Friday, October 24, 2008

Utah Indie Games Night - October 2008

We held another Utah Indie Games Night last night, and it was another great evening indeed. We had a few new faces show up as we usually do, and attendance was a little above normal. I counted around 32 people there last night. Also, for the first time ever (that I can recall) the pizza ran out, which is another indicator that there were a lot of people there.


Unity3D Engine
We started off the evening with a presentation on the Unity3D engine. Brent Arnold did a wonderful job showing off some of the capabilities of the engine. He showed off the indie game Off-Road Velociraptor Safari that was built with the engine. He also brought up the editor and showed some sample projects and a basic overview of creating a game. He even showed one of those projects (a game where you fly a ship through hoops in a courtyard) deployed to an iPhone. You can run your Unity3D game in a browser (with a plug-in), or on Windows, Mac, iPhone, and the Wii. It looks to be a very capable and promising engine. The authoring environment is still Mac only at this point, but it sounds like a Windows version is coming. There is an Indie license of the engine for only $199, which makes this a very great deal for us indies. It almost makes me want to start a 3D project. (Almost that is, I still do need to finish the 2D project I’m currently doing).

After that we broke out into smaller groups and a looked at some demos that some of the group brought.

Forgotten Lore - Ryan Day, Brent Haworth, Mike Keller
Ryan and his crew showed off their RPG game that they’ve been making using RPG Maker. It has started as a school project for ITT-Tech, but it sounds like they’d like to continue with it after they graduate. The game currently uses the default tile set that comes with RPG maker, but they have plans to change the art. If they hadn’t told me this I wouldn’t have known, as the art looked great to me. One thing that sets this game apart is that you are not out on a quest to save the world. Your four characters are not necessarily “good guys”. You are just trying to survive and stay alive. When you enter villages you can pickpocket villagers, but you could also be caught by the law for doing such too. How good or bad you want to be is up to you. The project looks great so far.

PongOut – Derek Lansing
Derek brought a school project that he has been working on called PongOut. It’s a two player game that is a combination of Pong and Breakout. Basically the gameplay is like Pong where you knock balls back and forth, but you also have to protect the bricks behind you. There are special bricks that if hit will cause you to Freeze for a while, or turn you invisible (not a good thing in this game), or cause your up and down controls to be swapped (very confusing while it lasts). It’s currently played with Xbox controllers (or other gamepad), and it seems to work well. The game is based on the TorqueX engine so it uses XNA and can be run on an Xbox (with the XNA creators club subscription).

Mini Monthly Games – Josh Jones
Josh showed off some more of his new flash based mini monthly games. I had played Cat Ties earlier but I was rarely successful at getting a good decision tree. After talking, to Josh it sounds like there is not an ideal tree that works in all cases, so that made me feel better. I guess it wouldn’t be as much fun if there was. He also showed off Spooky View and Pagoda, which I honestly didn’t get a good look at them though. I’d like to try Pagoda sometime as Adventure games (including text adventures) are one of my favorite genres of games. You can try them yourself by clicking on the links above, or by going to Josh’s blog at http://vazor222.livejournal.com/.

Boingz – Ninjabee
I also got to play a little with Ninjabee’s new WiiWare title BoingZ. Brent Fox had it loaded up on a Wii DevKit and let a bunch of us try it out. It was really fun. The object of the game is to get all of your little guys back home by “flicking” them from point to point and also “stretching” them across ravines to turn them into bridges. It should be coming out on the Wii really soon, so look for it, it’s a fun game.

I also spoke to Adam Helps and Clarissa who are putting together the second annual SparkArts Festival on November 21st & 22nd. It sounds like the event is growing and should be even better than last year. I be sending out some more info on this to the group later.

I also spoke to Steve Morrey for a bit an he’s in the process of starting a new MMORPG kit project (not be confused with MyDreamRPG – He’s no longer involved with that project). I believe it was going to be called DreamRPGOnline. He’s been working with clustered servers in the corporate world for a while, and it sounds like he using some of those lessons learned from clustering and applying them into this new project. He hopes to launch this soon, so watch for it.

