Saturday, November 08, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - November 2014

We had a great Utah Indie Games Night this past Thursday. It was hosted by the EAE department at the U of U. Our turnout was a bit down from our recent events (just under 30 people), but it was still a great evening.

Paige Ashlynn and Beck Pennock of Team Tripleslash started off our evening with a presentation on some things they learned from attending GDC, PAX, IndieCade, and SLC Comic Con. In a nutshell they said attending those events was about meeting people and establishing relationships. Thus attending the dev events before the event and the parties after the event were just as important as the event itself. They also mentioned that PAX and IndieCade would be the best events to attend as an indie as they are the most friendly to indies.

After their presentation we opened the time up to demos, and I actually brought a demo this time. I've been working on a small mobile infinite jumper type game called Jungle Jump. Essentially you are a monkey jumping up onto different platforms. Some are stationary, some move, some disappear after you jump on them once, and some simply break when you hit them. I got some good feedback on it, and I hope to have the game to market by the end of the month.

The other demos I have seen in one form or another prior to this, and the all were shown at Comic Con, so they are looking quite well. Darius was showing his real time strategy space battle game, "Flame Warrior". Looks like he's put a ton of work into it lately. He hope to be done with it by the beginning of next year. Jay showed his latest RPG "Frayed Knights 2: The Khan of Wrath". I only got to see if for a bit, but he was showing off his new cleaned up GUI interface. It's looking very nice. Josh was showing his shmup called "Legacy of the Elder Star". I really love the cartoony art and the sword dash mechanic (something very satisfying about that). And lastly Lyle was showing his two player co-op puzzle game called "Together: Aman & Saif". I only got to play it for a moment, but it seemed very solid.

And as usual there were tons of conversations, old friends, and some great moments. Another great evening. I always get pumped to work on my indie projects after this.

Viva la Indie!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - July 2014

What an awesome Indie night we had this past Thursday. There were over 50 people in attendance, which made it rather cozy down in Ninjabee's basement. Thanks once again for them hosting the event.

Michael Purser, Ninjabee's PR guy, started off the evening with a presentation on doing marketing at conventions, like PAX and Comic Con. He spoke directly from his experience so the information was very relevant and useful. Also timely as a number of indies are doing a combined booth thing (mega-booth) at SLC Comic Con in September. He mentioned a lot of considerations you need to take into account above an beyond the cost of the booth, such as shipping of physical items (which can be expensive), and paying for convention power and internet. They really gouge you on internet, so it's best if you can get by without it. He also said you want to extend your reach outside of the booth as much as you can. Doing things like getting large displays or large signs up high. You want people to see your booth from far away. Also you should try to always give them something, like a card with your business website and maybe a key-code for your game or demo. Also raffle tickets to give away items can be helpful as well. He also spoke a lot about being mindful about your booth location and layout within the booth as well, so you can make it inviting.

After that we opened the floor to demos, and man the room filled up quickly with tables and computers. As usual I wasn't able to see all the demos, but here's the one's I was able to see or got a glimpse of.

Curtis was showing his now completed Match 3 game that teaches some Japanese letters. The art is very clean and readable and I liked his mechanic of showing time running out via a water level running out.

Peter was showing his three player card game that's based on the world of Siphon Spirit. He's hoping to have it ready to show at Comic Con. It's coming along since I've seen it last.

Austin showed his two player hacker battle game. It has some great pixel art. The basic premise is you have to infect your opponents computers and keep your computers healthy. If you can successfully infect all of his machines before he can clean the viruses you sent, then you win.

Darius has added a bunch of new art and a nice UI, since I saw his space battle game last. He's also 
added a helpful tutorial level. He's trying have something to demo by

This was made in Unity by three brothers, Marc, Mike, & Nate. It's a 4 player arena battle game that's played with controllers on the same screen. Simple game-play to just frag your opponents with different weapons and rack up points. You re-spawn soon after you die so the play continues. You also have to watch out for falling rocks as well. This one looked like a lot of fun.

This game looks absolutely stunning! The visuals are top notch. It's a skill based marble game where you tilt the level to move the ball from start to finish. It's starts out easy but the difficulty ramps up soon to more and more challenging levels. Some seem very masochistic. It has an addictive quality to it that make you want to keep on trying.

