Some of you may have read, but I went to an indie games convention that I had just found out about (thanks to Dtoid) just weeks ago. And let me tell you, as a dude that goes to a lot of events, it was [s]good[/s] perfect.
And as a disclaimer, I will be writing about everything key that went down, the whole shebang from when I got there to closing time. This will be a long blog so I apologize ahead of time. tl;dr available
So the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. NY is actually kind of small and seems like a strange place for a con, but they found an orientation that made it work quite well actually.
First floor was dedicated to food (day)/partying (later), a “show and tell” area that has developers & their games swapping out demo space throughout the duration of the event, two theaters for panels and one more area that was a combination exhibitor space and panel area. I particularly liked the design of the last mentioned because the panel space was not closed off (ie. in a room) so in theory you could be chilling in the exhibition space, playing games and talking with industry people, while listening to the panel that is happening at the same time ten feet that way.
The Second floor was condensed to just one area for gameplay with an audience, this generally meant e-sports. When I first got there, I thought that they were hosting a Samurai Gunn tournament but it was actually a free to play game called Foiled, which looked fun as well. They also had an RPG multiplayer game that is played on dance pad controllers. More on e-sports later.
Finally, on the third floor is where the advertised 25 games that made it to the show as best in show were to be found. You can find the full list on the event website but they were arranged with plenty of space between them and the whole area had a dark but relaxed tone going on. Some of the games included Killer Queen Arcade, Kentucky Route Zero and Spelunky.
Speaking of Spelunky…
Going into this unfamiliar event, I really just had one activity I was guaranteed to enjoy. And in the worst case scenario I would just fall back to this for the rest of the show. I am talking of course about Spelunky. I’ve written about how much I enjoy Spelunky, well it was decided last minute that the best way to insert an exclamation mark on my first trip to IndieCade would be to play Spelunky and beat it all the way through. I did just that. The picture that should've been in this blog, of the screen, failed because the results screen just faded to black as my phone’s junky camera decided it was a good time to take the blasted picture. It should read that the clear time was approximately 29 minutes and change, and a little over 400,000 Gold. Exclamation mark successful.
Well this experience was interesting as a sub-portion of the whole event, it also kind of reinforced a previous notion about Spelunky that I never got around to entertaining in the form of a Cblog. It can -- potentially -- become hella e-sports. Yeah that was a sentence that I uttered. As I was playing, people passing by were commenting rather openly about things like what level I was on, or certain monsters, or the mechanics of the game and one dude even asked me if I was eggplant running. Lmao. But the most interesting development was that a sort of “cheering section” formed behind me. Though it was mostly people waiting to play, which I felt like a huge dick about hogging the setup, they were very interested in watching whether I would succeed or not. There was a clap. I got a handshake from some of the fellow Spelunky enthusiasts and I passed the controller up. It was pretty cool actually and this was way unlike beating Spelunky at home by yourself; it felt more gratifying (this must be what EVO feels like?) than a comparatively lonely at home victory.
So this comes back to a thought I had, Spelunky should go e-sports. We already have a Daily Challenge mode so in some respect there already is competitive play, but I mean really there should be a mode that encourages head to head play or even tournaments -- not the mp modes, fun as they are -- all that e-sports jazz. I was thinking, two players go head to head, start with additional bombs, maybe 20 and also 15 ropes, a selection of items and they start playing the same generated levels, but they start already in hell. And instead of the 4 stage system, they play 10 levels then go on to fight like King Yama -- or maybe even more bosses or multiple bosses at once -- since Hell is about as intense as this game gets and is competitive level in pacing and difficulty. Maybe also you can’t die to keep progression going. For instance a death could cost you 50,000 Gold but you get to respawn and keep going? I’m in love with this idea and my experience at IndieCade this past Saturday only reinforced enthusiasm for the idea tenfold.
At this time, I will go over some of the games that I had a chance to sit down and play. My thoughts, early impressions, etc. Starting with Passage.
I came into the demo knowing nothing about the game, but boy was this game an experience. It’s so simple but interesting as hell because of how conceptual it is. The setup at the show had a projector configured to a very wide display on the wall so that you can only see the size of the character and a little space above and below them, which is probably how the game was made. You walk freely and over time your character ages and goes through life events. You get a wife, lose your hair, walk slower, etc. You have to find chests, which also increase your age, for what reason I didn’t know but they helped me reach age 600 when I looked fit as a fiddle.
Like with Spelunky, this was one of the games that I planned ahead to play at the event. I was amped to try this game out finally after hearing so much about it that stretches all the back to last year’s PAX East. I know it is already available for PC, but not for PS4 users. Well the exhibition area on the first floor gave a demo of Octodad so I had to get my eight hands on it.
It seems difficult to imagine walking an octopus and is then even harder to picture controlling an octopus on a console controller, but it was pretty fluid. I was even able to run around with him at my will. All in all, the fish out of water protagonist feels like navigating a slinky, it’s fun. The demo was short and humorous but it did have some issue that hopefully will get worked out. At one point the player is tasked with mowing the lawn and weeding the garden -- typical octopus activities, y’know -- and going into the garden, where flower petals fall off and float down like the gravity whores they are, caused ugly drops in framerate. The game also really doesn’t look too appealing graphically but, in an indie game, graphics are not a deal breaker for me. The novelty of Octodad has me hooked. I’m looking forward to when Octodad comes home for the PS4.
