Developing and shipping an indie game has always posed its own unique set of challenges, even at the best of times. Designing and building each aspect of the game. Writing exciting storylines. Tweaking gameplay mechanics to seamlessly mesh together. Marketing and generating hype for the game that you’ve spent endless hours and sleepless nights working on perfecting…
Now imagine doing all of that during the coronavirus outbreak.
This is the story of Clan O’Conall and the Crown of the Stag, and the dedicated team at HitGrab Inc. gaming studio who faced the impossible odds of shipping a game in an unprecedented global pandemic.
What’s The Craic?
The development team at HitGrab Inc. games studio knew exactly what they were looking for when they first started the creation process of Clan O’Conall.
Based in the fantastical world of Hibernia, three heroes – Kilcannon, the mighty sword master, Clakshot, the bow-wielding huntress, and Haggish, the brutish brawler – fight their way through obstacles and puzzles to save both their father and the mortal realm against the evil Mother of Demons, Caoránach.
This 2-D animated puzzle-platformer is steeped in both Celtic and Irish folklore, and with hand-painted graphics and a stunning soundtrack from Moonwalk Studio, it lends itself extremely well to fans of Trine and Rayman, with similar elements of speedy platforming, character swapping, and special ability trees from both games.
The HitGrab team’s tireless efforts to produce a visually stunning, atmospherically absorbing game ultimately fell flat with the heartbreaking cancellation of Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco, just weeks before Clan O’Conall’s original launch date.
With the COVID-19 quarantine and remote working pushing deadlines further and further behind, the game struggled to find its audience, hype, and ultimate drive to the finish line. Something had to be done.
On October 1st 2020, the Canadian team launched a Kickstarter campaign with an ambitious fund date of October 31st. If the campaign failed to reach their funding goal, HitGrab would commit to releasing the game on November 1st. That would give the developers exactly one minute to pack what they had and ship the game on Steam.
Not dissimilar to the chase sequences from the wild boar in the fifth level of Clan O’Conall, the developers were in a race against time.
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Full Steam Ahead
With a last-minute extension from Kickstarter, Clan O’Conall and the Crown of the Stag successfully reached its funding goal on 4th November 2020.
With no day one press coverage, Clan O’Conall faced a quiet but critically successful launch on Steam in April 2021, receiving acclaim from game curators and reviewers alike, including praise from Ubisoft Indie Series Jury, impressed with the “excellent use of lore within art and Storytelling”.
However, the HitGrab team knew that this would never be enough to market their game post-launch, and countless hours of searching for Twitter traffic and long nights on Twitch streams weren’t cutting it. They knew that they had to think of something, and fast.
That’s when the idea of the Hibernian Summer Games was born.
The Hibernian Summer Games
To celebrate its launch on PC, Mac, and Steam, HitGrab Inc. played host to the inaugural Hibernian Summer Games but wanted them to be more than just a community event. Looking to their home city of Toronto the team secured a fundraising partnership with SickKids Hospital – one of the largest pediatric care providers in Canada.
With a fundraising goal of $10,000 towards the construction of a new clinical hospital and care facilities in the centre of Toronto, the Hibernian Summer Games took place across two weeks from July 26th to August 6th 2021, enlisting the speedrunning community in nail-biting races through the game’s levels, challenging gamers to gruelling boss battles, and hosting an art auction to raise money for SickKids.
Gamers, streamers, and content creators alike had the opportunity to donate money to a great cause, with the top fundraisers vying for the prestigious title of ‘Master of the Games’ in the Clan O’Conall in-game credits, as well as receiving a custom piece of art of themselves in the iconic Clan style.
Amazingly, the competitors at the inaugural Hibernian Summer Games defied all previous expectations and astonished both HitGrab and SickKids by raising over three times the original fundraising goal, with a total of $36,605.03 raised across two weeks.
“Participation in the Hibernian Summer Games was a great experience and the perfect opportunity to continue my support of SickKids”, says CarsonDrewIt, an artist, streamer, Hibernian Summer Games competitor, and patient at SickKids. “The Hibernian Summer Games felt like the perfect match – raising some money for an organisation I love supporting, experiencing a great game, and making art inspired by it.”
What’s New For Clan O’Conall?
Monsters & Mayhem – the latest update to the game – sees two major refreshes to gameplay features in Clan O’Conall.
Improvements to character swapping mechanics lets players move more fluidly between the three different playable characters, with a generous pause in gameplay while changing between heroes, while updates to combat difficulty provides extra gameplay flexibility, perfect for either casual players or those looking for an extra challenge in their playthrough.
Plus, with an exciting announcement of a Nintendo Switch port for Clan O’Conall in the works for the end of 2021, we’re excited to see this fantastical puzzle platformer open up to whole new audiences and the spread of this unique gaming experience from Hibernia to homes across the World.
Clan O’Conall and the Crown of the Stag is now available to play worldwide for PC & Mac on Steam. Dive into the fantastic world of Hibernia at Clan O’Conall: The Crown of the Stag | HitGrab, Inc (clanoconall.com).