We just got back from the beautiful city of San Francisco where we had the pleasure of touring the GDC 2014 show floor to see what cool games we could find. While there seemed to be less indie developers overall, I’d have to say that the concentration of quality was definitely higher than last year. My favorite part of talking with indie developers is the pure love of creation and also community involvement, which was probably one of the biggest trends in all the games I saw. Here are just a few amazing examples of the cool stuff you find by indies at GDC.
Alpha Muse, by Current Circus
The team at Current Circus has made a really cool experience for anybody who likes music. Liking games is almost a bonus in this case. Alpha Muse lets players fly through a gorgeous 3D world where they interact with other players to create unique music as they go. Each time you enter the world, every time you meet somebody new, every mood that strikes you will have you creating a completely new musical experience. The most interesting aspect is in how players will sort of have to figure each other out without a traditional chat system, making this Journey-like experience not only about the music, but the connection that forms between players as they collaborate.
You can get access to their game and monthly updates through their site right now!
Fight the Dragon, by 3 Sprockets
You’re wrong if you think this is just a simple hack n’ slash. The 3 Sprockets guys have not just created a game so much as they have created a robust toolset that lets players build their own game levels and missions. Player/Designers also get a set of feedback and analysis tools that lets them examine where each player went in the level through a heat map, figure out average playtimes, where players die, and all other kinds of numerical analytics so each level can be tweaked and refined. Players can also vote on content to push the best stuff to the top of the pile, and give qualitative feedback to designers.
The game should be available on Steam Early Access by the time you read this, and will also be available later this year on PS4 and Vita.
Shadow Puppeteer, by Sarepta Studio
This was one of my favorite at the show. I always like the idea of an IRL collaborative experience, so I was pretty stoked when I saw the game. Shadow Puppeteer is a neat combination of 2D and 3D gameplay; one player moves around in the 3D environment while the second player plays as the main character’s shadow. The shadow player is playing in a 2D environment where only shadows of regular game objects are considered part of that player’s game level. The two players have to work together to manipulate the level so they can each progress to the end. The game design uses lights and 3D assets placed behind the main camera to create all the shadows in real-time, which kind of surprised me. This makes it such that some real communication is required between players, which is kind of unique in the current indie space.
You can check out their progress and vote for them on their Steam Greenlight page.
Phantom P.I. Mission Apparition, by Rocket 5 Studio
The story and art combination of this puzzle-adventure game is super endearing. In Phantom P.I. Mission Apparition, you play as Cecil Sparks, a paranormal investigator hired by the ghost of a recently deceased musician named Marshall Stacks (see what they did there?) who is himself being haunted by a poltergeist. The kind of meta ghost story at play here is all part of the subtle humor of having Cecil clumsily stumble through levels as he tries to solve the puzzles in each level. It’s exactly the kind of quality you’d expect from long-time animators who have experience like Dreamworks and LucasArts on their resumes.
You can learn more about Cecil Sparks here.