Norwich Gaming Festival 2015

Hello there. Well I did say I was going to use the blogging part of my website more so here I am making a post about my day visiting Norwich for the 2015 Norwich Gaming Festival on the 11th of April. I won’t bore you with the travel details (if you insist, I had to wake up super early to catch an 8.38 train from London to Ipswich and then get a rail replacement bus to Norwich) but for me, it was a pretty good experience.

2015-04-11 11.21.43One of the main reasons for attending Norwich Gaming Festival (and actually spending a day outside of London for once) were the industry talks on Friday and Saturday. Whilst both days had a very interesting selection of talks, in the end I found the talks on Saturday to be more interesting so I decided to attend the festival on that day (I also tried to watch most of Friday’s talks whilst they were being streamed live on Twitch).

2015-04-11 11.42.23One of the talks I went to was one by Katie Goode of Triangular Pixels in which she talked about effective designing games for VR devices (e.g. Oculus Rift) and the techniques she used in her VR game, Smash Hit Plunder. Said game was also being showcased at the festival as well so naturally I wanted to give it a try. Despite the Gear VR device being slightly uncomfortable (I wear glasses pretty much all the time so it’s a bit awkward every time I attempt to use them together with a VR headset), the experience was very fun and it was easy to see why Katie had implemented those design decisions in her game just by playing it (I also got 3rd place for a while on their leaderboard although most of the time I stayed in just one room instead of moving to another one just to find and smash almost everything in that room).

Another talk that I went to at the festival was one by Tommy Thompson on The Impact Of AI-Based Game Design in which he gave a rather energetic presentation on how AI in games has evolved over the years from Spelunky’s procedural generation and Left 4 Dead’s AI Director to Shadow Of Mordor’s Nemesis system and Alien: Isolation’s AI pattern for the titular Alien. Tommy’s expertise on AI was also demonstrated in his game Sure Footing (which was also on show at the festival as well), an endless runner where obstacles change on the fly depending on the player’s gameplay style.

In addition to the talks, another highlight of the festival were the indie games that were on show. Whilst I didn’t get time to try them all out, some of the titles I played were very interesting and it was nice to speak to the developers behind them as well as exchange business cards. At the festival I tried out:

  • Line Wobbler – A unique “1D” dungeon crawler played on a strip of LED lights by Robin Baumgarten (which literally needs to be played in person to describe how it works).
  • Fallen – A mobile game by Teaboy Games (which is actually harder than it looks).
  • Dialogue – A game by Tea-Powered Games where the primary mechanics are based on the conservation tree systems used in Telltale Game’s episodic adventure titles).
  • Overcooked – A co-op multiplayer game by Ghost Town Games where players are chefs and must work together to cook and serve a variety of dishes in each level.
  • 0RBITALIS – A minimalist puzzler by Alan Zucconi where players must launch a satellite and keep it in orbit to pass the level. I was already familiar with this game as I had already played the prototype version during Ludum Dare 28 (and even got a hug from Alan himself just for recognising that fact).

Also on display were some pieces of artwork done by Games Art and Design students at Norwich University of the Arts. Shown here below are pieces of art from 1st year students (and very good friends of mine) Charlotte Lawrence and Johan Lagesson (yeah, totally no favouritism here guys :V)

Overall, despite the small size of the venue, I enjoyed my day at the festival a lot. The talks were really interesting and I enjoyed having a go at some of the indie games and for the developers, they get rewarded with free publicity (as the event itself was free to attend for all ages). Of course shoutouts must be given to the organisers Robin and Daniel for organising such a great event. Whether you’re a developer (aspiring or otherwise) or enjoy playing indie games, I recommend that you attend next year’s festival (it’s definitely worth the £26 I paid for train tickets).

Jason/Xanjos

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