The Big Indie Pitch, a regular event run by the makers of PocketGamer.biz, sees indie developers engage in a rapid fire 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, each receiving invaluable feedback, before the judges pick three winners.
The indie view
The Big Indie Pitch is getting bigger and bigger as we bring it across the world. We've sat down with a number of past BIP contestants to offer their views on the event, its attendees, and the games on show.
Today, we're speaking to Daniel Cohn from Conned Games, the studio behind Speed Builder, which recently pitched at The Digital Big Indie Pitch #5 (Mobile Edition) and walked away as the third-place runner up.
PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?
Daniel Cohn: Conned Games is the indie label of VFX artist, filmmaker and one-man army, Daniel Cohn for developing games. Game making and game design have been a strong passion of mine since I first discovered video games back when I was in the single digits years old, and I aspire to make Conned Games an established indie label recognised for putting out games that are unique, fun and innovative. Quite frankly, I want to create the games I always dreamed of as a kid and that I currently enjoy playing.
Can you tell us about Speed Builder that you pitched at the competition?
Speed Builder is an action-packed endless running town-builder for mobile that combines town building and resource management with split-second decision making. It came about as a fun response to increased global warming. I had been developing several prototypes that in some way or another related to global/social issues, and I wanted to explore what happens when society keeps on having everything they've built taken away, but still keep going on.
Marrying city building and endless running (I love marrying genres), Speed Builder is my spin on town building games where you build up your town only to lose everything in a heartbeat, and yet still keep on going, rebuilding everything you've lost and upgrading your town further. It's a real pressure cooker, not for the light-hearted.
What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of Speed Builder that players may never have seen before?
The marrying of the town building and endless runner genres. When have you last played a game where you keep having to develop and upgrade your town while running away from a forest fire or rising water levels?
Endless runners are arguably the most competitive market within mobile alongside puzzle. What made you choose to create an endless runner, and what do you think you bring to it that may not have been seen before?
I chose the endless runner (and town builder) genre because I thought I had a fresh take on it. I think I'm doing something very different to what the other runners out there do, as the focus is on town building versus collecting coins/dodging obstacles (which Speed Builder has no shortage of too).
How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Speed Builder for?
Mobile was the natural fit as the touchscreen and casual nature of mobile felt right for a short, fun experience.
Looking at the studio now, how hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?
It's tough, but creative mediums have always been tough and the challenges change with the tools, environment, and different stages of the medium's development. I don't think there has ever been an easy time. This is true for music, painting, film, writing, theatre, and games. Luckily I am able to support myself with a career so I am able to continue making games without having yet landed a mega-hit unicorn.
What are your tips and advice for an independent developer who is just starting out?
The one thing I would strongly recommend is forming creative partnerships with fellow developers. I'm a solo developer, and I would have loved to have partnered up with the right co-founder. Aside from having complementary skill sets, it is great to have someone else help shoulder the burden. Even one more person on a team of one who is as driven and as dedicated can really help keep the energy alive. It's very rare for one person to be able to do everything, especially when such a diverse set of skills are required.
Additionally, team up with some people you gel with. Another thing I'd add is to have an avenue of revenue. A job that pays enough to keep you floating, because it could take some time to make decent dosh from this.
And one more thing – start small. Even something simple takes a lot of work to put out properly. Don't start on something too big. Start as small as you can, finish it, then go bigger.
How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I find the process of pitching to be crucial to hone in on and define the game's qualities, and to be able to get high-level feedback is invaluable. Plus, what developer doesn't like talking about and showcasing their game?
What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?
I have honed my pitching skills as well as some contacts. The feedback and prize confirmed is something very important that gets overlooked: even though Speed Builder has yet to make millions of dollars, it has achieved the status of being a proper, finished game.
Early on in the game development journey (this is the same with scriptwriting, film making, music et cetera), we seek feedback to improve our work. But some of the most impactful feedback is when something we're creating is acknowledged as worthy of recognition. It is similar to that moment of showcasing early prototypes where players just 'get' the game and you realise you've done something right. Now the only thing I hope to gain in the future is something that leads to a publishing deal.
What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?
I would love more people to give Speed Builder a try and see if anyone can beat me on the leaderboards (you should be able to get 500 meters easily enough, but it gets really hectic around the 2000m mark...).
I would also like to announce the next game I am working on. Moving away from mobile, I present (working title) Clash of Mortal Steel, a gritty classic medieval beat 'em up in the vein of Golden Axe, Double Dragon, and Final Fight forged with advanced weapon-based fighting mechanics. While I am in the early stages, this is a game I am very excited about, and I look forward to pitching this at an upcoming event. For anyone who would like to follow the development and check out some early screenshots, head over to our website, and follow the development on social media. I hope to have some footage up soon.
Thanks everyone, stay safe and have a great day.
Want to show off your exciting new game? We host Big Indie Pitch events throughout the year, so be sure to keep an eye out on our events page for an event near you, or even our new Digital pitches.