Reflection: Playcrafting NYC, August 27th

Playcrafting NYC is an indie community event showcasing video game projects from around the tri-state area. As they say on their website, Playcrafting Expos are more than just networking - there is an emphasis in their mission statement to provide education and collaboration.

This past Thursday, the Among Elusions team prepared a presentation for our second outing to a Playcrafting NYC demo night. Over seventy developers and supporters were in attendance.  The presentation format was different than the previous event (a more open Arcade-style affair) and we patiently waited for the most important part of the night.

The Dominoes pizza. The pizza guy had some trouble navigated to the Microsoft Center and we starving artists sat with bellies growling. Pete, our presenter and host, lightened the air with some far out jokes. Corey and I joined in on the fun.

Left to Right: Pete, Johnny Toxin, Corey Camera: Aaron

Left to Right: Pete, Johnny Toxin, Corey
Camera: Aaron

Just five hours prior to the event at our home office, we scrambled in practice, avoiding repetition and a scripted feel so as to not sound ridiculous. We knew in our minds what we wanted to say, but describing one's game proves more often than not to be a challenge in itself. What is our game? Why do we like it? Why do we want you to like it?

The Among Elusions team believes the game can speak for itself in many ways, but it certainly helped to explain some mechanics out.

Johnny as John Lennon, Corey as Joaquin Phoenix, Aaron as Alfred Hitchcock (unpictured)

Johnny as John Lennon, Corey as Joaquin Phoenix, Aaron as Alfred Hitchcock (unpictured)

The intent behind Pachinko Slaughterhouse lies in an unfortunate truth about the seedier parts of the farm industry. We touch on ideas of corporate imposed debt on farmers, inhumane treatment of animals, and the notion that your food may not be reaching your plate without a bit of heartache.

The visual style contrasts with this idea, providing a fun environment and hilarious animations for our animals during their trip down the Pachinko board. We debuted two animals during this event - chickens and eggs - and the much tweaked 'Tilt' feature that allows you to adjust animal trajectory. Corey moved through a few of our earlier levels, but we had just enough time to show off a later combination with some interesting mechanics.

We were excited to find that a member of Games for Change, Megan, was in the audience during our presentation. And Megan was kind enough to record video for my personal favorite powerup, the Butcher Stand, which cuts your animals into meat for delivery.

'No animals were directly harmed by the development team. Possibly indirectly'

~ The Among Elusions Team

Luckily, we opened strong for the event. But, the games that followed kept that groove going for the rest of the night. Indie Paparoos debuted their game Assault Breaker, a mobile shooter that promises to keep your hand glued to the screen. Awkward Date made a huge splash next, showing off a welcome and reinvigorating change to the platforming genre. Simple Machine demonstrated their reflexive mobile game Zaga, reminiscent of Ikaruga with a hint of the classic Snake.

In a change of pace, Kurt Bieg (https://twitter.com/kurrrt) took the podium and showed off three student projects, made with Unity by new students taught and directed by the Playcrafting Unity events. 

The presentation closed with Two Dots, a self-described Candy Crush-esque game with engaging visuals and a level count that numbered into the four hundreds. A day after the event, Corey told me that Two Dots inspired a milestone change for our own game. That kind of transfer of ideas is what makes Playcrafting special; the ability to learn from other developers directly or indirectly realize something that can be improved in your own project.

With a final round of applause from the crowd, the developers setup shop around the room. Some audience members stopped by to play and dish out some feedback for our stages.

Among Elusions values all feedback received. These events bring together such different play-styles that we can be sure several players will approach our stages in an outside-the-box way that forces us into design revision. As developers, it is necessary to take a step back from our work and see if we're not blinded by our inside knowledge of the processes running in the background. Our previous time at Playcrafting resulted in sweeping changes to our approach to the game: we removed long exposition before stages and dropped in new tutorials that helped simplify the mechanics for newcomers.

I can safely say that the build we had for this past event was much more warmly received and intuitive. One particular young man would not stop playing our stages, even retrying a harder stage three times until he completed it. With a higher score than mine to boot.

Johnny "showing" the audience how to fail a stage

Johnny "showing" the audience how to fail a stage

All in all, the event went about as expected. That is to say, feedback was positive and we already have people asking how many stages to expect and when it will release. As a developer showing off our first game, the Among Elusions team appreciated those in the Playcrafting audience for their time.

If you could not join us this past week - or especially if you were able - we hope to run into your during our next event, The Sheep's Meow on September 16. Check out our event page for location and time details.

As always, thank you for your support.

- Johnny Toxin