These Imagine Cup competitors turned their project into a published Xbox One title

In January 2013, three students of Perm National Research Polytechnic University founded Brainy Studios. A year later, they won first place in the Games category at Microsoft’s 2014 Imagine Cup World Finals with a prototype of “TurnOn”, a platform game with unique visual style and graphics.

Since then, the prize money allowed Brainy Studios to pursue development of the game which was first released on Windows Phone in March 2015, with a following release on Xbox one and Steam just a month ago. As this year’s Imagine Cup is soon coming to an end, Brainy Studios recently sat with Microsoft’s Student Developer Evangelism Team to share their developer journey since their participation to the Imagine Cup World Finals two years ago.

The inspiration behind TurnOn

In TurnOn, the player embodies an electricity spark which has to travel through power lines to solve puzzles to restore electricity to an entire town. The team drew inspiration from many sources to design the game such as the Earth Hour initiative powered by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), popular platformers titles like Ori and the Blind Forest and Trine and a short animation called Borrowed Light.

Developing the game

As a true indie game studio, Brainy Studio took care of every aspect of the game’s production including marketing and publishing. As the prize money from Imagine Cup and AppCampus could not completely finance the game’s development, Brainy Studio founders also had to self-finance the game, with developer Evgenii Romin sharing that they had to live “a very ascetic life” during the game’s development.

However, Brainy Studios developers explained that their participation at Imagine Cup definitely helped them to get support from other developers: indeed, the localization for “TurnOn” was done entirely through the voluntary efforts of Imagine Cup 2014 participants from all over the world. Brainy Studios marketeer Dmitri Ogorodnikov added that “though Imagine Cup is a competition, everyone supports each other.”

As TurnOn was initially designed has a mobile game, Brainy Studios needed to revamp the game to made it available on the Xbox One and Steam. The team used Visual Studio and the Unity game engine to rebuild every aspect of the game, including the addition of 82 achievements and a save system. As Brainy Studio still wanted to self-publish the game to stay true to their artistic vision, the game studio had to develop new skills to manage their studio and ship a finished game. Developer Romin quoted the words of founder of Epic Games Tim Sweeney: “In game development, the first 90% of a project is a lot easier than the second 90%.”

The cutscenes in TurnOn also feature the game's distinctive art style.

The cutscenes in TurnOn also feature the game’s distinctive art style.

What’s next for Brainy Studio?

Brainy Studios is currently in talks with both Sony and Nintendo to port TurnOn on their respective consoles, but the team, but they’re also collecting feedback from gamers to see if there is room to improve the game. They’re also thinking about creating new levels for the game set in other major cities, and they recently demoed at Imagine Cup a level set against the backdrop of Seattle and its famous Space Needle. Lastly, Brainy Studios marketeer Dmitri Ogorodnikov shared a piece of advice for this year’s Imagine Cup finalists: “If you want to make something good, you should put your soul into it from start to end.”

Get TurnOn on your Xbox One

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