Shera Jutt, shot down and ignored

A buxom Punjabi damsel in distress, a lungi-bearing, gandasa waving hero. Meet the digital icon that never was.

Atika Rehman October 29, 2010

When you create a PC game about a buxom Punjabi damsel in distress who is waiting to be rescued by a lungi-bearing, gandasa waving hero, you know it’ll grab attention.

Chief Operating Officer (COO) of game development company Trango Interactive, Shehryar Hydri thought the same when he made Shera Jutt. “I thought it would be a fun game to play because of the novelty of Shera; there are so many war and army games around, a Punjabi hero killing villains while cows run around in the background would have given people a visual they had never seen before.”

For those of you who haven’t heard of Shera Jutt before, the reason may be because the game never reached the market, and the only glimpse people had was a leaked YouTube video of the trailer. Hydri explains that the failure of Shera Jutt was due to bad timing and sponsors not taking the gaming venture seriously. Big companies were interested and amazed at the novelty value of the game, but were they going to risk advertising money on it? No, says Hydri, adding that local companies lacked the vision needed to imagine this game being a success.

“Take Commander Safeguard as an example,” says Hydri. “Despite the poor quality of graphics, it got a great response and its sales rocketed by 500 per cent. Now, every businessman wants an animation to sell his product; thanks to Commander Safeguard, every mother now knows the word ‘animation’ as opposed to cartoon.”

Luckily, Hydri’s success story does not stop at the Shera Jutt trailer. After realising that his product had failed, instead of trying again he decided to give outsourcing a shot. This led to his team getting involved in content development for big international games like Tomb Raider: Legend, Death Junior 2, Afterburner: Black Falcon and Darkfall where they contributed to the characters, background and graphics of the games.

Hydri soon realised that this market was saturated since India, China, Sri Lanka and South America were providing better and cheaper animation studios that were up for hire for international game developers. “We saw that we were losing out on the rate that we were outsourcing, so we decided to do 3D broadcasting,” says Hydri, explaining that it involved interactive animations with rich content which was developed solely for websites. As such, Trango Interactive has now become a full-cycle successful services studio, creating select commercials and broadband online campaigns for top brands like Nike Football, Discovery Channel and Mobilink Blackberry Bold.

Trango’s high-profile automotive clients also include Lexus and Audi who, Hydri explains, don’t do live photography anymore — most of the cars you see on websites and in ads are made from graphics which are photo real. “Our work is as good as the best work in the US and it is a matter of pride for us. This happened because we took one niche and got really good at it,” he says.

For students who are interested in pursuing a career in game development and animations, Hydri’s advice is that they should experience working at a company like Trango — even if it’s a three-month internship — and get a feel of what a future in game developing is like. Hydri says a career in animation is promising. “It is a cut throat industry; people who love it and are good will do well because in the next ten years, as the demand for content will skyrocket. This is something that humans can do and computers can’t, so it’s definitely a lucrative business.”

He adds that the arrival of mobile gaming has lowered the bar for new developers since such work does not require the same skill and can be done with a smaller team. Trango is also looking to tap the mobile gaming market after burning out sticking to PC/console gaming.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2010.


Atika Rehman | 10 years ago | Reply @Babar Ahmed: Hi, can you get in touch with me on [email protected]? Can't find your e-mail on the site. Thanks!
Babar Ahmed | 10 years ago | Reply Great article, and great story on Shera Jutt. For Pakistani developers, its pretty unfortunate that we're caught somewhere between a rock and a hard place. In a market where content is sold based on the physical number of dvds, its a hard sell spending hundreds of thousands of dollars making games for the local market. On the flip side, targeting the global market in the same space has become increasingly challenging with top competition from neighboring countries, increasing costs, and severe talent pool constraints in our country. Luckily, not all is grim in the world of gaming. As I write this from the silicon valley, multiple mobile gaming companies are being acquired for millions of dollars, VCs are abuzz about the space, money is pouring in, conferences are overbooked, and it feels like 1999 again (pre-dot-com crash); except this time its the age of the mobile. The beauty of it all is that with the advent of the App Store and Android Marketplace, Pakistani developers are back on an even playing field, albeit running an operation out of an obscure UPS-powered room in Lahore! :) Mobile game development is cheap, the games are typically not complex, the audience is in the hundreds of millions, the payment channels are well defined, and the barrier to entry is almost zero! Best of all, you don't need any corporate blessing to put your game in front of the user; in fact, its the other way around this time. Corporations are approaching developers to make branded content for them. So while the opportunity lasts (and it will for at least a few more years if not more), I recommend Pakistani companies grab it with two hands. Interestingly, we're already seeing the trend come to life in Pakistan with startups in the space popping up, and established companies incubating mobile development divisions. Let's get on the bandwagon :)
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