Friday, January 29, 2010

Utah Indie Games Night - January 2010

My apologies on the delay of this write up. I was involved in the Global Game Jam (which was the next day after our Indie Games Night) and it kind of sucked up all my time. Anyway, we had a totally awesome Indie Games Night last Thursday night. We may have hit a new record; we had close to 60 people in attendance. The excitement and energy was at an all time high. (Special Thanks to Skyler Bradsby for the poster)

"What the iPhone Market Means to Your Development." - Ontario Britton

We started the evening off with an awesome presentation from Ontario Britton of PepperGum games. He totally brought down the house with his mix of comedy and info on selling games in the iPhone market. It was the most entertaining and humerous presentation that we’ve ever had. He mentioned that you need to “know your context” whenever you start a project. In other words you need to know who your target market is and if your planned of distributors/portals (in this case the Apple App Store) fits with that target market. He showed some stats that showed that about half of the people in the app store are from the US, and that most iPhone owners are young to middle aged adults (and not teenagers as is commonly believed). He also mentioned that you shouldn’t spend a lot of time on any feature, unless it has some sort of viral component to it. He mentioned that the best way to get your game noticed was within the app store itself, though banner ads could be expensive and getting on the top 100 list is difficult (but very helpful once it makes it there). Lastly, he mentioned that his 3 pillars to a successful game are:

1- Have a well executed game design (targeted for your market)
2- Polish, Polish, Polish
3- Lots of good marketing

DazLinks – Brian Howell & John Renstrom
After that Daz3D showed their nearly complete tool called DazLinks. I believe they are planning a full announcement around GDC in March. It’s pretty amazing what it can do. It helps solves the problem of using off the shelf 3D models from Daz and being able to bring it into a real-time rendering game engine. Previous to this it wasn’t very possible for game developer to use Daz3D models in their game (except for maybe title screens and the like) and the polygon count and number of textures was just too high to use in a game engine. Daz Links will reduce the meshes (and skeletons) from the model and clothing down into just one mesh. It also combines textures into one (and properly UV maps everything). It will also reduce the number of polygons down to a manageable level, without any noticeable loss of form (in most cases). It can be used to generate different models at different Levels of Detail (LOD) from the same model, so you don't have to create these yourself. Also with Daz morphs, you can use one model and modify it to be a troll or elf (all from one model), 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 indeed.

Here’s a YouTube video that gives you a little more info can be found here.

Siphon Spirit - Curtis Mirci, Peter Anderson, & Dave Matney
Curtis and Crew showed off their upcoming game Siphon Spirit. Basically the object is to collect (or “siphon off”) energy from various orb (or “spirits”) around the game screen. You have to get close to the orbs but not collide with them (else you die). Some orbs will shoot at you so you have to be careful. Also as you progress to higher levels, some orbs will move and try to collide with you and thus kill you. It was an interesting game mechanic, and it’s certainly one that can ramp up with progressively more difficult levels.

Experimental Games – Josh Jones
Infinite Number Adventure – This game was an experiment in randomly generated maps. It randomly places object that you have to go around and collect. You get bonus points if you stay within bounds.

Psycull: Perfect Storm – This was an art game and is a commentary on the role of a producer in a game company. You have to balance the ideas (represented by little clouds) coming from the developers/artists below. Sometimes you have to move them to other people or throw them out. When the milestone time hits, your project is evaluated. If there’s too many ideas, you have a poor product, or if there too little ideas in some areas, then you also have a poor product.

This is why you're FAT - Paul Milham
Paul was showing of a flash game that he and Mike Whitaker put together in a couple days close to Thanksgiving. It’s cool game where you shoot turkeys as fast as you can in 60 seconds. When you hit them, the bigger turkeys become smaller turkeys, and the smaller ones turn into lots of turkey carnage. Once the timer runs out, you eat all the turkeys that you’ve killed and you become a very fat guy. The more turkeys you’ve killed the fatter you get. It was fun to play, and it sounds like it’s done fairly well on Newgrounds and other flash portals.

Frayed Knights - Jay Barnson
I didn't get to see a whole lot of the progress on Jay's game, but it looks like he had spent a bunch of time working on dungeons in a Minotaur like level. He mentioned to me that "mazes suck" and he was trying to not leave the player just wandering aimlesslyaround in the dungeons, by making certain parts different from each other (landmarks if you will).

Flash Level Editor – Carson Barlow
Carson showed me his level editor that he built on top of flash. It allowed for placement of static and moving platforms, as well as walls and other obstacles. Eventually this will be used in a game of his, something akin to Dante's Inferno.

Zombie Defense – Darius Ouderkirk
I missed Darius showing his latest changes to his zombie game, but I caught up with him on Friday at the Global Game Jam (which was awesome BTW). The changes have been with the AI and game balancing, so nothing has changed visually yet. He fixed an issue with balancing so that you now have to have a mix of different kinds of units in order to win. Game balancing can be very hard to do, but it can make the difference between a game that is fun to play and one that isn’t.

There were also lots of great conversations going on all over. I’m sure there was a lot that I missed. Jay and I had a commiserating session on why both of our games are still not done. Yes, we’re still at it several years later. It was a nice “kick in the pants” for me. I also talked to Mike Rimer for bit (I was nice to see him again), and he mentioned to me that his business partner (the guy who started Caravel Games) has gotten really burned out and has turned everything over to him. So Mike has been busy this year dealing with all the business side of things and hasn’t been able to work on anything new. I guess the bright side is that DROD is still selling and making some money. Mike, I wish you well and hope things improve.

Thanks to ITT-Tech for providing us a place to meet, and a big thanks to both Daz3D and ITT-Tech for sponsoring the food. And thanks to everyone that came and made the night so awesome!

Viva la Indie!

Jay's writeup can be found here.