#FeatureFriday: In pursuit of the “Wow! Signal” with Pixel Drop Studios’ upcoming endless runner

Is there hope for life beyond the realm of our planet? The question has baffled minds throughout centuries. The definitive answer is still being searched upon. However, one of the most prominent contenders in the long list of possibilities takes its cue from the “Wow! Signal.” On 15 August 1977, the Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope in the U.S.A picked up a strong narrowband radio signal, which appeared to come from the constellation of Sagittarius. This startled the researcher going through the records, which made him write Wow! beside the aforementioned signal and hence the etymology of the phenomenon. Taking this as an inspiration, an indie studio from Mumbai is churning out a simple endless runner around it. Pixel Drop Studios co-founder Pratik Luharuka says, “The premise of the WOW Signal is that you are chasing after this particular signal that we received from space way back in 1977. Earth is on it’s last leg, and summing up its last reserves, you have been sent to chase after the WOW Signal, believing that this might lead you to the knowledge and technology required to save Earth. An endless runner fits perfectly into this story-line, because you are now on this eternal quest through infinite space chasing after what perhaps is the last hope of humanity. The endless runner genre gives us so many options to keep adding mysterious space events and celestial bodies into the mix. Space literally is endless, and hence the endless runner category is perfect.” Endless runners have found great success in the recent past with the likes of Subway Surfer and Temple Run. Many Indian studios have encashed on the phenomenon too. While the fad has kind of dimmed it seems in the mainstream, the choice of the genre for the game seems to come from the creator’s fascination about space. Luharuka further asserts, “The game isn’t an endless runner just for the sake of it, the concept demands it. What would be different is the beautiful graphics and animations that will make you want to just play it as a pure visual treat. And also, we’re not making a straight forward endless runner – we are keeping different ‘zones’ in the game. Think of them like mini maps. We don’t want to disclose too much this early, but we’re working on putting a twist to it.” The game is initially being targeted at iOS for the launch, while the android version might be coming into play sometime in the future. The studio is still in the process of figuring out the launch part. iOS market works very well with the premium model in place whereas Android is better with the free to play or freemium model. Also, as per the developers, porting to Android is a challenge especially when you are aiming for really high quality visuals and animations as predicting performance on the various different devices and configurations is difficult. The ideation of the game took place around a year and a half back. While the devs were busy working on two other titles, Quote Codes and Shut the Window, the kept polishing ideas and working on the theme for the game on the sidelines. Now that the project has been in development since three and a half months, the title is in the pipeline to be released in eight to 10 weeks. Around six people have worked on the game including a sound designer, illustrator and a coder. The minimal details of the game which have been revealed by the studio shows off clear and colourful artwork. The glimpses showcase the spaceship, which will likely be yours to control in the game, flying through the space to trace the origins of the Wow! Signal and attempting to dodge the celestial obstacles in the process. The design of objects and the colour themes look pretty satisfying for a minimalistic game, without much clutter leading to diversions.
On being asked about the feeling of being an indie studio in the country, Luharuka says, “It’s been a good journey so far. Tough but good! “A tiny studio making mobile games” is not common in India, explaining it to people sometimes about what we do is quite entertaining. But, in the past few years a lot of amazing studios like us have come up which is really encouraging. We love what we do and each one of us is committed to a common goal of making amazing games. With each project, we learn and get better. We have a lot more to offer, our journey has just begun.”