Friday, November 20, 2015

Utah Indie Games Night - November 2015

We had a good Utah Indie Games Night this past Tuesday night. The EAE department of the U of U hosted it this time. We were down quite a bit in numbers, just over 20 people instead of our usual 40 - 50. I'm guessing this was due to people being busy due to the holiday season ramping up and some other similar events being so close to this one (namely Final Burn and Utah Unity Users Group).
Becky Pennock gave a great presentation on some logical approaches to visual design. She talked a lot about being able to concretely define your "Style" so that both artists and programmers will truly "be on the same page" and understand each other. All too often we'll hear the style described in terms of source material, such as it's like "Power Puff Girls" combined with "Teletubies". However such descriptions don't paint enough a picture to truly understand what the style really is. She mentioned that you need to be ultra-descriptive in terms of art fundamentals (Line, Shape, Form, Value, Space, Color, and Texture). So with Line, how thick are the lines on the characters? on the background? Are they thick then thin? Are they smooth or jagged? And with Shape, what shapes are used? Lots of sharp angles or more rounded organic shapes? And for what types of objects in the game? How about Value and Color? Does it use more vivid and saturated colors in the foreground to denote things you can interact with? And then perhaps colors with less saturation for background elements? Or some other form of visual hierarchy? Basically she mentioned it needs to be descriptive enough to really tell the artist what to do to create art with that style. She said this isn't easy but it helps a ton in eliminating confusion and time wasted on that miscommunication.

We had three demos that were shown. They were:

Kyle showed his homebrew game for the TurboGrafx-16 platform (Yes one of those early consoles.) I played his game on the TurboExpress handheld, which is one of the first portable gaming devices ever. At first I thought it was one of those Pip-Boy things, as it was just as big. Anyway his game was about a cat dodging water droplets that come from a giant shower head at the top of the screen. It looked really cool, and I'm sure that writing something for that platform isn't easy. You had to do lots of strange contortions back then to get the hardware to do what you wanted and still fit your program in a small amount of space.

Josh showed his monthly experimental game that he also entered into the Indie Speed Run competition. It's a game that sarcastically asks how can interactive blocks evoke any emotion? Obviously we know that even games with simple shapes can evoke emotions within us. In the game you have to guide a little corgi dog through a blocky maze with simple circles for coins and simple X's that can hurt you. Once you've collected all the coins, you win the game. However some coins are not so easy to get.

Nate was showing the trailer to his visual novel game, based on H.P. Lovecraft's novel by the same name. It definitely left you with some creepy vibes. He hopes to have it done sometime next year.
Thanks to everyone for making it an enjoyable evening.

Viva la Indie!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Utah Indie Games Night - May 2015

Well we had a couple of minor setbacks (issues with sound system and main speaker unable to come), but overall it was a successful Indie Game Night this past Wednesday. We had a good turnout of around 40 people, and UVU hosted it again in room 404, but amazingly everyone seemed to find it okay. ;) There were lots of great demos and discussions happening, but unfortunately I wasn't able to catch them all (never was good at Pokemon).

Our speaker Adam Ames hurt his back and was unable to attend, so we watched the now legendary talk "Juice it or Lose it" by Martin Jonasson & Petri Purho. If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here. The talk is all about doing little things that can enhance and bring more life into your game.

After that we opened the time to do game demos. Here's the ones I'm aware of (but I missed a lot of them)

Spirits of Elduurn
Curtis showed me his PS Vita version of Spirits of Elduurn. It's a bit different from the PC version, which is more of a puzzle game. In this one, the main objective is to smash all the demons on the touch screen (using you fingers) before they get away. There is also one bomb to kill them all if you get overwhelmed. It was a very fun and simple game.

Dub Wars
Joe showed me some of the new art from a new artist that will be going into Dub Wars. It looks great. He also mentioned that they'll be taking an elemental approach to weapons, so that sounds like it might be a great update to the game.

