Big Indie Pitch runner-up Denis Buslaev on Cards of Terra - Solitaire meets Hearthstone

Big Indie Pitch runner-up Denis Buslaev tells us all about their brand new award-winning game Cards of Terra

Big Indie Pitch runner-up Denis Buslaev on Cards of Terra - Solitaire meets Hearthstone

The Big Indie Pitch is a regular event run by the makers of 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 Denis Buslaev who recently pitched Cards of Terra as a part of The Big Indie Pitch (Mobile Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5 and walked away as the runner up. Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?

Denis Buslaev: Well, I wouldn't call us a studio, at least not yet. The whole endeavor is basically me being obsessed with an idea and then finding the right people to implement it with. For this project, I've been lucky to find two really good artists.

Evgeniy has a day job at an animation studio and does most of the drawing for the project, while Alexander fills in all the high-level roles (design, art direction, etc). There is also a freelance sound designer who's so good I don't even feel he is a part of the team, cause he is just doing his work so fast and to the point that there are not many things to discuss with him. We all working remotely and have never met each other.

As for me, I'm a 36 years old father of three, who used game dev as an escape from a midlife crisis or something. So far it seems to work, although only time will tell if it's sustainable.

Tell us about Cards of Terra that you pitched at the competition.

Cards of Terra is a single-player card game for mobile. It can be described with a "Solitaire meets Hearthstone" formula. You drag and drop creature cards onto each other, causing them to fight, and your goal is to get rid of all the cards on the level. That's a solitaire component. But then, every card is a creature, usually with an ability or a trait, which makes it look more like a CCG.

All this is wrapped in a story about an alien princess who's surrounded by the aforementioned creatures, and it's her psi-powers that make them fight each other.

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

The game doesn't look unique at a first glance. Generic fantasy, creature cards, five colors, drag and drop to "match" - it was all done before. But at the same time, the game doesn't play like any other game out there. So, I'd say that the most unique aspect of the game is its gameplay, which emerges out of the recombination of familiar parts.

Card-based games on mobile devices are both super popular and extraordinarily competitive, with the likes of Yu-Gi-Oh and Hearthstone having most of the market share. What made you choose this genre, and what do you think you bring to it that may not have been seen before?

Well, the big names you've mentioned are way out of our league and we not out of our minds to think that we could compete with them. But card game players are very hungry for new experiences. How else you could explain thousands of cards that were printed for many of them. So we might capture the attention of the same crowd, but I don't think we competing, especially given us being a mobile game.

Also, big card games are designed to become that expandable evergreen franchise with a competitive scene. And that forces them into a rather narrow design space. So being a smaller single-player game that only asks for say 5-10 hours of your time, rather than 500, allowed us to approach the game differently and make it more wholesome.

We are not making a TV-series that you are going to watch for the next 10 years. We are writing a small book, but the type, you might still remember 10 years later.

How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Cards of Terra for?

From day one Cards of Terra was designed with a portrait mode in mind. Why? Because I believe that this is the right way to play on the mobile. We had to sacrifice some things to allow that, for example, our levels are limited to being only 5 cards wide. And we only allow you to drag only the topmost card in a stack so it would be easy to pick up without a mouse.

I hope, if the game will get any traction, we will make a standalone PC-port where we would change few things here and there to accommodate bigger screen real estate.

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

I don't have a good answer to that just yet. You'll have to ask me after a couple more years when I should run out of savings. That's when we could talk about surviving. 

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

Make more prototypes and then shelf them. If the game is worth it, it will haunt you even years after.

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

Five minutes into a zoom call my laptop decided that it can't hold it anymore and shut down from overheating. So I had to move halfway to the open balcony which is, given I'm in Russia and it was February, added a new dimension to the whole thing. It was cool.

I think the format is very functional even in an online setting. It might be a bit harder to read immediate feedback from judges since it's harder to notice people's reactions when you only see them on a secondary monitor.

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

It was a good practice which is especially hard to get given the COVID-situation. The short timeframe of a pitch forces you to be concise and refine your point. If anything, it forced me to rehearse which leaves me prepared for all the pitches (even casual ones) that might come later.

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

As I've mentioned, we are thinking about making a PC port. Or not a port, but rather a new extended game based on the same assets with the same mechanics, but deeper and wider. After all, it's two very different audiences.

And, yes, we have already started a new project, which I hope we'd be able to pitch later this year. So will meet again.

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

April 20 - The Big Indie Pitch (PC+Console Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #6
April 21 - The Big Indie Pitch (Mobile Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #6

More coming soon so make sure to regularly check our upcoming events page here and over on

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.