In the immortal words of the singing orphans from Annie, "it's a hard knock life, for devs". Getting noticed by publishers, investors and the media is the first rung on the ladder of success for any aspiring Indie developer, but sadly it's also one of the hardest.
This is where Pocket Gamer's Big Indie Pitch comes in. It's a chance for indie devs to shove their game (quite literally) under the noses of journalists and publishers who will then give expert feedback. Not only is it an excellent promotional opportunity, but it's a great exercise in preparing for the day you find yourself in an elevator with Tim Cook and only 30 seconds to convince him of your idea. The Big Indie Pitch is ran speed-dating style with only five minutes to impress each table of judges.
Understandably, these events are incredibly over-subscribed, meaning that an even larger, more rigorous event was born for 2014: The Very Big Indie Pitch.
As one of the judges at the event, along with other journalists and publishers like Rovio and WildTangent, ITProPortal met over forty developers whose original, well-thought out games made the competition fiercer than Tyra Banks smizing in a windtunnel.
After hours of face-to-face pitching, a handful of games were selected to move to the final round: a pitch on the main stage of the Pocket Gamer Connects 2014 conference. However, in a twist of fate, a tie break opened up voting forced the judges to open up the final vote to the packed audience of conference guests. After both cheering and hands-up voting proved inconclusive, the award was given to all three of the finalists: "Photo Dash," by Atlum, "Tap Happy Sabotage," by Alistair Aitcheson, and "Wild Dawn," by unnamed studio.
They will share the prize pool of over $25,000 (£15,000), advertising and editorial promotion and a chance to join the Game Founders program.
Tap Happy Sabotage
Giant 23in touch screens aren't the most portable platforms for a "mobile" game, but Tap Happy Sabotage is a party game designed for multiple players crowded round a mammoth-sized device. And it is fist-bitingly fun.
The game sets each player a target card (like a purple paper aeroplane or a slice of pizza) and a trap card (a bent paper aeroplane or a mouldy slice of pizza). A series of quick fire rounds ensue where players must tap on their targets and avoid their traps – not an easy task when there's a throng of other players jostling either side of you and the targets are moving round the screen.
The "sabotage" element provides an added layer of difficulty, as all-out cheating like grabbing other players' arms and hogging the screen is actively encouraged.
It was a game that massively stood out from the crowd, with a striking design, compelling playability and a real sense of its creator Alistair Aitcheson's character. Those who don't have a hulking beast of a tablet lying around will be pleased to know that Aitcheson is currently working on developing a way to lay out multiple small screen devices side by side to simulate a giant single screen setup.
No release date has as yet been announced, but keep your eyes peeled and your sleeves rolled up in preparation for some serious elbowing.
This smartphone challenge is game is a furious race against a friend to take as many photos as possible – sort of like Snapchat on a serious caffeine kick. A word will pop up, like "Wheel," and the quickest person to sprint to the nearest car or bike tyre and snap a shot of it will win the round.
When most mobile games are exercises in how fast you can flick your thumb whilst slouched on a sofa, this is the first game we've seen that forces players to make use of the world around them. Dash packs provide environments for these fast-paced photoshoots, like "Home," "Outside," and "Self" alongside the other option of creating custom challenges yourself. For example, "Take a photo of Lucy's head" when the other player is around their sister.
With every judge saying "Why has no one thought of this before?" this is a guaranteed free-to-play classic. So next time your neighbour from number 4 tears past you, smartphone held aloft, screaming "lamppost, lamppost, I NEED A LAMPPOST!" take a moment to pause before calling the men in white coats. It could just be PhotoDash.
Wild Dawn is so beautiful, it is a wonder that it does not yet have its own perfume line. The love –child of Rayman and Limbo, it chronicles the efforts of a young girl roaming a barren world overcome in darkness.
In an ethereal twist of the classic scrolling platformer, each level is hidden in an open world that the player is required to explore and uncover in depth. As you delve deeper into each environment, brightly coloured flowers spring up around your feet as the dying Earth comes alive again.
Elegant, poignant and charming, it's a subtle game that perfectly mixes fun gameplay with a compelling story and stunning artwork. Unfortunately it is also extremely difficult to track down, having not yet been released and no screenshots yet existing. Look out for it in the coming months though, because it's a game not to be missed.