Double Fine’s fifth annual Day of the Devs indie games festival is coming up. It’s a one-day free event from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on November 11 in San Francisco, and it’s presented in partnership with Iam8bit, a production company. This year, it’s showcasing 70 games for folks to try along with live music and food vendors.
Greg Rice, vice president of business development at Double Fine, says that the idea of Day of the Devs emerged when they were running the Kickstarter campaign for Double Fine Adventure back in 2012.
“We were about ready to show the game for the first time and we were looking for a way to invite all our backers to come and check it out,” said Rice in a phone call with GamesBeat. “We knew that if we put out an open call to 90,000 backers, we’d need a big space to house them. We couldn’t fill that space purely with Broken Age itself. So we invited a bunch of our friends who had other games we were excited about to come show them alongside us, and it just naturally grew and expanded from there.”
Since then, the festival has grown considerably, and Double Fine has partnered with industry names such as indie publishers Devolver Digital and Annapurna Interactive, developer Epic Games, industry event Game Developers Conference, ID@Xbox, Intel, and others. Humble Bundle, one of its sponsors, always releases a special package of games just for the event.
Rice says that developers demoed 60 games last year and around 5,000 people attended. This year, Day of the Devs has 70 games, and it anticipates the event will grow even more. Starting with the 2016 festival, Double Fine enables fans to submit games to feature at the festival, though it of course curates the final list of titles that will be shown.
An inclusive show
Double Fine CEO Tim Schafer says that they wanted to create a festival that’s friendly for all ages. Parents can sign up for free on-site childcare from KiddieCorp, an organization that specializes in providing day care services at conventions and trade shows.
“We wanted it to be free so everyone could come, so families could come, and have it be really low impact on all the developers,” said Schafer. “There’s not an emphasis on big fancy booths with stage shows and stuff like that. It’s just games on PCs and people playing them and having fun. It’s a really positive energy, because everyone who’s there just loves games.”
This year’s Day of the Devs will feature a room dedicated to live music from game composers such as Darren Korb (Supergiant Games‘ Bastion, Transistor, Pyre), Ben Prunty (FTL, Into the Breach), and Jim Guthrie (Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery. As before, there will be food trucks and art exhibits.
Rice says that Double Fine wanted to create a more fan-oriented event versus other more industry-focused events, where it might be more about networking. But it does make some room for hobnobbing with Girls Make Games and Gameheads, two organizations that help underrepresented groups learn how to make games, who will both be at the event to showcase their work as well as to hand out information for folks who may be interested in their programs.
“Girls Make Games, we’ve worked with for a while,” said Rice. “They’ve been in a few of our [Humble Bundles]. They also come to the studio every year for camp. They bring their whole class of girls to come tour a real game development studio. I think we even did a picnic with them this year, which was fun.”
Double Fine is also involved with Gameheads; Schafer and a few other team members mentor its students. It’s a program that seeks to prepare young people for jobs in the games industry. And being at the Day of the Devs might help in that endeavor as well; Rice says that they get a lot of representatives from publishers coming by to see what kind of upcoming games are in the works. They actually found one of the games they’re publishing under the Double Fine Presents label at a Day of the Devs festival: Glumberland’s Ooblets.
Double Fine Presents
Double Fine Presents started in 2014, and it’s published titles such as Ko_op Mode’s colorful puzzler Gnog and David OReilly’s Everything. Upcoming releases include Ooblets, Foam Sword Games’ Knights & Bikes, and Boneloaf’s Gang Beasts, which is available in early access on PC.
Rice says that the primary thing Double Fine does to support independent developers is to provide PR and marketing and to help them form platform relationships with companies such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. It’s gotten only harder for indie devs as more games flood the market, so it’s important to try to help them get out in front of people and spread the word.
“They need more help than ever finding visibility, because there are so many more games being released now,” said Schafer. “Our ability to signal boost a game is I think even more important.”
Rice adds that game development is about “firefighting” and that so much can go wrong in the process. Double Fine Presents offer some of its takeaways to new developers, but it also creates a community. For instance, they’ve set up a channel on the chat platform Slack where devs can get to know each other, troubleshoot, and just offer support for each other.
“We’ve put out a ton of games here at Double Fine, but there are always new lessons learned,” said Rice. “I think that a lot of Double Fine Presents is just trying to pass along some of those learnings to folks who may be releasing their first or second game. But also, it’s become a good little community of its own.”
Creating a community is a theme that runs through to Day of the Devs, as well, which seeks to be a safe, inclusive space where people can enjoy games and see new and interesting things. Schafer says that, off the top of his head, he’s excited that they’ll be showcasing Level-5’s Ni no Kuni 2. It’s not exactly an indie title (it’s published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, and the first sold 1.4 million copies), but it presents a rich world with beautiful art.
He’s also excited about the goose.
“The goose?” I asked.
“Yeah, everyone’s excited about the goose game,” said Rice.
“There’s a goose game,” said Schafer.
They’re talking about Untitled Goose Game by House House, which released a prealpha trailer and stirred up hype on Twitter. It’s a small four-person studio, and its game will appear alongside Level-5’s, a company that employs hundreds.
“I want to show the world that games are art, that they’re really fun and uplifting things,” said Schafer. “A lot of the press you see and hear about games—it’s in connection with much more negative news stories. I feel like for us, as people who love games, we see this other side of them. They’re as expressive as books and movies, if not more so. There’s such a variety of them.”
This year’s Day of the Devs lineup is the following:
- Aegis Defenders
- Ape Out
- Bad North
- Battle Chef Brigade
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Crossing Souls
- Dead Static Drive
- Detroit: Become Human
- Do Not Feed the Monkeys
- Eden Obscura
- Everything is going to be OK
- Flipping Death
- Gameheads (multiple games)
- Gang Beasts
- Genesis Noir
- Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy
- Girls Make Games (multiple games)
- Gnog iOS
- Good Night Traffic City
- Harold Halibut – A Handmade Adventure Game
- Hello Neighbor
- Hot Lava
- Into the Breach*
- Keyboard Sports
- Knights and Bikes
- Lazer League
- Light Fingers
- Mineko’s Night Market
- Ni No Kuni 2
- OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes
- Original Hill Farming
- Planet Alpha
- Regular Human Basketball
- Return of the Obra Dinn
- Rhythm Doctor
- Small Talk*
- The Gardens Between
- The Occupation
- The Rig*
- The Swords of Ditto
- Tidy Up*
- UFO 50
- Untitled Goose Game*
- Way of the Passive Fist
- Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
- Wilmot’s Warehouse
* Denotes games that will be showcased for the first time.