In Conversation with Shailesh Prabhu

Reminiscing the early days of the indie scene in India

  
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Thank you all for tuning into our 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!

In this episode Yadu and Arjun talk to Shailesh Prabhu, founder of Yellow Monkey Studio, about his roots in the Indian games industry, the early days of the indie scene in India and much more.

People in the podcast

Shailesh Prabhu - https://twitter.com/shaileshprabhu

Arjun Nair - https://twitter.com/NairArjun

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

Notes from the podcast

Yellow Monkey Studios - http://www.yellowmonkeystudios.com/

Ragnarok online - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnarok_Online

Dhruva interactive - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhruva_Interactive

Nazara Technologies - https://corp.nazara.com/

Avin Sharma - https://www.linkedin.com/in/avinsharma

Day of the Tentacle - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Tentacle

Mortley - A Stitch in Time - Video

Finger Footie - http://www.yellowmonkeystudios.com/games/finger-footie/

It's Just a Thought - http://www.yellowmonkeystudios.com/games/its-just-a-thought/

Huebrix - http://www.yellowmonkeystudios.com/games/huebrix/

Krishna Israney - https://people.gamedev.in/krishnaisraney

Huebrix on Kongregate - https://www.kongregate.com/games/ymstudios/huebrix

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

ID Software - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id_Software

Does Not Commute - https://www.mediocre.se/commute/

Socioball - http://www.socioballthegame.com/

Bluk - http://www.yellowmonkeystudios.com/games/bluk/

Apoorva Joshi - https://apoorvaj.io/

Deepak Menon Madathil - https://www.linkedin.com/in/deepak-menon-m

Creative Europe - https://ec.europa.eu/culture/creative-europe

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

Fallout 3 release cancelled in India – Article

Saint Young Men - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Young_Men

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

Shark Mob - https://www.sharkmob.com/

Resident Evil Village - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resident_Evil_Village

WarioWare - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WarioWare:_Get_It_Together!

Elden Ring - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elden_Ring

Demon Souls - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon%27s_Souls_(2020_video_game)

Full Transcript

Yadu Rajiv 0:06

Hello, and welcome to the GameDev.in podcast. In this episode Arjun and Yadu catch up with Shailesh Prabhu to talk about his history with the Indian games industry, the early indie scene in India and much more.

Alright, today we have Shailesh Prabhu with us, who is the founder of Yellow Monkey Studios, and maker of many, many awesome games, and also communities as well. And many other things as well, which he will tell us what he has been doing for his entire life now. Over to you, Shailesh.

Shailesh Prabhu 0:45

Hi. I'm Shailesh. I. I've been working in games for I don't know, since 2004, or five, I think. Yeah, for almost nine years, nine months. I was at Yellow Monkey, which I founded and ran for that long. Yeah. I've worked at a bunch of studios in India. And before that, and after Yellow Monkey, I worked at a bunch of studios in Copenhagen, and then distributed work studio. And then now in Malmo, in Sweden. Yeah, I've worked on different scale of games from casual to hyper casual to AAA too. And we had a small community, which we're we're also running back back when I was in India, which, which Yadu was also I think, part of local indie game devs long ago. And I've helped, like, with some other community initiatives that were active in India when I was there. So yeah, that's, I guess me.

Yadu Rajiv 2:13

That is the briefest brief intro that we've had, I guess.

Arjun Nair 2:18

A good intro. shailesh. But when you start before you started Yellow Monkey Studios, did you just start on a whim? Or did you have some professional experience? or What was your gateway into starting your own studio?

Shailesh Prabhu 2:33

Yeah. So I mean, I was always interested in making games for for a while before that. And I didn't really know much of what for many studios there were and what kind of job opportunities there were for making games in India. So I always kind of had this in mind that, you know, maybe if we have to make games, it's gonna be like, we'll have to do our own thing. But yeah, I did. Right out of engineering college, I got a job in a games publisher that was publishing. It was called Ragnarok online. It was a Korean MMO RPG being published.

Yadu Rajiv 3:17

I remember getting a CD with a Skoar or Chip or something.

Shailesh Prabhu 3:23

Yeah. And yeah, I was working there for a few months. And it was basically like, yeah, Philippines based publisher was publishing the game here in India, actually, not here. But, and then soon after that I was working, I found myself working for Dhruva Interactive in their mobile games team. And then soon after. *cough* Sorry, yeah, so I worked after that for a bit that Dhruva Interactive and then I had to move back to Mumbai, because Dhruva was based in Bangalore, and I had to move back to Bombay. And then I took up a job at Nazara at the time. And when I was at Nazara, I was like, already doing a lot of things in the value chain of game development. And also, we had helped them, me and a bunch of friends, helped them create the team there at the time. So I found myself thinking that, well, here, we helped them set up the team and we were also doing a lot of stuff right from development to conceptualizing, to marketing, and of course, design and production. So I just felt like since we were doing pretty much everything it was, it wouldn't be the most outrageous thing to do it ourselves. And then me and one of my university friends Avin, we decided to, you know, quit and start off working on something a bit more creative than what was really happening in India at the time and so we started Yellow Monkey. And we worked on our first game, which was a point and click adventure for for the Nintendo DS. That was how we started.

Yadu Rajiv 5:33

Were you always doing design at Dhruva and Nazara, were you focused on? Okay.

Shailesh Prabhu 5:43

At Dhruva it was mostly again, design at Nazara it was doing design as well as production. And also like marketing and stuff like talking to publishers and talking to the ISP, not ISP. mobile network store owners, this was back in the day of pre iOS App Store days. So pre smartphone game,

Arjun Nair 6:11

The primitive days.

