inherent value. But for me, I felt that the story that I'm trying to tell, doesn't fit with those mechanics. Like those mechanics are more arcade-y about the story that I'm trying to tell is more serious. So like, how do we like how do we join those? Those two things together, right? So I decided, like, okay, you know, maybe we can do, like, the recipe is broken, you know, parts of it are missing. So it's more like a puzzle game, but not like, not like a super, like, logical puzzle, but like anybody can, you know, play around with it and figure it out, put things together. And to me, like, you know, I'm really interested because I cook a lot myself. So I'm really interested when I cook. Like, why are the recipe stepped the way they are, you know, instead of just following the recipe, like, I think making the player logically arrived at those steps is really fun. But it's also extremely hard, because I haven't seen examples of games that do that. That's one thing. And the other thing is, these are Indian recipes. And they're very complicated. Every Indian, if I'm making garam masala, for example, that's 20 different steps just to make myself, you know, it doesn't make for fun gameplay, you know, so I have to figure out a way to make this fun Make this, you know, not arcade-y, at the same time, make it so that it's authentic and accurate, because people are expecting, like, you know, to learn something from this year, and, and I have to make it fun. So, that's a challenge I've been facing. And it, I was struggling with that for a long time now until I made the Idli level. Um, so yeah, I don't know if I'm spoiling it.

Yadu Rajiv 19:09

Is the idli level more of a tutorial level and way easier to get into

Abhi 19:14

Just the first level. But it was very interactive. It's like, Oh, you put the plate you rotate the plate, put the [flour] on that kind of thing. So I just had this mantra of play with your food, you know? Because the the approach I was taking was super logical. First, it was like, Oh, the second step has three blanks. So what do you put in those three blanks? You know, and that's not that doesn't make for fun. So it took a lot of trial and error, but the idli level and the puttu level that I'm just working on right now. Both of them meet for very fun. It's not challenging, but you know, it's fun to interact with it. And, yeah, it took a long time to figure that out.

Shagun Shah 20:00

So I'm just curious. So we are all, I think both Yadu and I are game developers as well. Yeah. I'm just curious. But when you started building your puzzles, do you sort of I mean, sometimes I look at puzzles, games, puzzles, games are about timing. And I do this in sequence, which is what you were talking about before. They look at things where the puzzle is more of a toy. Yeah. And does this sort of lean more towards that where just even rotating your plates and flipping your pans and things

Abhi 20:31

The common wisdom, for puzzles. It's like, yeah, you are given a set of things, and know that you need to get here. But you do not know how to get there. But these are all the things that you can do. So how do you get there is what you have to figure out? It took a long time for me to figure out how to communicate that. Any scenario, if that makes sense. So

Yadu Rajiv 20:58

How is it communicated, though? I mean, if you can get into the details of it.

Abhi 21:04

Yeah. So first, is that I have to simplify a lot of things. But I also have to make sure that, you know, they understand that this is like, it doesn't compromise on the authenticity of the recipe or whatever. So the first thing I had to do was not choose recipes that made sense in to make puzzles, not recipes that I want to see in the game, which hurt me a lot. Because I, how do I, okay, I'll talk to you about a puzzle that I think will not make it in the game. I figured out how to make porottas. In the game, and I think that was really nice. Because when you make porotta, you have to make the, you know, the button and all that. But you have to flip it in a way if you're a porotta Master, you can flip it in the way that you can those plates and you get those layers. But if you're not a porotta master, which most of us are not, a cheap trick, you can do is like you can use scissors to cut lines, into it, but not all the way. So there's that there's that accordion thing. And I've seen like, you know, a lot of people think those shortcuts. So the recipe would be about use scissors, here's your porotta. And here's the end product, and then they have to figure out okay, okay, I got to use scissors to make that accordion shape, you know what I mean? I think that's a good example. Because they're playing with the food. They're trying different things. They're applying different transformations to the, to the flour and dough, you know, But if I had another way, where like, you have to beat the porotta x time figure out what x is, then it's not. It can still be it's technically a puzzle, but it's, it's not fun, you know? Yeah. So that's the difference that I had to understand.

