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The Very Big Indie Judge Josh’s Thoughts Post Pocket Gamer Connects

Honourable Mentions and Holidays Away

As I look in the rearview mirror at this week’s Pocket Gamer Connects mobile games conference in San Francisco, I reflect on how much I just loved being a judge at The Very Big Indie Pitch. It’s pretty intense, watching 23 game designers strut their stuff and put themselves on the line. As a game designer myself, I totally identify with their situation and admire their chutzpah.

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We took plenty of notes as quickly as possible… Sat with my old friend, Rob Vawter, of Samsung.

Not that judging is all that easy, because there are several hurdles to overcome.

 

First, there’s the tremendous range of game readiness from a game at pre-alpha stage to one with over one million users. Then, there’s the challenge of comparing apples and steak, with a handmade horror game at one end of the spectrum and an endless runner at the other.

 

And lastly, we only get a four-minute peek at each game. You don’t need to be a game guru to know that it’s all about the gaming experience. There’s no way to watch a role playing game for a few minutes and get a real sense of something that takes hours of full immersion to appreciate.

 

Challenges aside, I learned something new from every game, and this contest reminded me of what gets me out of bed every morning. Despite the tremendous challenges of being in the gaming business, gaming is an art form that is very much alive. These 23 game designers reminded me of that, which is why I’m excited.

My Show Highlights

 

Zero G Run by Noxigard Studios

First, my personal favorite, is a game called Zero G Run by Noxigard Studios. Set in space, the game features an astronaut floating in space, pulling himself along using asteroids. The game is great, because it is a physics-based endless runner—simple to understand, yet hard to master. There’s a lot of polish in the physics, which I always love. This is a great offering from two students in Munich.big indie pitch mobile game app pocket gamer connects pgc zero g run winner san francisco

Audio Sky by Highkey Games

The second game is derived from an old genre presented in an entirely new way. In Audio Sky, a beat-matching game by Highkey Games, the player has to feel the rhythm and copy it. Initially, you have guidance, but it gradually fades out as you get in sync. What’s cool is that it teaches you to do the beat-matching without looking at the screen. It made me feel like a rock star playing drums, and who doesn’t like that?

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TerraGenesis by EdgeWorks Entertainment

The third and overall winner at the show, was TerraGenesis, which is a terra-forming simulator based on real science—all the way down to the microbes in the soil. You can select any planet, including Earth, in order to build and manage it. It uses NASA data as the source for the planet, and one of the messages that comes through in the gameplay, is how hard it is to balance an ecosystem. For all you gamers who want a real game, I encourage you to try it. It’s also worth mentioning the game is out now on iOS for free, so I implore you to give a download.  For me, the most amazing aspect of this game is that Alexander Winn, the indie game designer, built the entire game in native iOS by himself. He’s self-taught, and I’m blown away by all the hurdles he overcame to build TerraGenesis in not only the best way, but the hardest way imaginable. Which inspires me and reminds me why I love games and the people behind them.

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TerraGenesis taking 1st place and the Big Indie Pitch Bat of Honor!

Final Thoughts for Indie Devs

In a world where publishers may be looking for only “a little better,” it’s awesome to see so much innovation and creativity.

 

Thank you to all the game designers who work hard and bring tremendous imagination to your games. We all know that the gaming industry thrives on you.

 

Now that Pocket Gamer Connects is in the rearview mirror, I’m heading out on vacation and look forward to trying out these games for longer than four minutes. See you when I get back!

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