IndieCade 2009: Images and Words

Indiecade 2009 took place in Culver City, Calif. from Oct. 1 through Oct. 4 to showcase the future of independent games.

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Independent games are taking over and this can be seen in the movement of independent games available XBLA, PSN and WiiWare. However, independent developers also utilize tools available freely to them like flash and through game engines like the Half-Life 2 Source Engine. Successful games such as The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom and every game developer that attended and submitted their games to IndieCade 2009 are success stories to independent game development. IndieCade is where independent game finalists have the opportunity to display their game to a larger audience and network with other developers by sharing ideas.

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Mission: IndieCade supports independent game development and organizes a series of international events showcasing the future of independent games. It encourages, publicizes, and cultivates innovation and artistry in interactive media, helping to create a public perception of games as rich, diverse, artistic, and culturally significant. IndieCade’s events and related production and publication programs are designed to bring visibility to and facilitate the production of new works within the emerging independent game movement. Like the independent video game developer community itself, IndieCade’s focus is global and includes producers in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Australia, and anywhere else independent games are made and played. IndieCade was formed by Creative Media Collaborative, an alliance of industry producers and leaders founded in 2005.

I took it upon myself to check out what IndieCade had to offer and I was pleasantly surprised to find games that I would have never otherwise even gave a chance. Let’s take a look at the games!

Minor Battle (Gamemakers attending, US)

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Peanut Gallery are a bunch of cool eff’n dudes.

Minor Battle is an immersive 2D multiplayer platform game displayed on four screens forming faces of a cube. Designed by the Peanut Gallery, the configuration of the screens forces players to move through physical space as they navigate their avatars through the virtual play space, and creates opportunities for physical play and conflict alongside the digital space. Minor Battle contains multiple gameplay modes, providing the digital game the flexibility of a physical play space, and encouraging inventive, emergent play.

Meteors

This ain’t no FF7 remake with meteor!

The game is meant to be played with other people, hence the reason for 4 screens all around. The game was running on a PC with 360 controllers hooked up. Jay and I took the red team and two of the creators RJ and John Brennan took the blue team. There are objects in the game that change your classes when picked up similar to hats in Fat Princess. Your character starts out as a lonely warrior with a sword to strike and stab other enemies, but you can pick up items like a wooden shield to bounce away bombs from your castle. You can even pick up a cleaver which knocks enemies back across multiple screens forcing you to run around back to another screen!

There are two castles and the object of the game is to work together using specific classes to bring your bomb to your opponents’ castle and blow up it up. While plain and simple in words, the fun comes in when you are running around the four screens trying follow your character with your buddy tagging along at your side in real life.

The art style started out as silly stick figures but what they have now is kind of a mixture between stick figures and Strong Bad cartoons scribbled on a piece of notebook paper which looks pretty damn cool.

Profile:

Pleanut Gallery is a collective of game designers based in Los Angeles, Calif. led by founding members John Brennan, Andre Clark, RJ Layton and Jamie Antonisse as the culmination of the Interactive Media MFA program at the University of Southern Calif. with diverse backgrounds in classic art, business, marketing, film, writing, and computer engineering, Peanut Gallery’s members have worked on a range of commercial, government-funded, and independent projects with topics ranging from physical play to military educational software to political satire. With a wide range of disparate but complementary talents, Peanut Gallery is driven by a strong sense of design and a desire to use the games medium as a basis for art and criticism as well as play. Peanut Gallery’s projects are born out of a the team’s sense of humor and penchant for creating games that specifically reject tradition game tropes or carry them out to the point of absurdity.

Dear Esther (Gamemaker and Composer Attending, UK)

Dear Esther is a mod of Half-Life 2 that uses the technology and appearance of traditional games in a very innovative and non-traditional way. A ghost story written by Dan Pinchbeck, Dear Esther is a narrative dispersed through a digital space, encouraging exploration by the player, but also allowing her to navigate the story in the order she chooses, discovering different elements and moments at her own pace and through her own experiences and perceptions. Pinchbeck has created a layered narrative, strengthened and reinforced by symbols and codes also hidden throughout the game space, creating a complex space commenting on the fragmentary nature of narrative and interactivity.

When I played through Dear Esther I was shocked to have everything stripped away from me from what a traditional FPS would have. It would be hard to call Dear Esther a game but rather more of an experience. Do yourselves a favor and download this FREE mod and leave comments and feedback about it. The soundtrack is fantastic and composed by the talented Jessica Curry. It can be found free here. The music truly brings out your emotions and is great to listen to outside of the game as well.

How Dear Esther plays is that your walk speed is locked and there are areas you walk over that trigger narrative as you progress through the island. You are armed with nothing but a flashlight, which is also triggered automatically when the game wants you to focus on certain writings on the wall in the dark. I don’t want to spoil too much of the game so play it yourself. It takes about roughly an hour to get through if you take your time to listen and look at everything, which you should to get the most out of it. You can also play through it again to hear different cues you haven’t triggered. It may end up changing the story for you.

