Interview

The Big Indie interviews: Dead Five discuss all things indie and their runner-up Big Indie Pitch title Light The Fires

Chris Kempt discusses coming 2nd at our Digital Big Indie Pitch in October

The Big Indie interviews: Dead Five discuss all things indie and their runner-up Big Indie Pitch title Light The Fires

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 Big Indie Pitch goes digital

Today, we're speaking to Chris Kempt from Dead Five, who pitched Light The Fires at The Digital Big Indie Pitch #4 (Mobile) in October and walked away with the prize for second place.

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?

Chris Kempt: Well we’re called Dead Five because there are… er… four of us? We originally started working together during the Flash games scene in the early-mid noughties and then made a hop over towards mobile towards the end. We’ve worked together for over a decade now so it’s quite remarkable we still get on!

One of the things that makes it work is that we share a love of simple, accessible and often amusing games we’ve been watching the hypercasual space with interest for the last few years and when we all exited our last studio it made sense to get involved! Two of the team are brilliant developers and the other two (including me) are from an art background - we’re trying to make games that are super-solid as well as super-beautiful.

Tell us about Light The Fires that you pitched at the competition.

Light the Fires started as a prototype just before the beginning of lockdown in the UK. We could immediately see that there was something interesting there and so I showed it to a bunch of friends and random people that I met in pubs (remember when that was possible?!) everyone I showed it to loved it and wanted to binge the content all at once so we decided to work on it in secret until very recently.

What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of Light The Fires that gamers may never have seen before.

Most obviously it’s the gameplay mechanic which - I believe - is very new. The player has to pick up fire (and other objects in the environment later) and move it around the space in order to light all the fire-pits. The result is an interesting puzzle mechanic which feels very serene - a little like playing with one of those sand gardens? On top of that, we’ve tried to make the meta-game a little deeper than would be typical for a hypercasual game and we’ve also put a lot of effort into making it look super-pretty which we hope users will appreciate.

Puzzle games are not only some of the most popular on mobile platforms, but they also attract a variety of different gamers too. Given there are so many popular puzzle games available, what made you choose this genre, and what do you think you bring to it that may not have been seen before?

We didn’t so much choose the genre here as it chose us! Since we started D5 we’ve worked on 50+ different concepts and prototypes some more successfully than others - this one was amongst the most successful and started from the basic mechanic, from there it was simply (but time-consumingly) about working out what kind of experience was most suitable for that mechanic.

How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Light The Fires for?

Since we’re an Apple/Mac-based studio we tend to develop for iOS first and the smaller iOS ecosystem makes it easier for us to ensure a consistent and stable experience for all users. We are now working on making it work for Android devices and will be looking for beta-testers for that soon!

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

Wow, that’s an interesting question. This simple answer is that it’s super-hard but somehow I’ve managed it for most of the last 17 years but it’s certainly not a lifestyle for the faint of heart.

The tricky thing about games is that you can get everything right and still fail “Work For Hire" can help with that from time to time but it’s difficult to juggle that and your own developments. I think the best approach is to raise investment and make sure that everyone is on the same page - i.e. that success is in no way guaranteed.

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

Unless you have backing do it at a time when you have as little commitments as possible or in your spare time, having people that depend on you makes it super-stressful otherwise.

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

It was super-fun and I actually enjoyed talking to the other developers just as much as the judges.

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

It was really interesting to hear external opinions on what we’re doing with this game - particularly the praise :) - whether we change much about the game will depend a little on the next beta tests we do and we’re really happy that you guys are helping with that - thank you!

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

Well, for one thing, we hope to get it out and make some cash with it so that we can go on to make even more games! We do, however, have four other games at a similar stage so maybe one of those will work?! Following that - I dunno - if we can make some real money I’ve always fancied running an arcade with a bar in it.


Want to show off your exciting new game? We host Big Indie Pitch events throughout the year, so be sure to keep an eye on our events page for an event near you.

Upcoming Big Indie Pitch Event Pages & Registration

January 13 - The Digital Big Indie Pitch (Mobile Edition) #5
February 09 - The Big Indie Pitch (PC+Console Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5
February 10 - The Big Indie Pitch (Mobile Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5

More coming soon so make 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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