Shailesh Prabhu 6:12

Yes.

Arjun Nair 6:14

Then we were still hiding in caves

Shailesh Prabhu 6:16

Yup.

Yadu Rajiv 6:18

So when you started Yellow Monkey was, was it just about kind of the iOS boom starting up? Was was it? Was it around that time?

Shailesh Prabhu 6:29

No, it was a couple of years before that. I think we started in 2005. And at that time, we were working towards like we wanted to do more, something more interesting than what was happening in India, because in India at the time, it was all mostly all Bollywood, cricket, and astrology kind of stuff.

Arjun Nair 6:56

What's wrong with astrology?

Shailesh Prabhu 6:59

Well, I mean ...

Yadu Rajiv 7:01

It's all in the sky.

Shailesh Prabhu 7:03

Nothing is wrong if you if that's what you want to do. But you know, you can make money in a lot of ways. It's just that we didn't want to do that. So you're thinking of doing something more, like more video games.

Yadu Rajiv 7:16

So you're saying you didn't want to make money Shailesh?

Shailesh Prabhu 7:18

Yeah, isn't that evident?

Arjun Nair 7:23

Long winded way of saying that. Yeah.

Shailesh Prabhu 7:25

Yeah. So we decided to work on we wanted to do like some console PC style games. And we realized that, since we already had a background in mobile, maybe the next best step would be to start off with handheld console. And both me and Avin, really loved our Nintendo DS at the time. So we were we started on working on a DS, adventure game. We got a publisher interested, we got lots of very amazing mentors at the time, and it was good. But then the publisher went bankrupt in 2000, in 2008, along with all the fallout of the crisis, the financial crisis, and then we were like, okay, in 2007, the iOS store sort of like started. So we were like, okay, it's, we need to be able to be in a position where we can make smaller stuff, if we want to survive, we need to be able to make smaller stuff and publish it ourselves. So we're not depending on publishers as such. So that's when we decided and the platform that we could do it on at the time was iOS. So that's when we switched to iOS.

Arjun Nair 8:38

And during this time, did you set up an office or were you working out of your garage?

Shailesh Prabhu 8:45

Yes, so we started off, working out of my bedroom slash office, it was large enough to host two tables and me and Avin to work from there every day. Eventually, as we grew, there was like another room in my, in my apartment, which was like, well in my mother's apartment, which was large enough to have like, five-ish tables and a little bit extra space. So it was in the it was on the ground floor, yeah, we operated the studio from there.

Arjun Nair 9:36

Awesome. So when you started off, what games were you planning to you know, start off with? What was your initial ideas?

Shailesh Prabhu 9:47

Yeah, so the first one was like, as I said, an adventure game kind of humorous little bit on the on the lines of like, Day of the Tentacle and those kind of games. Yeah, something like that. It was called Mortley. Yeah, it was called Mortley - A Stitch in Time was about this weird character that was made up with stitched up body parts, and you could swap them with other things to gain abilities and solve puzzles. Once that once we couldn't finish that, that was pretty evident. We started working on iOS. And then we started looking at what were the strengths of the platform. And so we looked at doing like, a touch screen football game, which was the first one we released on our on our own, we were doing some project work at the time to also gain some finances and you know, do some get some experience. But the first one we released was Finger Footie. And that was more like a touch screen top down soccer game, which we felt, which looks really bad now. So it hasn't aged well. But the idea there was just like exploring what kind of controls would work well on a touchscreen game for for a soccer game, because at the time everyone was putting, you know, those on screen keypads, which are game pads, which I wasn't a big fan of still still not a big fan of. So yeah, that was the first one. And then we wanted to ...

Arjun Nair 11:25

Typically how would you pick a process like, did you analyze the market or did you just approach an idea and say, Oh, this works well for this kind of mobile device or hand console? And then work on that idea? Or was it more like a market oriented ideation process?

Shailesh Prabhu 11:44

Yeah, it was never really market oriented. For us. It was like looking at strengths and weaknesses, like, what was our strength? And what were the strengths of the concept or the platform we were working on. So with Finger Footie the it was, and also It's Just a Thought it was more about just exploring different kinds of like, doing something a bit more experimental and looking at control schemes and like, figuring out which what fits best for the game. By the time we did Huebrix it was more about like, okay, we know what our strengths are, and what kind of game can we make for this platform using those strengths? Like, we never had a proper Character Animator slash artist of that time on our team? So we were like, Okay, how can we? How can we make a game with what we have, that can actually be, you know, something, to look up to look at something that might have a decent chance of success. So, like, after Finger Footie, and It's Just a Thought our focus was more about like, okay, we know what the what we can do on the platform. And then we were like, Okay, what can we do in terms of like, production realities? And shape the idea around that.

Yadu Rajiv 13:12

How kind of much of success were these games at that point? And how do you in a way, like, this was, it this was when free to play was, I guess, to like not in the picture as much, and everything was pretty much premium. And at that point, you were also kind of experimenting with your own kind of an artistic process. So how did that all kind of blend in at that point?

