Boston Indie Showcase: Where everybody knows your game
In 2008, Penny-Arcade created the PAX10, a way of showing off some cool things that indie developers were doing alongside the best of the big games at PAX. For PAX East, they did things a bit differently. They made the Boston Indie Showcase, a selection of what the thriving indie community in the Boston area have to offer.
Selected for the inaugural Indie Showcase were:
Fire Hose Games (Slam Bolt Scrappers)
Dejobaan Games (AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!)
MIT Gambit Game Lab (Dearth)
MIT Gambit Game Lab (Waker)
Keith Morgado (Turba)
Marc ten Bosch (Miegakure)
I played all of them, and caught up with the developers of each of them. Here’s the evidence!
Slam Bolt Scrappers
Indie startup and nice people Fire Hose games were showing off the multiplayer of their XBLA title Slam Bolt Scrappers. It was a bit hectic, and I was really bloody good at it. Secretly I had played it once on the Friday with the some of the developers going easy on me, then I crushed some other people on their first go on Sunday. The multiplayer had four players on screen in teams of two. Enemies appear from the top of the screen, and you punch the enemies, which then turn into tetris style blocks, which you use to build towers, which in turn attack the opposing team. It works, and there really are too few same screen multiplayer games these days. I can’t to see how those mechanics work in Single Player too.
I spoke to Fire Hose’s founder and Creative Director Eitan Glinert. Sorry the sound isn’t great on this one, noisy people in the background were being noisy:
AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
Probably the most established of the developers making up the Indie Showcase, Dejobaan have been around for a while, and made waves (and broke keyboards) with their recent title AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity. I went for tea with Dejobaan head honcho Ichiro Lamb before the madness of PAX, to talk about indie games, game development, and how playing video games gives you cancer:
Of all the games that made up the indie showcase, this one was the least like a ‘proper game’, and more just the result of an experiment. I think the process that created the game, and the experimental AI that it was designed around is more interesting that just the game on it’s own. I’d suggest playing the game first, then listening to this. Click here, and either grab a friend to play coop, or play single player and see how good a job the AI does in the role of sidekick. I spoke to Andrew Grant, who is technical director at MIT Gambit lab, who lead the project that ended up being Dearth.
Another MIT game, this is a educational game that pretends to not be, shhh, don’t let the kids know. It’s a very clever way of teaching about speed, distance and acceleration, and how they are connected. It is a puzzle platformer, and I won’t spoil the puzzles, you go play it for yourself here. I spoke to Sara Werrilli, development director at MIT, who lead the project. She talks about how the game came about as part of Singapore-MITs summer program, and what the goals were:
An interesting take on the “use your own music to make a game” genre. This is a puzzle game that you plug MP3s into, and it creates a match three game where the puzzle design and scoring react directly to the audio. You have to match 3 or more connecting blocks of the same colour, and the score you get for them is in some part determined by how prominent the element of the song is at any given time. So in practise, you might select three blocks, and a score appears on each block, which is changing in realtime with what is going on in the song. It’s pretty cool.
I spoke to Keith Morgado, and he spoke about the game, and why he’s glad Penny-Arcade decided to keep it local. Since recording the Interview, he announced a release date, the 3rd April (This Saturday):
This game is a little bit harder to explain than it is to play. It’s pretty hard to play.
It is a 4D puzzle platformer. The player has the ability to swap between different spatial dimensions, and can move objects between them. The puzzles are nice and simple at first, very gently teaching you the rules, and showing you some of the clever things that you can do using the dimension swap. I was doing pretty well, but then when I tried the harder levels (apparently the hardest in the game) I really struggled. I can’t wait to play the final release of this, it’s very clever, and from what I have played already it is a very interesting design.
I spoke to the creator of the game, Marc Ten Bosch, both before and after playing it. The pauses are us chewing:
That’s the Indie Showcase, a brilliant selection of what the Boston indie community has to offer. For more of my PAX coverage, click this useful link.