Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Utah Indie Night, July 2013

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 31, 2013

We had our bi-monthly indie game developer meet-up last night at the University of Utah, courtesy of the Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) program.

The formal presentation for the evening was by Lyle Cox, who spoke about increasing intrinsic motivation in games. Boiling the talk down to what I think was its essence, intrinsic motivation comes down to self-motivation to play a game – the desire to create, achieve mastery, explore, or to interact socially (where any of this may be “real” or illusionary). Extrinsic motivations – which studies have shown can actually decrease intrinsic motivation – consists of external rewards or systems. The most egregious are things like achievements. RPG mechanics were also pretty high on his list for offending extrinsic motivations.

While his talk provided food for thought, and providing opportunities for players to engage with their intrinsic motivations should be an important aspect of game design, I’m not entirely convinced as to the applicability (or the negatives of extrinsic motivation) within the context of games. Some of the confusion in the audience Q&A reflected this. The problem is the dividing line between player and their in-game character – their real-life experience versus the virtual experience of the game. For a player who is heavily engaged at an emotional level and “immersed” in the game, the intrinsic motivations within the game context can become (IMO) intrinsic motivations for the player. But without that, most of the game systems are extrinsic – you are simply making progress.

Anyway, if nothing else, it was thought-provoking. And that’s the point, right?

I only played a few of the games that were being shared. Again, I like spending half the time talking to friends. Curtis Mirci showed me his level editor for Siphon Spirit, and it’s pretty cool. I think Curtis inadvertently  reminded me of a truth to me about demoing level editors – or editing tools in general. It’s not the tool itself that is cool, but what you can do with it.  While I was clear he’d put a lot of effort into it, and I was amazed by the array of controls that could make vary the look and gameplay of a level, the truly exciting part was hitting the button to test it. Then, suddenly, things became far more interesting, and I discovered a bunch of “can you do X?” questions.

Chris Tart’s Bullet Train Hell was on display again… and while it didn’t occur to me at the time, I believe I saw it was running on a PC. A new version of the game?

Darius Ouderkirk had an untitled turn-based space combat game on display. While I was at first reminded of Flotilla, it looked like he was pushing more along the lines of a Wing Commander Privateer or something, as a continuous campaign. It’s not a 4x game, or is at least missing the “exploit” element. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

Brad (I forget his last name – sorry!) of Rainblade Studios had a game for handhelds called Equalize. It’s a math-based game, but only depends on basic arithmetic skills. I’m not sure I’d call it “educational” except for younger kids. The idea is to drop blocks with numbers such that the values of a row all sum up to a particular value. And yeah, the idea of adding numbers together does sound a lot like work, but the game is actually pretty fun.

Herb Flowers was showing off the latest dungeon in LinkRealms, a new area scheduled to be released on their servers in a week or so.

There was an iPad-based game called “Monster Pet Peeve” or something along those lines… I can’t remember for sure… that was a monster fighting game played on multiple iPads. The cool thing is that the tablets can be placed next to each other and the monster fight can move across the gap between them as one larger battlefield.

And that was probably a little under half of the games showing this month. If you spend ten minutes on a game (and talking to someone about it), then you only have about six games you can check out in the course of an hour – at which time some people start packing things up.

Oh – Paige of Tripleslash Studios also spoke briefly about having something along the lines of Utah Indie Night, but for the general public to see the indie games rather than just other developers. He was talking about having it in a month or two, so I’ll try and keep folks posted if any Utah denizens are interested in showing their new and upcoming games, or having a chance to come and play.

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  • Spencer L (X'erron) said,

    I think I overheard Chris saying that he added some more levels for Bullet Train Hell. Not sure if it’s going PC, but that’d be interesting, nonetheless.

    And I believe the title of the iPad game is Pet Peeves : Monsters. I remember them saying that they wanted to get a Pet Peeves series going, so I guess we’ll see more of that possibly.

    There are certainly a few games I played that isn’t mentioned. After I get back from Bear Lake this Saturday, I may post on my blog as well. ♫