Shailesh Prabhu 13:46

I would say like, by the time, It's Just a Thought was out, I think free to play was already kind of the thing was like, but we still I think it was 2011 when it came out. So there was some free to play out there by then. I would say, with our first two games, we weren't super successful, but we managed with Finger Footie. We actually managed to, like make up like, get a response from some people at at Apple and get some feedback from them and like, okay, you know, this yeah. And that that was further. Actually no, it was more around… It's Just a Thought. When we when we released It's Just a Thought. We actually won an award in Spain for the best original idea. And then we got featured by an article on Touch Arcade I think which was talking about. I don't remember which publication it was, but it was talking about five great games that were that were kind of crushed by being hard holiday releases. We were stupid, we released release around the holiday season that time. But, so that, and then when like when we wrote to like, Apple and stuff, we also got some feedback, which was really good. We were featured in a bunch of countries. For that game, not any major market, but it was like the first time we got featured at the time that for that game, we also got featured in India. And the weeks we were featured, we were the top paid games in India at the time. And it's a funny story, because those weeks we sold like five copies per week. So this was this was still early, I think 2000 2011 2012. So yeah, but still, I was. It's a funny little anecdote I like to use

Arjun Nair 16:13

Did you reach out to these publications, or did they reach out to you? And I mean, how do you get eyeballs? And those kind of press internationally?

Shailesh Prabhu 16:23

Yeah, I think part of my thing was always to make sure, like, we were reaching out to all the people. For the first two games, I don't like we didn't really receive so much attention till we got, like, that article that we got featured in and that was, I don't know, if it was because we reached out or they liked the game or something. So it's hard to say. But we were we just found out that we were on that list. And and you know, and subsequently, like we made more of an effort to like, make sure, okay, the these publications kind of covered us. So we should write to them. And yeah, and those kind of deep, not deep, but you know, those kind of like just being aware of where we can get some attention to our products and to the games, things like that...

Arjun Nair 17:23

The reason I asked was or currently, I think many people use the social media to basically proactively advertise the games. But that still doesn't ensure you know, any mass media kind of coverage. So yeah, I was curious, does it makes sense to actually leverage social media now now in this current situation more than, you know, to your traditional media? coverage kind of thing? I think, yeah.

Shailesh Prabhu 17:55

I mean, I think there's, I think with this kind of stuff, there is no real one answer, you have to do everything. Or, I would say you have to do as much as you can do. Obviously, everyone and every team has their limits. So I would say, do whatever you can, in your limits. If it's only social media, then sure. If it's social media, and traditional, like campaigns do do that, if you can also do like paid campaigns, do that, like do whatever you can to ensure the game reaches an audience because you have no control over what's going to work. And sometimes random things can work and just set off a chain of events.

Arjun Nair 18:45

Yeah. So then you did Huebrix right? After It's Just a Thought, or did it come, came after that, right? That was a nice little puzzle game, which was a bit different from what you had done previously.

Shailesh Prabhu 19:05

Yeah, so when we, after It's Just a Thought we were like, okay, you know, what was interesting with that game was like, the concept and the idea and like, the music and little bit of that kind of stuff, but not really like, wasn't really super strong on gameplay. And then we were like, okay, but also, to be fair, it was like a very short production time. So this time, we got a little bit of money from the award that we won, and we also got some money from our project work. So we were in a position where we could say, Okay, now we want to do something where we can actually devote it some time. So let's, let's make a game that we really want to. So then, as I said, before, we went back to the to assess our strengths and we were like, okay, we can make something that doesn't really rely so much on character art and then the most prominent genre that came to mind was puzzles. And so then we started reading a lot of like existing puzzle games, and I was of the opinion that we should be able to make a puzzle game that we can prototype on paper. So we can just like, quickly, you know, come up with the ideas and like scrap them or iterate on them. And then then we actually did actually manage to come up with Huebrix on paper. And then we were like, okay, we can make a small flash prototype. And Krishna was working on that at the time. And then we tested that with like, around 100 people, and we saw that testing really well. And then we started like, okay, growing the game from there.

Yadu Rajiv 20:52

I remember the flash prototype ending up in Kongregate as well, I think, and the website. And then you had like, after you finish the levels, you could just go and buy the game. Yeah, that seems to have been useful at that point, I guess. Like a small demo, right?

Shailesh Prabhu 21:09

Yeah, I think we tried it like to, to direct traffic from HTML, flash websites to iOS, but I think the switch of platform was very difficult. Like, we almost got very, very little conversion on those flash redirects to App Store. But it was, as I said, it was like one of our ways of doing whatever we can to get the attention to our paid product, which was the iOS one. So yeah, it was it was fine. I think a lot of people played the game on on Kongregate and some of these other flash websites. So it was good.

Yadu Rajiv 21:54

The Huebrix do better than the other games, as expected and, and by that time, I guess free to play was kind of getting predominantly, I guess, bigger and bigger as a as a way of releasing games out. So in hindsight, like, what do you you have any thoughts about releasing it as a premium product versus releasing it as a free to play maybe?

Shailesh Prabhu 22:27

Yeah, so Huebrix did substantially better for us. Again, we reached out to all our, all the people who had like, shown any interest or like any sort of like, positive feedback, or not positive feedback, any feedback, like anyone who we had gotten responses from, we reached out back, like, hey, here's our next game. And, you know, tell us, please tell us what you think and, and just initiating conversation, and we got good response. And eventually, we also were, like, active on some forums and stuff. And we got really good features for Huebrix we got and that time, it was like new and noteworthy features on on iOS in the US store, which was really big and also, on the Google Play Store, we got featured on the first page. We didn't get banner features in any of those, but it was still pretty, pretty important, because like being on the front page of the stores, is especially like the best way to get downloads, especially for a paid game. So yeah, since we got some of that, in major markets, like US and Europe, we, it did much, much better. It's probably the most successful game, we are close enough to the games that we did after that as well. So yeah, one of the most successful games we worked on. And the second part of that question was, yeah, by then definitely free to play was the de facto for mobile. Like all the games are free to play at that time. Except, like most of the indie titles, they were still doing premium stuff. So we were trying to just like, we were hoping that we would also be exist in that niche. It worked somewhat okay for us, I guess, I think with regards to if we would want to have published it, free to play. It's hard to say because I think you need to design a game ground up from free to play for it to work as free to play. You can't just make a game and then just be free to play on top of it. It's very hard. It's very unlikely because like free to play. Of course, you can do like a here's like the light version, or like, you know, here's like 20 levels. And then if you want to play the full game, you unlock it by doing one purchase. And there are some studios that have had amazing success doing that model, or like selling something simple, like the ability to save your progress, or, you know, just one purchase that's meaningful. And, and that kind of free to play, I guess can be added on a bunch of games ...

