How Raji: An Ancient Epic Was Ported To Mobile
The portable gaming segment has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, largely due to the runaway success of the Nintendo Switch and the more recent Steam Deck, which offered enough power to run quality titles with portable convenience. It’s no secret that its closest relative is the regular smartphone, which already boasts its own library of games, though none too enticing for the mainstream on PC or console. Hardware is clearly the culprit here, even the best can’t run most AAA titles or even popular indie titles with decent visuals or quality – unless the studio goes the extra mile to create or port a dedicated version for the same.
In most action-laden titles with 3D modeling, such attempts are futile, due to the number of particle effects and artifacts that would make games downright unattractive. The next best option is to take the less demanding version — usually the Nintendo Switch — and gradually downgrade it and port it to mobile with the appropriate platform-focused changes. It’s even more convenient if they’re all built on the same engine, and that’s what Pune-based developer Nodding Heads Games did with their recent collaboration with Netflix, bringing their famous Hindu mythology-inspired title Raji: An Ancient Epic on Android and iOS. Gadgets 360 recently had the chance to speak with Avichal Singh, co-founder and game director, and Paras Chaudhary, the studio’s lead programmer, to understand the porting process.
“Raji was developed using Unreal Engine 4 for all major platforms,” Singh said, adding that a possible mobile version had always been in mind. “It was no different for iOS and Android. The mobile version of the game is not a one hundred percent direct port of the PC and console versions. Although the basic visuals and gameplay mechanics are the same across all platforms, the control scheme and user interface have been heavily modified to suit a touchscreen experience. This results in a movement analog pad on the left side, while the action buttons dominate the right. In my testing, Raji also supported fair movement on the PS5 DualSense controller – via Bluetooth – but configuring any other buttons was awkward. There is also no button mapping option or proper flags in the game settings, so this is something the team could definitely improve on.
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“Once we launched on all the platforms we had planned, we immediately started working on the mobile port. We received many requests to launch the game on mobile devices, it also helped us to make the decision to port it to mobile,” added Singh. Developing a mobile game (from scratch) naturally comes with a ton of limitations, but Nodding Heads Games had a benchmark to fall back on. They tested the Nintendo Switch version of Raji: An Ancient Epic as a direct port to Android and iOS, which showed poor performance based on average smartphone hardware.
“After that, the game went through several iterations of optimizations. Much of the level geometry and visual effects were reworked to reduce GPU load while maintaining the aesthetic quality of the game,” Singh explains. Textures were shrunk to save memory Some code had to be rewritten to optimize CPU usage The team considered almost every use case, whether it was proprietary ‘a budget or flagship device, by adding an FPS limiter – 30 and 60 fps – in the settings and a toggle for graphics quality, this way no one is left out of the experience.
Another challenge faced by Nodding Heads Games was the overall download size of Raji: An Ancient Epic, which had to meet the 2 GB limit on app bundles on the Google Play Store. “Game size has been reduced from around 4GB for the Nintendo Switch version to 1.8GB for Android,” Singh said. “The optimization process required exceptional effort from the team as we wanted to maintain the quality bar that had been set in the PC and console versions of the game, and at the same time deliver an enjoyable game on devices. mobile.”
This opens the door to discussing whether today’s mobile devices are powerful enough to run some Nintendo Switch games and older PC games with enough optimization. We recently saw something similar with Sid Meier’s Railroads!, a PC game released in 2006 that recently saw an impressive port to mobile devices. Going back further to 2013-2014, we’ve seen gems like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Company of Heroes, and even Old School RuneScape thrive on Android and iOS. Most of these examples are paid games with a one-time cost, but Raji is offered for free – as long as you have a Netflix subscription.
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Currently, Nodding Heads Games has no plans to release Raji: An Ancient Epic separately and joins Netflix’s efforts to develop into an entertainment hub of sorts. Launched in 2021, Netflix Games offers subscribers a catalog of mobile games at no additional cost on top of the basic subscription fee. Many big names such as Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge and Stranger Things 3: The Game are already part of the bundle, but there are 40 more titles coming this year. Apple Arcade seems to be its closest competitor with more games in its catalog and slightly more flexible subscription options. However, both seem to be opting for a holistic approach to the mobile market instead of console or PC, at least for now.
This could have to do with the general cost involved in owning/maintaining a current-gen PS5 or Xbox Series S/X or state-of-the-art PC. Looking at this from an Indian perspective, it makes some sense why Raji opted for a partnership with Netflix. For one, the game is rooted in Indian mythology, with stories of ancient gods and weapons that reference important times. Moreover, there is a huge demand for mobile games in the country, largely fueled by cheap 5G internet access and budget or mid-range smartphones with decent hardware. This makes streaming content on platforms such as Netflix a breeze, ultimately allowing more gamers to experience the game without having to put a price tag on it.
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Raji: an Ancient Epic on mobile is a Netflix exclusive at the moment, and it includes all the content Nodding Heads Games has ever released for it. This includes the Enhanced Edition update, which includes a full Hindi voiceover, permadeath mode, and localization in multiple Indian languages such as Devanagari, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu. Going back to the permadeath feature and overall design of Raji, I was inclined to ask if the team had ever considered making a roguelike, in the vein of Supergiant Games. underworldbut based on Hindu mythology.
“We love Supergiant Games and underworld! However, we are still sticking to our action-adventure gaming roots,” Singh exclaimed, speaking about the future of his studio. “There is something brewing. For anyone interested, follow our social media handles.
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