You know that feeling you get when there’s a game event you really want to go to but maybe you can’t afford the tickets? Or maybe it’s expensive to travel to the location? Or it’s hard to find affordable accommodation? Perhaps it’s taking place in another country on the other side of the world? It’s not a great feeling.

But we live in the digital era so it was just a matter of time before somebody thought to organise a virtual game conference on a global scale. Earlier this year, Rami Ismail of Dutch studio Vlambeer announced GameDev.World, a new global game developer conference that will take place on 21st to 23rd June 2019. GameDev.World will feature speeches, panels and Q&A sessions streamed live. Moreover, it will be translated into eight languages. This will let speakers communicate in their native languages while reaching out to a global audience.

Curious about how this ambitious idea translates in real life? Well, read on to find out more about LudoNarraCon which just took place over the weekend!

LudoNarraCon

LudoNarraCon: Celebrating Narrative Video Games

LudoNarraCon was announced in March 2019 by Melbourne-based indie games label Fellow Traveller. Fellow Traveller said it would be “a global digital convention that celebrates narrative video games, the people who make them and the fans who love them.”

Hosted on Steam, the panels were live on 10th May  2019 from 10am to 4pm PDT. At the same time, exhibitors streamed live from their games’ store pages. The streams were then repeated on loop until 13th May 2019 at 11pm PDT. Fellow Traveller tweeted that the panels would be available on their YouTube channel after the end of the event.

LudoNarraCon featured games from the Fellow Traveller label such as Neo Cab and The Stillness of the Wind, as well as a selection of games by invited developers such as Heaven’s Vault and Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. The idea was to virtually recreate (as much as possible) the aspects and benefits of attending a physical convention which everyone could experience from the comforts of their own home. Hurrah, no chance of con-flu here!

LudoNarraCon, panel, Patrick Ewing, Cassandra Khaw, Strix

The Plot Thickens

The six panels were titled as follows:
– My Favourite Stories
– Writing For Short Games
– Death In Games
– Storytelling And Games
– Romance In Games
– Procedural Generation And Storytelling

To give you an idea of how popular these panels were, there were more than 5,000 viewers at some points! A couple of moments that stood out for me were Kim Belair’s love for Castle Infinity, and the Papers, Please discussion during the Storytelling and Games session.

While the panels were running, you could also visit different store pages to watch live streams. I particularly enjoyed watching gameplay of Not Tonight (which I’m really looking forward to playing) as well as Gareth Damian Martin’s super chilled speed painting session of In Other Waters.

I downloaded the demo of Neo Cab during a panel interlude. It’s very stylish, the soundtrack absolutely rocks and the writing is fantastic. I was also intrigued to see that this isn’t your typical survival game. The idea of a rare human cab driver in a cyberpunk future had me hooked. Cab drivers always have outrageous tales!

I was also very intrigued by Mutazione. It is an adventure game which its Danish developer Die Gute Fabrik describes as “a mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural.

So How Does The Story End?

When I first heard about GameDev.World, I was intrigued but I also had some doubts about how smoothly it could possibly run. As any event planner will tell you, all sorts of things can go wrong when you plan for an event, whether it’s physical or virtual. Sure, you wouldn’t have to worry about a physical venue and all the issues that come with it, but the fact of the matter is that organizing and curating a high-quality program that covers diverse issues across numerous time zones is still no mean feat! 

Personally, I really enjoyed listening to so many people share so much. Whether it was about one of their favourite games, answering questions live, sharing memories or providing a live art demonstration, it was all brilliant. At physical conventions, I’ve often marveled at game developers who only have so much time to man their booths while speaking to attendees. They often answer the same questions repeatedly – it takes an awful lot of stamina!

By comparison, LudoNarraCon was a really relaxed experience. At any point, you could listen to game developers and connect to them via Steam chat, hop from one game’s page to another during interludes and download some demos or purchase one of the many games on sale. Don’t get me wrong, I love attending events and will still continue to go to AdventureX and EGX Rezzed and many more…but I’m hoping that such global digital conventions will become the norm!

So well done, Fellow Traveller, and many thanks to all the speakers who took part this weekend!