Evo is the place to be for a competitive gamer — and game developers of all kinds are starting to take notice. That’s why the Evolution Indie Showcase is coming back this year, and thanks to the efforts of showcase organizer and Capy Games president Nathan Vella, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever.
In this article, we’re going to highlight the developers who are returning from last year’s indie showcase, and in part two we’ll show you the Evo newcomers. Read on for a sneak peek at what you’ll see this weekend (or, if you’re not coming, what you’re missing out on).
A 1v1 version of a Turing Test appeals to a rare breed of video game enthusiast; fortunately, that breed shows up in full force at Evo. SpyParty, by Chris Hecker, pits a Spy against a Sniper at a cocktail party; the spy must blend into the crowd long enough to perform certain tasks (placing a bug on an ambassador, for example) before the Sniper identifies and eliminates the Spy. (Fun fact: Hecker actually came to Evo last year on Seth “s-kill” Killian’s suggestion.) I talked to Hecker to see what was new with SpyParty since last year’s Evo, and why he decided to come back.
What’s new?: SpyParty is the same core game, it’s just more tuned and deeper. There are some new maps and missions, but the biggest thing to come out of Evo 2012 for SpyParty is that the player at the top of my leaderboard as of a month ago first played at Evo 2012, and over the past year he has put in 252 hours, 7 minutes, and 30 seconds of playtime into 6206 games of SpyParty. Seth Killian actually bet me an Evo attendee would be my best player at some point, and now I owe him a beer. That player, ‘kcmmmmm’, will be working in the booth on Friday if you’d like to come get your ass kicked by him.
Why Evo?: What I love about Evo is the intense love of competition and deep skill-based games, and the diversity of the community. I care a lot about diversity in SpyParty, in terms of the characters in the game, in terms of the community, and in terms of supporting different skilled players and having rich handicapping modes to bridge relatively large skill gaps, so elite players can still have a good time playing mid-level players. I was pleasantly surprised by Evo attendee reactions to SpyParty last year…there was the initial, “What’s this Sims crap?” as they walked by, but then as they watched, and saw how deep and tense the game is, they embraced it.
Favorite fighting game?: I got okay at Fight of the Sumo Hoppers back in the 90s. I doubt that counts. However, I really respect fighting games for their depth, and I hope I can make SpyParty even approach that level of depth some day.
BaraBariBall is kind of like a minimalist Super Smash Brothers with a small dose of volleyball. (Trust me — it sounds weird, but it works.) It made the indie showcase rounds last year, showing up at Evo as well as Tokyo Game Show’s Sense of Wonder Night and IndieCade. Since then, Sasso and the team have been hard at work turning BBB into a highly-refined monster of a game.
What’s new?: Last year went really well, especially the BBB side tournament, but the game has changed a lot since then. We’ve spent almost a whole year tuning the combat and adding a ton of tech and nuance. BaraBariBall was pretty good last year but it’s scary right now.
Why Evo?: Being able to bring BBB to tournaments like UFGT, Apex, and last year’s Evo is a big part of the reason why making it is so much fun. The players have a respect for competition and play for their own sake that I really relate to. There’s a willingness to experiment and learn and fail which, for better or for worse, seems to be more and more rare these days.
What’s your connection to the fighting game community?: I grew up back when there were actually more than three or four arcades in northern NJ and NYC, so fighting games were some of the first video games I ever played. Also, Richard and Marcus Terrell, the Texas contingent of the BBB team, have a long history in the Smash scene, both as competitors and as TOs.
Nidhogg, the minimalist fencing game by Mark Essen, is returning for another indie showcase appearance. Over the last few years, Nidhogg has won several awards, including the Nuovo Award at the 2011 Independent Games Festival and first place at the Eurogame Expo — but the new Evo 2013 build includes an additional move which might push Nidhogg into the next level. I checked in with Essen to see what he’s got in store.
What’s new?: We’ve changed a lot! Maybe the biggest change to the way matches work is the addition of the divekick, which is a really cool move that I never fully appreciated until watching people do it a million times last year on Iron Galaxy’s screen. It was great to meet everyone last year and put the game through its paces. The state machine has been totally overhauled, so everything should feel a lot nicer this time around.
Part turn-based strategy, part stylized ultraviolent beat-em-up; Ben Ruiz and Matthew Wegner’s Aztez takes inspiration from God of War, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and other modern brawlers. Ruiz dropped me a line to tell me how Aztez has been updated for Evo this year.
What’s new?: It’s been a year since the Evo 2012 build of Aztez, and that means more enemies, more mechanics, more tuning, and more style. We’re in the progress of building four distinct weapon sets, and we’ll be bringing two of them to Evo this year! We’ve also got a ton of swag this time around, better planning, a superior space, and a year’s worth of additional wisdom, insight, and constructive grumpiness.
Why Evo?: The fighting game community could not be more perfect place to show off Aztez. As a highly technical and highly expressive action game, I need the competitive and exploitative superbrains of the fighting game crowd to do two critical things: show everyone (myself included) what the game is capable of, and show me how it’s broken so I can fix it. As the designer, I have to maintain a bird’s eye view of everything, so it’s very easy to let little problems slip through the cracks. And on top of it all, the fighting game community is simply one of my favorite communities to be around.
Favorite fighting game?: Street Fighter was one of my earliest loves, and to this day it inspires and teaches me about games and competition and skill and life. In my 8+ year career, I have worked and interfaced with fighting game designers both young and old, and like most other Evo attendees and exhibitors, have been playing fighting games my entire life.
“Struggles Combs has a problem,” the Super Comboman promo copy reads. “He can’t stop busting combos! Even while he’s at work!” I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there who sympathizes with Combs’ predicament.
Unfortunately, none of the Interabang folks were able to get in touch with me in time to make it into this article, but I’ve been lucky enough to see Super Comboman a few times — first in late 2011, then again at Evo last year. Suffice it to say that it’s a 2D beat-em-up designed for people who want more from combos than just the standard one-button Final Fight chain, and Evo attendees would do well to check it out.
Don’t forget: Part II of Inside the Evo 2013 Indie Showcase is coming later this week!
Inside the Evo 2013 Indie Showcase, Part 1: The Returning Champions