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Postmortem: Developing a Game With a Distinct Indonesian Identity

Dimas Novan D told us about the history and development process behind A Space for the Unbound, talked about promoting the game and working with the community, and shared some advice on how to get noticed.


Hello, I'm Dimas Novan D, currently a Supervising Artist at Mojiken Studio and Toge Productions. My recent role is Director for A Space for the Unbound, released in January 2023. Mojiken Studio is a game studio based in Surabaya, Indonesia, we've been around for 10+ years making games for many platforms. We recently merged with Toge Productions, which was previously our publisher.

A Space for the Unbound's Conception

The idea started when we, Mojiken Studio, did an internal game jam in 2015, Mojikencamp. A Space for the Unbound – The Bridge – was my project back then. The original idea was to make a story-driven game that expresses a solitary experience with Indonesia as its setting. It has been my dream to make a game that encapsulates slice-of-life with a sprinkle of magical realism in an Indonesian high school setting, and it was the right opportunity to do that. Originally, I already had in mind the big theme and concept for the story and what kind of characters I wanted to make. I made several initial art that were later put in the first pilot trailer.

Art Direction & Aesthetics

I've always been fascinated by pixel art. I love a lot of pixel art from games such as Marvel vs. Capcom, King of Fighters, Megaman Battle Network, Metal Slug, etc. I am always amazed at how arranged pixels can make us see different things beyond what is actually presented. To realize the beautiful image that we see consists of nicely arranged pixels makes me constantly in awe. Also, one of our game themes is nostalgia, so it makes sense to use pixel art as a medium of expression since pixel art also has nostalgic and impressionistic charm thanks to its unique characteristics. And looking at our team composition, it's also really a sensible choice since we are more experienced in pixel art fields.

Back in 2011-2015, I was exposed to a lot of great indie game projects that pushed pixel art to new heights. Games such as Savant, Old Boy, Shovel Knight, Frogatto, Hyper Light Drifter, and Starr Mazer impacted me visually, and it really ignited a spark and perspective to see pixel art as a medium that has so much uncharted potential. Also, I discovered many great pixel art artists such as Army of Trolls (Gary J. Lucken), eBoy, and Toyoi Yuuta, who utilize pixel art as a medium of expression. Since then, A Space for the Unbound has been my personal pursuit to combine pixel art aesthetics with the Indonesian environment to breathe a new perspective and fresh take on the daily life environment I've been familiar with for a long time. I'm glad that when – The Bridge – prototype and the pilot trailer were released, the art direction was very well-received.

Implementing Old-School Gameplay in a 2023 Game

In the beginning, I struggled a lot trying to find a suitable game format and storytelling structure that matched the story idea I had in mind. The very early iteration won't do that much if it is turned into a more comprehensive experience. I have to think of something else. After we made several prototypes, we found the adventure game with spacedive mechanics (a mechanic that allows you to enter someone's mind/heart) was the best format to represent the whole story and experience I've been meaning to tell.

The format and the game structure really allow us to be more efficient in development and also allow us to have room to experiment with puzzles, visuals, stories, and more. Although adventure games are a genre that surfaced many years ago, there are several successful narrative games that use adventure game mechanics, and we think there's definitely an audience for that in this modern day and age. Audiences that enjoy a laid-back experience, narrative with a light puzzle element with modernized adventure game mechanics such as To the Moon, Oxenfree, etc. still exist and also crave a new experience.

Preparing the Game For Different Platforms

Luckily, our game is quite performance and hardware-friendly and doesn't need any kind of specific feature that is geared toward a specific platform. In the early stages of development, we decided to make the game with a universal controller in mind to ease the multiplatform process. Our previous experiences in porting our game to several platforms have been very useful, and our relationship with our publishing partner, Chorus Worldwide, which handles some of the ports has been very great and made the porting process easy.

Working With the Community

Working with Toge Productions, who are experienced in marketing, and having a fanbase and organized community, we are able to be in touch with our future players. In the early days of development, I made screenshots and WIPs to gauge interest, and then when the title was officially picked by Toge Productions, we opened official social media accounts and continuously posted screenshots, WIPs, sketches, etc.

Back in 2020, we released a prologue demo to test if our game was interesting enough for people to play, garnering their interest and see if there was anything that could be improved. I think it's a very viable and great strategy to release the prologue first to gather the community and to create your presence in the scene. We also had a beta test at a certain stage of development to ensure that what we make is functional and the overall experience enjoyable enough for players. And we really glad that the result has been very positive. It sure is very important to have a presence and to keep our audience posted from the early stage of development and on the latest stage of development, especially if you're a small team that started to set foot on the scene.

