Page 1 of 3

PAX 2009

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:18 pm
by Chris
Myself and Mark were at PAX this year, and it was incredible. We’ve been to shows before of course – between myself, Mark, Tom and Johnny we’ve been to just about all of them, but never before have we seen such an amazing gamer fest as PAX. Every single person visiting PAX is at the absolute pinnacle of their geekery, and that unashamed love for Games in all their forms shines through everywhere you look. I actually felt a great deal more connection to this crowd than at any other show we’ve ever been to – because at the core, I’m a geeky Gamer too. I love games and I’ve played games all my life, ever since my parents gave me a Spectrum 128k for Christmas when I was a kid. And I love the fact that PAX exists, and that it hasn’t devolved into the cynical big corporate nonsense of E3, or the sombre and professional atmosphere of GDC. We were exhibitors this year, and it was quite an experience.


We spent much of our time attached to the Microsoft booth, running Darwinia+ on a show dev kit for anyone who came near us. And we had no shortage of gamers – our immediate neighbours on the floor were Bungie, Valve, and Blizzard, and we were right by the main show entrance, so the area was pretty rammed all day long. Gamers queued all around us to play the new Halo game or Left4Dead2, and we also had a long queue of gamers waiting to play Forza on a massive triple-screened set up right next to us. So whenever our stand got a little quiet we’d ambush whichever gamer was nearest in one of those queues, who basically had nowhere to go because he’s queuing to play something, and we’d sell Darwinia+ to them.


For the most part, we had people playing the game all day. A few people knew of Darwinia but most didn’t – some had a dim memory of playing the demo on PC years ago. Darwinia is an old game now, and PAX has a slight console bias in its gamers, and this is excellent news for us, because it means most of the pax crowd haven’t already played/bought the game, so it will be new and fresh and just as exciting for them as it was for you when you first played the game.

So we’d talk about the game with people for a bit, then send them into the introduction levels to get them started. Darwinia+ has had substantial usability work done on its opening 15 minutes, with an entirely new introduction level that’s never been seen before and a heavily revamped intro to the Mine level, designed specifically to ease xbox gamers slowly into the confusing world of Darwinia. And it worked brilliantly. It’s very satisfying to see the initial confusion of Darwinia slowly fade from a gamer, and for him to start enjoying himself, then to start loving it, then to be asking for more when it’s over. We had quite a few gamers who must have played for half an hour or more before moving on, and some of them even came back for more later.


We’ve been working on Darwinia+ for so long now that we’ve almost forgotten what a great game sits under all the snazzy new menus and presentation. When we look back on the intial Darwinia PC demos we released, we just can’t believe how stupid we were. No help, no tutorial, just dump the players into the 3rd level in the game and expect them to figure out they have to hold the alt key and draw a triangle? WHAT THE FUCK? We’re our own worst enemies sometimes. The new Introduction is just what Darwinia needs, showing off some of the love in the game and gently drawing the player into the world, and the controls and HUD work we’ve done is the best it’s ever been. We found that Gamers often explored the multiplayer content after they’d had their fill of Darwinia’s campaign, and were amazed to find effectively another entire game bundled in the package – Darwinia and Multiwinia together for the first time, two sides of the Darwinia+ coin. They complement each other very well. The second demo we released on PC – the Launchpad – now sits as an extra bonus level between Darwinia and Multiwinia, bridging the two games together.


When bundled together, Multiwinia finally becomes how we always imagined it : an extension to the Darwinia story – taking place many years after the end of the Virus outbreak, when the now sentient Darwinians have fractured into different tribes, and Civil war has torn the world apart as they fight each other over the limited resources of the planet. Each of the game modes explores a point in this Darwinian civil war – from the early skirmishes and territory conquest of Domination and King Of The Hill, to the spiritual battles over religious iconography and technology in Capture the Statue, through the mechanised and high tech warfare of Blitzkrieg, and ending in the Exodus of the tribes from the broken world of Darwinia in Rocket Race. Darwinia+ on the Xbox is the best version of Darwinia we’ve ever made – the Directors Cut, the game as it would have been the first time around if only we’d had another two years to spend on it and were able to realise every single ambition we had for the project. It all fits together for the first time – a hundred thousand generations of the Darwinians, from their birth in the cave, through their nomadic simple beginnings, through spiritual awakening and sentience in their extinction level battle against the virus, through strife and civil war, and on through the Exodus to their future outside of Darwinia.

In fact, I drew a picture of what I now call The Darwinian Genome, for those who are interested.


