Fantastic Arcade is a convention that began as part of a film festival and is now its own thing, though it still has the advantage of being held in a rad-looking cinema—the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. Like the film festival, Fantastic Arcade is focused on cult and independent art, so every year a selection of indie developers get up and talk about their games. This year's talks were uploaded to YouTube two weeks ago and since then I've spent some enjoyable hours dipping in and out.
Here are some of the highlights.
Untitled Goose Game
For all we know Untitled Goose Game may remain untitled forever. "It's good enough for paintings and songs," developers House House suggest as they explain how their game began as a joke on Slack, the workplace chat network for water-cooler gossip. It's a very silly idea—although a stealth game where you are just an asshole goose rather than an assassin is genius—and you can see how this gag among friends grew from its simple beginnings.
A Mortician's Tale
Laundry Bear call A Mortician's Tale "A narrative-driven job simulator where you play a mortician in a funeral home," but it started quite far from that. While now it's grounded in the real world of the death industry apparently it began as a game about a mortician who dealt with the bodies of videogame characters, they explain. "Lara Croft would drown or something and you'd be, well, here's how I deal with a body that has been drowned."
Tom Francis of Suspicious Developments (formerly of this parish) showed Heat Signature, going all the way back to how it looked after just a couple of days of work. This is another one that's interesting because you can see how far it came, from the concept of a procedurally generated game where you can sneak inside spaceships to the story-generating murder gif creator you can play today. (Also you get to have a look at his Steam library when his laptop's on-screen. He's been playing Opus Magnum: nice.)
Amanita Designs are a Czech studio you may know for Machinarium, Botanicula, or the Samorost series. They make adventure games with animation'd you see in award-winning short films, and their next one is called Chuchel. This commentary from Amanita's Lukas Kunce is great because it explains the Czech-specific origins of Chuchel, which is a word that means something like 'dust bunny'. He sums up Chuchel by saying, "It's actually a game about two disgusting things fighting over a cherry."
Those are just some of the highlights of the developer commentaries from Fantastic Arcade 2017. If you've got free time over the weekend there's even more, like Nathalie Lawhead (creator of Everything is Going to be OK) and Fernando Ramallo (creator of Panoramical) making a game live with help from the audience. You can watch Justin Ma (of FTL fame) talk about his follow-up, turn-based mech versus kaiju strategy game Into the Breach, or Stephen "thecatamites" Gillmurphy talk about why he makes low-fi oddities like Space Funeral and Magic Wand (this was one of my favorites). Or you could watch Jeremy Abel explain Genesis Noir, in which you manipulate time to prevent the woman you love from being killed, only the gunshot that kills her is also the Big Bang?
There's a playlist of the whole lot for the truly dedicated.