Jiheh on ISLAND_NAME_HERE & Draknek New Voices Puzzle Grant

Jiheh, (pronounced like “gee, hey!”) is the solo developer behind Spicy Rice Cake Studio, currently creating ISLAND_NAME_HERE. This game is all about programming, as a developer, trying to create an island. It’s a puzzle game with educational elements that has beautiful visuals to boot. ISLAND_NAME_HERE has also been selected as a part of the Draknek New Voices Puzzle Grant, so we sat down with Jiheh to talk about her game and the effect this grant would have on development.

Can you introduce yourself and your game? What inspired you to create a game where players do development?

“I studied international business and finance at university and worked in business for a couple of years but left to find a more meaningful and fulfilling career. I was tutoring to make ends meet when one of my geometry students asked me, “Why is it that the teacher says the same thing to everyone in class, but some students understand the material while others don’t?” This question triggered a series of thoughts that changed my life. I was certain that the educational games I had played as a child (the ClueFinders, Carmen Sandiego, Wishbone, Freddi Fish) had prepared me to do well in school; they introduced subjects to me early on so that when I came across them again later, they felt familiar, approachable, and even exciting, rather than overwhelming. It was then that I decided my career goal would be to harness the power of games and interactive technology to help spread knowledge.

I learned how to program and saved up money while gaining experience as a software engineer and as a game developer before making the jump to work on my own game full-time. It’s been a dream of mine to create an entire game by myself and to learn all of the processes involved. For my first big project, I thought it would be so fitting to share learnings from my own game development journey with players! Around this time I was visiting my partner’s coastal hometown in Croatia and was inspired by the beautiful sunsets to make a game about an island. Thus, ISLAND_NAME_HERE was born!”

Can you tell us a bit about the story within this game?

“In ISLAND_NAME_HERE you play as the developer of a tropical island game. Your goals are unit tests, and you edit various properties of objects in the game to make them pass! As you progress and meet the characters – Adam, Steve, and Iara – you realize they have minds of their own and take actions to help them out. Some of these actions are in the form of puzzles involving game development concepts, while others require you to use your creative skills. At the end of your adventure, many of the things that you have done will be incorporated into the creation of your own mini-gameā€¦ within the game!”

What are you hoping this funding will allow you to do? Will you use the funding to accelerate development or are there plans to widen your development?

“I started ISLAND_NAME_HERE with the goal of completing it by myself, no matter what it takes. About a year and a half into development I started running out of savings, so I found a job to build that up again and have been working on the game every spare moment that I can find. The Draknek New Voices Puzzle Grant will allow me to return to full-time development of ISLAND_NAME_HERE much more quickly than I anticipated, and I am so grateful since I miss work-life balance!

But even more importantly, the grant has been an incredible validator. Knowing that industry veterans see as much value in the game as I do gives me confidence that the time I’m spending towards development is time well-spent, and I am so motivated to finish ISLAND_NAME_HERE so that it lives up to its fullest potential!”

ISLAND_NAME_HERE is a really clever idea – bringing learning elements to a game that has a story to carry you along. We look forward to it’s release in 2023.

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