Dungeon Goer
Eric showed me his latest game, in the vein of his last Space Goer game. This one is a bit more Crossy Road like. The gameplay and blocky art are similar to Crossy Road, but this is in a dungeon setting, with spears and saw blades coming at you. Looks good thus far.

MiniCiv (working title)
Steve was showing his mini Civilization like game. It's based on Civilization, but looks like pulls in elements from Settlers of Catan. I didn't get a chance to play it myself, but it looks like he's put a lot of work into the fundamentals and the AI. He had a mode where the AI's would just battle each other, and it was mesmerizing to watch.

Mana Mania
This game was done for the gospel app and game contest at the LDSTech conference last year. The portion I saw had you flying on a giant bee in space and you had to fly through a series of green rings (similar to a lot 3D flight games out there). It definitely had some interesting visuals.

Lair of the Morlocks
The Deli Interactive guys made a short game for the Public Domain Jam. Their game was a physics platformer based on The Time Machine by HG Wells. You are in the Morlock caverns trying to get your time machine back. You don't have any weapons, so you have to use rocks other things from your environment to kill the Morlocks. Then you have to find the keys to get to your time machine and win. I got a kick out of the ragdoll physics with the Morlocks. It was strangely entertaining to push the dead ones around.

Simulacrum (working title)
This one is a futuristic platformer with pixel art graphics. There's vines to climb, platforms to leap on, pigeons to annoy, bombs to avoid, and little robot helper that helps you to float down slowly to safety. What more could you ask for? It's definitely unique and I had fun playing it.

Death Touch
I didn't actually get to see this one, but Ben was there showing his Ludum Dare #32 entry. From his YouTube video it looks like it would be a lot of fun to play. BTW, Ben ( has created a lot of GameMaker tutorials and even has a book out on GML, so you might want to check those out if you're a GameMaker dev.

I also noticed Momentum and Legacy of the Elder Star being shown again, and there were several others that I didn't get to see also, including one by some UVU students.

It was definitely a great evening. Thanks again for everyone making it wonderful!

Viva la Indie!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Utah Indie Games Night - March 2015

We had a great Indie Games Night this past Tuesday evening. It was hosted by Neumont University and we had close to 40 people there so it was a good turnout. It was a good evening.

Our planned speaker fell ill, and Jay Barnson offered to fill in at the last minute, which was extremely nice of him. However we had some technical issues with the projector so we didn’t get to hear his presentation either. So we went straight to demos after that.

I think I missed some demos, but here’s the ones I’m aware of.

Crisis Kingdom
Steve brought in his HTML5 base game jam game that he has polished up in to a full out product now. It’s a multi-player co-op single tablet game where you all are helping to defeat wave after wave of dragons that are threatening your village. You use some crafting mechanics to build up your stockpile of weapons that you can then launch at the dragon one it appears.

Space Goer

Eric brought in his mobile space survival game. It’s sort of like "Crossy Road" in space. You have a ship that fires at a constant rate and you have to move between lanes to avoid enemy ships, though you can stay in a lane and hope your ship’s weapons will take out an enemy before you reach it. The longer you survive, the faster your ship goes and the harder it gets.

Loose Canons
Adam brought in his fun four player, single screen platform brawler. This was a very action packed game with both shooting, punching, and jumping mechanics. The pixel art is great and there were no shortage of people playing this game.

The Chosen Ones
Tyran showed off his roguelike jumper puzzle game. The character in the game will run and jump automatically, and you don’t affect the character directly. You only can place items to help your “chosen one” get from platform to platform, such as blocks to jump off of, fans to help blow the character higher, or ice to help slow him/her down. It’s in it’s early stages but seem like a solid concept.

Mechcommander Remake
Matt showed his Mechcommander remake using the Unreal engine. In this RTS there is no resource building, just immediate battles of equivalent armies. Not being an avid RTS player, Matt had to help me with learning the controls, and I died pretty quickly (as expected), but it looks like his game is coming along nicely.

Flame Warrior
I didn’t get a chance to play the newest build of Darius’ space combat game, but Jay indicated it’s been vastly improved and that it will probably have a name change soon.

