Jun 3, 2013

Ottawa International Game Conference 2013: Impressions from the Show Floor

Last week marked the second annual Ottawa International Game Conference which I had the fortune of attending. The OIGC did things a little differently this year, including setting up a 'show floor' style area where developers from the Ottawa region and neighbouring cities could come and show off their games. I think this is awesome and I wanted to do my small part to encourage this showcase of tallent by sharing a little about the cool stuff I saw with all of you. I would like to apologize to all the developers I didn't get around to visiting as I also spent my time at the conference mingling and attending talks. That being said, click through to see some of what was on offer at the OIGC 2013!

Apps Notifier by Pretzil

First up isn't actually a game but a mobile utility for developers to track changes in the iTunes App Store called Apps Notifier. Jeff Washer of Pretzil walked me through some of the apps functionality, explaining that you can use it to track ratings changes for particular apps across all world-wide regions of the App Store as well as use it to track activity related to app vendors or search key words. The currently available version allows you to track up to 10 items with a forthcoming update adding the ability to pay a subscription fee to track more. Prezil also plans on expanding the app to track activity on other platforms.

Big Action Mega Fight by Double Stallion Games

Next up, Big Action Mega Fight by Montreal based Double Stallion Games. Their mission for the game is simple, make an arcade style beat-em-up that harkens back to games like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon but build it from the ground up for touch screen mobile devices. No virtual virtual controls, all intuitive tap and swipe based game play. And it works! I played what was, obviously, an early build, but could already see their vision at work. The basic controls are based on tapping to move your character and swiping over enemies to attack. This works really well to bring this genre of gaming to the touch screen in a way that feels made for the platform. Double Stallion confirmed the game will be coming to iOS and Android but were vague on the release date. I suggest you keep an eye out for Big Action Mega Fight. BONUS SCREEN SHOT!

Henchmen! by Lightning Rod Games

This turn based strategy game was still in its early stages when I had a chance to get my hands on it, but discussing the larger design goals with the guys from Lightning Rod Games cemented this one as a game to get when it does, finally make its way to iPad, Android and Web. It's certainly looking like turn based game fans will have plenty of opportunity to flex their mind muscles both in combat and in the collectible card game inspired 'deck building' aspects of the game. The game will be free to play but the guiding principal, I'm told, is to allow players to pay for variety, not pay to win, which I think is totally admirable. 

Windforge by Snowed In Studios

Ottawa's own Snowed In Studios was on hand showing off their upcoming PC game Windforge which I had heard a bunch of great stuff about but hadn't yet had the chance to try. The game mixes elements of platforming, 2D gun combat, item collecting, crafting, mining and building to form a compelling and ambitious game. What really stood out to me was the game's setting. The whole this is set in a world of floating island in which the player is encouraged to build and maintain his or her own air ship build from parts and materials found by exploring caves and dungeons discovered through aeronautical exploration. The world is also a dangerous one filled with all kinds of enemies lending the game a healthy dose of action gameplay. An important aspect of the game that I find, personally, really interesting is the fact that all the island, cave and dungeon configurations are fully procedural. This aspect was made all the more engrossing after attending a talk by Snowed In's Even Hahn in which he detailed the various approches used to generate the levels in Windforge. Very cool stuff! They are currently gathering votes on Steam Greenlight, so if you think this is a game for you, hop on over and cast your vote!  

Warcry by Innuendo

This was the first of two student projects from Ottawa's own Algonquin College. Warcry, a third year project from a team of eight graduating students is an action platforming and combat game that clearly tries to alude to a larger game world and story. This is an approach one often seen with this kind of student project as the team, essentially, tries to make a small slice of their dream game. I was particularly impressed by how ambitious the team have been with their character animation system, creating over 200 animations for their main character to be able to mantle and climb onto and over various obstacles and platforms. The results were awkward at times, but you have to hand it to them for trying. An ambitious project that showed a ton of effort.

Project Full Throttle by Full Throttle

The second student project, this time from second year students at Algonquin College was the aptly named Project Full Throttle from a team by the name of... Full Throttle. Obvious placeholder name aside, I was really impressed by this project. First of all, they picked, just about, the perfect genre for a school project on a short schedule. Project Full Throttle is a combat/racing game in which players race these hybrid hover jets around a track while firing gatling guns at each other. The great thing about it is that even with a single track, a single vehicle and a single weapon, the game already feels like a complete experience. Extra content will only serve to flesh out what is already a solid starting point. Oh, and it supports 4 player split screen play. And I will go on the record saying that with a multiplayer game, you get a substantial amount of fun for free. The team also did a great job making the controls feel really nice and designing the track around the handling of the crafts. Racing your way around the roller coaster style course never feels awkward. Finally, this demo showcased some really nice graphics and some top notch post effects. I mean, really top notch stuff! Martin Palko, the young man behind a lot of that visual glits informed me that the team will be carrying the project over into their third year at the college and I look forward to seeing what another year of development will yield for this, already, impressive demo.

Starwhale: Just the Tip by Breakfall

The last game I'm going to mention is near and dear to me for a couple of reasons: 1. I count a number of the people behind Breakfall amongst my good friends and have had the pleasure of working with a couple of them, and 2. Starwhale: Just the Tip is actually the ongoing product of Breakfall's efforts at last February's Global Game Jam! Seeing people line up to play the game on the last day of the jam helped Breakfall realize they had really made something special with Starwhale. The game is still, essentially, the same weird mix of narwhales, jousting and garish 80's aesthetics but has now been expanded to support up to 4 players, which, let me tell you, is friggin' awesome! I think they've got one of those perfect 'show floor' games. It's eye catching, easy to pick up and instantly fun and hilarious. I want to see this game do well and I urge all of you to keep your ear to the ground about this one.

Breakfall were also showing off footage of their previous release, Marvin's Mittens which you can read all about in this post.

Well, that wraps it up for the 2013 Ottawa International Game Conference. I really dug the showcase and look forward to seeing what will be on offer next year! Maybe you'll find me manning a booth?

OIGC logo from http://www.oigconf.com/

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