Notes from IndieCADE East, 2016
I attended IndieCADE East for the second time in 2016, three years after I’d gone the first time. In that time, I’d quit gamedev, gone to college, unquit gamedev, and participated in a few game jams.
This time, I had no pretenses of going to IndieCADE East to show off my own game. Show and tell sign ups were no longer on-site, but an application weeks before (that I didn’t apply to). I wasn’t hoping to plug my own projects, not that I had much to show at the moment. The project I was working on was so early in development showing it would’ve been pointless, and I wanted more an opportunity to just play games and talk to other developers.
I think I did just that. I played some delightfully weird games, and I talked to some delightful people. In addition, I actually did show my project to a few people? Despite it just being a few screenshots? Anyway, I had fun.
Unfortunately, in this three-year timespan I’d fallen out of the habit of actually taking notes (and taking pictures, apparently), so a lot of this summary is paraphrased at best. Apologies in advance.
The second floor was full of games with unique physical aspects to them, such as unique control schemes or multiple moving parts. I didn’t get to look at them too closely, but there was one with buttons far apart on multiple chairs, one where you had to turn cranks to drive tanks, among others.
(This is the part where I really wish I took better notes. Or asked follow questions. Or both.)
I didn’t go to that many talks, partly because I was too busy playing games, partly because I didn’t plan things out too well.
The panels I went to were mostly about logistics: how to make money making games, how to build a community. A few takeaways, from a variety of panels and conversations, in no particular order:
- Move to Canada - Apparently a good deal of Toronto gamedev was at IndieCADE, and multiple people mentioned to me (both in conversation and in panels) that the Canadian government gives out grants for games and other artistic endeavors. Alas, moving to Canada is not exactly in the books.
- It’s possible to create community where there is none right now. But that means that you have to take the initiative. This is more relevant to me, since I’m from a place where there really is no community at the moment. There are people interested in game development everywhere, it’s a matter of figuring out where to start, how to find other interested developers, and putting it all together.
- It’s hard to make a living off of indie game dev. Okay, I knew this already, but it’s hard. Even if you do live in Canada.
As an aside, I also went to a panel on VN development, in hopes of reconnecting with the VN community (long story), but it felt very insular and closed-off. Maybe next time, I suppose.
There were a variety of games being showcased on the main floor, usually for PS4 or XBox One. I didn’t get a chance to play all of them (there was almost always someone at the demo!), but here were a few I got a chance to try out that left an impression.
My impressions in this case is biased towards games I found visually striking, since that’s what I saw most readily in the few minutes I was playing them.
A first-person (platformer?) puzzler. It has a very distinctive and strong art direction, though unfortunately I got motion sick fairly quickly, as I usually do with first-person games. Apparently, all of the levels exist in the same world space that can be observed as you go through the game.
A third person exploration? game. (The games I enjoyed most are ones I struggle with placing into genres, I’ve noticed.) You play a dancer in a world overrun by cubes. The world and scenes are very surreal, the animations are fluid, and the gameplay is fairly simple. (I don’t think there was a way to die, but the graphics and soundsd were more than slightly unsettling.)
This game was notable to me in that its aesthetic and atmosphere is most like the games that I want to make, excepting the fact that it is in 3D.
It also does a lot of cool things with the rendering pipeline to get the sharpness of graphics that it does, which is pretty neat! There’s a talk that I barely understand here. (This originally linked to the slides, but that link has since broken.)
A rhythm game, also notable in the atmosphere and polish. You control a beetle thing hurtling on a track towards what seems to be an abstract face, and press buttons in accordance to the beat to stay on the track. It is also deeply unsettling, the track seems to writhe with virtual tentacles, the low notes and bass drums pound harshly, and everything seems to move far too quickly.
It’s definitely an experience that was made so much stronger by good-quality headphones. I also heard it’s a VR game, which is at once not surprising and slightly terrifying.
Show and Tell
I didn’t spend very much time in the show-and-tell this year, which is a bit of a shame. A good friend of mine demo’d there (his game WARRIOR is still in development), and the only other project that made a lasting impression was a visual novel whose name I didn’t write down. :<
A lot of the fun of IndieCADE East was to meet up with other developers, at least for me. I ended up catching lunch and dinner with a few other developers at certain points, and those were perhaps the most memorable part of the entire event.
I always feel like I should be showing my own work, signing up for the show and tell, but I think I like doing these kinds of things without having to worry about my own things. I like seeing games, and talking to people, and so I might stay the course for future IndieCADEs as well.
Or I might submit a talk, as I’ve done fairly often this year.