On Saturday I attended the Full Indie Summit in Vancouver BC. It was the first Full Indie event I’ve attended since the first summit back in 2013. It was great to get back into Vancouver to meet up with
other like minded devs and discuss game making. Below are some of my
impressions & thoughts about the speakers and their
Effective Audio in Game Design
missed most of this talk by Kevin Regamy. Taking the ferry in from Gibsons ate up the
morning. I did catch the tail end of it though and got all of the
Q&A. As someone who has never really paid a whole lot of
attention to audio production, even the basic tips were valuable.
Panning audio slightly to the left or right channel based on the
position of the player seemed like a subtle thing that any 2d game
could do. I will definitely watch the rest of the lecture when it
goes up on the full indie website.
Beyond the Zombie Shooter: Unexplored
possibilities in VR
Kayla Kinnunen gave a great talk that served as both a primer for new VR devs and a
look into some of the more cutting edge and experimental VR work that
is currently being done. I think the VR space is something that is a
little bewildering for a lot of developers; even those like myself
who have tried it and understand why it’s such a big deal. Where to
start, what to make, what works, what doesn’t; they are difficult
questions and this talk helped point to the future and show us a bit
of a roadmap. It was also a bit of a throwdown challenge; this is the time to
do something new in VR. The window for radical experimentation is
open right now, but it won’t be forever. I don’t know that I am going to go down that road myself, but I am
excited to see what people make of it.
Firewatch: Design Constraints in
Narrative Exploration Games
Nels Anderson's humorous and energetic talk focused on some of the design lessons he learned at Campo Santo while working on their narrative exploration title Firewatch. I wished I had played it before going to this talk as I
feel some of the lessons might have been clearer to me if I was more familiar with the game. The
simple advice of making sure to reward exploration was not lost on me
though. I think I will have to play Firewatch and then come back and
watch this talk again.
Smooth as the Titanic: What
scuttled Brigador's Launch?
I had already read some of Hugh’s posts online about the launch
of Brigador, but this talk was still great. I found it to be one of
the most thought provoking, and it seemed in many ways to tie into a
lot of the other talks throughout the day. For example he touched on
the importance of the trailer and how it failed in various ways; I
couldn’t help but here his comments later in the day as I watched
to Kurt Gartner blow everyone’s minds with his crazy mixed reality
I think my biggest takeaway from this talk was that it is
crucially important to convey exactly what your game is and what
makes it special, especially if you are making something out of the
ordinary. Brigador sounds like a great game (I will definitely be
checking it out), but it doesn’t look like what it is, which sounds
like it was a big problem.
Let's get physical — lessons from the
Books and talks on traditional/non-digital game design always seem
to be illuminating in ways you could never expect. Zach Gage’s talk
on his experiences building card, dice and billiard games was filled
with ideas that are applicable to any game. His comments about dice
games and their randomness really resonated. The idea that random
games become fun based on their context and the story that evolves
around them. He talked about how he knew two friends who had a long
standing daily game of paper rock scissors and how they tracked their
scores via a whiteboard over the course of a year. The game of paper
rock scissors is usually a tool for decision making, but placed in
the context of a yearly rivalry, it becomes something more.
Behind the Scenes: Making Mixed Reality
Kert Gartner wowed the crowd with some of his amazing work
building mixed reality trailers. His talk was a whirlwind of shop
talk and wizardry as he quickly took us through all of the tricks he
and his crew used to transpose VR playing people INSIDE of the games
they were playing to help convey the magic of VR. Until I sat through
this talk, I didn’t even know what a mixed reality trailer was.
Well, now I know and it is pretty impressive. These are the two
trailers that he made. I would recommend watching both
and then watching his talk whenever the Full Indie folks get it
Take a Walk(ing Sim) on the Weird Side: a
guide to #altgames and you
This talk by Claris Cyarron was in many ways emblematic of the great, diverse selection of ideas that
the summit represented. I didn't know what to expect going into it, and left it with a new appreciation for something I had no idea about. Hilarious, dark,
creative, and beautiful creations filled the screen. Stick Shift by Robert Yang was probably the highlight but there was so much more there. If you are feel like games are boring, samey, or have no artistic value, watch this presentation or check out the #altgames tag on twitter.
What's going on in the Hardware Game
Robin Baumgarten outlined many of the techniques he used to build
his 1D LED wall climbing RPG Line Wobbler. No that doesn’t make
sense and yes, it was awesome. Embedded processors and 3d printing
are breeding all kinds of neat things. I was particularly taken with
how he started to use door stop springs as a game controller; I don’t
know a single kid that doesn’t love springing those things. Genius!
The Sidestep or How to skip the things
that don’t work
Steve Swink gave a thought provoking talk
about deliberate practice, and how in a new field like game design,
there is no handbook on how to train up to greatness. He talked about
how he deconstructed puzzles from popular games to help improve his
understanding of the puzzle making process.
As someone who is mostly self-taught, I found I could relate quite
a bit. I usually try to look at the skills I am using and improve on
them, but I have never thought about designing my own grueling
practice regimen to drill the improvements into me. My process for
improving my own skills usually involves getting a good book or two
to set a foundation, and then practice by applying the skill on a
real project. This talk made me think more about how I could approach self improvement, and what skills I rely on and need improvement with (drawing drawing drawing).
Making Games in Four Spatial Dimensions
I won’t pretend I understood much of Marc ten Bosch's bewildering talk on 4d game design, but
it certainly made for fun discussion afterwards. I feel like I will
definitely need to play his game Miegakure to fully grasp what it
means to be able to move a character into the 4th dimension.
What Makes an Indie Hit? How to
Choose the Right Design
What are your game's hooks? Can you describe them quickly and
accurately? Ryan Clark’s talk focused on this practical process for
analyzing ideas to see if they are a good fit for you and the
marketplace (he also has an article here) This was a great talk to
close out the day on. It contained a lot of down to earth, practical
advice from a successful indie dev. A lot of the indie game scene is
filled with lucky stories and hits that seem to come out of nowhere.
Ryan’s process definitely grounded all of that into something more
Afterwards there was a great demo night / networking event with
free sushi and drinks from the generous folks at East Side Games.
Justin and I demoed our game Viper League to a constantly rotating
crew of other devs and got a lot of great feedback. If you came by
and tried out our game, thanks! I think the most common suggestion
was some sort of late match pressuring mechanic, like walls that
close in. Matches seemed to drag on in a lot of cases. I think as
developers we’ve become good at ending matches quickly by hunting
each other down, but new players who don’t understand the game as
well don’t know how to finish things as quickly. There were some
other bugs in the game that surfaced as well, and I’ll get those
patched and fixed up in the game soon.
The summit was a ton of fun. Every talk managed to generate great discussion and get me
thinking about game making in a new way. I definitely hope to make it
out again next year.