PROJECT PIGI FINALISTS
As Pitch and Demo Day comes closer, our finalists are doing their preparations. After an intensive program of production and mentorship sessions, we’re almost at the finish line for our Project PIGI finalists.
In this article, we’ll have a quick rundown of our finalists leading up to this very important day for their projects and their careers.
Lightbringer is an effort by solo developer CJ Llaneta. The game, which CJ streams and has a YouTube devlog, have received a significant following.
The classic FPS-inspired combat crossed with sword-and-sorcery aesthetics is a fresh spin on the action-packed Boomer Shooter genre. The beloved retro genre was popularized by titles like Doom, Quake, and Hexen: Beyond Heretic. This same aesthetic is felt through the frantic spells and sparks from the popular gameplay and WIP videos he uploads.
For CJ, the beginning of the project was a matter of two factors. “My biggest struggle is actually finding the kind of game that I will enjoy developing, and at the same time, a game that can be finished by a small team.” While CJ is a solo developer, he hires artists to design and create some of the art assets in his game.
Throughout the Project PIGI process, one of CJ’s biggest lessons is planning development and proper documentation. “Before, whenever I make a game I usually just base it on feelings rather than making a plan. As a result, there is a lot of time that I scrap a feature or revise a game loop,” he says.
Demo day is fast approaching, and the feeling towards the event is excitement. “Considering it has almost been a year since I started making this game and preparing for this very demo day – finally, here it is. The demo day will be the start of my journey. After this demo day I will be focusing on improving the visuals of the game and polishing the mechanics,” he adds.
CJ’s plans for the future of Polylab Studios are to release Lightbringer and officially establish the studio that will be able to make and publish its own game. “Right now my main goal is to get a publisher, at the same to hire people or “grunts” that will help me improve the game as well as artists to do the things I can’t.”
So how does CJ handle the stressful fun of bringing his own game to life? “As a solo developer, I can’t really do ‘team hangouts.’ However, I do have a lot of Facebook followers so from time to time, I do game dev streaming when I can talk with my followers and show them the progress of the game.” CJ receives comments, praise, and feedback in his community, and you can see how he actively engages with his followers which leads to positive development – and vibes – for the game!
Craggenrock is the brainchild of solo developer Rexter Day Tolentino. The story goes that Divinity: Original Sin led to Rexter’s interest in crafting systems. Craggenrock is the pursuit of a satisfying crafting system that replicates the same excitement, and Rexter has been working on the project full-time for about a year.
Rexter’s struggle at the beginning of his dev journey was regarding his game’s target audience. “There was absolutely some uncertainty regarding whether my game’s design would make sense to players, or if it would even have an audience that would like it,” he recounts. “I designed my game to be something that someone like me would play, but I was still scared that using myself fully as a reference could be a detriment to the game’s development.
Thankfully, Rexter’s fears were quelled as the Project PIGI mentorship carried on, as well as the opportunity to exhibit Craggenrock to the public at ESGS 2022. “Through the program, I learned that game dev is certainly no easy task. I sometimes forget that it’s more than just developing the game; there’s also the marketing the research, and the business aspects of it. Forgetting or procrastinating [on these tasks] negatively affects the overall game.”
Rexter is approaching Demo Day with some nervousness, but his stint at ESGS helped give him an opportunity to practice the presentation of his game. “I would like to think I might be able to do well with the presentation, but with the game, I think it definitely needs more work to make it more presentable,” he adds. “I did get a lot of feedback during ESGS and I plan to work on it as soon as I can once my situation’s more stable.”
The studio named Ardeimon has made considerable progress, and there are certain goals it’s considering for its future – including securing a deal with a publisher and expanding the team. “As for Ardeimon’s future, I’m still undecided. I’d like to see how I will fare with Craggenrock first, and then make all major decisions once I get past that point. I think a lot of things could still happen; I just hope they’re good ones.”
Life as a solo developer is hard work, but Rexter knows how to take a breather from the process. “I love taking walks late at night to stretch my legs and relax. It also helps me think more clearly.” Sometimes, resting from games can also mean… playing games! “Every now and then, I play Paladins in my off time too. It helps me release some of my frustrations.”
The cheekily named Working Tidal is the collaboration of the 9-person Bears Downstairs team. The team was built from a desire to create a game for fun, but also to take advantage of the mentorship opportunity that Project PIGI would provide.
Working Tidal is an aquatic-themed action game, complete with a scrappy doodle aesthetic. The game has both a fun combat aspect and a character-focused narrative.
While game development isn’t new to the members of the team, the Project PIGI experience lent a sense of legitimacy to their journey thanks to the mentorship aspect of the program. To create a full-fledged game, they needed to address their struggles of committing to a long-term project (as opposed to a quick game jam product) and creating a sustainable business model.
Aspects such as pitching the game and crafting a business model that makes money became part of their project scope. “It would have been a much better opportunity to get this mentorship, rather than having money thrown at us while being kept in the dark,” game designer Javi Almirante adds. “We would be back to square zero, but we know [the mentors] have survived through their own struggles in the past, and we’re going to learn our from our own mistakes, with the added context of their experiences.”
Bears Downstairs were formed through friends, starting with Game Artist Alex, Composer Mira. Javi also discussed the reality that indie devs end up doing the work of two or three different roles at a time. “I thought, hey, I’m a programmer and a designer and I’ve made games before by myself. Then I realized I was doing the producer role, handling the emails, and talking to people – and having someone else to rely on to do those things is a massive deal. I wasn’t doing just two jobs – I was doing five.” Soon, more people were added to the team, such as producer Nissie Arcega, and soon another designer and a couple of new artists.
While the whole team chips in to complete certain tasks, having dedicated members in the team led to more accountability and sustainability for the whole project. “It became more than just adding people to help, it also became an exercise in trusting people more in making a game. Through creating this team by chance, I realized that this game could be so much more than just me.” Javi shares.
Game Producer Nissie found herself helping the team see tasks and deadlines in her role, helping out on the ‘headless chicken’ problem many indie devs face. “[As a new member of the team], I took care in getting to know them and the prior team dynamic,” she shares. “At first there was a lot of frustration because we weren’t getting a lot of stuff done – natural problems if you don’t have a manager. There were easy fixes, like doing a SWOT analysis of the team. It was a nice and honest experience because the team was focused on helping one another talaga.”
Thanks to the feedback they received at ESGS 2022, the team was able to do fixes on the game, leading to much more confidence for Demo Day. “On the Friday of the event, no one could understand the game. After Day One, we went back to the drawing board. We didn’t see that people didn’t get it during the development process, because our testers and friends are already used to the game,” says Javi. “So I spent the night completely revamping two encounters and clearing up concepts in the game. By Day Two, we came with a new build, and suddenly people were able to play through the whole thing. After everything we’ve learned, I feel like we have a fair shot at making this game shine. It’s really added more confidence in our ability to respond to what the game needs.”
Bears Downstairs are committed to getting Working Tidal released, but they shared some of the hopes they have upon launching the game. “My number one dream beyond making this game happen, is I want everyone onboard to be able to eat for the stuff they’ve done here! When you see people working on something that used to be abstract, it’s no longer a distant dream,” Javi shares.
The team has come a long way, brainstorming (and arguing) over ideas, over their remote work setups, and their favorite burger joint, Campfire.
The future of Filipino indie game development has always been bright, but it’s unique talents like our finalists that prove that we’ve hit the ground running for our industry.
Catch the Project PIGI Demo Day this November 12!
Written by: Kenzie Du Games reviewer and journalist at VirtualSEA.