Wednesday, October 19, 2016

IndieCade Festival

Over the weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to hang out at the IndieCade Festival for Independent Game Developers. IndieCade is one of my favorite game dev events because it is really focused on Indies - it showcases the best indie games in development (or recently released), it offers indie devs a chance to network with each other and with potential publishers, and it has a great lineup of talks targeting the most useful information for development as an indie studio.

There were four talks I found particularly useful - the first was called "So you want to start a game company? Corporate Formation and IP Strategy" and was led by Jonathan Pearce. I've been operating Astire Games as a Sole Proprietor with a DBA (I hope...), but I have run into some limiting factors by not being incorporated (most notably I've been trying to become a Sony developer, and as far as I can tell you need confirmation of your corporate entity). Anyway, I've had a lot of concerns and questions about forming an LLC versus an Inc, issues with IP and with paying employees (or offering rev share), the potential for incorporating in a different state, and deep-seated fears about legal issues arising in my entrepreneurial endeavors. Jonathan's talk was both inspiring and informative, and laid to rest some of my biggest concerns, though I still have some more decisions to make - I am completely on-the-fence about what state to incorporate in.

The second talk I attended was actually a workshop called "Paper Prototyping" and was run by several experienced educators, one of whom I spent some time talking to - Michael Annetta (sadly I do not recall the names of the others involved). This two-hour session took us on the ins and outs of developing a game idea from scratch, and although a lot of it was stuff I already knew, it was awesome to see it from a new perspective and it gave me some great ideas for better ways to teach design and prototyping (as you know, I teach level design, UI design, and rapid prototyping at the Art Institute). This workshop was also very active and I made some new friends that I continued to see throughout the rest of the festival.

On the second day I finally ended up at a VR talk called "Non Photoreal VR" about the visual design side of VR, dealing with performance issues, and tricks for making an environment feel "more 3D" using parallax, lighting, and fog.

The last talk I attended was by a friend of mine - Chris DeLeon (@ChrisDeLeon) - called "Starting Meetups that Make Games." In his talk, Chris gave some background on his experience running several different game developer meetups/clubs where participants would form teams and create and publish games in their spare time (often either students or folks working in a non-game field, or game developers who want to try a different discipline outside of their normal job). Two of the biggest problems facing game dev students when they graduate are 1.) not having a shipped title and 2.) not having experience working in a cross-discipline team. As we learned in this talk, a game dev meetup can help solve both of these problems.

I was inspired by Chris' talk to set into motion something I have been considering for a while - I want to give my students at the Art Institute (as well as students at the other colleges in Austin) a chance to get some hands-on work in an interdisciplinary group on a game that will ship. This is now one of my top-most priorities - I have always been passionate about the idea of improving education, and now here is something very tangible that I am very capable of contributing.

Aside from the four fabulous talks, IndieCade also offered me one other tremendous opportunity. IndieXChange (one of the IndieCade tracks) offers something called "Speed Dating" where developers get five minutes to meet with a publisher and pitch their idea, then can follow up afterward with those publishers. I was lucky enough to get to meet with reps from Sony and a rep from Oculus, and discuss my VR project Sundown Arcadia. It was an exhilarating experience - I always love an opportunity to talk up my games, and having an avid audience of publishers listening was quite thrilling.

One of the best parts about IndieCade, in my opinion, is the quality of the connections being made. At your average game dev conference you walk away with a big stack of business cards of people you are probable not going to contact. I left IndieCade with just seven business cards, but I have a very specific follow-up email for each one of them.

Between the superb talks, the phenomenal pitch opportunity, and the unique networking connection, I would call my IndieCade experience a success!

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