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Interview with Garage Games

IndieGamesConOn October 7-9, 2005, IndieGamesCon will return to Eugene, OR. This event, produced by Garage Games and now in it's 4th year, is a great opportunity to meet with and learn from others in the independent game development community. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Jay Moore, Garage Games Evangelist, about IndieGamesCon.

First off, tell me a little bit about IndieGamesCon. What kind of folks are are attracted to it? Is it a haven for professional independent game developers, kids writing MMORPGs in their parents' basements, or both?

GarageGames: Indie Games Con '05 is in its 4th year - the developers who have made it an annual pilgrimage are generally those that are building commercial quality games and game studios, even if it is avocationally. We have a broad range of attendees from students wanting to break into gaming to commercial developers in a large spectrum of markets like the "serious game" genre of simulation and training, to coin-op, handheld and casual games. IGC focuses on getting like-minded independent developers together and providing ways for exciting things to happen.

One example is the "soul" of IGC, the Show-OFF Center, where anyone attending can install and have their games available to play on over 35 gaming machines. It can be enlightening and sometimes brutal, but it is also very rewarding to have your peers play and give genuine gamer and developer feedback on your game(s).

What are some of the more exciting things you have in store for IGC '05?

GarageGames: What people bring to Show-OFF is really where it gets exciting. Everyone is still pretty much in suspense as developers crunch to get their games ready. A few rumors and threats have been made by some GG community members like:

Phil Carlisle, educator / indie entrepreneur, formerly known for his work on Worms with Team 17 is bringing more than his British wit from across the pond and is threatening to premiere Air Ace, a WWII arcade-oriented flight sim, built in Torque Shader Engine.

Ian Roach, a member of the Starcave team, is has tipped his hat with some Illumnia screenshots.

MVP Online has shown screenshots of the upcoming Golden Fairway built in the Torque Game Engine.

GarageGames always likes to hold a few announcements back, but the main focus will be in collaboration with the Title Sponsor of IGC, Microsoft Casual Games, the rollout of GarageGames's Xbox 360 Live Arcade launch title.

Typically the Xbox hasn't been something associated with casual games. In fact, apart from Alien Hominid, I can't think of anything they've released that even resembles an indie-studio project. Is there something you can say about GarageGames and/or independent titles and/or the Xbox 360, or is that some kind of super duper hush-hush under-wraps kind of thing?

GarageGames: Your comment highlights what has been one of the least hyped new indie successes on the current Xbox. At e3 2004 they announced Xbox Live Arcade and then launched it last November. Since that time they have published twenty-two casual game titles, such as Mutant Storm from Pom Pom, Fuzzee Fever that premiered at IGC '03 and three titles from GarageGames including single player Marble Blast, and live-enabled multiplayer ThinkTanks and Orbz (IGC '02 Player's Choice Award winner).

I can say that Greg Canessa, Group Manager of the Xbox Live Arcade, will be part of the Saturday morning keynote, and we will be unveiling our Xbox 360 Live Arcade title at IGC.

What makes IndieGamesCon the annual pilgrimage for independent game developers?

GarageGames: Its all about the people. The event is a unique mixture of meeting like-minded developers with a passion for making games and an intense peer review of the builds brought to IGC. The big garage atmosphere (that's code for a venue that has a bar and no rules about how long we can play our games) keeps everyone accessible, and there are lively discussions on nearly every issue of vital interest to indies. Like great games, it's all about the fun factor. We don't try to produce the event so much as focus it on the parts that give everyone the 'once in a lifetime' game dev. experience ... every year.

Matt Fairfax and Phil Carlisle have shared their past experiences in blog posts captured at http://www.indiegamescon.com/stories.

Given that GarageGames is presenting at the conference, does that mean that mean all of the sessions are about Torque and focused on GarageGames?

GarageGames: We've always tried to make IGC relevant to indies using any technology and publishing anywhere. About 40% of those coming to the event are not part of the GG community, but when we didn't have Torque featured in the breakout sessions we heard about it, even from those who just wanted to know what we were doing tech wise. We've featured Open Source and other technologies in the past, but the real heat has been around use of commercial art and programming tools and business development issues. We have one full Torque track with 5 sessions, the Artist Track uses Torque for discussing the art pipeline, and a session on OS X, Xbox 360 and teaching game design that will rely heavily on Torque - so I'd say less than 50% of the sessions have GG or Torque content.

When you started this you compared IGC to the early days when GDC was called CGDC, and how has that vision been realized?

GarageGames: This year Chris Crawford, the founder of CGDC, will be speaking on Sunday, and I think back to the conversations we enjoyed with him as we were creating IGC back in 2002. He encouraged us to make it about the community, focus on discussion groups, keep everyone accessible and not let "the commercial suits buy our souls". We've had limited sponsorship over the years, but most of the promotional energy in the room is attendees getting people to play their game(s) and getting feedback - call it blatant self-promotion. Even when 21-6 Productions had over 10 people out one year talking up their titles it felt like the right kind of promotional energy. It can feel like a vibrant micro-economy of new game studios, some getting interest from distributors and publishers as well as GarageGames.

The independent game developer community seems to be made up of a broad range of game developers from casual games to serious games. Have you seen this reflected in those that come to IGC?

GarageGames: We have. Most of the studios are doing a mix of casual games and contracts on simulations, educational and training projects as well as coin-op, handheld and advergaming initiatives. At IGC we focus on the games, but we have more educators and serious game dev. shops coming each year.

The keynote this year is from Mark Frohnmayer on the state of the indie movement - can you give us a glimpse of what that talk will reveal?

GarageGames: Mark will give us his perspective on how the opportunities are opening up to indies. Then Greg Canessa, Group Manager for Xbox Live Arcade, will present how Microsoft sees the opportunities for Indies. He'll also be able to point to Xbox 360 Live Arcade titles available for developers to play at the event.

Anything more you'd like to tell us about IndieGamesCon?

GarageGames: The momentum has been building, but the games speak for themselves. Building great games is as much art as science and getting all these artists together means great things are bound to happen. I think the real excitement is that indies are now truly 'Re-Inventing Games - Indie Style'.

Interview conducted by John Hattan

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