Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Utah Indie Night, Summer 2010

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 30, 2010

On Thursday evening we had our quarterly Utah Indie Night, held at ITT Tech. It was probably our most lightly attended indie night we’ve had since the very first year.  Maybe it’s because Greg announced there’d be no pizza this time. Tight budgets at ITT these days…

Mike Rubin of Orange River Studio, who continues development on Vesper 3D, kicked off the evening with an encore presentation of the talk he gave at GDC Austin last year entitled, “Game Design Innovations in Interactive Fiction.” The talk went long, which may have irritated ;some folks, but I was fascinated.

His emphasis was on improving storytelling in games – yes, the Holy Grail. He cited several mainstream games praised for their storytelling (Half Life 2, Final Fantasy VII, Dreamfall, Deus Ex, and Fallout), and noted some very character-focused indie games that have experimented with storytelling technique (Braid, Façade,and The Path). He didn’t have much to say about these, as the talk was concerned with the innovations in Interactive Fiction. But he wanted to note some of the crossover potential, even as he acknowledged the difficulties in taking these innovations from the Interactive Fiction (aka “Text Adventure”) realm into other game genres – a problem he is all too familiar with in his 3D remake of the award winning IF Vespers.

He focused on advances that have been made to provide better text-based interfaces with Interactive Fiction, creating more believable characters,  and providing meaningful choices.  He cited the innovations  in several games (which, if they weren’t exactly THE original innovator, did a fantastic job of highlighting it).

Blue Lacuna: It provides an even simpler / smarter parser for beginners with highlighted words, simple keyword entry, and keywords that expire to provide a more organic conversation. Also, the game is just amazingly huge and flexible, with far-reaching reactions to player choice. Also, the game is likely the largest work of Interactive Fiction ever created.

Blighted Isle: Also included hyperlinks and topic suggestions for players.

Varicella: A “disturbing” IF work that experimented with the use of emotional modifiers (voice tones)  when dealing with NPCs.

Galatea: Multilinear conversation with states, tracking past conversation options, and past actions / conversations modify current responses.

Alabaster: Expanded a lot upon Galatea, including even more advanced conversation handling with multiple kinds of quip priorities, random elements mixed into conversations to vary responses about the same topic, and the NPC will notice and remark on repetition of topics.

De Baron (The Baron): Another highly disturbing game (I’m told), De Baron is a short game which includes not only moral dilemmas, but asks multiple choice questions to query the player on their motivations behind those choices.

After Rubin’s talk, we broke out into the game demos.  Games included:

Tile Factory: A puzzle game by Jonathan Duerig (I hope I spelled his name right), this was actually a pretty clever Flash title where you make a factory to mass-produce a tile matching your goal.

Flexitris: A Tetris (ish) game with dozens of different selectable rules permutations. You can check this one out at Flexitris.com.

The Game Formerly Known as Zombie Defense: It no longer involves zombies, but instead includes a cute anime girl. But it’s still a tower defense game in development.

Gost: A very simple experiment by Josh Jones, it’s basically a game of figuring out what to do.

There were also the very valuable discussions taking place throughout the meeting which were generally at least peripherally associated with games and indie-dom.

Filed Under: Adventure Games, Utah Indie Game Night - Comments: Read the First Comment