SA Game Creatives Spotlight: Dan Freer of Pond Games - SAFC

SA Game Creatives Spotlight: Dan Freer of Pond Games – SAFC


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SA Game Creatives Spotlight: Dan Freer of Pond Games

November 25, 2022

Dan Freer of Pond Games at PAXAUS, creator of RITE.

South Australia is home to a thriving indie games industry with high international impact, from large indie studios to independent developers working on PC, console and mobile to creatives working in XR, animation and robotics. It’s new at SAFC SA Game Creatives Spotlight interview series we explore the diverse range of talent and skills in South Australia’s growing game development sector and meet some of our best and brightest game developers.

Award winning developer Dan Freers Yippee Pond game, a team-in-one game studio based in Adelaide. We spoke to him about the huge success he experienced with his first release, CEREMONYwhich launched on Steam and in mid-2020 and on Nintendo Switch this year, as well as its time at PAX, tips on how to break into the industry, and what’s on the horizon for Pond Games.

Can you tell us something about it? CEREMONY and what inspired you to create it?

CEREMONY is a pixel art platformer where the goal is simply to collect the key and get to the exit while avoiding the various dangers in each level. I started to develop CEREMONY in 2019 while living abroad – I’ve wanted to make games for years and decided to finally go for it. I knew that I needed to keep the scope small for my “teaching project” to have any hope of completing it, but I also knew that I would probably give up if I wasn’t doing something I wasn’t passionate about. As someone who has always loved playing platformers, this seemed like the perfect choice of genre.

CEREMONY launched in mid-2020 and was added to Nintendo Switch this year. Has your opinion of the game changed at all in those two years?

Of course! Although I think it’s only natural to look back at a project from a few years ago and think about all the things I’d change if I were working on it now. I know I am a much better designer now and could do CEREMONY much better, but I’m still extremely happy with it as a released game and proud to have it as my first project.

What skills did you learn while building and launching? CEREMONY?

Too many to list! As CEREMONY was my first real attempt at making a game, during early development I learned so much about how video games work and how they are put together. Creating CEREMONY it made me a better artist and level designer, and publishing taught me a lot of new skills involved in launching and promoting my own product. I learned how big the gap can be between “mostly finished game” and “finished game” – finishing the game is a hugely important skill.

The biggest challenge was the lack of initial development experience; I’ve been doing pixel art as a hobby for a few years, but I’ve tried it a few times to learn programming. Fortunately, there are plenty of free tutorials for most game engines and software, so starting development was just a matter of following YouTube videos and adapting the code to my needs. When I got stuck, I asked people for help – I think learning by doing is a very viable path in game development.

RITE trailer

What do you like most about working in the game development sector?

Designing games is such a fun and satisfying thing for me personally, but apart from that I really love chatting with other developers. There is always such a wide range of opinions on every aspect of video games and what makes them good/bad/fun/interesting; no two people think about games the same way as others, but everyone is so passionate about them. I love getting into the depths of game design with other developers.

What do you think are the benefits of making games in South Australia?

We have a great community of game developers here in SA; everyone is so supportive of each other. The regular events like Unwind and the talk and demo nights that Game Plus runs are so great because they give us all a chance to catch up and connect with new people.

What do you think the future holds for gaming in South Australia?

In the few years I’ve been making games here, the scene has grown dramatically with so many new indie teams and hobby developers. I really hope this trend continues; it’s great to see more and more people coming to events like Unwind and chatting about what we’re all working on.

In addition to the game’s soundtrack, CEREMONY was created entirely by himself. What are the pros and cons of working solo on a project?

I had some help on the code side of things during development and around launch from some friends, however the great thing about working on your own project is to focus on everything I think is important to the game and not have to compromise on creative decisions. On the other hand, not having others to bounce ideas off of can make decision making quite difficult at times. Staying motivated and on task can be quite difficult when you are working solo.

You recently attended PAX Aus with a group of other SA developers and got to show off CEREMONY. What was the experience like?

PAX Aus was an amazing experience! It was great to see so many people enjoying it CEREMONY, especially when young children tried it. PAX was very busy and exhausting, but a lot of us who were there from South Australia helped out where we could. Special thanks to SAFC Executive Director of Games Development Patrick Webb and Claudia Watson from the Department of Trade and Investment for their support.

What advice would you give to other indie developers who would like to one day showcase their games at PAX or any other convention?

Definitely put some thought into your booth setup. It doesn’t have to be over the top with huge dollars spent, but a smart and clean setup with a few appropriate decorations can go a long way. If possible I would recommend having two playable builds for your game and even better if you can easily switch to a trailer or gameplay footage when people aren’t playing. Definitely print some business cards or postcards for your game, and probably print more than you think you’ll need. Having QR codes on your Steam page or anywhere you want to direct people is very rewarding and easy to set up.

Have you always wanted to be a game developer?

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a game developer! As a young adult, I got distracted by the world of coffee and eventually opened my own coffee shop, which I ran for three years before selling it. It’s been a fun part of my life, but I’m glad to finally be pursuing a career as a game developer, and I really can’t imagine doing anything else right now.

What advice would you give to aspiring developers who want to follow in your footsteps?

I guess I’m still a beginner developer. But for anyone hoping to make games one day, start now with whatever skills you have. Start with small projects, the smaller the better, or even start by doing the part that interests you the most. The best way to learn is by doing, and you’ll have a much better chance of finishing your big dream game if you make (and finish) some smaller games first.

So, what’s next for Pond Games?

I recently started a new project. It is much more ambitious than CEREMONY – I want to secure funding for this soon so I can work on it full time and hire a programmer. I hope to have something to show at PAX Aus 2023!

SAFC supports video game development and gaming businesses as part of its commitment to promoting the South Australian screen industry. Find out more at

Interview with Patrick Webb

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