PAX East, coming to Boston this April, is arguably the biggest gaming convention on the East Coast, and, every year, they honor local indie developers with their Boston Indie Showcase. The six games showcased this year each have interesting production histories, and their developers have high hopes for how the showcase will impact their games and companies.
The origin of many of these games comes from contests and game jams that turned out right. David Sushil of Bad Pilcrow (Not Without You) and Zach Gage of stfj (Spell Tower) both created the cores of their games under a time crunch.
“Not Without You began as a Ludum Dare forty-eight hour development exercise back in August of 2011.” According to David Sushi, “Out of 500 entries, it placed in the top ten percent in terms of fun, so I decided to continue exploring it.”
“I like to work fast and reasonably blind. SpellTower was put together in 2 weeks,” said its creator, Zach Gage. “So those two weeks were filled with playing other word games, learning as much as I could, and rapid rapid iteration and testing.”
Once a rough concept is established, the process of turning it into a game can be a harrowing task. Rami Ismail of Vlambeer (Super Crate Box) says “The [game] industry is a rough place that really requires an absurd amount of emotional investment and energy to flourish in.”
Persistence is often at the core of game production.
“The process for developing Lawnmower Challenge,” according to Peter Choi, its creator and founder of Lunar Enigma, “has, from day one, been an iteration of design, implementation, and testing. We set up and aimed for several milestones…and hit each one on time.”
David (Not Without You) made a point to talk about how the process is subtractive; game play and features are evaluated and streamlined as necessary, in many ways an effort of trial and error.
“[In the end] There’s nothing that doesn’t belong, and the result is a tight, solid, and highly re-playable piece of entertainment.”
With PAX just around the corner, all of the developers are excited about their coming debut at PAX East. Nearly 70,000 people attended the event last year, filling The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The opportunities for these designers will be numerous.
“Having a booth at PAX will be a great way to observe first impressions of GLR.” Said Ziba Scott of Popcannibal. The studio is bringing the puzzle game Girls like Robots to the showcase.
“Most people will have never heard of the game or heard very little, so we can try to gauge what effect our visual and verbal presentation has on a gamer.”
Ziba Scott has brought Girls like Robots to many Boston Indies demo nights; blind play-testing has given his game a lot of polish. Rousing grass root support and visibility will be very important for these games. Peter Choi reiterated,
“As a first time indie developer, the most important thing for me is gaining supporters. Although our Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful in a sense of not being fully funded, we were successful in gaining supporters who have an interest in seeing the game to completion. This is exactly what we’re hoping to gain at PAX as well.”
With such an attention to quality, these games seem likely to garner a lot of support. The passion that these developers show for their games and gaming is admirable and ought to be echoed throughout the industry. With more people realizing their abilities to create games, it is fantastic to see small developers rise up with good polished products. We’re especially glad to see it happening here in Boston. These developers deserve the best of luck on the production process between now and PAX; be on the lookout for them at the expo and beyond.