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ALL IN THE GAME Inferno and Riverdale are expected to hit the market early next year
ALL IN THE GAME Inferno and Riverdale are expected to hit the market early next year

India's FXLabs is developing the first Archie videogame

Doodling has been his favourite pastime for the past 21 years. Born in Alaska, 37-year-old Beau Folson started as a professional artist when he was barely 16. He has worked with several companies in his two decade-long career and is currently with FXLabs as art director of its Games Division, pioneering the development of two innovative games - Inferno and Archie's Riverdale Run under the stewardship of FXLabs CEO Tony Garcia, who earlier headed the Games Division in Microsoft.Floor Three of FXLabs' Hyderabad facility, overlooking the calm and pristine Lotus Pond in Banjara Hills, is something that appears straight out of the comic books. Near life-sized posters of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Moose are all over the office. The three dozen-odd designers/artists have their heads almost into high-end, oversized monitors checking out designs.Admittedly one of the luckier kids of his time, Beau got to twiddle with his own computer as early as 1982. So transcending beyond the mere pen and pencil and drawing board, incorporating the high-tech properties brought in with software such as PhotoShop, Maya and 3-D Studios into drawing and design came naturally to him."It was all trial and error and we went through the same process a few years ago. Today though, several facilities, specially those in India, offer tailor-made classic courses in animation design and development and those with basic skills in drawing and painting find it easier to understand to rudiments of cartoons, animation and design," says Beau.Inferno is a high-end PC action game being developed using the Unreal 2.5 engine targeted at personal computers with latest processors and next generation graphics accelerators. It promises a visually stunning and highly immersive experience and has on offer nine large, intricately designed levels and a wide array of weapons and spells in interactive 3D environments. Players need to don the role of Amanda, who has lost her daughter to the denizens of the underworld, need to fight their way through nine rings of purgatory, find the lost child and save her from the clutches of demon spirits.Thanks to an exclusive licensing agreement with Archie Comics Entertainment, FXLabs is in the advanced stages of development/production of the first videogame based on the Archie universe. The story is interesting. Archie wants money urgently and enlists the help of his Riverdale pals. What else for but to take Veronica to the prom!Players need use clues, shortcuts and fun challenges to keep the action rolling. It's truly a madcap romp through Riverdale with lot of surprises thrown in all along the way with skilful animation. It has dozens of missions to complete and allows players the option of playing as many of their favourite Archie characters as they wish, driving an array of vehicles.Both the games are expected to hit the PC and Xbox by the end of 2006 or early 2007. Just for the record, Inferno's gaming time is said to range between 12 and 20 hours depending on the IQ and aptitude of the player. Of course, players have the option of pausing and resuming later.SURESH KRISHNAMOORTHY

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