A Winter World of Love – Indie Game Development Conference

I went to this game dev conference on Friday (http://indiegamesarcade.com/world-of-love/) and just wanted to write out some brief notes about the speakers.  Hopefully some other people out there will find this useful, especially if you couldn’t attend or need to find a website/twitter account.

Ricky Haggett and Richard Hogg – Honeyslug
http://www.honeyslug.com/
Twitter – @KommanderKlobb (Ricky Haggett)
These guys mainly talked about their upcoming game ‘Hohokum’ – you control a worm type thing and have to rescue people while their world is being invaded.  They also talked about how the game evolved into what it is today and working practises they use to get things done… also stuff on their relationship as game designers and the whole ‘good cop bad cop’ thing.

Tak Fung – Supermono
http://www.supermono-studios.com/
Twitter – @mrfungfung
Tak Fung is the developer responsible for EpicWin on the iPhone.  He spoke about his MiniSquadron game (inspired by Biplanes on the Amiga – awesome game!) which is available now on the main mobile platforms.  One of his main points was that you don’t need to sell your house or change your life to become a games developer – he managed it by contracting a few days a week and then spending the rest of his time on games projects.  He also couldn’t stress the importance of having an art director to keep his games looking good and of a consistent style.

Ella Romanos – Remode
http://www.remodestudios.com/
Twitter – @remodestudios
Ella spoke with the other founder of the company who’s name I’m afraid I can’t remember.  These guys were inspirational – straight out of uni and already doing something pretty cool.  They seemed to know what they were talking about and have produced some great looking work.  One of the main things was Mole Control – a puzzle game based on Minesweeper.

Alice Taylor – Formerly Channel 4 (now freelance I think)
http://www.wonderlandblog.com/
Twitter – @wonderlandblog
Alice talked briefly about her career history and then mainly about her new freelance project – making custom 3D character models based on avatars that people can design.  Much of the talk was about Stortroopers (http://www.stortroopers.com/) and the processes behind 3D prototyping.  Very interesting stuff especially as I’m into vinyl toys!

Sam Redfern – Dark-Wind
http://www.dark-wind.com/
Sam is a lecturer by day and a game developer by night.  He’s famous for the game Dark-Wind, which can be described as a ‘turn-based 3D persistent world multiplayer car combat’ game.  I’ve never tried it but it looks interesting to say the least!  He mainly spoke about this game and also how he managed to combine his lecturing career with Dark-Wind so that he pretty much gets paid to do what he loves – nice!

Phil Stuart – Preloaded
http://preloaded.com/
Twitter @philstuart
Phil offered a very brief and sneak peak of their upcoming game The End – a platform puzzler aimed at teens and dealing with death and religion.  Particularly interesting to me was the insight into gaming analytics and the usefulness of the information when recording users’ actions.  Phil also spoke about how they produce 3 versions of each game – a bespoke one that sits on its own game URL (for SEO reasons), another for sites like Kongregate and Newgrounds and then another for ‘pirates’ to use and virally market the game when it starts to take off.

Charlie Knight – Charlie’s Games
http://www.charliesgames.com/
Twitter – @charliesgames
Creator of Scoregasm, Bullet Candy and Space Phallus.  Charlie was interviewed by David Hayward (@nachimir)  about life in general and obviously gaming… the main thing that stuck in my head was how he loves his fans and their support/loyalty because some people pre-ordered Scoregasm 18 months ago and it’s still not finished yet.

Ian Hardingham – Mode 7
http://www.mode7games.com/
Twitter – @mode7games
The main thing discussed was the use of generative level building to dynamically create randomised levels every time Frozen Synapse is played.  Ian went through the system they use to lock key areas to certain parts of the map while allowing the spaces around it to be randomly generated.

Robert Fearon – Retro Remakes
http://www.retroremakes.com/
Twitter – @retroremakes
Basically share your code/art/sounds for projects you’ve created but abandoned… thereby helping people like Rob to use your assets and finish their own games.  One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure!

Sophie Houldon
http://sophiehoulden.com/

Twitter – @S0phieH
Use the element of surprise in your games because it builds anticipation and reduces boredom.  But don’t do it too often, and don’t make it weird because that’s just shock.  Oh… and we’re all cooler than ninjas.

