January 10, 2017

The Good City begins the New Year with a special preview of an unusual fantasy video game based on Indian culture.

Listen to The Good City Podcast of Aditya Mendonca’s interview with Avinash Kumar, the Delhi-based Founder of Quicksand and creator of this game. He is an Artist, Visual Jockey, Researcher & Designer


The transcript of the podcast is below.

Imagine running through the universe, solving puzzles, embarking on math adventures, learning about music, dance, and mythical South Indian temple creatures.

You can do this in Antariksha Sanchar, a soon to be released Point and Click game. This Indian cultural video game is inspired by the dreams of mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and classical dancer Jayalakshmi Eshwar.
TGC: Welcome, Avinash to The Good City Podcast. Can you give me a little insight into the project?

AK: The project is called Antariksha Sanchar and it is a project which we’ve been working on for almost five years now with the idea of building a transmedia adventure game where we could look at the creation of  video game, music & new media of our products – merchandise, graphic novels and things like that. We had a few starting points – one where we wanted to collaborate with a very famous Bharatanatyam dancer called Jayalakshmi Eshwar, she is from the original Kalakshetra crew and she has been dancing for almost 50 years now. She had a production called Antariksha Sancharthat she had written, talking about the “Mythology Of Flight in Indian culture” so either flying beings like Garuda or Pushpaka Vimana and the Vaimanika Shastra, “an early 20th century Sanskrit text on aerospace technology”  where she had created a 75-minute dance production, with which I helped with a little bit, in terms of the visuals and in terms of bringing some of BLOT’S electronic music into that performance and that became the starting point of the game, that collaboration.

The kind of game we were trying to create when we started out was a point and click adventure game which was an old genre from the 1980’s &  the 90’s, which was very popular and died down and made a big resurgence in the past seven, eight years.

A lot of new games have been coming out lately?

A lot of new games have been coming out. It is a great meeting point for people who are not the core gamers interested in killing games & shooting games and people in general who are interested in these new forms of media. A lot of these people have come together and ensuring the rise of Point and Click games.

We were quite interested in that because it gave us a chance to try to digitize Bharatanatyam and see if we could work with motion capture but it was prohibitively expensive back in the day. Now we have found some really cool guys in Bangalore who are having a much lower cost with motion capture technology and a virtual reality experience and those things are kind of exciting in terms of cultural preservation which for us is very important.

Are you looking at getting any possible kind of funding?

Our initial funding was very minuscule, when we look back now, it was very little but it was great because it got us into the project.

After that, for almost four years it’s been self-funded. We are almost at there till the finish line on our own steam and the idea is to hopefully release the game on the Steam Market Place in Mid June 2017 and another marketplace called Humble Little Bundle.

I remember voting on Steam.

Yes thank you, thank you for that, we got Greenlit and we hopefully sell in June. (In 2012 Valve launched Greenlight, a corner of Steam where developers could try with the help of the public, press and anything else they could lay their hands on and woo Valve into letting them flog their game. The community has shown their interest in this game and Valve has reached out to this developer to start moving things toward release on Steam.)

There are very few games in the country that are trying to build a desktop 3D computer game.

You are going against the tide of mobile games

Yes, we are, you can practically count them (desktop games) on one hand, it is that small. Which is anyway a very surprising number for me to think about why that is happening.

The clothes of Srinivasa Ramanujan’s character were modeled on vintage Tamil cinema.

I definitely feel we have the most open video game project running in the country, from any kind of sector whether it is indie or bigger projects or bigger studio. There is no information about any game, it is the entire design process.

The developers used motion capture technology to capture the movements of dancer Jayalakshmi Eshwar.

So tell me Avinash – How have you managed to sync Carnatic and Electronic music?

Part of the game music is from Jayalakshmi Eshwar’s repertoire of Carnatic music productions for Bharatanatyam from the last two decades. We are pulling it from different eras and we are using those as they are.

Apart from that, we are working with Sprike who is a DJ based in Bombay with a studio called Press Play. He is creating the game sounds and building a library.

Right now I have retired from VJing. I have totally retired from BLOT since the last two -three months but only because I have done it for 9-10 years.

The plan is to finish the game and put on a show across the different cities and so that I can tour.

That is great and we look forward to playing Antariksha Sanchar and experiencing the live gigs. Thank you for speaking to The Good City.

Music courtesy: BLOT & Avinash Kumar
#inthegoodcity with Aditya Mendonca
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