Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Utah Indie Games Night - July 2013

We had another awesome Indie Games Night last Tuesday night. We had around 40-50 people in attendance. The EAE department of the U hosted the event. Again a big thanks to them.

We began the evening with presentation from Lyle Cox on "Creating Intrinsically Rewarding Games". He began with a discussion about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how different game motivations fit into the various levels. For example most sandbox games fit in the Self Actualization level as it feeds the creative element very well. He also got into Self Determination Theory a bit.   With this he mentioned a study where it was found that too many extrinsic rewards in a system can actually reduce the intrinsic rewards that one gets out of an activity. In the study there were three groups of children. In the first group the kids were asked if they wanted to color and if they did they would give them a certificate (an extrinsic reward). In the second group the kids were asked if they wanted to color and weren't told about the certificate, however a certificate was given to them if they did color. In the last group they were just simply asked if they wanted to color. They found that the last group had the most motivation sometime later and the first group had the least. This is because the reward was contingent upon doing the action. They would only color if they got the certificate and not for the fun of it (the intrinsic reward). While it's not completely clear how we can use this when designing games as everyone is motivated by different things. Lyle definitely gave us some "food for thought" and some things to consider when making game design decisions.

After that we broke out into smaller groups for the game demos. There were a bunch of demos being shown that night and I know I missed a bunch.  Here's the one's I caught.

Patient Empowerment Game - EAE dept
The EAE department of the U partnered with some physical therapists to design a game to help kids fight cancer. The game is built in XNA, runs on a PC, and uses PS3 Move controllers to play the game. The game can be calibrated to respond to more or less movement based on how sick the patient is. Supposedly this will help get gain some of the motivation and movement needed to help them battle their disease. There's 5 different mini-games that each use a different motion, and the downtrodden superhero in the game gets stronger as the game progresses (a metaphor for the patient getting stronger).

Co-Op Puzzle Game - Lyle Cox
Lyle also showed off his game that he's working on. It's a two player game where you play as a boy and a girl that need to work together to solve the puzzle in the level to open the exit. Each level has a different puzzle that involves picking up coins, avoiding nets, activating switches that open or close hedge walls or reverse the direction of one-way fences. Also you have to avoid a killer Tribble on some levels. Okay the stand in art looked like a Tribble, although it may be something else in the final game.

Space Combat Game - Darius Oderkirk
Darius showed his progress on his turn based space combat game. Last time I saw it, it wasn't much to see visually, but now it's got a lot more art now and looks like a game. It's apparent that he's been working hard on it. It's a game about building your fleet, exploring, and fighting enemy fleets.

We Need to go Deeper - Deli Interactive
This game is co-op rougelike/exploration submarine game that takes place in a Jules Vern like world. You and one or two friends work to manage the sub to take it into ever deeper and more dangerous waters.  One person will be manning ship navigation while the others will be fixing leaks, maintaining engines, or firing torpedos at sharks or giant squid. The game is written in GameMaker and can be played on a single machine with split screen on on separate PCs with a networked connection.

Equalize - Rainblade Studios
This one is an iPad math game with a Tetris like mechanic. The idea is eliminate the rows by dropping the current number in the row to get the row total to equal the goal for that row. On the first level the goals are all zeros, but as the levels get higher the goal could get higher or lower. Also the speed at which the numbers fall also increases as the levels go up. I'm not really into math games, but this one looks like it could get intense fast.

There were a bunch of demos that I didn't get to see. I know that Bullet Train Hell, Siphon Spirit, LinkRealms, and Magnetic by Nature were shown, but I didn't get to see them. I'm sure there were a bunch of other that I missed.

As usual I'm amazed at what everyone is working on. It was nice to have some great conversations and reconnect with friends.These events always gets me excited and energized to work on my own projects. Currently I'm working on a point-n-click adventure game in GameMaker. Stay tuned for more on that.

Viva la Indie!

BTW Jay's writeup of the event can be found here.