As the final part of the evening a number of us had a special meeting to discuss organizing an event that will hopefully help improve our larger game development community here in Utah. Nice to see the gears in motion for it. Can’t really say much more about it as most of it is still very much up in the air at the moment.

It was definitely an awesome evening. Thanks everyone for making it so!

Viva la Indie!

P.S. Jay's writeup of the event is here.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - November 2014

We had a great Utah Indie Games Night this past Thursday. It was hosted by the EAE department at the U of U. Our turnout was a bit down from our recent events (just under 30 people), but it was still a great evening.

Paige Ashlynn and Beck Pennock of Team Tripleslash started off our evening with a presentation on some things they learned from attending GDC, PAX, IndieCade, and SLC Comic Con. In a nutshell they said attending those events was about meeting people and establishing relationships. Thus attending the dev events before the event and the parties after the event were just as important as the event itself. They also mentioned that PAX and IndieCade would be the best events to attend as an indie as they are the most friendly to indies.

After their presentation we opened the time up to demos, and I actually brought a demo this time. I've been working on a small mobile infinite jumper type game called Jungle Jump. Essentially you are a monkey jumping up onto different platforms. Some are stationary, some move, some disappear after you jump on them once, and some simply break when you hit them. I got some good feedback on it, and I hope to have the game to market by the end of the month.

The other demos I have seen in one form or another prior to this, and the all were shown at Comic Con, so they are looking quite well. Darius was showing his real time strategy space battle game, "Flame Warrior". Looks like he's put a ton of work into it lately. He hope to be done with it by the beginning of next year. Jay showed his latest RPG "Frayed Knights 2: The Khan of Wrath". I only got to see if for a bit, but he was showing off his new cleaned up GUI interface. It's looking very nice. Josh was showing his shmup called "Legacy of the Elder Star". I really love the cartoony art and the sword dash mechanic (something very satisfying about that). And lastly Lyle was showing his two player co-op puzzle game called "Together: Aman & Saif". I only got to play it for a moment, but it seemed very solid.

And as usual there were tons of conversations, old friends, and some great moments. Another great evening. I always get pumped to work on my indie projects after this.

Viva la Indie!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - July 2014

What an awesome Indie night we had this past Thursday. There were over 50 people in attendance, which made it rather cozy down in Ninjabee's basement. Thanks once again for them hosting the event.

Michael Purser, Ninjabee's PR guy, started off the evening with a presentation on doing marketing at conventions, like PAX and Comic Con. He spoke directly from his experience so the information was very relevant and useful. Also timely as a number of indies are doing a combined booth thing (mega-booth) at SLC Comic Con in September. He mentioned a lot of considerations you need to take into account above an beyond the cost of the booth, such as shipping of physical items (which can be expensive), and paying for convention power and internet. They really gouge you on internet, so it's best if you can get by without it. He also said you want to extend your reach outside of the booth as much as you can. Doing things like getting large displays or large signs up high. You want people to see your booth from far away. Also you should try to always give them something, like a card with your business website and maybe a key-code for your game or demo. Also raffle tickets to give away items can be helpful as well. He also spoke a lot about being mindful about your booth location and layout within the booth as well, so you can make it inviting.

After that we opened the floor to demos, and man the room filled up quickly with tables and computers. As usual I wasn't able to see all the demos, but here's the one's I was able to see or got a glimpse of.

Curtis was showing his now completed Match 3 game that teaches some Japanese letters. The art is very clean and readable and I liked his mechanic of showing time running out via a water level running out.

Peter was showing his three player card game that's based on the world of Siphon Spirit. He's hoping to have it ready to show at Comic Con. It's coming along since I've seen it last.

Austin showed his two player hacker battle game. It has some great pixel art. The basic premise is you have to infect your opponents computers and keep your computers healthy. If you can successfully infect all of his machines before he can clean the viruses you sent, then you win.

