The enjoyment from the three-day event solely dedicated to indie games — tabletop, local multiplayer, motion-detected, and/or smaller scoped — spilled its way into the local streets of Culver City, California. The tents, the lights, the excited patrons and developers spread out far enough to reach even those who had never heard of Super Meat Boy nor Noby Noby Boy, despite if it was day or night. When the big publisher tents would power down, the Night Games would come out to play.
There was no hesitation for someone to express their curiosity to those who had created what gave them joy, or deep sadness — all were welcome.
Where conventions may seem frightful or daunting, games tents and events that occurred here were most approachable and intriguing.
Standing in line to wait for a chance to get hands-on with a game or piece of hardware that no one else has afforded you, a chance to talk to a developer or likewise enthusiast whose work may or may not be shown that day. What is usually guarded and rare became open to the public, and the people who made it were enjoying it right alongside their guests.
The amount of physical games that used video game peripherals and mechanics truly managed to stretch the already growing idea of play, and the more that games expand, the better off we are.
Featured above is a game that made enough of its stretch goals recently to be picked up on the Wii U, as well as its original goal to come to PC sometime soon. Shovel Knight is a metroidvania that pops exuberantly out of the screen. In true NES color, saturation levels, and uniquely original art make the game stand out in its own way. Fluid animations and properly constructed camera controls make it easy to get lost in without hurting your eyes. Classically frustrating, however fair, platforms and enemy patterns bring forward just the right amount of challenge as you dig, prod, and hit mightily with your trusty shovel. The demo was a delight.
Among a few of the talks that occurred included moderated conversations on facets of the craft, a live illustrated journey unique in the game industry, and single/group keynotes on purpose, struggle, and future goals. Events and decisions that are big in context may have fallen through the cracks of journalism over time. To have seen progress and innovations come straight from creators themselves was undoubtedly refreshing.
In a talk moderated by Richard Lemarchand, formerly of Naughty Dog and currently of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, achieved what was unprecedented in that no matter the scope of the game, narrative content construction faces similar upheavals. Gathered for the talk on games writing were Amy Hennig of Naughty Dog, Tamas Kemenczy and Jake Elliot of Cardboard Computer, and Brendon Chung of Blendo Games, to break down what had framed their choices on world-building. We’ve seen their various successes, so to hear what mediums and works influenced their output ultimately helped inspire a common thread among creatives.
It was apparent that each speaker was hugely appreciative by each others’ works, despite varying budgets, colleague numbers, and camera angles. Blocking for lighting, sound editing, and the overcoming of writer’s block were all elements that shaped Kentucky Route Zero, Thirty Flights of Loving, and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves respectively, describing very down-to-earth tactics in order to fully shape the world the player steps into. Informative as well as eye-opening, peeking at the minute details that were worked on for worlds we may not have realized we so easily welcomed was a treat.
Greg Kasavin of Supergiant Games explained how among the photos he took, none showed them during the harsh times up until 4 a.m. The road to making Bastion and keeping Supergiant Games alive proved to be a long and arduous one, and Kasavin’s presentation included the highs and lows, followed by how he’d been wanting this kind of independent production, with him able to explain every new hire to us thoroughly. Despite his incongruous past in games journalism and big budget games, producing, his dream of creating games since his childhood was eventually realized. His hardship was not meant to be a deterrent, but rather an example that accepting a little help along the long and difficult path is a very good thing.
The panel for attributing what’s next for creativity in games aimed to leave behind inhibitions about what’s allowed in games. This went from a hopeful keynote about how games pitching, funding, and workspaces can really shape a brighter future of games diversity from Robin Hunicke’s Funomena (who’s recently teamed up with Keita Takahashi), to a more somber take on what your email history and who you’ve fallen out of touch with can reveal about you in an upstream battle game in development by Gabe Smedresman, to an even more solemn and introspective understanding on how, when revealing the propinquities of an inoperable tumor and how a low-poly game space in That Dragon, Cancer takes a live demo in Unity to fully experience various perspectives simultaneously. It is erroneous to think that games cannot touch on certain heavy topics, that it cannot tell certain kinds of stories, when they haven’t been given the chance to tell them yet.
Where most concept-ridden ideas end on paper, Super Time Force from Capybara Games flies off the handle and perfectly onto the screen. The game is essentially a trilateral force that demands you take control of the fourth dimension. Your team of time-traveling heroes, each dutifully unique in their abilities, come bandying up beside you once you’ve been defeated. When you work intelligently against the outpouring of combatants in an almost bullet hellish territory, the once undefeatable Metal Slug-like does not only become permeable, its ante of fun is upped. Mechanics-wise, you jump and shoot, while holding down your shoot command forces a special move that’ll help you in different situations. The frenetic nature, however, affords you only enough time to problem-solve on the spot.
Super Time Force is surely a sight to be held. Its adversity is only half its fun.
For a certain change of pace, Quadrilateral Cowboy is essentially a timed game with levels you have to find your mission’s success by reading the writing on the walls. Whether it’s literally a “wall” texture written onto a wall or a hint instructing you that commands can be chained with a semicolon, the puzzles and pacing are set to your standards. Clever usage of diegetic sound and uncanny standout game soundtrack, your gun is your terminal and getting to the extraction point as soon as possible is your great train robbery. Old school adventure game levels of problem solving attached to the inherent time sensitive conflicts you’re faced with, there’s no reason why Quadrilateral Cowboy won’t be a speedrunner’s dream to play through.
For further coverage on the talks, IndieCade has promised to upload their recorded footage from the event upon further notice. We will update accordingly.