The next blog post I originally wanted to write was supposed to be a regular development progress posting but this has to wait a little because I just returned from game camp munich which I was attending over the weekend. I wanted to write everything down while it is still fresh in my mind, so here we go:
Over the last weeks I discovered that there are regular monthly meetings of Munich-based game developers including talks and get-togethers. After I attended the first talk on psychology in games (which was very informative and gave me the opportunity to talk to some other game developers over pizza afterwards) I found out that there will be a “vernissage” for games made in bavaria where local game developers would show their projects. Furthermore this exhibition would be the kick-off for a weekend barcamp event on game development, named “game camp munich“. I was not sure whether I should attend or not, because I had three major concerns:
- Will it be worth my time considering that it might take an entire weekend that I could spend into game development instead?
- Will I be able to get information / inspiration form the talks and discussions that suit my needs? (relevant for me? right level?)
- Will I be able to connect to the other attendees or will I spend an entire weekend in “Forever Alone”-mode?
If I could travel back into time I would whisper into my past self’s ear: “Don’t worry, just fill in the registration form, it will all be good. Very good.”
But first things first: The vernissage! I stopped working on my game project early on friday to visit the spot, not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a trade-fair like exhibition where each development team had a small area (mostly one table) to present their games. People were buzzing around forth and back between stations and were lively chatting and discussing their games. In a seperate section of the exhibition there was a gallery dedicated to concept art where beautiful prints of concept game artworks were on display. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, but here are some examples I found online:
When I entered the room I had no idea where to go first, but I was quickly approached by a game developer presenting his Android title “Blockadillo” a colorful puzzle plattformer in which you control a rolled-up armadillo that crushes blocks. As I am developing for Android as well we had a bit to talk about besides the game which was a good start to get me in a talkative mood. From there on, I had an absolute blast visiting all the different stations and talking to the dev teams. Memorable games that I saw were:
Project Breitschwert by Dark Aura – the first game in ages being able to raise my interest for browser games again. Players must work together to survive in an abandoned space station with interesting game mechanics like seed-based level generation allowing you to compete against other teams’ score in the same level. Also amazing art style reminding me of the old UFO / XCOM games.
Glasses by Bit2Good – a sidescrolling shooter in a fresh steampunk scenario with lovely hand drawn comic cut scenes (including professional voice acting). The devs were even “friendlier than friendly” and offered to share their Unity experience via email off the spot.
Aborakon by eeeeh…a team without a name, I guess. One of the most ambitious turn-based combat systems I have ever seen. The system includes mechanics like individual different fighting distances for different weapons, fleeing from combat, two combatants fighting an single opponent at the same time. All this tied in with a time bar mechanic that determines which fighter is allowed to move next according to the recent actions on the playfield. Crazy, complex, stuff but all makes sense in means of historical accuracy and additional gameplay value after being explained by the devs.
Das Tal by Fairytale Distillery – a promising sandbox MMO that features a true (player-) skill based combat system and a so-called “timeboxed” server system that allows players to actually “win” or “loose” the MMO that they are playing. I also dig the art style which I first thought to be 3D but I learnt during the game camp that it is actually 2D with camera mapping.
Cubiverse by Ludamus – a student project in which the player has to twist and turn a world shaped like a rubik’s cube. The player must manipulate the world in such way that the player character is able to traverse the world to pick up items and solve puzzles.
short intermission: I stopped while typing the text above to open google because I wanted to look up “rubik’s cube”. Only to be greeted by this doodle:
Apparently the rubik’s cube has its 40th birthday today. Is this awesome this happened just in the moment I wanted to look up the word? I think it is. Anyways………
DRIVE & SURVIVE by Flauchers Finest – A title targeted to fill the gap for splitscreen racers on the ouya console. Although mid in development the game has already solid, fun driving physics for two players displayed in smooth 3D despite the ouya’s technical limitations.
Mercury Shift 3D by KLONK – Originating from a flash prototype the young sympathetic team form KLONK currently builds a very promising coop plattformer playfully exploring fun coop game mechanisms like shifting mass between the players’ characters. I’m playing 2 player games with a friend all the time so I guess this one is a no-brainer for me. 😉
These are only the larger games I have seen / played while visiting the vernissage. There were a lot of other enjoyable games as well and each and every game dev I talked to was very welcoming and open for chats on every topic imagineable. But not only the devs displaying their work were open minded, I also found myself talking to random strangers in the crowd.
I also was able to show my game to some people and got positive feedback.
Time was flying and before I knew it was past ten in the evening and the vernissage slowly came to its end. Although there still were some people playing rockband and various other retro games provided by the local video game culture club, I left towards home as I had to get up early for the game camp.
The game camp
When I arrived early at the game camp venue (a private university also giving courses related to game design) I immediately learned about the impromptu nature of bandcamps as I was asked to fetch breakfast with several other attendees. So we went off to the bakery nearby to fetch prezels and croissants to feed the hungry masses soon to arrive.
