Creating a Future in Gaming
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Sri Lanka is currently in an economic crisis that will take a long, painful process to survive from. The creative economy has a major role to play in making that happen. RAM Studios is a Sri Lanka based game developer who understands this and is dedicated to bringing Sri Lankan games to the international market.
Ceylon Today had the opportunity to speak with head of RAM Studios, Ravindu Omantha to learn more about his journey as a game developer here in Sri Lanka and his view on Sri Lanka’s potential to tap into this billion dollar industry.
From cars to games
Although a full-fledged game developer now, Ravindu began with a passion for designing cars, which he pursued in his free time, teaching himself 3D animation and design in his youth.
It was during this time that he encountered Prabhath, who was working on building a video game with a group of friends. Interested, Ravindu also started helping the team as well. “Sadly, things kind of ground to a halt before we were able to make something substantial,” he shared. “So the entire project sort of fell apart.”
However, it turned out Prabhath never gave up and continued to work on the game, which Ravindu found out and decided to help out to see it through. Buddhi, who was interested in programming also joined the team after seeing a social media post that they’d made on the project, wanting to join in as well.
“Some people want to start big, making ambitious projects,” he shared. “But we realised that we didn’t have the skill or resources to make anything of substantial size. Instead, we started small, building a game that wouldn’t need a lot of resources to make and had simple mechanics.” Realising that an indie-horror game would be the best method of approach, the two worked together in building The Chase, a completely original, single player indie-horror game.
“As we worked on the game, we realised we had something that had a lot of potential. We continued to build on that. But we hit a wall.”
A considerable amount of computing power is needed in order to build a game, and neither Prabhath nor Ravindu have a machine with the hardware needed to achieve their potential. “It got to the point where it would take close to an hour to open the project file,” he laughed. Fortunately, it was during this time that Ravindu entered the Peradeniya Faculty of Engineering as a Mechanical Engineering student. He was given a laptop which the two then shared for their project.
From Vega, to RAM
Time flew, and the moment came for Ravindu to enter into an internship. With his passion for designing automobiles and 3D design experience, he was able to be part of the team behind VEGA innovations as an intern.
“The whole project was part of an initiative by Dr. Harsha Subasinghe, who is also known among university students for providing funding for a number of different projects and initiatives,” he explained. “I thought it was worth a shot, so I reached out to him on social media.”
Fortunately, Dr. Subasinghe replied, and Ravindu got some initial funding, and one year to prove that RAM Studios is capable of creating a full-fledged video game.
Their ongoing project, The Chase was developed to an extent and released as a demo pre-release, and received positive feedback from those who did play. Even so, it sadly had to be put on pause for some time.
In the meantime, the team experimented with new titles such as Extraction Valley and Mahasona, both which received mixed reviews. “It was a learning experience for us,” Ravindu shared. “We wanted to try new things as much as we can and develop our skills for future projects,” he admitted.
Even so, their work was enough to impress Dr. Subasinghe enough to continue funding their projects. Now, RAM Studios is a subsidiary of CodeGen International.
“We’ve grown quite a bit since then, with a larger team, and have worked on a number of other games” he continued. “We also are finally back on track to building The Chase, which we hope to release by the end of this year.”
Local vs global
“One big mistake that people who are passionate about making games do is think that they can build a big-budget triple-A game on their own,” Ravindu explained. “These games are made with teams that comprise hundreds of individuals, using cutting edge equipment and massive investment. It’s simply not practical to do.”
“Another mistake that people can often make is trying to cater to only a local audience when making a game,” he continued. “There is a massive audience for games beyond our borders, and with the digital age, there’s nothing to hold you back from tapping into this global industry.”
Ravindu shared that it isn’t a difficult task to do so. “Even the biggest names in the industry such as Ubisoft are very easy to connect with.”
“It’s not like we don’t have skilled people who can make great games in Sri Lanka,” Ravindu opined. “We don’t need big concepts either. There is a massive demand for original, unique games. We need people who can make unique and original games.”
“If we have an original concept and have a team with the capacity to develop it, I don’t think it would be a problem to find an investor, or people who want to play your game. Even some of the biggest names in the industry such as Ubisoft are very easy to reach out to and communicate with. What we need are original concepts, and people with the skill to build them.”
Ravindu believes that Sri Lanka has the potential to tap into this global, billion dollar industry that has the potential to generate a new slew of opportunities for Sri Lankan creative professionals.
RAM Studios have already proven that they are capable of creating more than just video games. They are also the team behind the special end-credits sequence in the recently released short-movie, Temporal by High School Junkies, a Sri Lanka based movie production house.
Although not an established industry yet, Ravindu believes that as more passionate creatives are allowed to experiment and create, that Sri Lanka will also have the chance to establish a strong industry in the country. He is confident that as more pioneers continue to step up, the day will come when Sri Lankan-made games are enjoyed by people around the world.