As many of you know, there was a considerable amount of IF content in the PAX East 2010 convention, including a whole hotel room full of IF people the whole weekend. Here are some thoughts which I admit are quite similar to what other people have said (almost as if they had been to the same convention!)
While it was a pleasure in itself to meet people with who you could actually talk about IF and have a meaningful conversation, I want to make it known that the IF crowd is the nicest and most amicable people I have ever met. Usually in any group there’s at least one douche in a dozen, but I guess they all stayed home this time.
There were two main topics that seemed to pop up at every turn: collaborative IF development and widening the IF audience. The latter revolved pretty much around rebirth of commercial IF, or hopes thereof.
Collaborative IF development is the next big thing, it seems. Lately Ben Collins-Sussman and Jack Welch have been utilizing team development tools like Google Wave, bug tracking and revision control with great success, and I’m hoping they’ll share even more information about their techniques. Textfyre methodically separates the writing process and coding process when developing their games.
It’s been proven that collaboration works and produces high quality. People at the event were and still are enthusiastic about collaboration and we’ll probably see more team work in the future. Another thing that collaboration seems to be useful for is getting writers involved. If a writer is not skilled or interested in programming but wants to write a game they can work together with a programmer and vice versa.
Commercial IF was mentioned several times. This is not something I will personally focus on but I can see some major benefits for the hobbyist IF scene:
- If commercial IF breaks through it will generate more interest in the “indie” IF world, just like indie gaming in general would not be as big as it is now if there wasn’t a strong commercial gaming industry.
- Commercial production usually means more resources allocated to games and higher production values. You can go to the AGS website and download hobbyist graphical adventures, but the truth is that apart from a percentually small number of genuinely excellent gems, most of the free games suck. This is true for IF as well. You can also buy a Telltale Games adventure and be assured that it is of high quality and worth your money. This option is mostly lacking in the IF world.
- A commercial company would make a relatively significant effort in R&D, which is something that benefits the whole community. We’ve already seen Textfyre produce innovations even though it’s still a young company.
In the IF outreach panel, Dave Gilbert proposed an interesting model for commercializing IF, similar to what most professional webcomic authors do: give the games away for free and profit from t-shirt sales. John Bardinelli suggested that casual gamers would be interested in an ongoing IF series (or any other game form).
Another great thing to come out of PAX is that people seem to have gotten a renewed inspiration for starting new projects and finishing old ones. I’m anxious to see what cool things result from this drive.