Personal Account of London’s Biggest Gaming Expo EGX Rezzed

C86773A9-0817-4F1F-8DD7-74137ABA5453As many of you know, gaming is now a mainstream hobby and activity that spans across devices, operating systems, virtual and augmented realities and more. It is enjoyed by millions of people world wide. There are gaming shows happening around the world, although arguably the most well-known occur in Japan and the U.S. (particularly E3). However, Europe has a huge gaming scene as well and the UK arguably made gaming in terms of many of the original developers started out from garages in the UK (think Jeff Minter). Games now considered retro classics that were developed decades ago and for computers and gaming systems such as the ZX Spectrum and Amiga, really survived based off the UK fanbase at the time and thrived. This was when much of the rest of the world, inlcuding the U.S., gamed on the Commodore 64, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and IBM PC (via DOS and later Windows).

Well the UK is still a very strong region when it comes to gaming, both classic and modern. The country also has a show that takes place annually called EGX Rezzed and it used to be referred to as the Eurogamer Expo. The expo took place April 13-15 at the Tobacco Dock in London and the next EGX show will occur Sept. 20-23 in Birmingham, UK. I never knew about the show until my recent and coincedental visit to London as a tourist. I will mention my experience at the expo as well as a bit of background how I ran into the show (Also, be sure to check out what Eurogamer had to say about the recent EGX).

The show was all about indies, and across platforms and genres. It offered much more, but if you are an indy gamer it was pure heaven. There were indy offerings from developers that are known and onces barely on paper who had titles not even announced (or at least announced outside of their countries of origin).1D326B16-27EF-48E5-BA76-C410DD19795B

If you are a frequent visitor to this site and a reader of my blog, you may have already noticed my previous story, which included an interview, mentioning the show briefly, but mostly focusing on two mobile games showcased (Vandals and Homo Machina).  The reason I wrote that post so promptly and only focused on mobile was because that is my bread and butter or how I started my writing carrer (hence the original focus of this site being the iPad, iPad gaming and most of my content is still produced and shot with the iPad as was EGX) . I am thinking of getting into gaming journalism  with mobile being a good entry point to pitch websites and editors because of my previous focus and content.

Now, let me tell you how I ended up at this game expo before I tell you how surprised I was the way it turned out to be one of the best expos or shows overall related to tech or gaming in general. I was in London just visiting and site seeing the city before I even found out that EGX was happening. It was already Sunday and I flipped through this guide about London and what is worth checking out in the city during this time or 2018 in general and saw virtual reality displayed along with a game expo mentioned.8DFA8857-1A39-4D81-AFB5-1776DC5975D0

I kind of paid this no attention for a day as I assumed it was just one of those VR-focused shows that really is only British in scope and will feature just the run-of-the-mill games, or companies showcasing their games, that have already been covered to death. However, as I realized the show was happening not far from the London Tower, where I happened to visit the following day, I figured if there were still tickets available I would check it out. Mind, this was already Sunday so the last day to see the show.

I walked by the harbor renting one of those London bicycles that cost 2 euros per half-hour and as I rode by this long and wide building that looked like an old factory, I first didn’t think there was a show happening there at all. It wasn’t until I reached further into the side that I saw an opening with what looked like an event happening. However, until I rode by looking for places to park my bicycle and I saw the front entrance, I still doubted this was the place that EGX was happening at.

I then realized that if I was to purchase a ticket I should do it right away before they run out, as this was the last day of the show after all. So I contacted the EGX staff from their website contact section and I got a very prompt response from Tom Champion, who is the manager of the event, and he replied promptly with information about the show and availability of ticket88714763-B077-406E-BC2C-383E774C0784

I ended up going and being surprised about how robust and feature-rich the show was. There were all sorts of games on showcase including the latest titles, games yet to be released, titles barely announced or in pre-alpha phrase of development, indy games and retro titles.

5A3EB8A0-2FB9-44EC-92BB-245BAE0CABF5

When I first walked into the show floor I noticed how it had multiple levels or a staircase that took you to the bottom floor and various sections on both levels. There was also a divide in the middle walkway on topthat divided the left side of the Dock from the right and eachs ection had rooms with different themes of games showcased, which included multiple monitors or TV sets in each room and multiple publishers present.