When you finish Dear Esther, you’ll end up with more questions than answers. But there are forums in which you can discuss what YOU think. Also check out Korsakovia, another game which is more of a survival horror type game with more traditional FPS elements compared to Dear Esther.

Profile:

Thechineseroom is a research project based at the University of Portsmouth, UK. It aims to explore the first-person genre through the creation of experimental games and mods. Thechineseroom is all about fusing experimentation with effective gaming experiences, pushing the boundaries of what can be done with the genre whilst keeping gameplay and the player’s experience at the core of what we develop. It is led by Dan Pinchbeck, a researcher and lecturer in games and interactive media, who produces and writes the games. His background is originally in experimental theatre and new media art, and he also holds a doctorate in gameplay and story in first-person shooters. The other core members are Adam Griffiths, a game developer and founder of Dark Rock Games, based in Newport (Wales); and Jessica Curry, an internationally exhibited composer and sound artist based in Brighton (UK). Other staff on the Dear Esther project were Josh Short, who built the original environment; Jonathan Brown, who did the programming; and Nigel Carrington, who provided the amazing voice-overs.

Spectre (Gamemaker attending, US)

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Spectre is a game about memory from the Vaguely Spectacular Team at USC’s Interactive Media Division. On a winter night, a man chooses to examine his life through memory and you, the player, guide him through the landscape of his life. Built on the idea that depending on which memories and moments of a life you examine, a different story will emerge, Spectre forces the player to choose a few memories to examine and explore, and allows a different, emergent narrative to arise from the gameplay on each playthrough. The player navigates memories through simple platforming and mini-games, and each memory is a small, self contained story that resonates with multiple other memories in the game. Successive playthroughs build a more and more complete picture of a life, making an effective point about the need to examine a person from multiple perspectives to truly understand him.

Spectre is a narrative driven game told by collecting good and bad memories. Each memory has its own mini-game which you must complete. There is also voice-over work accompanying the dialogue in your life’s story. You start out by collecting bright yellow (good) memories in favor of bad ones (black) which help you advance through the story. There are different ages you can start from collecting you memories and different paths to take. There are multiple ways to playthrough which will take you a long time. Luckily the game keeps track of what you have completed.

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Profile:

Vaguely Spectacular is a creative collective of student game designers that are interested in pushing narrative in new directions. It was formed by a small team of peers (writers, artists, programmers and other troublemakers) as a deliberate attempt to make a substantive game outside the confines of the school/work environment. While the members of Vaguely Spectacular possess different skills, zip codes, and careers, they are united by a strong desire to create, and a build a strong desire to take players places they have never been before.

Sorry I couldn’t cover all of IndieCade, but there is no reason you should not take a look at the rest of the finalists below! Most of them are FREE!

Definitely Check Out Modal Kombat!



Aether – Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel – http://armorgames.com/play/2153/aether
Akrasia – Team Aha! – http://gambit.mit.edu/loadgame/akrasia.php
ClassicNight – Akarolls – http://akarolls.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/classicnight-construction-simulation/
Cogs – Lazy 8 Studios – http://www.lazy8studios.com/download_cogs_now
Closure – Tyler Glaiel and Jon Schubbe – http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/480006
Dear Esther – The Chinese Room – http://www.moddb.com/mods/dear-esther
The Deep Sleep Initiative – ARx – http://www.deepsleepinitiative.com/
Eliss – Steph Thirion – http://www.toucheliss.com/
Everybody Dies – Jim Munroe – http://nomediakings.org/games/everybody_dies_takes_bronze_at_ifcomp.html
Global Conflicts: Latin America – Serious Games Interactive – http://www.globalconflicts.eu/
Gray – Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend – http://www.intuitiongames.com/gray/
The Maw – Twisted Pixel Games – http://www.mawgame.com/
Mightier – Lucas Pope and Keiko Ishizaka – http://www.ratloop.com/?games/mightier
Minor Battle – Andre Clark – http://minorbattle.com/
Modal Kombat – David Hindman and Evan Drummand – http://www.modalkombat.com/
Moon Stories – Daniel Benmergui – http://www.kongregate.com/games/danielben/i-wish-i-were-the-moon
Nanobots – Erin Robinson – http://www.bigbluecup.com/yabb/index.php?topic=34941.0
Osmos – Hemisphere Games – http://www.hemispheregames.com/osmos/
Papermint – Avaloop – http://www.papermint.com/
The Path – Tale of Tales – http://tale-of-tales.com/ThePath/
Radio Flare – studio radiolaris – http://www.radiolaris.com/radioflare/
Ruben & Lullaby – Erik Loyer – http://opertoon.com/2009/05/ruben-lullaby/
Shadow Physics – Steve Swink and Scott Anderson – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb5DjyoDObA
Sowlar – Odd Man In – https://www.digipen.edu/?id=1170&proj=9588
Spectre – Vaguely Spectacular Team – http://www.spectregame.com/
Train – Brenda Brathwaite – http://mechanicmessage.wordpress.com.
Tuning – Jonatan ‘Cactus’ Soderstrom – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTY494iujdA
You get me – Blast Theory – http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/work_yougetme.html
Zeno Clash – ACE Team Software – http://www.zenoclash.com/

 

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