All in all it was a great evening. I also come away "pumped" and excited, and tonight was no exception. It always gives me some extra motivation to work on my own indie projects. Now I just need to finish my game...

Jay also has a writeup of the evening here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Utah Indie Games Night - July 2008

We had another awesome Indie Game Night last night! Ninjabee was nice enough to host the event once again and I thank them for that. We were a bit low in numbers (just around 20 people compared to our usual 30-40 people), but the evening was still awesome. I'm not sure why we were lower in numbers; perhaps it coincided with others summer vacations; perhaps the high cost of gas kept some away; perhaps something else; I'm not really sure on that.

Anyhow, we did things a little different than past events, we had a formal presentation to start off and then we broke out into smaller groups like we normally do. It was a format we had tried to do one time when we held it at ITT-Tech, but due to some unforeseen issues that day, it didn't work. However I think it worked well this time, and a number of people mentioned to me that they thought it worked well that way too.

10 Quick and Dirty Tips To Help Sell Your Game

Jay kicked off the evening with his presentation on Indie Games Marketing. He did an awesome job! It was chalk full of some good information. Most of the material came from things he's learned along the way, and some came from Joseph Lieberman's book The Indie Developers' Guide to Selling Games. I think everyone came away learning something new from this.

If you want a refresher on the presentation, or you happened to miss this great presentation, you can get Jay's PowerPoint slides from our group's website at http://groups.google.com/group/utah-indie-games/web/Indie_Game_Marketing.ppt. (I think Google forces you to be signed in to the group in order to download this though).

Now Boarding

Daniel Orcutt demoed a newly finished game called "Now Boarding" . He came representing a couple of friends (gabob.com) that used to live here in Utah but have since moved to Kentucky to do indie game development full time. I guess property values and the cost of living are much cheaper out there. The game is a tycoon or resource management type of game, where to have to manage your passengers and planes. You have to get people on the right planes and move the planes to the right airports, all while keeping your customers happy. Like most tycoon games it starts at a slower pace, and then builds up to a crazy frantic pace. As you progress further in the game, you can get employees that help you take care of different tasks. It's an awesome game and it hope it does well for them.

Mini-Monthly Flash Games

Josh Jones showed off three more of his little flash demos. I only got a good look at two of them however. First he showed a sort of simple adventure or RPG, where you had to escape the room, by jumping on objects and finding keys. It was a bit challenging.

Second, he showed his mudslinging demo where two players compete turn by turn to get the most mud balls on their side of the court. You can either add a ball to your side or take a ball away from your opponents’ side. In making this game Josh happened upon an interesting physics variant that made for some interesting behavior. If the balls of mud collide with each other, they push each other up, creating these mud stacks that almost look like they are alive. It's like mud creatures that are being formed out of the balls that are being slinged. It's fun to watch.

Here are links to the three games he showed off.
http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vazor/tarijump/tarijump.html
http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vazor/mudsling/mudsling.html
http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vazor/playfate/playfate.html

LinkRealms

All three of the LinkRealms guys were there showing the progress they've made on their MMORPG. Some the things I notice were they added various types of Gryphons. They apparently can shower your character with ice crystals and cause you to freeze, or they can spew out poison that can make your character ill, or they can spew out fleas that caused your character to start scratching profusely. Fun stuff!

Lastly there were tons of informal discussions going on as usual in small groups. I feel I missed out on some of these, but there were plenty of good conversations being had. I always come away from these renewed and inspired, and last night was no exception. It's given me a little push that hopefully will get me going again on my own project again. I can't wait till the next one!

Here's some other write ups:
Jay's write up http://www.rampantgames.com/blog/2008/07/controversial-indie-games-get.html
Joe's write up http://mymediaempire.wordpress.com/2008/08/01/utah-indie-game-night-7-31-08/ (It's nice to see someone else blogging about the event other than Jay and I).

Edit: Look's like Josh wrote one too. Thanks! http://vazor222.livejournal.com/6887.html

Couple of Side Notes:

Most of you remember Mike Smith who used to be a regular at our Indie Game Nights, before he moved to Washington. Mike informs me that Caster http://www.elecorn.com/caster3d/ is in Beta now. If you're interested in beta testing it, give him a holler at (elecorn AT gmail DOT com).