This was a game originally written for the Global Games Jam in January. They are going to be changing the art around but keeping the premise that the world changes based on your actions. They are going to add some dynamic music to reflect that.

Mike just released the last in the D.R.O.D. series. I didn't get to play this one, but it looks great, like all of the games in the series. I noticed it had lots of great voice overs, and Mike mentioned that there is tons of story in this one since it is the last game. He wanted to bring the story to a final conclusion.

I caught a glimpse of this game. They had four players on four laptops networked together. It looked like the objective was to turn humans to werewolves (if a werewolf) or turn werewolves back to humans (if a human). I'm assuming the game ends when everyone has been converted to one team.

I noticed some people playing a board game called Hell's Peak. Didn't get to see it much, but according to the site, it's a single player game where the object is to dethrone the devil.

It was a great evening with a great presentation, some great games, and some great conversations. It always gets me pumped to finish my own projects.

Viva la Indie!

EDIT: Jay's writeup can be found here.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - May 2014

We had another awesome Indie Games Night this past Thursday night.  We had a little over 40 people there so it was a good turnout.  Thanks again to UVU for hosting the event and thanks also to everyone for coming and making the night great!

We started the evening with an awesome presentation by Josh Sutphin of Third-Helix on "Starting an Indie Games Business".  He talked a little bit about the nuts and bolts of starting an indie game business, and also about how to maybe do that full time. That's the dream right? He also talked about how to pick up some contract work to help fill in the gaps as the reality is you might not make enough on your games to pay the bills. At least initially. He also talked about that dirty little secret about going indie that not many seem to discuss and that is one of the motivation trap. That is after first going indie your motivation is very high and you're on cloud nine, but after a while you can get distracted by other things, because "Hey, I can do whatever I want now. There's no boss". So you can find yourself squandering your time and not really getting anything accomplished.  Sometimes it can be hard to pull your motivation back up after falling into this rut. He talked a lot about how to set boundaries for yourself (and others) so you can keep a good routine going and make forward progress on your business.  He had a lot more good points that he shared. If you want to watch his presentation you can find it here.

Then we got into our game demos as usual. Here are the ones that I was able to see, but I know I missed a bunch.

Peter was showing his new card game based in the world of Elduurn (Siphon Spirit). It's a co-op game for three players and where you are battling boss monsters. Everyone has different skills and abilities that they can use to kill the monster before they monster kills them.  He'll be posting a free print-n-play version of the game soon.

Super Wall Ball
This was a cute skill based tablet game where you play as a turtle and try to keep a ball in motion by repeatedly kicking it against a wall. You have to get the timing and rhythm down in order to do this. It has a frustrating but addictive quality to it, sort of like Flappy Bird in that sense.  I finally got to 10 volleys back and forth before I gave up. I really loved the cartoony art.

Cameron was showing his exploration game called Parallax. I was blown away by the visuals. It looked incredible.  There are doors that will teleport you other parts of the island. I believe it was built with Unity.

 Andrew showed his creepy Unity game where you are in a house that has been haunted by ghosts. The game play is similar to "Gone Home" where you can move around, pick up and examine objects to figure out what is happening. The game is set at night and it's raining outside. You have a flashlight but can turn lights on in the house, but the lighting is still low, which definitely sets that creepy mood.

I saw this one a bit second hand, but was told that this mobile game was created in only 80 hours. I was very impressed as it seemed very complete and polished.  It was a game similar to Geometry Wars where you have to move around and destroy your enemies while avoiding their bullets. Also it's already been released on the iOS app store now.

Goblin Dash 
In this mobile Unity based game you play as a hero with a sword that has to encounter a hoard of goblins one after another. You have both blocking and attacking moves in upper, middle, and lower directions.  The goblins will give you a slight hint as to where they will attack so you have to be quick to block and then counter their moves, so that you can slay the goblin and move onto the next one.  I was very impressed with the art and game play.

Curtis has been working on a match-3 game using tiles with Japanese characters on them. It's meant to help people learn the sounds and meaning of each character by repetition.  Every time they get three matching tiles together, the sound of that character is said aloud. The English equivalent of the character is also shown.

