Image courtesy of Studio Inkyfox

Inspiring indie development stories from all around the world

Unreal Evangelist Team |
March 29, 2021
Kicking off our first ever Unreal Indies Week, we will be highlighting inspirational stories from several indie developers around the world that include Studio Inkyfox, Chump Squad, 562 Interactive, and Sluggerfly. Read on to find out how they began their game development journeys and how they got to where they’re at today!

Studio Inkyfox’s Jonas Manke


Jonas Manke, aka Studio Inkyfox, is a solo indie dev from Germany. He spent a decade gaining production experience as a freelance animator before he decided to start working on his debut game, Omno. “Before this whole game thing, I was working as a freelance character animation artist but mostly for film and television,” Manke told us, adding, “I was only occasionally working on games. And I didn't really have a clue about what the companies actually did with my animation files on their side, so I never really got in touch with the actual development process.”

To get a deeper understanding of the animation pipeline, the solo dev decided to try out Unreal Engine, and things took off from there. “So, I downloaded the engine and played around with it. It really got the creative juices flowing. From there, it sort of skyrocketed,” he stated, adding, “A couple of months later, I had something playable on my hands that I was showing to a friend of mine. And he certainly enjoyed it and told me to show it to other developers via online communities. And I was like, ‘No way. They will definitely rip it apart because, I mean, they are the professionals, right?’” Manke eventually shared his work with others and said the response from the community was “overwhelming.” “It was literally life-changing for me,” he concluded.
 

Omno is a single-player journey of discovery through an ancient world of wonders. Full of puzzles, secrets, and obstacles to overcome, where the power of a lost civilization will carry players through forests, deserts, tundras, and even to the clouds.

Trying to stay independent while finishing the game with complete creative freedom, Jonas turned to Kickstarter. “I decided to give it a chance to go all in. I didn't take any freelance jobs for a couple of months, and used all my savings. And yeah, I took the full risk basically to come up with something actually playable,” Manke stated, adding, “I ran out of money. So, I thought the best way to figure out if I have something there with Omno is to launch a Kickstarter campaign and see if real players, unlike just developers, would actually want to play it. And, the campaign turned out to be quite successful.” Omno ended up raising 97,769 euro, surpassing Manke’s original €32,000 goal.

He credits Unreal for much of his game’s success thus far, “Unreal Engine really allows me to fully focus on the creative aspects of developing,” he said, adding, “It's also greatly documented, which really stood out to me when I started learning.” 

With Omno, Manke is trying to develop the game that he would like to play. If you would like to learn more about the game, subscribe to Manke’s newsletter at https://www.playomno.com/wishlist the game on Steam, check out Omno’s Discord, visit the game’s Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter @studioinkyfox.
 

Chump Squad’s Gwen Frey


Early on, Gwen Frey didn’t realize she could pursue a career in video-game development, “I've been a gamer my whole life. I've been playing video games since before I can remember. But I didn't know game developer was a job you could have. I just didn't know that was a profession until maybe halfway through college, when I went to a game-development club and I found out people make games, and I could do that for a living,” she stated, adding, “As soon as I realized that, I knew I would do this - that this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”
 

Frey eventually began her career in the business working at Slipgate Ironworks, then would move on to work on esteemed titles like BioShock Infinite at Irrational Games, and eventually went indie with six-person team The Flame in the Flood. These experiences led her down a road to establish her own indie company, Chump Squad. “I founded my own studio-- an indie studio, where I could make the games I really wanted to make; games that make people think, laugh, and smile,” she stated.

Her first project would be 3D narrative puzzle-game Kine. Gwen was the primary developer of the title and was responsible for the game’s design, programming, and art direction. She self-published Kine on PC, Xbox, Switch, PS4, and Stadia. “I loved working on this game,” Frey stated, adding “This was a huge passion project of mine. It started out as a solo project, after work, while I was still working at The Molasses Flood. And I basically quit and funded Chump Squad specifically to make this game. I was the only person on it for quite a while. I did eventually get funding and hired other people, but I was the only designer and, I guess, the only programmer on it the entire way through. The PC SKU is still a Blueprint-only project.”

Sharing her learnings with the development community, she explained, “This is an incredible time to be making video games. You don't have to be extremely technical. Very small teams can achieve incredible things right now using tools that are available, Unreal Engine being one of the best ones, in my opinion. You can build something in Blueprints and have it be on every console all over the world. You're only limited by your creativity and your vision.”