Darius has added a bunch of new art and a nice UI, since I saw his space battle game last. He's also 
added a helpful tutorial level. He's trying have something to demo by

This was made in Unity by three brothers, Marc, Mike, & Nate. It's a 4 player arena battle game that's played with controllers on the same screen. Simple game-play to just frag your opponents with different weapons and rack up points. You re-spawn soon after you die so the play continues. You also have to watch out for falling rocks as well. This one looked like a lot of fun.

This game looks absolutely stunning! The visuals are top notch. It's a skill based marble game where you tilt the level to move the ball from start to finish. It's starts out easy but the difficulty ramps up soon to more and more challenging levels. Some seem very masochistic. It has an addictive quality to it that make you want to keep on trying.

This was a game originally written for the Global Games Jam in January. They are going to be changing the art around but keeping the premise that the world changes based on your actions. They are going to add some dynamic music to reflect that.

Mike just released the last in the D.R.O.D. series. I didn't get to play this one, but it looks great, like all of the games in the series. I noticed it had lots of great voice overs, and Mike mentioned that there is tons of story in this one since it is the last game. He wanted to bring the story to a final conclusion.

I caught a glimpse of this game. They had four players on four laptops networked together. It looked like the objective was to turn humans to werewolves (if a werewolf) or turn werewolves back to humans (if a human). I'm assuming the game ends when everyone has been converted to one team.

I noticed some people playing a board game called Hell's Peak. Didn't get to see it much, but according to the site, it's a single player game where the object is to dethrone the devil.

It was a great evening with a great presentation, some great games, and some great conversations. It always gets me pumped to finish my own projects.

Viva la Indie!

EDIT: Jay's writeup can be found here.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - May 2014

We had another awesome Indie Games Night this past Thursday night.  We had a little over 40 people there so it was a good turnout.  Thanks again to UVU for hosting the event and thanks also to everyone for coming and making the night great!

We started the evening with an awesome presentation by Josh Sutphin of Third-Helix on "Starting an Indie Games Business".  He talked a little bit about the nuts and bolts of starting an indie game business, and also about how to maybe do that full time. That's the dream right? He also talked about how to pick up some contract work to help fill in the gaps as the reality is you might not make enough on your games to pay the bills. At least initially. He also talked about that dirty little secret about going indie that not many seem to discuss and that is one of the motivation trap. That is after first going indie your motivation is very high and you're on cloud nine, but after a while you can get distracted by other things, because "Hey, I can do whatever I want now. There's no boss". So you can find yourself squandering your time and not really getting anything accomplished.  Sometimes it can be hard to pull your motivation back up after falling into this rut. He talked a lot about how to set boundaries for yourself (and others) so you can keep a good routine going and make forward progress on your business.  He had a lot more good points that he shared. If you want to watch his presentation you can find it here.

Then we got into our game demos as usual. Here are the ones that I was able to see, but I know I missed a bunch.

Peter was showing his new card game based in the world of Elduurn (Siphon Spirit). It's a co-op game for three players and where you are battling boss monsters. Everyone has different skills and abilities that they can use to kill the monster before they monster kills them.  He'll be posting a free print-n-play version of the game soon.

Super Wall Ball
This was a cute skill based tablet game where you play as a turtle and try to keep a ball in motion by repeatedly kicking it against a wall. You have to get the timing and rhythm down in order to do this. It has a frustrating but addictive quality to it, sort of like Flappy Bird in that sense.  I finally got to 10 volleys back and forth before I gave up. I really loved the cartoony art.

Cameron was showing his exploration game called Parallax. I was blown away by the visuals. It looked incredible.  There are doors that will teleport you other parts of the island. I believe it was built with Unity.

 Andrew showed his creepy Unity game where you are in a house that has been haunted by ghosts. The game play is similar to "Gone Home" where you can move around, pick up and examine objects to figure out what is happening. The game is set at night and it's raining outside. You have a flashlight but can turn lights on in the house, but the lighting is still low, which definitely sets that creepy mood.

