It wasn't just the big companies at this year's E3, well okay, it was pretty much just the big guys, but with the help of The Indie Game Showcase, a few of the little companies trying to get their feet off the ground were able to attend.
Though this collection of kiosks was no Kentia Hall, there were still about twenty games that were able to show off hands-on demos through this showcase. Here's a brief rundown on a handful of these games.
8 by Tale of Tales is based on the traditional fairytale Sleeping Beauty. 8 takes a little girl on a magical journey through a sleeping world full of mystery. This game is an adventure title set in the beautiful fantasy world of the palace of Sleeping Beauty during the 500 year sleep. The player follows the explorations of a young girl trapped in the luxurious palace surrounded by thick forest. Assisted by a Wicked Fairy out for revenge, eight unworthy princes have penetrated the forest and disrupted the magic that once protected the sleeping court. The little girl tries to unravel the mystery and put things right. 8 is a poetic story/game that offers sublime and playful non-linear interaction with a continuously evolving immersive environment and a mysterious and charming autonomous character.
And Yet It Moves by Vienna Institute of Technology explores a world that literally revolves around the player. Created by a group of students at the Vienna Institute of Technology, And Yet It Moves is designed as an interactive collage world of ripped paper. When players rotate the world, all objects are briefly frozen, and after rotation, objects continue to move with their original velocity. With this ability, players can move objects and yourself to solve the game's many puzzles, but also need to maintain orientation and watch out for dangerous situations.
Braid from Jonathan Blow utilizes time manipulating game mechanics inside a 2-D puzzle-game to highlight themes of perception and intent. Braid is framed as a traditional "Save the Princess" romance. In a game that could be characterized as Einstein’s Dreams meets Super Mario Bros., the player journeys through a series of levels where time behaves differently in each world. As players proceed through the game and become more familiar with time manipulation, they are forced to confront ideas of character intent and desire, and to question the basic assumptions of the traditional platform fairytale.
Cloud by UTC/The Game Company realizes the childhood fantasy of cloud-gazing, allowing players to fly through the sky and draw pictures with clouds. Moving away from twitch and shooter mechanics, Cloud takes players on a sublime journey through the clouds, which they must learn to herd in the sky to create various shapes and designs. Players can follow the prescribed patterns set out by the game designers or free-draw their own designs which are regularly posted on the game’s community web site. Cloud’s initial release as a downloadable game was such a success that it crashed the USC servers on which it was posted. Cloud’s ingenious design garnered it numerous festival citations and it was named one of the “Top Ten Games You’ve Never Heard Of” in Game Informer Magazine. To-date, Cloud has had over a million players.
Everyday Shooter by Queasy Games places the traditional shooter in the context of a musical album, with each level a different audio and play experience. This 2007 masterpiece was created by auteur Jonathan Mak to explore the expressive power of abstract shooters. Everyday Shooter merges art, abstraction, and gaming to create an entirely new kind of play experience. Dissolute sounds of destruction are replaced with guitar riffs harmonizing over an all-guitar soundtrack, while modulating shapes celebrate the flowing beauty of geometry.
Fijuu2 by Julian Oliver and "Pix" redefines the very definition of “game” by creating a toy/musical instrument/art object that players sculpt to mix and DJ their own musical scores. Fijuu2 is a 3D, audio/visual music creation tool. Using a PlayStation-style gamepad, players dynamically manipulate 3D instruments to make improvised music. This interactive, abstract digital sculpture absorbs players in an open-ended creative experience. Fijuu2 is now being prepared for release as a Linux live CD project, so players can boot up their PC with a compatible gamepad plugged in, effectively turning a domestic PC into a console for game-based audio performances.
N by Metanet Software is a minimalist exploration of the platformer, with entertaining "ragdoll" physics and a large collection of user-developed levels and challenges. N’s creators describe it as reminiscent of Lode Runner – “you're a little dude running around in a puzzle-y world inhabited by enemies.” But in N, there's a twist: the ninja is driven not only by a thirst for gold, but also by a physics simulation. Death, which happens often, is quite animated and humorous, with a slapstick aesthetic that brings a fresh new style to the genre. Version 1.4 features 50 levels made by fans of N!
Night Journey by USC is renowned video artist Bill Viola’s first foray into games and is a sublime and meditative journey into the soul that explores the path to enlightenment. Created in collaboration with USC’s Tracy Fullerton, Night Journey is based on the universal story of an individual mystic’s journey towards enlightenment. The core mechanic in the game is the act of traveling, rather than the reaching of certain destinations; exploration, reflection and discovery are the player’s tools along their path of enlightenment. Created in collaboration with the USC faculty advisor behind the team that created Cloud, Night Journey recasts themes and images from Viola’s video installations into immersive three-dimensional landscapes to create a sublime and entirely unprecedented gaming experience.
Revolution by MIT Education Arcade is a full Mod for Neverwinter Nights, where players try to foment an uprising in Colonial Williamsburg immediately before the American Revolution. Revolution was conceived and created by students in MIT's Comparative Media Studies program as a tool to teach high school students about 18th century Colonial Williamsburg. The mod has several fully realized characters and brewing situations for players to explore, and utilizes the Aurora Toolset's extensive designed dialogue trees to engage the player in thought provoking discussion. The eight-player game has a unique viral communication feature where players can spread gossip among the non-player characters to help instigate or squelch a popular uprising against the British governor. Teachers expand on the gameplay by assigning and encouraging game-based creativity and activities, including machinima and in-character journals.
Rumble Box by DigiPen is a claustrophobic 3D beat-em-up where you must defeat enough opponents to create a ramp of their bodies out of the fighting arena. Rumble Box takes a traditional fighter mechanic and turns it on its head by turning defeated characters into level elements and obstacles. All of the characters are made of simple objects that become part of the level once they are vanquished. The objects pile up, changing the gameplay landscape and altering your combat tactics.
Whyville by New Medeon is a little-known science learning MMOG for kids hosts a vibrant community of over 1.7 million “virtual citizens.” Launched independently out of a lab at CalTech in 2003, Whyville has become a role-model for games as learning environments by inventing and growing a vibrant community of curious, engaged and creative kids from around the world. These 8-12 year-olds engage in a variety of science games, including community events such as the Whyflu, a game-wide epidemic sponsored by the CDC to promote vaccines. In addition to learning about science, denizens of Whyville design and sell avatars, run town hall meetings, vote for representatives, and write and edit their own town newspaper.
The other games that were showcased are Arcade Wire (Persuasive Games), Bone (Telltale Games), Can You See Me Now? (Blast Theory), Cruel 2 B Kind (Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost), Freedom Fighter ‘56 (Lauer Learning, in association with Red Hills Studios), Game Over (Pes), Giant Joystick (Mary Flanagan), Out of Your Mind (GameLab), and Steam Brigade (Pedestrian Entertainment).
Hopefully this showcase has either helped these games get noticed by the big publishers in order for them to be released into the mainstream, or has allowed the individual developers on these projects to get the contacts they need to get into more influential positions so we can see more of these original ideas hit the streets.
More information about this showcase, as well as details about all of these games, can be found at www.indiecade.com.