Category «Festivals»

Gamescom – Day 1 – NOTGAMES FEST

Notgames Fest

Five years ago Tale of Tales created a game called The Graveyard. You play an elderly woman who is visiting a graveyard. When you walk too fast, she starts to limp. At the end, you can reach a bench and listen to a dutch song about life and death. Afterwards you can leave the graveyard and the games is finished. What followed was a big discussion about this project. Is it a game or not? Should it be called a game? Is walking enough to be called 'gameplay'?

Since then Tale of Tales created a lot more games which fancied me because of their attitude towards gameplay or their way to tell stories, like 'The Endless Forest' or the 'The Path'. As an answer to the reactions towards their games they created the term “notgame”, to describe their kind of interactive media.

In 2011 they even started the Notgames Fest in cooperation with the Cologne Games Lab, a university for game design. They selected a variety of games contrary to the games at the gamescom, which takes place in parallel to their exhibition.


This year they came back to Cologne to present even more games at the second edition of the Fest. Games which – according to Simon Bachelier who was jointly responsible for the exhibition – invite the player to toy around instead of achieving given goals. The area was split into the main exhibition and the playground, where prototypes of upcoming games were shown. Sadly they were presented only on Tuesday, which was also the night of the opening party.

In contrast to the gamescom, the whole place was super-relaxing with little booths that where seperated by white strings. A dark room, just illuminated by the gloom of the monitors and beanbags put in the middle to invite the player to have a good time. You get the feeling that this is the only right way to present games. Instead of joining the party we played every game and discussed them with the developers who where in place.

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Right at the beginning you find a game called 'Bokuda'. The first comment I heard somebody saying about it was: “Oh, like Minecraft!”, but if you dive into the clean designed white valley with its black sun, you will recognize that there is more to it. In Bokuda you can built chains of cubes, which at the same time are also your path to walk on. You can slice them and thus physicalize the created object. Then you can smash them. The whole game is like a huge playground with an endless amount of building blocks. What I liked about the game was the attitude, that there was no goal and you have to find your own entertainment in it. Or find out for yourself what this game has in mind for you. Or you for it.


'Kachina' was another game that really caught my interest. The game by Ben Esposito, who got the Indie Fund as financial backup, is something like a physics adventure. Your goal is to clear the area from every object around with a hole. You can move the hole around and 'eat' anything that will fit in it. Sometimes you need to eat small things first to grow for bigger things. Or eat a frog, that will jump out of it to eat the flies that buzz in the air. Instant fun. This game takes the term 'Clearing the level' to the max.


Projected on the wall you can find the so-japanese 'Noby Noby Boy' by Keita Takahashi. You play a worm that eats to grow larger (a gameplay element you can find here quite often). In the two-player mode the both of us tried to realize what actually can be done. The whole stuff looked buggy, couldn't be reset. When we checked the menu the damn worm eats up the text and we never managed to shrink the worms to be able to handle them. Nevertheless we played this thing over and over again. Recognizing that we can eat each other to shit us out was the best. Nice feature! Is this a game about relationships?


The most interesting game in this place for me was 'Shelter'. A game which I mentioned at the Amaze festival because of its strange emphasize on obvious texture tiling. We discussed the art style a bit until a bystander asked us if we even know how games are made.

Whatever feeling you have towards the art style (I love it, btw), the game is great. You play a badger mother walking her little ones on a journey of life and death. Plainly spoken: It's a linear walk-through with food to find, foxes and frogs to kill and enemies like huge flying birds to avoid. But the whole world really begs for exploration and you start to have a really strong relationship with your little badgers. Try to find food for them, because they get hungry, which is neatly visualized by them getting light grey until they crawl up and won't move anymore. I stopped playing it because I want to buy it, but I strongly recommend this game, if you like exploration and little cute animals that you can call with a click of your mouse.



The next room, which I already mentioned above, was just there for one day - the 'playground'. You could play prototypes of upcoming games. Mattias Ljungström from 'Spaces of Play' presented their game 'Future Unfolding' there. The game is in a really early development state, but has an interesting approach to exploration. You are a person who is just able to walk, run or sprint in this beautifully designed woods. On your journey you encounter different animals that all have a different behavior. A rabbit that grows bushes, wolfs that split up every second to surround and kill you. Or the deers that lead you to their leader if you follow them. I just cannot say 'no' to games which take place in woods.


