Introducing the Tentacle Zone Incubator Cohort 2021

The Tentacle Zone Incubator is a four month virtual games incubator programme for early stage developers from underrepresented groups. We received such a range of strong applications for the programme that we decided to increase the number of founders on the programme from eight to twelve!


We wanted to introduce you to this incredibly talented group…

Yaldi Games

Founder/participant: Elena Höge, CEO, Game Design
Staff: 3
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

My name is Elena, I’m the founder of Yaldi Games, a studio with the mission to create meaningful entertainment. I love to learn new things and am infinitely curious. I also love games, so when I was 15 years old I decided to one day create fun games with integrated learning. I believe in the good games can do, in their ability to foster critical thinking, improving problem solving, teamwork, creativity and more. At Yaldi, we want to create games that can have social, cultural and environmental impact.

Our Game:

Wholesome – Out and About

Wholesome – Out and About is a life simulation game about family, nature, friendship and food. Explore beautiful landscapes, forage wild food, recover lost recipes and befriend the local townsfolk. Wholesome goes beyond digital and enables players to learn to identify real plants and mushrooms and download the recipes to recreate at home. We want to inspire outdoor activities and analogue craft and play.



Epoch Media

Founder/participant: Jeffery Thompson Jr. CEO/Creative Director/Narrative Designer
Staff: 8
Location: Warsaw, Poland (remote Studio)

My name is Jeffery Thompson Jr., I’m originally from St.Louis, Missouri but currently based in Warsaw, Poland. My background in sports and film eventually led me to the game industry, where I have worked on The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, Devil’s Hunt, and other titles as a narrative designer. After recognizing the lack of game studios run by blacks in the game industry, I started Epoch Media and eventually partnered with another underrepresented Lead Designer, Richard Terrell. We set out to make projects from black creatives that can have universal appeal.

Our Game:

PENSION$

PENSION$ is a 3rd person stealth action game set in midwestern America, specifically Oklahoma. Think if Hitman had a baby with Breaking Bad. Influenced by the aesthetics and visuals of Into the Spiderverse, PENSION$ is the story of a former marine turned university professor that’s recruited by a mysterious organisation that will stop at nothing to balance the state’s budget. How do they do this? By taking out the pensioners who are a “drain” on the state’s coffers. But this is just the tip of the iceberg…

Wabisabi Play

Founder/participant: Lisa Evans, Founder/Developer
Staff: 1 full time, 1 freelance
Location: Brighton

My name is Lisa Evans and my background is in illustration. I’m the founder of Wabisabi Play, a small video game studio dedicated to making beautiful narrative games that explore philosophical/technological subjects through sci-fantasy worlds. We want to make games that are both melancholic and uplifting.

Our Game:

Growbot

Our first game Growbot is a 2D adventure about a robot saving her home from a dark crystalline force. Inspired by old cartoons and children’s books from the 70s and 80s, such as Tove Jansson’s The Moomins, Growbot is an attempt at ‘Moomins in space’.

The Sea and the Forest

Founder/participant: Simona Maiorano, Co-Founder and Game Designer | Firtina Ozbalikci, Co-Founder and Engineer
Staff: 2 co-founders
Location: Italy and UK

I am Simona Maiorano, and I am the game designer and creator of Sea of Leaves. I started to work on this project three years ago and then my friend Firtina Ozbalikci joined as an engineer. We co-founded The Sea and the Forest, a tiny team devoted to authorial, narrative and meaningful games. We want to explore the space where Art meets Videogames, and gives voice to emotions.

Our Game:

Sea of Leaves

Sea of Leaves is a contemplative experimental game where you play as a disappeared girl who returns home after years. The game’s story is told through the main character’s memories, feelings, perceptions and mind structure, so the narrative style is unconventional, non-linear, branching, and inspired by the stream of consciousness narrative method and ergodic literature. Sea of Leaves is set on the Gargano, a remote region in southern Italy, known for its nature, landscape and history. Sea of Leaves is going to explore the deep connection between the main character, her place, and people.

Clockwork Raven Studios

Founder/participant: Samantha Webb, Narrative and Design | Ashley Rezvani, Development and Design
Staff: 2 co-founders
Location: Bristol, UK and Montana, USA

Samantha and Ashley met during their MA in Game Design and have been making games together ever since. Two-thirds of the developers behind indie game Yokai Moon, they both have varied industry experience. 

