Titanfall launched a couple of weeks ago, and the reviews are very good. The game has an 86 on Metacritic, which reflects (if nothing else) a unanimously positive response from the aggregated gaming media, and players are raving about how great the game is. I myself participated in the Beta test for Titanfall on PC, and found the game fast-paced, intense, and generally fun to play.
Last week, in our lead-up to GDC, we advised visitors to makes some time to stop by the Independent Games Festival (IGF) Pavilion for a look at what’s happening in the world of experimental and original games. Maybe you’ll be too busy with other GDC duties, though, or maybe you just can’t make it out to San Francisco this year. Maybe you just need more indie gaming – a distinct possibility! That’s where IndieCade comes in.
IndieCade doesn’t make indie gaming part of a larger gathering – it is the gathering, happening October 4th – 7th in Los Angeles. The LA Times calls it “the video game industry’s Sundance.” You’ve got networking, workshops, awards, bastions of the scene (and maybe scenes from Bastion?), and a great big street fair full of games, all open to the public.
The door has just been opened for submissions, and IndieCade is looking to bring in the indies by the (humble) bundle: Any team that submits a game automatically receives a pass to the main festival, and an invitation to participate in “IndieXchange,” which is “a day long program offering practical workshops, networking opportunities and one-on-one meetings with art leaders, publishers and potential funders.” Games can be ready to ship, or can be works-in-progress.
Got a game you want others to play? Want to play some games made by others? Want to get in on a city-wide game of zombie tag? Check out the festival’s website and keep your October calendar clear.
It’s only the second week of January, and 2010 is already shaping up to be another incredibly strong year for independent game development. Derek Yu’s freeware colossus, Spelunky, and past IGF Grand Prize winner Darwinia are both coming to XBLA. Newgrounds sensation Meat Boy is headed to WiiWare, as is indie classic Cave Story. Many of the recently announced finalists in the 12th annual Independent Games Festival look poised to take the gaming masses by storm, if they haven’t already, and you can bet there will be plenty of talk about them as GDC approaches. Despite all the buzz surrounding the IGF and these heavyweight indie titles, some clever PR outreach by Terry Cavanaugh has ensured that his cruelly entertaining puzzle-platformer “VVVVVV” is the first big independent game of 2010.
Over the last week or so, talk of VVVVVV has been popping up everywhere, from EDGE (who gave the game an impressive 8/10) and BoingBoing to Destructoid and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Some people might chalk that up to word-of-mouth and the fact that VVVVVV is a great game, but the true culprit is Terry himself. He’s kept his fans up to date and provided behind-the-scenes details with a regularly updated blog, taken his game on the road to big events, done interviews with the right outlets, and weathered bad news honestly and gracefully.
Even more importantly, his well-planned preparations for VVVVVV’s launch, including an incentivized preorder campaign, have caused a plethora of stories about VVVVVV to hit the web in an incredibly short period of time. Buzz can be built up in a wide variety of ways, but one of the best things you can do to get people interested is make sure they see your game mentioned so many times they can’t NOT look it up.
At the end of the day, VVVVVV’s success does, truthfully, hinge on the high quality of the title. If the game wasn’t fun to play, we wouldn’t be hearing about it. That being said, the simple PR tactics Terry used to get his game out there and get people talking are what may take it from being a good indie title to a top game of 2010.
Whether you’ve got a team of 250 people making a million-dollar title or you’re a one-man studio with almost no budget, spending some time (and sometimes a little money) on public relations can ultimately be the difference between a good game and a great one. VVVVVV, the first great indie game of 2010, is living proof. Do yourself a favor and give it a try!
The iTunes App Store is a booming marketplace, full of opportunity for independent developers. At an Apple press conference earlier this month, Steve Jobs said that over 30 million iPhones and 20 million iPod Touch devices have been sold to date. There are over 100 million customers on iTunes, and they’ve been busy – downloading over 1.8 billion apps since the App Store launched in July 2008. But with over 75,000 apps and counting (more than 21,000 in the game category alone), it’s a sink or swim space. The unique iPhone platform is luring talented designers from top names in the traditional video game development industry – ambitious artists, code-monkeys and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes looking to try their hand at a new medium, and take on whatever responsibility necessary – including new shoes they’ll learn to fill along the way.
There are already more than 100,000 third-parties in the iPhone Developer Program, and the App Store marketplace has created a community mindset among many of these smaller independent companies, who are willing to share some of their “secrets” and learn from their competitors to further their cause and to coexist symbiotically, if you will. One such indie developer is Rock Ridge Games. I had a chance to pick the brains of Rock Ridge’s president and VP, Mike Mann and P.J. Snavely, on what it takes to make the transition from licensed, big-budget console game development to the DIY world of iPhone app development – here’s what they had to say…
Can you give us a little background on Rock Ridge Games and your experience in game development?
Rock Ridge Games was started in April of this year with the goal of developing interesting and fun original games for the incredible new smartphones hitting the market. There are only two of us (Mike Mann and PJ Snavely) but we’ve got almost 30 years of combined experience in game development, having come from the console side of development. We’ve worked on everything from multi-million dollar licensed sports games to small independent titles for XBLA. The iPhone is our new frontier.