Indie dev hopes Zombie Match Defense will chew its way to the top

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This guy really wants his game to do well. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
This guy really wants his game to do well. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — After his best friend deemed it impossible to make a fun game using the oversaturated staples of mobile gaming — match three, tower defense and zombies — indie developer Jake Sones made a bet.

Now Sones and his three-person team at Shovelware Games are ready to win that bet with upcoming game Zombie Match Defense, which makes players defend a row of scientists against an attacking horde of zombies by matching three or more brains of the same type. It’s as if Plants vs. Zombies and Candy Crush had a goofy baby and invaded your iPad.

Mobile games on iOS and Android are more popular than ever, but getting noticed in an overcrowded App Store is a huge concern. Sones is just one of thousands of independent developers at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco hoping to turn proven skills into successful careers.

Sones honed his game-making chops at Insomniac Games, Sony and Blizzard Entertainment before peeling off to ply the uncharted indie waters. Now he’s learning new aspects of the business on the fly while trying to score a hit with Shovelware’s zombie mashup.

“I don’t really know how to market this stuff,” Sones said. “When I worked for Insomniac, they’d just tell me when I had appointments and I’d go. This is very different.”

Must ... match ... brains ... in upcoming game Zombie Match Defense. Photo: Shovelware Games
Must … match … brains … in upcoming game Zombie Match Defense. Photo: Shovelware Games

Zombie Match Defense a fun, bright, enjoyable game already, with a quirky visual humor. Some of the different brains you match — a feat that kills the advancing zombie attached to the organ — include a dusty, cobwebby hunk of gray matter from someone who doesn’t use it much and a eggs-and-bacon “brain on drugs.”

You can also earn power-ups like brain freezes and shotguns (a popular tool during the zombie apocalypse) when you match more than three of the same brains.

Sones, who lives in San Diego, is hoping to launch the game later this summer after some beta testing and a possible soft launch to work out any bugs in the gameplay.

“I still have to fix some of the difficulty curve,” he said, referring to how quickly the game ramps up to a brutal intensity level.

Despite his impressive resume, Sones said striking out on his own this past November with the concept for Zombie Match Defense — and not much else — was almost as scary as facing the undead. It takes real guts to go indie with a game about brains.

“It’s terrifying,” he said.