Yadu Rajiv 23:03

Are people reaching out with their recipes to be included in the game.

Abhi 23:09

People are asking if certain cuisines would be included. For me, yeah, because, you know, I from the outset, I said this is a, South Indian, specifically Tamil cuisine game. And part of it is because I feel that, especially in the West, when it's Indian food, it's represented mostly from North Indian.

Shagun Shah 23:36

Yeah, Punjabi food.

Abhi 23:38

Yeah, Punjabi food right, which is very different from the food that I grew up eating. Right. So part of part of that is that but the main part is that I don't know, those recipes. I don't, I don't feel I can do justice. I can. I've made like, you know, Butter chicken or Paneer, you know, all these things. But, you know, I'm just like any other guy who looks up a recipe and make like, I didn't grow up with these recipes, I don't feel like I can do them. And I'm terrified of capturing the accuracy or the authenticity you know. So when it comes to Tamil cuisine I'm much more confident, and even if I'm not confident in a certain recipe, I know people who are so I can talk to them and get their input and things like that.

Shagun Shah 24:23

Then the most important question is will there be a Venba recipe book DLC at the end of this?

Abhi 24:30

Yeah, I don't know if it'll be a DLC but I do wanna include an in game recipe book, that has like, you know, if you're making a idli then you know maybe like in the game maybe you don't get to make like chutney but maybe the recipe book will also have chutney

Shagun Shah 24:47

Oh, wow

Yadu Rajiv 24:49

I think it's like a perfect combination. Like Like how to really release an art book along with the with the game. So it could be like an art book plus a recipe book and I think it will be like,

Shagun Shah 24:59

I think that's food photography from the south. From Tamil Nadu

Abhi 25:02

Yeah.

Yadu Rajiv 25:04

So many opportunities there. So, you talked about yarn spinner. So how does that kind of fit in? How does the narrative sort of flow? And how is it structured in the game right now?

Abhi 25:17

Yeah. Um, so the narrative at that core, it's about, you know, this mom and her son and the disconnect between, right. So the reason we chose food is for two reasons. One, I realized was that in your family, you can fight with your family, it can be a bad day, it can be a sad day, but you know, the kitchen stuff is still on. Like, I feel like, there's there's incidents where people gathered the dining table, when they're, when they're where they're all super mad at each other, but, you know, you still got to eat. So I feel like food makes sense, to tell the story in each day, regardless of the conflict, because food is something that's constant, you know, like, even if somebody close to you has passed away, or your grief will not outlast your, your hunger, you know, as much as you want it to. So, that's why I thought food makes sense as a gameplay mechanic to tell the story about. And I also thought it would be nice if the food itself carries not only like literal significance of what's happening on that day, but also metaphorical significance. And, and the other thing with yarn and dialogue options and things like that, I find, like, you know, games as a medium, it's really strong here. Because for example, I'm the dad and the mom, they're called Pavalan and Venba. And you know, Pavalan's a little bit better at English members, you know, a little worse, but they're, they're no match for Kavin their son, who has no problem assimilating into the western society, right. So the, we can show that they're speaking different languages by using different fonts in yarn. And that's just a nice, easy way to show that they're speaking different language. And then when Venba is forced to speak English, or when Pavalan is forced to speak English, their text speed is a bit slower than their regular Tamil text speed to show that, you know, they're they're much more articulate in one language than they are the other. So I feel again as a medium. It's just, it's just so easy to do these things that yeah, basically, yeah. Yeah. It's really hard to convey these things in a movie, but it's pretty easy to do it in a game so. Yeah.

Shagun Shah 27:44

So so will the game actually feature? Tamil dialogues?

Abhi 27:49

Um, it will feature? Yeah, it depends. Your display language will be whatever, your localized language is like, if we support localization? So you know, if you have English and all the data could be in English, but I can't help but include a couple of Tamil words here and there.

Unknown Speaker 28:08

Certainly

Abhi 28:09

Yeah yeah, Yes.

Shagun Shah 28:10

I think that's the best thing.

Abhi 28:11

Yeah.