After everybody was signed up and got their name tags and t-shirts, we gathered in a large lecture hall to organize and schedule the single events that are the essence of the bandcamp. Every participant was allowed to give one or more talks, to host a discussion group on a specific topic, or to conduct a workshop. Basically you are allowed to offer whatever you want, as long it is somehow related to the topic. Most of the events offered were classic presentations and talks although there were notable creative exceptions like a jute bag painting workshop, an one hour mini game jam and a zombie defence close combat workshop (!).
As long the events are accepted by the audience by hand-raising, the single event is assigned to a certain room and timeslot which creates the daily schedule. The process for this was amazingly efficient – after about 45 minutes all events were presented and organized in the daily schedule. Keep in mind that this means that a one day event with 18 events / talks for about 160 people gets organized in 45 minutes in a democratic manner. From my former work experience I know of far less complicated issues taking much, much more time to discuss and organize in a painfully slow meeting.
After the schedule was set up and announced, everybody was allowed to visit as many sessions as he or she likes. Switching between sessions was explicitly encouraged by the organization team by clarifying that doing so should not be taken as an offence by the presenter / host, instead the bandcamp it is all about everybody using their time as they like.
I found the events very appealing, and I even had to make some hard decisions, as sometimes two events I really wanted to see were running at the same time. There were some breaks in between the sessions to allow for room switching, and a one hour lunch break as well. To give you an impression on what to expect, some of the topics were (titles as I remember them right now):
- Rise and fall of a game company
- Electronic music production using nodebeat
- Graphics vs. Gameplay discussion round
- Getting your game funded by the FFF
- Unity beginner workshop
- Eye tracking in games
- Best and worst of mobile (post mortem of 10 mobile games)
- Games journalism
- GUI design
- PTSD in games
- Using the TeamSpeak API in your game
- 3d modelling with Maya
The quality of the sessions differed from host to host but was clearly in the “good” to “very good” range. At no time at all I had the feeling that I would be loosing time by attending an useless event. The low fluctuation between sessions reflected this as well, here and there some people were switching sessions while they were held, but most of the time people staid in the same session they had begun with.
The overall atmosphere was very open and inclusive. It was possible to talk to everybody about everything ranging from corny jokes including horny grandmas up to Mukhtarbay Otelbayev. This reminded me more of a music festival instead of a classical “tech” conference.
An interesting sidenote: The event was sponsored by various companies and the private university in those buildings the event was held in, so I expected some kind of commercialization to show up during the bandcamp, for example the university advertising their courses to the attendees. This would have been perfectly fine with me, as the sponsors should of course be allowed to get something back out of the event. The more I was surprised to find no such measures at all during the event. The companies did have representatives on the bandcamp that gave talks as well, but these talks were held as part of the regular schedule and did have no “commercial appearance” at all which shines additional positive light on the event and the sponsors.
After the first day was over, the entire crowd went to a nearby restaurant / bar to celebrate the first successful day of the gamecamp munich. While we were walking over to the spot, the organization team had another surprise for us: Someone sneaked out while we were sitting in the sessions and applied gamification to the route to the bar by drawing all kind of video game tropes and cliches on the boardwalk using chalk: “Lava Zones”, “Walk backwards Zone”, Mario Kart banana peels, etc. etc. Hilarity ensued.
The party itself followed the open minded atmosphere of the event during daytime and so it happened that I ordered one beer after another whilst talking to various other attendees. After midnight I headed home to get up again for Sunday.
Sunday followed the same high quality of Saturday and a lot of people showed up early to attend as many events as possible despite drinking quite a bit and staying up late during on the party the evening before.
Oh, and there was cake! (Please feel free to make the portal reference yourself, if required.)
After a closing feedback round and some cleaning up, the gamecamp ended with a group photo of all attendees.
For myself, the gamecamp was a very great and valuable experience. I listened to many interesting talks that gave me fresh perspectives on how to proceed with my own game (keyword: fail early, fail often). Some of the attendees played my game prototype on my mobile and gave me valuable feedback on how to improve the game. I was able to talk to a very, very talented game artist that gave me tips on how to improve the artwork for some characters in my game. I got in touch briefly with an actual game journalist that gave me insight on how journalists may or may not react to my soon-to-come inquiries to them. I took part in discussions revolving around my favorite hobby again and again. I went to a cool party. I listened to the “not-so-negative-as-you might-think” fate of a former company founder of a browser game company that had to close again. The list goes on and on, and to sum it all up: I had a blast.
If there is a game camp in 2015, I will definitely attend again and I will try to host at least one session. To make sure gc muc 2015 happens, I have applied to aid with the organization for the next camp.
And if you, after reading all this, ask yourself if you should visit the next game camp Munich, regardless of your age, background and aspirations, let me whisper in your ear: “Don’t worry, just fill in the registration form, it will all be good. Very good.”