Posted by Scarlett Asuncion – Product Marketing Manager
Indie game developers Geoffrey Mugford and Samuli Pietikainen first met online through their shared passion for game design, before joining forces to create their own studio, No Devs. Looking for ways to grow as a team, enter the Quickplay Game Jam hosted by Latinx Gaming in partnership with Google Play. Open to anyone worldwide, the 6-week competition asked participants to generate game ideas around the theme of ‘Tradition’. The two winners were among 4 winners who received a share of $80,000.
Their winning game idea, Pilkey, has already launched in early access. It offers players a charming clay fishing adventure set in a tranquil atmosphere that celebrates Finnish culture. We chatted with Geoffrey, one half of No Devs, about the game’s origins and unique gameplay. He shares how his multicultural heritage and Samuli’s Finnish background have inspired their game design, lessons learned so far, and future plans for their studio.
Tell us about your journey as a team and why you entered the Quickplay Game Jam.
We started making games together in May 2022. We talked about it for a year, but never took anything, so a game jam was the perfect way to start our creative partnership. The first game jam was a success so we decided to take it further and look for more game opportunities. As indie developers, balancing personal projects with financial stability is difficult. Winning a prize in a gaming crowdfunding event provides an opportunity to shape an idea and secure early funding. This game jam has provided that opportunity by promoting cultural diversity. Because of Samuli’s background, we were excited to make a game that embodies the Finnish mentality.
What inspired the creation of Pilkey and how did you shape the game to offer unique cultural experiences like ice fishing?
At first we struggled with the theme of Game Jam, ‘Tradition’. We were originally excited to make a traditional ‘Day of the Dead’ inspired game, but after a couple of tries we realized we weren’t responding well enough, so we switched gears. Coming from a multicultural background, we thought about mixing cultures rather than focusing on one. We thought about creating new traditions using the deck builder or city builder formats, but we found them to be too ambitious at times. Finally we turned our attention to Finland and its various traditions. Some like eukonkanto (wife-carrying seeds) and tinanvalanta (melting tin in a sauna) caught our attention, but in the end we settled on ice fishing – a simple, unique and very Finnish activity that could fit mobile games. The challenge was inventing something new – we envisioned it as a physics-driven puzzle game where the player controls the hook like a pendulum, and Pilkey turned out to be just that.
Can you highlight some of the lessons and adjustments you’ve made along the way?
We only had 6 weeks to make the game, and we spent 2 of them brainstorming. When brainstorming our game ideas, we had to make quick decisions with extensive caution and sometimes without the opportunity to playtest. Some of these decisions have been extremely exciting for players – others, not so much. Fortunately, we had a clear division of responsibilities – I was on game design and programming, Samuli on art, sound, and gameplay – so we could work smoothly in parallel and meet the challenges efficiently.
The winning situation was a challenging aspect to identify during development. We wanted a stable and reflective experience similar to a real-life analog, so we avoided effects systems and timers. As time runs out to complete the game, we are unable to explore alternative options. As a result, our game jam entry became a race against time to catch as many fish as possible. After the frenzy of the game was over, we revisited this and returned to a peaceful atmosphere where progress was driven by puzzles rather than scores.
How has the funding from the Quickplay Game Jam partnership with Google Play contributed to Pilkey’s growth beyond the initial prototype stage?
Pilkey has more scope than anything we’ve tried before. Without funding, we would have left the concept in its prototype stage without exploring it further. The quick-play Game Jam allowed us to realize the potential in the idea, and commit ourselves to turning it into a relaxing fishing experience.
With the funding, we were able to dedicate 3 months of full time to Pilki design and development. We were able to take a step back and really think a little bit about how we could build a game that would continue to grow after release. In addition, Samuli has experimented with multiple styles and multimedia art – this is how he developed the beautiful pottery that is our unique selling point.
Are you excited about your future as a new indie game studio?
Yes for sure! We love creating fun and innovative experiences for people, and we both dream of working full-time on our own games. It’s a long road ahead, but we’re excited to keep up the momentum. For now, we are actively working on Pilki and planning to release a major game update in 2024. We are excited to see the reaction of our players.
Having our game on Google Play gives us access to new markets globally. We can’t wait to see how the game will grow and attract new players and promote our Finnish culture.