Shagun Shah 28:14

What is your end plan for Venba by? Like When? When will you say that Venba is feature complete and ready for, I guess, early access?

Abhi 28:23

Yeah, that's the question of the day for me, at least, I think the major challenge is that we're not working full time. If we are able to find a suitable publisher, or a funding or whatever. I think, you know, I can answer this question a lot easier. But because we're working on our own time, I want to say that the release window, it's really wide will be sometime next year, you know, because I honestly don't have enough information to, like, give you a proper. Yeah.

Shagun Shah 28:57

But that still so healthy that you started in 2020. You're still working on weekends. And I mean, I've, I've, I know how hard it is to do two jobs in the same industry across weekends. But if you're doing that, across two years, it's still targeting a release. That's actually really healthy. I mean, how do you find you find it hard to manage your time? Well, on this finances? I mean,

Abhi 29:20

yeah, I find almost all of these things hard. But I don't know. It's hard to complain, because, you know, we are in the games industry. So yeah. Like, you know, I'm doing this for a living and I'm getting a lot of good reception. So like, I honestly think like, you know, it's 1000 times easier for me as somebody from India to make a game because I'm in Canada, you know, that's incredible privilege. So, you know, the fact that, you know, I get to have a day job, and I get to make this game that itself I think it's very lucky, right?

Shagun Shah 29:59

That's wonderfully cool.

Abhi 30:02

Yeah, that that's how we go about it.

Yadu Rajiv 30:07

So, quick question again, going back to the narrative bits about it. So where exactly is kind of Venba set? In terms of time and space? Maybe?

Abhi 30:19

Yeah, so Venba comes to Canada, sometime in the 1980s, with Pavalan, and then they start a family here is how it goes. And every level it time skips a bit and shows them as they grow older. And as Kavin grows older and different challenges. It's a small, you know, short game, but the reason and they come to Toronto, Canada. And the reason I chose 1980s, is because I feel that immigration is very different now. And the immigrant challenges are very different back then, as what they're facing now. And, you know, like, it's not autobiographical, even though I really do see the similarities from the story and my story, but I feel like you know, I'm very, in touch with my roots, are I naturally think in Tamil and speak in Tamil and things like that. But Kavin, the son, for example, doesn't right! And I saw a lot of kids here, like that, especially the people who came back in the 1980s. And there's a huge push to repress what your culture is. And like assimilate, that's, that's not as much there right now, there's people are being more socially conscious. People are trying to celebrate different cultures. Like the difference is insane. Me going to school, high school year is going to be very different than somebody going to high school now, you know, so it was a lot more different in the 1980s. So that sort of justifies why Kavin wants to disassociate himself from his roots and you know, assimilate himself here, which is the reason why I chose that specific time period.

Shagun Shah 32:15

That's a very interesting thing. So, apart from the cooking, and I guess the text, adventure component, are there any other elements or features that you'll be trying to drive for in the game?

Abhi 32:29

Yeah, the one that I'm really excited about is the radio feature. So every time you cook, every level, it starts like with, like, her turning on the radio. And then like, time appropriate song is supposed to play, but I don't know, how feasible that is. I actually wanted to license Ilaiyaraaja songs from that time period.

Shagun Shah 32:53

You absolutely must.

Abhi 32:55

Yeah, yeah. But they're way out of budget

Yadu Rajiv 33:00

Did you reach out to them?

Abhi 33:01

Yeah, I didn't reach out to him directly, obviously. But I really started making [connection] through a friend's friend, right, you know, and the expense was pretty strong enough for me to figure out, Okay, I probably can't do that. But, you know, I, I know, a couple of music people here. And I'm also talking to a couple of artists back home, even in Chennai, and I'm really excited about, you know, featuring songs that are homages to songs that we used to listen and go off. Because, for me, all I want to do is, this is a small game, and there's small interactions, but I want to cram like, as much as I can, you know, into every frame as well. So people come up with an understanding about, like, if you step into like a kitchen at our home, how does that feel? And I think music plays a big, big part.

Shagun Shah 34:03

I think that last thing you said, sort of encapsulates a lot, right? I mean, so is, can you What do you want to? Or is what you said also, what you want to achieve with the game, the end result of Venba is, I mean, how do you see that sort of coming together?

