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!”
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.
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.