The UK’s National Film and Television School MA Games Design and Development students were at EGX showcasing their talents, and we’ve picked out our highlights.
One of the biggest draws for me to go to events like EGX and EGX Rezzed is to find a game I’d never heard of and come away from the event wanting to know more about it. There’s nothing like being able to explore indie areas to delve into the talents of game developers, and to have a go at their game. They’re at EGX, and they want you to play it. They’ve put in all the hard work, it’d be rude to say no, eh?
That’s what was so interesting for me when NFTS got in touch with us before EGX to ask if we’d like to come and check out their students titles and we couldn’t have been happier to go and have a nose. I’m so glad I did, the immense talent pouring out of what they’re showcasing was too good to miss. I chose four highlights which I think showcase the talents of the students who have made their games playable at the UK’s biggest gaming exhibition in under six months.
What’s up first? It’s gonna be..
May is a 2.D side scrolling puzzler which tells the story of a Mayfly’s first and last day on earth. Sound intriguing? It certainly does, and I had to sit down and check it out.
Developed by Daniel Stankowski, May is a visually beautiful experience, with a soundtrack that compliments the subtle calmness of the game to the letter. Being able to speak to Daniel as we traversed May was a real highlight, and allowed me to learn an awful lot about the game from someone who very clearly has a lot of love for what he’s created. It’s nowhere near perfect yet, and was buggy in places but as an experience, I could see me playing it after a day at work or even on the Switch as I commuted, such was its calming influence.
The game is calm and can see how other games of its ilk had inspired it, I said to Daniel I got a Never Alone kind of vibe and he seemed to appreciate that. It’s got that collective feeling of a game you can play to really place yourself in a relaxed kind of mood without completely switching your brain off. It’s puzzling in the right places and soothing in others. I found May to be just what I needed at that point of EGX, it can all get a bit mad and exhausting as you traverse up and down the exhibition looking for a controller to put your hands on.
May, for a moment, made me forget all about it, and I became rather intrigued by this Mayfly who, along with being animated beautifully, was placed in this tranquil location where he has the strength to carry apples (‘he’s super strong because’, was Daniel’s terrifically deadpan response to my inquiring question as to how the Mayfly has the strength to pick up an apple). As the day progresses at the Mayfly is edging closer to death, his abilities begin to fall away, relying only skills you’ve learned through the game to reach their final destination.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
You couldn’t miss Sprinkle Palooza heading into the NFTS Games stand. As you can see the image from above, the neon pink and blue was instantly visible and because I’m apparently just a basic insect who likes shiny things, I was immediately attracted to its call. I’m glad I was intrigued enough by bright colours – something that, as ever, game shows are severely lacking in – to sit down and play because what Sprinkle Palooza showcases is probably the cutest game I played at the whole event, and I say that with all the positivity I can muster.
You control the blue creature on the right of the above image as you traverse through various platforming stages. It’s visual style is the games biggest appeal from the outset, and is matched by the feel and tone of the whole experience. You can fall pretty deeply into Sprinkle without realising that you’ve been hypnotised by the terrific use of light and colour, with visual cues to give you an idea of what on earth you’re meant to be doing at any given moment providing a handy sidekick.
I found myself really enjoying my time with Sprinkle Palooza (a terrific title, too). Technically it needed a little work but I would never hold that against the students who developed this game, it’s very obviously still in early development and I’m more impressed it even made it to EGX as a playable demo at all in the short amount of the time they’ve had, the odd bug or technical glitch can be overridden by the feeling that the talent on show here is miles beyond anything I can imagine even attempting. I wanna see more of this game and I wish the development team all the best.
MY LAST SON
Quick shout out to the poster which was hanging above the station for My Last Son created by Xanthe Bodington (@xanthebod). LOOK AT THIS. Glorious. I wanted it on my wall. They said no. It got awkward. I’m over it now.
It was worth mentioning that beautiful poster purely because My Last Son is a beautiful game, and compliments the visual aesthetic of the game perfectly. You should probably see it in action, take a look at the trailer below;
My Last Son tells the story of a mother who is wanting to lay her baby son to rest, all the while being haunted by a monster throughout her journey to do so. It’s a concept which I was told tells a story about grief, and moving through each stage of grief as the game progresses. It’s a sombre and melancholic tale, which caught me off guard as I was playing.
I only played a small portion of the game but a variety of the mechanics were on show, including having a navigate through the game with baby in hand and having to place him down when overcoming certain obstacles. Being able to set bushes on fire to slow down the movement of the enormous monster that follows you from beginning to end. How if it starts raining your bushfire will disappear, and if you come across a tree you can knock it down and use it to walk over drops in your path.
My Last Son has a lot going on. Being able to tell the story of a grieving mother who simply wants peace for her son whilst being chased by the demons she’s trying to shut out is quite the subject matter, and to the credit of designer Sam Rowett, it all seems to come together. It reminded me of Inside, Limbo mixed with Apotheon and Spirited Away. It’s a tragic tale in a beautiful world, the kind of art that Miyazaki himself would be proud of.
Falling Sky, without wanting to put down any of other NFTS in any way, shape or form, was perhaps the most technically and visually impressive game at their stand. Featuring actual motion capture work from industry veterans Christy Meyer and Stephanie Cornicard, Falling Sky tells the story of two brothers who go on their search for their Mother who has disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
Have a trailer, if you like. You may not be able to believe your eyes;
Falling Sky feels and plays like a Neil Druckmann title. One assumes its influences were the more puzzle based elements of Uncharted and The Last of Us, condensed into a project that has no right looking and feeling as good as Falling Sky does.
As I began to move around the world I felt like I was playing something that felt more than indie, it felt AAA. Beyond that, the writing, the cinematic direction and the puzzles were all terrific, and at no point did I want the demo to end. Once it did and the ‘thank you for playing’ popped up on the screen, it was mere seconds before I turned around to the developers and asked them when I could see more. Their response? ‘This is the only part of the game that is done’. Literally, every living and breathing portion of Falling Sky I’ve already experienced, and I hope to see more of it again, I need to know where the story was heading.
I got so excited about Falling Sky I awarded it one of our ‘coveted’ Game of the Show contender post-it notes. They’re far more important than they sound. Honest.
All in all, I was pretty much blown away by the talent on display at NFTS Games. There is clearly a hell of a lot of love and skill gone into creating games they can be really proud of, and it shows when you speak to the students who have created them. There’s very little in this world that can beat being around creative people who are so excited about what they’re making, it becomes infectious. If I’m ever allowed to I might break into the school someday and play these games all over again.
Quick shout out to The Grand Mission, which was a very British 2D-strategy game set aboard a spaceship. I felt bad because the genre isn’t one I’m hugely familiar with and as such, I didn’t get an awful lot out of the experience but I spoke to a few people mulling around the NFTS stand who said it was great, so I’m delighted about that. Technically it was sound with no visual or audio issues. I’ve no doubt it will find its audience.
Oh, and thanks for the teabag.