Developer Interview: March March! (Demo on Steam)

By Published On: August 18, 2022Categories: Gaming

Lepka Games and March March!

The whole world has been impacted by the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. While economic or emotional consequences are easily seen, the effects on the gaming industry haven’t been widely reported. The war has financially impacted gaming companies, split apart development teams, and caused projects to be tabled.

Lepka Games , one of the winners of the PAX Rising showcase for PAX West, is a Ukraine-based development company. Their game “March March!” excites us, and it should excite you, too. Some of us cannot put the demo down (available on Steam), and the artwork rivals large studios. It is truly magical!

Unfortunately, due to the laws around the ongoing conflict, males aged 18-60 cannot leave Ukraine, so they’re available to defend their country. This means that Lepka Games will not be attending PAX West on September 2nd in Seattle. Don’t worry though, DVS Gaming will be there to represent their team and show off their game demo!

Even though those of us at DVS would like to help everyone in awful situations, we can’t always do as much as we want. The conflict is heartbreaking and life changing for many. The opportunity to represent this team is not something we take lightly. Lepka Games is part of our DVS family, and we want our family to be safe. Additionally, Lepka Games has unmatched ambition and potential. Not only is it an honor to be able to help our family when they are stuck, but it is also an honor to be able to contribute to the rise of what could be one of the next big games.

Now let’s focus on the game and Lepka Games’ drive for success.

About March March!

The description from Steam:

March March! is a strategic roguelike adventure with turn-based combat. Travel on the global map, and defeat various enemies and bosses. Upgrade your hero and army. Each turn you have to decide where to spawn new units. Tell the soldiers where to March! March! and they’ll do the rest.

March March! combines several elements from other games. There is map generation, Tetris elements, tower defense, troops to control, and battles to be won. The level of skill required is simple to learn but complex to master. March March! is addictive and a blast.

Later, we will have a gameplay coverage article for you to read along with after you learn about the team. The demo, available on Steam, has hours of replay-ability alone. I have enjoyed the demo, my 10 year old has enjoyed the demo, and we can’t wait to get more. Early access is projected for March 2023.

The Interview

I have chatted extensively with Mykhailo Dembitskyi (Misha), the lead on March March! He has talked to me about the team, how he came to this project, and his past projects. Misha’s story is inspirational to all nerds because it’s the tale of two kids’ dreams coming true. 

Today, I rung up Misha on discord and dove into the topic of his small indie team at Lepka Games:

Drew: Misha, how did you start in the gaming industry?

Misha: About 20 years ago, as a kid, my brother Serhii started making board games. We would go on family trips or have gatherings and all play the games. It would help evolve the rules, and they would be really fun. This was always a hobby and maybe a dream – to be game makers. We still focused on our education and our careers. 

In 2007, while I was still in high school, I got my first tablet and started learning 2-d art and CG (computer graphics). This led to freelance work in 2008, mostly for browser games. I freelanced for a while, and it slowed down when I entered medical school late that year.

From 2010-2011, Serhii and I started making board games again as a hobby. I was in my first couple of years of med school and my brother had already earned his PhD (in sociology).  We came up with a game we still believe in, called “Sovereigns. When we wanted to publish the game, we met a lot of roadblocks, and then the reality of what our efforts would earn as an indie team was basically not worth it. Then, we took a long break from making games. 

An image of Sovereigns.

I, of course, still played games. In 2013, my fifth year of med school, I was really into DOTA. The game made me want to learn modeling. At first I only did concepts and textures for DOTA skins but, with time I learned how to make 3d models as well. The chances are, if you played DOTA – you used my creations under the name: Dr. Robo. I continued to create DOTA content off and on for several years. I still do it from time to time (about 9 years now). This was a lot of fun for me and became important for Lepka Games because I met Anton Frolov in DOTA. He programs EVERYTHING in “March March!

Art by Misha

Meanwhile, I finished med school and became a pediatric dentist. My brother focused on his career, and we were applying ourselves properly. Then, after about four years of being a dentist, I decided to quit my job. I wanted to pursue a game-making career. While I was on a new path and my brother was well into his career, we decided to make “Sovereigns” into a video game. That was our first project, and we knew it was very niche. It needed to be multiplayer, and as an indie company, we didn’t have the knowledge or means to make that work. Even with the problems, the experience was well worth it. One day, we hope to revisit “Sovereigns” as a video game.