Another project that caught my interest since I heard of it was 'That Dragon, Cancer'. The game is about a father and his little three-year old who has cancer. The game was presented in a very early state as well. You play the man in first-person perspective and can freely explore the hospital room. When you reach certain hotspots he is telling his moving, depressing story about his son. From time to time you take action to feed the toddler or bring him back to bed. But you never see him, because he is already dead (or not implemented?). But you can hear his crying and the desperate attempts of his father to calm the boy down.

Wow. I mean, the game was at it's very beginning and the game part was a bit irritating. But this game shows what interactive media can be capable of. Just the sound and talking in this hospital room made me feel his pain. His true, sad story.

I feel insensitive to switch back to my developer talk and experience, but I'm no journalist, so I stick to what interests me about the game as well: 'That Dragon, Cancer' by Ryan Green and his team will be the first OUYA-exclusive game. Which is an interesting choice for a gaming platform.

And don't forget to play Tale of Tales' own game 'Luxuria Superbia'. I felt lesbian afterwards. And I know that I want to please my iPad more often. It feels great. "Thank you".


I feel that there needs to be written more about every game there, but games are best been played. So, just take some time, leave the gamescom and check out for the Notgames Fest, because its worth visiting for its nice selection of games.

Svetovid and gamescom

Last week I participated in the 7DFPS - a game jam that wants to "keep first person shooters interesting". I'm not really sure if people really lose interest in the FPS genre somehow, but here you are, a jam that is all about first person perspective and shooting. Of course neither is mandatory, as there are entries without any pew pew and even 2D ones. Overall the genre is a very open one, and with the rise of Unity3D, a lot of people were able to participate without much hurdles.


My own entry, Svetovid, uses Unity3D too. The name comes from a Slavic god "of war, fertility and abundance", and like a lot of gods he has several heads, each looking in a different direction. I kinda was inspired by our visit to the island Rügen where he was worshipped. But mostly I just wanted to do something unusual with the camera and experiment a bit, as I didn't have much time and motivation to fully use the seven days of game jamming. Thus Svetovid was made in circa three days and can be downloaded or just played in your browser here. Gameplay-wise it's very simplistic, and as it is turn-based, it reminds of a roguelike a lot.

I'm pretty happy as the game already got a bit attention: @notch, @PeterMolydeux, @radiatoryang and @AdamKuczynski tweeted about it! Svetovid also was mentioned on IndieStatik and


In other news, we will be in Cologne on Wednesday, visiting the gamescom 2013. This year a collective booth of German indie developers will be open from Wednesday to Sunday, presenting ten different games:

  1. Beatbuddy (Threaks)
  2. GhostControl Inc. (bumblebee)
  3. The Inner World (Studio Fizbin)
  4. Forced (Beta Dwarf Entertainment)
  5. Splatter (Dreamworlds)
  6. The Last Tinker (mimimi Productions)
  7. Team Indie (Brightside Games)
  8. The Red Solstice (Ironward)
  9. Ethan: Meteor Hunter (Seaven Studio)
  10. Sky Arena (Hammer Labs)

The trailer shows the awesomeness of these games and the German indie scene, even though it's much too short:

Indie Arena at Gamescom - 10 games in 1 Booth

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Oh - and on Tuesday we will be at the official Expo Party of the Notgames Fest, talking to artists and other indie developers.

Hope to see you there!

Embrace Your Limitations – Game Jams Extended

why limit yourself?

In this post I present you the transcript from our talk "Embrace Your Limitations - Game Jams Extended" at the A Maze 2013. Actually, it's just a prettified version of our outline. By the way, we held the talk with a beamer presentation in the background showing some pictures, but as they weren't important for the talk and we're not sure about the license of each picture, you'll just have to imagine them. :-P

Description: "A two day game jam might result in a neat, even innovative little gem - why not expanding it until it becomes a full, polished game? It can be tempting to bloat a game with things it doesn't really need and make it a monster that never will be finished. Thus we want to talk about why you should fall in love with your limitations and how to create cool things with small prerequisites."

