We joined a half-dozen of Winnipeg’s best Indie Game companies at this year’s Central Canadian Comic-Con. Organized by All Your Base Online as part of their epic BaseLAN video game tournament, Indie Alley allowed local companies to share their latest and greatest projects with the community.

At our Indie Alley table we showed off the first playable version of The Last Taxi, as well as gave demos for our augmented reality game, Clandestine: Anomaly.

Indie Alley

Given its stage in development, feedback for The Last Taxi is invaluable, and the visitors to our booth didn’t hesitate to deliver much needed insights. From helping us better tune the controls, to learning which passengers player’s loved and which they hated, the feedback we received will help us continue to improve the game.

Welcome to Indie AlleyMany of the best moments with Last Taxi seemed to come from one particular passenger (we won’t not it) who consistently led to shocked expression regardless of who was holding the controller. It was great to see how simple in-game text can still create such strong emotions in Players.

The most valuable lesson we learned with Last Taxi had to do with the way the game ramps in difficulty. The current difficulty curve starts too slow during the early game making the tutorial quite boring, then ramps up too aggressively. By the time Players reach day 3,  some referred to the game as “brutal” while calling the development team “sadistic.” So clearly some tuning is in order.

Overall though the response to Last Taxi was very positive, and people seems to appreciate the unique themes and setting of the game.

While Last Taxi is still in development, Clandestine: Anomaly is a complete product that is currently available for purchase, meaning a strong demo had the potential to generate immediate sales interest.

The problem with Clandestine has always been it isn’t the simplest game to quickly explain. As a mix of tower defense that links into an AR scene based on your real world position, the core game loop has always been a hard idea to express without having people actually play. Our goal at Comic-Con was always to get people playing however, getting them from passing by the booth to playing the game isn’t always so simple.

Initially we ran a looping video showcasing the game’s trailers, but that didn’t seem to grab as much interest as we’d hoped. Examining the differences in what parts of the trailers attracted people to try the demo and which didn’t we soon realized showing the both elements of the “Tower Tactics” gameplay (the map-based tower defense and AR shooter) and how they interconnect as quickly and frequently as possible was essential.

Once we realized this we cut the video and plugged a demo device right into the monitor and began playing, jumping back and forth between the Map and AR as frequently as possible. While it took more work to constantly play through the game, it had the added benefit of showing people how seamless and stable the jump between AR and the Maps really was.Live Demo

As soon as we began the live demo we noticed an immediate jump in traffic. We’d have many of those uplifting moments of a parent walking by our table half interested, only to do doing a double take and exclaim “holy cow” when we jumped into AR and started blasting away, or when kids would rush to the demo station to take their own turn. Watching people see the game for the first time, or take a turn playing it, is a special kind of magic because you can often see their unfiltered experience of your creation.

Comic-Con confirmed for us that when we get the game into Player’s hands many of them are blown away by Clandestine: Anomaly, which was an amazing thing to see after so many years of work.

Indie Alley at Comic-Con is still in its infancy, but it represents the best showcase of local developers Winnipeg has to offer. As such special praise should be given to All Your Base Online for having the vision to augment their BaseLAN tournament with Indie Alley, and to Jake Carewick for being an amazing organizer. Jake and All Your Base have always been big supporters of the local community and Indie Alley is the perfect evolution of that support.