Also, here's some coverage of Indie Games at E3 (I didn't know that there were "Indie Games" at E3). There are two games talked about here that are very innovative and unique. If you have around 9 minutes, check out http://www.gamevideos.com/video/id/20343.

Viva La Indie!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Utah Indie Games Night - April 2008

We had another great Indie Games Night at the Ninjabee offices in Orem. We had a pretty good turn out with around 32-35 people there in attendance. Mike Rimer brought along some friends and family, which included one young man that could juggle 7 balls at once. Yes we had entertainment of all sorts last night!

One downside of last night was that Jay Barnson (of Rampant Games) wasn't able to be there last night (for the first time ever), and has left me be the lone blogger of the evening. Hopefully my words will do justice to the evening, as I'm not as proficient at the blogging thing as Jay. Also, there was just so much going on, I'm sure that I missed a lot of what was happening. Anyone care to fill in the cracks on what I've missed?

We had pizza, sodas, and plenty of good discussion about indie games. We also saw a number of faces that we hadn't seen in a while, so it was nice to see them back. Unfortunately the time went so fast, I was unable to talk to everyone as much as I wanted.

There were a total of six games that were shown last night. Three of them haven't been shown to the group before. They are:


DROD RPG
Mike Rimer and Adam Peterson showed the latest game in the DROD series, and got some good feedback from people playing the game. Admittedly I didn't get a chance to play it, or look at it much in detail last night as there was so much happening. In talking with Mike later, it sounds most of what had changed since I had seen it last was more levels and some "polish" related stuff. He also mentioned that you can now play the game (at least mostly) with the mouse now. The game would do some pathfinding to allow you to move around fairly quickly using the mouse. They wanted to make the game a little more accessible to new players, and because of the new gameplay (with RPG elements), it was more feasible to allow for some mouse control. I hope that does well for them, and brings more players into the world of DROD.

Woggi World
Nathan Stoker showed the group "Woggi World". It's a site that is dedicated to teaching kids how to be safe on the internet, serve in their community, and also learn something about good nutrition. This is done through a collection of flash based mini games, and a online community that let's them communicate with others in a very limited and safe way. Nathan was one of the artists working on the project, and it looks *VERY* nice. I love the art style of the site; cute, cartoony, and fun. One of the mini games involved shooting vegetables at kids in a lunchroom, to keep them away from the cake in the middle of the room. Once the kids grabbed all the slices of cake, the game was over. Another was a racing game, where you had to pick up food along the way as fuel. Good food would keep you going along at a good pace, and snacks would speed you up, but then quickly slow you down later. It's a very simple game and it helps get a nutrition lesson across in a fun way.

When I first heard of Woggi World, it didn't sound much like an "Indie Project", but after hearing about how the guy who started the site has funded the entire project out of his own pocket. It definitely sounded "Indie" to me at that point. Even if it was funded by outside sources, it certainly has a lot of the "indie spirit", as they are try to champion a very noble cause. Admittedly I spent quite a bit of time looking at Woogi World with Nathan, as I have young children that could benefit from this site. If you have small children, you might want to go check it out.

Rover Game
Revere Burnett and his brother showed their rover game that is in its early stages.
It's a 3D game that uses the Orge engine. My understanding is that it is a sci-fi “Zelda-esc” shooter/RPG of sorts, where you have to use your rover to defeat some morphing alien blobs that are taking over a space ship. He now has some enemies in the game, which happen to look like triceratops dinos at the moment. I'm assuming its just placeholder art, and that the dinos will eventually be replaced with aliens.


Flash Game Prototypes
Josh Jones showed off some simple prototype flash games that he's been working on. He got a number people playing them and received some good feedback on them. One was called Hopspot and it that one you had to move a dot through a few different ways until it reached the designated end point. Its basically a puzzle game, but it has a timing element to it that adds a bit more challenge to it. Another was called Rushed, and its something of an extremely short adventure game, where you have to go meet with some unknown alien species, and hopefully save the human race. He also showed a third game called Mindflight, but I wasn't able to get a good look at that one.


