Rakesh Raju is Co-founder and CTO at TreSensa, Inc., a cross-platform game development technology company created in 2011.
What made you passionate about video games?
I look at games as a combination of the creative arts and interactive technology, both of which I have strong interests in. Apart from this, I believe that games have a profound impact on a wide range of areas outside of games per se- be it hardware technology, software product design, marketing or even society and culture as a whole. So games are a combination of not one, but many of my passions and interests.
How did you enter the game industry?
After graduating from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I studied interactive computer graphics programming at the Electronics Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois, Chicago.
Then I worked as programmer making real-time 3D animation and special effects tools for the content creators in the simulation and movie industries.
But I wanted to understand the consumer space more, so in 2000 I joined the team building Real Arcade (now GameHouse). RealArcade was the first app store product for casual games. I really got to see the very beginning of the industry. Been part of it ever since.
How did your past career experiences help you in your current position at TreSensa?
At TreSensa, we are focused on building tools for game developers and game studios of today.
I have been building tools for content creators since grad school.
While I was still in grad school, I focused on procedural animation tools. At my first job with HT Medical, I built tools for surgical education. At Disney, I was building tools for animators. Later at Real Arcade, I built game distribution software.
Then at Codewalla, I put together game development teams and provided technical oversight for a variety of cross platform casual games – online, mobile, social , both single player as well as large-scale multiplayer. This exposed me to the pain points of game developers and game studio businesses.
These experiences directly led me to realize the market opportunity, to conceptualize and create TreSensa products.
What made you realize the video game industry needed TreSensa?
I understand the pain points of game studios firsthand. New platforms come up every day, there is increased cost of building cross platform games and it’s always hard to find experienced people for new platforms.
For building multiplayer games, there is a different set of challenges. With the advent of new technologies like the Cloud, some costs have come down drastically, but now there is a new specialization required. Content creators also need much better tools and services when it comes to monetization and distribution.
We realized that there is a massive need to help game studios with these challenges – right from creation to monetization and distribution and that’s how TreSensa was born.
How has TreSensa impacted the video game industry?
I think it’s too early to say that because we are just launching it now. Having said that, the areas we want to disrupt is the fragmented marketplace and the complexities around multiplayer development.
How will HTML5 platform benefit casual game development?
I think there are four compelling benefits of HTML5:
- One really massive benefit which no one talks about much is that you can use HTML5 technologies to power game back ends. Having to deal with just one tech stack for both front end and back end is a great benefit for game development teams. Also, on the back end, some of the limitations of the front end (feature parity, performance) do not exist.
- Secondly, for an increasing number of genres, HTML5 is a viable solution because you can reuse most of your codebase on a wide range of platforms like desktop, mobile web, iOS, Android, Kindle etc., whether browser based or native.
- Thirdly, HTML5 also offers a quicker development cycle. You end up writing a lot less code and can tweak your game on the fly without the usual edit-compile-run loop. It also offers a faster publishing cycle.
- And finally with the Open Web, potentially the largest distribution platform, developers can have their games live on the web granting access to all desktop and mobile devices. Or they can simply use the Open Web for a lighter browser based version of the game.
When should a developer consider HTML5 development?
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing HTML5 as a platform. These include: type of game, cost-to-reach and time to market considerations.
Weighing those factors against the requirements of the game can have a huge impact on the economic success or failure of the project. It’s a great choice for many casual game genres.
A game developer that has a large web presence but has yet to make a foray into mobile can reproduce a popular online game to HTML5 and enable the game on a variety of mobile devices.
For example: We are partnering with a major online media company that is creating fresh new video episodic content every month. For each new episode, we want to deliver a new game that will run online mobile, web, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and Connected TV. By using HTML5, we can take most of our code, and, with minor tweaks, we can truly reach the entire market of their users (15 million uniques/month) and have the game content available wherever they wish.
What we are seeing with HTML5 games is that since no download is necessary and they can easily be tethered/embedded with other web content (videos, articles, tweets), virality and engagement are driven up by an order of magnitude.
When technical limitations are not a consideration, it changes the economics of game development by reducing cost of development, reducing the dev cycles, creating a much more frictionless way of distribution. In that way, there is less dependency on pay2win as the only strategy for economic success for a game developer – this increases the fun and creativity of the game.
What difficulties occur when developing an HTML5 game? How can these difficulties be avoided?
The solution is to pick a framework that suits your needs, gets you a head start and is not hard to use or closed in any way.
What tips can you offer to developers using HTML5?
Here are five practical tips:
- One: Since HTML5 comes from web development, many of the experts in this field are from that field. Don’t listen to them for advice on how to develop a game in HTML5. Listen to the HTML5 experts who actually build games for a living.
- Two: Just like all game development platforms, there are some platform limitations. Be aware of those and create the game design to be successful despite the limitations.
- Three: As with all poorly typed languages, be very aware of where memory is actually getting consumed. Use profiling tools and a strict linter while in development.
- Four: Use Frameworks to take care of the more tedious aspects of HTML5 development such as cross device/platform compatibility and game engine utilities, but use frameworks that have a proven track record with commercial quality games.
Is there anything new we can look forward to from TreSensa?
We are working on a game development platform, both front end and back end. In early July, we are launching the public beta of the client side SDK and a private beta of the server side SDK. Interested game developers and game studios are welcome to have a look at www.tresensa.com for more details.