Lyle was showing his co-op game "Together". I didn't get a chance to play it again but he has a Kickstarter for the game that just barely started. So go back it!

I know Vince, Jeff and some others had some games they were showing but I didn't get a moment to see them. As always there was so much happening and not able to absorb it all. What a great time to be an indie.

Viva la Indie!

P.S. You can find some other write-ups of the event at these links

Friday, March 28, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - March 2014

Wow we had another awesome indie games night last night. We had a little over 40 people in attendance so that was a good turnout. Thanks again to Neumont University for hosting the event, and a big thanks to Goo Technologies for sponsoring pizza for the evening. Thanks also to our Kickstarter panelists, those showing demos, and everyone else for coming and making the event awesome!

We started the evening off with a discussion panel on "Running a Successful Kickstarter". Lyle Cox was our moderator and Paige Ashlynn and Jaron Frost were our panelists. Paige is from Tripleslash Studios and their game is Magnetic by Nature. Jaron is from Fridgecrisis Games and his game is Villages. The guys did an awesome job of dishing out some great info. Here's some of my take-aways (tips) from the panel:

- When converting viewers into backers, show that you are capable and show yourself in the video to humanize the project.
- Use social media to get hype going, and start months before the actual kickstarter kick-off.
- Try to get some cross promotion going with other Kickstarter projects.
- Make sure to add extra float to budgets to account for unknowns
- Keep physical rewards small and manageable
- Be conservative on stretch goal
- Don't over promise and under deliver; Do under promise and over deliver instead
- Ask for more money than you might think to at first (don't sell yourself short)
- Kickstarters are LOTS of work, so be prepared for it

And if you missed the panel, you can watch it here, thanks to Jaron and his wife. (There's a few minutes missing from the end, but nothing big). You guys are awesome for doing that!

After the panel, Brett Unzaga of Goo Technologies gave us a short demo of their HTML5/WebGL engine that is now out in open beta. They're looking for people to give the beta a try, so if you'd like to do that head on over to their site, create an account, and start creating something awesome with it.

I didn't get to see many of the projects; just a handful as I got involved in some really great conversations. I say a couple of new projects and a couple of older projects that are making progress. I don't think I can do them justice, so I'm not going to even try to enumerate them this time. There were definitely a bunch of awesome ones there however.

I talked a bit with the Raptor Circus guys and I love their concept. They are focused on those indies that want to turn their games into a profitable business. It's an area where our Indie Nights have fallen short, so it's nice to see them fill in this gap. This is certainly a group I want to be involved with, as I've been spinning my wheels on my MonkeyTime Software business for way too long.

We also talked about dealing with the motivation drain as an indie. It's something I'm well acquainted with and have had some success in overcoming here and there, but far from every time. It's something I still struggle with, and it's something that every indie faces at some point. Josh S. mentioned this is like the "dirty little indie secret that no one talks about", and I'd have to agree with that. The indie community doesn't say much about that. They tend to focus on the upsides of being indie and not so much on the downsides. Yes folks, it does take more than just uploading your tiny game to the iOS appstore. The riches don't magically come flowing after that.

Anyway it was definitely another incredible indie night. Thanks everyone for making it awesome!

Viva la Indie!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - January 2014

We had another amazing Indie Games this past Wednesday night. I didn't get an accurate count, but it looked like close to 40 people were there. Definitely was a great night filled with pizza, presentations, lively discussions, and lots of games! Thanks once again to Ninjabee for hosting the event.

Spencer Buchanan gave an awesome presentation on mHealth  and games. In his new job he's been partnering with doctors and nurses to produce games that help people learn about and cope with their serious illness. The big take away I got from his talk was he mentioned that when working with people outside the industry there needs to be a respect for each others strengths and expertise in order for a project to succeed. The doctors shouldn't question your game design decisions in the same way you shouldn't question the doctors methods either. Each has to respect what the others bring to the table. He did an awesome job with the presentation and had a lot of good info to share.

After Spencer's presentation we opened it up for demos. As usual I probably missed a few of them. Here they are:

Spirits of Elduurn
Curtis showed this flash puzzle game that uses the Mythology from Siphon Spirit . It's a puzzle game where you have to move a pair of spirits (one black, one white) in tandem to collect energy and then defeat the evil dark spirit. Sometimes the moves get tricky as they could kill one of your spirits and you need both of them to complete the level.

