Last March-April I attended my third Rezzed, and I must say it only gets better each time.
With every successive year I get the feeling I re-meet more and more people and I get to play less and less games. Let’s face it, what’s the point of spending those precious few hours sitting in front of a screen instead of talking to the amazing people actually crafting those experiences?
Maybe it’s just me, but the longer I am in gamedev the more I care about the people and the less I do for the games themselves. Like, dude, there are thousands of great games out there. I don’t have the time to play a tiny fraction of them, so I’d much rather meet the humans and learn from them.
So prepare for maybe the only review of Rezzed that names almost no games but a lot of cool kids, aka A Namefest of Epic Proportions.
The usual suspects
The first familiar face on the first day of Rezzed was Chris Wilson’s. We’d met him at a talk at Warwick Uni a few weeks earlier. He was presenting his pixelart cutie The Sandfox and the Siege, a nice sidescrolling platformer with very sweet controls.
We attended the BFI talk about getting funded through tax relief, a very comprehensive explanation of the (previously mystifying) criteria for getting dev money, including the famous “must look proper British” myth that I’ve heard mockingly refered to so many times (nope, your game doesn’t actually need to have red double-deckers and tea powerups.) For great justice, I was the guy standing up and asking The Uncomfortable Question about Brexit: is this funding going away in the foreseeable future because of the B-fiasco, and/or will the eligibility criteria change? Awkward smiles all around and also reassurances.
(But in any case, you’d be well-advised to try and finish your game within the next 2 years anyway. Specially if you happend to be, *gasp*, European. Word to the wise.)
Next we got to see the incombustible Ludi… I mean Luis from Alpixel Games, presenting the latest version of A Place for the Unwilling. Although I regret to say I didn’t play it this time, it’s obviously come a long way from the super early build we got to see at last year’s Rezzed. We met the supercool Federico Fasce of Sticky Toffee Games, maker of Mediterranean Voidland, a minimalistic walking si-… eeeh, chill exploration game. But let’s get to the pizza bit.
Pizza Express: the late nite sessions
Any narrative of last Rezzed would be incomplete without mention of the inevitable Pizza Express south of the venue where we ended up having dinner each and every time for a myriad, deeply uninteresting reasons.
Successive nights featured, in no relevant order, the following international cast: the Spaniards Luis aka Ludipe and Martín Pane (a first-timer who had a grand time by all accounts) from Alpixel, our good friend Giada Zavarise (an Italian writer-designer who’s currently working on her upcoming trading RPG Selling Sunlight out of Failbetter‘s London HQ), Elliot White (an Aussie writer working on 2D horror game Retrace) and Roy van der Schilden (lead writer from the Dutch studio Wispfire, makers of point and click Herald). And, last but not least, my dear Ara Carrasco (Manchester-based 3D environment artist and illustrator).
Fede told us about Game Happens, the festival he organises annually in Genova at the end of June (do check it out, you’re still in time for this year’s!). We had a riveting chat about diversity and the importance of correctly portraying LGTB characters in games that tied nicely with a conversation I’d had earlier on with Roy about the specifics of writing characters of other ethnicities and how to address the experience of racism and discrimination, a theme that is central to his game Herald. Belatedly we discovered that Elliot‘s game To The Wolves had ranked just above mine at last IFComp – how’s that for a coincidence? Rosa talked one-man army Nik Sudan back into making games again; Ludipe talked Yours Truly and Tea-Powered Games into doing our first game jam together, from where Nightwards, Heartwards spawned (hi Flo and Dustin, if you’re reading this I want you to know you. Guys. Rock.)
Ladies, Rednecks & the [Number] under [Number]
Our lovely friends Liz Mercuri (Unity evangelist) and Rosa Carbó-Mascarell (architect and designer) gave equally awesome talks at the Ukie space downstairs. Liz shared some interesting insights learned while developing a VR horror game, focusing on tools and their use, while Rosa gave a good “Getting Into Games 101” talk. Random Trivia 1: I will forever relish the honour of having introduced these super talented ladies to each other. Random Trivia 2: both being 30 Under 30, when in the same room Rosa and Liz qualify as 15 Under 15.
OK, I’ll grab my coat now.
But not without mentioning the great guys from Crema Games, with whom I had previously worked writing for their latest game, the crazy 3D shooter Immortal Redneck. It’s was cool to finally meet them in person, after a rushed but immensely fun bout of writing redneckish dialog lines for the titular, unseen character. With them was Juan Castillo, organiser of the up-and-coming Spanish developer event Gameboss. Based in Zaragoza, Gameboss seems to be shaping to take over the traditional, Barcelona-based Gamelab, which has been getting extremely pricey over the last few years. Time will tell, but it’s always nice to hear about new alternatives. Things seem to be speeding up in the Spanish dev scene, which is always good news. As an aside, this year has seen a comparatively massive affluence of Spanish devs, something I have been going coarse encouraging, so high fives all around!
Before I forget, the super bubbly Jupiter Hadley was around, bringing indie happiness, rainbows and sass to the event, but somehow managing to miss the Pizza Express Sessions (damn!). I apologise from the bottom of my heart for missing her in the first version of this post – a lot of people wouldn’t know about the glorious indie games out there without the efforts of restless YouTubers like Jupi. She makes a point of covering *all* gamejam games, so if you have an indie dev you want to show the world, no matter how utterly indie it is, Jupi’s your woman. Also shout out to Oliver who does a similarly altruistic work of love at Indie Game Launchpad. We know at times it can be a thankless task, but somebody has to do the heavy lifting and hard selling while we gamescriblers sip Negronis and discuss Bogost (sorry don’t have a pic for that).
Last but not least, we had the chance to down a few pints with the amazing Sam Browne, game designer and all around great guy. We talked narrative in games (yay), Brexit (boo) and he invited us to funky Brixton to the headquarters of his new studio Three Knots. But that is an adventure for another overlong post.
(Sam’s also 30 Under 30,
so at some point we must have been 10 under 10)
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