Interview with Jesse Rapczak, Vice President Production, Exigent 3D

null“The growth potential for everything gaming-related in India is huge, but the biggest area of domestic growth is projected to be in mobile gaming and online gaming.”

What is the business model for Exigent 3D? Also please tell us what your short and long term plans include?
Exigent deals simply in art outsourcing for the gaming industry. We focus on high-quality content for international clients, on platforms such as Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. In addition to doing projects for clients, in the short term we are focusing on training and building up our presence here in India.

What is the growth potential for Indian Game service providers and IP creators?
The growth potential for everything gaming-related in India is huge, but the biggest area of domestic growth is projected to be in mobile gaming and online gaming. Compared to the rest of the world, India already has an abnormally large percentage of mobile users who purchase and download games on their handsets – these are casual gamers. Online gaming is also very popular here, and professional gaming competitions are starting to pop up around the country. I think console gaming might finally start to take off in India if Microsoft can get Xbox Live working here. Casual games (through Xbox Live Market Place) and multiplayer games are a huge strength of the 360 and jive well with the growth direction of the market. Nintendo is also in a unique position to take advantage of the strong casual gaming and online gaming market in India with the Wii. I love the Wii, so I hope they make a move to bring it here soon!

Between IP creation and service provision, which one do you think is going to account for a major chunk of revenues for the next two years in India?
Personally, I think the big bucks are going to come from outsourcing in the near term. The domestic gaming market isn�t large enough to create huge revenues for most studios. However, the great thing about outsourcing is that it gets you on the radar of the big international companies who are keeping a close eye on this emerging market, and gives local talent invaluable experience producing high-quality content. 3-5 years out when the market is more mature, it will be these same Indian studios that begin profiting from their own IP both domestically and internationally.

Your personal background and the VFX domain expertise that you bring to Gaming…
I got my start in Film VFX out in Los Angeles. I worked in the industry for three years before I made the transition to video games. I felt that VFX work and animation had gotten a little stale by the time I entered into the industry. Everyone was doing the same things on every shot, and most of the hard problems were already solved. Considering all of the long hours I was putting in at my job, this wasn�t very satisfying for me.

I was always a gamer by nature, and had been working on exciting side projects since I was in college. A lot of the principals of VFX applied directly to gaming, because the hardware was getting fast enough to render VFX techniques in real time. Gaming wasnâ€?t “low poly” any more. Some friends and I created a company called Artificial Studios that produced a high-end game engine called Reality Engine. It was an unpaid second job for me, but when Epic Games purchased Reality Engine in May 2005, I finally had the chance to leave VFX and start a gaming studio in San Diego, CA (Boanerges Studios). Now a year later Iâ€?m in India working on all sorts of exciting next-gen projects. I have never looked back on my decision – making video games is the best career in the world!

What according to you will be the challenges for Indian Gaming in next 2 years?
The biggest challenge for the Indian gaming industry is going to be training. There is a huge shortage of candidates for jobs in this country. Additionally, the quality of many candidates is below-average because many of the training facilities donâ€?t spend enough time on the fundamentals required to be a good programmer or a good artist in this industry. Institutes need to recognize that being a software engineer and a game programmer are two separate education paths, and not just two different job descriptions. They need to attract and cultivate people with artistic talent, not people who just want to push buttons in a 3D package and call themselves animators. It seems there is a stigma in Indian culture (with parents especially) that being an “artist” and working on “games” means you donâ€?t have a real job, or that you arenâ€?t going to be financially successful. It only takes one glance at the NASSCOM report to realize that being a cg artist or a game developer pays very well, so the parents should be supportive and encourage the passion in their sons and daughters to do something that they love!

“As the market grows here domestically, the top talent will want to stick around”

Your comments on the recent NASSCOM event…
NASSCOM was a great experience for me. I enjoyed being on the panel discussion and I relished the chance to meet other gamers and developers in the industry. It was refreshing to see that India is taking gaming seriously, and I was impressed with the amount of things I learned from the NASSCOM report on animation and gaming in India. I won�t miss any gaming-related NASSCOM events as long as I am in India!

What do you think are the strengths / weaknesses of Indian artists / programmers?
As a group, Indian artists and programmers lack nothing but experience. Nothing prevents Indian talent from becoming as good as or better than anyone else in the world. Unfortunately most of the really good people tend to leave India to seek employment at top international companies, taking with them a wealth of knowledge and ability. As the market grows here domestically, the top talent will want to stick around!

Do you think programming and engineering services in gaming will get a fillip in India?
It�s tough to outsource programming for a game project. It really requires that you outsource the entire game in order for it to work well. Unfortunately most studios lack the experience to execute a complete project from start to finish for the international market. However, like many things, this will change as the market grows domestically. It has already happened with a few standout developers in India.

Why did you set up shop in Delhi?
I get this question a lot. People always tell me there are more artists in Bangalore or Mumbai or Hyderabad. I know. The problem is that many of the artists in this industry have the wrong type of experience, and we don�t want those people. We are in a unique situation where top individuals from our U.S. studio have relocated to India to run operations here and give our artists the specialized training and experience they aren�t getting elsewhere. The average experience level of Indian artists in our studio is 0-3 years, and we like it that way. We take gamers and artists and turn them into great game artists quickly. We have top industry talent working on prominent AAA projects using the latest technology.

What is the criteria you follow at Exigent to employ people?
We only hire people who are passionate about art and have a continual desire to learn and improve their skills. Every artist should start the day thinking “Man, every bit of art I have done until now really sucks. Today I will get better.” If you ever think you are good enough, you may as well retire, because the next guy will pass you by and you really WILL suck.

We also have to like you. We play games together, we watch movies together, we play sports together, and we grow together. If you don�t get along with the rest of the team, or have an ego problem, we�re not interested. We don�t care where you have worked, or what your resume says about how great you are, or how much experience you have. Everyone who comes to Exigent must be talented, humble, and have a strong desire to grow as part of a team. It might sound simple, but these qualities don�t always exist together in the same individual.

You talked something about training programs for students with local schools and colleges
Yes, some of the schools in Delhi are very good. In fact a lot of studios down south recruit a considerable amount of talent from the north. We hope that by working with local schools and implementing internship and guest lecturing programs, we can help produce the right type of candidates for careers in high-end game art. This will benefit not only us, but India as a whole. We strongly believe that what is good for India is good for us as well. Of course, students will also see that they don�t have to leave Delhi/Noida to get an exciting job at a world-class art studio working on unique projects that will kick their career into overdrive.

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