It's not very often that someone such as myself gets the opportunity to really take a look behind the curtain when it comes to actual game production. I've done my best to learn, but there's only so much a non-developer can absorb! So, when I got an invitation to take a behind-the-scenes look at Schick Hydro x Playcrafting's Indie Game Jam - which featured some of the New York area's top game devs - how could I say no?
In the Room
The Indie Game Jam Studio!Kayla Bibeau
I packed my laptop and made my way through a rainy New York night. I took an elevator up to one, large room. In the back were these cool, retro arcade boxes. Stationed at various tables throughout the room were four teams of game developers - each working together to make a short, fun game in 48 hours.
Unfortunately, I was not able to stay as long as I liked. Despite that, I got the opportunity to get a first-hand view into the world of making a game. Of course, I wasn't able to pick as much brains as I would have liked, but honestly I doubt these guys had the time to tell me much of anything. Cause let me tell you, these folks were working.
Still, despite the obvious crunch for time and the exhaustion which permeated from these hardworking devs, the atmosphere remained chill. The devs were kind, and they walked me through their vision. I know, I'm waxing on and on, but it's nice to see artists talk about their craft.
Let me tell you, seeing these games in action - despite only being half-way through the process - astounded me. There wasn't a single game that I wasn't excited about trying - they all had a very specific identity, which is crazy, because they only had two days! I just wish I would've gotten to try them on those arcade boxes!
As Smooth As Possible (ASAP)
A snippet of ASAP!Kayla Bibeau
As a person with a preference for smooth silky skin, all the hair and pustules attacking your face really bother you. Luckily your legs can detach from your head, so you can mow your face to make it perfectly smooth. Equipped with a mower-hoverboard that shreds your hair and flattens your skin, the faster you clear your face, the sooner you'll feel better about yourself.
ASAP was definitely one of the most unique games I saw. It's concept - A shave game, where you control a small, green blob on a lawn mower mowing down some hairs on a face - immediately peaked my interest. And Sam Eng, of Snow Hydra, gave me a small demo. I gushed - I admit it. It was so cool - and the graphics were cartoonish and fit with the game's entire aesthetic.
Once I got the demo, it cinched my love for the game. The controls were smooth, and I loved just mowing down some hairs and popping some pimples (I know that sounds gross, but it's so fun)! It's as satisfying as a real shave.
The Calkarious team, hashing it out! (Kayla Bibeau)
Calkarious is a cooperative top-down shooter where two players must defend a powerful brain coral under constant siege by bioluminescent creatures. Set inside a massive floating body of water in deep space, Calkarious involves rapid decision-making and quick maneuvers as players struggle against 6 different colored enemies.
As I sat down with Rob Canciello, of EOS Interactive, I was happy to see a game that was more my speed. Calkarious felt like a classic arcade game that I'd probably spend a good dollar or two playing with a friend. The premise is simple, but also different enough to keep me interested and give add just enough tension to bump up the stakes.
The game demo gave me everything I wanted. I got a chance to play with my little brother, and we both got so into it. We did our best to work together and barked orders at each other back and forth. It was fun - and I loved being able to enjoy a simple top-down shooter.
Kati Nawrocki (left) with some of CLUSTERSWEEP's concept art--farther left! (Kayla Bibeau)
Humanity is gone. All life is virtually destroyed. A single defense robot is responsible for the last form of life - a growing amoeba under siege from an aggressive and relentless virus. It is 1990. Welcome to Clustersweep.
With the theme of "Protect and Defend," the team found fun in an ever growing core that requires defense from both sides, plus a "permadeath" approach that allows for no mistakes.
I loved this game! Kati Nawrocki, of Computer Lunch, took the lead on explaining her team's interesting addition to the Jam. The emotional premise that was described really piqued my interest, and it was nice hearing Kati talk about working with her team and the process of making the game. The team let me see a little bit of this game on one of the arcade boxes and it was quite a sight - seeing a game right in the middle of development is a beautiful thing.
After playing through the game a little, I fell in love with it.The game was stunning. I love a minimalistic style when it comes to games I play - it allows you to focus on the game you're playing. A lot of times, the games can come out boring, this time it did not. And with a team like this that's not surprising.
MONO A MONO
MONO A MONO in action!Kayla Bibeau
In this arcade RTS, you use gorillas to capture monkey-generating shrines, or send your sword-wielding monkeys to thin the enemy horde. The first team to secure the central sanctuary will be king of the jungle!
I think what sold me on this game was when I asked the BumbleBear team, what's it about? And they just shot back, "You fight monkeys." And I said, "Cool and what else?" The both looked at each other and the back at me. "You just fight monkeys." Then I died, because I just can't think of a better gaming experience that using my monkey/gorilla army to take down my little brother and maintain my simian dominance.
The game is simple, and you have to be strategic. It's an impressive feat for a game that you make in two days. The graphics are a simple, top-down view of a single map. But the game play gave both me and my brother a fun little challenge as we both tried our best to beat the other. Unfortunately, when we both decided to call it quits... I was unable to maintain my simian dominance.
The Bottom Line
I can see why these developers were billed some of the best indie game devs in NYC. In 48 hours, these teams have managed to create games that are incredibly fun and quite unlike anything else I've seen in terms of typical arcade fare. To my readers who attend the Indie Game Jam, make sure you're on the look out for Schick Hydro's Indie Game Jame Arcade, so you can experience the awesome finished products.
And please, please, please follow the links in the descriptions and take a look at these amazing game developers' pages.
For those of you interested in playing these amazing games, they will be available Thursday, December 7th on itch.io, right here! Please, please, please take a look at them and support these amazing devs.
Shann Smith is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and gamer based in NYC. He runs two columns here on Popdust: Video Gay-Mer and Role PlayGround! If you'd like him to take a look at a game, hit him up!
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