Promoting the Game

One of the keys is to understand the audience of our game and to understand the strength and the core value of the game. Since we've been set that one of our game's themes will be slice-of-life, we often focused on making slice-of-life social media content such as high school daily life, relationships between main characters (Atma and Raya), daily lives of the townfolks, the world panorama, or animal activity. People's interest in a seemingly chill and peaceful slice of life connects with what our game has to offer.

At some point, we also tackle the supernatural part of the game to create a stark contrast. This way enables us to communicate a more escalated narrative regarding what will happen in the world of the game. The reception has been very positive since the audience is captivated by what is going on in the game how the story will unfold and what kind of fate the main character and the city will face. A balance between serious and wholesome tones is the important key to our communication narrative.

We also, attend a numerous offline and online event to get a spotlight and garner wishlists and social media followers. I think the wishlist number has been a very important part of benchmarking the game's potential players, especially to ensure a smooth launch.

Thoughts on Launching the Game

It has been a very delightful experience, but also a mysterious one. We are really glad the story and experience we've been meaning to present to other people have been very well received. The game is set in Indonesia, and it's a setting that is not commonly presented in pop culture, and I'm really glad that it still resonates with a lot of people. We tried our best to make A Space for the Unbound a game that has a global message for players around the world and still retains its own unique identity. We also managed to make a game that could resonate with Indonesian players. To me personally, it has been a very overwhelming experience. I didn't foresee that it would be received this well. It is still very mysterious to me how we ended up with this overwhelming response. We are definitely very lucky and really grateful for the support of everyone who loves our game.

The Defenition of Success

For me, as long as the game delivers its core value, is shipped, and allows us to make the next game and sustain us, it is a success. To be honest, the final result of A Space for the Unbound is really beyond my expectations. Sure, there's definitely room for improvement, but I couldn't ask for a better result myself. We did our best, and this is the best that could come from our hard work. This is the best version of A Space for the Unbound at that time, it represents the best we can do at that time and becomes part of our long journey. Sometimes, I think it is a kind of miracle for this game to exist and finally be released. It taught me a lot, and it allowed me to grow, and the result really overwhelms me. I'm really glad that this game can resonate with Indonesian players and encourage more appreciation toward our own country as a set.

How to Get Noticed?

I say it's always to not leap without preparation. Make something that you're capable of making first in terms of size and skill. Start small and make sure you know how to execute the idea. I can't stress enough the importance of working on a project with a realistic mindset. It's great to be ambitious, but make sure the path you took didn't exhaust and break you in the middle of the road. Take careful steps to reach your goal. There's always a first time for everything and those first times are always a very clueless experience, try to learn slowly, observe what your strength is, and constantly review what you did what's working, and what's not working out. And have a safety net, to ensure your safety and livelihood if something bad happens in the process. If you're unsure where you stand, you can always ask for opinions in the community to get feedback and support.

Also, try to gather the audience for your game in the very early development, post work-in-progress stuff, screenshots, post a funny bug, etc. Make sure people know your game or you as a game developer. Make a demo or prologue chapter. These are great ways to gather a wishlist and audience for your game. It may burn you out to manage social and development at the same time, but you can mitigate that risk by creating a schedule that helps when you should post something and focus on developing the game. Social media marketing is a great way to capture your future players and prepare you for the launch.

Lessons Learned

I think what we did in terms of how we structured our game is one of the important things I learned from my perspective. To be able to scope and navigate your project is a very valuable skill that only comes after you finish making something. Through this project, I learned to scope and navigate a game project better, though it is not perfect it sure gave me new knowledge on how to oversee future projects and it also helped me to be better at communicating ideas to others. In the future, there aren't any really significant changes in what I do, but I would like to keep in mind to have room for experiments in future projects with a more manageable risk and improve on communicating ideas better.


Making a game and making a game studio are two different things. Making a game could mean you are focused on just making games, not managing the development side such as social media management, studio management, financing, etc. If you plan to make a game, you can partner up with a publisher or maybe work as a freelancer and be part of a development team. But making a studio means making a sustainable environment that allows you and your team to make a game for a period of time. It needs resources, a strong vision, leadership, management, marketing skills, etc. Check up on yourself if you're ready enough to handle that responsibility. My suggestion, especially if you're a first-timer, is always to start small and to have friends in the scene. By starting small, you can gather experience to know how the industry works, what the process of making games is from pre-productions, productions, and shipment, and how you can ensure to live from its earnings with manageable risk. To have friends is really important. As a social being, socializing can help you get necessary feedback, or help when you are stuck and most importantly prevent yourself from burnout. It's also really important to have a second opinion before diving into the game industry, especially from the professionals, it helps you to check out preparation stuff you overlooked.

Dimas Novan D, Supervising Artist at Mojiken Studio and Toge Productions

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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