Denver Comic Con is not only a place for fans to celebrate their favorite stories, it’s also a venue for fledgeling storytellers to present their work to an audience of likeminded fans. These tales of heroism and whimsy take the form of comics, illustrations and cosplay. But this year, for the first time, the main show floor greeted a collective of independent video game producers who also had stories to spin.
Bolder Games, a small production group whose day job is making interactive experiences for the likes of Walt Disney World, gathered more than ten indie game makers to split costs and retain fans inside their little corner of interactivity. While some of their comrades traveled to join them, many are based right here in the Front Range. If you’re reading this before Comic Con concludes, give them a visit.
“Just In Time, Incorporated”
“Just In Time, Incorporated” is the virtual reality game by Boulder-based In Second Wind Interactive in which the player becomes an ultra-fast risk management agent whose job is to save lives in hyper-speed. If you ever saw “Clockstoppers” or that Quicksilver scene from “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” you’ll already have a feel for the environment where your character moves so fast that everything else, including speeding bullets, seem to be standing still. When you put on their VR headset, you feel that fast.
Co-founders Ryan Drag and Justin Larrabee said they quit their jobs as game developers when the company was purchased by Hasbro.
As an independent developer, he said, “You have a lot of freedom, you can do silly stuff, you can be edgy. If Hasbro owns your company you can’t really do that.”
“The King’s Bird” by Serenity Forge
Serenity Forge‘s founders have been making games since they were in school together. When graduation came around, said marketing director Kevin Zhang, they realized they wanted to take game-making seriously. Sporting one of the larger booths around the indie game hub, Serenity Forge has a handful of games on display that they’ve either produced or published for other independent developers.
“Independent game development is all about getting to do what you truly believe in,” Zhang said.
“Star Kinesis” by JSVeterans
Gaspar Manka is a medically-retired U.S. Army vet who learned to develop games after leaving the military. He developed “Star Kinesis” under the developer name JSVeterans from his home in Frederick, Colo. It involves building a space cruiser and outfitting it for the zero-gravity conflict between Earth’s unified military and revolting corporations. For Manka, this universe is not a fanciful one. Instead it’s a representation of where he thinks humanity could be in 75 years, when the story takes place. His universe includes technology that already exists or might perhaps be developed soon, and the plot line he’s written is a “cautionary tale” of where humanity could end up.
Since Manka is on military disability, he says his game doesn’t need to be monetarily successful, freeing him to invest time in the story and provide an opportunity to teach players about planetary physics as they battle for resources in not-so-distant space.
“Star Balls” by Bolder Games
Like Serenity Forge, Bolder Games has a host of titles available for perusing at the indie gamer hub they’ve set up. While many of their offerings are fun mobile games, they plan to release a murder mystery, “Red,” in 2018.
Some of the independent producers they’ve gathered hope to pay the bills with their products, but Bolder Games principal Pegi Bryant says this is more of an opportunity for artistic expression, something she does for fun.
What’s equally fun, she said, is bringing everyone together to be represented here at Colorado’s biggest indie storytelling event of the year. Fostering that community makes it possible for people like her to make something so technically and artistically challenging.
“It literally takes a village,” she said. “Doing this without the community would be impossible.”