AcadArena’s CONQuest 2023 in Manila was jam-packed with star power in every corner – especially in the special Indie Zone spearheaded by Indie Game Group Philippines.
Indie Games at CONQuest 2023 in Manila
What are some indie games, and who are some of the devs that VirtualSEA met during the event? Read on for a lowdown on the latest games in the Philippine indie scene.
First are Katakata Creatives and their eye-catching green booth! Their table was guarded by an adorable cutout of the protagonist Kata and a spread of the gorgeous environment. This narrative platformer is pushing through with development with a successful grant, and the team is excited to spend more time and effort bringing Kata’s world to life.
Kendikorp’s beautifully decked-out booth reflected the joyful trinkets and merchandise in the booth. The game’s pixel art was a wonderful collaboration with Filipino artists and a testament to the beauty of bringing creativity to one project.
Maccima Games, who made the evil overlord sim Ruinarch, are developing a Squid Game-inspired “Eat the Rich.” They even produced a set of stickers special to CONQuest 2023’s guest lineup! Could this be the next social puzzle game taking the streaming world by storm? With a cool premise and charming art style, it’s well on its way, and we can’t wait for development to start!
“Tinder but for birbs” is the charming pitch for Anonymous Penguin Studio’s first title. A game jam idea grown into a full-fledged project, CONQuest 2023 in Manila provided a wider audience and a steady stream of feedback that excited the team more about improving the Steam title and their future projects.
Fallen Tear: The Ascension has garnered quite the following and interest for their impressive progress on their game. The game development arm of their creative studio, Winter Crew, is eager for feedback and support for this gorgeous new Metroidvania.
This magical project has been featured in many of VirtualSEA’s lists, but solo dev Verinius is at peace with taking the development process on his terms, and the fans are here for it! With content-filled demos already released and fun updates shared on social media, it’s an enchanting creative journey to watch.
Taktyl Studios have much development experience, and their knowledge and passion shine through. Many guests spent time building their Arbiter characters – so much that a chance to have the controller in my hands slipped me by! It’s as great a sign as any for a genuinely engaging game. There’s much to look forward to for their coming mobile, PC, and console releases!
Buko Studios’ first game is a fast-paced cat-themed bullet hell game that brings the team’s creative skills to the test. Already an existing creative studio, the idea is to create its IP and flex its game development capabilities. Judging by the line vying to get their names on the high score list a la old school arcade, they may be going in the right direction!
Frog fever has grown in internet pop culture over the last few years, and it’s reached the Davao-based team Sweet Banana in their fun rhythm game. Featuring the joyful hops of the frog adventurer inspired by the Amazonian legend of muiraquitã, Ribeat asks you to guide the journey to catchy tunes and challenging puzzles.
One of the Project PIGI titles, Working Tidal, showed off their nautical roguelike. Developed by the Bears Downstairs team, whose goal is to enjoy the development process, the undersea themes, beautiful art, and engaging grid-based action have the makings of a cult classic indie game.
Psychic City Games showed off their narrative chops in the puzzle-laden Meet Me on the Mountain. It’s a thoughtful romp through a day in the life of Julia, who is trying to recover her memories. The challenges provide varied experiences, rewarding players with a keen eye for exploration.
Balete City is a much-celebrated and ambitious project, and it was exciting to see that development continues full steam ahead. Studio Enero showed off their progress and process, exploring more ways to make their game dev journey easier and faster for their fans. Full of creative energy, the game director Niley Bacolcol shared some other endeavours of the passionate team, from linguistic card games to stylish merch.
One of the most popular and exciting titles from the Philippine indie scene, Good Knight has enjoyed popularity and support, especially with developer Alex Valdez’s collaborations with the VTuber community. Constantly greeted and sought after, the popular dev also talked about building a community for your game – and Good Knight’s success is resounding in this regard!
Senshi Labs showed off a couple of projects that shined a light on the education and student experiences in digital ways. Stressed Out and Mathligaya are both beautifully crafted games with clear goals. These edutainment projects were represented by the devs who collaborated with the self-proclaimed hobby organisation that can produce professional and polished products.
MetaSaga Warriors impresses with a wide roster of playable characters and a wider range of movesets to accomplish your dungeon crawl. Many players who demoed the game fell to the charms of the fast-paced and easy-to-pick-up mechanics – and to get to their idle high score, of course!
Anito Legends cements itself as an NFT game focusing on gameplay first. The colourful and cute auto-battler features characters inspired by Philippine mythology. Even the game’s backgrounds feature a host of cultural references and iconic landmarks. With Adventure and Arena modes, seeing how a well-crafted game can marry Anito Legends play-to-earn with a fun and charming playing experience is interesting!
Yangyang Mobile celebrates its prolific visual novel history and forays into new gaming genres and styles. High Times is coined as an “anti-dating” sim with some psychedelic flair. If it’s your fantasy to manage your cafe and get closure with your exes – you’re in luck!
Phoenix Up! Media was previously featured in VirtualSEA for older projects, so seeing the new chapter and direction for the devs was exciting! Bloodbreaker is a dark and exciting action platformer with procedurally generated levels.
Beat of the Heart pushes you right in the face of an oversized boss battle, making you focus on the music to avoid the monster’s huge fists and bring in some hard hits.
MoeStudio’s Verenica, an action-packed bullet hell game, is so full of style thematically and visually that it feels like jumping off the screen. The art style is a fresh, frantic modern look mashed with early 2000s internet culture. I appreciated the accessible playstyle thanks to the different difficulties and the pop culture references (like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure).
Do you miss your old typing games from the good old family PC days? Panitia Dev puts your next-level keyboards to their full potential in the fast-paced and adorable The Chef’s Shift. Blending restaurant management sim with typing gameplay, who would have thought that some of the most pressurized game mechanics could come together in such a fun, fantastic experience?
