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.
Today, we're speaking to Himanshu Manwani from Xigma Games, who submitted The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores to The Big Indie Pitch (Mobile Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #2 and walked away as the champion.
PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio. Who is in the team and what are their inspirations?
Himanshu Manwani: After working for about 4 years as a game programmer, I quit my job and founded Xigma Games in 2015. My first game Super Nano Jumpers won the PGC Very Big Indie Pitch 2015 Bangalore, India and that set a great start for the studio. I was joined by Goverdhan Gosavi, my former colleague in 2016, and we were two-man studio until 2019.
After the success of The Bonfire Forsaken Lands, we decided to expand the scope of our games, and during the development of The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores we grew to a four-person team. All of us are passionate gamers and grew up playing games. Each of us has varied tastes in gaming across all the platforms, we try to take inspiration from every game we can to keep improving ourselves and grow as a team.
Tell us about The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores that you pitched at the competition.
The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores is a survival strategy where you build, craft, gather resources during the day, and defend from monsters and raider attacks during the night. As a sequel to the award-winning game The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands, The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores expands on every aspect of the original and brings greater depth.
Players can design their city, manage resources chains, manage workers with unique personalities, explore procedurally generated world maps in ships trade with free cities, and discover dungeons. The objective is to survive and manage resources to advance and thrive your settlement. Build a powerful city and gain magical artefacts to defeat an ancient evil. It has been in development for 2 years.
What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores that gamers may never have seen before?
We have a mix of 3D and 2D with a minimalist, flat art which we haven't seen in similar genre games. Also, the mix of strategy, city-building, survival genre turn out in distinctive gameplay where managing individual workers units with varied attributes and personality skills creates a unique hook in our game.
Resource positions are also randomly generated at the start of the game, and since players can design their own layouts, it results in varied gameplay styles and a lot of dynamic gameplay with replayability.
What made you choose to create a game that mixes strategy, survival, and city building, and what do you think you bring to these genres that may not have been seen before?
We have been a fan of strategy and city-builder games and we always felt the lack of such premium titles on mobile. Our previous game was a mix of both strategy and survival genres - people enjoyed it, but some people felt it was too short and linear. We then decided to work on that feedback and thought of expanding on the core gameplay by adding more depth and introducing dynamic gameplay.
We kept the core gameplay loop of building in the day and surviving in the night and added various layers on top. Moving from a 2D side view to 3D isometric view gave us the flexibility to let players design their own layouts. Micromanagement of workers due to their varied attributes and multiple personality skills is something very unique to our game and adds a lot of depth to the gameplay.
Most of the strategy games on mobile are often filled with IAPs and plenty of grinding. We wanted to create an experience where players can enjoy the game without any limitations and without having to spend to progress - that's why we chose to go premium.
How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores for?
We wanted to be on as many platforms as possible and mobile has worked great for us for our previous games, so that's why going on mobile was a straight forward choice.
And since we are a tiny indie studio, mobile has been the more approachable platform for development. But as we increase the scope of our games we would love to explore other platforms as well in the future.
Looking at the studio a little more now. How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?
Rules of survival for an indie developer can vary depending on which part of the world they operate in. Here in India, we need comparatively less money to operate but we face different sets of challenges. We don't have local audiences here that are into premium indie games.
Also, it's difficult to find experienced and skilled candidates for the job with limited resources as the industry is relatively very new in India. The rest of the challenges are common to what any indie developer faces, lack of exposure, lack of funds and we can't afford our games to fail without major setbacks.
Are there any tips and advice you would give to independent developers out there who are just starting out?
Find your audience, if you understand your audience and know who you are serving then it can be easier to target. Play by your strengths, understanding our own capabilities is very important that helps us to keep the scope of the game achievable in the expected time frame.
Research your market, choosing what to make will be the very first crucial decision to make, and market analysis will give you an idea of the market viability. Be part of the community, show your game around as early in development to get feedback.
The most important thing I've learned is that game development is about perseverance. It's highly unlikely that your first few games will be straight out hit. With each game, you will have more experience and the quality of games will increase which will result in a higher chance of success over time.
How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?
It was a great experience to be part of Big Indie Pitch. The online was format was something new for us and it worked out very smoothly than I expected. Hats off to host and judges for managing it so well. Meeting and chatting with everyone while we wait for our turns was very fun. Though I would have loved to meet everyone in person, given the current situation, I can't ask for anything more.
What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?
The pitching format is very interesting and it makes us realize even better what our product stands for and what are the most sellable hooks of our game. The judges were great and very supportive. It was great to be part of indie devs discussion about games while waiting for our turns. And to see our game being recognized and winning The Big Indie Pitch was a huge boost for the team.
The promotional prize will help us promote our game during launch and we will be able to reach more audiences. This gives us validation that hard work does pay off and will continue to strive to make better games.
What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?
We hope that people enjoy our game and have fun playing it and hoping that our launch goes well and gets well-received. We would wanna continue to develop this game even further and support the game post-launch with numerous content updates at no extra cost. We have already planned some of the updates for the game.
We do have plans for our future games but everything depends on The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores launch and then it will be more clear for us which direction to head next. And we hope to learn from our release and our goal is to keep improving and learning with every launch of the game and grow as a team.