Held by the organizers of the tremendously successful Full Indie monthly meetup, the Full Indie Summit saw hundreds of independent game developers from all over the west coast pack into the Rio Theatre on Saturday, April 20 to listen to more than a dozen short talks by independent game developers and others. Attendees included a significant number of VFS students and grads. It was great to see so many familiar faces!

Nels Anderson of Klei Entertainment opened the summit with an excellent talk on his strategies for developing Mark of the Ninja. He covered all the typical elements of stealth action games, and how he went about both converting and inverting them when creating a 2D stealth game.

Next up was Jeff Isselee from Skull Theatre who spoke about the fascinating photogrammetry art pipeline they are using for their Unity-powered game, Rustclad. Photogrammetry essentially means creating 3d models from photographs of real-world models and objects. The results are both impressive and unique.

Joel Green gave a talk called Game n’ Farmer, in which he prognosticated on the possibility of game development outside of cities — specifically, from a rural homestead on Vancouver Island. As a game developer who dislikes city living more and more every day, I found his talk intriguing and inspiring.

VFS Game Design alumnus, Nick Yonge of Krang Games spoke about his strategies for rapid development, offering tons of great tips when developing prototypes or vertical slices.

Shane Neville of Slick Entertainment spoke about his 50/50 philosophy for taking games from good to great. If you have the time and resources to spend half your development time polishing a “finished” game, there can be no doubt this effort will pay off in the long run.

Then, Adam Boyes (Sony) and Dan Adelman (Nintendo) both spoke about their companies’ plans to support and promote independent games on current and next generation consoles. It was all great news for indies, who have always wanted to release games on these big consoles, but found the technical and policy hurdles prohibitive. There was a third console that was conspicuously absent…

After lunch, Jason Bailey added significantly to the Summit’s dirty word count during his presentation about East Side Games, its company culture, and their Spill & Swill program. Reminiscent of initiatives like Google Friday and 3M’s Fifteen percent time, Spill & Swill allows self-starting employees to pitch new game ideas internally.

Tayber Mark Voyer gave us some real gems on micro monetization strategies, freemium models, and optimizing price points for in app purchases.

Erik Johnson talked about the importance of timing and targeting when marketing indie games, sharing some great nuggets from his experience with Arcen Games.

Tyler Sigman gave a great talk almost purely about game design strategies, and included a nostalgic peek at his early “analog” games, paper-based prototyping for Hoard, spreadsheet “combat simulators” for Age of Kings, and lots more.

Another VFS alumnus (Classical Animation), Jake Kazdal, who is Creative Director and Art Lead with 17-BIT games, talked about the epic development of Skulls of the Shogun!, bootstrapping a startup (thanks Dad!), and how they got a publishing deal with Microsoft. During an enthusiastic Q&A, the audience pretty much picked Jake’s brain clean.

Finally, VFS’s own Chevy Ray Johnston shared some short words of advice and encouragement that he’d elicited from tons of indie developers.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday cooped up in a dark movie theatre. I came away inspired and enthused, and once again impressed with the quality of Vancouver’s indie scene. The event was a huge success, and I hope it is the first of many.

Bren Lynne teaches Cinematics, Unity and Tech Design