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Mumbai Gullies Planned “To Have Multiple Sequels”; GameEon Studios CEO Nikhil Malankar Talks About the Future, and More at IGDC 2022

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The 2022 edition of the Indian Game Developers Conference or IGDC 2022 has finally concluded following three days of gaming extravaganza in Hyderabad, Telangana.

The three-day event saw the biggest names from Indian gaming including developers, publishers and more, to talk and share about their future.

Several developers demonstrated their in-development projects to receive feedback from fans. This included GameEon Studios, which showcased its’ highly anticipated open-world game, Mumbai Gullies.

To know more about the title, we talked with GameEon Studio Founder and CEO Nitin Malankar. During our conversation, Nikhil shared his thoughts about all aspects of the Indian gaming industry including challenges while developing AAA titles and more.

First of all, we need to ask about your time at IGDC, since this is the first in-person event ever since the pandemic began in 2020. How was your experience at the event?

The experience has been really good. We were showcasing our game as well in our booth. And there wasn’t a single moment when our booth was empty. We even had to actually shut down the booth in order to create some lunch time for the staff.

The other talks were really informative as well. And then there were some really good companies in the booth as well. So, all in all, I think it was a very electric event in terms of gaming. The event had like around 4000-plus registered members. So, it’s a huge thing and for this very reason, I think IGDC is the biggest gaming conference in all of South Asia.

Did you get a chance to try out any of the games, and did any particular titles stand out to you?

I saw Occult Chambers from BornMonkie Studios, and that was amazing. Metal Haven from Xigma Games, that was also good. I didn’t get a chance to properly try Yodha by Ogre Head Studio, but I think they’re doing an amazing job. These three games are the ones that I really enjoyed taking a look at IGDC 2022.

Have you been able to showcase Mumbai Gullies? If so, how’s the response been so far?

The response has been amazing. So, we saw people crowding up at the booth to the point where, I wasn’t able to enter my own booth. And there was no stopping. People waited for hours to try out the demo, and the feedback we received was also really good. At IGDC 2022, we demoed the Marine Lines area at our booth, and the audience absolutely loved it. They were driving around, exploring the railway tracks, and all sort of things.

We got some constructive feedback – some positive, some negative. So, we’ll be taking all that feedback into account and trying to improve the build that we have. The interesting thing was that people were actually going through and exploring the entire city that we’ve built. So, that was a really refreshing experience. And whatever we’ve been building has been validated by the audience as well.

The city that never sleeps in Mumbai Gullies.

For years, this nation has gorged on multiplayer mobile titles. But over the past few years, there has been a slight change with single player and story-driven titles. Is that the future you aspire for, or do you have a different personal wishlist?

I personally love playing story-driven narrative games, just like Mumbai Gullies, which is a single player experience. I love playing them because you can kind of isolate, enjoy, and immerse yourself in that world, and you become someone else. Even with Mumbai Gullies, we plan to have multiple sequels for the game, and that is somewhat a future that we have envisioned for the franchise.

The city of Mumbai hasn’t really been represented in the gaming world as much compared to other iconic locations in the world. With that in mind, what was the biggest challenge in using a city as probably the main character in the game’s story?

I like the fact that you talk about the map as a character itself, because Mumbai has a lot of diversity within itself. We also looked at Mumbai from the perspective of a city that never sleeps. as that’s the only city other that New York, which has that designation. So, we wanted to see all of these dynamics, and put Mumbai on the group global front.

While it was great to see Mumbai inside Hitman 2 as a level, we felt that it was too limited of an experience that the game offered. Mumbai is extremely diverse and rich with culture – There are a lot of food items that you can eat, there are different modes of transport. So, we wanted to showcase that Mumbai is not just slums, which is the general perception in the West, and all of that is a stereotypical understanding of the city itself. And that’s what we are to certain extent also succeeding in portraying.

Are we right in presuming that you are also from Mumbai?

Yes, I am. Born and brought up in the city.

So, is there a particular element in the game that you thought like, “Been there, done that,” kind of thing for you?

Obviously, you’ve eaten a Vada Pav, travelled a lot on local trains, right? So, all of that is in the game. And then the game is based in the 90s. So, whoever has grown in that particular era, they will be able to relate with all the cars that are a part of Mumbai Gullies. I was born in the 90s. So, I’ve seen these transition happen.

Then there are tons of other aspects as well. There is a very Bollywood-ish storyline in the game. The combat system is also something that we are extensively working on. It draws inspiration from all the classic AAA titles. All of these aspects are something that would make this game extremely relatable.

As a Mumbaikar. I’ve been there done that, and I just wanted to make sure that the things that I’ve seen around me is showcased on a global platform.

