Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Utah Indie Night – March 2012

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 30, 2012

The Utah Indie Night went bi-monthly instead of quarterly a few months ago. On top of that, the venues have changed considerably. It’s kept things interesting, but it’s also brought us new members each time. This month’s Utah Indie Night took place in the Entertainment Arts & Engineering lab in the Film and Media Arts building at the University of Utah. It was a new venue for us, and worked pretty well.

Lately, the formal presentation side of things – which was always supposed to be short (20 – 30 minutes) – has been going way into overtime. Way, way into overtime. To the point where people just assume it will be an hour long and pray it doesn’t go longer. Some of the regulars got together (well, via email) and decided we’d start clamping down on that and really enforcing the time limits. Greg Squire, founder and organizer of the event, decided he’d lead by example and became the first presenter to be subject to the hard time limits. In all honesty, I wish he’d taken more time, but that’s just me. His presentation was on building an arcade cabinet system (for a MAME machine or whatnot). Not exactly game development related, but it’s one of those things that’s just cool. And besides, indies are finding opportunities to be available in arcade-style machines nowadays, too, and it doesn’t hurt to make one’s game – if appropriate – compatible with this kind of set-up.

But mostly it was just fun. He brought in his control panel, and people had a lot of fun during the evening playing games via the arcade-style controls.

There weren’t a ton of games on display, but the ones available seemed to be pretty dang cool. We’ve got a lot of talent in our local area, apparently.

First off, Califer Games’ March to the Moon. I’ve talked about this one before. It’s almost done.  Curtis is readying it for release. It’s a silly, goofy shooter with RPG elements that is just straight-up fun.

Heroes of Hat is a student project at the U of U – a cooperative 4-player platformer where your bird-like characters acquire skills by acquiring hats. You can switch the hat you wear at any time, which changes your actions. The idea seems to be that you will need to work together, using your different special abilities, to navigate the mushroom-filled environment.

Curse of Shadows, by indie team One Block East, had another intriguing concept. It’s a 2D side-scrolling stealth-based platformer. Your character can stun guards or other enemies from behind, but only from behind. Besides jumping, when your character is inside a pool of light and can cast a shadow, you can go into ‘shadow mode’ – entering the world of shadows – which allows you to bypass some obstacles or interact with the shadow world in different ways. In one early example, there’s a rope or bridge that cannot support your weight. But by entering the shadow world, your shadow can walk across the shadow of the rope just fine, as shadows weigh nothing. When your shadow exits a light pool, you automatically return to the real world. There are bull-like monsters that only exist in the shadow world as well, which will kill you on contact when you are in shadow mode. In the ‘real world,’ these creatures are barely visible as a disturbance in the air, and are completely harmless.

Tower Game, by Jordan Tower, is an interesting twist on the side-scroller platform game. It’s a port of a game he originally did in Java, now ported to Unity.  It is still a work in progress, but he’s basically mapped a 2D platformer on a 3D cylinder… so instead of just going left and right, you are actually going around a spiral. He plans some interesting additional mechanics based on this context, such as being able to go inside the tower.

Ruins of Bufana, by John Moore, is a fun work-in-progress. The name of the game,too, is a stand-in: Bufana stands for “BUll***t FAntasy NAme.” It is a platform-style puzzle game, taking place on a non-scrolling screen. And it’s nasty-hard.  It’s one of those games that allows you to reset the screen by committing suicide. You have throwing stars and a sword to use against (some) giant slugs, but a lot of the game involves very precise jumping and air-control as you navigate walls and floors covered with spikes, triggering moving panels and doors, etc. It’s a cool game. He kept assuring players, after multiple deadly failures, “It CAN be done, I promise!”

Tank Raige, by Pheenix Game Studios, is actually a port-in-process of a 3D networked tank combat game from Game Maker (where the creator assured us that he was hitting the top end of the capabilities of that system).  I didn’t play the game, so I can’t tell you much more about it.

Bullet Train Hell, by Chris Tart –  Running on both PC and mobile, this is a brilliant polished little indie gem that has improved significantly from it’s previous version seen at the last indie night.  It’s another single-screen puzzle platformer. It’s also very challenging (I repeatedly told Chris that he was an evil game designer), but from what I played it felt pretty ‘fair,’ not cheap, in its challenge. You are riding a bullet train (ostensibly), which means that you are constantly being ‘pushed’ to the left of the screen due to the wind. This means movement speed to the right – running or jumping – is slow, while moving to the left is much faster (and you can jump much further).  There are only three controls – a deliberate choice, as Tart’s claim is that four-position ‘virtual d-pads’ on the touch-screens of smartphones tend to be crap to control. So the controls (aside from the menu) are simply left, right, and jump. But then the environment is full of triggers, and you can apparently do things like have boxes bounce off you (once they land on the floor, they are stationary) and so forth. Anyway, it’s a challenging little game, but way cool and polished at this point. Watch for it!

As usual, the discussions were fun, with indies and aspiring indies talking about their mutual love of games, networking, and shared information about the latest goings-on in game development. I always leave these meetings inspired, and this was no exception.


(Update: Changed the date to reflect the fact that we experienced a new year quite a few weeks ago)

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

  • slenkar said,

    Who is your daddy and what does he do?