|Holy carp I got a DD! Thanks to everyone who dropped by|
"Allicorn": a composer, artist, animator, writer, software developer and general busybody from the rural southwest of the UK.
Catch me on Twitter AllicornUK
I work for Puppygames, makers of Revenge of the Titans and other jolly computer games. I also help out at the #1 H.P.Lovecraft & Call of Cthulhu fan site, Yog-Sothoth.com and produce a boatload of music, including Lovecraft-inspired soundtracks, cheery trance music and music for various videogames. You can see more of my bizarrely varied output on my own website at Allicorn.com.
A few weeks ago, Puppygames was invited over to Belfast to exhibit at Q-Con. It took just a fleeting instant for Caspian and I to decide that this was a convention not to be missed. Just look at the stuff they had going on!
So, laptops in tow, a massively delayed flight lofted us into Belfast International in the early hours of the morning the day before the show. The Q-Con team put us up in the fantastic student accommodation at Elms Village.
The convention itself is a sprawling affair starting Friday evening (though crowds were amassing outside much earlier in the day) and running right through until Sunday night with events spread over several large buildings.
A vast cathedral-like hall housed the roleplaying crowd, packed to capacity with tables and - from what I saw - every table filled non-stop all weekend. I'm a bit of an H.P.Lovecraft nut myself; I run Call of Cthulhu for my local group from time to time and help out over at best-Lovecraftian-gaming-site-on-the-Internet Yog-Sothoth.com, so it was particularly gratifying to see CoC dominating a large part of the gaming schedule even if time constraints meant I didn't quite manage to get in on a game myself.
Another huge space hosted wargaming and the QUB Dragonslayers made their vast selection of board games current, past and antique available to be borrowed and played during the convention. Game of Settlers of Catan anyone?
Back in the main building we set up in the Indie Arcade area, itself part of a much larger videogaming zone within the con where a host of Xboxes, Playstations, Wiis (is that a word?) and classic consoles were hooked up to projector screens and great collection of games were playable.
Particularly impressive to an old twitch-warhorse like myself was the entirely Rasberry-Pi-powered Quake 3 tournament.
Five Q3A instances in a 3D-printed chassis - this is geekery of the highest order and was bloody impressive!
There were actually 8 playable Rasberry-Pi-Q3A units there and another acting as a spectator console.
Weirdly, one of the most popular consoles there was an ancient 1970's Binatone. This thing is nearly as old as me and features two tiny twisty "paddle" controllers and a few variations of very simple, blocky, bat-and-ball games that all pretty amount to "Oh, it's Pong!" To see this old beastie hooked up to a whopping flatscreen was quite something and the thing was in near constant use all weekend.
Most of all, I think it made a real positive statement about "casual" gaming. Folks took one look at it and understood what they needed to do to have 2 minutes of fun - and there was a lot of hilarity around the thing. The graphics were - obviously - just colored squares, the playfield pared right down to bats, ball and score numbers. But the sublime accessibility of it sucked people in and the simple, energetic feedback meant everyone finished up entertained.
Here's Batman and the Bride playing the thing, because, that's a thing that happens at Q-Con:
And whilst we're on the subject of cosplayers: cosplayers everywhere! If you're into it, this show has a very large (and apparently annually growing) cosplayer presence. You won't believe how many Finns and Fionas there were (hey, it's a pretty easy costume) but also a whole host of anime, videogame and comic characters and a more unusual costumes too right up to this epic quadsuit (Carrie McAlinden performing, I believe) pictured below.
On the final day, a fantastic cosplay masquerade ran, allowing all the costumed attendees to show off on stage. Quite a sight to see. Although, some of the very, VERY brief appearances - as folks skipped across stage in apparent terror - made me wonder: if you're going to go out in public in an outrageous costume, possibly with neon spiky hair and an oversized foam battleaxe... why so shy? You're at a roleplaying convention folks: the locals don't think you're crazy - they think you're awesome - so strut it!
Anyhoo... most of my time there through the day was spent tending our stand at the Indie Arcade zone where we showed off our games and chatted with the other teams present. Ultratron in particular got a lot of play (it always catches folks' eyes, just look at it!):
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Predestination from locally based Brain & Nerd was particularly interesting. They brought tons of beautiful concept art for folks to browse through and it created a great talking point. It's a giant, galaxy-spanning empire-building game, it's on Greenlight, check it out.
Throughout the show there were talks and panels, of which Caspian presented a few. I think everyone was suitably entertained but it does appear he got a reputation as "that sweary indie dev". One panel I wasn't going to miss featured legendary chiptune artist Chipzel.
The whole panel had interesting things to say about success in music and in videogame music in particular, the importance of constant networking and online connections. "Learn to say 'yes' to everything", was one of Chipzel's bits of advice and I'd say my experience bears that out too. If someone offers you some exposure for your creativity then just GRAB it. They want music for their game? Sure! They want sound effects for their mobile app? No problem! Every time you work with people, they talk about you, and more and more folks learn that you're the go-to guy for whatever it is they need. You can't magic up success out of nowhere, but you can keep gradually stacking the odds in your favor with every bit of work you do and every contact you make.
Chipzel, in case you didn't know, uses Gameboy as her instrument of choice. An instrument that comes with some very simple sound hardware and a particularly clunky and intractible old-style "tracker" music editor. The panel ended with her composing a simple demo tune on the spot so that the audience could see what a miracle it is to have coaxed great music out of such an arcane process. I only recently migrated away from trackers myself (to FL Studio, as it happens) after basically spending the last 20 years in MED, ProTracker, ModPlugTracker and Jeskola Buzz and so, seeing a tracker maestro like Chipzel at work in the Gameboy emulator was a real treat.
Don't even get me started on the massive trade floor. I bought some lovely pony art and a very striking notebook for my girlfriend to use in making notes on her second book. One of the Predestination devs came away with a crazy haul of out of print AD&D stuff for just a few quid. Well worth a visit.
Well, you can probably tell by the ridiculous way that I've rambled on that I thought Q-Con was an absolute blast. Next year is the con's 21st, I have a feeling it's going to be quite a birthday.
Huge thanks to Greg, Angie and Andy for getting us involved!