This year it was a different Rezzed for me. I couldn’t make it all three days, having only time for the closing and busiest day of the event, Saturday. Because of it I decided not to book many appointments, only settling for three: Square Enix Collective, Bandai Namco and the devs of Formula Fusion. The last one intrigued me despite not being one of my usual genres.
Usually I’m excited at Rezzed, looking in every corner for the new games that indie developers bring with them, as well as those shown by their AAA counterparts, but this time I must admit the showing disappointed me slightly and not because of the quality of the games or anything to do with the developers or the event itself, but because there were so many familiar faces showing familiar things. So many repeat titles from past years, both EGX and Rezzed.
Some of them I understand, since they use the event to get direct and perhaps brutal feedback for their games, which have changes drastically between showings, but there were others that didn’t even bother with that, showing the same “tired” builds as before.
With that said, there were some repeats I was glad to see there and which I set aside from the above group, and those are the NFTS Games students, showing off their final projects at Rezzed. Speaking to Tony Evans, their coordinator, he mentioned this was a trial run for having Rezzed become their graduate showcase, instead of having it along the rest of the NFTS. Having been to their latest grad show before this event, I hope they do it exclusively at Rezzed only from now on.
First, it’s game centred. At the other event, most of the people attending come for the other NFTS courses, the more traditional ones which doesn’t leave much room for the Games division to stand out. Secondly, Rezzed is all about meeting people and talking with your potential audience and buyers, receiving immediate feedback and perhaps even new ideas. It’s a bigger stage and prepares the students for the social part of meeting gamers and journalists.
This Rezzes was the first time I queued up for playing a game. As press and by setting up appointments, I can often skip the queues, but with the intention of having more time to explore, I didn’t book many, as I mentioned at the start of this article. This meant I had to wait for my turn like everyone else. Mind you, there are games I queue up for all the time, but it’s mostly on the indie section. The ones I never do though, are those with rooms dedicated to themselves, with hour-long queues and waiting lists. You know the ones, the big AAA game rooms.
But on Saturday, near the end of the afternoon and after leaving my meeting with Bandai Namco, I decided to queue for one of those games, Yooka Laylee. I love Banjo Kazooie, Mario 64 and that type of action adventure and I’ve had my eye on Yooka Laylee for a while. I also saw it as my last and perhaps only chance to get my card to Team17 or Playtonic Games for the review of this title.
In a day of gaming and talking to developers and trying out demos and handing out one of my new cards—the older ones had wrong number, logo and even twitter handles at this point—to a few dozen people, the one thing I remember the most were those honest gamer-to-gamer conversations.
I spent nearly half an hour talking to Amanda Oliver Elm from Image & Form Games about our mutual love of the Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, how we love exploring, finding things and the balance between stamina and hearts and I wish I could have spoken with her a lot more. She was pretty awesome and I hope she had the chance to binge on Zelda on the flight home.
I had great conversations with some of the Fireproof Games guys, not only on The Room but their VR title Omega Agent. When I asked about the title and how well it had performed, one of them laughed and said “we’re not rushing to make a sequel.”
I mention the VR point because almost immediately after speaking to them I moved to my second booked interview, with the developers of Fomula Fusion, and we spoke at length of VR and how there still isn’t a game out there on VR that doesn’t feel like a tech-demo. There still isn’t that killer app on VR, at least that’s what I think. We then moved on to the use of colour in HD instead of the horrible black & grey palette that seems to plague most games.
Those three are my highlights of Rezzed, meeting cool people I would love to sit down with and continue speaking to for hours—or in Amanda’s case, take turns on Zelda in ridiculous challenges—but I have to give mention to John Lau, the NFTS graduate developer of Uncanny Valerie, an ambitious game about relationships, where the protagonist builds and programs an artificial companion to help cope with the breakup with her girlfriend.
We spoke at length throughout the day, on characterisation, player agency, decisions, controls, mechanics, and many more elements of game design and storytelling. He may be the game developer, but I know characters and stories, so I hope some of what I said will be helpful to him!
Rezzed 2017 was strange to be honest. It had some really amazing things, some disappointments and it reinforced what I already knew: don’t go alone to these events, it’s better if you’re with someone there. Trust me, I know.
On Wednesday and Friday, I’ll go over the games I saw, my gaming highlights of Rezzed 2017, so make sure to come back for more!