THOUSANDS SHOWED UP FOR GOOD, CLEAN FUN AT THE EXPO
If you live in or near the greater Kingdom of Dallas and have ever had the desire to watch someone better at classic Nintendo Tetris than you probably have ever been at anything in your entire life, the Let’s Play Gaming Expo 2016 at the Plano Event Center was the place to be on Saturday.
Video games have spawned a rich and all-encompassing subculture. This expo had all of the ingredients you would find at any music or arts festival — fervent fans, a DJ cranking out 8-bit beats, guys and gals donning thematically appropriate cosplay attire, and local businesses seizing an opportunity to engage the community.
The only things it didn’t have: alcohol and drama. While that may be a deal-breaker for some weekend warriors, thousands in the Dallas/Fort Worth gaming community showed up to have some good, clean fun (and perhaps find a worthy competitor to “pwn” at Super Smash Bros, Tetris or Minecraft.)
It’s safe to say that this expo had something to offer any demographic of video game enthusiast. Fans of mainstream franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog would be equally as engaged as a collector of obscurities and limited releases – there was an impressive amount of classic consoles and Japanese imports in particular.
Surveying the landscape, one couldn’t help but acknowledge the accumulation of video game history across the generations. An entire room was dedicated to classic arcade cabinets in free-play mode, ranging from Atari’s 1968 spacecraft simulation Lunar Lander to Capcom’s 90’s beat-em-up X-Men.
LOCAL INDIE GAMING DEVELOPERS HAD STRONG SHOWING
Make no mistake, this is mainly an expo about appreciating the classics – and while some of the larger studios with current-gen releases such as id Software and Gearbox were nowhere to be found (probably devoting their time to E3), some local indie developers were happy to fill the space with impressive offerings.
Steve Zapata of PolyKnight Games walked me through a playable demo of the artsy flight sim Innerspace, expected to release at latest Spring 2017. This game can only be described as a free-roaming, meditative delight. The rhythmically fluid control scheme and lack of pressures such as health or time limit create an experience that is sufficiently challenging without being stressful. Strategically placed “relics” are to be collected throughout the world – the actual process of getting them is just complex enough to passively instruct the player to learn increasingly advanced maneuvers, enabling more possibilities to further explore the otherworldly and hypnotizing sights and sounds of Innerspace’s inverted spherical landscape.
J. Kyle Pittman of Minor Key Games brought his upcoming release Gunmetal Arcadia, which he unabashedly describes as a cross between the sophomore follow-ups to NES classics: Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.
While his game is certainly a worthy nod to the golden era of NES, what makes Pittman truly unique is the prolific amount of content available on his production blog, vividly documenting his process of making the game. If you have the slightest interest in what it takes to actually develop your own retro-style game, hop around on his YouTube channel where you will find a wealth of information documenting the creation of Gunmetal Arcadia.
While you’re waiting for its official release, check out his previous Steam hit release – the ubiquitously titled, Super Win the Game.
OTHER HONORABLE MENTIONS
Team Dogpit brought their new game Slam Fighter 2 – a unique twist on the oft copied 2d fighting game genre as made popular by Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. It appears they borrow some basic elements of rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and cleverly exploit our urge to throw shade at others for our own amusement – the goal ultimately being to create the sickest disses and attempt as rhythmically accurate of a rebuttal as possible by typing each letter to the tempo. Sticks and stones may break your bones in other games, but in Slam Fighter II it’s all about the words. No kicks, no punches, no hadokens – the cut of your jib will cut into your opponent’s health bar until they are destroyed by your brazen verbosity.
Hidden Achievement, based out of Austin and Dallas introduced Outpost Delta – in the vein of SNES classic Super Metroid, it diverts by incorporating precise keyboard and mouse controls in a genre typically dominated by gamepads. If this prototype is any indicator of what a fully fleshed out version of the game will bring – fans of the genre will delight in experiencing much of the same but with a more immersive control scheme.
Game development in Dallas has been here for years and it’s here to stay. With such a fertile gaming landscape, it’s a surprise that it’s taken this long for a gaming expo to emerge. It may be a far cry from the world renowned E3, but for those who can’t afford the time or money to trek across the country – the Let’s Play Gaming Expo proves to be an excellent way to connect through mainstream favorites while also getting a peak at what’s being developed right here in Dallas-Fort Worth.
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