Arjun Nair 25:31

That's more like the shareware model, right, like, that's what ID [software] did they distributed the first level and then to purchase the whole game.

Shailesh Prabhu 25:39

Yeah, you can, you can, yeah, you could say that shareware or like, sometimes it's also some functionality. I think some games did that. Like you could play the whole game. But you can only say, if you if you buy if you buy our premium premium unlock feature,

Yadu Rajiv 25:56

I think Does Not Commute did that with? Yeah, yeah, it was just interesting.

Shailesh Prabhu 26:01

And that was really successful for them. Like they did really well with that. And I think all of their games had like this kind of thing where they had one purchase, but you could play all of their games pretty much even without that purchase. So that was, so yeah, shareware. But then also like some other interesting models, but like something like that could have probably worked. But I think other than that, largely Free to Play is designed to identify people who want to spend or who can spend in your game, and then allow them to spend as much as they can. And if you don't design for that behavior, you can't, it's very difficult to just like, take a premium game and say, okay, now it's going to be free to play. Right? Without a lot of work. So, no, I don't think I would have wanted to release it purely as free to play.

Yadu Rajiv 27:00

Post Huebrix we interestingly see a lot of collaborations with different folks, do you wanna jump in and talk about them? Maybe? Including Socioball? Bluk?

Shailesh Prabhu 27:14

Yeah. Yeah, it was really fun. Actually, I must first met Apoorva, actually, I first met Apoorva's dad at at a conference, he was showing Apoorva's first prototype for Socioball and I found that very endearing and it was nice. And then I waited around to talk Apoorva and I was talking to him, and he was he's really smart. Really, really smart. Probably one of the smartest people I know. At the time, I guess I shouldn't say that, because I'm old. But yeah, and he had a lot of energy. And he really wanted to, like, you know, look at how the game could could be made commercial, or like, how could the game actually be sold and who he should be talking to, and those kind of discussions and I was like, you know, you can definitely make it commercial, but you're going to have to polish the game a lot. Because at the time, like the model for I mean, polish is such a weird word, but it's just like, you know, make the UX really good and like, have very little friction in in the UX. And like, there were some features in that game, which are quite technical, which users or gamers are probably not really going to care about, and how to make them a little bit more lean. And so then we worked a lot on that we actually started the they developed the game round up. It was even a new engine. So everything was from scratch. So yeah, it was a lot of fun. And I forgot what I was talking about. But yeah, so so then we decided to after like, having a bunch of these chats about how we could work together and how we could help with Socioball and what my vision for it was and what his vision for it was, and it kind of matched so we we decided to work together on that. And that was that was super fun. Similar thing happened with Bluk, I think. I think we are I also met him at a conference and then Deepak and we just really hit it off and I was seeing all the prototypes he was working on and he was seeing stuff I was working on and then I was just like giving him lots of feedback on like, hey, you know you could try this with Bluk can try that Bluk and like, it got to a point where we he was like sending almost like weekly builds and like we were doing reviews and at some point we were like I think we should just like work on this together. Cuz. Yeah, and then that's how it went. It was both experiences were really good. And I would love to work with either of them again, someday, I guess. Yeah.

Arjun Nair 30:13

So then what happened with the Yellow Monkey Studios, right for all these games that you did? And it looks like you were experimenting and finding new stuff to do. Yeah, but then you took a different turn from there. So what happened there?

Shailesh Prabhu 30:31

Yeah, so after after Bluk came out, I think me and like around, even during Bluk was being made, I think around me and Manu, my programmer at Yellow Monkey he, we were working on Skysutra, which is like this weird platform game versus two player, local multiplayer platform game, where you create the platform for your opponent as you play was an interesting little experiment. Experimental game, we showed it around with some showcases and conferences, got people who played it, and enjoyed it. I think at least, it seemed the same fun. But production realities were difficult. The team was constantly churning. And also, at the time, I was quite disillusioned with the game dev scene in India, I was quite involved in some community activities. And I really felt that people involved were letting the community down in a big way. I ...

Arjun Nair 31:52

Yadu, what is this Yadu?

Shailesh Prabhu 31:55

It was not Yadu I can say that. But, but and also at the same time, I just felt like a little bit of a creative void in India, like, I think was not so much interesting what was happening. There was a lot of like, I don't know, Ludo, card games, those kind of stuff. Like maybe 10 people's working the entire country who was like, interesting.

Arjun Nair 32:24

Yeah, some point we were doing the same kind of games over and over again, with the same Teen Patti, Ludo or something else.

