There's so much to see and do at the 2019 Game Developers Conference next month that it can be easy to overlook whole segments of the show, and organizers want to ensure you don't miss out on one very unique corner: the alt.ctrl.GDC showcase!
This eclectic array of offbeat, unique, and just plain interesting alternative controllers is open to all GDC attendees and will make its sixth appearance at the conference Wed-Fri, March 20-22 in the Moscone Convention Center.
The story behind each of these unique games is fascinating, and the team at Gamasutra have been publishing a series of interviews with this year's alt.ctrl.GDC participants that delve deeper into where their creations come from and how they were made.
They've already covered about half of the 20 games in this year's showcase, with more on the way, so make time to check them out before GDC arrives next month! You'll have a better idea of what to see at the show this year, where these remarkable games came from, and how you might apply lessons learned by their creators to your own work.
Because The Book Ritual is played using a book and shredder, players must do something that no purely digital game could ask them to do: permanently destroy something.
The game uses this to confront the player with how they feel about that destruction, reflect on other things they may have lost, and lets them play out the idea of growing after a period of grief. The book that they damage becomes a unique and personal object - their destructive acts become creative. Using a physical book to act out the emotions behind a story helps players feel what that means to them on a physical level.
Guitar Wizards is a unique rhythm game that lets players make music together. It can be played competitively or cooperatively, as players settle into a groove and find a flow.
By taking away the screen, Guitar Wizards brings players face-to-face in an epic battle, and creates space for a crowd to form around their performance. The LED battleground also creates the feeling of being a badass rockstar wizard, casting flashing spells that travel towards an opponent.
Plünge is designed to be controlled via the unique motions and functions of a household toilet plunger.
Interesting one-button game design keeps the mini-games fresh and exciting, while short play sessions allow people to come, plunge and leave without much commitment.
Table44 a table of shimmering colors and song, looks to bring players together through its dazzling light show and accessible design.
In Koo-Koo you control a flock of mechanical birds with the mechanism of a cuckoo clock. The birds all move in their own tempo, which encourages the player to jump from clock to clock to give new commands.
The interaction contains visceral pulling on weights and finely setting the hands of the clock. The gears inside the mechanism resist pulling and rattle along with the movement of the birds. All in all this creates a frantic multiplayer game where you are never really in control.
The OVERTIME team challenged themselves in creating an accessible acontroller from a basketball toy.
Partnering with the Idea Realization Lab in Chicago & DePaul University, OVERTIME was built with hardware that allows it to sense how a player is moving as they play with the toy, creating an amazing little basketball game.
It may look like a normal arcade game from the front, but Neon Nemesis has a secret… a hidden entrance behind the arcade booth. Those who enter find the lair of the Nemesis; a dark room with a screen, chair, and a plethora of controls, including: a rope, crank, lever, pedals, and various buttons of diverse shapes and sizes.
While the players on the outside enjoy a high speed competitive 2D platformer, the Nemesis hides in their lair, utilizing the tools at their disposal to activate environmental traps and weapons to tactically dispose of the players and become the ultimate victor!
In this interview creative lead Henry Lam talks about how (and why) Continuum Bacterium uses two custom-made face shield 'controllers' paired with two custom fabricated control panels. In order to give each player their own "split-screen", the face-shields flicker a voltage-dependent privacy film at (safe) varying rates.
In coordination with this rate, the on-screen game also flickers at the same rate, effectively showing two separate screens to each individual, depending on the rate their mask is flickering. In order for each player to see all of the enemies on screen, they must adjust their mask to the 'frequency' of each type of enemy. Once adjusted, they will be able to see the encroaching enemies and eliminate them with their turret controls.
EXTRAREALITY CODEBREAKER is a single-player puzzle game where each puzzle is designed in two parts. The first part uses a dial to interact with a small game, while the second part requires the player mimic that interaction outside of the controller.
This creates a unique experience, which ends with the player constructing their own version of the controller in order to solve the final puzzle.
The name says it all: HELLCOUCH: A Couch Co-op Game subverts the idea of “couch co-op” local multiplayer video games by cutting out the video part of the game, moving the entire experience onto the couch itself.
LED lights and audio serve as multimedia feedback as players interact with the couch cushions, which act as the game’s controller. Hellcouch plays with the way we interact with each other on couches, in video games, and in public spaces, challenging the implicit rules of these social spaces in order to create a silly, unexpected experience for players and spectators alike.
Each of these interviews offers a unique perspective on a remarkable game, one of which may win the alt.ctrl.GDC Award (which includes a $3,000 prize plus a special trophy handmade by game maker and former alt.ctrl.GDC participant Robin Baumgarten) at the IGF ceremony during GDC, with judging taking place on-site.
No matter who wins, all GDC 2019 attendees who stop by the alt.ctrl.GDC exhibit will have the chance to play all of these inventive and innovative games using unique, one-of-a-kind controllers. -- and it may be your only chance to do so!
Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent company Informa