Interviews & Opinion

Chicken Scratch sit down to discuss creating fresh multiplayer experiences

Chicken Scratch sit down to discuss creating fresh multiplayer experiences

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 several past Big Indie Pitch contestants to offer their views.

Today, we're speaking to Keely Brown from Chicken Scratch, who submitted Chicken Scratch to The Very Big Indie Pitch at Pocket Gamer Connects Toronto 2023 and walked away as the runner-up.

All the pitching madness

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

Keely Brown: We're a ragtag team of developers who came together to create something fun and unique.

Mat Belanger is the artist and it was his decision that the players take the role of birds working in an office. Pretty early on it was decided that each player would be given a colour, birds provided us with a veritable rainbow of characters. Birds also have a lot of personality that makes them fun to draw. He feels they must look at us with a sort of strange resentment. They were once dinosaurs, uncontested rulers of the earth. Our place as the dominant species is a blip in time compared to the millions of years they reigned Supreme. Birds are beautiful but in their eyes, he sees a deep hatred. Putting them in an office with little ties made him laugh.

Keely Brown is our developer and designer, who personally takes influence from Lucas Pope ('Papers, Please' and 'Return of the Obra Dinn'), Demruth ('Antichamber'), and Daniel Mullins ('Inscryption'). They also take inspiration from Mat Belanger and his philosophical school of thought on office birds.

Marek Ceglowski is our composer, whose inspirations come from a mix of video game music, Lydian Chromatic Concept jazz theory, and experimental electronic music.

Stephen Halsey is the sound engineer and it became his sole obsession to incorporate as many bird sounds into his designs as possible. When the idea tank was dry, a look at one of the many Jackbox party games always seemed to give him the inspiration he needed.

Tell us about Chicken Scratch that you pitched at the competition.

Chicken Scratch is a multiplayer drawing game where you play as birds working in an office. At the start of the game, players receive a quirky and often bizarre prompt to draw within a time limit. Their drawing then gets sent on to the next person to caption. That player's caption gets sent to another player to draw, and so on. This creates a sort of telephone chain where the meaning inevitably tends to become increasingly muddled as it goes from player to player. At the end of the round, the last player in each chain is tasked with guessing the original meaning from a set of options. The closer to the right answer the guesses are, the more points all of the players collectively get.

If Chicken Scratch sounds like it's in your wheelhouse, check out our demo on our Steam page, and if you want to keep updated with our development on it, check out our discord.

Chicken Scratch

What made you choose to make this type of game, and what do you think you bring that may not have been seen before?

Chicken Scratch is distinguished by the cooperative nature of the gameplay, giving a new spin to the class telephone mechanic. Every player is a collaborator trying to work together to figure out the right answer. One of our proudest innovations is our prompt randomization system, which uses prefix and noun pairings. The starting prompts lean into the absurd with combinations like Spicy Grandma, Wacky Hat, Flying Potato, etc. You can generally expect that you're going to get something unusual to draw. It's also incredibly unlikely to receive the same prompt twice between rounds, which creates a lot of replayability.

Chicken Scratch is a quirky multiplayer drawing game. How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Chicken Scratch for?

At the core of our push to develop Chicken Scratch is our love of creating fun multiplayer experiences for players. It's truly a joy for us to playtest with some friends and see them get really invested in the result and then laugh at our collective misunderstandings. Post-release we have a vision of adding additional game modes leveraging our existing mechanics to further differentiate our game. We're most excited about adding in a social deduction mode where one of the players is intentionally sabotaging the work and must be stopped by the other players.

Chicken Scratch

How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Chicken Scratch for?

As a team, we initially decided to develop for PC because it was the platform we were most comfortable working with. In the future, we would love to make it as easy as possible to play Chicken Scratch with people you know by developing a simplified web/mobile port of the game that would only require one paid copy of the game between all players.

Looking at the studio a little more now. How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?

The key for us has been to take a more hobbyist approach to developing the game, as all of us have other jobs that pay the bills. We believe that if Chicken Scratch starts gaining some traction then we may start shifting gears and start working on the project in a more full-time capacity. For now, adopting a more low-stakes approach to our development process has allowed us to take the time to make the kind of game that we want to make.

Are there any tips and advice you would give to independent developers out there who are just starting out?

We're not exactly experts in indie development, but we can definitely share some of what's made sense to us that we've learned about:

  1. If possible, consider developing your game while working another job until you can create some financial stability.
  2. Keeping the scope of your first few games smaller is probably advisable.
  3. Get involved in your local game development community, as the experiences of your fellow developers may be very insightful for what you need.
  4. Early marketing is crucial. You should get your game out there reputation-wise as soon as you can.

Chicken Scratch

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

Pitching was really interesting, if a tad nerve-wracking, as we hadn't really done anything like it before. It was definitely a challenge having to adapt the pitch on the fly depending on each individual reviewer.

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

Our biggest takeaway from the Big Indie Pitch was refining how we communicate the essence of what makes Chicken Scratch a unique game. Organizing the presentation made it easier to pinpoint what aspects of the game stand out against similar kinds of games, which will be invaluable for marketing going forward. The feedback from industry professionals also helped us to realize what did or didn't seem to resonate from how we were pitching the game.

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

Our immediate focus is on finalizing the game for release. Once we've got it out there, seeing what the response is will inform what our plans are going forward. We'd love to see a dedicated community form for the game. We're honestly not expecting any kind of financial success with it just because of the realities of the indie game development market. If it does take off, that would be a dream come true for us. As for future projects, we're taking it one step at a time. Most of our discussions for post-release have been about adding in additional content to Chicken Scratch, rather than a new project.

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.

All our upcoming pitches including how to enter can be found over on our upcoming events page on

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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.