03/05/2013

I Hope Me Drunkenly Explaining To Portuguese Lara Croft How Much I Love Chie From Persona 4 NEVER Shows Up On YouTube

by Matthew Hawkins

Five days into March already and I still haven’t finished covering February. Anyway, after Toy Fair, you had…

IndieCade East

IndieCade, aka “the video game word’s equivalent to Sundance” is something I’ve long wanted to witness firsthand. Unfortunately, making it out to California has always been on the difficult side for me. Hell, I have yet to even attend E3.

Though you better believe it when I say that I’ll be in town for the LA Game Space opening shindig! Plus a trip to Los Angeles is now officially overdue, now that I have so many friends who live there; sup Lamar. Which is why, when I heard that IndieCade was happening in NYC, I was beyond stoked. And the final verdict? Well… I always try to be kind when it comes to anything’s first time.

More than anything else, the extremely healthy turnout for the very first IndieCade East, despite relatively little to almost zero advertising, is a testament to how thriving the world of indie video games is here in the Big Apple. And how hose who are directly involved, along with others who are simply on the other side of the fence, are both eager for the chance to learn from each other.

IndieCade East was a three day affair that took place at the Museum of Moving Image, which is without question one of the most underrated institutions in the entire city (though I’ve yet to fully forgive them for their retrospective of New York City cable access from two years ago, which was a bit an epic fail as they come). Alas, due to my schedule, I was only able to go Saturday and Sunday.

My primary goal on day one was to catch Kris‘s keynote. Though equally high on my list was to check out was the game jam, and that’s what I hit first…

Various teams were all busying putting stuff together with the PlayStation Mobile SDK; Sony was the sponsor. Among the familiar faces was Team Donut Goku, aka Emmett and Diego, the duo behind Heads Up! Hot Dogs, plus their gal pal Nina. Here’s what their game was looking like at that point, day two…

You controlled this cute little pink robot who had to plant one of two different flowers, per instructions from a computer. The flora would grow automatically and I think you had to perform actions to keep things under control, though it wasn’t clear what.

Team Donut Goku were still trying to figure stuff out, like all the other teams, but it was beyond super cute and I had high hopes that they’d win the grand prize! At any rate, I wasn’t the one who was impressed…

Elsewhere you had a showcase of games from past IndieCades. Including Dyad, Hokra, and Splice

You also had Bloop, which I never got the chance to try out, though everyone else seemed to enjoy it…

Was delighted to finally experience Thirty Flights of Loving. Though, I believe the PC that was running it was overheating, or perhaps I encountered a bug, because my character at one point picked up an orange that he wasn’t supposed to. Didn’t know that, so I spent all this time offering it to various characters with zero effect…

One of the star attractions of the weekend was the Oculus Rift, which I had already test driven at CES (actually, I wanted another go, but the line was always too damn long). So instead, I checked out the Ouya. Long story short: it seriously sports the most comfortable controller ever. Even beating out the GameCube’s!

Eventually it was finally time for the aforementioned keynote. It was basically Kris detailing CAPY’s “hidden history”, the days before Critter Crunch, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, and Sword & Sworcery, which was a long and winding road to put it mildly…

Before those aforementioned games, which everyone knows and loves, put the studio on the map, there were countless others that have long been forgotten. The presentation was a fascinating and detailed look back at CAPY’s early, awkward steps towards future greatness…

Most intriguing of all were the games that CAPY has willingly chosen to forget about themselves…

Equally fascinating was hearing about the epiphany that Kris had, which came at a time in which CAPY was barely about to stay afloat. And as a consequence, was struggling to find itself…

Fun-fact: GDC 2008 was where I first met CAPY. I was one of the judges for IGF Mobile, its very first year, which has since been dissolved and incorporated into the rest of the IGF. I remember playing Critter Crunch on a BREW (or was it J2ME?) handset and how it was my top pick of mobile game of the year. Then later meeting Nathan on the show floor; I wouldn’t become pals with Kris till some time after…

Unfortunately, at this point was when Kris was told to wrap it up, even though he had a LOT left to go through. Given how much work he had put into his presentation, it was both heartbreaking and downright annoying. These last couple were flashed super fast like…

The reason why I haven’t gone crazy with the details (and I did take some fairly extensive notes) is because I’m mostly hoping Kris will re-tell his story, over at Attract Mode! Because I’m dying to know how it all ends.

But yeah, the keynote flub was definitely a huge disappointment. Unfortunately, the evening was far from over; afterwards was Night Games, which again was again designed to showcase past IndieCade offerings, with the key distinction here being that they were mostly party games.