I saw this one a bit second hand, but was told that this mobile game was created in only 80 hours. I was very impressed as it seemed very complete and polished.  It was a game similar to Geometry Wars where you have to move around and destroy your enemies while avoiding their bullets. Also it's already been released on the iOS app store now.

Goblin Dash 
In this mobile Unity based game you play as a hero with a sword that has to encounter a hoard of goblins one after another. You have both blocking and attacking moves in upper, middle, and lower directions.  The goblins will give you a slight hint as to where they will attack so you have to be quick to block and then counter their moves, so that you can slay the goblin and move onto the next one.  I was very impressed with the art and game play.

Curtis has been working on a match-3 game using tiles with Japanese characters on them. It's meant to help people learn the sounds and meaning of each character by repetition.  Every time they get three matching tiles together, the sound of that character is said aloud. The English equivalent of the character is also shown.

Lyle was showing his co-op game "Together". I didn't get a chance to play it again but he has a Kickstarter for the game that just barely started. So go back it!

I know Vince, Jeff and some others had some games they were showing but I didn't get a moment to see them. As always there was so much happening and not able to absorb it all. What a great time to be an indie.

Viva la Indie!

P.S. You can find some other write-ups of the event at these links

Friday, March 28, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - March 2014

Wow we had another awesome indie games night last night. We had a little over 40 people in attendance so that was a good turnout. Thanks again to Neumont University for hosting the event, and a big thanks to Goo Technologies for sponsoring pizza for the evening. Thanks also to our Kickstarter panelists, those showing demos, and everyone else for coming and making the event awesome!

We started the evening off with a discussion panel on "Running a Successful Kickstarter". Lyle Cox was our moderator and Paige Ashlynn and Jaron Frost were our panelists. Paige is from Tripleslash Studios and their game is Magnetic by Nature. Jaron is from Fridgecrisis Games and his game is Villages. The guys did an awesome job of dishing out some great info. Here's some of my take-aways (tips) from the panel:

- When converting viewers into backers, show that you are capable and show yourself in the video to humanize the project.
- Use social media to get hype going, and start months before the actual kickstarter kick-off.
- Try to get some cross promotion going with other Kickstarter projects.
- Make sure to add extra float to budgets to account for unknowns
- Keep physical rewards small and manageable
- Be conservative on stretch goal
- Don't over promise and under deliver; Do under promise and over deliver instead
- Ask for more money than you might think to at first (don't sell yourself short)
- Kickstarters are LOTS of work, so be prepared for it

And if you missed the panel, you can watch it here, thanks to Jaron and his wife. (There's a few minutes missing from the end, but nothing big). You guys are awesome for doing that!

After the panel, Brett Unzaga of Goo Technologies gave us a short demo of their HTML5/WebGL engine that is now out in open beta. They're looking for people to give the beta a try, so if you'd like to do that head on over to their site, create an account, and start creating something awesome with it.

I didn't get to see many of the projects; just a handful as I got involved in some really great conversations. I say a couple of new projects and a couple of older projects that are making progress. I don't think I can do them justice, so I'm not going to even try to enumerate them this time. There were definitely a bunch of awesome ones there however.

I talked a bit with the Raptor Circus guys and I love their concept. They are focused on those indies that want to turn their games into a profitable business. It's an area where our Indie Nights have fallen short, so it's nice to see them fill in this gap. This is certainly a group I want to be involved with, as I've been spinning my wheels on my MonkeyTime Software business for way too long.

We also talked about dealing with the motivation drain as an indie. It's something I'm well acquainted with and have had some success in overcoming here and there, but far from every time. It's something I still struggle with, and it's something that every indie faces at some point. Josh S. mentioned this is like the "dirty little indie secret that no one talks about", and I'd have to agree with that. The indie community doesn't say much about that. They tend to focus on the upsides of being indie and not so much on the downsides. Yes folks, it does take more than just uploading your tiny game to the iOS appstore. The riches don't magically come flowing after that.

Anyway it was definitely another incredible indie night. Thanks everyone for making it awesome!

Viva la Indie!