While it continues to be a norm for every other Telugu movie to have an app of its own, that captures the essence of the movie, most of them lack shelf life and lose a major chunk of the download count within two weeks of the movie’s release. What Baahubali has done well beyond the movie is to recognise the time that the film team needs to give to bring out quality products, be it a game, a digital comic, an animation series or a book as an extension of their universe. On the eve of the ‘Baahubali- The Game’ launch in Hyderabad, Tanay Tayal and Mark Skaggs, co-founder and Director-Board member at Moonfrog Labs respectively, explain what it was like to associate with Baahubali, the brand.
Having co-created Farmville, Empire and Allies, CityVille, Treasure Isle, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth and Command, Conquer Generals in the past, Mark Skaggs says, “Baahubali ’s my first Indian movie. We had also worked with Alia Bhatt on an app recently. It has been a special experience to collaborate with this team.” They were specific on creating a product that isn’t merely promotional. Mark adds, “Arka and SS Rajamouli trusted us, gave us the platform and wanted us to do a good job. It was a self-imposed challenge for us to stay as authentic as possible for the film. I just watched the movie over and over again and memorised the key moments, people like Tanay were around to fill in the gaps. Our goal was to not retell the movie, which happens with every odd game. Here, there’s an army, there are war elephants that you can command through the characters of the film, there are special tacts with each of them.” That’s been one reason behind the choice of a strategy genre (which could sustain interest for months after the film release) for the game.
The game, available in campaign and player versus player modes, is a test to the player’s skills as a general from Mahishmati who comes up with timely strategies to outsmart the Kalakeya tribe. The players here get to train an army, build defences and join forces with Baahubali, Kattappa and the other characters of Mahishmati. The goal for the player is to prove his/her skills in building a strong army and defend their rajya (outpost) well. Beyond the first version, they plan to add new content to the game over time, be it troops, battle notes and giving more personality and extending the Mahishmati universe.
Lord of the Rings was no doubt, a mega budget franchise, but working around the expectations and the hype around Baahubali was an exciting prospect for Mark. As a game-maker, he was fascinated by a project that featured diverse elements in the background, the logos, colours, styles, the designs of the kingdom and characters that completed the film. “Lord of the Rings was a big experience for the US, but Baahubali is a bigger experience for the Indian audience. Lord of the Rings was in books, there were geeks who knew the world in and out and appreciated the visual outcome. What Baahubali does through the movie and the game is to touch aspects surrounding Indian culture and be a story that every one can relate to. While Lord of the Rings took a lot of time, this one in terms of game development was faster, more over-the-top and exciting. The time constraints were a good challenge, sometimes they raise your creativity.” The game, he assures will grow on users from time to time. Mark still feels it’ll be difficult for a game to occupy a bigger space than the movie.
It wasn’t entirely Rajamouli and co that was brainstorming on the app. They had enough freedom to add their own touch to the game. What they had at hand was the grammar, the foundation of the story, Shobu and SS Rajamouli have given us all the freedom to do our bit, the coordination and the consistent interaction wasn’t difficult at all, reveals Tanay.
Moonfrog’s earlier efforts were targeted at a global audience, but with games surrounding Alia Bhatt, Teen Patti and Baahubali, their focus has shifted back to their roots.