Play Journal 2013-05-24: #NordicGame Conference 2013

by Thom Kiraly

My Nordic Game Conference 2013 was super stressful but also packed with wonderful play experiences. Wednesday night saw the Nordic Game Indie Night fill Slagthuset in Malmö with gamers and cool games as well as interesting talks and performances. Thursday was the first actual conference day and also ended with the Nordic Game Party, which I played a role in putting together. We created a game night/night club mashup similar to our previous Spelrum:Digital evenings at Inkonst and I’m super proud to say that it went well beyond my own (an, it seemed, anyone else’s) expectations. I’m especially happy to have brought Chipzel over from the UK. Her set was amazing and I spent all night and some of the morning still coming down from the whole thing. That said, let’s talk play:

Crowd Gaming Flight Simulator – After last year’s crowd game AAARRRGGGGHHH! at the Nordic Game Indie Night, Patrik Jarnfelt and Tim Garbos threw together another one. This time, I think, they did it a liiiiitle bit faster. Like, in a day. Anyway, it was a massively multiplayer motion-controlled flight simulator (or, as we in the business like to call it, an MMMCFS). Even broken, unfinished crowd games are often good fun if only because they build on the changing social dynamic that the game encourages and allows for. That said, this game never really kicked off. The game did, however, see (literally) us do the wave, and that’s never not good.

Flowstorm – My laptop is too slow to run Flowstorm properly online and I haven’t tried it on my desktop, so it was cool to try it out in a proper manner. Also, there were other people *gasp* around to play the game with. That helps, especially when much of the gameplay is centered around the local multiplayer aspect. Flowstorm is a hard game, and does not apologize for it. This, however, means that it’s not too well suited for pick-up-and-go conference play. As with so many of my recent play experiences, I only got a taste. I’ll probably archive it somewhere in my disgusting brain (brains are totally disgusting and weird, when you think of it) until I bump into someone interested in hard racing games. That’s when I’ll bring it back — hopefully untainted by all my disgusting brain stuff.

Rymdkapsel – Been wanting to try this out for a while now. Martin, who designed the thing, handed me a strange sheet of stickers he’d been throwing at people when he attended GDC and I was intrigued by the stuff I found online about the game. It looks amazing, sounds good and seems like it may be an enjoyable game. I write “seems” because the five minutes I spent with it at the conference did absolutely not do it justice. I didn’t even get attacked by the weird alien arrow ships! I’ll buy it and play it once it comes out for iOS.

Stikbold – The trailer on the website gives just about no clue of how the game is actually played and I’ve been super curious to try it out. To no one’s great surprise, I’m really into local multiplayer games, and Stikbold delivers on that front. Once again, though: conference, no time to play, don’t really know what to think apart from first impressions. First impression: There’s to much stuff going on and with six players, it’s really hard to know what the hell you’re doing. Add to this the fact that, at any time, a whale my come out of nowhere to crush you, or a van may run you over (I think the van comes from the same “nowhere” as the whale, but I’m not sure. I also think I don’t really care).

Johann Sebastian Joust – JS Joust is a game I try to get people to play about as often as I can, and what better event than the Nordic Game party? If I’ve got the story right, 2011’s conference did after all feature the first public jousts after the game’s creation. I only participated in a couple of games, but one that stands out was the first game of the night where I faced a whole pack of chatty Brits trying to throw me off by talking — a lot. It worked.

Go Nuts – Here, we get to the Thursday night party. During the Nordloef/Salkinitzor/Linde gig, we hooked up my laptop to a projector and used a big screen on stage to play Go Nuts!. That was one of the better decisions of the evening. Apart from the game itself, which is actually a pretty simple and solid concept, Go Nuts! also has some seriously trippy graphics. Just check out this screenshot of a four-player game:

I’m actually not going to explain this picture.

The amazingly strange look of this game added a lot to the insane chiptunes performance on stage. Playing this game, jumping up and down and listening to the kick-ass stuff blasting out of the speakers — that’s when I started feeling drunk and that high didn’t leave until late at night. I should probably clarify: I do not drink or do any other drugs, I just had such a good time that I worked up a natural high.
Anyway, after playing it competitively for a while (we me kicking some ass, I might add), me and my play partner started using our colorful cubes to move them around and make video art. It worked surprisingly well; we used the dash function to accentuate the beats and worked ourselves into the game’s swarm mode (which looks pretty much like in the picture above) to take up a lot of space on screen. This was one of the play highlights of the whole event, for me. It was like we were jamming along with the musicians and the rest of the audience. I think that’s usually called dancing, isn’t it?

LAZA KNITEZ – Apart from featuring LAZA KNITEZ at Spelkultur i Skånes booth as part of our Nordic Game Conference Gaming Buddy Initiative, we also featured it during Chipzel’s set (I have no parenthetical joke here; it was simply amazing). It was, as always, good, but I think the high point was reached when other people used it similarly to how we’d used Go Nuts! earlier that night. The start screen of the game has a little exhibition of the four horsemen available for play. When you press “A”, your KNITE lights up along with its name and a short text above it. There’s also a colorful loading bar that starts to fill up while the button is press. This allowed players to make visual effects and have text like “Kick-Ass!” blink on and off along with Chipzel’s music. Kick-Ass is an appropriate term for it.

Super Hexagon – It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Super Hexagon, and in welcoming Chipzel on stage, I even said that it was, by far, the GOTY of 2012. I guess I really think so. Hmm. Anyway, an unsurprising part of Chipzel’s performance was her playing the soundtrack of Super Hexagon and I felt I just could not help myself; I had to play. So, there I was, dancing like a madman (I’m good at that) while playing the hardest level of Super Hexagon and listening to Chipzel perform live. For me, it was not far from this image, and I’m aware that might make me look like a complete nerd. Fine. I’m a complete nerd. Also, despite jumping around, I still made it 12 seconds into the level. Nerd.