Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Utah Indie Night, January 2014

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 30, 2014

The first Utah Indie meet-up for 2014 was held at the Wahoo / NinjaBee offices. This is the first time I’ve been able to attend at their offices since they moved to new ones. (Long-time readers may remember that I used to work for them).

Spencer Buchanan started out the evening (once pizza was obtained) with a talk on mHealth and games. He – and other game developers – have been teaming up with doctors and nurse practitioners to create games to help people learn about and cope with serious health problems. It’s a pretty interesting new way to partner up with an industry, gain distribution opportunities, and help people, all at once.  He talked about the benefits as well as the pitfalls, particularly working with some doctors who know a lot about medicine but not a lot about game design, other than having grown up playing video games.

It was a great talk, not that I’m considering making games for the healthcare industry, but for other elements it brought to light, and suggesting some areas where gaming can go to provide education as well as entertainment, and how partnering with industry partners can increase distribution and visibility.

And that underscored what may have been two themes I heard repeatedly over the evening from various attendees:

1. Discoverability is now king

2. Kickstarter FEVAH!

We had lots of discussion about some other things, like VR technology, SteamOS, the Ouya, etc. But those two themes kept popping up. In a nutshell – the whole report about how the cost of acquiring new users in mobile gaming exceeding the amount they will ever pay has really shaken up the biz. Mobile gaming is desperately overcrowded now, and the quality of the game now has very little to do with its popularity. And on the crowdfunding front – it seems everybody and their cousin has plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign now. It’s The Thing.

I should note that the contrarian in me sez that when this has happened, the boom is fixin’ to bust.

I showed my WIP (which should be done in another evening or so) for the One Game a Month and Candy Jam entry. It’s dumb but amusing. It was really a tiny project I used to learn Game Maker which I actually turned into a complete and themed game. It’s not going to set the world on fire.

I played Califer Games new puzzle-based title, Spirits of Elduurn, which was a very interesting twist on the ideas and universe of Siphon Spirit. It’s kind of a yin / yang thing… you control dual linked spirits with the same controls, but they have different abilities and respond to the environment differently. The first minute I played, I was thinking, “WTF?” The next minute, I was thinking, “Oh, this is kinda clever.” The next several minutes I had totally fallen out of critical thinking mode and was trying to figure out how to beat each level. I think it may be the most intriguing game Peter Anderson and Curtis Mirci have done yet.

sagaheroes4The only other game I played (and I played a lot of it) was Eric Wiggins’ “Saga Heroes,” based on the world of Saga (which I worked on back when I worked at NinjaBee). Eric has actually been maintaining that MMORTS solo for the last several years, and knows what he’s doing. And yes, he’s planning a Kickstarter. And yes, in spite of my Kickstarter grumbling, he’s an old friend and coworker with a track record, so *yes* I will be talking about it. While the game is currently a little rough around the edges, it’s kinda of a Zelda-Meets-Diablo thing which is really kinda cool. And it’s for the Ouya, which needs more good games.

Most of my night was spent just chatting and chillin’ with friends new and old, talking about games (and TV shows), swapping stories, sharing advice, etc.  Even as some of the discussion revolved around how much harder it is to get noticed and sell games, it was pretty motivational for me.  Sometimes that feels like the truest benefit of these meet-ups: You get motivated to make your game ‘ready to show’ for indie night, and then you come away with an enthusiasm to work harder and make great games.

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