Christmas Comes Early

by Matthew Hawkins

In this post:
1. A few notes from the past few days, plus pics of an indie arcade opening!
2. Xmas presents and some heads up!

Again, a crazy past couple of days.

- Monday night was the IGDA NY/NJ holiday party, which offered the chance to catch up with my game dev peeps, some of which I hadn’t seen in ages. Including Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye fame, and for those who missed the mention over at GSW a few days ago, the dude’s entire catalogue is half off till the end of this month. If you’re looking for that perfect Christmas present, especially for that special someone that’s a big fan of Monkey Island and the like, there ya go. Plus 10% of the proceeds is going to charity, so you’ll also be helping some sick kids, all by buying some video games!

Anyhow, additional highlights… without getting into specifics, since it was an industry-type affair you know… include chatting with a fellow that’s working on games for the Ovi marketplace (that’s Nokia’s version of the Apple App Store, and it was just nice to talk to someone who isn’t doing an iPhone/iPod Touch title, cuz that’s what EVERYONE is working on these days), playing around with a soon to be released DSiWare title, and hearing about some kind of performance art/live action video game spectacle that I’m actually hoping to take part it when things hit the play-testing phase! Also asked around for possible floor space this upcoming March; did I mention last time that I’m heading back to San Fran for Game Developers Conference 2010? Got my press invite and everything!

And the following evening was spent hanging with Simon, who was in town with some pals of his for a quick holiday getaway. Again, mostly just shot the sh*t about work stuff, as well as the wacky world of indie gaming. Also, MMA! I’m just happy that I finally got the chance to pass along the second fort90zine, mostly since it’s feature story was originally a GSW deal, so I owe the guy quite a lot! And speaking of the zine, as noted previously, the third issue is coming along full-steam ahead, though things have kicked up a notch in the past few days alone. My God, wait till you see the cover, it’s gonna be AMAZING.

- Well, as most everyone knows, Blip Fest 09 finally kicks off later this evening, but the party actually got started last night with a couple of pre-show events; an open mic at The Tank and an indie arcade opening at Babycastles. Their second one actually; the first was for when Cactus and Messhoff were in town, but since Joe Salina and I were not able to attend that one, plus the space is just a few blocks away from his apartment, the latter was chosen.

Also, I really wanted to check out that Korean place, also nearby, for dinner, but because I got held up with work, plus dealing out my camera situation (for the past couple of days I’ve been desperately searching for a photographer to help out with my coverage of the festival; in the end, simply borrowed one of Vincent‘s cameras), we simply got burritos around the corner instead. At least that gave us a few minutes to spare, which I used to check out Mushihime-sama Futari’s Black Label mode. As also mentioned before, been hesitant on downloading it on my own end, due to the aforementioned stuttering issues. Was actually not that bad, just hiccupped once for me, but as Joe astutely pointed out and knowing my luck, it’ll happen every 5 seconds at home, so I’ll just wait till Cave releases a patch or something. Also got the chance to play it with a proper controller, and dear God did it feel like heaven with a joystick. Though more on that in just a bit…

Like I said, borrowed a camera for the upcoming weekend and Babycastles was a chance to test-drive the thing. Hence why the following came out far nicer than what one might have come to expect! First off, here we have a table filled with folks busying creating their own chipmusic devices…

As you can see, one guy was using a Jiffy Box as a circuit! And re: the one using a VHS plastic shell, too bad it wasn’t Circuitry Man, but still cool nonetheless.

Next we have Little-Scale, a chiptunes dude from Australia…

His set-up included both a modified Master System and Mega Drive (Sega Genesis). Which needless to say, impressed the f*ck out of me…

He has several more back home, all personally modified by himself. Not surprisingly, the best model to mod is the first iteration of the hardware, in which audio is sourced directly from the headphone jack for the cleanest sound. He also had what everyone assumed to be a Tenori-On upon first glance. But upon closer inspection, wasn’t!

I think the original plan was for Little-Scale to take everyone’s creations from the soldering workshop and mix them all together for some kind of DJ set, but he had to run before they were done (I believe he went to The Tank to check that scene out). Anyway, here we have some random pile of electronics. It was actually all over the place…

Ended up striking a conversation with one of the dudes that curates the place, who happens to be a member of Loud Objects. Jokingly explained to him that I was one of the folks who simply did not understand what they were trying to do at Blip Fest a few years ago, but might have been more into things if there was an explanation or something. Dude was really good about it, and I ended up making lots of suggestions that he liked, but since there was no pen or paper to pass along contact info, I simply scribbled my email address on the chalkboard nearby…

The star attraction was, of course, the indie arcade; finally got the chance to check out Jottobots, that game featuring the art of J.otto Seibold and which was all the rage earlier this year that the Giant Robot/Attract Mode show!

Fractal Fighters was also quite awesome…

Then you had Tiny Platypus Pimps, which I had never seen or heard of before…

Basically you’re a platypus and the object of the game is buy drugs without getting caught by the cops…

And what does one do with said illicit substances? You use it to have sex with hookers of course!

Canabalt was there, and not surprisingly, quite popular. For whatever reason, a fly showed up…

Where do insects go to die? Indie arcades it would seem. Anyway, the evening wrapped with a few words from the creator of Canabalt himself, Adam Atomic…

He shared some pearls of wisdom, including how:

1. His main mission is to create stuff that can be played and enjoyed by everybody, since the audience is becoming larger and wider. He’s actually quite proud that folks who have little to zero prior experience with gaming were able to immediately figure things out and get right into the action.

2. Whenever creating any title, he first comes up with this massive (and often super dense) narrative and then decides to focus on one tiny aspect, the most interesting part in his mind, but doesn’t bother to tell anyone the rest of the story. With the assumption that not only will folks figure the rest out themselves, but will more than likely come up with something far better.

3. The animation is an homage to Out Of This World/Another World and Flashback. How many frames is the run cycle? 32, which elicited a “Smooth!” reaction from one guy in the audience. Adam claimed that it was actually quite easy to take the original 16 or so and simply expand upon it, mostly since there’s only like two colors to play with.

- Soon thereafter it was time to go home. Katie and I decided to exchange Christmas presents early! Guess what I got?

At long last, arcade sticks. And what perfect timing; the only downside to playing Futari earlier that evening was the feeling that it just wasn’t going to be the same/nearly as fun back home. They’re actually Dave Mauro’s, which he no longer needed, since he’s got the Astro Cities and all. Which also means they’ve been expertly modded and in finely tuned shape. Yay!

As for what I got Katie, some books from Japan featuring cats; one is simply called BAD CAT and features countless pics of cats acting all crazy, and the other is all about Maru, otherwise known as that YouTube bag cat. Can’t wait to dig into the enclosed DVD!

Oh, this also finally arrived…

Was it worth the wait? She’s still not Chie, but good enough. And believe it or not, Rise represents my last animu chick in plastic. Will concentrate on robots and shump ships from this point forward. Which should be music to Katie’s ears! Actually, that’s a lie; I did just purchase something from this, though I won’t say what! I also have my eyes on that new Samus Aran Zero Suit statue that recently came out.

BTW, in case anyone is interested, I’m getting rid of one of my Sky Girls.

… Alright, need to get ready for tonight. And for those who can’t come out tonight, remember, you can listen to the whole thing via webstream courtesy of WFMU! And expect my full report the following Sunday and Monday.

Plus, be sure to stop by Heavy, where there’s gonna be a slew of BEST X OF THE DECADE articles sometime soon, with a number of game related ones by yours truly. Till then!

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