1) Who are we?

  • Rat King from Germany - Jana & Friedrich
  • making TRI, since quite some time
  • derived from an Ludum Dare entry, began with a simple idea, so we added a lot of stuff to it
  • became too big - we refocused and embraced our limitations

2) Why do we talk about this?

  • so that you learn from our mistakes
  • this is not about small or big games, but the avoidance of feature creeps
    • because they prevent you from finishing your games!
  • [picture of 1000 Ludum Dare games] cool to be one of them, but even better to have a finished, polished game
    • game jamming as production style
    • helps learning to limit yourself and sticking to your talent/profession
  • limitation is your boss (if you're indie)

3) Constrain your game design

  • gamedev often starts with the thought "I can do ANYTHING"
  • but: limitations help you creating ideas - just think of game jams (restrictions regarding time/theme/technical/etc.)
  • remove features / elements where possible
    • “Perfection is not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove." (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) - talking about perfection, but can be applied on design, too (designers often are perfectionists)
    • example 7-Day-Roguelike-Challenge 2012 (Me Against The Mutants): cutting off features before the development is easy; the later the harder
      • in the end we relied on the one cool idea it has (infinity rectangles)
    • throw away features when they're too much or not needed - never be afraid to cut stuff out that doesn’t add fun
    • often leads to clear design and a clear vision
  • the cycle of innovating and testing (= experimenting in a short time frame) only really works when you limit yourself, otherwise it becomes a growing spiral of death

4) Constrain your graphics design

  • good games are memorable and can be recognized with one screenshot
    • limitations help defining your art style so it sticks out
    • games full of prefabs, characters, features are harder to communicate
    • instead of trying to add lots of details - minimalism is win
    • find a visual trademark, for example a recognizable character
  • pixels are cool, but 3D is cool too - limitations are possible with every art style!
  • use a grid
    • necessary in TRI so people can measure distances
    • grids are fundamental, used in design
    • as soon as you are restricted to a grid you can’t add too much stuff anymore - this is good
    • everything becomes deterministic - you can put only one thing at one place (tile) at a time
    • but beware the almighty Minecraft - games get judged by images

5) Constrain your technology

  • KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid
    • must be in this presentation
    • search for simple solutions, even when the problem looks complex
  • only do stuff the player actually sees
    • you're making a game, not a simulation
    • even simulations are simplified
    • tip: take a step back as the developer, and imagine playing your game as a normal player
  • do not reinvent the wheel ...
    • ... but sometimes you don't really need a full-blown monster-truck wheel
    • if you have/need a simpler solution, go for it
    • avoid third-party-solutions that add too much stuff / features, because it's tempting to use those features
      • limit your project, not your brain
      • let your imagination run wild and the creativity flow, but sometimes it's easy to forget KISS - just remember limitation is your boss now
    • example: for Karoshi! I needed some pathfinding
      • downloaded an A* plugin for Unity with multithreaded, dynamic pathfinding
      • was too general and had some quirks
      • made the development overcomplicated and added a lot of hassle
      • better solution would have been to just roll my own

6) What is needed in order to successfully make a game with limitations?

  • "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
  • experience in your field
    • realistically evaluate of what you are capable
    • don't try TOO novel stuff, concentrate on one (cool) aspect
    • prevent too many construction sites at once
  • a small team
    • big teams automatically add overhead and the feeling of “you can do more”
  • ideally one cool, perhaps innovative idea
  • no idols
    • be inspired by others, but don't try to copy them
    • you will try to add more stuff if you clone another game, and might even bloat it
    • at least don't copy a whole game, but pick certain features you like

7) Expand your horizon

  • does it really need to be a “real” game?
    • example: Fibrillation only consists of walking around in changing scenes and experiencing a background story
    • even the little bit of voice-overs in the game are too much
  • tip: mix genres, or invent a new one
  • don’t try to fulfill expectations for a genre
    • example: FEZ doesn't need enemies in order to be a good platformer
    • leave stuff out and innovate elsewhere!

8) Cool game jams in YOUR neighbourhood

9) Thanks for listening / reading!

 TL;DR? Limit yourself so you can get things done.