Saga Heroes
Eric has added caves and the like since I saw this game last. It's an OUYA RPG game set in the Saga  universe and it looks very polished. I played it for a while and finally made it to the cave levels. The lighting works very well on those levels. He's done an awesome job with it thus far.

Lyle's co-op puzzler now has a name and some really awesome art. I believe it still had programmer art, last time I saw it, so it looked like a totally different game with this new art. The idea is you work together to solve the puzzle via a series of doors and switches. You also have to pick up all the objects before the exit will open and you can finish the level. I played this a bit with Curtis and I kept dying. Luckily Curtis was able to come and rescue me. As long as one player is alive they can resurrect the other and you both can continue. I really like the co-op aspect of this game.

Dub Wars
The Dub Wars guys were there showing off a new build of Dub Wars, that now works with the LeapMotion controller. So "yes", it now has guesture control. I tried if for a bit and although it was a bit more sluggish than a standard controller, I could definately see someone getting into this as it kind of makes you feel like a "Grandmaster DJ" controlling the game.

Space Combat Game
Darius has been hard at work on his space game combat game. I noticed he now has a targetting system in place and it can fire missles at the enemy ships as you glide past them. Looks like it's coming along.

Ben has been working on a multiplayer RPG that uses Xbox avatars. So you can play as "you" in the game, and not the limited set of characters that you have in other RPGs. He had a questing system in place where you can buy/sell weapons (and really big swords I might add), talk to bots to get them to join your crew, arm them, and then go out and kill vicious animals. He built it in XNA and hopes to finish it off, even though XNA is dying.

Candy Defender Saga / Redacted
Jay showed his One Game a Month entry / Candy Jam entry. It's a quick Space Invaders clone that he built to teach himself the GameMaker: Studio engine. At this point it looks, feels, and plays much like Space Invaders. However I know he has plans to swap out the art (such as the alien ships becoming lawyers) so it fits the theme for the Candy Jam, which is a protest against recent trademark trolling.

Happy Candy Pirates
I also took a little bit and showed my latest entry from the Global Games Jam. It's entered into two other game jams as well, that were happening at the same time (The Candy Jam and GMC Jam). In the game you're a pirate looking for treasure, but along the way you encounter red and blue candy that switches the world between happy and sad. In the happy world the red doors are open and harmless bunnies roam around, but in the sad world the blue doors are open, and the bunnies are now dangerous skeletons. Also if you stay in the happy world too long, the bunnies start multiplying which means there will be more skeletons to face in the sad world.

Mental Institution & Ro-Bee Cop
Rhett was showing off his entry in the Global Games Jam, Mental Institution, a game about a guy trying to escape an asylum. He was also showing a prototype of a new game called Ro-Bee Cop that he's making in GameSalad. Apparently he's taken a liking to that engine, and since Rhett is primarily an artist, I can see the "no programming" aspect of the engine appealing to him.

Magnetic By Nature
I noticed the Tripleslash guys were there showing off their latest build of Magnetic By Nature. I didn't really get a chance to try it out again, but I know they are getting very close to a release.

Board Game (Name in flux)
Vince was there with a board game he's been working on, and he had several people playing it with him. Apparently it's an evolution of the Narwhals and Unicorns game that he worked on with Spencer and showed at our Indie Night a couple of months ago. I didn't get a chance to sit down, get into the details and play it, but it looked like the players were enjoying it.

During the evening Steve brought out a Gigabyte Steam box and let people try it out. I tried using it for a while and the controller definitely has a much different feel to it. It's something that will take me some more time getting used to. Though I was getting better with it in my short exposure to it. I know that Valve is going to be changing the layout of the physical buttons to make them more like a traditional D-pad and X/Y/A/B buttons. That should help some, but I would still like to have an analog stick on the left. I'm okay with the touch pad on the right as it acts like a mouse, which I see being useful for a lot of Steam games. Anyway it was still usable and I could see people liking it.

Again it was an awesome evening. Thanks to everyone for helping to make it incredible!

Viva la Indie!

P.S. You can find Jay's write up of the event here.