Monthly Archives: September 2014

Thoughts from PB88 at Maker Faire

mf-3And thus concludes an excellent weekend CHOCK full of indie game goodness. The traveling troupe of Death by Audio Arcade got to visit Maker Faire NYC while hundreds of men, women and children got to mash, bash, and play the hell out of Powerboat Italia ’88 and five other most excellent games. Appearing alongside the complete rest of the DBA Arcade cohort for the first time was truly awesome to see. As a bonus, I got to drop by Waka Waka to check out the NYU Game Center’s No Quarter gallery hours. A highlight for me was Dog Park by Kevin Cancienne, which gave me the feeling of being transported to a low-poly version of the dog park in Thompkins Sq. Park except with bright Katamari-like colors.

The crowd at Maker Faire differed mightily from those at past DBA events, providing an interesting user testing session – overall my takeaway is that while children are much more violent with the cabinet and much less patient with UI that is confusing, at least they don’t spill beers all over the place. Although that might be a different story if cans of Coca Cola had been on tap for patrons inside the Hall of Science.

mf-2This weekend provided the realization that PB88 is certainly quite tall compared to more well-proportioned cabinets like Crystal Brawl and could use a stool to accompany it in venues where children will be present. I was also inspired to push a small change to the game in between the two days of the event to transform the 1-player mode (often selected accidentally by a curious passerby who would then be rewarded with a long, boring race against no one) to a short training mode. Next up is allowing a more thoughtful approach to selecting the number of players; forcing players to slide over to occupy the correct joystick is an annoying user experience that needs to be corrected. Upon the completion of that task (more complicated than it would appear, thanks to the tangled mess of code that tends to emerge from game jams), I can begin thinking about creating an OUYA, Amazon Fire, or iPad/tablet version of PB88.

Long overdue on this blog is the tantalizing history of Powerboat Italia ’88… from the technical details of the cabinet build to the game’s unlikely origin as a game jam product titled “Elektrokardio Mann”— all will be yours for the reading (relatively) soon.


Powerboat Italia ’88 at lwlvl

pb1lwlvl-5As I begin to recount the ‘year of undocumented projects’, what better place to start than with POWERBOAT ITALIA ’88, the button-mashing 4-player arcade extravaganza manifest in DIY arcade cabinet form with help from Mark Kleback as part of Death by Audio Arcade. Although the gameplay of Powerboat is simple, winning consistently is not without nuance and strategy; a defensive player can conserve wrist strength by coasting a bit while in the lead and focusing on blocking other players, for instance.

There’s something immensely satisfying about seeing strangers play your game in person, together—something only the arcade cabinet form can really provide. It’s a concentrated shot of free user testing and a chance to see how the game can facilitate social interactions. It’s also nice to hear people explain the game to each other, freeing me of that awkward burden. I got the chance for all the aforementioned and more as the Death by Audio Arcade appeared at the lwlvl festival (prounounced ‘low level’) in Brooklyn this month. It was also awesome to see 7 indie arcade cabinets together—their powers combined! If a series of best practices could be developed to keep the rag tag bunch running consistently, it would be great to see more full-time indie arcades sprout up. I’ll have to get that coin door installed.

pbOne of these days I’ll get around to chronicling the actual build (it’s amazing how hardy some plywood, acrylic, and surplus arcade parts can be!) as well as trying to port the game to a place where more can play it. (But where?? iPad/tablet? Amazon Fire TV? Steam?) For now, if you’re in the New York area, keep on the lookout for Death by Audio Arcade events!