First you had Roaming Gnomes, which required 30 players, all working together in teams. It just seemed so complicated and way too involved, which scared everyone away; people at that point just wanted to scope things out, and not become immediately tied down to the first thing they had stumbled across. Was told that not a single session actually took place all evening…

Searchlight definitely seemed cool. Unfortunately, it never got up and running due to some kind of malfunction…

Next you had Yamove, which again, was unplayable due to technical difficulties. I was fortunate enough to be given a complimentary press pass, and to be totally honest, if I had instead paid to attend Night Games (which required its own entrance fee, separate from the rest of the show), I probably would have been hella pissed since half the games were not working.

There was actually one game that was running just smoothly, or so I heard: Renga, which was in one of the theaters. But because so many other games were not functional… and because they only allowed a single session… was never able to give it a shot. Frustrating to say the least.

So to kill time, I went upstairs, where a separate video game exhibition was taking place. One that spanned a wide variety of software and hardware. On the plus side was the messed up Star Wars Arcadde game, which as noted previously, looked a lot like Rez! Still, would have been nice to have the real thing showcased, instead of of its limp-dicked sequel…

Thankfully, the IndieCade showcase was still up and running. Those who were unable to get a piece of Roaming Gnomes, Searchlight, Yamove, or Renga had at least BaraBariBall to keep them occupied…

Actually, there were two Night Games that one could actually partake in, and with no fuss or muss. First, Rakete, which again required a large groupe of people, to control a single space ship (but its theater was somewhat easy to miss, hence why it was never at capacity)…

And Hit Me!, which is all about trying to slap the button on the other person’s helmet, while also maintaining eye contact. Basically required two friends who secretly have beefs with each other that they can draw upon…

So yeah, Night Games, kind of a bust. Though, as bad I felt for those who had paid to get in, I felt ten times worse for those who games were on hand and which were not played, regardless of the reasons.

The highlight of the next day, the last day to be exact, was all the game jam game makers showing off their blood, sweat, and tears (plus lack of sleep) from the previous 48 hours. And there some really good stuff! Like Don’t Wake the Bear by Team Backpedal Games; it’s a party game in which you try to apply silly crap on a sleeping bear, in hopes of not waking him up. Imagine hot potato, but using a PlayStation Vita…

BTW, that’s not some weird filter I’m using; there was even technical difficulties during the jam showcase. Sometimes the projected image would be all pink, or there would be no sound. You couldn’t help but feel horrible for the teams who had busted their asses to produce the best game possible in such a short time frame, only to have the big reveal be totally ruined, and in such a lame manner.

Moving on: another favorite was Team Donut Goku’s final product from the jam, which had become decidedly more sophisticated since I last saw it, like the addition of variable weather and new goals …

Quite a few games were made that weekend, some better than others, though overall, the quality was excellent for any game jam (which can be super hit or miss). Not only was time a huge hurdle for everyone, but so was the PSMobile SDK itself, which apparently was a real pain in the ass to use. In the end, four games were chosen as semi-finalists; the grand prize would not only be published by Sony, but the team would have a Vita license for an entire year!

Hence why I wanted Team Donut Goku to win; not just because I felt they deserved to, but so I could then try to convince them to do a port of JizzMoppa. Alas, they did not make the final four, nor was I thrilled with many of the choices. At least Team Backpedal Games nabbed a slot, which counts for something.

Anyways, that was IndieCade East 2013. By no means a perfect weekend, though as already noted, the most important thing is how people came out to show support for such a thing, and who thankfully were forgiving enough to not mind the rough edges. But next time might be a different story; hopefully the event organizers will take the necessary steps to iron them out for IndieCade East 2014, which I’m already willing to wager will indeed be bigger and better.

PlayStation 4

I was indeed present for the big PlayStation 4 “unveil”. And there’s honestly not a whole lot to say that hasn’t been said already. But still…

- The level of excitement amongst game journalists leading up to the event is hard describe. Once it had sunk in that Sony was actually going to introduce to the world the PlayStation 4 in February and in New York City (hey, I believed it too), everyone went bonkers. Equally hard to properly articulate was the precise moment after the show was over; the sense of deflation in the Hammerstein Ballroom was deafening. I remember this one reporter, who sat right next to me going: “That’s it? That’s seriously it?! They’re not even going to show the damn system?!?!” Was kind of hilarious.

- Going back, starting from the top actually: it was a real thrill seeing Mark Cerny and David Perry in the flesh and on stage, two men whose work I greatly admire. The former not only made Marble Madness when he was just 18, but we would go on to helm Sonic 2 and basically had a hand in every major first/second party platformer for Sony; Crash, Jak & Daxter, Spyro, Ratchet & Clank. And the later made some of my fave Genesis games, like Cool Spot, Aladdin, plus Earthworm Jim. Too bad they were basically trotted out on Sony’s behalf to apologize to developers, for making the PS3 so god damn hard to make games for.

