Ayelet Studio Optimizes their Games Pipeline to Evoke the Visual Magic of Ancient India

4 min read

With only a small team, a limited budget, and a complex implementation process, indie game studio Ayelet Studio manages to create epic journeys that honor ancient Indian legends. Here’s how they convert their creative dreams into breathtaking results.

Elephants in a fiery game scene

Image courtesy of Ayelet Studio

Ayelet Studio, based in Chennai, India, was founded in 2021 as an indie game studio. The developers excel at delivering enthralling, story-based narratives and adventures that reshape the gameplay experience and vividly bring to life the ancient legends of India.

Although they are a small team of 18 with a limited budget, Ayelet Studio’s first launch quickly took off. Their game, “Unsung Empires: The Cholas,” invites players to explore and dive into India’s exciting cultures and legends. Within three months of launching, it had been downloaded more than 70,000 times across Steam and Epic Game Store.

Ayelet Studio’s project, “Unsung Empires: The Cholas II Legacy of Rajendra Chola,” is a single-player, narrative-driven action-adventure game set in 12th-century Tanjore, Tamil Nadu.

Working smarter and driving innovation

To get the game off the ground, the studio had to optimize its processes to create and integrate assets into the game faster and simpler. This optimization saved the team time and energy, allowing them to focus on the visuals and game-play experience. They also implemented a studio-level standard for props, sets, animations, coding, and materials.

Since its inception, Ayelet Studio has used Autodesk Maya in the game development pipeline for modelling and animation, working with Unreal Engine 5 as the primary game engine. Maya’s extensive 3D toolsets, along with the seamless data exchange between Maya and Unreal, helped the studio to go further its initial scope for visuals: “What began as a single concept blossomed into many innovative possibilities, thanks to the boundless capabilities Maya offers,” says Abraham K, Creative Director & Studio Head, Ayelet Studio.

Image courtesy of Ayelet Studio

Making Authenticity and Entertainment the Primary Focus

One of the main challenges the indie game studio encountered in developing “Unsung Empires: The Cholas I” was finding the right balance between historical accuracy and engaging gameplay.

The team strived to realistically represent various facets of Chola culture, including the architecture and storyline while keeping the game engaging for players. This required extensive research and consultation with experts to ensure authenticity and sensitivity in the representation.

Ayelet Studio also wanted to experiment with game-play mechanics, artistic styles, and storytelling techniques, which added an extra layer of complexity to the development process. While exciting, innovation requires careful planning to ensure the results enhance rather than detract from the overall game experience: “With a limited budget and manpower, we had to prioritize tasks and find creative solutions, so it was crucial that we had the right development toolkit to help us complete the work quickly and to industry standards. This required us to wear multiple hats and be resourceful in our approach to development, but with our amazing team, anything was possible.”

Unlocking collaboration, productivity, and interoperability

The Ayelet Studio team could quickly transfer 3D models, animations, and assets between Maya and Unreal Engine. The interoperability between the two platforms helped maintain consistency and reduce the risk of errors during production.

It also enabled them to streamline the game development pipeline, foster better collaboration, and enhance productivity, ultimately leading to a more efficient and successful game project.

Replicating assets grounded in ancient mythology can be complex, particularly when attempting to reproduce the Chola culture’s exquisitely detailed sculptures. For this reason, Ayelet Studio turned to photogrammetry for replication to retain the greatest possible accuracy.

Image courtesy of Ayelet Studio

When it came to creating fictional assets, the team did a lot of research and based their designs on cultural references. The game developers then focused on creating high-quality assets based on a block out, iterating and refining until they achieved their desired results. This iterative process ensured that assets not only met their high visual standards but also accurately reflected the aesthetics and characteristics of the ancient times depicted in the games.

However, outstanding visuals are just one element that is important to Ayelet Studio. The cultural connection that games like this provide is a plus that could be relevant for developers and game players worldwide: “Our mission is culturally important because we believe our games celebrate and preserve India’s diverse heritage, showcasing its history in an interactive and engaging manner. By introducing younger audiences to their cultural roots while providing older generations with a nostalgic journey, they serve as a bridge between generations,” Abraham K explains.

“Additionally, our games have the potential to attract global audiences, showcasing India’s cultural richness to the world, fostering cross-cultural understanding and contributing to a reawakening of our collective spirit. It’s about embracing our past to shape our future and inviting the world to join us on this epic adventure.”

Download Unsung Empires: The Cholas on Steam or the Epic Game Store.

Image courtesy of Ayelet Studio

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