Abhi 34:22

Um, yeah, I think that, you know, I am in a position somehow I realized that a lot of people, the reception to this game is unexpected. So as a result, I am now in a position where I'm somehow representing Tamil cuisine and I think that's the responsibility that I cannot possibly do justice to. You know, this is a short, I guarantee like I, regardless of people who like this game or not, I guarantee that any Tamil person who makes this game or even any South Indian who plays this game, they will ask me Hey, how come this recipe or is not in

Shagun Shah 35:02

Oh my

Abhi 35:04

They will not be satisfied. And they shouldn't be because, you know, there's only so many levels, and there's only so many recipes I can show, regardless of what I pick, I can justify how diverse. Yeah, you know? Yeah. So do so my, to me, a lot of people say, oh, Venba is great, because it's representation. And I think that's very scary. And I actually don't want people to think that Venba is representative. Because I can't represent an entire culture. That's, I think that's insane here. I want to be one small piece of the many pieces that will eventually represent our different cultures. Right? So I don't I don't, that's not my goal. When I when I, when I told this, when I talked about this game to my friend, she said, this is a really nice idea. I think when people play it, they will want to call their mom. For me, they, if people play the game. And, you know, you know, a couple people call their mom, I think that's my goal, I think. Yeah. I think that's a much more achievable goal than this.

Shagun Shah 36:27

Oh, that's, that's lovely.

Yadu Rajiv 36:31

How did the name come about? When? And is there a story there? Maybe?

Abhi 36:39

Yeah, I think I'm really happy with the name. So Venba is a type of poem in Tamil, right? It's couplets, the very famous Thirukkural is called a Kural-Venba. So, you know, it's the closest I can think of is haikus, they have similar flow and things like that. So whenever I sort of, just like whenever is a short poem, I feel like this game is a short poem about this, this family, because each line is a level and, you know, skips and tells the whole story. So I really like the name, but it's also like an agenda. I really like that people are saying the word Venba which is a Tamil word that people have never been exposed to. So that's just my own little selfish happiness. But yeah, I'm really happy about that.

Yadu Rajiv 37:34

The the music in the trailer was really amazing. Yeah. Do we do we expect maybe some level of poetry in the game as well?

Abhi 37:44

Yeah. So Pavalan, the dad, he's a writer. And yeah, I don't want to promise anything that might have this. Yeah. Yeah, no, no, it's fine. But, um, you know, as backstory, he's a writer back home, who is respected. He's somebody, you know, back home. And but when it comes here, he's just like everybody else. Whatever his talents are, they don't stand out here. So he always has that, that anger. Like, you know, I am more than what you think I am. This, like, is quite anger that he carries with him. Um, so he his only outlet his poetry, right, like he writes. And, like, the name Pavalan itself means like, poet, or writer, and Venba the mom's name is a poem, so I thought that was really nice and tied the family together.

Shagun Shah 38:46

It sounds Abhi like you've put a lot of thought into this game, and that it's be- I should say, it's actually more than a lot of thought its become a very thoughtful game, which is just, you know, kudos to you. Um, so. So once you're done with Venba, what are your what kind of other games would you would you like to make at least next?

Abhi 39:09

Um, yeah, I have a, I have a ton of ideas. I only have ideas.

Shagun Shah 39:17

Because you are a game designer.

Abhi 39:19

For me. When I open unity, there's a untitled Project 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then there's Venba. In a way the expectation is making forcing me to finish with the end. You know what I mean? Because the first we have is that we start a project but we don't finish it but finishing it is where it lies, which I'm learning now. Yeah, I have a ton of ideas. I I want to make a I think the first thing I want to do is after each member is take a long vacation where I don't work on my day, job or or Venba or anything. You know because it's really been affecting my physical or mental health, you know. But I know that I'm saying this to you, but I probably won't like once I release Venba. So yeah, I have, I have this image in my head about this alternate universe, seven terminal, of course, where there's like an alien attack in this rural village, and they're able to salvage parts to build a jet plane. But they're like all wearing, like lungis and shirts and stuff like that. But they're still flying the plane and like taking down the aliens. That's the very crazy campy like, really fun idea that I have. That's what I want to do. Next, I'm thinking about one thing that I thought about is that when was very grounded, right, it's, it's a real story about a real family that said in the real world. So as a result, it's also very limiting. Because I can stylize it the way I want to say, because the story I'm saying it doesn't, you know, like even Sam's art, it's very stylistic. But it doesn't, it was a lot of work to make that fit this grounded story that we kind of do. So for the next game, whatever game I make it, I just want it to be like, you know, not set in reality at all. It's just like, crazy, fun. I can do anything.