- Like many folks, I’m less than thrilled with Sony’s insistence that people’s online identities become more transparent. Does everything have to be connected to Facebook? That being said, I can’t figure out who is who on my PS3/Vita buddy list (for whatever reasons, people who are usually consistent with their online personas all went with some wacky other name on PSN). Though I mostly found it hilarious how, later on in the evening, we got two separate game demos (Infamous: Second Son and Watch Dogs) that are all about the evils of Big Brother.

- The idea of steaming your PS3 library, in leu of hardware driven backwards compatibility, is intriguing. As is the idea of also having PSone & PS2 games available in the same manner. But most figure that Sony will not be able to effectively determine which old games you already own, and henceforth simply charge for everything all over again (just like Nintendo). Though considering how Sony is unable to give me a steady enough connection to watch old episodes of Next Gen, or how a modest 15 meg update takes seriously an hour to download, I have zero confidence, and therefore interest, in their next-gen online initiative.

- Of all the people to hit the stage, I was most excited to see Jonathan Blow, even more so than Cerny and Perry. Hey, I can’t stand almost anything that comes out of his mouth, but the guy knows how to make a good game. The Witness got me the most excited that evening. Swear to God, I’ve watched the trailer on YouTube about 50 times now, easily (and am now a fan of the Mediæval Bæbes, who did the song).

- Conversely, no one pissed me off more than David Cage. Christ that guy is such a douche; I’m so sick of his embarrassment with the medium of games. The dude desperately wants to makes movies, and since he clearly could never cut it in Hollywood, we’re stuck with him as a result. Splendid.

- I wasn’t there at E3 when Nintendo gave everyone in the attendance douchechills with their Wii Music demo, but I imagine it being awfully close to the sensation everyone felt with the Media Molecule/PlayStation Move demo.

- I seriously can’t believe that there was no Gran Turismo 6. But even more shocking was the total lack of the KOJIMA!

- Thoughts on the PS4′s controller? I’m cool with it. Nice to see that Sony didn’t do away with the venerable Dual Shock design, much like when they tried with the PS3. The boomerang, anyone?

- Thoughts on the PS4 console being a total no show? lulz. And what do I think it’ll look like? I’m with Cory:
“it will probably be a black rectangle.”

- Thing wrapped up with another look at the highly anticipated Watch Dogs, and it finally dawn on me that there is absolutely no way the final product can ever live up to the hype. Basically, it’s your typical Boobisoft game!

… But seriously, what were people expecting? Did they honestly believe that Sony would give ALL the goods? Of course not; the holidays are still far away, plus they need to hold back at least something for E3. Still, many of the reporters I spoke with were pissed, mostly the ones from out of town, who had to go through the hassles of securing a ticket, then booking a flight, hotel, and so on. Many stated that they wished that they had just stayed at home and watched the livestream.

Afterwards was the cocktail hour, filled with frazzled journalists trying their best to make a story out of nothing (there was zero developers in sight; they were all at a separate shindig, which is somewhat telling of Sony). Hence why everyone interviewed each other; I think I’m in like three different wrap-ups. Though without question the biggest highlight of the entire evening was when some girl from Portugal who was dressed up as Lara Croft. She had a camera guy with her, and when wanted to know if she could ask me a question.

I figured it would again be what I thought of the PS4′s future. Instead she asked who I thought was the hottest video game girl. And my answer? Chie Satonaka of course. And because I was so piss drunk at the time, I went extra in depth, to the point that I believe Lara was taken aback. Either that or perhaps I was supposed to say Lara and didn’t follow the script. Anyhow, perhaps one day it’ll show up on YouTube? I hope to God not.

  • http://albotas.com/ brownkidd

    Dang. I missed out. I basically just walked circles around that main white room with all the games and occasionally peeked in on gamejam people. It was hard to not feel like I was bothering them. Hopefully next year will be better if it happens at all.

    • http://www.fort90.com/journal/ fort90

      I understand the hesitation, but from my experience, almost everyone at such things are dying to share information. Besides, I think they are told in advance that there will be reporters, interested in know what they’re doing and who they are.

      And I’m pretty sure that IndieCade East will back, with all the lessons learned from its debut.

  • http://twitter.com/krispiotrowski kris piotrowski

    Thanks for the nice write-up, Matt!

    I’m doing Take 2 of my Dark Days talk at GDC, so I’ll be releasing slides / details / of that version of the presentation. I’m just gonna go ahead and assume it’ll go smoother:)

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  • Pete Vigeant

    Actually, Roaming Gnomes had two full sessions :-)

    The instructions did have to be simplified for the second round, however.

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