Chennai | Seek adventure on the vibrant streets of the city with this indie open world game

Project Madras is a love letter to Chennai rendered in 4K

Published - July 11, 2024 11:24 am IST

Stills from the gameplay video

Stills from the gameplay video | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Has driving an auto been on your bucket list? How about running on top of a local train, or leading a double life with a secret mission? No matter how unrealistic something seems in real life, it is possible, and sometimes even necessary in the world of video games. 

Among the numerous types of video games and the millions of worlds and fantasies available, , the most interesting ones seem to be those set in locations that exist in our reality. Los Angeles (GTA V), New York (Spiderman), Tokyo (Street Fighter), and London (Uncharted) are just some examples.

While there have been games set in India, there has rarely been an accurate representation because it mostly showcases a Westernised perspective of an exotic tropical nation. Project Madras, an indie open world game set in the city of Chennai, comes as a breath of fresh air.

“I have always been interested in game development because I was learning VFX and video editing during college for personal projects in film making. ,” says 25-year-old game developer Royston Ragul A, who is currently developing Project Madras, with his friends. “When Unreal Engine (a 3D computer graphics game engine and creation tool)released new features in 2020, it made game design accessible and that’s when we decided to make this game.”

Project Madras is a semi-linear open-world game which immerses players into the vibrant, chaotic and real streets of Chennai. For non-practising video game enthusiasts, a semi-linear game is one with a branching storyline that can be played in any order, as opposed to one mission and one path to the end. An open world game, is one where the player is free to explore the limits of the game without necessarily following a set mission.

“Back when we were filmmakers, we would think of many fun concepts and storylines that we wanted to bring to life on the screen, like shooting a chase sequence on top of a train. It is not practically possible on an independent scale,” says Royston. “In a game, however, we can make a player do those things.” 

In Project Madras, players will follow a secret spy mission while going through iconic locations like Mount Road, the LIC building, Marina beach , Napier Bridge, and more. The gameplay glimpse video shows an auto zipping through what looks like the Nochikuppam settlement near Loop Road. “The hero of the game is the city of Chennai. I’m not a native of Chennai, but I have fallen in love with it over many visits and through glimpses of it on the big screen. Our ambitious storyline suits Chennai’s personality,” he says, adding that he and his team have made multiple visits to Chennai to get the ambient feel. “We have recorded audio and video, taken photographs, done extensive research to replicate it in the game.” 

While the core storyline is still under wraps, it is evident from the gameplay video that it will be a thrilling ride of crime, adventure, and mystery. “The games that I love all have a similar thread running through  —  it is an open world. As a gamer, freedom is an important aspect of gaming. For most Indians, buying a game feels worth it only when it has a re-play value. If it has a linear storyline and gameplay, it gets boring and predictable,” Royston says. 

As a part of immersing the players in the city’s culture and heritage, the game’s original audio is in Tamil. The characters and even the NPCs (Non-player characters) will converse in Tamil as a default. The game can be switched to English or Hindi, but where’s the fun in that? 

Project Madras is developed in Unreal Engine 5 with features like Nanite for high environment detail and Lumen for realistic lighting. The characters are created with an in-house technology that uses body and face scan technology. “We were using Metahuman Technology for our characters, but felt that it does not feel good for characters from Chennai as they are very western looking.” 

Currently, the team of five is looking for investors who can back their ambitious research and development and help them improve every aspect of the game, right from the physics of how vehicles move, to replicating natural body movements. “Getting physics of all vehicles is a huge challenge. Beta testing will make this more apparent,” he says. The game will feature a wide range of vehicles like two-wheelers, autos, buses, lorries, and even boats. 

Project Madras is currently under development and the initial early access version will be released in 2025. The full version is anticipated to release in 2026. 

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