Despite very little recognition, there’s actually a lot of effort to uplift the gaming industry in the country. The Koombiyo Game and Unbroken are a great testament to this. Now we even have a multiplayer game in the works that is looking to replace the likes of Call of Duty among Sri Lankans. They’re calling this game Extraction Valley. Recently, I sat down with the team behind it.
Just a couple of gamers
Ravindu Omantha and Prabath Megha have always been passionate gamers. So passionate in fact, that they started looking into game development during their Advanced Levels days. The early days mostly comprised of Ravindu and Prabath sharing their different creations on Facebook. Ravindu, being the 3D artist, showcased his designs while Prabath chose to focus on environment designing side of things. The community on Facebook would usually respond well to their creations, which is actually how Ravindu met Prabath, and the rest of their team members.
Being the enthusiastic gamers as they are, the duo kicked off their first official gaming project. Taking inspiration from The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Outlast, they worked on their own horror adventure game called The Chase. The game certainly looked promising for the most part. But the project was still a daunting task as it was only the two of them who were working on the project at the time.
Assembling the team
Later, the two met Buddhi and the rest of the team. Buddhi was actually working on his own game. But his lone efforts weren’t enough to carry the idea forward. So he got together with Ravindu and Prabath. A few others joined them as well. But not all of them stuck around for long. In fact, this became its own problem for Ravindu to deal with. People join the project purely out of excitement, but would often fall short in delivering the actual work. In order to sort this out, Ravindu set up a few tests where prospective members would have to undergo.
By somewhere mid-2015, the team had begun working on an original idea for a multiplayer game under the ‘Ram Studios’ name. Why multiplayer? Because a multiplayer game has never been attempted in Sri Lanka before. Besides, Sri Lankans love their multiplayer gaming.
Bringing Extraction Valley to life
While they were cooking up the idea for Extraction Valley, Ravindu got an internship opportunity at Codegen, where he would be part of the Vega project. While working at Codegen, Ravindu managed to get in touch with Dr. Harsha Subasinghe on Facebook. He briefed Dr. Harsha on their game. Excited about the idea, he decided to invest in the project through Codegen.
But instead of handing them with piles of cash, Codegen gave them computers, a much-needed resource for the team. Despite their efforts, the team had a hard time building the game with Ravindu having the only usable laptop. “It came to a point Prabath couldn’t run the game engine since he only had a Core2Duo processor”, noted Ravindu. Additionally, a game in the scale of Extraction Valley meant that even Ravindu’s own gaming laptop didn’t have enough power. So Codegen’s support in providing the computers got things back on track for the gang.
Reception was good
From day one, the team’s primary focus had always been getting the multiplayer aspect right. This meant getting everything from networking to gameplay in order. Once the basics were set in place, it was a matter of building the more intricate details. By May 2018, they released the Pre-Alpha for the game.
Even at the Pre-Alpha stage, the game had a lot of good things going. For example, a lot of the users complimented on the FPS rate of the game. The team noted that if there’s one feature they would highlight from the game, it’s the FPS rate. Another plus point is the AI feature of the game which would allow anyone to play out the multiplayer mode even when there aren’t other players around.
But then again, as one would expect games can undergo a lot of changes during the testing phase. Quite a few users gave feedback on the game’s UX aspects of things, such as how right-clicking to shoot wasn’t the way gamers how gamers are used to handling a shooting game.
Another major feedback was the lack of a campaign mode. Players didn’t want to be immersed in multiplayer mode all the time. They wanted a single-player mode as well, one where you can play out the game’s story. Although initially, the plan was to introduce a story mode with the final release. However, the team noted that the story mode will likely be released at a later stage of the game, following the official launch.
It’s not about making a sell-ready product
Talking to Ravindu and his team, one thing that was clear was their attention to maintaining the standard of a high-quality game. According to the guys at Ram Studios, they want Extraction Valley to be comparable to the likes of international hits. After all, benchmarking local standards wouldn’t really get them far anyway.
Ravindu also notes that being a Sri Lankan game doesn’t mean everything should be in Sinhala. The team believes the local culture should be promoted in the international arena. He cites Uncharted: Lost Legacy game as an example, how the game depicts the Indian culture while maintaining that international appeal.
Ravindu believes a similar approach should be followed by local games being developed. Because the local audience is familiar with the local culture anyway. But it’s a whole new experience altogether for the international crowd.
Challenges: Getting it to the next level
One of the challenges the team has at the moment is the unavailability of a dedicated server. As of now, the team would have to set up their own server whenever there are players around who want to try out the game. For Ram Studios, the first priority was to get the multiplayer part right. Now that it’s ticked off, it was just a matter of fitting in the rest of the puzzle pieces. This, of course, includes resolving the dedicated server issue as well.
On the other hand, the team is also working on a Ram Studio Community app. The idea behind this app is to,
- Have a proper mechanism for people to download Extraction Valley
- Bring tutorial/learning content to users
Although the game already has 1,000+ unique downloads on the website already (as of July 25th, 2018), the team prefers to have a proper mechanism to let users access the game. The community app would not only allow Ram Studios to distribute the game in a professional context. But it would also allow the team to release any future games with ease.
Surprisingly Ram Studios never started out as a game development company. The name was actually under a YouTube channel that delivered tutorials about 3D designing, gaming, etc. The team hopes to bring this back with the community app.
A promising start
Extraction Valley is now officially available for download on Steam and its priced at $8.19. The team notes that they are also looking into a better alternative for the local community as well.
Things certainly look very interesting for the Sri Lankan gaming industry. Particularly for Ram Studios, considering a majority of the members being either school leavers or university students. Of course, we at ReadMe will be keeping a close eye on everything that will be brewing in this space. Here’s us wishing Ram Studios the best of luck.
If you’ve tried out the game already, go ahead and drop a comment below.
Update [August 15th, 2019]: Article has been updated following the release of the game.