Monday, October 15, 2018

IndieCade 2018: Fun Games Were Played, A Lot Of Good Paper Was Destroyed

By Jonathan Bilski

I'm missing the auction. All I can see is a paper trail or some good pieces of paper pinned to a wall. They look like bugs in a display case, except these bugs looked like they were in a fight and each of them lost, badly. They couldn't go back to their paper families looking like that, not even in a casket. Better to recycle them. But, a man from the game BlindFold, Developer's Choice Award Winner for this IndieCade, put them up their like a sadist, to show good people what happens when you play his game.

I'm surrounded by puppets, lasers and game that requires eight people to play Tetris. I'm back at IndieCade.

That's right, the independent games festival, IndieCade, was back in town for a few days and they had some fun new games to try both on screens and off them. You could have VR on your head playing the utterly surreal and funny Accounting+ or be outside making your own games with chalk outside with the Flash Jam.

Me, I played them all.

Held this year at Santa Monica College for three days, Oct 11-13th, the festival was in a different spot from last time. The beautiful new looking campus for media design replaced Little Tokyo, where it was held last year. Two big buildings housed game after game to try out. You could talk to its creator. Or, maybe, talk to some other game makers about what they thought of it. And, of course you got to play it.

One room held much of my attention. Past Laser Maser, which has you acting out a spy movie dodging lasers played with your phone. Past Octopad, where each of the eight controllers attached only is able to use one button. Past Puppet Pandemonium, which has you playing out a puppet show with an audience that affects its outcome. There was the insidious game of BlindFold. Where paper doesn't come out looking so pretty. Oh, and what I was building to, Asta Grande.

As I said, I missed the auction, but luckily later they had the last auction of the day. Now, Asta Grande plays like a real auction house. You're not only given a number on a card to hold up to bid on items. You're given a character with your number and how many millions you get to spend. It also gives you details on what your character would like to get. Mine was General Saar and I needed stuff to hide drugs in. In no time the games creator Pietro Riva was calling out our numbers as we bid on items like Ghandi's Brass Knuckles or Dorian Gray's Portrait. Yeah, the items are all fake jokes from history or literature.

They game came close to being a real hit for me, but the auctioneers need to be a lot more silly and crack some jokes while trying to sell this strange stuff. It could have been more funny with stranger items up for bid too. Like the boogers of Maria Antoinette, removed from her head when it came off. I would have called it Auction Simulator as it felt more like that then a game after a while.

Not near it was Flight Simulator, which has you being a passenger on a commercial flight to Ireland and should not exist. Near Asta Grande was BlindFold, the game of paper assault. Blindfold was my favorite game of IndieCade this year and not on PC or console. It requires colored pencils, a blindfold, one piece of paper and some direction cards. Tom Ackerman created the game about a year ago. He came all the way out from Illinois to show off the game. Tom told me BlindFold had never been played more than in the last two days of IndieCade.

To play it you and a few friends get out a piece of paper, then after choosing a four letter word for yourself and a color pencil you write out that four letter word in a square, circle or cloud shape when chosen of a selected card. Sounds easy, except your blindfolded when you do it on your turn. Add to that, on your turn, based on the card you choose, you must flip the paper over, rip the paper or fold the paper. The only way to score points is that a your word in a completed shape has to be visible. So, none of it can be ripped or folded over.

Men and women are truly diabolical in this simple game. Issues of the size of the drawing to just lying to other players on what there shape was create was so much fun in such a simple game. People folded over or just ripped off someones word with delight and it seemed so vicious, but it's just the game. It's easy to learn and then play in a few minutes. And it is kind of hard when your blind to jut draw a basic shape.

I asked BlindFold's creator what he liked about IndieCade the most he told me, "Honestly, it's teaching people to play my game."

A street level down and in another building was a strange sign that read Everybody's Sad with a bowel of fruit nearby with a face on an apple. I'm not describing a dream I had, I'm telling you about the game, Everybody's Sad. It's a virtual reality game where you find yourself in an apartment where many of the objects in said apartment are sad. They have faces and plead with you to do things for them. It's like having a tamagochi line of home products. You can make them happy, but should you? That's the question you don't have to think about too much if you just play it.

Made by a bunch of students in USC's game program, they came together a made a very strange VR experience. Jared Pettitt - Lead Designer, Lead Producer of the game told me more about it, "First off, we didn't want to make a game that was violent at all," he continued by telling me how must  VR equipment was set-up for shooters. Secondly, they wanted to do fun motions in VR. So they came up with something based on a problem the team had. "A lot of us on the team have the problem of being people-pleasers. So, we can throw in the hook...You're sad too. Right? You've just been trying to please everyone. You didn't think about taking care of yourself." So, the game actually deals with bad co-dependent relationships in the guise of talking to inanimate objects and silly motions. Eventually, you learn you can say, "No," to the object citizens. They might not like it though and you might get into an argument with a talking plunger.

"When we did it, we were like, this is straight up Adventure Time," is what Jared told me when he gave the inanimate objects faces. It's a little world that teaches you on trying to build health relationships with your Roomba.

Upstairs we were stopped by the party game Aqua Lungers. People were sitting down to try this four player treasure hunting game that has you fighting each other to get the most treasure first by diving into the ocean. We battled big fish and other divers to get the most gold. Diego Almazan has been working on the game for two years by himself, he's done most of it on his own, the only thing not his is some of the music. "I really, really love party games. I like having friends over at home and playing games together...this is my hat in the ring for that," Deigo told me on why he made the game. He told me the game does progress with you unlocking new levels and their being boss fights. So, you may have to work together in some parts of the game to get further in it.

In my play of it I already wanted it in my collection for home console when friends are over. Sadly, it's only on Steam now in Early Access going into a 1.0 update hopefully, at the end of November.

A game I hadn't seen since IndieCade being in Culver City was the VR title Pixel Ripped 1989. The complicated game play has you trying to save a video game world on a game boy like device in VR while at the same time not getting in trouble in class. Yup, you're a little kid again and you've got to hide your game from teacher.

Finding yourself in both class and trying to play a game is a bit to take in at first. Though, getting to distract the teacher by summoning football players through magic spit-wads really helped. I wanted to play the whole game, which is out on PSVR and Steam, in one sitting. If you have the system for it, get this game. The retro game references had me laughing since I saw the Laser Power-up taken from Metal Slug.

We didn't want IndieCade to end. Like I write every year, I would like it if IndieCade happened every weekend. Where games were shared and showcased with people who want to try and play them. And do horrible, horrible things to pieces of paper.

Games missed we would have liked to try:
Escape from Godot
Oh Snap!
Werewolf Party
Ministry of Broadcast
Nishan Shaman