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Wing Commander Abhinandan, Rafale aircraft and more in IAF’s video game, A Cut Above

We look at IAF’s second mobile game, A Cut Above, which lets you choose between Rafale and six other aircraft

The feeling of sitting in an aircraft (even an aircraft simulator) is overwhelming in the best way; a glance over the numerous controls, your peripheral vision being open skies, and a feeling of power that signs, seals and delivers the whole experience. The closest second, though, is offered through the mobile game, Indian Air Force: A Cut Above. In the game, you fly the Hawk, Mi-17, C-17, Apache, Mirage 2000, Su-30 and the headline-making Rafale aircraft. Just like 2014’s Guardians of the Skies from IAF, this game is built by Threye Interactive, a Delhi-based game development studio.

“We invested in mobile games to reach the Indian youth through a platform preferred by them,” says Group Captain Anupam Banerjee, IAF spokesperson. Both games have been downloaded over a million times on the Google Play Store. On the first day, A Cut Above was downloaded over 50,000 times. He adds, “The primary aim of this game is to get youth attracted to the profession of military aviation, while providing information about career options in the Indian Air Force.”

The back end
  • Unity 3D laid the foundation of the gaming engine; application logic to execute flight physics, flight-handling and enemy AI
  • 3D computer-aided design using Blender 3D, Autodesk Maya Indie Edition, Grome
  • User Interface (UI) and experience (UX) done on Sketch
  • Audio effects produced on Audacity and Mac text-to-speech generator
  • Project management by Trello and SourceTree

Five years ago, little did Anurag Rana, CEO of Threye, and his team know they would make video games for mobiles. Their first stint with animation was a short film titled Rockets Away (published on YouTube, May 2013). It tells the story of the IAF Mi-17 helicopters’ attack on Tololing Hill during the Kargil War of 1999. Owing to its success, they decided to develop Operation Morning Glory, a five-level PC game. Taking fans’ requests seriously, they listed it on the Google Play Store as well. As of now, the nine-megabyte game has over 1,00,000 downloads. So when they saw the IAF’s open call for mobile game developers, Anurag and his team knew they were in for business.

As per their blog ‘How the Indian Air Force got its game’ from June 2017, they faced competition from 120 developers, including Disney-UTV and Reliance. In December 2014, Guardians of the Skies was released by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, at the IAF Auditorium, Subroto Park, New Delhi.

Scope for more development

After you launch A Cut Above, the first thing you will see is the silver IAF emblem, followed by a brief loading screen before the home screen loads. Here, you will see an anonymous officer with Abhinandan on the name-tag. There are three game modes to choose from — training, single-player and free flight. In the last one, for some reason, you have to register with your email address to play.

Go for this if you want to try out the different IAF aircraft without completing the tutorial. Register, and you will see a persona of a pilot with a gun-slinger moustache. Thus, officially give a shout-out to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, recipient of the Vir Chakra gallantry award in 2019.

Wing Commander Abhinandan, Rafale aircraft and more in IAF’s video game, A Cut Above

The single-player has 10 distinct missions, such as a surgical strike, air-to-air refuelling and base defence. This mode is unlocked only after completing the training with all nine stars. You can’t blame the Indian armed forces for being a stickler for perfection, can you?

Indeed, there is a learning curve for the first-time player, but the clunky controls make that challenging. Nikhil Abhishek, a Visakhapatnam-based gamer, feels the controls are fine as along you have to just fly. This changes quickly when you have to shoot at specific targets or land on the runway. “You have to wait until you’re close to the target to actually see it. Then you only have a second or two to take your shot. The poor controls are your enemy here, not the targets,” he says jokingly.

Games like PUBG have made high-end graphics on a mobile the norm. That said, aesthetically, A Cut Above doesn’t turn heads. Anupam says “Further development will be decided after analysing response from the users.”

The success of video games like Age Of Empires, Civilization and Assassin’s Creed has shown there is a market for the history genre. Considering the fact that the primary target audience of A Cut Above is teenagers and college students, it seems like a missed opportunity to mix education with fun. Perhaps the further developments Anupam referred to can include trivia about the IAF or a sneak peek into life in blue. The only source of information is the ‘career navigator’ button on the home screen of the game which links to IAF’s recruitment website.

Chandigarh-based Mukul Verma, who aspires to join the armed forces, says, “I like the game but it is not designed in a way to create curiosity among people who aren’t particularly keen to join the forces. I know about the game because I am interested in joining the forces.” A multi-player mode of A Cut Above is expected to release this month.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 9:49:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/wing-commander-abhinandan-rafale-aircraft-and-more-in-iafs-video-game-a-cut-above/article29557083.ece

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