Shailesh Prabhu 32:32

Yeah, aren't we still? But yeah, so and then I just felt like, you know, during my years before this, like for like promoting the game, I was traveling a lot to different countries. And I really enjoyed the Nordic game conferences, which happened in Malmo. And I made a lot of friends here. And I just like, it just felt like home to me. Like it was so warm and welcoming, like, not the not the weather, but the people had, like so many meaningful discussions. And like, so many amazing games that I really liked, were being made in this tiny part of the world by Copenhagen and Malmo. So at some point, we were like, we were also prototyping another game, which was like a music based brawler, rhythm based brawler. And a friend's studio in Copenhagen was working on our rhythm based jazz narrative game, called The Gentlemen. And they just asked if, if I would like to come over. And like, we were exchanging a lot of tips and like, what we wanted to do and things like that, and how the gameplay would work and, and they just felt that I would be a good fit. So they offered me if I would like to come over and take on the project. And I had, I had a chat with Manu as well, and seemed like he also felt like it was a good time to like, look at other things. So then we, so then, yeah, I moved to Copenhagen. And worked at that studio for for a while. Unfortunately, that game did not come out because that studio went bankrupt, as they had some huge unpaid bills from one of their major clients. So even though this game had the money to to be developed, because we got a grant from Creative Europe, we the company itself had to go bankrupt. So we couldn't really use that money. It was very sad. So yeah, yeah. So really fun game and then a really amazing team at Cape Copenhagen. I loved my time there. So then that happened. And and then once you have a full time job, I think it's it's harder to give attention to side projects. So side projects have been slower. And but still there, I guess. Yeah.

Yadu Rajiv 35:17

So how are you kind of keeping yourself busy on the side? What are what is brewing? Maybe?

Shailesh Prabhu 35:23

Yeah. So after, when I was in Copenhagen, and Deepak and me worked on another prototype for a game called Warigami, which was about folding things folding space and time. Basically, it was like a puzzle game masquerading as an action game, sort of. But it was, yeah, about folding space time. And we got like a Danish Film Institute grant for the prototyping. And we worked on that. And that was a lot of fun, I still believe in the idea, and then maybe I'll work on it a bit more if Deepak has time. And then that that's pretty much been the last side project that I took to any major playable state. After that, around that time, the Danish company I work for went bankrupt. So I had to move Sweden. I moved to Sweden to Malmo and took took up another job, and, and then another one, and which is where I am now. So yeah, and now, most side projects haven't really reached that far. But I'm thinking of doing something narrative and music based again, but in a very different way to the two ideas I worked on before. So we will see if any of you guys are free and want to you know, prototype.

Yadu Rajiv 37:01

Yes, are you kinda going back to your roots, maybe back to Mortley and you know...?

Shailesh Prabhu 37:11

No no not really, I mean, not those particular ideas, because like, but I do enjoy single player narrative experiences, or like, puzzle experiences as well or so probably somewhere around or like some kind of action as well as fine. So it's somewhere in those years I enjoy, like, I don't really. Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't say never. But I think like my mind usually goes to these kind of games, I guess.

Arjun Nair 37:48

You get time to participate in game jams, or things like that?

Shailesh Prabhu 37:54

It's hard. I think with a full time job being also a bit older. I don't want to be up for 48 hours. Yeah. I don't want to be up for 48 hours and make a game I'd rather just do it. You know, during my work time when I'm feeling productive, like, rather than like,

Yadu Rajiv 38:14

Hey, I think we discovered a new niche where, you know, for old timers.

Shailesh Prabhu 38:21

8 hour work jam, 8 hour game jams, say like, for over a week. Yeah, exactly. A work week. Yeah. So not not so much. I mean, I sometimes take part in or sometimes I just like, do a little bit of like hanging out at some of these jam when used to just like, oh, look at the energy or like, check out the games that's happening, but not that much jamming. No.

Arjun Nair 38:52

But do you feel more creatively fulfilled? Like, I mean, that's one of the reasons you left India though, right?

Shailesh Prabhu 38:58

That is part of the reason. And I think, like, I do, yes or no, I think I can still like I feel closer to be able to do the things that would be interesting, or at least, you know, I talk a lot with like people and like, who are doing stuff that interests me. And then there's like, it's always inspiring because you see, others work and you see, okay, that's an interesting approach or things like that. So yes, I do feel more fulfilled, but also no, because I don't have a strong project that I in a good enough state right now. But that might change. So we will see what happens...

Arjun Nair 39:47

Intriguing!

Yadu Rajiv 39:49

On a slightly like different note from but from something that you just mentioned, is that those people that you have around you and the community that you have there , how sort of different is it from here? Is that a is a? Is that a lack of? Like, similar minded people? Or is it because there's a cultural difference in how people approach these things? So I'm just trying to ask, mostly because I'm also kind of trying to see, we see that the out of like, I don't know, like 1500 people on our discord 30 people talk every week. So like, so it's, it's a sort of weird cultural thing? I don't know.

Shailesh Prabhu 40:36

I think it's, it's hard to say exactly. It's also difficult because I'm entering here, when the industry is already in mature state, whereas back home, it's, it's still, it's still maturing, and it's gonna mature for a while, I think. What is different here is that, like, there are people who have made games that have been more critically and commercially acclaimed or successful, or one of the two, and then then there's like, interesting perspectives and a lot of them. So you know, you can, you can take what you like, from all of these different perspectives. And that's, that's kind of nice. That's, that said, like, from a community point of view, I think. The big difference is that the if I think, like, if I talk about, like, Malmo or Copenhagen as a community, they are like, one city, and there's like, all the community concentrated there. But when you talk about in India, like, usually the communities have been pan India. And that's, that's very different. Because we can't have easily like, hey, let's all go to, you know, let's have a play test evening at the coffee shop, or at a bar, and like, you know, 10 people show up to their games. That's very difficult. We did one such event just before I left in Mumbai. And actually, we did have 10 people with their games. And that was really fun. But I really think that community efforts need to be ground up and not top down. It can't be an India wide thing. It needs to be city based things. And you know, okay, there's 50 game developers in India, in Mumbai, and then okay, you know, 10 of them will show up for meetups every, every month or something like that. And that will scale upwards more, and you'll have more meaningful conversations coming out of that. No disrespect to what you guys are doing. But this is my yeah.

