December 14, 2020
The bar is set: Games Lift Graduation saw 5 strong presentations
We have reached our destination. After three months of hard work, our five teams got to present what they did during the Games Lift incubator. For most of them, this was their biggest showing yet. But to us, it did not feel like an exam – it felt like the celebration after.
"If Geoff Keighley was here, he would tell us to expect a lot of world premieres." That’s how Gamecity Hamburg’s Project Lead Dennis Schoubye opened the official graduation event of our Games Lift Incubator. The stage at Hamburg’s designxport may have seen the audience socially distanced, but for everyone involved, the excitement was just as tangible.
The premieres delivered. Our teams gave an in-depth look at the current state of their projects, most of it never seen before.
A little video
Julia Reberg’s "Alchymia" demo was a highlight of the evening, for a simple reason: When the incubator started, her unusual strategy rogue-like "existed only on paper", as she put it. She went on to show her progress with "a little video". While some parts were marked as placeholder, Julia throughout the demo showed her strong background as an artist. It looked at the same time like a love letter to and a gentle mocking of the simpler times we so often visit in video games. It might be at least a year before we get to go for ourselves and trade with the market woman. But after the demo, everyone was eager to do so. Mentor and Niantic EMEA marketing director Anne Beuttenmüller smiled from ear to ear: "We need more women like you in the gaming industry."
The other solo developer in our roster is further along: Roman Fuhrer’s game "Leif’s Adventure: Netherworld Hero" has been playable at trade fairs and conventions before; there even is a demo available on Steam. Roman showed us how it will all fit together. For the first time, we saw our hero wake up in his village and leave to go on an adventure. Then, Roman proceeded to do what most game developers dread: He played his action-adventure, full of deadly challenges, in two-player-mode, while explaining it. Seeing Roman die and try again not only underscored the real challenge waiting for players, it also made a point: The game felt like it was waiting for adventurers. It will be out in June 2021.
Impawsible Games‘ Nico Plötz also had a playable demo ready. And he had a lot to show: He started by announcing three new hires, bringing his total team size to seven. Then, his hero jogged through dramatic improvements to the art style, new gameplay additions, monster designs, a sneak peak into the soundtrack and stunning new cover art. The excess felt justified; "Jonah Weingarten’s NINJA BRIGADE" is a metroidvania of many influences and ideas. After seeing it all, mentor and Chief Say That Again Officer at Raw Fury Johan Toresson lauded what he described as a "beautiful love letter to the past" with "modern sensibilities" and lifted his energy drink: "I wish I had a whisky". The sentiment was felt everywhere.
Our other large team is called Curvature Games, and they got on stage with founding members Dennis Briddigkeit and Eike Langbehn. They are developing the VR game "The Amusement", a narrative adventure with a lot of ideas. Always a looker is Curvature’s own technological innovation called "Redirected Walking", a set of scientifically researched sleights of hand to trick players into thinking spaces are bigger than they are. The whole game world will fit into a living room, and the extensive demo made a point of showing off some of the magic. At least as original is the setting, succinctly described by an audience member as "Coney Island meets Alcatraz". Players will explore an abandoned amusement park, inspired by a long forgotten real one that once stood in Hamburg-Altona.
Our other VR team may have grown to five people, but it is laser-focused on small stuff; like the experience of ripping an action figure out of its packaging. It’s the first thing players will do in "Crumbling". This is how Ole Jürgensen and Leonie Brosz will convey what their action-roguelike is all about: Controlling a toy-sized hero like we did as kids – by whipping them around, naturally, with motion controls. Leonie played it live on stage, showing off a cute new art-style that fit the setting perfectly. The metaphor just works, a compliment mentor and King Art’s creative director Jan Theyssen echoed; he was an important influence in making it explicit.
The bar is set
After the demo ended, Leonie placed a Crumbling in the audience, between toy versions of Mario and Goomba. It felt earned. And then it was all over. Margarete Schneider had kind words for everyone and reminded us of the prominent people watching: “Many of our mentors are cheering right now”, she smiled. And she made clear that this also goes for the Gamecity Team: The program may have ended, but Gamecity will keep track of the first five teams and their successes to come.
Rewatch the Graduation on youtube: