I’ve spent the best part of a week out and about showing off Fragmental at various events. Here’s a roundup of each:
Epic Unreal Engine 20th birthday event
Epic Games recently celebrated the 20th birthday of their much used Unreal Engine. To mark this, they held an event at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, where they wanted to have a room showing off a number of different third party games currently in development, that are built using UE4. We were happy to oblige (even though it meant a 7:30am flight followed by the sleeper train back the same night!).
The day started badly, as after about 4 hours sleep, I managed to cut myself shaving for the first time in about a decade. It was one of those where it’s the tiniest knick, but within seconds it looked like a scene from CSI. One plaster later and I look like I’m auditioning for Shenmue 3. Still surely it’ll be fine by the time I get to London.
It did indeed stop. Then started again 5 minutes before the invited attendees were due to arrive. The only option to avoid looking like I’d been stabbed in the neck was to ask the catering staff for a plaster. Anyone who has worked in catering will know what comes next…
A bright blue chef’s plaster. Amazing. So I had to spend the first half hour talking to people looking like an idiot. Well, even more than usual.
UK Games Fund showcase
We were lucky enough to be selected as one of the companies to receive funding in the first round of grants from the UK Games Fund, and this event was a showcase for all selected companies to demo the games they had used this money to fund. While we were only set up for an hour and a half, as much as anything it was useful to meet the other dev teams to swap stories and make new connections. as well as catch up with old friends and colleagues.
EGX Rezzed 2016
We took the decision not to show Fragmental off at Rezzed. This was for a number of reasons, but chief among those was that it freed us up to spend the entire show with three main goals:
1) Attend talks & presentations, learn from those that have more experience in making successful indie games
While a lot of the talks were aimed more at startup companies, maybe embarking on their first project, one talk stood out as a must-attend for us – Mike Rose from TinyBuild talking about their approach to community building and Twitch integration. This was not something we had given much thought to before now, but what Mike had to say made a huge amount of sense, and his attitude towards taking small risks for potentially large rewards was refreshing and compelling to hear. We managed to grab him after his talk for a chat, and gave him a steam code for Fragmental, so it will be interesting to see what he thinks of it!
2) Making contacts that will help us further down the line when it comes to marketing, selling & publishing Fragmental
Through direct contact, and contact by association (talking to people, who then passed our details on), we successfully managed to get connections with the major platform owners, as well as a number of publishers and social media sites. Chief among these were the guys from Machinima who were a great bunch of guys and always up for a laugh.
3) Research what other developers were doing in the indie game scene
The sheer variety of games on show was impressive, though melee based multiplayer arena battlers seemed to be the most prominent. Just as well we went with a shooting based game then! Over the three days of the show, we tried to play as many as we could, and here’s a review of our combined favourites:
Super Arcade Football – This is without doubt the spiritual successor to Sensible Soccer (though the actual successor, Sociable Soccer is also in production). The first game we played on day one, and it remained our favourite for the entire show. We must have played about 20 games of it. 11-a-side, indoor 5-a-side, and it seems everything we asked about is already in their development plans. This deserves to sell so many copies…
Raging Justice – I was a huge side scrolling beat-em-up fan in the 90’s, and went straight past Rocket League and Quantum Break in the Microsoft room to play on this. Turns out its being coded by one guy (take a bow Nic Makin) in his spare time evenings & weekends, with help from 1 artist! There are clear inspirations in here from Streets of Rage, Final Fight, Double Dragon & maybe most prominently, Vendetta. If anything, it looks even smoother on iOS. Insanity! Those of you who have read my blogs will now realise this is an absolutely perfect segway to allow me to use that meme of Jackie Chan that I use in all my posts. As its too easy here, I’ve decided not to bother.
Snake Pass – The result of an internal game jam at Sumo Digital, and only 3 months of development time, I didn’t expect much as it looked like a run-of-the-mill 3D platformer. However the snake movement physics felt really satisfying as you navigated the scenery. Its something that can only be appreciated by actually getting hands on with the game, so if you get a chance, give it a go.
Manual Samuel – Initially I dismissed this as it wasn’t much to look at graphically, but its one of the few games that can actually make you laugh. You control a man back from the dead, who has to navigate a day in his life with all involuntary body processes now requiring voluntary input. So if you forget to breath periodically, you will die. If you forget to blink, the screen will fade to white. You need to keep your spine straight. Left and right steps are on different buttons (so a simpler version of QWOP). Simple processes like drinking a cup of tea, showering, or getting dressed all require thought and dexterity.
I know, it sounds terrible, but it actually somehow works.
Fugl – Hidden away in the Sega Leftfield room for slightly more unusual games, I found this gem. Despite thinking it had an awful name, I’ve since found out it means ‘Bird’ in Norwegian, which kind of makes sense as the developer, Johan Gjestland, is Norwegian. Still. A more interesting name couldn’t hurt… This is exactly the kind of experience I want from VR, and playing it on an Oculus was a beautiful experience – Diving through the clouds, skimming along a river, swooping between trees. Yeah, I’m sold. After this I didn’t feel like I needed to join the frankly ridiculous queue’s to try any of the other VR games.
Scanner Sombre – While only a very early tech demo from Introversion (the guys behind the great Prison Architect), Scanner Sombre was an eerie, experience. Set in pitch black, you have a scanner that shoots out hundreds of tiny dots of light. Wherever it hits something physical, it sticks to it. Through this method, you can effectively paint the world. The creepyness comes from when you realise there are human figures around you, but you don’t know if they are real, statues, or echoes. I’m not sure what they plan to eventually do with this, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for it.
Lumo – This kind of feels like I’m shilling for a friend, but Lumo is genuinely a great game. Tons of in-jokes / homages / references to games from the past, and a charming graphical style. What’s not to like? Though if all you ever play is COD or Fifa, maybe its not the game for you.
One final thing I have to do is apologize to Dara O’Briain. Yes, the Dara O’Briain from TV and comedy. As we were getting ushered out at 6pm with the rest of the scruffy people, the tuxedo and dress brigade were arriving for the Bafta game awards. Without realising I managed to wander into shot behind Dara while he was being interviewed on the red carpet for Sky news. Having watched it now, I noticed a clear moment where the camera pans away from where I was. Oops.