Through the words of Adi Chandra from Moonwalk Games, today we will get to know A Thug’s Ascension, an exciting new first-person adventure video game where storytelling takes center stage

A Thug's Ascension - Gameplay Trailer

Adi Chandra is a writer, filmmaker, artist, and video game designer from Surat, India, and owner and creative director at Moonwalk Games. He led the development of A Thug’s Ascension, Moonwalk’s debut title, which they are officially announcing today.

Adi Chandra Moonwalk Games

What is A Thug’s Ascension

A Thug’s Ascension is a video game that takes place in the decaying urban landscape of Maratha, around the year 2023. Players assume the role of Chief, a notorious hired gun, and delve into a somber and deliberately-paced narrative centered around crime, where characters play a significant role. This game seamlessly blends cinematic storytelling, driven by engaging dialogue, with thrilling gunfights and high-speed vehicular sequences.


Tell us about yourself: where are you from, how old are you and what studies have you pursued?


I was twelve and in seventh grade when I first dreamt of A Thug’s Ascension and filled up an entire physical diary with mission sequence descriptions and worldbuilding ideas. I was thirteen when I started Moonwalk Games, and fourteen when development on the game began, in September 2018. Since then it has been almost five years of continuous hard work, failure, and retrys. I’m nineteen currently, just passed first year of uni. A Thug’s Ascension has been with me for a third of my life, and the entirety of my teenhood.

I live in Surat, India and I’m studying filmmaking at the UPES School of Design.


Could you tell us a little bit more about your development team, how many people are working on this project and how did you start to work with your team?


It was almost cute how clueless we were about absolutely anything in video game development before we started, but big dreams and testosterone really can take you places. It is an invaluable rarity to find someone else who shares your dream. I’m lucky that I found that man in seventh grade itself, his name is Diwangshu Kakoty, or DK, and none of this would have been possible without his enthusiasm and his skills. We spent most of eighth grade learning all of the knowledge that we needed. DK learnt and practised 3D art in Blender and I was teaching myself C# programming and Unity. I made three small games as practice projects in April-May 2018. Despite all this, we were nowhere near “ready” to start work on A Thug’s Ascension when we did, but what’s better to learn doing something than doing it.

So the core development team is my middle-school best friend DK and myself. As the 3D art generalist, DK has produced the vast majority of the 3D assets in the game world and story, while I served as the writer, director, cinematographer, game designer, programmer, environment designer, animator, and overall sleep-deprived development generalist, among other responsibilities. Apart from this core partnership, we also had an additional 3D artist from Iran, who made some very important assets for the hub world environment; and a gentleman who helped us with optimisation, from Australia, who saved the game from becoming a PowerPoint presentation. That’s a total of four people.


On which technology or game engine is the project based, and what have been the major difficulties encountered so far?


We use Unity. I have spent half of my work hours swearing at it. We were on Unity 2018.2 for just shy of four years of development, and then we upgraded to 2021.4 LTS for the final year. It’s generally not recommended, especially for small teams or beginners, to upgrade mid-project. We had to because an internal bug in 2018.2 caused nasty unexplained memory leaks. And crashes. Which was embarrassing. Despite this and countless other problems, I am actually very grateful for the game engine and its flexibility, its availability, and most of all its community. Resources, guides, and tutorials around the engine have helped us tremendously in making the game.

Other than that, the biggest difficulties in development came mostly in the form of optimisation challenges. The game was very difficult for me to optimise because of the fact that my focus was solely around the narrative and the action setpieces throughout development and, being an artist who wanted to tell a story and not at all a tech person, I had stupidly maintained a distance from the technical aspects of production. This had consequences as later I had to dedicate more than two whole months of development time in late 2021 to just optimising the game. My friends helped a LOT during this time, and I’m eternally thankful for them and their support.

So to conclude the main problem we encountered was that I can be remarkably dumb sometimes.


Moonwalk describes A Thug’s Ascension as a dark crime drama, “where intense first-person shooting and driving, exploration, and cinematic storytelling converge in a fresh low-poly action-adventurer set in a corrupt metropolis”. What is the reason behind the choice of low-poly? But most importantly, what can we expect from this title?


Low-poly was more a limitation of resources and budget than a choice, but it serves the dual purpose of art-style consistency and internal cinematic reality. The latter is particularly interesting, not just for conveying “independent artist’s production” to the audiences, but if you’re familiar with the filmmaking space you’d likely have heard Christopher Nolan discuss the notion of cinematic reality. If a cinematic world is grounded in itself, rather than “literal” reality, then its characters, events, and stories will have the same weight and validity as the characters, events, and stories in our own reality, if not more. A Thug’s Ascension has thus, instead of being limited by it, has learnt to take advantage of the low-poly style by setting its story in a heightened version of our world. You don’t need to be giving heart attacks to tech enthusiasts at E3 by overjoying them with the SIXTEEN TIMES THE DETAIL in your graphics to be able to tell an impactful, emotional, and human story.

