Now in its seventh year, the Indie Series helps independent game studios in Ontario reach new heights by offering cash prizes and mentorship. In the run up to this year’s Ontario Indie Series final in February 2023, we’re catching up with some of the past winners to see where they are now and get a glimpse of what they’re working on.
Washbear Studio co-founders Chris McQuinn and Mayuran Thurairatnam run their studio through their love of animals, internet memes, cheesy sci-fi tv shows and video games.
This passion and cohesive vision were the driving force behind winning the National Bank Special Prize during the 2019 Indie Series in Ontario. Since then, the studio has released Parkasaurus, a dinosaur park management sim, and Sea Monsters DLC to great success.
When we spoke to Chris and Mayuran, the two friends shed light on how their studio was formed, the creation of Parkasaurus, where the studio is now and their hopes for the future.
Q: Can you tell us about your journey into game development?
MAYURAN: The Washbear journey started about a decade ago when I began working beside Chris (the other half of Washbear) at an excellent indie studio called Drinkbox Studios. We instantly clicked and a solid friendship started. At Drinkbox, we learned to respect each other’s skills and craft which created a great place to start to form a studio. At some point, we dipped our toe into the idea of Parkasaurus and explored if it could be a feasible project for us. Turns out, it was! We did think it would take us less time than it did, but we managed!
Q: What is your vision for Washbear Studio?
CHRIS: The vision for Washbear is to create games inspired by the genres we love. I think Mayuran and I have different tastes in media. We tend to smash it all together into ideas that excite us. In the next 10 years, I hope Washbear has a nice title of games that we’ve created and have the financial flexibility to continue creating for another 10 years.
Q: Mayuran, you recently spoke at the Game Devs of Color Expo. Can you talk about the importance of holding events like the Game Devs of Color Expo for the gaming industry and what you wanted attendees to take away from your talk?
MAYURAN: The industry has improved over the last couple of decades regarding racial diversity and equality. With that said, people of colour can face more challenges when it comes to forming industry connections. Events like GDoC are important because they provide a space to meet other developers. I’m hope attendees at my talk learned a few tips about how we developed a successful game and punched above our weight as a micro-studio.
Q: Your studio won the Indie Series Special Prize in 2019 for the game Parkasaurus. Tell us about Parkasaurus – how did you come up with the idea of Parkasaurus? And why is the game important to you?
CHRIS: The idea for the game was inspired by a paper version of a dino-tycoon game created by Mayruan’s wife. This got the juices flowing since Mayuran and I are big fans of tycoon games and builders. We began some early prototyping and the ideas fell into place. Parkasaurus is important to us as a studio. It was our first game and we learned so much. There were many long nights working on Parkasaurus that we hope to avoid moving forward.
Q: Can you tell us about your successes since your Indie Series win in 2019? Have you two discovered anything about yourselves since the launch of Parkasaurus?
MAYURAN: Since the Indie Series win, Parkasaurus has been released into a full 1.0 version, has been released on the Nintendo Switch, and has had the Sea Monsters DLC released! The game has been a financial success for us (we’re a small studio!) which has been a relief.
We have learned a ton – most importantly, appreciating self-care. We have larger families than before, and crunching all night is not viable when we have to get up in the morning to get the kids ready. Also, the quality of the game improves when we’re both mentally healthy.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of the video game industry?
CHRIS: We hope indie studios continue to find exposure and success in the wider video game market. Also, we hope indies can find financial viability through gaming subscriptions. Indie studios are a great source of innovation, and it would be a loss if these studios could not continue innovative game development.
Q: Congratulations on the launch of your Sea Monster DLC! What’s next for Washbear Studio?
MAYURAN: Earlier this year, we started prototyping an exciting new game with the help of Ontario Creates and we can’t wait to talk about! Follow our Twitter, newsletter, or join our Discord to stay in the loop.
Registration for the Ubisoft Indie Series presented by National Bank is still open! To apply, visit the Indie Series website. Applications close on Tuesday, December 13, 2022, at 11:59 AM EST.