You touched upon the story itself. In brief, what would you say the story is like?

The story is of a protagonist who rises from rags to riches. He starts off as a low-level thug, and he then rises up the ladder. So, he has to make decisions, which will impact his overall journey and on what the outcome of the game will be. It’s a story filled with a lot of drama, action, and a lot of

You obviously touched upon Bollywood as well. And while going through the game and the trailer, the first thing that caught my eye was the protagonist, who looks very similar to Circuit from Munna Bhai MBBS? Is that intentional? Is that some sort of inspiration?

If you were to work with any artistic aspect, you always have to work with the references. Bollywood has been a great reference, and not just as a reference, but also an inspiration, because 90s was the time when Shah Rukh Khan and other actors were rising up the ladder. So yes, we are drawing inspiration from a lot of central characters that played a pivotal role in that particular era.

You will see a lot of similarities between some major actors, who was part of that decade, and we are also doing a lot of fictionalization of new characters. Hopefully, the aim is that, once we tell this story, you might go and research if all these characters actually existed during that era. And if that happens, I think we’ve done our job well.

Police chases in Mumbai Gullies

Mumbai Gullies is the focus right now for GameEon. However, do you have any vision on the genre/type of a game you have in your mind after you’re done working with your current project?

I think Mumbai has a lot to offer. So, we will be playing around with the city itself, and we’ll try to make different types of genres based around the city itself. And not just Mumbai, we would also love to explore the rest of the country as well. I’m aware that it will take a lot of time. But hopefully, with the right intent and the right efforts, we will get there.

You started this studio with a dream and vision. Has that stayed the same or has it evolved since then?

It has evolved by leaps and bounds. Obviously, we’ve matured over the years, and we thought that making a game of this scale would be really easy. But then we get hit by reality, time and time again.

What has helped though is I think the constant amount of support from the ecosystem, especially Epic Games and Unreal Engine, because that’s the engine that we’re using to make this game. So, I think that support has actually given a boost to our processes. We were also the recipients of the MegaGrant from Unreal Engine, so that has also helped us quite a bit as well. We are really grateful for the support along with the community that we’ve built around the game as well.

Car zooms past autos in Mumbai Gullies

Is the game being built on Unreal Engine 5?

Yes. We started off in Unreal Engine 4, and we then transitioned to Unreal Engine 5.

How’s that experience been, and what was the major difference that you saw between the two variants?

I think developing with Unreal Engine is definitely a cakewalk in terms of the processes, because they’ve made the engine so easy to use and efficient as well. What we are trying to figure out is, since we switched an engine, we now have to learn a couple of things over again, which is a little bit of a challenge.

But regardless, I think the community around Unreal Engine is really strong. So, whenever we come across any roadblock, we just ask the community that Unreal Engine has built. And the process is so easy that Epic Games helps us to connect with developers, if we are not able to find any solution. So, the experience with that has been great.

We’re currently going through a bit of a learning curve, but I’m sure whatever we are going through right now will be a payoff in the long run. As of right now, we haven’t utilized the entire capability of Unreal Engine 5. There are so many systems in place in UE5 that are apt for an open world game. So, we are looking forward to experiment further. Moreover, Unreal Engine is doing a lot in their capacity to support the ecosystem as well.

You obviously talked about the major challenges that you and your team have been facing while developing Mumbai Gullies. With a game on a scale like this, is the biggest issue for you monetarily? Or do you find some other issue much more challenging?

Thankfully, we’ve been in the lucky space, wherein we raised a little bit of investment, and we are also in talks with raising our next round. So, money, I would say, would not be part of our problems.

Where to deploy that money is certainly a challenge for us to figure out, because we want to make sure that we’re investing in the right set of people, the right set of companies to work with. We know that we can’t do this journey alone, At GameEon Studios, even if we build like a 50-member team and, then scale it up to 100, we still need more players from the ecosystem, because there’s just so much to do. And just figuring that out is one of the biggest challenges.

For example, we know that we can develop the game now because we have the coding expertise, artists and other stuff. But then, there’s the entire Mocap angle of it, where you have to work with some vendor because we don’t have a facility within our company. In that regard, selecting the right set of vendors, the right pipeline, and having the right set of tools available to you, I think that is a bigger challenge. When it comes to the money, we are sorted thanks to our investors and the community as well for taking a huge leap of faith on us.

That Antilla *tease* tho

Final question, any particular game that you have played recently that you can’t stop raving about, and one game you’re quite excited about in the near future.

I recently bought a Nintendo Switch, and I’ve been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on it. I’m also excited for God for War: Ragnarok. I think that would be really good.


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