2DCDBC65-ED7E-4061-BDB0-1F5509137532I then walked inside one section or space and noticed a couple big-hit titles in this section, such as the highl-anticipated and longed-for below, a slasher game called Sinner, and this awesome-looking Freespace type of exploration shooter called Sinner, which I unfortunately did not get a chance to examine too closely as there were so many other titles grabbing at my attention. As I walked by the many isles in the first room I ended up walking into on right hand of the first or upper floor of the Dock, I couldn’t help but be captivated by a game that was showcased across numerous monitors. It also had an active gathering of gamers trying it. This game, which isn’t released yet, was State of Mind, which I actually never heard of before the show but came away impressed and captivated by its art direction and interesting ideas it brings to the table.BF00C809-0EBC-4F5F-8B15-4CF673C01A38

I actually ended up interviewing the marketing and publishing team behind it, Lisa Mallory who is the community manager at Daedalic Entertsinment based out of Hamburg, Germany and Mounir Aouina, the marketing assistant who was at the show as well. Thus, if anyone is interested in the storyline or the game in greater detail and about the origins of the title and the sort or psychological and pop-culture message it offers, let me know. In a nutshell, it focuses on a man namd Richard, who is antagonist to technology running people’s lives and becoming more part of mainstream. Mind you, this game takes place in th future, so technology is even mote prevalent and part of people’s lives than in our reality. Richard also happens to be a teacher, which makes such an approach interesting to say the least. Mallory promised, however, thst there will be other characters playable further into the story.

The graphics and aesthetics seemed real interesting snd gave me a very Max Payne and Blade Runner type of feeling. Mallory told me that the game shares adventure game elements with older point-and-click PC titles, but isn’t a strict adventure game in terms of structure or genre because it offers much different puzzles and implementsiton in terms of narrative. The graphics were pretty awesome and the storyline seemed pretty unique as well with people resisting or accepting texhnology in different ways in a not too-distant future and there is a lot of room in there for good storytelling. It will be interesting to see how it turns out when it gets released this upcoming August. Here is a gameplay section I shot of someone playing Richard (via my Youtube channel under Mike Lata).

As I kept walking a couple of isles down the hall, to the left and perpendicular to most of the other games showcased, I then noticed a game playing in its own booth section that seemed to have a very akingdom Hearts and Dragon Ball Z aesthetic and felt intrigued. The game was Oniria The Land Of The Three Z and at first glance gave off a type of mix, in terms gameplay, of Kingdom Hearts and Super Mario Sunshine. It looked like a platformer with collecting elements the game’s title sounds almost as strange as the concept behind the game. It is a 3D platformer with heavy collect elements because it ties into the aspect of having a dreamcatcher to fill as enemies become captured when they perish. New paths are also opened within the various worlds that the development team plans to implement. New abilities are gained as enemies get captured and the player advances.

I talked to Pablo Martin Alvarez, who is a co-founders of the studio behind the game (D-RealmS) and an active developer in the title, as well as Maria mercedes garcia muñoz, who was an active Spanish-to-English translator for Alvarez and was part of the team at EGX showcasing the game. Pablo described the game as an action adventure title as well as a 3D platformer all at the same time. Judging the mis of weapon handling and platforming he seemes to have described it well.

At one point Pablo pressed a keyboard shortcut for the development version of the game and the main character started flying in mid air to the point in the map that Pablo wanted to demonstrate for me (the later boss fight occured there you will see in the video below). He told me this was a (keyboard) shortcut intended for developers to be able to not have to actually tackle away at the game to get further, but fly straight to the point of what they want to assess.

Here is him explaning some of the mechanics of the game while showing off a boss battle (via my Youtube Channel under Mike Lata):

(If anyone is interested in having me write a story for your publication I have a whole interview with Pablo and more info about the game.)

Outside, on the top floor and between the two sections of rooms and secrions, there were refreshments and food available for purchase. There were also some stands inside one of the sections or rooms that had gaming accessories, art, and other things available for purchase. One of them fewtured a lot of old retro, particularly game boy, games and modified game boys with various lighting and display additions not available in the orignal Game Boy or GBC hardware (possibly some sort of save state functionality or other modifications).

Paper Rock Shotgun (RPS), a quality and popular gaming website and network, had a big presence at the show with a room dedicated to it that had various games showcased inside from varied publishers, but all based on comedy or games that were just hilarious in nature. Some of them had weird controllers, for instance, or featured a battle royal against friends with much laughter involved. PRS also has a nice and very in-depth analysis of the show and what it offered available here.

Nintendo’s Switch console was not forgotten and had a pretty large presence at the show, which surprised me a bit due to Nintendo generally focusing on its own periodic livestream show, called Nintendo Direct. There were various games showcased in an arc or circular set up where eager marketing and publishing teams were literally throwing joycons at potential players to try out their games. Some or these titles had multiple people with joycons playing co op, others focused on single player action. Most were indy or retro in appearance.

They included the famous PSP-era puzzler Lumines, but remastered for the Switch (thus named Lumines Remastered), a multiplayer fighting game with retro and pixelated graphics, called Pocket Rumble, and more. The Switch seems to have a surprisingly (to me) thriving indy scene as Nintendo is finally getting on track with its online gaming distribution platform and besides having a system with a high adoption rate, The Kyoto-based company seems to be giving indies some breathing space and freedom this time around.

