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The PC Indie Pitch interviews: Dream Harvest discuss opening up the RTS genre for everyone with NeuroSlicers

The PC Indie Pitch interviews: Dream Harvest discuss opening up the RTS genre for everyone with NeuroSlicers

The PC Indie Pitch, is a regular event run by the makers of PC Games Insider. It sees indie developers engage in a speed-dating-styled pitching competition for fame and those sweet, sweet promotional packages.

The event gives indies five 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 PC 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 PC Indie Pitch contestants to offer their views.

Today, we're speaking to Dream Harvest's Justin French, who submitted NeuroSlicers to The PC Indie Pitch at PC Connects London 2019 and walked away with the prize for second place.

PCGamesInsider: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?

Justin French: So, I’m Justin French. I’ve been working in the industry across AAA and indie for the past 12 years, or there abouts. I started off working as a Sound Designer / Audio Engineer working at Side, the UK’s leading dialogue production studio for the games industry and then moved over to their main competitor, OMUK.

We started Dream Harvest in April 2013, at the time it was just me and my co-founder and CTO Sven Herrmann. About a year later we were joined by Milcho Milchev our lead designer and gameplay programmer and then in June 2016, after securing our first bit of investment we were joined by Loic Bramoulle, our Art Director.

Sven has been working in and out of the industry for the past 18 or so years, Milcho published 3 games and a book on games programming before he left University and Loic has worked at Ubisoft and done projects for Hairbrained Schemes, Disney, Fortiche Studios (the people behind all the cool League Of Legends Trailers) and several others.

In terms of inspirations, we’re all quite diverse – I personally have a love of big narrative driven games that I can sink several hours into and get lost in the characters and story. Milcho on the other hand is a big competitive gamer and lover of smaller indie titles. Loic loves stuff with great art and Sven will pretty much play and enjoy anything with deep, complex systems.

In addition to the core team we work with some amazing freelancers including Daniel Elms, our composer who has worked on projects such as the BBC TV drama, Taboo and J.J.Abrams show 11.22.63. We also joined by the amazing writing talent of Danny Wadeson who has worked on projects such as the much anticipated cyberpunk adventure game The Last Night, sop frame animation game Harold Halibut and competitive TCG Duelist among quite a few others.

Tell us about your latest project that you pitched at the competition.

So, we’ve been working on NeuroSlicers for the past 4 years, at first part time and, over the last year or so, most of the team went full time. NeuroSlicers is a cyberpunk real-time strategy game that combines solo, co-op and pvp play into a seamless narrative driven campaign experience. It’s a highly immersive game where the Players embody the role of a Slicer, a future-hacker that can manipulate the fabric of an AR layer called the NeuroNet.

Players will need to travel around the city, take on contracts for the different factions, battle it out against other Slicers and the AI in the city using epic abilities made up of units, buildings and powers called functions, customize their loadouts, fight big boss battles and get to the bottom of what the network was really created for and why the factions want to control it. The game focuses much more on macro over micro, that means that players are free to make bigger decisions, can fight on multiple fronts at the same time and this leads to the game generally being more approachable than most RTS’s – however, there’s a lot of depth available to players once they’re ready to explore things a bit deeper.

We’re doing a lot of new stuff in regards to interactions and the way RTS games are usually played – through testing we’ve found that players new to the genre are on an equal playing field with seasoned RTS players….at least initially, which is exactly what we were hoping for. Down the line we’ll be adding an Academy system which is purposefully built to help players get better at competitive play, learn deeper strategies and synergies and more. The idea is we want to ease players into the competitive world of RTS games in a way that properly prepares them for it and makes it a fun environment for them. Tying everything back to narrative and the state of the world helps with this.

How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer working in PC?

Its very tough. The market, especially on Steam has become flooded with shovelware and hobbyist projects that really have no place being sold on the marketplace leading to a big visibility problem. We’re seeing time and time again, really interesting games being buried in the new release charts and failing to meet sales expectations; especially from self published games. This means that we’re now seeing a need for indie studios to sign with publishers again in order to secure the marketing and distribution networks they have access to.

Funding is also a massive issue – Smaller publishers are very selective and can only really fund up to around £250K, but most would rather wait until a game is 6months or less out from launch, making it harder for indie devs to build larger projects like ours. In the UK, we at least have VGTR which can be a great help, but it does require teams to spend money in order to get the tax break (25% of qualifying expenditure pre-revenue, 20% post revenue). We’ve found that investment in the UK is also quite hard to get at the moment due to changes in the way SEIS and EIS advanced assurance application are being reviewed since the beginning of last year that has lead to almost every game studio applying for this to be rejected. The issue is, most UK investors and fund management companies require this advanced assurance in order to make their investments, meaning studios need to look outside the UK for money.

The other issue regarding investment is that a large number of indie studios just aren’t investor ready, they’re not planning beyond the scope of their current projects and this needs to change if they want to attract investment. The grants available in the UK for game studios aren’t great either as they’re not games specific, leading to studios being rejected. Is tough and I think the UK government could be doing a lot more to support the creativity and rich diversity of the indie game market as there’s potential for studios such as ours to grow beyond indie.

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

So this is the second time we’ve pitched as part of the Big Indie Pitch – the format is great and really challenges you to get the concepts and value across to the judges in the short time provided for each. I highly recommend that more studios have a go at it as it’s so important to build your pitching skills and the environment at the Big Indie Pitch is incredibly relaxed compared to other pitching competitions I’ve done.

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

Its continued to help me hone my elevator pitch, which is great – even after pitching I’ve reviewed how I presented the information and I’m making changes / improvements for next time, as they say, practice makes perfect.

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

So, NeuroSlicers is a big game being developed by quite a small team….though we have plans to grow over the next 12 months from 6 people to around 15 - 20. We’re currently in the process of raising our next big round of investment and are in talks with a number of major publishers around the globe in order to finish financing the rest of the project and secure the ability to do a global launch. We’ll be hopefully launching some time next year with our first season of content and will be continuing to work with our community to add new content, features, narrative and more over the foreseeable future post launch. Before all of this though, we’ll be doing a closed Alpha later this year and if anyone wants to get involved, all they need to do is jump onto our Discord over at discord.neuroslicers.game.


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.

Upcoming BIPs include:

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

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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.

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