State of Independence – some thoughts

Yesterday I attended the State of Independence conference at the York Racecourse and thought I’d post something about my thoughts.

Any conference that’s practically on my doorstep is bound to have advantages and it’s always a pleasure to meet up with other industry professionals.  Because the theme of the conference was independent development I was hoping there would be plenty to interest me and I wasn’t disappointed.  There was the general feeling that traditional publishers still had a role to play, but that the increasing number of routes for games to reach the market was making independent game development increasingly feasible.

Although there was a lot of good at the conference, there was a lot of weakness, too.  The main being that a number of the speakers were telling us such basic stuff that it’s hard to think of anyone in the room not actually being in possession of this knowledge prior to the event.  Another problem involved a certain amount of repetition as some later sessions covered similar ground to earlier ones, although this wouldn’t have seemed to be the case when looking at the titles in the session list.

The quality of speakers is always going to be a little hit and miss at any event of this nature, but I felt that a couple of them were particularly weak.  I won’t mention names because that would be a little unfair, but one in particular was poor because the speaker made a potentially exciting subject seem dull and I drifted away with my own thoughts a few times.

The high points amongst the sessions were Paul Farley (Tag Games) and Alex Amsel (Tuna Technologies) during The Art of Marketing Your Own Game and Margaret Robertson on Opportunities for Indies Working for Commission.  These people came across with enthusiasm and knowledgeable about their subject.  My old boss, Charles Cecil, did a marvelous job holding the whole event together and maintaining a very tight session schedule.

I did feel that overall there was a little too much emphasis on the business side of things.  While it’s vitally important that independents get the business side right, when there is overlap in session subjects it feels like there should be a broader coverage.  For instance, although casual games were mentioned, this area didn’t seem to be considered in any substantial way.  There was also very little relating to game content, even in a broad way.  Perhaps this can be addressed at future events.

The evening party was a great opportunity to mix and meet with the other delegates and I was fortunate to chat with some very interesting people, most of whom are working on really exciting projects that I hope are very successful for them.  I was actually planning on catching the 9pm bus home but such was the pull of the deep conversation I was having about game narrative and dialogue, that planned time came and went and I ended up catching the 11pm bus.  A very good sign, I think.

Overall, it was a good event, but one that might have been a little better.