I was also pleasantly surprised that there were some big, although could also be considered indy, hitters displayed for Nintendo’s console-tablet-handheld hybrid to try out. The latest and upcoming title in Suda 51’s No More Heroes franchise, a series that started life on the original Wii, was showcased and available for gamers to try out. It will be called Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. Shaq Fu had a section all of its own to the side of the main Switch-only circular arc with posters advertising it.ac847fe7-9b12-4772-9dab-353ae1e10ae1

Because I only went on the last day of the show, which was a Sunday, I missed out on a lot of what the whole event had to offer. Even though, as you may have noticed, I got a great taste of the awesomeness of what such shows bring and the types of gaming experiences they can unveil people may not have access to or try out on their own.

7691B5BC-5DCD-44BF-9427-90D26F397D7AThere were various VR set ups, for instance, and always a line to try out those Oculus Rift or Cive headsets. There were also gaming talks and seminars in a seperate section on how to work inside the gaming industry with big time developers or heads speaking about their experiences and giving advice on how to break into the industry. There were even various submissions for indies to get their presence at the show, for instance the Leftfield Collection and RPS gives some details here on how submissions worked, as from what I saw it was heavily tailored for that independent and creative spirit.

What was truly bizarre and interesting was this set up I saw on the bottom floor of the show. It was a multi-legged robotic machine that had multiple retro-looking CRT TV sets connected to it that gamers played Steel Rats on. There were eyes on top of the CRT TV sers in their own TV sets that looked into the viewers. This dystopian and almost Mad Max in-appearance set up included various metallic pipes and even what looked like scrapmetal and stereo speakers fused together. I felt a huge steampunk vibe from checking out the robot and it was an awesome set up that truly fit right in with Steel Rat’s gameplay.

AD12611D-9901-4B5F-915C-957EE2DCED30

Steel Rats is a dieselpunk and 2.5D motorcycle action game that has you spinning your wheels at high speeds while fighting robots with what looked like destructive or highly-combustive environments. Geek has described it as a “high-octane motorcycle action game,” which I think fits the bill with a retro-futuristic art style.

“Steel Rats takes place in a “Dieselpunk” world inspired by 1940’s and 50’s Americana. The game’s heroes are the titular Steel Rats, who are defending their hometown of Coastal City against an invading army of automatons called junkbots.”

I did not get a chance to play the title or try it out, but saw others playing and the mechanics of it explained. However, it definitely is one to watch for. Here is what I recorded of the behemoth in action (from my Youtube channel under Mike Lata) from the top floor of the Tobacco Dock:

Here is actual gameplay of Steel Rats being played on the robotic bhemoth (via my Instagram under Stirolak or Mike Lata):

There was also this game that was showcased or playing on a circular display that was being powered by a projector and it fit the type of genre it represented nicely. This was a surreal and artistic type of game from the quick look I had of it running and being demonstrated. The game was Stereopolis and it seemed to rely on some sort of environmental manipulation and almost a tunnel-runner type of gameplay. Here is a brief gameplay video I shot (from my Youtube channel under Mike Lata):

The Retro gallery downstairs offered an awesome section for the type of gamer I am. The titles showcase brought me back to the 90s and really the high era of my life in terms of gaming: the time I discovered online gaming with the original Starcraft or my Doom marathons when I discovered wads or modifications it offered turning the vainall doom game (with a download) into a completely different game — now we refer to these as modifications or mods. Well, Doom, Starfox and even the original half-Life were all available at the Retro section that gamers could play on PCs as originally the games were released on and in my opinion gaming of this era that these games came out was the cream of the crop of PC gaming.

Retro gaming can be a whole new topic here but I have such fond memories of the games thst I saw at EGX that I can really write some awesome ancedotes about it. I am currently mostly a retro gamer who loves portable and movile gaming as well as some marathons of PC gaming. But because ai do not have the latest and greatest rig in terms of Pc gaming, in fact I rely on my Bootcamped iMac mostly, I still mostly play games like Team Fortress 2 or Starcraft 2, which are getting up there in age. I also am big into my iPad and Nintendo 3DS, in fact I love on going on night runs and jogs up the stairs in the park newr me and take breaks trying to complete Super Mario 3D Land, which has been my evening program lately here in Warsaw.

img_6903As you can see, EGX was an awesome show with a lot of fun stuff in terms of gaming and beyond that any gamer if given a chance should check out. There were titles in all genres and across various systems, set ups and budgets available to try out. If given a chance,I will try to make the next show as well and this time not just on the last day. Apparently EGX’s popularity has transcended beyond London with Berlin being a destination in the near future. Berlin is not far from me here in Warsaw, so I may check this upcoming one out. I recommend that you do as well if you enjoy gaming at all.

