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 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 take it all over 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 Harris Debenham from Kaleidoscope Games, who created and pitched Play Pretend, at The Very Big Indie Pitch at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2023 in January 2023 and walked away with the second-place prize.
Sophia Aubrey Drake: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?
Harris Debenham: We are 5 friends who all met through university, whilst at university we worked on multiple projects together and when it came time to graduate, we figured now was the best chance any of us would have to try and put together our own studio. The five of us comprise a team of artists, programmers, and designers. Each of us is driven to make a variety of diverse games spanning as many genres as possible.
Tell us about Play Pretend, which you pitched at the competition.
Play Pretend is an action rogue-like where you play through the imagination of kids playing on the school playground, as you battle through your friends' fantastical worlds you collect ideas, tetromino shaped upgrade pieces slot together allowing for powerful synergies that work together to enhance your abilities as you play.
Play Pretend is an action rogue-like where you play through the imagination of kids playing on the school playgroundHarris Debenham
What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of Play Pretend that gamers may never have seen before?
We have two ‘core’ aspects of Play Pretend. The first is our “ideas” upgrade system that adds a unique spin on the usual rogue-like experience when collecting new upgrades, not simply adding stats and effects but piecing them together and ensuring they all fit together into the grid that houses them. The second is how the characters interact. Each playable character also has an accompanying world that is based on their imagination that you can encounter as any available character, adding depth and opportunities for great storytelling.
Play Pretend is a cute, approachable rogue-lite inspired by childhood. What made you choose to make this type of game, and what do you think you bring to that may not have been seen before?
As a more approachable step into the rogue-like genre, we’ve taken many steps to simplify and present the genre in a more friendly light. With the imaginative play theming being one, we feel is rare in the rouge-like space. We found that a vast majority of games in this genre are quite hardcore and lean to more niche audiences, but we believe that a light-hearted rogue-like has a place for players that aren’t so serious about the hobby.
How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Play Pretend for?
Early in production, it became very clear to us that Play Pretend would appeal greatly to the Console player base, especially aimed at younger players, the Nintendo Switch specifically being a more family-oriented console it seemed like a perfect fit, additionally, as a team we are all predominantly PC players and as such we are going to release initially on Steam.
Looking at the studio a little more now. How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?
As Play Pretend is our first project it’s hard to say, we are hopeful that Play Pretend is successful enough that we can use it to produce greater and more ambitious games in the future, however, we are aware that the Indie space is volatile and not an easy industry to thrive in. Organisations such as UK Games Fund have been essential to our production and are a great resource for upcoming Indie developers in the UK.
The best thing to do is get started and just make something and put it out thereHarris Debenham
Are there any tips and advice you would give to an independent developer out there who is just starting out?
Sounds cliché but just go and do it, if you can find a small group of friends to work with even better. The best thing to do is get started and just make something and put it out there. It’s a difficult industry but can also be incredibly rewarding.
How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?
It flew by, each pitch was only 5 minutes which when pitching a game is not a lot of time at all. That said, it was a great experience and really helped hone our pitch and how to get the core of our game across in a concise manner.
What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?
Each of us on the team has progressed in leaps as designers, artists, programmers, and game developers working on the project. With The Big Indie Pitch really pushing the final bit needed of presenting the game as a business and putting ourselves forward as a full indie development studio as opposed to a bunch of mates from university who make games. Moving on from here we hope to continue making games that are approachable and developing our skills in taking game formulas and making them as accessible as possible for anyone to play.
What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?
We are hopeful that Play Pretend will thrive within its niche, and depending on its success we fully intend to support it with additional content post-release. Currently, we are knuckling down with production as we still have a long road of development ahead of us. We are also searching for potential publishers who share our enthusiasm for Play Pretend and are willing to support its development.
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.