‘Chase your dreams’ claims the story of the bloke who developed ‘BLUK’ the game

The story of an enthusiast pursuing his passion to make it his career has been a movie stuff that you only find in cinemas. But, the Indian gaming scene has a lot of such examples who have left their corporate jobs to dive into the exciting and still embryonic world of game development in India. One such example is founder of Pixel Ape Studios Deepak Menon, who was working in a tech corporate in New Zealand and left his plush job to follow his dream of game development. The one man studio is already two games old, the first one being Huemory, a simplistic colour memory game which was nominated for the Indie Game of the Year category at Nasscom Game Developer Conference last year. Deepak since then has been working on his second game BLUK which recently saw release on Apple App Store in the Indian region and will release worldwide this week. AnimationXpress.com interacted with Deepak to know more about his studio, the games and his risks filled journey.
Pixel Ape Studios founder Deepak Menon
Pixel Ape Studios founder Deepak Menon
How did your journey in gaming start and what was your background before that? My journey into gaming was probably triggered when I was four but that was a typical story of a very wise mother, two unhappy kids and a video game console salesman who was clearly not great at his job. But game development journey was triggered when I was around 12 and managed to talk one of the elders into buying me a game programming guide ‘Action Arcade Adventure Set by Diana Gruber’, just so that I could play the game that came with it. But the real deal started at the end of 2014, when I decided to quit from almost a decade long affair, creating enterprise software for a technology giant. How did Pixel Ape form? As a kid, I was always into arts. I’ve had my share of sketching, working on different mediums of traditional painting and sculpting among many other things. My fascination with computers and coding pushed me to earn my engineering degree in Computers but the creative itch never left and kept re-surfacing in various forms like Flash Animations, Digital Photography, Photo Manipulation and Video Editing. So, finally I decided to quit and form Pixel Ape. I couldn’t think of a better name for a studio that was started by someone who likes to play around with various digital forms that are technically at their smallest and primitive form, just a programmable unit of colour, a pixel! Until recently, Pixel Ape was a one man studio. Now it has a super talented intern churning out some amazing stuff for a secret project. Tell us about your second game Bluk and the thought process behind it. Bluk is the second game to be coming out of the Pixel Ape Studios. Even though I made a basic prototype earlier, it actually came to life a month before NGDC 2015 as I wanted to showcase it in the upcoming games category. Bluk made it to the finals and even though it didn’t win, it did create some great friendships in the circuit, one of it eventually turned out into collaboration with Shailesh Prabhu from Yellow Monkey Studios, to breathe new life into Bluk, in terms of Game Design. The game was developed out of a social experiment idea to see if the players can relate to a character at a personal level if the character is outlined by a story, surrounded by various phases and physical aspects of life in real world, even if the character has no defining visual characteristic. Thus a black block, the three-dimensional equivalent of a blank canvas or blackboard, and worlds spread around various emotional states of life ranging from self-learning to personal heaven and hell. In lines with Huemory, I have explored minimalism in Bluk as well. I believe great things can be made with right knowledge of colour theory and polish, even if the art skills are limited.
Tell us about the soothing soundtrack and was it a conscious decision to make it an ambient one? The ambient music choice was a very conscious one. The early versions included ambient loops from experimental mixes, but most were later replaced by original music composed for each world by the talented duo Vishwas and Ranjish at Scorelabs. Being an endless game, how does one encounter enhanced difficulty at different stages of the game? Even though it screams loudly of Endlessness, and has an endless mode, Bluk is not essentially just endless. It is more of a super rare hybrid! There is a story line that goes along with your progress through the worlds of increasing difficulties and if you are on the right path, completing the game the right way, you will get to see how the game ends. To make things better, you get to learn new abilities which will help you in your quest. There is even a special Hall of Fame if you complete the abstract story mode. Bluk1 Life after Bluk. I will be taking a short break from one-man games so as to explore some collaborations with other Indian Indie developers. There will be some interesting announcements by end of the year including a very exciting Point and Click Adventure game for PC and Apple devices. For now, all the projects are in their diaper stages. The game also got featured recently on the Apple App Store on the eve of Indian Independence Day as a part of Independence week campaign and has been among the games and apps made in India. You can buy Bluk on App Store for Rs 10 for the campaign period after which it will cost Rs 120.