Saturday, July 30, 2011

Utah Indie Games Night - July 2011

We had another awesome indie night this last Thursday night. Our numbers were a bit lower this time around but it was still a great event nonetheless.

Tim Fowers of Gabob kicked off our evening by giving an excellent presentation entitled "Turbulence Ahead: The Ups and Downs of Getting a Premium Flash Game to Success." It was a presentation that he originally gave at the first Flash Gaming Summit (which is part of the GDC) in 2010. He also gave some updated and additional information that wasn't in his original slides. The presentation mostly revolved around experiences with their successful premium flash game called Now Boarding. Though he also mentioned their next game Clockwords which wasn't nearly as successful.

He mentioned a bit about their demo strategy, which cut the game off right at a cliff hanger. Though it may seem a bit cruel to end the demo there, it does provide some motivation for people to pull out their wallets. It a useful strategy that I've heard mentioned before, and the psychology of it seems to make sense. He also mentioned an interesting guerrilla marketing technique that allowed a potential customer to get the game for free if they did some word of mouth advertising that resulted in a sale. It seemed like a very cheap way to get some free advertising and publicity going. Every bit helps.

He mentioned that they used an simple custom built online activation scheme with their game that allowed them to thwart some of the pirates. It sounded very similar to the DRM scheme that Cas from PuppyGames.net uses, and they also claim that their piracy rate is low or non-existent.

He also mentioned the local Board Game Designers Guild of Utah as being a great way to strengthen those game design abilities. Sort of a "gym for game designers". I was unaware of this group, but it seems like it would be a great resource to both video game designers as well as board game designers.

Some of the other take-aways from the presentation that I got were:
- Focus on creating value and not money (that will come once there is real value there)
- Be flexible in your business plan (feel free to change course some and/or experiment as needed)
- Make your game both distinct (stands out) and polished
- Find good partners and work hard (you usually can't do everything yourself)
- Focus on recurring (not one time) income, even if it's small initially (this pays off in the long run)
- Be "Ramen Profitable" (be frugal and bootstrap as much as possible)
- Having different prices for your game in different countries can be a good thing


After the presentation, we had quite a number of games that were shown (nine that I saw, though I could have missed one or more).

Catalyst - Brandon Nielsen
Brandon showed my his progress on his "escape the space station" type of game. It's in it's early stages, but he plans to make the game play about learning about the environment around you and finding a way out before the space station slowly disintegrates. It's a race for your life sort of game.

Tank Raige Arena - Nick Terry
Nick briefly showed me the progress he's made on his multi-player tank battle game. He's in the early stages of porting it to Unity. I'm assuming he's abandoning parts of his custom engine in favor of Unity because of some of the benefits that Unity will provide, like having a web enabled game, cross platform support (Windows & Mac), possibly having an iPhone version, etc.

March to the Moon - Curtis Mirci
Curtis showed me his top down action shooter (with some RPG elements in the mix). In the first level you are battling rats in the basement of a tavern. You currently have a choice of fire balls or arrows that you can shot at them. Even in its early stages the fun and humor come shining through. I believe he said that it's built in XNA and he hopes to get it on XBLIG (Xbox Live Indie Games) when it is complete.

Siphon Spirit - Peter Anderson, Curtis Mirci, Dave Matney
Peter showed off the progress on Siphon Spirit at the event. Admittedly I didn't get to see this one too much, but Peter has been hard at work adding more levels to the game as well as adding a bit more artwork polish to it as well.

Epic Puzzles - Ben Benson
This is a Kindle game that Ben has been working on for a while now. A Kindle game at our event is certainly a first. It's essentially a story that also has you solve puzzles along the way. It seems like it's a good fit for the Kindle market (story & puzzles), and I hope it does well for him. He already has a publisher lined up for the game as well.

Adventure - Chris Tart
Not much outwardly has changed on Chris' cool platformer, however he's been hard at work on the underlying engine. He's been converting it from C#/XNA to C++ so that he could use the engine on the iPhone/iPod Touch. He showed me a mac version of his game, using his new engine, and it was running just as smooth as the older XNA Windows version.

Bullet Train Hell - Chris Tart
Chris also showed me a quick prototype made with his revamped engine. The game is set on top of a moving bullet train and you have to jump over objects and hit switches to move. Similar to his "Adventure" game, but simplified. He even had the game running on his iPod Touch. Amazing.

Rick Invaders - Paul Milham
I got a quick look at this humorous game that Paul threw together for a friend. It's a side scrolling space invaders type of game, but with some humorous artwork. It was meant as a way his friend could take revenge on his former boss (virtually anyway), by shooting the enemies (which conveniently looked like his former boss)

Intergamerated - Josh Josh
This is another experimental game from Josh. The theme was disintegration, so Josh chose to make it about disappearing game mechanics. There are three game mechanics; shooting, typing, and timing, and these will go away one by one as you mess up using that mechanic, thus making it harder as you go. It's an interesting idea. I've seen some similar things done in racing and fight combat games where your control over your car or plane disintegrates as you take on more and more damage.


Also there was plenty of good conversations going on. I was involved in discussions about entrepreneurship, game engines, finding work in the game industry, Kindle development, and much more. There is always so much to talk about, but never enough time. I grateful to be around so many indies that are making their dreams happens. You guys are an inspiration to me and always get me pumped to work on my own project. I thank you for that.

Until next time,

Viva La Indie!