Friday, October 16, 2009

Utah Indie Games Night - October 2009

What can I say? Last night was just awesome! We had a great turnout with close to 50 people in attendance, which might be a new record. There was just so much energy in the air, you could almost feel it. Needless to say the even was a lot of fun, and that's what games are about, right? Also we had Panda Express (Yum Yum!) for dinner this time instead of the usual pizza, so that was nice change of pace.Add Image

Game in a Day
Steve Taylor started of the night with a great presentation on doing a "game in a day". Steve's definitely a proponent of this exercise, having done it about seven times himself. He's even had his whole company drop every thing else and focus on doing a game in a day. He did this to help build the team and help bring some more synergy and efficiency to the team. It's not necessarily the game that the goal, but the lessons that you learn from it. One benefit to doing this exercise that hadn't occurred to me was that it can motivate you on old projects. Especially if you're in a rut in your current project; taking a break from it for a day and focusing on another game can "jazz you up" and help bring some energy back to the old project. One of Steve's game in a day projects, Rome, also became the basis for their latest game Kingdom of Kelflings.

If you’re interested in doing a game in a day, contact Steve at stay@wahoo.com. Also Josh Jones is working to bring the Global Game Jam to our area next year. More details will be made available to the group later as they are "fleshed out".

Okay the highlight of the evening can be summed up in one word - Archon!

React Games (a small independent studio here in the valley) came and sponsored our little event. They wanted to throw a party of sorts anyway to celebrate the opening of the pre-sales for the PC version of their game, so we decided to combine the two events. I think it worked out well. React has remade the original Archon game into something beautiful and very faithful to the original. I remember playing Archon as a young teenager on my Atari 800XL and loving it. Admittedly I never got good at it, but I was always captivated with its combination of strategy-based and skill-based gameplay. There were some similar games that came later on, like Battle Chess, but I still think Archon has more rich strategy than these others. The original was only a one or two player game, but now React has added a four player option, which I think is cool; it certainly enhances the gameplay. You can play four players in either a free-for-all mode or a team mode. Also the graphics also are just gorgeous; I wish I could make my game as pretty.

They also sponsored an Archon Tournament and the winning team won T-Shirts. This was the first time we ever had a tournament during Indie Night, and I think it went really well. There were lots of players over there competing for the prize, and I could tell that there was a lot of excitement going on. It also looks like the React guys got a lot of good feedback from the players, by getting their opinions and watching them play. I think it was a win-win for all involved.

Also, Congratulations to Justin Barlow and Jake Dinkins for winning the Archon Tournament, and taking home the booty. Way to go!

BTW, Jay has a great writeup on the game here. Also, if you want to get in on pre-sales (which will get you a reduced price and early access to the game) please go their site www.ArchonClassic.com. I may have to pick up a copy myself. ;)

Other demos for the evening

DazLinks - John Renstrom (Mogware) & Brian Howell (Daz3D)
Mogware and Daz3D have teamed up to create a product called DazLinks. It helps solve the common problem of being able to use stock 3D models in games. Most models that you buy cheaply (from places like Daz3D) have a very high polygon count, and usually too high to be used in a real-time rendering engine. Daz Links helps solve this problem by reducing the meshes down to a manageable level. It also combines textures into one, further optimizing the model. It can generate different Levels of Detail (LOD) from the same model, so you don't have to create these yourself. Also with morphs, you can use one model and modify it to be a troll or elf, which also helps generate more content for your game. In short it helps Indies by making cheap models usable in your game. This looks to be a promising tool.

Our Tower Game (working name) - Paul Milham & Mike Whitaker
This is a flash game in its early stages. It's a real time tower defense type game where you are trying to stop an invading frog army. You set up towers to fight the oncoming army, and as frogs die they give up their "gibs", which you then collect and use to build better towers. One unique thing about this game is that the towers are made up of two parts, a base and a weapon, which you can customize to have more options on what your tower can do and how vulnerable it is to attack. I know the art is early, but I liked the cartoony style that they have going in the game.

Zombie Defense - Darius Ouderkirk
I played this for a while and it looks like it's coming along. Most of the changes, since I last saw this have been changes to the AI. My understanding is that, he added some restrictions on placement of fences and how buildings were placed on the screen, which greatly simplified the AI. I gradually built up my machine gunners, riflemen, and fences and was able to protect my last few blocks of the city, although I lost most of the city to the Zombies. Though that's part of the decision process in this game. Protect too much and you're spread too thin; protect too little and you risk losing all the citizens as the zombies just gain enormous strength.

Experimental Games - Josh Jones
I played Josh's two new experimental games

Minput - This game has only one action you can take, but you decide when to take it. There's a hallway with people running down it. Your one action will block the hallway, but the outcome is different depending out who you let pass before blocking the path.

Fail Fail - This is a simple game where you have to decide what the content of the picture is (or rather the source of the photo), but you only get to see a small portion of the picture at the top. It is either a picture with dogs (Mutt Fail) or a picture of an accident (Epic Fail). The pictures are dynamically pulled from the web, which explains why Josh was laughing so hard when the full pictures were shown. I initially thought that he knew the answers before hand since he wrote the game, so I wondered why he was laughing, but once I knew that they were new to him too, I understood.

Balloon in a Box - Tim Tillotson
I played Tim' iPhone game, where you had to move a balloon through a small maze, by tilting the phone, until you reached the checkered flag at the end. After the first level there are fans and darts to avoid, which will pop your balloon and you'll have to start over. I found that I had to fight my natural instincts as I familiar with the tilt games where you move a marble through a maze, but in this game you have to tilt it the opposite way (as the balloon floats up). Another thing challenging about the game is that you can only see a portion of the maze at a time, so you don't fully know where the destination is. However this is helped by the fact that the portions you have visited in the maze are lit up, while the unvisited sections are dark. This way you have a better idea where the end may lie.

Andriod Tic Tac Toe - Don Jordon
Don showed me his Tic Tac Toe game on his android phone (T-Mobile myTouch). He had been doing this to learn the android API, and it looks like it’s coming along. I'm really amazed at how the iPhone and Android platforms are taking off. These platforms might not be the best to bring in lots of cash, but they are a great way to get started as a hobbyist or a way to release a game that acts like a marketing tool (such as a small iPhone game that in a way advertises a better experience in they PC game of the same name).

Good Conversations
Inevitably there are some great conversations that happen at our Indie Nights and last night was no exception. I'm amazed at the variety of experiences and types of backgrounds of people in our little indie group. I talked with a guy that just moved back to Utah from Texas and had worked on the Guitar Hero team. I love Guitar Hero, though I really stink at it. My 14 year old son can put me to shame quickly on it. Another guy talked about how he felt Indies may take over the game market. I'm not sure if that will happen completely, but there is a lot of truth in how the old methods of making games are dying out and the Indies and small studios have a better chance at survival. The big

budgets and big teams of the mainstream industry combined with dropping game prices is just not a sustainable thing. I also had a good talk with Jay about Adventure Games and how they are making a bit of a come back. I'm encouraged by this as it's one of my favorite genres, and I'd like to make a point-n-click adventure someday (though I need to finish my current game first).

It was a really great night; certainly one of the best that we've had. I feel a lot more motivated and energized to work on my own project now. I think the indie scene is only going to grow more, and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Thanks again to everyone. Thanks Ninjabee for providing us a place to meet. Thanks React Games for sponsoring the food and the wonderful Archon Tournament. And thanks to everyone that came and made the night so awesome!

Viva la Indie!


P.S. Jay's writeup can be found here.