Bitsummit 2023: Fishbowl is an emotional odyssey of self-discovery and connection
Bitsummit 2023 featured around 100 games, the largest showcase yet. Exploring the titles on display this year led us to discover countless hidden gems and passionate developers, including some independent teams working to bring their very first game to life.
One such game was Fishbowl. This pixel art coming-of-age game is a visual delight and full of heart as it has players make decisions, navigate isolation from loved ones, and sort through puzzles to uncover memories — both heartwarming and sad ones.
We talked with imissmyfriends.studio about their upcoming release and are eager to share with the world the first project from this two-person team. So, let’s check out their slice-of-life game, Fishbowl!
On a different side of the gaming spectrum compared to our last Bitsummit featured demo, Monstabox, Fishbowl is a more cozy and relaxed affair.
We were drawn to the booth by the cute pixel art style, and after just a brief chat with the devs, Rhea Gupte (creative director, writer, and designer) and Prateek Saxena (artist, composer, and programmer), we definitely wanted to check the game out.
Here are Rincs' first hands-on impressions of the Fishbowl demo.
Fishbowl is a visual novel about being away from family and friends, maintaining connections over a long distance, and dealing with grief. There’s also a bit of a mystical element to all of it, although I only got a very light taste of it. It's all set in wonderful pixel graphics.
I played as the main protagonist, Alo, a girl who just moved into this nice new house and got a nice new job — all far away from her friends and family. There was a small gameplay segment where we were editing a video, as Alo works from home as a video editor. This part played almost like a rhythm game, but instead of hitting on the beat, it's more like sorting the video elements into the right boxes. It’s quite relaxed and not overly challenging, which is fitting for this comfy-vibe game.
But I did mention that this game featured dealing with grief, too, and in the demo I got a small peek at what this was about: Alo lost her grandma a month ago, and the grief is still fresh. With how well everything was written, I could tell that this was going to be quite an experience. This was just the demo, but the tone it set put my expectations at a reasonable level to where I can easily say that I’m looking forward to the rest of my experience with Alo …and a certain magical, mechanical fish…
We were grateful to the developers for chatting with us about their game on the Bitsummit floor while showing their demo. Our conversation was primarily with Rhea, as Prateek soon stepped away to talk with and guide the folks playing the Fishbowl demo.
VGG: Please introduce yourselves.
Rhea: Hi, I’m Rhea.
Prateek: I’m Prateek.
Rhea: And we’re part of imissmyfriends.studio. We’re a two-person studio from Goa, India.
VGG: How would you explain your game to a casual player?
Rhea: We’re making a game called Fishbowl. It’s a story about Alo, a girl who just moved to a new city for her first job and she sees herself now working from home, so you can video call friends and have conversations with them, you can video edit on her computer and there’s a lot of things to kind of toy around with in her house as well. And there is a theme of grief in the game as well since she’s lost her grandma recently. It’s a warm, cozy, slice of life kind of a story.
VGG: What inspired you to make this game?
Rhea: So, the game was pretty much inspired by our mindset during the pandemic — that’s when our development started as well for Fishbowl. We were just at home, by ourselves, not able to really physically go and meet our friends and family, and that kind of mental state that we were in inspired the idea behind Fishbowl.
We kind of went from there, figuring out how to take care of ourselves, as well as family, during a really difficult time. So a lot of the themes in Fishbowl are inspired by that, and it’s a very personal story close to our hearts.
VGG: Is your studio name, "I miss my friends," related to current events as well? It feels very timely.
Rhea: The name has a more interesting story. We’ve actually been wanting to make games for many, many years and we’ve had our own separate, independent careers for a very long time. So when we thought about having a studio, we were actually moving away from college, and that’s where the idea of “I miss my friends” came from, 'cause we would miss that time, being close to our friends who moved to different cities. But it goes really well with Fishbowl as well.
VGG: Speaking of naming, why Fishbowl?
Rhea: There are two reasons why the game is called Fishbowl: the first one being that the game is about being in isolation and figuring out life within that. And there’s another aspect as well, which is a bit of a mystery…
VGG: We'll have to play the game and find out! The game looks fantastic in this pixel style. What drew you to the pixel art look?
Rhea: We both grew up playing so many pixel art games, and some of our favorite games are all pixel art. But we never were able to play as brown-skinned characters in those games, so we were very interested in having representation, having people with darker skin colors in our game. That’s what made us feel like it’s a good fit and people who like pixel art games would really enjoy seeing themselves in the game as well.
And of course we also love the style.
VGG: It's beautiful! Do you have a release date set in mind right now?
Rhea: We don’t have a release date yet, but we still have a long way to go, so we are looking at a couple of years more of development. We’ve been already working on the game part time for the last two years, and we just went full time last month. It’s been really exciting for us, and now we can just completely focus on visuals and get it polished.
Thus ends our Bitsummit special. We hope that you enjoyed our coverage and we’ll see you all again next year!