An extended Baahubali universe on your mobile screens: From inception to conclusion of ‘Baahubali: The Game’ by Moonfrog Labs

The Baahubali franchise recently set really high standards for Indian cinema. Smashing box office records and being the talk of the town throughout the country and overseas, S.S. Rajamouli’s magnum opus created an entire ecosystem out of the IP. Apart from comics, an animated show and a VR experience, Baahubali also has a game to its name. Developed by Bangalore based Moonfrog Labs, the RTS (Real time strategy) game gives an extended experience into the Baahubali universe to the seekers of a more interactive experience. Released in four languages Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu back in April, the game lets the player play as ‘Senapatis’ (generals or commanders) who serve the kingdom of Mahishmati, train an army, build defences and join forces with Baahubali, Kattappa and the other heroes of Mahishmati to push back the ruthless. The game gives Baahubali fans a new entry point into the film’s universe as a player, where they can experience the challenge of being a general with the command of an army. The game features digital versions of Baahubali, Kattappa, Bhallal Dev and the other heroes of Mahishmati, who the players can include in their army. The end goal is for the player to prove their skills by building the strongest army, the best defended Rajya (outpost), and a working economy with food and gold to protect the kingdom of Mahishmati from the Kalakeya. Speaking to Animationxpress, Moonfrog Labs director and board member Mark Skaggs said, “Much of the fun and action in the film is battles and combat. The big battle in the first movie. We know that people like the troops and the battles from the first film so a real time strategy game made total sense in our minds.” Mark Skaggs has credits for hit titles like FarmVille, Empire & Allies, CityVille, Treasure Isle, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth and Command & Conquer Generals to his name. Apparently,  Graphic India CEO Sharad Devarajan and Moonfrog co-founder and director Tanay Tayalat  had been discussing about making games out of some of Graphic India’s properties when Baahubali 2 came up. Both Devarajan and Tayal were excited by the idea of making a game for Baahubali 2. The concept was discussed internally at Moonfrog along with Mark Skaggs and they came up with the current concept of making a war strategy game around the Baahubali universe. That’s when Moonfrog and Graphic India got Arka Mediaworks and director SS Rajamouli involved in the conversations. According to Skaggs, the focus was on ‘Made in India, for India, by India’ and thus bringing local elements to the game was of utmost importance and thus a lot of brainstorming was done to achieve the current state of the game. As he puts it: Vision The target for the team was very clear. The game had to be made for the Indian market, for the Indian smartphone user. The Baahubali franchise has found fandom across the diversity of India so the game had to be released in regional languages as well. Today, we have over 5 million downloads and a large number of players are heavily engaged with the game. A lot of people play the game in Tamil and Telugu and write to us or leave comments appreciating the work. For Moonfrog, it’s very gratifying to see players find value in the localisation we put in. Collectively, as a team, we’ve worked on many games for various markets across the world. It is immensely gratifying to design and develop a product for India, our own country, and even more so when we get a positive response from our Indian playerbase. Challenges When developing the game, the biggest challenges we faced were getting the art and technology right for a game of this scale, for a massive smartphone market like India. We had to design a game that would work seamlessly across various data networks, on the hundreds of smartphone brands and models without any errors or glitches. We also can’t have a large file size for downloads and updates because players playing the game on 2G networks will face problems. For the game, we are using the ‘Nova Engine’ — a proprietary Moonfrog technology engine that lets us develop strategy games of this scale while keeping the file size as low as 24MB. To give you a sense of scale for a low-end phone, the entire Mahishmati kingdom will have the file size of 4 Bollywood MP3s. For art, the additional challenge was to translate the epicness of the Baahubali universe onto the small phone screen. From the geography of the fictional kingdom of Mahishmati to the war units and popular characters like Baahubali, Bhallaladeva, Devasena and Kattappa, everything had to be designed in a way that it would animate perfectly no matter what phone you were using without losing the intricacy of the art style used in the movie. Intensive research: We started by watching the movie over a 100 times. Our artists and designers with the help from Graphics India and Arka Mediaworks did a lot of research on the historical elements as depicted in the film and the possibilities of what could have been 2000 years ago. We studied the movies to understand SS Rajamouli’s vision — to understand the nuances that don’t betray the original aesthetics of the film like iconography, colours, architectural and sartorial styles and even some gaming elements. For example, the idea of a gold mine came from a scene in the first movie where soldiers were collecting gold from the people to make a statue. The first step in developing the Indian-ness as an essential aspect of the art, the user experience, the music and other elements is designing the concept art. We were more than happy to have Aditya Chari (who had worked on the original characters in Baahubali 1) on our team, who helmed the concept art development. The concept art was then honed based on feedback from Graphic India and Arka Mediaworks. That is when the rest of the team stepped in and we went into full-production mode. “Today, we can proudly say that our team has overcome these challenges with style and has created a product that will enhance the epic experience of Baahubali for every Indian and international user,” exulted Skaggs. The game is built on a freemium model which means it is free to play but sports in-app purchases which is the studio’s preferred way to monetize the game, just like they did with their other famed IP, Teen Patti Gold. As it is an RTS game, basically you don’t just start and finish the game, it is a virtual world which keeps on getting additions and you play along while fortifying your defenses and furthering your forces to stay on top. The game is doing pretty well as it is still one of the top 10 most downloaded game in the country. The studio is further pushing out updates on a weekly basis to keep the game fresh. When asked about how long they plan to support the game, they said ‘for the foreseeable future’. Having worked on a mega franchise like Baahubali, the Bangalore-based studio might be planning to or already might have grabbed other offers, however they refrained on revealing any future plans for now.