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Intro: 'South Pole Bebop' Heading to BIC2023
The 9th annual Busan Indie Connect Festival (BIC) concluded successfully on the 27th. BIC is a global festival for indie game developers and gamers, partnering with various game companies in Korea and famous overseas game shows such as Taipei Game Show and Bit Summit. This year's event took place at Bexco and was the largest in history. "South Pole Bebop" by Sentience was selected as one of the exhibition pieces, beating fierce competition. So I headed to Busan last weekend as the game designer and exhibition booth operator of South Pole Bebop.
BIC 2023 spanned over 3 days. It commenced on August 25th (FRI) with a Business Day, followed by the opening to the public from August 26th (SAT) to August 27th (SUN). Participants included university student groups, small to medium-sized teams, and even multinational teams like Sentience. On the first day of the event, game industry professionals gathered to network, introduced themselves, and played each other's games. As each exhibitor was a developer themselves, it was an excellent opportunity for them to receive and provide professional feedback.
This year's event theme was "RUN YOUR INDIE SPIRIT!", and the venue was decorated like a massive marathon course. Participants could move around the booths like running a marathon course, collecting stickers to track their progress and to have a chance to win prizes. Though I couldn't complete the course owing to booth operation, I think it was a creative event planning that could stimulate the interest of visitors.
The Impressive Lineup of BIC2023
The exhibition had an impressive lineup, featuring popular works previously displayed at BIC such as "Ogu and the Secret Forest" and "Sannabi." These works returned as "Connect Pick," alongside other noteworthy games like "Dungeon Drafters," which has already been released on Steam, proving its game playability, and "Viewfinder," which received a warm response at the German Gamescom. All the participating works provided visitors with abundant enjoyment.
< Dungeon Inn >
Among the games that caught my attention was "Dungeon Inn," a unique inn management game set in a fantasy world. The game received attention at last year's BIC 2022 and participated in this year's exhibition with an improved version. Its gameplay is as innovative as its concept.
To succeed in this game, players need to attract guests by strategically placing promotional banners along the route that adventurers take, and use the earnings to expand their inn. However, caution must be exercised to avoid attracting adventurers who belong to guilds with negative relationships. The game is turn-based, and players can calculate where to place the lure based on the adventurer's movement per turn. If adventurers from rival guilds enter the inn at the same time, a battle ensues, and the player must mediate it. This game's uniqueness is what makes it so exciting, and as a fun fact, the two main characters are the developers' pet cats, and they named their company "Cat Society" after the independent and self-sufficient nature of cats.
< Ghosted >
Also, a game called "Ghosted" of "Studio Ahn" caught my attention with its simple rule - "You can only move if the colors match." The players have to color the background, objects, and characters with a given color palette to send the ghost home safely. Unlike the game "Hue," which also uses colors to solve puzzles, "Ghosted" combines the classic game "Lemmings" with color changes, creating unique tension and agility as the characters move along the path automatically.
I discovered this game at the "Seoul Indies" event, which happens every month, and everyone was impressed with the level of completion despite the developer claiming it was their first game. "Ghosted" won the award for Best Casual Game at BIC this year and has been released officially on Steam. It boasts of over 120 challenging puzzles that will leave you scratching your head!
Fan of #Turn-based #PvPvE #Chess-like games?
< South Pole Bebop >
We can't leave out our game, "South Pole Bebop." We debuted the prototype at G-Star 2022, and since then, the game has undergone significant improvements and is now available as a Steam Demo. Many visitors came to our booth, with some even bringing friends to play the game again. Seeing people enjoy the game firsthand is one of the most rewarding experiences of participating in offline events.
Because "South Pole Bebop" is a turn-based strategy game, it was challenging to allow for intrusion play during the game. Additionally, the game has a relatively long playtime compared to other exhibition works, limiting the number of users who could play simultaneously. So we've shared a QR code with those who are waiting to play, which links to the Steam page where they can enjoy the same game demonstrated at BIC. You can also enjoy the game here.
Our booth attracted not only general visitors but also various people from the gaming industry. Some developers offered advice on the issues we were facing and shared their expertise. We expressed our appreciation in person, but I want to once again express gratitude for their support.
Awards and Stage Events
The festival held an award ceremony where "Dungeon Drafters" by "DANGEN Entertainment" won the grand prize in the general category, and "THE SEGMENT TWINS" by "HeungDoReu-HeungDol" won the Rising Star award in the rookie category. The judges evaluated the winning works from 18 categories, and the total number of evaluations reached about 4,500. The competition was fierce thanks to the professional evaluation and generous support.
< Parades of costume players >
Aside from the amazing works on display, the festival also had various side events. The popular costume players showcased a parade featuring characters from hit indie games like "The Binding of Isaac." Visitors also had the chance to win prizes through mini-games like O/X quizzes and hidden picture searches.
The organizers made sure to prioritize the convenience of the participants. PCs were set up with exhibition works in the center of the course, allowing gamers who couldn't play games due to long queues or were uncomfortable with solicitation activities to freely experience the games they desired. The on-site staff was friendly and excellent in their operation. Official events were conducted in both Korean and English to ensure that foreign participants had no difficulty participating. Any issues that arose at the booths were promptly addressed and actively resolved.
Outro: Dream-like Festival for Indie Developers
< Networking party >
The support provided to indie game developers at BIC 2023 was truly exceptional. The chosen teams were granted the opportunity to showcase their work at offline exhibitions without any cost and were even provided with accommodation. Networking parties were arranged at the end of each day, offering an abundance of finger foods and drinks. By the end of the party, it was quite a task to organize the stack of business cards collected. The organizers and sponsors deeply understood the struggles of indie game developers who hesitate to participate in offline events due to financial constraints. I dare say that BIC 2023 was truly a dream-like festival for indie game developers.
During the closing ceremony, the organizers revealed that next year's BIC, which marks its 10th anniversary, will be held in an even grander manner. This is an incredibly exciting prospect. I hope that more opportunities like this for indie games will arise, positively impacting the entire gaming industry.
Even though the offline event has concluded, BIC 2023's online exhibition continues through the official BIC website until September 14th. By purchasing an online festival ticket, you'll be able to experience award-winning works and play various indie games, including "South Pole Bebop."