The crowd before the storm...

This is the second World of Love event, it provides sessions on (and given by) the indie gaming ‘scene’ (I’m not fond of the word scene as it sometimes seems to be used insultingly rather than factually) where people talk about what they’re trying to do with their games, the challenges they face and so on.

For me this was a cool but difficult, long day. It started the day before, where I just couldn’t get myself to be sleepy in time for the 4:09 AM train to London that wouldn’t cost me a small fortune. Sleep became a scarce commodity, and I was drifting off at the conference itself and feeling terribly unsociable, not a state I like being in.

10:00 Ricky Haggett @KommanderKlobb and Richard Hogg, Honeyslug

Honeyslug is an independent developer and showed us Hohokum which (Excuse the convoluted description) was described as about converting stuff into other stuff at first and began a long progression as they tried different things, including the game being a music game of a sort, a platformer, even a kind of golf game before eventually settling on having a sense of similarity to Noby Noby Boy but in 2D. In it, you fly a little snake like creature around the world which cannot be harmed and you are tasked with protecting little creatures that are under attack before letting them jump onto your tail to be carried to safety.

They wanted to be soft with demanding the player act constantly, hence the player characters invulnerability, “when I’m mucking around in a game I really feel there’s something important I should be doing” they wanted to create an experience that tricks players into mucking around rather than being entirely task/progression focused.

Some discussion was also given to the teamwork mentality on the project, described as a “good cop, bad cop” arrangement where the more creative person would come up with lots of ideas and the more practical member of the duo would then veto many and try or keep many others, this approach was picked up on and alluded to by many other speakers during the day as something they were doing in one form or another.

Another curiosity emerged, many of the indies were outsourcing art, sometimes to friends rather than industry experienced people which led to situations where assumptions that any veteran would just accept what they were told would be questioned, though it wasn’t made clear what they meant by this the suggestion was that this was a positive force rather than a negative one.

10:20 Tak Fung @mrfungfung, Supermono

Tak Fung was working at Lionhead but decided to quit his job to work on games at home, he started taking contract work with visual effects companies that do work on films. He approached several games companies without positive results but this didn’t pose a particular problem because he could continue doing contract work to keep money coming in. He showed an amusing screen capture of what can only be described as programmer art and thought it looked fine, but when he teamed up with an artist he realised the error in his ways.

He gave mention to a tool called Nuke, a node based image editor that he used on the project (If I remember correctly, this was used to create variable plane graphics).

The game was put on touch arcade which generated awareness of the game and gave him an opportunity to take feedback and put improvements into the end result. He was particularly glad to be free of TRCs/TCRs by working on an iPhone game

10:40 Ella Romanos, Remode @remodestudios

Tiredness started to catch up with me and my note taking suffered as a result the two take away notes from this session were that research and development tax credits (In the UK) are underused and that student placements are also regarded as underused. It sounded as though the student placement was unpaid so I’m not sure how that worked exactly in terms of having money to live by.

11:20 Alice Taylor @wonderlandblog, Channel 4

Formerly working for Channel 4, Taylor is going indie to work on project(s) where there is a focus on user customisations.

She demonstrated a focus on toy based products, pointing out that the innovation for toys is on the digital side and told the audience that 95% of toys/dolls are made in china.

Discussion turned to the use of 3D printers, different materials and 3D printer manufacturers and the printing materials they use and the texture of the resulting printed object. The core idea was essentially that of toys/models that could be printed similar to how companies can recreate your digital World of Warcraft character in the real world as a toy/model.

11:40 Sam Redfern, Dark-Wind

I regret to say I completely failed to take any notes from this session and can’t remember anything from it, Dark-Wind itself is an indie online MMO that plays in a turn based manner.

12:20 Phil Stuart @philstuart, Preloaded

The talk focused on how they publish a game online. Why (Or, what does success look like)? Who? What? How?

7 recommendations were made, I could type them out here, but I think it would be wiser to link to this blog post they made which would explain the details better than I would:

13:20 Charlie Knight @charliesgames interview

Spent 2 years working on Scoregasm and now trying to work out what to do next, prototyping assorted different ideas. He recommends being nice to people but also persistent when trying to raise awareness of your game. It became apparent that he also outsourced at least some of the art work to other people.

13:40 Ian Hardingham, Mode 7 @mode7games

Mode 7 are working on Frozen Synapse, the one major thing I picked out from this session was that the rooms that get generated in each game session are pre-built and the game client then would place these pre-built rooms in, described as ‘Wiggle zones’.

14:00 Robert Fearon @retroremakes

Doesn’t think of himself as a programmer and not good with maths and is known for making a game called War Twat.

14:20 Sophie Houlden @S0phieH

The focus of this talk was focused on the idea that games aren’t taking advantage of their ability to surprise the player enough and went into some detail on the subject…

Uncertainty is necessary for surprise to happen and different people react to surprise differently. Developers can influence a players expectations over time, and a player might expect change but there is uncertainty in when that change happens and how suddenly it happens.

“A magician controls everything the audience sees but still has to deal with reality, developers don’t.”

Player will have expectations before starting a game, you don’t need to tell them everything (Though there’s a risk details might be given away by accident by a reviewer)… You can lie about your game!

Lastly having an Encore can be good as long as you don’t out stay your welcome.

There were additional (surprise) sessions and a panel with Robert Fearon, Charlie Knight and Dan Marshall being talked to by John Walker (Of Rock Paper Shotgun fame) but this is where my note taking came to an end due to sleep deprivation.