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.
Monday’s article went over what was new with the games that returned from last year’s Evo; read it here if you need to catch up. Today, we’re going to check out the Evo 2013 newcomers, so keep reading for a sneak peek at what you’ll see this weekend (or, if you’re not coming, what you’re missing out on).
Playing against the person sitting right next to you is an essential part of the competitive game experience, and Matt Thorson knew that when he made TowerFall. TowerFall is a four-player archery platformer that has players wall-jumping, dashing, and catching arrows to be the last one standing. It has been killing it on the Ouya lately, and now it’s coming to Evo. I talked to Thorson to see what he was expecting from showing TowerFall at Evo:
When did you start making games?: I’ve been making games since I was 14, but even before that I’ve been drawing Mario levels on construction paper since my dad brought home an NES.
Why Evo?: TowerFall’s matches are lightning fast, ended by sudden and brutal one-shot kills. Wall jumping, slide dashing, deflections, catching arrows…the controls are simple to learn but tuned for experts, and there’s a slew of advanced techniques that only competitive players will fully appreciate. There’s a 2v2 team deathmatch mode and many customization options designed specifically for eliminating any advantage from the playfield. It’s very spectator-friendly with an instant replay feature.
I’m so excited to get TowerFall into the hands of hardcore players at Evo and see it played at the highest level. I’m pretty good at it, but I have a feeling I’ll quickly be left in the dust.
Shawn Alexander Allen is a longtime fighting game fan, and he’s incredibly excited to get Treachery in Beatdown City in front of like-minded folks at Evo this year — so excited, in fact, that he wrote me a novel-length email about it. Treachery in Beatdown City is what Allen calls a “tactical beat-em-up”; it’s a brawler that borrows turn-based mechanics from RPGs to appeal to a fighting game enthusiast’s love of both long combos and mindgames. Here’s what he had to say:
When did you start making games?: I designed levels using paper and markers when I was a kid, but seriously considering making games felt like a pipe dream; the industry felt very far away from New York City. Schools like Full Sail and Digipen were not an option to me as a city kid, so I went to art school for Graphic design. Graphic design felt very stagnant to me at the time, and graphics in games were accelerating at such a fast pace which was the eventual catalyst for why I switched to Computer Art as a major. I dabbled in sprite art at the time, hung out on forums and the such but it never went anywhere, it still felt like it wasn’t something I could do.
My Comp Art thesis animation scored me a job at Rockstar Games, a company I had admired the branding behind for the last 10 years. But there I was a part of massive games where my say would never really be reflected in the final output. While I was there, several high profile indie game releases like Super Meat Boy and Braid came out and gave me some hope. Meeting a bunch of independent developers like the Skulls of the Shogun devs and Nathan from Capy at a low key party during E3 2010 really gave me the confidence to finally sit down and start seriously working on a game. In 2012 I left to go indie myself.
Why Evo?: My game, being a tactical brawler, is in many ways a one-player fighting game. As an only kid I always wanted to have fighting games that had good opponents in them; ones that had good enough behavior patterns to feel like a challenge without being cheap.
The fighting game community is all about psychology, tactics, and critical analysis of what makes a fighting game tick, and what makes it good. I remember the in depth analysis of the first E3 build of Marvel Vs. Capcom and watching Seth Killian play with top players to get their feedback on even the smallest nuances to a game’s combat engine. I’d love to see what fighting game experts from all over have to say about my game’s combat mechanics, and that’s something that only Evo can provide.
Do you have a personal connection to fighting games?: My love of fighting games goes back to when I was maybe 6 or 7. Karateka and Double Dragon were the first games that I played that had fighting in them, and I loved them. Me and my friends played the Vs. mode in Double Dragon for hours on end back in second grade. But then Street Fighter II came along, and changed my view of fighting in games completely. I played the SF2 arcade game for the first time at a drug front candy shop on my block. I only had fifty cents and I quickly lost both of my matches because I didn’t know how to use Chun Li or E. Honda, but I was hooked. I played SF2 on SNES religiously at friend’s houses… I was never any good, but loved the games so much. The drive to understand how the games worked, the amazing character design and the whole vibe around them was really something other genres couldn’t provide.
I didn’t own a console until I was 13, so to experience Mortal Kombat at home in 5th grade I drew and cut out characters on cardboard from screens in in a GamePro issue and built a cardboard replica of “The Pit”, complete with bloody spikes.
One of my best friends and I spent many nights in college playing Street Fighter III and Capcom Vs. SNK 1 and 2 on Dreamcast, and I contemplated very hard moving to Japan to try to pitch an all new concept for a fourth Street Fighter.
When SF IV was announced I got super excited and I was chomping at the bit to play it in the arcades. I ended up being unlucky enough to play my first match at a crowded Chinatown Fair against an already experienced Justin Wong, but I came back a few more times to get my fix with Zangief after falling in love with Hugo and Alex in SF III.
I’d say Street Fighter IV is when I finally started to really care about being “good” at a fighting game, but I’m still fairly shy about attending tournaments. I won the first leg in the Gamestop tournament using a fairly broken 360 controller at my local store, but was too nervous to attend the next bracket. My goal is to get Hakan into some tournaments one day — maybe after I finish my game.
Samurai Gunn is a 2D platform-hopping sword-dueling multiplayer game (2-4 players) with an extra complication: Each player also has a gun with three bullets. Guns aren’t a win button, though; a smart or speedy player can deflect them with his sword and keep the game going. Developer Beau Blyth wasn’t able to get back in touch with me in time to make it in this article, but I think this video from Fantastic Arcade 2012′s tournament finals says enough. There’s also a good interview with Blyth from after Samurai Gunn received its Independent Games Festival 2013 finalist nomination over here.
The Super Space ____ (pronounced “Super Space Blank”) devs David Scamehorn and Alexander Baard call their game a “competitive cooperative shared fate shooter”. Basically, four players each control a turret on a spaceship and are tasked with blasting asteroids to compete for the highest score. The twist, of course, is that each player’s shots also move the shared spaceship around the screen, meaning that players need to coordinate and cooperate. Watch the trailer below, or download the game yourself from the Super Space ____ website.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at Evo!
Inside the Evo Indie Showcase, Part 2: The New Challengers