Insomnia 52 (Or Will The Public Hate Us?).

Insomnia is certainly an apt name for our experience over this last weekend. When the powers that be were naming this epic event, were they perchance thinking of the 3 dishevelled, exhausted developers shivering in a tent on a rugby pitch, wondering “Why, dear lord why did I not bring more blankets”, “I had no idea the floor of this world was so hard!”, and “The air is so supremely frigid”? We’d like to think they had that foresight, but we doubt they did.


Insomnia, for those of you not in the know, is “The UKs largest gaming festival” of course, many an event is quite prone to the superlatives, just a stones throw away I’m sure I caught glimpse of “The worlds most well organised dental arts and Egyptian historical boutiques jamboree”. Whether the choice of “Festival” was a very careful one, and in fact “The UKs largest gaming party” was held in Brighton, and “The UKs most Equine gaming-farming trot-along” was in Nether Wallop, we can’t possibly begin to know. Either way, it was a festival, there were games, and it was certainly large.


So large in fact, that a sizeable percentage of the Ricoh Arena in Coventry - where the festival was held - was crammed, skin on skin with fervent excitable individuals the likes of which must not have been seen even in the days when Coventry City did actually occupy their own sports stadium. The bloody cries were no longer that of spirited football fans for the timed flailing of limbs upon a pitch that comprise a league football game, but for the much smaller flailing of fingers upon the keyboard, mouse and controller for championships in such popular titles as CS:GO, LoL and Dota2.


For us at Lamplight, the draw was not indeed for the adrenaline and testosterone fuelled E-Sports section of the festival, but the more considered and artsy realms of “developers exhibiting their new games section” and more specifically the “Probably poor, indie developers exhibiting their new games which may well be the only thing they have seen for the last few years as they have no money to do anything else, section.”


We were housed in runnels slightly akin to chicken batches. Only we didn’t produce eggs, we produced video games, and the public came to peruse our various wares, deciding whether or not they were of a high enough standard or we would see the proverbial chopping block. In fact that analogy doesn’t quite fit, as really we were the ones assessing the public, to see how they reacted to our title, where they struggled, what they enjoyed (Unless this entire time, the chickens have been studying our consumption to identify trends for a higher, much darker purpose).


The point being, this was a massive test bed for us, we attended Update in April, and had testing a few months ago, but this was a whole different level of public exposure, we would estimate around 100 people of different generations, backgrounds and interests tried the game out over the 3 days (while that may not sound like a very great amount, our demo lasts about 15 minutes, followed by a challenge room after, which some people sunk easily at least an hour or so into.) Input from other devs was also crucially useful in seeing the elements other people with a keen design or aesthetic eye picked up on. Based off of the feedback we got over the time, we’ve already conjured up a few tweaks that we really think will help highlight the best elements for us, and help reduce some of the bloatier elements of the gameplay (something we’ve been longing to strip down but fearful of the knock on design time changes.)


The experience overall was fantastic, we had about a 90% highly positive response from the public (not at knife point this time either, so we know it’s legit), fully appreciative of the fact that saying “this is awesome, I’ll buy it” and forking out £7 are not exactly identical, but it’s indicative of us not being a complete tragedy case, which has always been a slight concern. We also met some really cool devs and played some really awesome titles, and made some slightly ridiculous memories, which we won’t go through here. Laser Dog Games (Alone), CoatSink (Shu among others), Force Of Habit (Friendship Club) were a few of the stand out ones, but really pretty much everyone we spoke to filled us with guilt at how awful we normally are at networking and socialising, because they were without fail awesome people. So in summary, lack of sleep definitely outweighed by people loving the game and lots of cool games and people, we also had quite a nice calzone before getting destroyed at a pub quiz, so there.


Ok so word on the street is that Coventry City do actually return as rightful occupants to the arena next month, perhaps the fans and players hear the lost echoes of screaming spectators declaring that “Yasuo cannot be nerfed enough”, “Heimer hasn’t been viable for like 2 years”, “MadLife!” (The opinions expressed in this blog are that of the haunting wails of avid games and in no way reflect the teams own thoughts on balancing issues within League of Legends.)

Before I leave I’d also really like to point out to the individuals running the quiz at Insomnia, that there are in fact 163840 bits in 20 kilobytes, and not your claim of “160000” (which is a definition limited to one standard primarily outlined to hardware manufacturers) and only stands to spread ignorance of the complexities of computer science. That being said your festival was really awesome so keep up the mostly good work.


Lamplight out.

27 August 2014

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Established in 2012, Lamplight Studios is a BAFTA-nominated, indie game development studio based in Manchester, UK. Formed by a group of graduates, they decided that, rather than get a real job at a real company, they would take a crack at making their own. As a result, their lives have been constant torment and anguish in the name of video games. We are stuff, you don't.


© Lamplight Studios Ltd 2015