Yadu Rajiv 43:03

No, no. No, but what's interesting is that I think a lot of us are generally doing ground up things anyway. I mean, if there are people in Calcutta or in Delhi and Pune and Bangalore, there's a bunch of us here, even even places in Kerala and all that. So like, all those, it's just like, the discord or whatever the community and all that is primarily just one more meeting point for all of the people to kind of get together, like you were saying, the meetup in Mumbai, like we do demo days where we have like, a huge amount of people come up come with, like, lots of games, where feedback is kind of given and all that. So. So. So yeah, so like I that is that is. So that is, I guess, 1 more thing to kind of keep in mind when you're doing more things.

Shailesh Prabhu 44:01

Yeah, maybe like ground up.

Arjun Nair 44:04

Sorry. Sorry. Go on Shailesh.

Shailesh Prabhu 44:06

No, yeah, I think like, those kind of ground up events are super important. But then again, another difference I would say is that Malmo or Copenhagen or a lot of these cities are so small themselves, like when you have I know it sounds very crazy, but it's super, like it's super accessible to be in either of the cities and go to any of their events like in Mumbai or Bangalore, for example, you have to sit in a four hour traffic jam if you want to go to an event. I know it's a very silly sounding reason, but it's very practical. Yeah. Yeah, like people get annoyed. I have to go and meet I don't even like there's also already anxiety about going and showing your game to a bunch of strangers who, who sometimes you might think oh man, but they have their shit figured out. I have to go and show them my shitty game and then our shit and wait for four hours in a f*king car Sorry, I have to wait for four hours in a car to do you know, are in a train or whatever, and to insanely crowded trains. So I think it makes it more difficult to for people to go and be out there in these bigger cities. I know I did a, I helped organize a Global Game Jam site in Mumbai once where one person showed up.

Yadu Rajiv 45:26

I Remember this.

Shailesh Prabhu 45:28

Yeah. So. So yeah, you know, yes, the good stuff.

Arjun Nair 45:34

I remember attending couple of events that Yadu and team had organized long back when they were meeting an Indiranagar I think. I think one of the events was at some Indiranagar cafe shop or something like that.

Yadu Rajiv 45:48

That's probably not me. Bangalore is that way, like kind of a cultural hotspot? Probably. But it's probably larger. And, and thankfully, and, and there are a bunch of different people also trying to do similar things. With with differences also, like, when it's just to kind of hang out furnaces or showcase your stuff. One could be a jam. So yeah, so that keeps happening in Bangalore that was kind of blessed with, like a level. There's also that concentration of a lot of industry folk, which I guess also kind of helps out, which is, I guess, the same case with Malmo as well, where, like, like, a lot of the, like, the like a lot of people who are working in games is also concen- concentrated in a particular area. Whereas when you compare like that to India, like we're all spread out.

Shailesh Prabhu 46:46

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Arjun Nair 46:48

The Bangalore video games meetup was more of a gamers thing, right, though?

Yadu Rajiv 46:52

But it was primarily a lot of game developers as well.

Arjun Nair 46:55

Yeah. Because when I tried at one of those, it was mostly yeah, I think, to the point that Shailesh was making game developers seem to be turning out a lot less themselves. As opposed to, you know, video gamers are generally public who like to play games. Yeah, so that seems to be a bit of a cultural difference that we don't even now demo stuff or like to show stuff to other people. And I'm also guilty of that.

Shailesh Prabhu 47:24

I mean, it's not just demoing, it's also like, just, you know, meeting talking about, or like, you know, even talking about some other game you played, it's just like, the knowledge exchange needs to be fast and furious. I don't know. I mean, this is also just like, me, giving stuff from the top of my head. So I don't know, this really is the reason what I think, also, I think, like, there are very few, like games that have like really broken through that I've like, come from India, and I think that makes a difference. Like, you know, something like, a huge hit from India would would inspire a lot more people to do something like that. And like, yeah, I mean, I think we're slowly getting more and more interesting games that are coming out. But it's that one massive. It's also hard to, like, probably blame everything on one missing hit. But like, I think it would inspire a lot of a lot of people to dream and like, try things and yeah.

Yadu Rajiv 48:39

So in terms of so since since our focus is mostly on free to play, and you see a pattern in the last 10 years of the kind of games that we were making here. Like what is what could kind of drive that shift? Do you have any thoughts on that?

Shailesh Prabhu 49:01

I think there's like two sort of industries happening. One is the Ludo, Teen Patti, those kind of games industry and they're, they're, I guess, making some money from what I understand then there's like the, you know, people that are trying to make PC or console or, or premium stuff. And then I think they're also like getting slowly more and more success as as, as they learn more and more as time progresses and they're getting more exposure. I think these two will continue to move in parallel, right? Like, because I don't see like people who are chasing the Teen Patti but the user base going after going after PC, or Console, Double A or triple A or indeed, triple I, whatever you want to call it, kind of games and vice versa. Right? So I think these two things will move in parallel. And obviously, I think like, since we have a lot more people, I think trying to do the VC funded slash Free to Play slash Teen Patti, Ludo style games, we probably will hear a lot more about that, too, in the recent future. So I don't really expect like overnight things to change. But I think slowly, things will. Actually I don't know if I answered your question. I started rambling at some point.

