Interview with Playtinum Co-Founder Harshad Arole

Where there is a will there is a way! And what a wonderful sway of a game creation journey it has been for this genius brother-sister team of Harshad & Poorva Arole co-founders of Playtinum. Harshad, an IIM grad who did not know a single line of code , today codes entire games and publishes them, Poorva, a Manga fan, an artist who brings alive concepts with a unique art direction that’s seeped in the orient and has a strong vector, medieval touch to it . Together they have made more than 20+ casual online and mobile games spanning across genres like point and click adventures, card and casino games and dash games. Read on Team Tell us something about Playtinum. When was it established, founders, objective? I am an MBA from IIM Lucknow, who majored in finance and was working as an equity analyst in the financial markets up till two years back. I always wanted to try my hand at some creative field like animation or gaming or even comics. Ultimately game design and development was where I thought I could dabble in everything. Luckily my sister (Poorva Arole) also shared similar interests and Playtinum was formed. Our objective was to develop visually charming casual games across multiple platforms. We also aimed to remain independent developing our own games instead of the typical model of providing game development services.
How’s the going been so far? When we started the studio we worked on 2 projects in parallel. One was a social game released on Facebook for which we partnered with 6waves, one of the top publishers in the social gaming space. The other was a downloadable PC game which was distributed through all the major portals. I wouldn’t call these games as successes but completing a game and commercially releasing it was a great learning experience as we knew absolutely nothing about game making. We then decided to check out the mobile devices space and iOS was the obvious choice. We developed a simple point and click adventure called ‘Adventures of Veronica Wright’. It was developed in less than 2 months and was moderately successful. The game was featured by Apple on App Store which encouraged us to pursue making more games for iOS. Since then we have developed around 20 games for iOS. Some of these games have also been released for Android and Blackberry Playbook. The game genres span across point and click adventures, card and casino games and dash games. We try to extend the monetization potential of our products by offering them for free as web games using an ad supported or sponsorship model. What games are you currently working on? We are developing three point and click adventures of which one is very close to release. Art production of the other two is nearly complete. One of these games is based on Shakespeare’s characters but the storyline is different. The other is planned to be the first part of a trilogy. We also have a solitaire game and a dice based battle game in the design stage. Apart from these we will produce smaller games which would be released at regular intervals. Can you share the concept of the game? How did you come up with the concept? This is a simplistic point and click adventure game based on pretty straightforward storyline where the hero has to pass various rooms through an evil wizard’s castle to save a princess who is held captive. We have tried to make the game a bit more live by using a third person view. This means that the player will see the hero and his movements on the screen unlike the still inanimate scenes that usually form the backdrop for these kinds of games. We have used an art style which is a blend of retro cartoons and paper cutouts which is another differentiation from the usual. The game play doesn’t differ much from the standard wherein the player will pick up items and use them to get access to various other objects. There are many puzzles to be solved because the underlying theme in this game is that the hero is a puny little fellow who has to overcome all the obstacles in his way and he has to that using his brain over brawn. Another deviation from our earlier games is that each scene in this game is independent of the other so that the player will have the solutions to all the puzzles and all the necessary objects to interact with, in the same scene. This makes the game easy to grasp for players who are new to this genre. The key thing for us here is to get more players to try out this game and have fun solving puzzles without getting overwhelmed by the need to navigate across scenes, extensive character dialogue and an overly complex storyline which is common to this genre.
Some of the games from Playtinum
What has been the challenging part in developing these games? How have you tackled it? As a business model we wanted to get our product on all platforms using the same code base. We have over the past several months formed our own set of rules and constraints and we try to design our games by staying within those. We started using Adobe Flash/AS3/AIR when we formed our studio and have now built a reasonably optimized framework which we use for most of our games. We are now confident that we can use our AS3 code base to release a game on iOS, Android, Blackberry Playbook, PC, Mac and for the web. On a personal level, I thought it would be a challenge for me as a guy who had not written a single line of code to transform into someone who could code an entire game and publish it. But I think there are enough tools in the market to help people like me, in fact there are some engines available which let you make a game without writing a single line of code. I think the design of the game, the logic behind the game play mechanics and the patience to deliver a finished product are the factors that really matter in this business. Ours is a bootstrapped venture and as such our production budgets are extremely thin but we try to attain the best production values possible. Our present position warrants that we design games that suit our strengths rather than attempting something impractical. We think that we can survive this competitive market by having a steady product flow on to the shelves and hence we make sure that the development period is not more than 2-3 months for a single game. This is an industry driven by hits and flops and it’s a challenge to remain financially solvent. We believe that our conservative approach has worked well for us till now. What is the team size at Playtinum ? Our business operates on a virtual office model. So it is just me and Poorva as the permanent employees and we occasionally contract out work to freelancers on a project basis. Depending on the number and the scope of projects that are under development, the active team size changes. I handle the game design, coding and art for some projects Poorva handles the art full time. What are your future plans for Playtinum Games? We would like to maintain our target of releasing around 10 games a year. We would like a couple of those games to be higher budget, larger size, longer development cycle ones which we would then release for the PC and Mac. Obviously we would be increasing the amount of work that we currently contract out. We want to touch different genres and have plans for a semi-RPG. We would also love to create a game set in an Indian theme.