Last Friday night, I took the train into New York City to experience the Fourth Annual No Quarter event. This is an indie game showcase run by NYU's Game Center. They commissioned four new indie games and five new art posters, set it all up at one of the Tisch school buildings, and opened the doors for anyone to come in and play some games. I feel fortunate that I got to the event right when it opened at 7PM. By 7:30, you couldn't walk around anymore. No Quarter drew a huge crowd of enthusiastic gamers and writers with the promise of free games and free refreshments. What more do you need at a one night only arcade?
The four featured games were radically different from each other. The first one I played was There Shall Be Lancing developed by Sophie Houldon (Swift*Stitch). This was a two player game controlled with the two sticks on an Xbox controller. The left stick attacked and the right stick blocked. You and your opponent were floating in a battle sphere. When you attacked, you followed the circumference of the sphere to your opponent. The first to three take-downs won the game.
For a game with so few controls, There Shall Be Lancing was quite addictive. I lost my first time playing to someone who already played a few rounds. Then, I started to pick up on the strategy of the game. It varied from opponent to opponent. It wasn't just a two button game; it was a battle of wits with the player standing next to me.
The second game I played was insane. Bennett Foddy's Speed Chess, developed by Bennett Foddy (QWOP), was a 16 player competitive chess game. Using an NES controller, you waited for the clock to count down and then raced to be the pawn to capture the opponent's king. Each round took less than 10 seconds to complete. Some buttons spun the pieces while others actually allowed you to move. The controllers might have even had random programming sequences or different sequences depending on which player you were.
I failed miserably at the game. I could never get my piece to move fast enough to capture another pawn and advance to the second half of the board. If you ran straight into another pawn, you were both stuck, hoping against hope that some other piece would claim your opponent; they never did. The competition was fast and furious and some of my fellow players took to playing multiple controllers at once for strategic purposes. I can't see how the game could ever translate beyond a gallery setting but it was sure was a whole lot of fun to experience.
The third game I played was Killer Queen by Joshua DeBonis and Nikita Mikros (they collaborate on live action games). The game is actually based on a live action game they developed for 20 players in 2011. The arcade version cuts the field in half, with two teams of five on opposing cabinets competing in real time platforming war. You jump, you run, you collect berries, you ride snails, and you battle flying queens to try to claim victory.
Killer Queen was the most popular game of the night by far. It was also the game I did the best at. What can I say? I was practically teethed on platformers. I had so much fun running around the screen, collecting berries, and jumping into iron maiden-like teleportation/transformation units that I didn't even pick up on all the victory conditions. I did notice that if you rode the snail from the center of the screen to your team's side, you won. I was in it for the jumping and collecting.
The fourth game I played probably appealed to my sensibilities the most. Tile Tree by Matthew LoPresti (Glow Artisan) was a collaborative world building game. It played like a free-form Tetris. You had to rotate different shapes made out of squares to connect to pieces on the screen.
The big catch, the real draw of the game, was the collaborative element. You shared one Xbox controller with another player. You controlled pieces coming in from opposite sides of the screen with half a controller each. In every round I saw and played, the pairs started playing independently, then had to begin collaborating to actually connect all the disparate pieces. The teamwork always produced a better result than the individual efforts. It was just a fascinating game to experience, a great concept executed brilliantly.
After a quick look at the game art display, I had to leave No Quarter. It was just way too crowded for me. I hope that the people running the show are able to find a larger space for next year. The event has outgrown two rooms and a hallway. It was a cool experience with a great atmosphere; there just wasn't any room to move or breathe.