If anyone is interested in more content, including a lot of interviews and multimedia I have and may not have had the space or time to divulge here (there is at least one interview or game I covered, which I ommited), do not hesitate to contact me. I can also go a lot further nto the individual games that I covered here, such as State of Mind and more about the gameplay and message behind the game (and other titles as well). So if any publication, media or gaming/tech site wants such content or likes my work and would not mind having me work with them or freelance for them, please also let me know. This also goes for gaming studios that can use someone like me on their team as either a media publicist, game writer, PR, marketing guy, graphic designer/video editor or more (some of my skills showcased here in terms of art and writing for game narrative). Thank you and I look forward to the next EGX show.

Advertisements

EGX Show in London Had Some Interesting Games Displayed Including Mobile Titles

1A8F14C1-79B9-4859-8580-93F521BCCFC0During my recent visit to London’s largest annual game convention, EGX REZZED, at the Tobacco Docs, I had a chance to talk to a number of notable developers as well as publishers in the game industry. Some of them happened to be focusing or working on mobile titles and showcased them at the expo. One of these companies happened to be Arte, the publishers of the recently-released hit Vandals on iOS and Android.

This surprised stealth-graffiti mishmash has been receiving some pretty good critical reception as of late. The game is about escaping detection, tagging walls and creating unique tags from scratch, as well as an overall colorful and eye-catchy aesthetic style.

I spoke to Vincent Dondaine at the show, who was in charge of Arte’s show floor demos that included two games that gamers had a chance to try out on iPads. These two Arte-published titles include Vandals and an upcoming title called Homo Machina.

CD5C0629-F523-4408-B25E-FC301C0437F1

The two games cannot be more different from each other in gameplay and appearance, but they do share some core ideas, innovation, a charming aesthetic as well as good overall production values. Oh, and both happen to be puzzlers as well, although in much different categories of the genre.

Vandals is a stealth game with graffiti thrown in for good measure, where players can tag walls with their own custom tags and escape police officers, police dogs and even flying holicopter in an almost Hitman Go style. Meanwhile, Homo Machina a journey inside the human body where players will have to solve puzzles inside a factory where a man sleeps and his body is being worked on.

Although Vandals may appear brutish or anti authority in nature due to its type of gameplay, it actually has very laid-back, family-friendly and peaceful style to it.

“There is no guns or killing in the game,” Dondaine said. “It is a peaceful game. when you are discovered by the police, they just stop you and you have to try again and start the level over.”

It has very artistic and almost steampunk type of aesthetics as the game has you sneaking across 6 levels across five cities around the world ranging from Tokyo to New York.

When asked if Arte has any future plans for the recently-released Vandals, Dondaine said that it will depend on the community reception. If it sells, more content will come and thus far he has been satisfied with the results.

At EGX REZZED, Homo Machine was shown to the public for the second time overall. Gamers at the show had a chance to work out a patient’s health and stabilize him as various machines and medical workers walked around a body and monitored its overall health.

This is a tribute game to Fritz Kahn, a German doctor from the 19th century. He is regarded as one of the founders of the modern concept of an infographic. The infographics Kahn created were very elaborate and full of vivid imagery. They mapped the human body as a very functioning and effective industrial palace or factory.

“He was teaching at the time visually how the body works,” Dondaine said. “When we saw that as game designers, we realized that it was design for a game. That was the inspiration.”

The game allows players to work out a patient’s health throughout one whole day spread across multiple levels and involving various puzzles and solutions. The patient or person is laying inside an alternative reality factory with physicians walking around and various machines operating around the laid-out figure. At the end of the day the patient goes on a nice date. So the goal is to keep him healthy and steady to finish one whole day of his life so he can make it to this date.

32FDDED6-B70B-4FAA-BCD8-DFED7377413E

“The game is basically a factory of your body,” Dondaine said. “When you wake up you are inside your brain and thats where the factory boss is.”

You can check out the infographic that inspired Darjeeling, the developers of Homo Machina, here. It was originally published inside Kahn’s 1926 book about the human body as an industry, called “Der Mensch als Industriepalast.”

Players will be tapping on various icons to either direct the workers in the factory or on directly controlling aspects of the respiratory or anatomic system of the man. The puzzles will b varied and involve a wide use of logic to solve. The game also has really nice and vivid graphics as you see workers walking around and doing things as you tap on the display where you or the patient is laying down.

Dordaine promises the story is worth following along and it will be a touching tale to behold when the game releases sometime next month. It has been in development for around two-and-a-half years.

Here is a bit of gameplay shown or demonstrated to me by Dondaine: