Interview

The Big Indie Interviews: How old meets new with Big Indie Pitch runner-up Waken Games

The Big Indie Interviews: How old meets new with Big Indie Pitch runner-up Waken Games

The Big Indie Pitch is a regular event run by the makers of PocketGamer.biz. It sees indie developers engage in a speed-dating-style pitching competition for fame and those sweet, sweet promotional packages.

The event gives indies four minutes to pitch their games to a panel of press, publishers, and industry pundits. The judges then pick three winners and everybody gets valuable feedback.

The indie view

The Big Indie Pitch is getting bigger and bigger as we bring it to events all across the world. To give you an idea of what the event is like, who attends the events and the games on show, we've sat down with a number of past BIP contestants to offer their views.

The Pitch goes digital

Today, we're speaking to Neal and Marie from Waken Games, who submitted Super Nova Boy to The Big Indie Pitch (Mobile Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #2 and walked away as the runner-up.

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio. Who is in the team and what are their inspirations?

Neal & Marie: Hey, we are Waken Games, a two-person micro-studio, based in Hampshire, UK. I'm Neal and have been casually creating video games for 20 years. My partner in crime is Marie, who brings an Executive MBA, especially Marketing and Sales, to the studio. We made the decision to formally pursue development of Super Nova Boy for mobile platforms.

We share inspirations from all things video games across multiple genres that we feel we draw from. I have fond memories of the DK Country trilogy on the SNES which I thought was beautiful and challenging. Marie loved the challenge and artwork on both the SNES and Dreamcast consoles, in particular Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Chu Chu Rocket. We both could talk for days about video games, especially on the earlier platforms.

Tell us about Super Nova Boy that you pitched at the competition.

Super Nova Boy is a colourful, 2D speedy maze runner in space. You play as Super Nova Boy, a cute pixel who must race through each level as fast as possible to rescue lost beings known as Elementals and escape before you are consumed by the supermassive black hole, Collossavoid. There's a ton of enemies and traps to evade, with power-ups and trophies for the taking.

The game records your performance such as how many completed levels over the amount of deaths and how fast you are. Players can share and compare their achievements with friends on leaderboards and social media.

What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of Super Nova Boy that gamers may never have seen before?

We wanted to bring intense speed, peril, and brutal action to a 2D maze puzzler. You are stalked by the advancing Collossavoid that chomps through the maze if you are too slow. The narrative has an element of nostalgia with other games in terms of a hero, a person to save, and a boss to defeat, but set within a colourful, arcade maze environment. Once powered up, Super Nova Boy has the ability to go supernova to blow up the current maze and move to the next level to save precious time.

The game is both retro and action orientated. What made you choose these genres, and what do you think you bring to it that may not have been seen before?

We love arcade action games and wanted to make something that was easy for everyone to pick up and play but challenging and fun to beat, whether for a few minutes or for a few hours and so this genre felt right. Super Nova Boy moves like a hockey puck and does not stop until he collides with a wall, trap or enemy. This allows for some great brain teasers to solve the maze. The Elementals are pretty cool too when they are rescued, they warp the world around you to another colourful biome and push Collossavoid back.

How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Super Nova Boy for?

We chose mobile platforms for their control versatility and capability to play games anywhere, anytime. Mobile devices have so many control options for developing games, whether it's emulating joysticks and buttons, swipe controls, AR, or tilt actions, and so for us mobile is a fun platform to experiment ideas and build products. We wanted to have well-crafted swipe controls for Super Nova Boy that feel like an extension of the player's hands.

Looking at the studio a little more now. How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?

It's tough but extremely rewarding to us. We are a small team so we've had to be multi-skilled in many different areas of game development; from coding, art work, music and sound, to building marketing strategies, business development, and project management. As gamers ourselves, we can see how saturated the mobile gaming market is so it's tricky for any start-up, no matter how big the team or investment.

Are there any tips and advice you would give to independent developers out there who are just starting out?

Undoubtedly for us the most important tip from experience is this: you must enjoy it. Enjoy the creativity, enjoy the artwork, enjoy experimenting with code, enjoy researching what excites players, and enjoy sharing ideas with others. It may sound cliché but you will be spending a lot of time on game development, so you need to be able to enjoy the journey because after all, games are meant to be fun.

Understand your audience and how they will play your game, picture them and ask yourself why they should care about your game. Meet other developers and experts within the industry and network like crazy. It is extremely rewarding to meet so many cool people with similar goals and shared experiences.

How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?

It was an excellent opportunity to be introduced to other talented developers, world-class publishers and editors. We enjoy presenting and meeting others so it was a fun day.

What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?

We met one of our milestones to premiere Super Nova Boy at the BIP and received some excellent feedback from the judges. It was great to receive 2nd place considering the high calibre of talented developers in the competition and feels like it justifies how far we’ve come in production. We are incorporating all the feedback as part of the game’s development schedule going forward and are excited to share our progress.

What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?

We hope Super Nova Boy provides a fun and challenging experience for all to master. We are excited to see people share and compare their achievements from the adventure with their friends and the gaming community throughout the globe. We have quite a few, exciting, not seen before ideas for other mobile games which inspire us to meet our milestones, as we are excited about Super Nova Boy as much as other games we have in the pipeline.


Want to show off your exciting new game? We host Big Indie Pitch events throughout the year, so be sure to regularly check our upcoming events page here and over on BigIndiePitch.com.

Developer Evangelist & Big Indie Pitch Manager / Special Features Writer

Queen of all things Indie. Sophia is Steel Media’s Big Indie Pitch Manager and Developer Evangelist. She’s also a global speaker and lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she’s written a thesis on one and lived in the other.

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