Picking up the demo phones to play KooApps’ Snake.io gave me nostalgia for my first Nokia phone. The multiplayer aspect sets it apart from the old classic, adding mechanics and features that make the experience even more engaging and challenging. The other thing that you have to beat? The urge to improve on your high score without end!
Minimum Security Prison tests not just your observation skills but your reflexes, too. The minimal style is well thought out with the mechanics – the coffee mug boosters are so smart. ULT Games took on this project for a fun game jam, so we’re looking for possible future titles from the solo dev!
If there’s a prize for the cutest games, the team at Weyrdworks has that down pat. The Malaysian devs showed off their adorable desktop Tamagotchi-like in Werdlets and a fun monster-hatching sim in MonsterNest. Their cute and polished style is attractive to all kinds of players!
Shireishi had a couple of impressive titles to show on the floor, and I already found myself engrossed in the opening level of How to Die. The game has a nihilistic charm, pushing players to continue through the cerebral puzzles just to understand what’s happening in this grim but endearing world.
Capiccioso Games is a studio building up on what makes video games fun – playing with friends! Their set-featured various laptops to demo Haphazard Angel’s engrossing and chaotic gameplay. The “biblically accurate” cartoon angel has four distinct wings, each controlled by one player – and the team is tasked to cooperate the wings to get the angel to their point-earning goal!
Based on a comic, this pixel action-platformer has a Souls-like quality. The game’s difficulty is in line with the hardcore setting of the title. At the end of the demo, I would be handed a “Skill Issue” sticker, but they’d run out on the last day – I’d wear that sticker with a badge of honor!
Polychroma’s Until Then is an exciting foray into the narrative adventure genre. Featured in previous VirtualSEA lists, the distinct Filipino setting crossed with a paranormal mystery is only amplified by the beautiful, fitting pixel art style.
Benji’s Burgers is a fantasy cooking simulator chock-full of charming characters and fun restaurant management gameplay. Scintilla is a Hamiltonian path puzzle game and isekai to a retro-futuristic world. Both games were developed by the student devs of Mapua Game Consensus, who could present and eloquently explained their concepts. Both the games and the teams make me believe the future of indie dev is bright!
DevelUp might have exhibited my favorite booth design yet! Much like the Sari-Sari store inspiration, their game development capabilities showed an exciting diversity of styles and genres (the Lucky You? Bancit Kantunan dating sim is genius). Their games also got beautiful stickers m which is a great way to introduce each project’s unique style!
iAcademy rolled up to the Indie Zone with the creepy Tiny Terrors. Showing off their student games as a result of their game development tracks. Seeing students’ real-life projects at this event is an essential step in maintaining talent in the exciting Philippine game industry!
Startrace Studio’s game reminds me of those 100 in 1 game cartridges – simple game mechanics that translate to various ways to play that you’ll never get tired of. From launching rockets and flipping water bottles, these veteran mobile and game devs show their chops in creating addicting experiences.
Winners at CONQuest 2023 in Manila
At the end of the 3-day event, IGG and CONQuest 2023 in Manila also awarded developers for their commendable work, and here are the winners:
Until Then (Polychroma Games)
- Best Game
- Best Narrative
- IGG PH Rising Indie Award
- AcadArena Gaming for Good: Diversity Award
Fallen Tear: The Ascension (Winter Crew)
- Best Art Direction
- Community Choice
- Developer Choice
Lawmage Academy (Verinius)
- Best Game Direction
- Best Sound Design
The Chef’s Shift (Panitia Game Dev)
- Technological Innovation Award
Balete City (Studio Enero)
- AcadArena Gaming for Good: Cultural Authenticity
- AcadArena Gaming for Good: Social Impact
Events like these are indeed the lifeblood of the indie scene, and the representation during this weekend helps devs connect not only with themselves but also with the larger gamer audience as a whole.
Here are some fun trends observed during the weekend:
Rhythm Games Rule at CONQuest 2023 in Manila!
Does the Filipino affinity for song-and-dance make this a popular indie game genre? Whatever the case, many games have chosen the mechanics path of the beat. We’re glad to see a variety of artstyles and unique choices for this engaging genre in the local dev scene.
Schools Growing the Next Generation of Developers
The student organization and college/university booths had a strong showing during this event. I got to speak to many students, and they embraced the challenge of attending a massive convention at a high level.
The passion and eloquence of students and fresh grads inspire game developers of all levels. I genuinely look forward to hearing about their future careers.
Support for Rising Indie Games at CONQuest 2023 in Manila
Two booths, Kata Creatives and Kendicorp, were awardees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ development fund. This government grant encourages original IPs inspired by Philippine culture and heritage, specifically for pre-colonial folktales and mythologies. More traditional mediums may have more of an impact on cultural consciousness, but the path for games is being paved through this support.
It is great to see stories from the typical Filipino childhood in digital reimaginations at the hands of talented developers. Here’s to hoping that the importance and impact of indie games continue to be supported by the government.
A Growing Community
With over 40 teams represented on the floor of one of the Philippines’ biggest gaming culture stages, it was an impressive showing not just of numbers but also the progress of the industry. The local and regional teams appreciated the strength in numbers and the opportunity to spend the weekend away from WFH or hybrid set-ups and network with fellow passionate developers.
I have connected with many personalities via Twitter or from VirtualSEA coverage, so I was delighted to meet these fantastic teams face-to-face. The creative and positive vibes at the convention will drive more connections and events in the future!
Do you want to know more about game development in the Philippines? Follow Indie Games Group Philippines’ activities on their Discord, and follow VirtualSEA for more news, features, and reviews on the Southeast Asian indie development scene!