Towards the end, Herb, Dan, and Mike decided to show off their projects a bit more.

LinkRealms
Due to a little fiasco last time, Herb & Dan Flower weren't able to fully show off LinkRealms (because the ports that LinkRealms uses are in the same port range that World of Warcraft is using and those ports happened to be blocked at ITT-Tech). So we got to see LinkRealms in action this time, and not just prerecorded gameplay videos. Looks like it's getting better and better.

Vespers3D
Mike Rubin showed a little more of his progress on Vespers3D. Again I wasn't able to see much of what he showed off, as there was just a lot happening, but I know he's been making some progress. In talking with him and from entries on his blog, he's been able to optimize the performance quite a bit, and all due to an undocumented little flag.

If you're interested in finding out more about Mike's progress on Vespers3D, check out his blog here (http://monksbrew.blogspot.com/).


Thanks once again to Ninjabee for hosting the event and to everyone that came. It was a great evening!

Viva La Indie!

EDIT: Here's some links to Josh's Mini games if you'd like to try them out yourself.
http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vazor/hopspot/hopspot.html
http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vazor/rushed/rushed.html
http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vazor/timeplotter/timeplotter.html
http://vazor222.livejournal.com/ (more info)

Also Mike Smith (a regular at our indie nights, until he moved to Washington) mentioned he's been making progress on Caster, and is hoping for a July release. http://www.elecorn.com/caster3d/

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Utah Indie Games Night - January 2008


We had another good Indie Games Night at ITT-Tech in Murray. Attendance was down slightly, probably due to the weather, as it was snowing pretty hard down in Utah County, at the time we started. It was hard to see the lines on the road at times when I was headed to the event, so I imagine that the snow kept some people away. We had around 30-35 people there last night.

I’d definitely have to say that one of the highlights of evening was the food. ITT-Tech brought in some wonderful Mexican food from Red Iguana, one of the best Mexican places in the valley, and maybe on the planet too. It was a very nice change of pace from pizza, and no one went away hungry. Thank You again ITT-Tech!

We ran into some technical difficulties with the Link Realms presentation. There wasn’t any way to anticipate this, but apparently ITT-Tech has some ports blocked, to prevent the students from wasting time play games like World of Warcraft. And of course, these were exactly the ports that Link Realms is using. So in a nutshell, Herb wasn’t able to actually show the new version of the game in action. He still managed to give a good presentation, talking about the MMO industry, and showing some game play videos of an older version of the game. He also showed the editor that users use to create their own “Realm” within the game.

While the Mythyn Interactive guys and ITT-Tech were attempting to fix the issue, Jay and I presented a few games. I showed off Antibody (my “in the body” shooter) again and to fill some time I also showed the cool prototype Crayon Physics done by Kloonigames. It showed how some simple elements, like boxes, circles and some simple physics, can combine to create some emergent behavior that can make for many different solutions to a puzzle. Even more than a designer may anticipate (sometimes good, sometimes bad). Jay showed off some more additions to his Frayed Knights RPG. There is now a large fountain in the game that looks suspiciously like a toilet bowl (this is a humorous RPG after all).

Towards the end of the evening, we had a few guys that decided to show a couple of different projects that they’ve been working on, but we ran out of time, so hopefully we’ll get to see these games next time. I’m looking forward to see them. One of them was WoogiWorld, which is a game to help teach kids how to use the internet appropriately. It looks pretty interesting, from what little I've seen so far. The other game is in its early stages, and is a sci-fi “Zelda-esc” shooter/RPG of sorts, where you have to use your rover to defeat some morphing alien blobs that are taking over a space ship. At least that’s what I remember.

I had originally planned to limit the overhead projector presentations to 30 minutes, and then break-out into smaller groups after that. However that didn’t happen, mostly due the technical difficulties that arose. There were two machines in the room, but only the one with the projector ended up being used. Despite these challenges we still had a good evening. There was good food, some good discussions, some good info presented. Hopefully no-one went away disappointed.
Thanks again to ITT-Tech for hosting the event. Thanks also to Thomas Millen who put together that cool poster above advertising the event.