Samantha was a narrative designer on Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and has written for several indie games. She also has producer experience from Riot Games and Adopt Me! 

Ashley is a game design lecturer, composer and audio designer, and a freelance game designer specialising in purposeful games and games for change. 

They formed Clockwork Raven Studios to focus on making games with engaging and thoughtful narrative experiences.

Our Game:

Untitled Game

A 2D, interactive narrative puzzle game, based in a fantasy pirate and sea trade world. The game will be island-based: players will unlock new islands, new puzzles, and new stories as they progress through the game.

Made by Titans

Founder/participant: Matt Hall, Art Director & Co-Founder
Staff: 2 co-founders: myself and Chris Jeffrey, Technical Director & Co-Founder
Location: North East of England, Newcastle

I’m Matt Hall and I’m one of the co-founders of the early stage startup indie games studio, Made by Titans. We are a 2 man team based in the North-East of England composed of myself and Chris Jeffrey. I have a background in AAA working for Eutechnyx as an animator, on titles such as the NASCAR The Game series, Warhammer 40K: Storm of Vengeance and the first Zerolight projects. Chris has been developing indie games for over 13 years working on popular titles such as Space is Key, boasting over 150 million plays worldwide. We are currently working on our first title together as a studio, Squishy Sports!

Our Game:

Squishy Sports

Squishy Sports is a 1-4 player, family friendly, couch competitive, physics-based, 2D, sports-centric party game where the characters are SHAPES and everything is SQUISHY! We smash the visuals of Saturday morning cartoons with addictive, sport centred gameplay! We have carefully crafted appealing visuals and a simple, pick up and play control system that the whole family can play and enjoy. We wanted to create an accessible experience that is loved by all members of the family!

We have taken Squishy Sports to a whole host of events across the U.K. including Insomnia 65, Yorkshire Games Festival, Norwich Games festival and more. We won the ‘GDEX Crowd Favourite’ award at the GDEX 2020 exhibitor showcase. We are nearing the end of development and preparing for launch on Steam later this year and other consoles including Switch after that.

Spider Lily Studios

Founder/participant: Els White, Director
Staff: 5
Location: All around the world!

My name is Els White, I’m a freelance narrative designer and producer for indie teams. I started Spider Lily Studios after realising that there wasn’t much room in the industry for a disabled trans guy — if I wanted to work in a studio, I’d just have to make my own. The studio released its first game, Retrace: Memories of Death, in January 2020, and it was published on console in February 2021. My dream is for Spider Lily to become a studio that’s focused around bringing the best out of its developers, no matter their backgrounds, locations or access needs.

Our Game:

Hope Sustains | Schrodinger’s Catgirl

Right now we’re working on two projects – one with the core Spider Lily Studios team, and one I’m making with outsourced art. The core game is Hope Sustains, a reimagining of the “farm/town sim” genre with a focus on worldbuilding and realistic gardening mechanics, and the secondary game is Schrodinger’s Catgirl, a spooky mystery-adventure about exploring an abandoned mansion in search of answers.

Gesinimo Games

Founder/participant: Salman Shurie, Game Developer/CEO
Staff: Solo
Location: England, Birmingham

My name is Salman Shurie, I currently working as a solo independent developer under the title of ‘Gesinimo Games’, I’m an avid prototyper with a multi-disciplinary skillset, my games are recognizable by their unique animation style and game feel, made to the motto to “exaggerate life, build with heart and made to feel great to play again.”, thanks to that I had my first previous start to the industry in the hyper-casual games market on mobile working for Madbox (in Paris). I recently received the Humble Bundle Creators of Color Award which has helped to keep my head above water to continue in this career.

Our Games:

BBBLASTER

The first game is BBBLASTER, a rogue-lite shooter with dogs that control spaceships with a single button. The game is in early production and is being developed for IOS/Android, possibly PC & other platforms later. In the game the legendary and mighty space-pirate GD-DOG has disappeared suddenly leaving behind a single message “Enter my dungeon of torment and suffering, TARTARUS! Come at your own risk, collect my medallions then I shall reward you with my fortune and power”.

