What it’s like to be a Canadian at Google’s Indie Games Festival

Hey MobileSyrup readers, this is Sean from Busan Sanai Games. Our game, Maruta 279, was one of the finalists at the Google Play Indie Games Festival, and I wanted to share my experience of being a part of that event.

First of all, some background about our game. Maruta 279 is a stealth-puzzle game that takes place inside a cloning facility in the dystopian future. We’re a small team: I’m the programmer and artist, Gabsung Lim is the sound designer and Alex Park helped us  with the game’s early story concepts. We’ve been working on this game since late January on a part-time basis, as I was still in school at the time, while Gab and Alex have other obligations.

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Back in July, I saw on MobileSyrup that Google was taking submissions for the Indie Games Festival it planned to hold. I submitted our game — entry was free and easy — but I didn’t expect that our game to be picked. I thought our chances were slim; there are a ton of games in development in U.S. and Canada that are a lot more polished (Maruta 279 is still in alpha).

So imagine our surprise when we heard from Google that our game was selected for the event! We were beyond excited to be a part of Google’s first indie games festival in North America, and we were also surprised to hear that we were the only Canadian developer in attendance at the event. Big pressure!

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The time between the end of August and the day of the event is a blur for me because I worked on the game nonstop. Maruta was roughly 60 percent done as of September, so there was a lot of work to be done. Level design, user interface, balancing, and many other aspects of the game were in a constant state of flux, and I still had to optimize the game for Android for the event. In fact, the Android build was running at 15 frames per second two week before the event, due to some changes I had made recently. Luckily, after a couple of sleepless nights, I got the game running at 30 frames per second on a Galaxy S6 a week before the event.

Samsung Canada was a big help. We were asked to bring three devices to the event, but we only had one Galaxy S6 at the time. Luckily, Samsung Canada was nice enough to loan us several Galaxy S devices to use during the event, so we were able to have plenty of devices for the demo day.

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We had to come to the venue the day before the event to set up and rehearse. I showed up early, and it was very cool to see everything being set up at the beautiful Terra Gallery in San Francisco. Even before everything was set up, the venue felt very modern and slick. I think it’s great that Google picked this kind of a venue for the event, as opposed to a normal conference space.

The event itself was incredibly fun. There were a ton of people at the event from every age group, and we received very positive feedback from the people who played the game. To be honest, we are making Maruta 279 for ourselves, so our target audience is people like us — gamers in their mid 20s who play traditional games as well as mobile games and love challenge — but it was interesting to see how casual gamers, younger and older than us, were enjoying the game as well.

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Also, some of the previous events we went to with this game were business-to-business conferences, but this event was mostly consumers, so it was great to get their feedback. Being right next to the gamers as they played the game, I could see when they were enjoying the game and I identified some things in the game that we need to fix.

After about five hours of demoing, the judges announced their top picks from the 30 games at the event. Maruta 279 didn’t make the cut, but I was happy to see other excellent games, like Numbo Jumbo, get the top prizes. Numbo Jumbo is a very addictive game about arithmetic, and it’s my favourite game right now. Also, developers that didn’t get one of the top prizes still got Android TV consoles and controllers from Nvidia and Razer. I’d been meaning to get my hands on an Android TV console to port the game to, so I was happy to get these.

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The day wrapped with presentations and a cocktail party. I got to relax and chat with other devs and Googlers, which was a big treat as well.

Overall, I learned a lot from attending this event and I want to thank Google for putting together an amazingly cool event like this. Every game that I’ve tried at the event was highly entertaining and unique, so I recommend you look up all the games from the event.

Maruta 279 is coming out in a few months, so please look forward to it as well.

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