After a modest start in 2011, AdventureX, the UK’s first and only adventure game expo, returned bigger and better in 2012 after attracting more interest from the developer community and receiving financial assistance through crowdfunding. The additional funds certainly helped to transform the sophomore event, which secured an impressive venue at the University of East Anglia in London, once again organized by Screen 7. Set over the course of two days in December, the event spread out across two ultra-modern conference rooms and a gaming lounge in the foyer, creating an atmosphere that was certainly different from last year. It's still far from the adventure game equivalent of PAX, but its scope was significantly expanded in terms of attendance, size and overall polish, attracting nearly four to five times the attendees as last year.
The biggest name in the room this year was Wadjet Eye’s Dave Gilbert, who flew in from New York just for the event, but there were many other developers there touting their latest projects. Speakers talked about the challenges facing indie developers and the means to overcome them. There were panel discussions and special guest speakers, and even some downright silliness. But best of all, it was a weekend where you could get together with others who are enthusiastic about the genre.
AdventureX was initially focused on AGS (Adventure Game Studio), and while the popular free game engine was once again well represented, this time round a variety of developers made an appearance, many using different development packages and working across an array of devices. In fact, there seemed to be quite a collegial atmosphere as visitors began to network and talk about the potential of different platforms. There was plenty of occasion to introduce oneself to programmers, artists and composers, and lots of cards were exchanged with the potential for future projects on the horizon.
With so much to see and do this time around, our coverage is much more extensive than last year, but even with two Adventure Gamers staff members in attendance, we still couldn’t manage to see it all. So, with apologies to anyone we missed, here is a roundup of what went on at AdventureX 2012.
Dave Gilbert - Indie Adventure Game Publishing
Back in 2006, a man found that the contract he had just completed left him with enough cash to cover six months' worth of bills. Having dabbled in freeware game design, he saw this as an opportunity to try to make a living from creating games. That man was Dave Gilbert, and the company he founded as a result of this decision was Wadjet Eye Games. The following tale is one of both the pitfalls that he faced and the occasional piece of luck that also came his way.
Dave Gilbert shows off Wadjet Eye's diverse cast of characters
Starting out with little money and none of the professional experience that would get him taken seriously, Gilbert knew he faced an uphill struggle. After his first release, The Shivah, it soon became apparent that he couldn’t rely on his own output to keep him going. With the number of games he was able to produce on his own in a year, he would always be one flop away from disaster. The move into publishing seemed an obvious way to spread the risk and get more games out, but his first foray in this field did not go quite as planned. Erin Robinson's Puzzle Bots seemed an ideal choice for his first published game, especially since the concept had effectively been proven with the freeware title Nanobots. But when a programmer couldn’t be found for the game, Dave stepped in to do the work. Not only did this prevent him working on his own projects, it left him in the bizarre position of doing extra work but paying someone else for it.
Whilst Puzzle Bots achieved some critical acclaim, Dave knew he needed to take a different approach to future publishing projects. There could be no more funding games from scratch. Then an amazing stroke of luck came his way. An almost fully developed game was practically handed to him gift-wrapped. The developer, Joshua Nuemberger, had been working on the game for some time, and he just needed help on the final push for a finished product. After release, Gemini Rue was picked up by gaming portals even outside the adventuring niche market, and went on to achieve well-deserved critical success.
Six years down the line from taking that first brave step, Wadjet Eye is still going strong. 2012 was a significant year of publishing for the company, with Resonance, Da New Guys and Primordia all being released. The move to publishing has not been an easy one, however. His new responsibilities have taken time away from development of Dave’s own projects, and making tough decisions has sometimes led to clashes with developers. But with a new Blackwell slated to come out some time this year, and Dave’s wife Janet working on porting their back catalogue to iOS, it looks like the adventure gaming world has a lot to look forward to from the man who took that leap of faith six years ago.
Quest for Infamy
Quest for Infamy has been around for quite a few years now. The idea for the game originally came together when two internet friends (Shawn Mills and Steven Alexander) decided to make their own version of Quest for Glory, albeit slightly darker. But the concept was put on hold for the better part of a decade as the developers sought to gain experience at making such complex adventure games. And so the two friends formed a studio called Infamous Adventures and set about doing well-received free remakes of King’s Quest III and Space Quest II. Fast forward to today, and IA's commercial offshoot called Infamous Quests is comprised of a small(ish) team of volunteer developers. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Mills and Alexander have now revived their plans for Quest for Infamy to finally bring their long awaited vision to reality.
The Quest for Infamy underway at AdventureX
This game takes the concept of playing a hero and turns it on its head, making you a villain instead. In order to succeed, you need to be out causing mayhem and performing nefarious deeds whilst at the same time keeping a low profile. The story incorporates a fair amount of dark humour and parody throughout, and the main character Mister Roehm is generally quite sarcastic when engaging in conversation, quite surprisingly so for a man on the run and looking to start over. Quest for Infamy offers you three character choices when you start the game: a Rogue, a Sorcerer or a Brigand. Each profession is similar to its Quest for Glory counterpart but with a slightly darker bent. My initial impression is that the game most resembles QFG4, with its overall dark feel, moodiness and similarities concerning combat.
Showing off the latest version of the game, James Broom held court at his table (booth) at AdventureX, offering colourful and quite detailed explanations of the title's history and development. A quick test of the game on display showed off its fluidity and some visual improvements over the initial concept demo, though I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time exploring as I'd have liked to see any other enhancements that might have been implemented.
I did have time to notice a little merchandising for the game, a mug and a badge to be precise. I asked James (Broomie) about the badge and he told me they were free and that I could have one if I’d like. I then inquired about the mug, to which he replied that he wasn't giving them away but there would be one as a prize in the next day's raffle draw. As Steve closed in on the table, he also noticed the mug and commented on how much he’d like one. Immediately we smelled a challenge – can we successfully liberate Broomie's mug through a series of nefarious deeds? As Steve distracted the unsuspecting developer, I quickly tried to pilfer the mug only to be caught in the act. Ah well, it was worth a try! And as luck would have it, even though we where foiled in our attempts to liberate the mug by suitably infamous means, Steve still managed to win the prize in the raffle.
More details about Quest for Infamy, including the playable demo, can be found at the Infamous Quests website.Continued on the next page...