Published: 02nd March 2021
Game for some simulation? Chennai-based game developers will take you on the train ride of your life
Highbrow Interactive is the developer of the very popular and first-of-its-kind game Indian Train Simulator among various other exciting simulation games
Much before the Atmanirbhar Bharat narrative came to the fore, Jeno Manickam D and a couple of his college mates — Mohammad Irfan and Prashanth M — began experimenting with simulation games. Their experimentations led them to create some of the first India-made train simulators to hit the market. With enhanced graphics, their first game — Euro Train Simulator — reached the top of the charts in countries like France and Germany. And then there was no stopping them. Jeno founded Highbrow Interactive, a Chennai-based game development company that specialises in simulation games.
After launching their first game and tasting instant success, Jeno admits to have not taken it well. "We couldn't handle the unprecedented success properly. However, we knew that we needed to make more games and the one market we wanted to improve was India. If you see the most popular simulation and strategy games in the world, it is most likely to be based in a Western landscape. We wanted to make something in India that also looks like India. It is then that we decided to launch the Indian Train Simulator game, which remains the most successful game that we've developed to date," explains Jeno.
Pic: Highbrow Interactive
But Jeno and his friends' journey didn't begin this smooth. Stating that they were inspired by iconic games like Angry Bird and Flappy Bird initially, Jeno expresses that they wanted to develop casual games first before deciding to move into the simulation space. "Simulation games are unlike other games. It is an experience and not something that keeps the players on their toes or pumps up their adrenaline. So many people would like to drive a train but not everyone can do that. Simulators give them the chance to do things they can't do in real life — we want people to experience it," says Jeno.
Launched in 2013, Highbrow Interactive has developed over 60 games, most of which are still available on Google Play Store for free. Most of these games are inspired by Indian transport — from the Local Train Simulator to the latest Indian Bus Simulator. Jeno narrates, "We have ensured that our users get an authentic experience. We have developed a smart announcement system, where the announcements at a station will be modified according to the language spoken in the city. Players can choose to go to real Indian cities like Chennai or Bengaluru and the announcements will change accordingly to give a realistic feel. We have also developed a signalling system that resembles the real signalling system."
Pic: Highbrow Interactive
Over the last three to four years, Highbrow's games have seen 50 million-plus downloads on Android phones. "While we have developed several games, currently only six to seven games are still relevant in the market," says Jeno. Currently, gaming also comes with additions like streaming, where avid gamers can stream their gameplay on YouTube or Twitch. Jeno says that a lot of such video streamers make special streams on their games. "It is great to see a community of gamers supporting us and in return, we support them with exclusive content," adds Jeno.