Conventions have been a fixture of the gaming industry for decades now – they bring together people who make games, play games and love games. But they’re also loud, noisy and filled with smelly humans and you can spend all day walking and lining up for stuff. It’s hardly the best environment to play game demos or present them.
This weekend, a brand new event hopes it provides the model for an alternative. Enter LudoNarraCon, an all-digital convention hosted entirely on Steam. It kicked of yesterday to begin a three day long celebration and showcase of interesting and innovative narrative games while duplicating some of the beneficial aspects of a real-life convention within a digital / streaming platform.
LudoNarraCon is an initiative begun by Fellow Traveller, the independent publishers behind The Stillness of the Wind and the upcoming NeoCab. The con went live yesterday at 10AM PDT, with panels from 10AM to 4PM. Panels and exhibitor streams will repeat on a loop through May 13 11PM PDT, dodging some of the “if you miss it, you miss it” aspect of physical conventions.
Instead of game booths, developers and publishers will stream live from their game’s respective Steam store page, exhibiting gameplay, behind-the-scenes content and “fireside” chats, all while eluding the unpleasantness of a crowded, noisy exhibition floor. A main theater stage still exists on the landing page for the event, which will air over six hours of live panels with indie developers and influencers.
Some of the panelists include: Greg Kasavin of Supergiant Games, behind the critically acclaimed Bastion and Pyre; Nina Freeman, designer at Fullbright, the studio behind Gone Home and Tacoma and Alexis Kennedy and Lottie Bevan of Weather Factory, the creators of Cultist Simulator. Topics range from “writing for short games,” “death in games,” to “romance in games” and “procedural generation and storytelling.” A full list of panels and panelists can be seen at the official site for the event.
Of course, as a Steam event, there will be sales. More than 40 games associated with LudoNarraCon are on discount, which are at the bottom of the event page. So go ahead and treat yourself to a gem from a great indie developer. Demos for some of the games are also available for a limited time. You can try out early builds of Genesis Noir, In Other Waters, Neo Cab and more.
Fellow Traveller’s managing director, Chris Wright, told Kotaku that LudoNarraCon was born out of its organizer’s dissatisfaction with big events. “We’ve been doing booths at several big conventions a year for a long time, but increasingly we were feeling that we weren’t getting great outcomes for the time and money they were taking up.”
So the publisher decided to try out their digital convention idea. They met with Valve, who ended up offering support in the form of custom behind-the-scenes work and promotion across Steam. Fellow Traveler views this as an experiment, and if all goes according to plan this weekend, they’d like to run it again in the future. They also hope other game makers will learn from their example.
A digital convention is cheaper for developers, as well, since they don’t have to incur travel expenses. It’s good for attendees as well, as getting their hands on the games they’re excited about more convenient, as is hopping into the convention’s stream chat or games’ forums to connect with developers.
“We hope to grow LudoNarraCon into a regular event and a major platform for this kind of game... We’d love to see other people pick up the baton and build on this idea, maybe run some other similar conventions with a different focus.”