Nicholas Lovell
http://www.gamesbrief.com/
Twitter – @nicholaslovell
Nicholas wrote “How to Publish a Game” which you can buy from here – http://www.gamesbrief.com/store/buy/.  He only spoke for a few minutes which was a real shame because he was an excellent speaker… except rather embarrassingly I can’t remember anything he said – oops!

That’s it – after that it was down to the pub.  Hope this information helps some people :)

My top 10 games of 2010

Everyone else seems to be doing it so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and also do my own ‘favourite games of 2010′ post.  Also just to note, these games might not necessarily have come out in 2010, but that’s when I played them… or at least I think that’s when I played them (my memory is quite bad).

Anyway here’s the list – in reverse order for maximum suspense! …

#10 : Halo Reach / Xbox 360
I wasn’t sure whether or not to include this but it won out in the end over some other games.  And don’t get me wrong, it is a great game, but not as good as it could have been I think.  The campaign is decent enough and provides more of the same action as before, but it’s multiplayer where the game excels (as usual) with it’s vast array of game types and match formats.

#9 : Osmos / iPhone
The main thing I liked about this game was the brilliant use of touch commands.  For example, touching 3 fingers on the screen opens the menu, tap 2 fingers to restart the level after you die, pinch to zoom, slide your finger to increase/decrease time, and tap once to propel forward.  All amazing stuff and so intuitive that after a few minutes you’re controlling the game without even thinking about it… just like Minority Report, but with fingers.  (The game itself is also superb by the way).

#8 : Angry Birds / iPhone
Not much to say here that you probably don’t already know – so addictive it hurts… probably because you can dip in and out of the game in a few minutes, and because you know that next time round you can do it slightly better!

#7 : Flight Control / iPhone
Gets better the longer you play it I think, especially after you learn a few ‘tricks’ to keep planes out of the way or in the air longer (i.e. making them go around in circles).  Perfect game for touch screen devices.

#6 : Fruit Ninja / iPhone
Pure genius! Awesome graphics and design, nice UI – a simple game but very addictive.

#5 : Braid / Xbox 360
A puzzle platformer where you can control time… it can get confusing but you get used to it.  I didn’t actually manage to complete this so might have to revisit it.  The quirky graphics and music make for an interesting experience.

#4 : Limbo / Xbox 360
The main thing I love about this game is the art style – monochrome with a grainy/old film effect to it.  The game itself is very short but that adds to its charm… it’s nice to sit down for a couple of hours and be captivated by a game enough to complete it in the same sitting.

#3 : New Super Mario Bros / Wii
A hard game compared to the others but still very cool – the addictive multiplayer brings this game higher up the list.  I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve not got round to playing Mario Galaxy yet, but I think (by the looks of it anyway) that it would probably rate higher than this.

#2 : Modern Warfare 2 / Xbox 360
Much preferred this to Halo Reach – more addictive, more immersive, just… more!  The level design stands out and the variety of maps/terrain makes each mission feel much more different from the last (unlike Halo where it all just seemed to blend into one).  I also enjoyed the way the game dropped into ‘cinematic’ mode every now and again – giving a little cutscene to bring the story along and develop the characters.

#1 : Super Meat Boy / Xbox 360
Now I’d probably put this down as one of the greatest games of all time let alone 2010.  Subtle nods (or not so subtle depending on how clued up you are) to other games and genres of times past are a nice touch.  The gameplay mechanic is super addictive and the fact that you can see your previous tries in a kind of ‘onion skinning’ mass suicide is pretty cool.  One thing is the game is HARD – but it’s a gamer’s game so it’s supposed to be…  and even though it’s hard you still keep hitting retry, each time finding a way to shave off a few milliseconds from your time.  Amazing game, great characters, brilliant level design and one of the most addictive game mechanics ever – wall jumping!

That’s it for the list… there are loads of really great games missing but mainly because I haven’t had time to play them yet.  It seems the games industry is taking off, especially for indie devs, meaning 2011 will be exciting times for all of us!