HOTLINE HEIST

The second game is called HOTLINE HEIST (subject to change) – your mission is to steal the Empress Regalia in an effort to run away from the get-rich-quick scheme of your beloved goddess in a city of criminals and magic. The genre is action, stealth, platformer, 2D, pixel graphics. Platforms are PC and consoles, in early production.

Flightful Pear Studios

Founder/participant: Sidhhant Girhotra | Abbie Foster
Staff: 5
Location: UK and Jamaica

We (Sid and Abbie) met on a games design course, which is where the idea for our debut game, Maive, was born. We were supposed to let the project go once we graduated, but Maive and her story had made themselves very comfortable in our hearts, and had no intention of going anywhere. So we decided to take the leap, and build a studio around our love for this project, and our desire to tell inclusive, meaningful stories through games.

Flightful Pear is largely a family affair, with us two heading up the design and visual development side of things, and Abbie’s dad and brother dealing with the technical development. Through chance we found Raccine, our wonderful marketing manager who lives in Jamaica, and together we’re doing our best to create our own little safe space in the industry.

Our Game:

Maive

Maive is a single-player narrative adventure game about a travelling storyteller with a magic book that brings her stories to life.

Join Maive as she traverses a remote, fantastical island, and meet a diverse and loveable cast of characters along your way. Connect with them through shared experiences by diving into the paper world of Maive’s storybook. Unravel her personal tale, discovering where she’s been, where she’s heading, and how the two are inextricably linked.

Triple Smash Studios

Founder/participant: Tim Ogunmakin
Staff: 2
Location: London, UK

I’m Tim Ogunmakin, I’m currently a full-time programmer at Roll7 and working on my own project Kytharos, a game I have always wanted to play myself with the help of Robbe Decreamer, a network programming lecturer in Belgium. We’re hoping to make online community driven games to really expand how far we can take games socially, beyond the normal existing online games we see today in the industry. We’re avid competitive players so we feel we’d be able to bring a new title out there where players can express themselves that no other online competitive game does, hoping to bring back that child-like feeling of exploring fantasy worlds with or against friends!

Our Game:

Kytharos

Right now we’re working on our first title, Kytharos, a fast-paced online competitive battle arena game set in England during the Middle Ages, with fantastical magic where players will be able to create their own spells to accommodate their playstyles and fight in teams of 2v2 and 3v3 against each other.

Wordplay Games

Founder/participant: Akshay Jain
Staff: 4
Location: London, United Kingdom

I’m Akshay Jain, currently based in London and one of the co-founders at Wordplay Games. I started my career in games by making small hyper-casual games for mobile during my under-graduate course. Prior to setting up the studio, I worked with a number of startups helping them build products from the ground-up. Wordplay Games is a London based indie games studio comprising four passionate storytellers with the objective to develop adventure games with a strong story and a focus on creative systems.

Our Game:

Days Lost

Days Lost is a narrative puzzler set inside the diary of a young woman that takes the player on a journey of recovering memories using her diary entries. Travelling through the joy and the pain of rediscovering oneself, the game has a unique blend of captivating narrative, challenging puzzles and beautiful art told in a colourful diary style.

The Days Lost demo came out as part of Tranzfuser hosted by UK Games Talent and Finance CIC (UKGTF). It has won the ProtoPlay Audience Award and secured funding as the winner of Tranzfuser 2020.

Balloon Studios

Founder/participant: Laure De Mey
Staff: 1
Location: Bristol, UK

My name is Laure, and I’m currently working as a programmer at Ustwo Games. In my free time I’ve been working on my own project, Botany Manor. With Balloon Studios, I’m hoping to create welcoming games set in interesting architectural spaces that players can lose themselves in. With the Tentacle Zone Incubator programme I’m hoping to receive lots of feedback, advice and learn more about marketing.

Our Game:

Botany Manor

Botany Manor is a first person puzzle game where you play as a retired botanist, who wants to cultivate her collection of mysterious seeds inside her beautiful manor house.

Thanks to all the participants for contributing to this blog post.
If you would like to keep up to date with their projects please follow them on their socials or connect via LinkedIn.

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For more information on the Tentacle Zone Incubator please contact incubator@tentacle.zone.