Attending Gamercamp 2.0 (Day One)

With my menagerie of contacts in the design world (all one of them :P), I learned about an incredible event here in Toronto that was taking place right under my nose! Gamercamp 2.0 was held from November 13-14, 2010 as a venue for indie game developers, industry professionals, and game enthusiasts to promote, discuss, and learn more about the video game industry here in Toronto. As a game junkie and aspiring developer/scriptwriter, it provided me with my first major opportunity to get my feet wet in the industry!


Saturday, November 13 featured a full compliment of video game designers, artists, musicians, administrators, and enthusiasts as a movie theater full of people got to witness games in development and talk about how video games are made. One of these jumped out at me as something to keep an eye on:

Were you a fan of King’s Quest? Do you have an iPhone? If you answered yes, to both of these questions, you’ll likely be just as excited for Sword & Sworcery as I am. Beyond the clever title, the game harkens back to the pixelated games of yore to provide us with a classic questing experience using the iPhone’s touch interface. But that’s not the best part: there isn’t a trace of text in the game. Instead, the development team has teamed up with Jim Guthrie to allow the player to craft a subjective narrative invoked by music (and the music is beautiful, believe me).

If you were lucky enough to play the PSN game Flower, you’ll know all about how music can impact the game experience when placed at the forefront. This is a highly anticipated title, and I encourage everyone to check out the website for trailers, artwork, and to learn more about the project!

Zombiedots will appeal to lovers of web-based flash gaming, and we know how much you’re all dying to become a zombie. (See what I did there?) You control one dot, normally a human, and your goal is to team up with other players in order to protect yourselves against the zombie horde by creating rooms or, perhaps later in development, utilizing weapons to kill kill kill! If a zombie touches you, you become a zombie and get to wreak havoc. With the intent to adapt the game to mobile phones, this one might be an excellent time-waster of the future, and a social game to boot. And if that’s not enough, the clever text descriptions will keep you coming back for more! (Horatio the human has been infected with a mysterious disease and died. Must have touched a monkey.)

Wanted: Free Testers

The Depths to Which I Sink is an interesting concept: a game that requires 3D in order to be played. Now we all know that 3D is the gimmicky rage these days, but most commercial video games are published with a 3D option rather than making it mandatory. Depths looks to change that and, by extension, provide gamers with a unique experience.

This was perhaps the most interesting experience of the day, as the programmers passed XBox 360 controllers around the audience and we got to play the game on the screen. I had not imagined I would be given the opportunity to play a game at the conference, and in doing so (along with the rest of the audience), we began to unknowingly perform as video game testers. The developers would ask questions like: “Can everyone see the 3D?” But when only 1/5th of the audience raised its hands, the developers realized that there was an issue with the programming. Likewise, when playing a level that involved smashing windows and avoiding walls, we as an audience failed to become as engrossed in the experience as the developers would have preferred. It wasn’t until they began showing us “test levels”, where the lines and borders were used to different effect, that the audience erupted with “ohhs” and “ahhs”–the 3D really was working! And so the developers had the benefit of utilizing an audience of 400 free “game testers” in order to gain a larger understanding of the mechanics of their own game, and what would make it more enjoyable.

Right Under Your Nose

The highlight of the first day came when a representative from Udon Entertainment sat down and told us all about the company. If you don’t know what Udon Entertainment is, I’ll give you a few minutes to browse through their website.

If you don’t have time, here’s the lowdown: Udon is an art collective that produces hordes of artwork for Capcom. In fact, they are the only non-Japanese studio to do so! In the early 2000s, enthusiasts from Udon contacted Capcom seeking rights for publishing Street Fighter comic books, and Capcom was confused as to why Udon had chosen the Street Fighter franchise. In those days, Capcom did not have future plans for the series and no major commercial titles had been developed. Little did they know that the series popularity was still booming in North America, and so Udon achieved licensing rights and began hiring artists and writers to put together the comics. The books were so successful that Udon was contacted by a publisher who wanted to distribute the books in Japan, and the publisher was shocked to learn that Capcom hadn’t allowed for the rights to do so because they did not have confidence that the comic would sell in Japan. Street Fighter was over as far as Japan was concerned, but Udon brought it back in a huge way and with tremendous success.

As a more recent and commerical achievement, Udon was responsible for the artistic overhaul that is Super Street Fighter Turbo II HD Remix.

Canadians should be proud!

The fact that the home of Udon Entertainment is our very own Toronto makes me proud in a way that I had not expected, and it’s incredibly inspiring to see this amazing work happening right under our very noses! Udon has been wildly successful with its manga, comics, artwork and video game projects and I’m sure they’ll enjoy contined success for many years to come (in fact, there’s probably a project coming down the pipeline in 2011 that fighting game fans will enjoy)!

When Opportunity Arises

The Gamercamp 2.0 conference was a highly successful event and I, for one, was proud to learn of so many fascinating projects that are happening right here in our very city. The indie game development scene is strong and earning a more public identity by the day, and the major commercial industry is booming with Ubisoft Toronto, the first major commerical video game development studio opening in 2010. The ability to see the ideas of the great people within this industry, and converse with fellow game enthusiasts, has been an experience that I not only enjoyed, but that vastly expanded my knowledge and excitement to be a part of this budding community.


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