When the British Academy of Film and Television Arts extended its Breakthrough Initiative to India, it created a platform for talented individuals in the country – from the fields of art, music, and video games – to gain some much-needed recognition.
Nodding Heads Games’ Shruti Ghosh was selected as the finalist for the initiative’s inaugural year in India. Raji: An Ancient Epic has garnered an incredible amount of success ever since its release last year, and its unique style of storytelling leaves a lasting impression on the minds of the players.
In an exclusive conversation with Abhishek Mallick of Sportskeeda Esports, Shruti Ghosh, BAFTA Breakthrough India 2021 finalist, opened up about her journey in video games and what she is expecting to get out of the BAFTA Breakthrough Initiative.
Here is an excerpt from the conversation.
Q: Shruti, first thing’s first, congratulations on the selection. How does it feel to be chosen as part of the debut cohort of Breakthrough India? Was it something you anticipated or did it come as a pleasant surprise?
Shruti Ghosh: Thank you very much. I feel extremely proud and honored. It’s still sinking in, and I did not expect it at all. It was indeed a very pleasant surprise.
Q: Can you share some of your thoughts on BAFTA’s recent launch in India with the global expansion of its Breakthrough Initiative? How do you feel this will affect the video game development scene in terms of both growth and reach?
Shruti Ghosh: I am really glad that BAFTA launched this initiative in India. There are so many creative and excellent talents in all forms of art. Throwing light on them through BAFTA’s Breakthrough Initiative allows them to get the help they need to achieve their dreams.
I think this will encourage more young talents to make their own games. The video games industry is already pretty huge, though I feel that India is just getting started. I think initiatives like Breakthrough can showcase more good games made in India.
There are a lot of talented artists, coders, designers in India, but very few take the risk of going indie and making something special. I think our game, Raji: An Ancient Epic, is already showing the world the potential of Indian games. With BAFTA’s help, it will reach even more players. Hopefully, we will see more stories like that of Nodding Heads.
Q: Talk us through the application process. What are some of the things you needed to apply for the Breakthrough Initiative?
Shruti Ghosh: The process is all online. With the unique situation that we are all in, it makes sense. I had to answer a list of questions about myself, my career, and get a recommendation from someone in the industry. The entire process is pretty simple and straightforward.
They have all their information and dates for the next applications on the BAFTA website.
Q: The BAFTA Breakthrough Initiative is known for helping out new and upcoming video game developers gain access to unique career development and mentoring opportunities. What are some of the things you are personally looking forward to or hoping to gain out of this program?
Shruti Ghosh: We always hoped Raji would enter a bigger universe, so I’m looking forward to networking or learning from other BAFTA members on how we can translate the game to other mediums. I also really want to just be inspired by all these great talents from the film, music, and video game industry.
Q: If I can divert the conversation a bit towards your game Raji: An Ancient Epic, I would love to have your take on some of the inspirations that went behind the game’s art and narrative design.
Shruti Ghosh: We, as a team, felt there wasn’t any game in the industry that told great stories inspired by Indian culture. We really wanted to make a game about art, culture, and myths that we’ve grown up with; hence, the birth of Raji.
Both Indian and Balinese mythology have so much in common, so we wanted to use that to come up with a unique universe that showcased these architectures, costumes, fighting styles, art, and storytelling mediums (like the Wayang puppet show) to tell Raji’s story.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your life as a game art lecturer before becoming the founder and game artist for Nodding Heads Games?
Shruti Ghosh: It was a very interesting time in my career, and I would say the most important as well. Most of our team members met at the design college. It was a very fulfilling job to interact with students and see them achieving what they want in their careers.
Ian and I were both art lecturers, and we pretty much re-wrote the curriculum to the relevant industry practices. It was a very fun, tiring but interesting job.
Q: In a previous interview with me, Avichal Singh, Co-founder of Nodding Heads Games, opened up about how, during the initial phases of Raji, you had made a series of 2D sketches to gain some feedback on the direction you would like to take your game. How different were the early models of the game characters compared to how they turned out in the end?
Shruti Ghosh: We have always stayed true to the style we started with. Though the Raji character was once again made by Ian, the other co-founder/art director and my husband, after our Kickstarter demo, it still had the same style, costume, and look.
Most characters are true to the concept art, and so are the environments. That’s always been the most important thing for the art team – to always stick to the unique art style.
Q: What is your favorite part of Raji? Which aspect of the game did you have the most fun designing?
Shruti Ghosh: It has to be the in-game storytelling walls. That’s something I really enjoyed painting. These walls are stories about the gods and goddesses that bless Raji throughout the game.
I am really inspired by the old traditional wall paintings in Indian temples and palaces, so these paintings are my homage to the great art form and the artists who made them.
Q: Can Nodding Heads fans expect the reveal of a new project in the coming months? Is there something new you and your team are currently working on?
Shruti Ghosh: We are working on a lot of exciting things. For now, the team is quite busy with the roadmap we recently released for Raji’s upcoming enhancements.
We are currently working on what’s next for Nodding Heads, but we are not ready to reveal anything to the fans yet. But I can say it will be bigger and something that will blow our fans away.
Q: Any words of wisdom for those who are still looking for their own breakthrough in the industry?
Shruti Ghosh: Do not give up on your dreams. Believe in your work and keep learning. In an ever-changing industry like video games, where software, engines and tech keep changing, you have to keep up. Keep working hard to achieve what you want.