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ESGS: Philippines' Gaming Mecca

Some of the best Indie Games from this year's Indie Arena

Izo Lopez

Back in its second year at the ESGS, and even bigger with more games, developers, and innovations, is Indie Arena 2016. This corner of the ESGS features local independent game developers showcasing games in alpha, beta, and completed builds for convention attendees to play.

Indie Arena

Among the dozens of games featured this year, there is certainly enough time to play them all but here are a couple thought deserves mention.

Adarna: Alamat ni Maria Blanca by Senshi Labs is a classic RPG in the turn-based, grid-walking style of the classic JRPG with a twist: the entire game is written in Tagalog. The developers explained that the market is not actually local but international players who are interested in learning our language better through a game. Many of us after all are able to play games in Japanese and English, absorbing the language bit-by-bit. The designers of Darna figure the same effect can be achieved with menu options such as "Sandata" and "Kasuotan", and all sorts of other attacks, abilities, and enemies completely in our native tongue. The game is free to download from their website.

Spellweaver by Quazzic of the College of Saint Benilde, is a fantastically innovative game featuring the use of a pen tablet in place of a mouse. While most developers are jostling each other for space in the VR arena, Quazzic decided to utilize a piece of existing hardware not associated with games. Spellweaver is played from a first-person perspective, and the player must use spells to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. Spells are cast by first drawing a specific symbol using the pen tablet then pressing the spellcasting button. The gameplay is fluid but with a high skill cap, and there's lots of room to master combinations of symbols to weave elements and effects together while moving around. Though there is no multiplayer yet in the game, the game developers admit that the gameplay would be fantastic for player-versus-player.

GameOn 2016

Right alongside the perhaps more established studios were students from De La Salle, CSB, iACADEMY, and other schools. These aspiring game designers were able to make betas of their own games with only three months of development.

Tempest Core from students of the College of Saint Benilde is a simple tank-vs-tank shooter. that aims to add a layer of mechanical depth by assigning the left wheel/track to the left analog stick, and the right to the right analog stick. Otherwise, everything is as expected -- gun switching, ammo drops, walled maps. At first it plays like bumper cars, with most kills being accidental and lucky, but as you get used to the controls you start to see how the dual analog sticks provide more finesse of movement than a single directional control. The game was made for fun, but who knows? It could be a pretty complex mobile game.

Project Breach by Frolic Games, also from the College of Saint Benilde, is inspired heavily by hit game SUPER HOT. You play as a disembodied hacker attempting to infiltrate a guarded building by "hacking" other people (it feels ery much like possessing them). Once hacked, you then move from the hacked person's point-of-view and control their actions, allowing you to control key-holders, or turn guards against fellow guards. You can even hack through cameras and monitors to jump from room to room. Already an intuitive and fun game to play, there is a pleasantly surprising extra layer of depth: the AI doesn't know when you've switched, allowing you to play actual mind games against the AI. The game is promising, and hopefully the developers continue to polish it.

Game Design Courses

Other than the actual showcased games, other booths in the Indie Arena area of the ESGS contained representatives from various schools such as the CIIT College of Arts and Technology, the College of Saint Benilde, iACADEMY, Asia Pacific College, Gameops Inc., Kooapps, Yang Yang Mobile, Synergy88 Digital, Payoneer, Redfox, and more. These offer not only workshops and courses in animation, game design, and programming, but some are also hiring.

If you've got dreams of starting a career in the world of video games, you need to be at the ESGS this year at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay. Even if you just enjoy video games (and if you're reading this, chances are that you do), then consider this event your Mecca. Day 2 wraps up today, while tomorrow will be the third and last day of ESGS 2016.