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Who let the Angry Birds out?

Creating a mobile game is team effort. Two youngsters, who were part of the Angry Birds Friends project, tell us what it takes to design a game for that bit of fun and a hearty laugh

education Updated: Jun 18, 2014 12:29 IST
Vandana Ramnani

Does your cellphone or tablet have the game Angry Birds Friends in it? You’ve surely enjoyed playing with those red, blue, black and yellow winged marvels, enjoying their delightful twittering while they go about their business of destroying green pigs and wooden slabs?

If yes, then you would definitely be interested in getting to know the team that created the fun game...Meet Noora Klaavu, junior game artist, Rovio Entertainment, Finland and Samsher Chahar, software engineer, Animation Pipeline and Tools, Rovio Entertainment.

Klaavu is 24 years old who has from her childhood always wanted to be a video game developer. “As a child I thought games were an amazing way of storytelling and felt that I wanted to be a part of that. I forgot about that dream for a few years, but it didn’t stop me from making some small games with the little tools and knowledge I had,” she says.

Klaavu studied animation at the Arts Academy at Turku University of Applied Sciences in Finland where she worked on her first game project with otherpeople at school. Soon after that she got her first job in the gaming industry at Digital Chocolate.After doing some texture art for 3D-models at Housemarque, she graduated and joined the games unit of Rovio Entertainment.

“Here my job is to design, illustrate and animate different kinds of 2D art. Sometimes it’s sketches, sometimes in-game pieces or something more technical. The role I play as a single artist depends on the size of my team. In a bigger team we might have more specific tasks. My work is visible in Angry Birds Friends,’’ Klaavu adds.
Good game characters, she says, are something very recognisable. In case of mobile games, they ought to fit easily on a very tiny screen. It helps a lot if you can recognise the character from its silhouette.

Making games is both work and a hobby for Klaavu. What she loves about game arts specifically is that it’s both practical and interactive. Every piece has a purpose in the games world, and it all serves to immerse the player in that world. Creating a game is a team effort, which emphasises everyone’s communication skills. Luckily, the industry is full of enthusiastic professionals who also know how to laugh, which makes Klaavu’s organisation a fun place to work in.

On a typical work day, she arrives to work a bit before ten, fires up her Photoshop and tablet screen and starts drawing! “We have a daily meeting in the morning and maybe a review of what we’ve done the previous day. I usually finish work at six, but with the flexible hours I sometimes might come and go earlier.

I have done work for Angry Birds Friends. You might have seen some piggy clothes, background or a cut scene that has been done by me. You would think that a simplistic character is easy to draw - but in actuality the less detail there is, the more you’ll notice if something is wrong,’’ she explains.

Sometimes there’s a challenge when the technical meets the art. “I’m sure that some technical requirements inside the game have left many a developer scratching their head at least once in a project! Right now I’m in another project, and my team consists of nine people of which four are artists. I love my job because it lets me see my artistic creations come to life,’’ says Klaavu.

If you want to get into the game industry as an artist yourself, this is Klaavu’s advice: “Dazzle with your portfolio, be active and be enthusiastic. In the art side everyone is going to be interested in your portfolio, more so than your CV. Show your potential and you’ll get a chance even if you’re not the most experienced person out there. It is always useful if you’re active on the scene. Go to game developer events, maybe do some game projects in your free time. There is International Games Developer Association (IGDA) activity in Bangalore, where you might meet fellow game developers and hear about new opportunities.’’

“It is important to be enthusiastic. Making games is a creative process, and it’s good to have some passion for what you do. Everyone wants a creative and fun environment to work in. Even professionals should laugh once in a while,’’ Klaavu concludes.

Samsher Chahar, is from Haryana and works on the technical side at the Rovio Animation Studio. “On the technical side, we focus on the software applications and tools used by the creative and non-creative employees at the studio. We don’t only create new applications or tools, but we also integrate pre-existing applications and tools into the workflow,’’ he says.

The idea is to streamline the process of creating creative content by connecting all the dots. In addition to this Chahar’s team maintains the technical infrastructure from the render farm to file system and software deployment or release servers, assist, support and advise on technical and creative matters, and so on. Every now and then, his team faces a number of challenges. “We look forward to our next challenge. The best part is that every year there is a substantial amount of technical advances in this industry. So there is always something new to look forward to,’’ he adds.

As far as his educational background is concerned, he is an information and technology engineer, with specialisation in real time systems and software engineering. In addition to this, his studies included telecommunication and measurement systems. “I went to EVTEK Institute of Technology, that is now known as Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland. During my professional career, I have acquired a broad range of experience and hybrid skillsets in software engineering, continuous integration, workflow, automation, systems engineering, etc.” His advice to software engineers who want to enter the industry is, “Complement your studies with personal projects that you can show to future employers.”

Software engineers who are aspiring to enter this industry should complement their studies with personal projects that can be showcassed to prospective employers
Samsher Chahar, Rovio animation studio

I love my job because it lets me see my artistic creations come to life. I love the interactive nature of games, how every gamer gets a different experience with the outcome -- Noora Klaavu, junior game artist, Rovio Entertainment, Finland