A closer look at Unrest: Interview with Programmer Arvind Yadav

Every other indie game these days is being funded through Kickstarter, but one game in particular caught our attention – Unrest. The Kickstarter campaign for the game has made a tidy sum, and currently sits on $20,531. We've never seen a game based in India before, let alone ancient India, so this intrigued us. Besides the fact that the game is set in ancient India, its emphasis on a proper role-playing story, the promise of a robust conversation system and the possibility to avoid every single battle also seemed rather interesting to us. We got in touch with the developer – Arvind Raja Yadav – to talk about Unrest, the Kickstarter campaign and his previous work.

Let’s kick this interview thing off now, shall we? For those among us who don’t know, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your past projects.
I'm Arvind, programmer and team lead at my independent studio called Pyrodactyl Games. I've been making games for about 6 years, starting with Turbo C++ on DOS, then Half Life 2 mods, and finally to indie development. Unrest is my third game, after Will Fight for Food and A.Typical RPG.

How did you get into the game development scene? Was it a mod project you picked up with a group of friends or did you just sit down one night and decided to write out magical lines of code?
I got my first computer when I was in class 8th, and my brother and I spent a lot of time playing versus mode in Virtua Fighter 2. In class 11th, I chose to make a game for my C++ class project, and I've been making games on ever since.


Unrest will have a 2D art-style


It's pretty rare to see a game set in India. With the blooming indie game market, why do you think no one else has picked up the mantle of making one set in India yet? Especially considering the rich history of the country. Hell, I hope that every time Ubisoft is announcing a Assassin's Creed game, it'd be set in India. Any thoughts on that?
I would love to play an Assassin's Creed set in India. I think the main reasons for lack of games set in India is that people outside India don't really know anything about Indian history. I imagine when people sit down in round tables and discuss possible settings, something like "Medieval Europe", "Pirates" or "Feudal Japan" comes up and they select those because it is assumed the global audience can relate to these settings easily. There is also the very common conception of Indian audiences only liking Bollywood and Cricket, which means nobody bothers to look at the past as a source of inspiration. I am no market analyst or expert, and I imagine there are about a hundred other factors.

Unrest is very obviously a game driven by conversation rather than combat, but it does have combat mechanics. Can you elaborate on how the combat will work in the game? Will it be something like the classic Fallout games and their tactics-based gameplay? Perhaps turn-based like jRPGs? Or straight out hack-and-slash a la Diablo and its ilk?
We are focusing on one-on-one duels for combat mechanics, and it is in real time with some aspects similar to Sid Meier's Pirates. That being said, a key thing to note is that combat will be avoidable, and there will always be a non-lethal way out.

You've posted concept art and in-game sprites of a Naga on the Kickstarter page. This shows an interesting shift towards the mythological rather than the historical. The Naga have been presented as a sentient species with their own history. Will they have more of a role in Unrest rather than just be cookie-cutter enemies?

We don't have cookie cutter enemies in the game, period. The Naga in Unrest have their own detailed history, traditions, empire and culture. A significant part of the game involves around exploring their motives, and interacting with them.


The city of Bhimra – the main setting of Unrest


Geographically speaking, where would you say does Unrest’s city – Bhimra – reside? And in what time era is the game set?
We have tried to leave that to the player's imagination – I would love it if people from different parts of India played the game, and came up with their own interpretation of when and where Bhimra is located. That being said, you will know more about these details once you've played the game.


An older game by Pyrodactyl – Will Fight For Food – has an interesting conversation system with emphasis not only on words, but also on body language. Will the system in Unrest be similar with greater emphasis placed on the nuances of body language? Or will it be a simple click-on-dialogue-option-for-exposition system?
We have a detailed conversation in the game, with emphasis being on tones and three values – Friendship, Respect and Fear. There is a lot of emphasis placed on nuanced dialogue in the game, and all of our games so far have had detailed conversation mechanics – Unrest is no exception in that regard.

The writer for Unrest – Adam DeCamp – is pretty well known around the nerdier side of the Internet because of his blog Chocolate Hammer and the Spoiler Warning series he does with Shamus Young. How do you believe his background in pen-and-paper RPGs is helping craft stories for Unrest?
Adam is a great writer, not just in terms of the quality of his prose, but also in terms of how he creates situations and gives the player options to deal with them. His pen-and-paper background really helps in the sense that he can always put himself in the shoes of the player, and ask questions like "What would I want to do in this situation?", "Do the choices and motives of the characters make sense?" and so on. We are putting a heavy emphasis on this being a real world, with your character being an ordinary person who has to abide by its rules – that is, role-playing a character.


Bhimra's map


Going back in your history a bit, I'm a huge fan of Half-Life, and invariably, of the zillions of mods that it spawned – Dystopia included. Could you elaborate a bit on the transition from developing game mods to a full-fledged game? Has the process and experience been similar?
Well, the processes are similar in the sense that you have to be self-motivated and be able to work under a lot of constraints. As a programmer, there is a lot more freedom if you're coding everything from scratch, while modding does involve wrestling with the SDK provided to you. That being said, when I was modding, I was just one member in a team lead by someone else, while now I am the team lead – certain skills are transferable, but both have their own unique setbacks and challenges.

Assuming Unrest does well, which, going by the money on Kickstarter, seems to be the case, would you like to do a sequel? Would the potential sequel be a prequel, sequel, or simply another time and place in ancient India entirely? Would you do it if a big-name publisher comes forward and offers a deal?
At this moment, I have no plans for a prequel/sequel/spinoff and my sole focus is Unrest – and that will be the case until the game's release. We have no plans to approach publishers, because I'd rather stay independent and be directly answerable to my fans.

Published Date: Jun 07, 2013 13:11 PM | Updated Date: Jun 07, 2013 13:11 PM