Feature – GameCityNights Season 3 Episode 5

Posted: June 11, 2012 in Feature, GameCity

This night began like no other. Somebody was in my seat. I was devastated. A group of gentlemen in suits with laptops aplenty had swarmed my usual viewing spot from the back of the room.

I found myself in an unusual part of the room from my normal perch. However a pair of strangers from First Play Sheffield had a spare seat amongst them and invited me to join. As the hour ticked by the night hadn’t began and Iain Simons was nowhere to be seen. I comforted the duo and reassured them that Iain would be here soon as our main guest for the night Dean Wilkinson, writer of LittleBigPlanet, among other accolades was already here. Then two things happened: Iain arrived looking rather flustered, so the night was saved! Then the group of suited people left. Having previously mentioned my woes to my new comrades about these seat stealing thieves they rallied to my cause and assisted me. We launched from our seats and reclaimed what I proclaim to be rightfully mine. Victory was ours!

The night began with a promotion of what was later to come in the year. Apparently there’s some Olympics going on, and I only know what because of every advert involves winning tickets to the games, because no one is bothered to buy one for themselves. Soon it will be FlameCityNights as the Olympic torch passes. On Twitter GameCity Grand Master Iain Simons announce “I know I’m given to overstatement, but it is going to be unusually brilliant…” and there will more information coming next week. You heard it here first people.

In the Indie Showcase for the night featured Drop Dead Interactive, IndieSkies and an ambassador on behalf of Bennett Foddy.

IndieSkies came with 20 Games, a batch of mini games designed to make you invite your mates around and have some competitive shooting, driving and avoiding stuff antics. Although IndieSkies did not have time to give much of a breakdown of the games they had on offer for some reason (I’m looking at you, Iain Simons) but check out a trailer and more information on their website.

 

Drop Dead Interactive brought us Dot Dash Episode 2 available to play, a game which features a cog spinning its way through different coloured blocks which later correlate to button colours on the controller. This proved a major challenge for the bloke I observed playing as the same portion kept catching him out, a rapid button moment kept proving too quick for the poor chap and his sadly not-so-nimble fingers. Coming at you with five Worlds of flavour with four levels in each, this hair-wrenching experience will soon be coming to iPod, iPhone and Android.

In an exclusive two minute chat with Derek-Wheatley.com, Drop Dead Interactives’ Jay Adeloye revealed that their other project Zombie Concentration is being held back to let Dot Dash Episode 2 bring in the masses before knocking them dead with some zombie action.

 

From the mind of Bennett Foddy came Pole Riders. Described as “Adversarial pole vault” it is a two player game involving moving a ball on a string to the other side whilst blocking your opponents attempts to do the same. Although looking rather frustrating it looks a lot of fun.

Click here to play Pole Riders for free.

 

Some may recognise the name of Bennett Foddy for it was from his mind that QWOP emerged and although he was not there in person, he does appear in a Skype chat later…

An honourable mention for Owain Davies, who was unable to do his usual stuff since there was a lot of talking tonight. But he wore a Legend of Zelda shirt so it makes up for it a little.

Angelica Ortiz de Gortari made a quick speech about her PhD research project about Games Transfer Phenomena, which explores the transfer of video game experiences into the real world and is something you could be doing and not even realise it! So if you could all give Angelica a helping hand and take a few minutes of your time to take her survey at http://www.gametransferphenomena.com, we may be able to get to the bottom of GTP once and for all.

The main guest for the evening was comedy writer Dean Wilkinson, who has 20 years experience writing greetings cards, speeches and comedy material, a famous example being kid’s Saturday morning favourite SM:TV with Ant and Dec. Although they feature in his credentials more than others – rest assured not all of his works feature Ant and Dec. But his real reason for being at GameCityNights was for when his writing talents were used for several games, including the LittleBigPlanet series, Driver San Francisco, Buzz and the not-quite-yet-released Worms Revolution.

Dean’s writing journey began with his love for British television back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and the children’s programmes in those days were fun and original. However in more recent years kids TV got stale and started copying US sitcoms. Calling the Disney Channel one of the most awful things on the planet and comparing the shows of old with Hannah Montana “if anyone wants shooting for not being able to act or sing it’s that little girl… Where all the adults are stupid, all the kids have a sassy answers and they’re all cleverer than the adults and that’s not real life”, he found the experience disillusioning and started looking for other avenues to apply his talent and get income, eventually moving onto games.

The jump from kid’s TV to games was by the use of an agent. British TV was on the decline and Dean wanted something new. Originally thinking the creators did it all, Dean quickly found that games can and frequently do need help from an outside influence like himself, a fresh pair of eyes can see that what may have been missed. By his own admission he is no coder or programmer, but he does know stories and has honed these skills by his experience. With this he discovered that there were some fantastic games out there and even though some looked amazing graphically they had no back story, no reason why a character looks a certain way and came to realise that they did need outside people like him to give games the “soul” they deserve.

Writing for LittleBigPlanet was considered a challenge mainly because he was writing for Stephen Fry, which Dean found frightening. Fry lends his vocal talent to the game, and who wouldn’t be scared to write for one of the nations’ top-tier personalities like Stephen Fry?! Worms was an intriguing prospect for Dean, a fan of the series, who wanted to look at Worms from a different angle. Team 17 wanted something along the lines of “It’s war. It’s combat. We need a General” but Dean thought that was too obvious and invented Don Keystone, a David Attenborough-esque watcher. The question later came as to who would voice Keystone, original impressions which came to mind were voices like Tom Baker (due to Dean being a keen Doctor Who fan) or Patrick Stewart, both fantastic voices but were not considered right for the game. However the unique tone of Matt Berry (from The IT Crowd and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) was perfect for the role.

