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Road To The IGF: Atman's Kuriakose On His Own With  Io

Road To The IGF: Atman's Kuriakose On His Own With Io

November 15, 2007 | By Leigh Alexander

November 15, 2007 | By Leigh Alexander
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More: Console/PC, Indie

Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, we talk to Atman Software's Bangalore, India-based Thomas Kuriakose about his Independent Games Festival 2008 entry Io, an interstellar adventure wherein a reconnaissance unit must discover the cause of a spacecraft crash on Jupiter's moon.

What kind of background do you have in the game industry or in making games?

I have no background in the games industry. In fact, when I started Atman in 1999, there was no such thing as a games industry in India. I used to write small, simple games while in college, though, and after graduating, decided to found Atman so that I could continue to write games.

What motivated you to make Io?

It was just an evolutionary step (well, I guess I skipped a few steps in between) from the Rubik's Cube project. I wanted it to be a very simple game, more like Dangerous Dave, with some stunning technology. But one thing led to another, and now I have Io.

Where did you draw inspiration from in its design and implementation?

Dangerous Dave, Quake, Splinter Cell, DMNP, Warcraft, Warhammer and a little bit of imagination.

What sort of development tools have you been using in the production of Io?

On the art content development side: Photoshop CS2, 3DS Max, Poser 6. On the programming side: Visual C++ 2003 SE, gDebugger, Glowcode and Xcode on OS X. API's: Cg, OpenGL, OpenAL, Directinput and also Carbon on OS X.

What do you think the most interesting element of the game is?

Well, the control mechanism of point-and-shoot while moving your character is different and interesting. The lighting and shadowing is interesting, but is now quite commonplace in high-end games. The AI is interesting, the bots are free to go any which way they like, and can hide and take cover as well. In the end, Io is a simple game. You can either take a stealth-based approach or run around with your rocket launcher and lay waste to everything.

How long has Atman Software been developing Io, and what has the process been like?

Io has been in development since 2002. It took a long time for me to develop the technology. This is my first Windows project, and my first commercial game. Since I'm the sole developer at Atman, the whole process at various times has been very educating, challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, bitter, mundane, humbling, soul searching, and required a lot of teeth-grinding patience. But in the end, I'm quite happy with myself and with what I have managed to achieve.

If you had to rewind to the start of the project, is there anything that you'd do differently?

Yes. I would write simpler (in terms of development) games, and make sure something got released every 1.5 years. I'd make sure there are great tools for rapid prototyping, and I'd design the entire game in detail on paper with an eye on technology and gameplay looking 3 years into the future.

Looking back, I strongly feel that I should have released multiple games in the last 5 years. That being said, I have no regrets. When I started Io, the only thing I knew then which I know now was C++. I believe now that it's just better to take small baby steps and design a product around it, and advance technology with each new title.

What are your thoughts on the state of independent game development, and are any other independent games out now that you admire?

I don't think much about these things. Although I have to admit, I see more originality and varied kinds of games (Gish, Defcon, strange physics games and more) coming from independent game developers.

I did like Professor Fizzwizzle from Grubby Games. I thought that was perfectly executed. I also liked Defcon. I think that game is sheer genius in its execution. Simple and bloody beautiful.

You have 30 seconds left to live and you must tell the game business something very important. What is it?

30 seconds or not, I don't have anything to tell the game business industry. I've developed my game and I sell it online. If a publisher wants to help me sell more, fine. But at Atman I try to finance the whole game internally so that I'm not dependent on or answerable to most people.

But if I had only 30 seconds left to live, I would love to tell my family and friends that I love them very much. I'm grateful for their patience and I'm sorry that I have not been there for them for the most part.

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