Today and tomorrow I'm attending the Independent Game Conference East '09, being held at Northeastern University.
I left extra early this morning to account for traffic, since I'm not used to driving in during rush hour traffic and I didn't want to be late. Turns out, the traffic only slowed a little bit, and I made it into Boston at about the usual 1 hour, so I had a little extra time to kill. I spent some of that time shooting the breeze with WPI IMGD professor Charles Rich, also in attendance. Also, upon registering, I got a T-shirt. Bonus!
The conference is basically a series of panel/lectures, divided into a business track and a technical track. The first keynote lecture was by Vlad Starzhevsky of Creat Studios, about "Challenges of Independence". It was more anecdotal about how Creat moved from pure developer to becoming their own publisher in the new digital distribution age. This was a theme I was going to hear a lot today (all these indy companies releasing their games via PSN, XBLA and WiiWare), which is fine.
I went to the technical discussion by Eitan and Ethan of Fire Hose Games, a lot of good and humurous lessons about their rapid prototyping process. Next was a large panel discussion about the ten "Really Important Things" to remember about game design. I believe the panel moderator, Linda Currie of Creat, gave a similar talk at WPI last semester. I was also surprised when I got home that Darius Kazemi had pretty much tweeted the entire lecture...that was a lot of tweets to sift through. All good things to consider, but unfortunately, like all things of that nature, it's hard to give all 10 equal billing in practice. Or maybe I just haven't had much chance to practice them yet.
After a quick burrito lunch at the Marino Center, I sat in on the business side of things. Brett Close of 38 Studios gave a talk about quality of life in the game industry, and explained how things worked at 38...making me even more disappointed I didn't get a chance to work there (yet). I stuck around for a panel discussion about managing your company's brand, but unfortunately I was starting to zone out due to a lack of sleep the previous night.
So I went over early to the setup of the Game Demo Night. A bunch of people set up their laptops and computers, and it was kind of a show-off-your-work/pitch session. Finally got to see and play a bit of Dejobaan's alpha of AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity (seriously, that's the name...which alone rates a 4 out of 5 on the awesome scale). I've never BASE-jumped, so I don't know if they're realistic controls...but I found them to be a bit sluggish. Plus, I'm sure gameplay will be a lot more interesting once all the little extra features and powerups get added. Also, if it's going to be that easy to crush all of your bones and die (pretty much after just colliding with a building), then it would be great to have a faster turnaround to get back to free-falling. Going through the menu system every time was a bit of a drag.
Another of my favorites was a game called Bumble Tales, by Tandem Games and Perfect Dork Studios. It's essentially Bejeweled, except there's added layers of collecting materials to build a town, along with a cast of characters (the Bumbles...green blobby people things) that grant combo bonuses. Now, I like Bejeweled, so this game was right up my alley, what with all the extra features and ways to do things, instead of just "click and slide". They're also awesome for giving away near-complete copies of the game. I hope this game does really well...I really enjoyed the few minutes I got to play of it.
Part Two coming tomorrow!