Yadu Rajiv 50:52

Are you keeping an eye on what's happening here, though, from you know, I people in touch with you, people showing you stuff or you like seeing things happen?

Shailesh Prabhu 51:03

Not so much stuff. That's been like, I haven't seen so much stuff. Like people aren't really sending me stuff. But sometimes. And then sometimes I like, I mean, I know some what what's happening, because I'm also on the discord group that you run. And yeah, like, through social media and stuff. But there's like, you never know, there's always someone hiding in the shadows. So yeah, I would say have some some sense of what's happening.

Arjun Nair 51:41

I'm going to ask you Shailesh a straight up question, and you should give me a straight up answer. Should we make mythology based games given that our culture is so rich, and you know, mythological history and steeped in traditions? Why haven't we made a mythological game that's successful? Actually, we have made a couple. We have made a couple of them. They're quite good. But yeah, what's your general thought on that?

Shailesh Prabhu 52:06

The tricky part is that our mythology is based in religion, that is still followed very fervently, and very actively. Whereas I can do whatever to Thor, and no one will really care. Or, like, in a mythological sense, like, you can put him in a comic book, and you can make him do outrageous things that probably didn't actually exist in in the mythology, right, like teaming up with the Avengers, for example, like, but like, for us, you could probably make a comic book based on Ramayan, which some people have. But it still needs to follow some sense of like, some version, like, we also have, like, 1000s of versions of every single myths that exists, right? Yeah, like minor variations, you still probably need to follow some of those, like, you can't just like put Ram fighting aliens with Superman. Like, that's not gonna happen, I think.

Arjun Nair 53:17

You could have a Ramayan Thor crossover?

Shailesh Prabhu 53:21

Yeah, I mean, you need to talk to Marvel I guess. But I think like, that's the thing, like, it's also a religion that's being actively followed. So anything you do will be like, looked at with extreme with, with a magnifying lens. And if you, you will offend someone, and it may become a big issue. And that might also you know, like, I mean, we had Fallout banned in India, for example, for having a cow or mutant cow, like, are you? Are you do you really think that it would be okay to make? I mean, you might be able to get away with it. But it's not always gonna be the case. Your creative freedom will be very limited, I think. Yeah,

Yadu Rajiv 54:09

I think you see, you really do see kind of parallels with film. Like, I remember, Scorsese made the Last Temptation of Christ. And later Mel Gibson also made the, the Passion of Christ I think both films like for actively, like one was actively sort of kind of put down, while the other was kind of raised up if I remember, like, people in church asking people to go and watch the Passion of the Christ, whereas the other one was kind of, so especially yeah, what do you see with an act of religion? and how it can really affect how he kind of,

Shailesh Prabhu 54:45

Yeah, it's tricky. It's difficult. I mean, maybe someone will do it and you know, it will be amazing. I don't know. But I also I, there's so many things to make games or like make stories or things about we don't necessarily have to restrict ourselves to those things.

Yadu Rajiv 55:09

A manga with Jesus and Buddha together, Saint Young Men

Shailesh Prabhu 55:13

Oh, yeah, yes, yeah, yeah.

Yadu Rajiv 55:17

So I guess it also there's ...

Shailesh Prabhu 55:19

Also American Gods TV show, right? Like it has like Gods from all over. But I think that yeah, you can do stuff like that when you're not here or when you're not like you're not in India and not from India, maybe you're, I'm not sure, given the political landscape, how it will fly. If you try something very colorful.

Yadu Rajiv 55:40

I think you're perfectly placed for doing something with Mahabharata.

Shailesh Prabhu 55:43

I mean, I actually do like Mahabharata, it's quite interesting. As a story, there's lots of interesting characters. I don't really know if I want to make a mythological game. We'll see. Never say never, but not right now. At least. Maybe someday.

Arjun Nair 56:06

So what are you up to nowadays? I mean, you said you're working on. You're trying to continue working on that small game Warigami. But what is the general life in like in on a day to day basis?

Shailesh Prabhu 56:22

Well, I have a day job, which is also in games. It's at a big triple A studio called Shark Mob. And, yeah, I work there, most of the working day, so then I have very little energy left to work on other things. So things are very slow. I'm not really actively working on Warigami as much. I would like to, but not right now. And but I'm like, slowly thinking about another idea, which is like, musical narrative game. Maybe doing like a very light prototype of that soon. So. But other than that, it's mostly just like, you know, life things, work and cooking. I love cooking. So I cook a lot. I have two cats so I annoy them a lot. And play with them a lot. And generally, I play tennis a bit. So trying to keep keep good mental health, because it's also very important to to try to keep your mental mental health good. And focus on that.

Yadu Rajiv 57:36

How has this last year been? Was it, was it easy?

Shailesh Prabhu 57:43

I mean, it wasn't the worst for me, I think, because I have worked remotely before as well. And yeah, as I said, having two cats at home is really nice, because just makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Even on depressing, rainy days, which we have a lot of here. Yeah, so it's, it's been good. It's not been as hard as things can get. I also think like Sweden has been very relaxed with their, like, they don't, they never really had a proper lockdown. So you could still, like we were very responsible, very responsible. So we didn't really go out much, but like, you know, every once in a while, you could still do something if you really wanted to, for your sanity. So in that way, it was fine.