We all want a voice like Matt Berry. I do anyway.

Even though he has had a busy year with new LittleBigPlanet games and Worms, Dean still finds time to write for animation companies in other countries and write greetings cards. Likening the work with spinning plates on sticks and having to go back to the first one to keep it spinning “70% of it is finding the next job” constantly sending out emails and the like to make sure people know who he is. A tactic many writers employ.

With the floor open to a couple of questions due to time restraints (Dammit Iain!) one question was about whether there was any particular game story that he was fond one, one he had not written. Whilst not actually naming any games Dean did say there were loads which do impress him. However he drew attention to Dot Dash Episode 2, loving the visuals from Drop Dead Interactive and felt inspired as to thinking ‘what is the reason behind it?’ as Dean has seen many games and wondered what was the point and wondered about the potential to give some of these games a back story or an arc which could follow onto sequels. Then bigged up LittleBigPlanet Karting, which sadly he could not go into any detail as he was under a NDA, but promises we are all going to love it.

A question was asked on whether he suffered from writer’s block. Dean remarked that he never found writer’s block a problem, but being distracted was a weakness of his and being stuck in the house led to such activities as balancing a pen top on a bottle of tip-ex instead of writing. This inspired Dean and 4 other freelancers into renting an office in Middlesborough, although described as the “shit hole of England” it offers less distraction and a more comfortable feeling than sitting on your own. Dean even revealed he listens to white noise as it stops him from being distracted and messing about

QWOP. A lifetime to master.

Now all eyes turned to the big screen as Bennett Foddy revealed himself over Skype, creator of QWOP and can now reveal he has a two player version of the game http://www.foddy.net/Athletics.html  ready to play on his website. Originally and still a researcher in medial philosophy, Bennett found himself procrastinating during writing his dissertation and making Flash games… The magic began from then, writing QWOP during his time at Princeton University. Since he had never coded anything before Bennett was asked why he decided on making Flash games as this form of procrastination. There was a similar pleasure with designing games as he does with his work on medical philosophy so the joy of one is linked with another as they are both the magic of writing and creativity. The big difference is that with games you can actually play them while you are doing it. A firm believer in variety he does not like to be a sit-at-a-desk kind of guy, preferring the comfort of taking a laptop around wherever he goes and it feels less like work (I need a laptop). Even though he has received offers from games companies and they have fallen through for various reasons (Hudson Soft on Bomberman being one) but in the long run Bennett prefers to keep his own IP so does not like to accept many offers anymore. Bennett has credited his inspiration for these games on the classic games Track & Field and always wanted to make a pole vault game, but on its own was not very fun so came up with a weird idea to make it really fun. The weirdness appears to be on the increase, with Bennett’s next game going to be “super weird” but could not go into anymore detail, but predicts things will get weirder like a giant snowball of weird as time goes by. When invited by Iain to attend this years’ festival, Bennett said he would love to come. With some members of the audience crying for a QWOP tournament, what crazy ragdoll action may take place come October is anyone’s guess.

Our next Skype guest for the night was Ed Key, creator of exploration game Proteus. Ed had been working in the games industry for 8 years since graduating from university. Since GameCityNights like to get inside the inner psyche of what game makers do, Iain was very interested to know where the seeds of games like Proteus began. The answer was the bedroom, room of many a magical event. Accompanying Ed was Jack, his cat of six years. Dubbed a “grouchy bastard” by Ed, Jack gave us all one of the most evil cat stares anyone at GameCityNights had ever felt in their lives. With the origin of Proteus Ed had originally wanted to make an RPG, but instead it became a beautiful game of exploration starting with you in the ocean and in the distance an island. You travel to that island the discovery begins. The island is randomly generated so no two playthroughs are alike. Wandering around a blocky pixel island may not sound fun when reading but when you get your hands on it you begin to understand the effect it will have on you. With a reactive soundtrack by David Kanaga playing for 30 minutes is promised to put you in a weird mental state, as confirmed by at least one gamer at the event. That’s 100% of the people I’ve heard talk about this game have said. Those numbers do not lie.

But it is not all about Proteus, Ed has revealed he is working on a designing a different game, devoting a whole 2 days a month to developing the prototype. Revealed to revolve around landscapes but more of a road expedition game, the aim is to look both interesting and picturesque. So watch this space people.

This was taken from Drop Dead Interactives’ website. I am investigating Dot Dash Ep 2
I’m famous.

As the audience were allowed to ask the man their questions, one fan was eager to know when a Mac version would be released. Although the website pens in the date for sometime in August, an update to the PC version is to be unleashed first. Another question posed was whether there was any temptation to add any narrative or any goals into Proteus. Ed admit he did have plans along those lines but in the end preferred the musical exploration. There was an idea of utilizing a Pokémon Snap feature and taking pictures of the animals (Nintendo: Make Pokémon Snap 2. Now) but the concept of wandering around and simply thinking about stuff took precedence. And the strange thing is: it works. It was easy to force a narrative onto the player but later on the vision that became Proteus simply did not need it. Ed is already confirmed to attend GameCity7.

GameCityNights is an event that happens on the last Thursday of every month at Antenna in Nottingham. For more information check out http://nights.gamecity.org/

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s