A Thug's Ascension story

And that is exactly what one would expect from A Thug’s Ascension. Story. More story than gameplay, in fact, and proudly so. We wanted to craft one of the strongest narratives out there that the indie games industry has ever seen, and combine it seamlessly with the interactive medium. The game explores sensitive personal and political themes to deliver an emotional, dark, slow-paced, character-driven narrative, married with intense FPS gameplay which offers everything from all-out gangwars to epic city-wide car chases. A Thug’s Ascension is an art game, not a commercial title or a people-pleaser. Our goal isn’t to get a million players on, our goal is to sit our thousand players down comfortably and tell them a good story that they will remember.

The game is set in crippling economic divide. It shows empathy to either side of this divide, rather than labelling one hero and the other villain. Every beat, every action, every reaction, every supporting character, every line of dialogue, has the sole purpose of further sophisticating these two sides. One side is presented as Chief, a mercenary fighting the nightmares of loss of the past, and the other side is presented as Dr Sarkar, a rich industrialist battling with the heartache of loss in the present. Loss, and the rage that comes with that loss, take both these characters on almost equal and opposite journeys. Both of them hurt people. Both of them make choices that they regret. I love both of them, and my writing judged neither of them. How could it? In a war of ideologies, there is never a loser, only the ones are silenced.

The world hurt the villain, so he will hurt it back. The world hurt the hero, so he will make sure nobody around him will be hurt like that as well.

A Thug's Ascension


How was A Thug’s Ascension born and how did you come up with the idea?


My dream job at age twelve was game designer at Rockstar Games. And I have always been a bigger Dan Houser fan than fan of whoever makes their unbeaten open worlds. I just wanted to tell a story similar to Houser’s set in my own world with my own rules. So I lied on my stomach on my bed and started filling up my diary with the game design. Wildly varying iterations followed, both before and after the start of development. At one point A Thug’s Ascension was going to be multiplayer, at another point it was going to be an immersive sim. The one thing that did not change through all of that was that it was going to tell a story. So ultimately we just decided to go all in on that.


But let’s talk about what inspired you and what are the possible differences between A Thug’s Ascension and similar titles. Are there any features or aspects that distinguish your project from the rest of the video game industry?


Yes there are actually more distinguishing features or aspects that we are comfortable with, from at least a business standpoint. We had a lot of trouble finding any similar titles and we are aware of how small a niche we are addressing here. What A Thug’s Ascension is now was inspired to a very appreciable extent by games like Red Dead Redemption II and Mafia, and those are AAA games made by thousands of professionals working full-time for years. So with this game we want to shatter the limiting belief that only big-budget studios are allowed to tell proper, cinematic stories, while indie game stories have to make do with experimental, 2.5D, or Firewatch. I made a movie-game because I wanted to play a movie-game, and I’m certain other people who have my taste will too.

One huge uniqueness in the game is its strong Indian identity. The story avoids adapting to international tastes and just giving players something they have seen before over and over again. Our broader mission with A Thug’s Ascension was always to innovate the Indian video game. We want to build international awareness of Indian culture and sensibilities, and for that the country’s and the city’s culture is woven into every beat of the narrative. A Thug’s Ascension is an Indian story, and it would not work any other way.

In terms of my writing, my biggest influences were Steven DeKnight (Marvel’s Daredevil, the Netflix/D+ show) and Neil Druckmann (TLOU).


Do you already have plans for a future title?


No. After A Thug’s Ascension I am excited to exit video games and go into the film and television industry, and purely visual stories.

Those who have read my articles know that I have a particular fondness for titles that are built around a captivating story. Essentially, narrative is the aspect I appreciate the most, along with graphics that, while not perfect, are at least original and captivating.

Therefore, Moonwalk Games’ project immediately caught my attention, and after interviewing Adi, my intuitions were confirmed. Behind the creation of A Thug’s Ascension are two young and ambitious individuals, full of talent, with clear ideas and a desire to make a difference.

I am truly glad to have met them, and I thank Adi for his availability. Besides being friendly and approachable, he has great talent. We will keep an eye on him even if he were to seriously stop developing video games and pursue a career in film and television.

That being said, I am eagerly looking forward to trying out A Thug’s Ascension, immersing myself in an urban atmosphere that is unfamiliar to me, to enjoy what seems to be a great story.

I'm an Italian artist who came late to the gaming world but fell in love with it right away. I'm not the best gamer, and I choose titles that appeal to my personal preferences, but I can appreciate the graphics content and artistic solutions above all, even as I learn about all the fascinating game development features.