Finally, we have arrived from Gamelab 2016, that took place at Hospitalet de Llobregat, close to Barcelona, from 29th June to 1st July. The venue was, in our opinion, better suited for the event compared to 2015: bigger and more comfortable stepped conference room, wider indie’s room located just before the conference room, and the overall feeling was that it was a more open space where everything could be properly mixed. It is important to note that the indie stands were just before the conference room because that helped getting them a bit more visibility, although I believe they did not need it.
Why “did not” indies need more visibility?
Be it upfront that indies die for visilibity. But in this particular case, they do not need so much because the bar has raised. The quality level has raised. The average production values were higher than what we have seen last year, when we attended to exhibit our first version of Trespassers. At that moment, although we couldn’t watch every other game, we felt that the industry, at least regarding small studios, was following a really good direction. Nowadays this seems even more apparent. Small, young studios’ games are not so “amateurish”. People behind is growing in knowledge and ambition. The games were bigger and, in many cases, more polished.
What does that imply?
That we will have to work harder to stand out. If we fail because the market is overcrowded, I wish that the kind of games we have seen are the ones that would be overcrowding the market. The colleges/universities seem to have been doing their work in specialized game development courses, and young developers are better prepared (*) to deliver games from their very first job. This implies that we will have more competence and that’s nice! The move from amateur towards professionalism will help the fragile and changing industry as a whole, at least in Spain, as most of the studios are scattered all over this country.
Side note about exhibiting games
Of all the games shown at the event, one way of exhibiting them stood apart from the rest. Kromaia, from Kraken Empire, nailed it. They have released their fast-paced action shooting game recently in PS4, so they just brought one instead of a PC like everyone else. The game itself is the same but the experience feels different as it is almost the same as playing at home: grab the disc, insert, and play. Just a matter of feelings about the gaming experience. It is not at everyone’s reach, but it may be worth trying in case you can.
IDBA (Indie Developer Burguer Awards)
Although Gamelab had their own awards, I want to focus on the IDBA ones. The IDBA are indie awards for indie developers, celebrated in a relaxed, fun, informal event. We laugh about ourselves, our games, and get to meet each other devs in a way that really encourages meeting the people and not the developers. Summary: go if you can.
Whoot Games, a company from Asturias which whom I collaborated with for more than a year, won one of the awards for Castles (on PC + PS4 now!). The spanish name of the category is “Más viciante”, which may be translated as “More engaging”. We are really proud of the achievement, as this is directly granted by other developers. The other nominees had really good games to back the importance of the prize, so congrats to them for their outstanding work!
There is, though, one common point that stood clear as the nominees for the categories were presented: you need to be “popular” in some way. You need to be in the community. It does not mean that you get to know everyone out there, but it helps. In the end, the one who votes, in case of doubt, may remind that you are nice people, and cast the vote accordingly. Why is that important if that prize gives no money, although is really beloved by all of us? I think the same could be applied to many other prizes (including Gamelab’s ones), and getting access to platform vendors directly. Microsoft or Sony representatives may help you in your way towards publishing the game in their consoles if they have met you and watched your game earlier. It affects even sales, of course. The prize is a subjective matter, and is considered depending on many external and internal factors, and one of them could be having met your team.
One last -different- point. Speaking with people there, one of them told me about the idea proposed by a local developer of spanish indies joining forces to make a big game, an ambitious production. The point is, if I did not misunderstood the message, that there are many talented people which could cooperate towards greater goals. But I don’t think it is viable. Many of the indie studios want to work on their own ideas, their particular diversity. They may join for specific purposes (jams, for instance), though. My main argument is that we may know how to work on our rather small projects, but changing from 10 to 100 people management is not an easy task. There are roles that will be hard to find in the indie scene (productors or directors for such big enterprise, for example). And the lack of a team dynamic will make the project suffer so much. Funding is another issue, but I’m considering only the development itself.
Anyway, we will try to support anything made in that regards as much as we can, as Spain has a really talented and open community. Gamelab and IDBA are key dates in our schedule year after year. We feel that we grow as developers and reinvigorate ourselves after those events, so count on us the next year.
Till then, see ya!
(*) Regarding content development, not technology, which is a whole different subject