Arjun Nair 58:49

Are companies abroad, generally more understanding of, you know, employees basically being able to do something creatively on the side. Because here in India, I know many companies don't actually encourage that, or there are strict restrictions. That's also one of those cultural things you were talking about. I guess.

Shailesh Prabhu 59:11

I think it's yeah, I think it's depends on the company. But I have met a few companies here who are okay with you doing stuff on the side. And you can also negotiate that with with the company. When you start off like a I have these projects that I'm already doing and they are not really competing with the stuff here you guys do. So you know if I work on this in my spare time, you can negotiate those things. At least that's what I found. And then if they're completely unwilling to budge on it, you know, you can decide like okay, is this the place I want to be in? Are there are some places that probably don't allow you to do stuff on the side. But yeah, I don't know. I've never, I haven't been in that kind of place so far.

Yadu Rajiv 1:00:06

How has how different is it? I mean, since you've worked at both these, both in India, and both in India and Malmo and, and remotely?

Shailesh Prabhu 1:00:18

Copenhagen

Yadu Rajiv 1:00:19

Yeah, yeah Copenhagen.

Shailesh Prabhu 1:00:21

Yeah.

Yadu Rajiv 1:00:22

So like, what do you kind of I know that you've worked here at different places at different times. Also, things definitely changed by now. But kind of your experiences so far? How, like, if you were to kind of go back to different things, how would you work differently? Or be, you know, kind of put the steps put your foot down on certain things? And how do you what do you want to change things? So?

Shailesh Prabhu 1:00:50

Oh, yeah, I think companies in India, at least a lot of them, do not care about their employees at all. Like, I worked for one company, which, which, after 10s of reminders, didn't even bother refilling the hand soap in, in the toilets for the employees, and then us employees had to like, pool in to buy soap for ourselves. So and like, you know, turning off the air conditioning at six, when asking people to crunch till 11pm, or 12pm, or something in a huge office full of computers in heat and humidity. I don't really think like, a lot of companies don't care about employee, the employees. And I think that's very problematic. And it's just actually horrible. That said, I think, at least from what I hear a bunch of that has changed now. And that's good. Hopefully, we'll get better. But still, I feel like it's much more employee centric, here. Like, what do you want to do what where you want to grow, which which direction, like, all those things can affect the kind of role you have or which direction you want to take your career. And people are very flexible to those kind of suggestions if you're working at a place. And also, I feel like, generally, the support systems around here are also quite strong. So there's, it's good, like people feel more secure to to be themselves even in the job, because, you know, it will find something else, or at least they have some support system. It's yeah, I think I really hope that more Indian companies start treating their employees as like, huge resources and not as like, labor or employee or, you know, just shut up and do what I tell you to kind of mentality, which I saw a lot of back home when I was working there. That said, I know there's a lot of new companies that that don't do it that way. And I hope there's more of them. Yeah, right. Hey. Yeah, I guess. I think that answers your question. Maybe? I don't know. I ramble again, sorry.

Yadu Rajiv 1:03:37

So do you I know that you want to get back into kind of tweaking Warigami and and, and going into this new narrative, based game as well. So are those like the immediate future plans? But are there any far future plans that you're kind of sitting on or thinking about coming back to India, maybe?

Shailesh Prabhu 1:04:07

Yeah not really thinking of going back to India. I think it's in a very different place now than than when I left. Lots of.. lots of; I mean, you guys are aware of how things are back home. But long term I long term it would be nice to have like, like a good good healthy side gig or like my own you know, games going again. So yeah, that's that's on my mind. I don't know when or how but someday.

Arjun Nair 1:04:56

Shailesh Prabhu 2022, so that's your that's your future plans is it?

Shailesh Prabhu 1:05:06

I mean, we'll see. I mean, 2022 is around the corner already. So I don't, it's crazy. But I don't really have anything right now that I know will be in store for 2022 for me. But hopefully I can at least get another good prototype going and just like maybe build up a small team to work on stuff on the side.

Arjun Nair 1:05:41

Yeah, Yellow Monkey Studio still exists right. On paper?

Shailesh Prabhu 1:05:46

The company is closed down. The website still exists, but the company is defunct. Yeah, a, we lasted nine years and nine months.

Arjun Nair 1:06:02

Awesome.

Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:04

I think. Yeah, I think I don't want to revive that exact company, either, because it has it has its own history and on people who helped along the way. So whatever, I do probably will be something new.

Arjun Nair 1:06:22

Nice, just a very off topic question. What games are you playing currently?

Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:28

Currently, I just finished playing Resident Evil Village. And I will probably play WarioWare next.

Arjun Nair 1:06:43

Two ends of the spectrum.

Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:45

Yeah, and then I'm waiting very eagerly for Elden Ring.

Arjun Nair 1:06:51

Yes, yep. You have a PS5?

Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:53

Yes, I did get one.

Arjun Nair 1:06:55

By god.

Shailesh Prabhu 1:06:58

To play Demon Souls Remake. Yeah. Yeah, but I'll probably play. I play a lot on my Switch as well. I really like my Switch. I think it's only console for me.

Yadu Rajiv 1:07:15

Okay. Thank you so much for doing this.

Shailesh Prabhu 1:07:21

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Yadu Rajiv 1:07:25

I feel kinda awesome about this.

Shailesh Prabhu 1:07:28

Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having this old irrelevant guy on your podcast again.

Yadu Rajiv 1:07:35

Hey, that makes us old and irrelevant too.

Arjun Nair 1:07:41

All right.

Shailesh Prabhu 1:07:42

Awesome. Thank you.

Arjun Nair 1:07:43

Thank you.

Yadu Rajiv 1:07:45

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