Frey is currently leading a small, talented, and international team of developers working on their next title, Lab Rat, a puzzle game that’s also being built entirely using Blueprints. This satirical adventure stars a metrics-obsessed AI who will monitor, profile, and taunt you as you progress through over eighty puzzles.

If you want to learn more about Lab Rat, wishlist the game on Steam. If you want to play it early, go to LabRat.study and sign up for an invitation to participate in the closed beta. You can also follow Gwen Frey on Twitter @diregoldfish, YouTube, Twitch, and Discord.
 

562 Interactive’s William Weiler and Preston Weiler


562 Interactive was founded by three brothers who represent three sides of game development: art, programming, and marketing. What unites them is a drive to build games they’d want to play. For their first full-featured title, they developed Alluris, which Co-founder Preston Weiler described to us as a “swipe-your-own adventure game,” adding, “Imagine an RPG adventure, a D&D experience meets Tinder.” In the game, you explore an interconnected world by simply swiping left or right. In it, you can raid dungeons, steal loot, repair broken carts, and even marry a rat.
 

The game started off as an experiment in their spare time. “So, when the whole project started, we were working on another project,” Co-founder William Weiler stated. Following conversations that they had with their friends on Discord, some of whom have disabilities, they decided to make a roguelike title that didn’t require a lot of finger dexterity. Prototyping the game, they got quick results. “And it was three days before we had something that looked like the game,” Preston stated. They were able to essentially build Alluris’ core within 12 days and then spent the next six months polishing the title. 

If you’d like to learn more about Alluris, check out the game’s Steam page, Facebook page, Twitter, and 652 Interactive’s YouTube channel.
 

Sluggerfly’s Dominik Plassmann


Co-founded by Art Director Dominik Plassmann, Sluggerfly is an independent game studio from Germany. The developer has released two games thus far, including Ben and Ed and Ben and Ed - Blood Party, and are working on their third title, Hell Pie, which is a 3D platformer that’s inspired by N64 classics like Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

Leading up to the game’s release, Plassmann shared how he got started in the industry. “From a very young age on, I had a passion for creating stuff, be it drawings, videos, or recordings, and when I found out after school that it's possible to study game development, I knew I had to do it, and it worked out,” he stated, adding, “After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I started working for a German company called Funatics for around five years. And when I had to leave Funatics, together with a colleague, we immediately knew that we wanted to establish our own studio, because we loved the idea of having full creative control.”

While Sluggerfly is a relatively small studio, Plassmann says they’ve got big ambitions, “Hell Pie is dark and funny-- at least in our eyes-- and it's by far the biggest project we've worked on yet. So, it's a huge game for our small team of six people.” He credits Unreal as being a crucial element to the game’s development, “So, our movement mechanic is based on physics and is based on Unreal Engine’s character movement, which really helped us create responsive controls, because movement and the camera are so essential for this type of action.” 

If you’re interested to learn more about Hell Pie, wishlist the game on Steam and follow Sluggerfly on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

    Are you developing an indie game with Unreal Engine?

    We have a growing team of global evangelists who want to help you!
    Find the evangelist closest to you now and stay tuned to UnrealEngine.com for a week full of indie inspiration!
    News
    May 26

    Unreal Engine 5 is now available in Early Access!

    This Early Access build of UE5 is intended for game developers who like to live on the bleeding edge to start testing features and prototyping their next games. This is your first chance to get your hands on Lumen, Nanite, and much more.
    News

    Unreal Engine 5 is now available in Early Access!

    This Early Access build of UE5 is intended for game developers who like to live on the bleeding edge to start testing features and prototyping their next games. This is your first chance to get your hands on Lumen, Nanite, and much more.
    News
    April 14

    Early Access to MetaHuman Creator is now available!

    Have you been waiting to get your hands on MetaHuman Creator? Now’s your opportunity to join the Early Access program and start creating your own unique MetaHumans.
    News

    Early Access to MetaHuman Creator is now available!

    Have you been waiting to get your hands on MetaHuman Creator? Now’s your opportunity to join the Early Access program and start creating your own unique MetaHumans.
    News
    June 22

    Unreal Engine 4.27 is now available in Preview!

    A new generation of virtual production and in-camera VFX workflows, updates to architectural and manufacturing pipelines, production-ready Pixel Streaming, and more—take a look at the latest features coming to Unreal Engine 4.27.
    News

    Unreal Engine 4.27 is now available in Preview!

    A new generation of virtual production and in-camera VFX workflows, updates to architectural and manufacturing pipelines, production-ready Pixel Streaming, and more—take a look at the latest features coming to Unreal Engine 4.27.