Yadu Rajiv

So a quick question again, going back. Are you doing all the writing and character design? And how does it work in Are you kind of doubling with Sam.

Abhi

Um, so Sam is in charge of all the art which is, which is a humongous task by itself. Um, we're, if we get funded, if you get some grants, we have a couple artists, couple of a producer helping us out in things like that, for the writing. I have the basic story line, but it feels very communal to me, because I talked to a lot. There's a couple people I refer to for writing the consultants kind of thing, where they helped me out with things. Um, but yeah, mostly I'm writing the, like, the character, the motivation into the writing the design. All of that is done by me, which I guess I really shouldn't be. I really like people, more people should be involved. But that's the nature of indie development.

Yadu Rajiv

So you can effectively looking at funding and publishing.

Abhi

Yeah, yeah. We've been applying to a couple publishers. We've been also looking at like, you know, different grants and stuff like that. Regardless, the game can come out some way. If you have a bit more money, you can do a bit more nice things. Bit more music, things like that. Yeah.

Shagun Shah

Got Ilaiyaraaja, get that one song by him.

Abhi

No, that'll be so great. Yeah.

Shagun Shah

Cool. Amazing.

Yadu Rajiv

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Hopefully, it will be somewhat useful to you as well. And to a lot of other people who's kind of listening in.

Abhi

Yeah, yeah. The the gamedev discord, the gamedev India discord, it brings a lot of pleasure, and joy to my heart to see that it was so active. No, I'm being very honest. You know, because I'm super passionate about these things. And like, you know, if Venba does well, in some capacity, you know, whatever game I mean, let's see, I want to involve more people from back home. Or, you know, there's a, there's a lot of creativity with people back home. And, you know, I think it's a matter of time before people get a lot more creative, a lot more independent stories. Yeah, I would love to I really awesome to see you guys to help facilitate that. And they, I would love to play a part, if I can. So it's very inspiring.

Shagun Shah

Personally, I think we, Yadu and I have both been very, very excited about the release of Venba, since we heard about it. Yeah.

Yadu Rajiv

I bumped into it on on Twitter. And I was like, I must see this! who is making this game?

Shagun Shah

Whenever I see Venba tweets, I'm like, I just need to retweet these. I just excited for them. It's, you know, it's it's interesting that as an Indian, as Indian culture as an as a cultural export is still limited in so many ways. Most recently, the big. The big push we're seeing about indie games come into the country as still about fighting are still mythological and fantasy. And while that cool, it comes with its own set of problems. Yeah. And then to actually have games that are more artistic in nature with with strong game feel with strong stories, that actually talk about the subcontinent in its big milieu of cultures is such a different experience. And yeah, I sincerely hope that Venba is the game that opens a lot of doors for other people to also see that these games are valid. Yeah. And that they can make them that's all, you know, not seeing a presentation. But

Abhi

yeah, yeah, I I honestly think that, you know, again, like when I think anybody can make, you know, India, it's a very simple game to make. But I think what's missing is that, you know, here, games isn't taken as seriously by my parents, but I gotta go out I can meet people who are equally interested in this as I am. But I think that missing still in India, right, you know, yeah, it's a growing community. I think that's all that's what I mean by I'm very lucky and privileged. Yeah. I but I think it's a matter of time that we have great things ahead of us, I'm looking forward to all of it.

Brilliant.

Yadu Rajiv

That is the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in, and we hope to catch you next time. If you want to talk about this episode or anything else, please drop by to the gamedev.in discord.