The Big Indie Pitch is a regular event run by the makers of Pocket Gamer and 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 Big 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 GOOD BOY Cooperative's Maciek Diduszko, who submitted the DOG. First Person Sniffer to The Digital Big Indie Pitch (PC+Console Edition) #6 and walked away with the prize for second place.
Sophia Aubrey Drake: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?
Maciek Diduszko: I’m Maciek and together with Good Boy cooperative we are developing the DOG since 2019. The core of our team met in Game Dev School, where we started to develop an idea for a game in which the player is a dog. As we finished the course we stayed with that idea and we want to develop it further.
In 2020 I got an artistic scholarship founded by the city of Warsaw, to design a prototype of the dog game. As a cooperative, we managed to do it and published it as a demo showing core mechanics.
Over time we grew from 5 to 15 members, and we learnt a lot about how to work together. In our team, we have a wide scope of backgrounds and experiences. From porting the biggest game titles to running social projects in Polish prisons. We even have people that have never played FPS before! And that’s great because that diversity helps us to stay open-minded and get insight into how to make a game that is playable by everyone, as we want it to be.
Tell us about the DOG. First Person Sniffer that you pitched at the competition.
The idea of the First Person Sniffer game is to make an experiment in which humans become animals.
We want players to act, feel and think as real dogs. To make it believable and playable we divided the “being a dog” idea into 3 aspects: relationship with humans, curiosity to discover the world, and human-imposed restrictions.
Our game can be played in two manners. When a player is a good dog and stays close to a human it is a relaxing walking simulator full of surprises. But if a player wants to be a bad dog and discover the whole park it starts to be a challenging action-puzzle game. Players at first need to learn how to fool the human to avoid being leashed, otherwise, they cannot explore distant areas of the park. But both ways are equally rewarding and can be mixed.
It appears that our experiment is a success because people playing the game start to bark at their screens and make funny voices.
What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of the DOG. First Person Sniffer that gamers may never have seen before.
It's a dog point of view. From the beginning, we created this game as close as possible to what science can currently tell us about how dogs understand and feel the world. Besides graphics that simulate dogs colour blindness and sounds that emphasize dogs hearing, we focus on the dog-human relationship aspect. Because it’s the part that we know the most about.
the DOG. First Person Sniffer is played from a first-person perspective, but this time sees you in the mind of a dog. What made you choose this type of game that blends something very popular with a brand new idea, and what do you think you bring to it that may not have been seen before?
I have three dogs, each with a completely different character. First I wanted to process our walks into diverse and fun gameplay. To do so we recreated a nearby park in Unreal Engine. It was nice to freely run in the grass and scare the birds, but it was the dog-human relation that started to make it really fun. I was literally crying when patted by the human for the first time, even though that was just a looped animation. But even I was surprised how many feelings this patting situation can evoke, as we get feedback from gamers.
However, it’s not only our observations that we rely on. We constantly consult everything with a professional dog trainer and behaviourist Barbara Sikorska (Wspaniały Pies), to make our game correct. Analytics of dogs behaviour is the basis for creating an exciting and immersive game. As we feel adventurous in experimenting with the First Person Sniffer genre, we are proud that we can make use of different types of mechanics. There are influences from walking simulators as well as roguelikes - the goal is to create fresh and surprising gameplay.
How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop the DOG. First Person Sniffer for?
We want to reach a wide audience of dog lovers. To do so it’s crucial to make it available on every platform. Paradoxically, this decision made the design process easier, though it helped us to stay focused on gameplay rather than expensive graphic effects.
Looking at the studio a little more now. How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?
Getting an artistic scholarship allowed me to focus on work on the game for one year. But it was obvious that I need help from the rest of the team. They need to work in their free time, as a scholarship covering only my salary. So we decided to organise as a cooperative to make it fair for everyone.
As a cooperative, we learn a lot about how to organise, how to plan work in a manner that suits everyone, and stay supportive of each other.
We also got some great support. We received enormous help from FISE (the Foundation for Social and Economic Initiatives) with legal and formal things. We are also on the hotline with Rami Ismail that guides us wisely through the fundraising process.
Are there any tips and advice you would give to an independent developer out there who are just starting out?
Focus on thinking about how to produce your game straight away coming up with a great game idea.
How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?
It was our first pitching opportunity, so we were extremely stressed. We trained our pitch for two days before and all morning to be perfectly ready for the time it starts. As we felt fully prepared, we discovered that we made a mistake due time zones difference. So we gave ourselves 2 extra hours of nightmarish anxiety. As we finally connected and started pitching we felt mostly relief, because everything ran perfectly smoothly.
What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?
It is my first big game project. So I needed to learn how to communicate my design ideas to the rest of the team. I think it was the hardest part to learn. But there is still a lot to learn about how to keep the production process fluent.
It’s also my first Unreal Engine project, and I feel that it is a perfect time to start work in this technology. Besides the really cool stuff that Epic announces in the UE5 version, there is a huge amount of high-quality tutorials to help new users. I’m really excited about every new feature that I can discover!
What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?
As we get the funds, we plan to start the development of an early access version of our game with all the dog and human mechanics set in seven unique park levels. We estimate the early access gameplay time for about 7-8 hours. Additionally, in order to fully use the emotional potential of the game we want to add story mode to be set at home base level and in dreams mini-games. We want the story to be simple, wholesome and universal so that everyone can identify with it.
We do have some more plans for the future as a cooperative studio, but at this moment we are fully focused on making the DOG done.
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.