Here’s another game that I knew absolutely nothing of before IndieCade. I got to try out Towerfall Ascension -- there were actually two demo setups for this game -- and I found my rebound for Spelunky. It plays like a mix between Spelunky and Samurai Gunn/Foiled. It will be on the PS4 as well, which is why they had a second demo for the game, in the Playstation area. Definitely putting a pin in this one till its release.
Murasaki Baby was revealed either at E3 or TGS for the Playstation Vita and immediately Limbo came to mind. Well they had a demo for it at IndieCade, it definitely does play like Limbo, only the atmosphere isn’t bleaker than a stack of Poe collectives. I realized partway through my game time with Murasaki Baby that the art style is reminiscent of Beetlejuice. The almost skeletal design of the character, the creepy -- but not melancholy -- environment, the combination of black, red and bright green, and the Don’t Starve-esque art style -- which another attendee and his wife pointed out to me -- scream the 90’s cartoon show at me.
This one gets a pin too.
The Best of the Best in Show?
So what game did I find to be the best in show at this year’s IndieCade? Well that honor goes to Joshua DeBonis and Nikita Mikros' Killer Queen Arcade, a game that unfortunately not only do I not know much about but one that I didn’t get to try at the event. And let me just say, they went all out on this game by creating two of the raddest looking arcade cabinets for one hell of a setup.
So how in the green fuck can I give “best in show” to a game that I’m ignorant of and I didn’t even play? Well there’s the answer, yet! I didn’t get to play it because it was just swarmed the entire show. the contrasting arcade cabinets and the pretty visuals of the game really attracted me to try Killer Queen Arcade, but there was never an opportunity. If I wasn’t running around taking in the rest of the show I probably could have got my chance after 25 minutes of waiting, but I never did. Still I wanted to and I surely missed out but from start to end that area was busy. I think they were even having tournaments on those cabinets, because the sounds of hype were strongly echoing throughout the rest of the comparatively dead -- at times -- third floor.
I even took a photo of the area at one point (below) when most of the third floor was empty, yet the crowd at the KQA area was still bumpin’. In fact, about ten minutes before they closed the third floor for the day, there was still yet a crowd participating and having a good time with this game. Amazing, this game deserves best in show for beating 24 other great indie titles by stealing the spotlight. Even Minecraft with the largest display and most space had less going on for it. Wow.
I’ve been dropping the term e-sports throughout this article with an impact like I’ve taken the world’s strongest stool hardener on the family night out to Denny’s. Indie & E-sports, you say? Well yeah, these two concepts have apparently been fooling around recently and IndieCade had a turkey baster sized sample of this at the event.
Back to that 2nd floor, the games presented were, Foiled (Unblanched Peanuts), Particle Mace (Andy Wallace), Stikbold (Reign Bros.), LAZA KNITEZ (Glitchnap), and the guide is telling me the following were Sunday’s installments: Gunsport, Anodyne*, Videoball and Nidhogg. Out of the ones I was around for however, the most entertaining was Foiled, followed by Stikbold and Particle Mace and I found LAZA to be the least entertaining. However, all of these games during competitive play shined like a car in the sun after the pigeon rapture. They were all equally hype. And during the late night festivities, the finals for these titles took place in a theater style panel room (above). The hype reached a lethal level. And as someone who has been to EVO, the world’s biggest fighting game tournament and an epicenter of hype, I can tell you that these games have the potential to be just as hype as EVO or even more so, event and room size allowing. So who knew that e-sports, on the catalog spelled eSports, and Indie games could mix so damn well?
*The paragraph on Anodyne has the subtitle “100% Speedrun”
I’m going to wrap this blog up now, as this is way too long and if anyone does end up reading this you have either the enthusiasm or the bullshit rambling tolerance of a God and I applaud you.
IndieCade was simply… amazing. Going in, I had no idea that it would have been this good. I didn’t get a chance to write about the 7pm - 10pm night festivities, called “Night Games”, but we played an assortment of physical games as well as some more video games they brought out to make up for closing the 3rd floor and exhibition area. This is when it got pretty sick, it was kind of like an Art gallery opening party, as the comedy of Hannibal Burress has informed me. Free booze and snacks and a chill atmosphere.
Unfortunately, there was really no swag or merch at this show, which was a question I had posed prior to my attendance, but that is the smallest of complaints after having gone to this event. Maybe next year they could at least make some IndieCade t-shirts or patches, but if they don’t it’s all the same to me.
I couldn't find the Ouya and hadn't the time to try an Oculus VR headset.
There was even a group playing video game inspired music in the lobby. I did not get enough time to listen to their jam but I support the inclusion of music regardless. I joked with some people that it was like a mini-MAGfest, that IndieCade really has everything. They are called, Videri String Quartet. Free endorsement, courtesy of them being awesome!
IndieCade, was full of the nicest people ever. I mean it. Generally I’ve run into at least one jerkoff at every major event I’ve gone to, but this con broke that chain. The staff were super nice about taking pictures and just talking about crap, my Spelunky bros were awesome, some dude talked to me about the game pickpocket and we had a friendly stare down over it, there were only good interactions all around. So I just want to say, if there is any chance that you can make it to IGF or IndieCade, go. Indie conventions are the best game shows out there, you will have the best time. And don’t forget to support the indies. And once again I’m sorry for rambling on like this. Thanks for reading!
IndieCade was awesome. Octodad works well on PS4. I beat Spelunky for the second time. Indie and e-sports mix well. Great vibes at this event, kind of like an art gallery opening. No swag, but free booze and snacks. Definitely a must go for anyone who gets a chance to. Support the indies!