Around 2018, Serhii and I teamed up with Anton, my friend from DOTA. I had been trying to find a developer for another project, and it fell through. So with Anton, Serhii and myself, we brainstormed. Then, we decided to enter a Game Jam – a two-day competition to make and submit games. Leading up to one Game Jam, I was laying on my couch and thinking about how I could make a fun product capable of reaching more gamers. The goal was to merge familiar gaming mechanics and create a game that had something for everyone. We talked about it and began preparing our entry. After making some progress, we decided not to submit it. “March March!” was born.

Then, we started working hard, and grew our team a bit. We made a prototype, then a demo (available on Steam). Now we are polishing while growing the game, the interest, and our community.  

Drew: That is an impressive story. What has been your favorite project?

Misha: The current one, “March March!” has been my favorite. It has had many challenges, resulted in a lot of learning opportunities, and has just been fun to work with the team.

Drew: What would you say is your inspiration?

Misha: My inspiration growing up and starting this was my brother, Serhii. We have made a good team since we were children, and we have ways of making our ideas real. He was the sort of the  first brick in my wall. Now, I also have my wife, Elena, who is a great and inspirational artist, way more skilled than myself. Really, the whole team.

Art by Elena

Drew: What has been your most challenging project?

Misha: March March!” It is really challenging because we are trying to meet our goal of early access in March of 2023 while putting in the right number of crazy ideas we have (millions) without making the game stale. We want to maintain quality. Adding to this, everyone has other jobs they work to feed their families, and we are doing this on the side. It is a wonderful experience but definitely has a lot of challenges, and I enjoy every moment of it.

Drew: Speaking of the team, what can you tell me about the team at Lepka Games?

Misha: Our team size is five. Myself and four others. Here is a bit about all of them:

Anton Frolov is the Lead (solo) Programmer. He programs EVERYTHING in the game using Unity. Anton also works as Senior software developer for a company that makes software for constructing buildings.

Ilya Komarowskyi 2-D artist: Made most of the 2-d game art. We first met on a CG forum when I started my journey in 2007.

Elena Bespalova  is our Art Director. She previously worked for Riot Games as a concept artist.

Serhii Dembitskyi is my partner game designer. He has a PhD in Sociology and currently works with the National Institute of Sociology of Ukraine. We grew up making board games.

And myself, Misha Dembitskyi. I am the manager, and my role is fluid. Other than game design with Serhii, I develop the UI, animations, FX art, and more. I worked as a pediatric dentist for four years, and have freelanced as a 2-d and 3-d artist. I grew up making board games as a hobby and creating DOTA skins.

Drew: What are your future plans for “March March!” and Lepka Games?

Right now, we want to finish this project. There is still a lot of work. We want to release a quality product.  After that, we want to finish the single player and work on releasing to other systems such as mobile and the Nintendo Switch. Maybe more, we don’t know yet. We also want to add multiplayer, but it has to be right, and we need the fanbase to back multiplayer. Growing a fanbase alone is challenging, and we are just getting started. One day, I also want to finish Sovereigns – an incomplete project, but not forgotten.

See You at PAX West in September!

From isolation during COVID, to PAX East, and now – PAX West is among us. With all considered, this will be a new experience for us at DVS. We are excited and can’t wait to show “March March!” to all of our event friends. Get ahead of PAX West by hitting Steam, trying the demo (available now), and adding it to your wishlist! 

A special thanks to Misha and the team at Lepka Games for choosing us to represent them. The opportunity is amazing and so are all of you. We look forward to watching your game blossom and are thrilled to be a part of it.

For everyone else, if you are going to be attending the Seattle event in September, stop by our booth at the PAX Rising Showcase and check out “March March!” along with the other games represented there. Lepka has provided you with a demo AND some giveaways (pin for trade, shirts – a Nintendo Switch anyone?).

Stay tuned to DVS Gaming for our review of the demo, coming soon! Check out the screenshots and trailer below:

About the Author: DVS Gaming