PAX is massive, with so many things going on at once that you can’t possibly take it all in during a day. There were little sprinklings of magic everywhere though. From the “World Maps” printed in retro lettering to guide you around, through the standing rules of the show including such gems as “Rule 3 : Don’t punch or kick people” (no mention of grapple, push, stab, shoot, tazer etc), through panels with names like “How can we make online gaming communities suck less?”, through Will Wheaton hosting unashamed geek-outs onboard something called the USS AWESOME. And the costumes! I’ve never seen so many ridiculous costumes. When you’re trying to have a serious meeting with guys from Microsoft, and in the background you can see a fully equipped Team Fortress Engineer and Scout running down an isle, with a Medic behind them using his Healing gun to keep them going, it makes it hard to concentrate. After a while you realise the Microsoft guys are actually just loving it as much as everyone else. Most of all it makes me feel good about Games.

There was a ton of Indie content on display at PAX, with one entire section called the Pax Ten devoted to Indie games and their creators. It was outside the main exhibition hall and enjoyed a much more chilled out vibe. The organisers had filled the area with bean bags for people to laze around on, and each Indie game was on display on massive plasma screens high up above peoples heads. Crowds of people would gather around watching these fascinating games being played, some gamers would just crash on the floor and chill, sometimes a film crew would march through and interview a young indie developer in front of their game. We spoke to quite a few of the developers in this area and it’s clear to me there’s a ton of upcoming Indie talent out there. Indie is its own established genre now, with its own styles and quirks, and it’s become accepted as a viable and often wildly creative corner of gaming that everyone is interested in – publishers, press, gamers and (crucially) game developers. In this new indie world Retail is a distant memory, creativity and charm win out over technology and brand every time, and it’s Steam, XBLA, PSN and WiiWare that are the places to be now.

For some time at Introversion we’ve debated our continued use of “The Last of the Bedroom Programmers” as our company slogan. We’ve all been generally in agreement that it doesn’t represent us anymore, but nobody has come up with anything to replace it (Apart from “Videogames from our souls”, but that’s just too funny) and so it’s stayed through inaction more than any desire to hold on to it. That slogan was the PERFECT message to represent us in 2002, when the Indie genre just didn’t exist in any meaningful way, when big Retail was still the dominant way to make money from games, when digital downloads from websites weren’t well established and long before Steam, XBLA or PSN even existed. It was a totally different market, dominated by big corporations and franchises, and we felt very much like it was Us Versus Them. Our launching of Uplink into Retail in 2002 was a guerrilla battle against insurmountable odds. Fast forward to 2009, and all of that has changed, we no longer program in our bedrooms, and more importantly there are now lots of super talented Indie companies doing what we do. Those guys at the Pax Ten are the new bedroom programmers – we’re working on our fifth and sixth games now, and that time is behind us. If I was an Indie starting up now, I’d be offended by that slogan. I’d think Introversion were a bunch of arrogant assholes to keep using it. And most likely many Indies do in fact think just that. It’s a relic from a time in the Games Industry that no longer exists.

So with that in mind, we’ve decided it’s time to rid ourselves of that slogan. It’s coming off the website, it’s coming off everything we do from now onwards. We will never use it again. That time has passed, for us and for the wider Games Industry, and it’s time for us to accept we’re working in a different world now. Still, that slogan has been with us for a while, and there was a time when it was a rallying cry for us. We will miss it, but this has to be done.

And with that, it’s gone.

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:29 pm
by Ace Rimmer
Bravo, can't wait to see the new slogan (and future of IV), assuming there will be one (slogan of course). IV has a future so long as the game content at least stays at the same creative and graphically eye-appealing level. :D

It's also nice to see a much more positive and upbeat post. :wink:

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:30 pm
by NeoThermic
Having seen the amount of work that went into the UI of Darwinia to make it better... I remember testing aaages ago Darwinia on the PC using a XBox controller; compared to when I next saw a proper xbox360 version of Darwinia+, it was clear that lots of work had gone into it. New UI ideas, refinements, the groan as someone was tasked with a UI job...

It's all paid off. I'm glad it has as well. Being able to grab people who've never played Darwinia/Multiwinia and seeing them get the game must give a huge sense of relief that the hard work hasn't gone to waste. Moving forward of that, I'm sure you've come up with some rules of a good UI (or a huge document called "How NOT to do UI") and they should all be applied to future games.

Introversion. Last of the bad UIs?.


Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:11 pm
by Rkiver
A new slogan eh?

Introversion: We code because we care.

Nice read, and glad you had a blast at Pax, and you got plenty of potential new gamers to see what you were making.

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:14 pm
by faemir
It's great to things going well again!

So when is the release date? ;)

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:16 pm
by Xocrates
You know, if I had an Xbox I would consider getting Darwinia+ just because of the new menus. The shiny, shiny, menus...


Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:31 pm
by Icepick
Rkiver wrote:A new slogan eh?

Introversion: We code because we care.

Don't quit your day job.

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:34 pm
by Rkiver
Icepick wrote:
Rkiver wrote:A new slogan eh?

Introversion: We code because we care.

Don't quit your day job.

What day job? :P

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:04 pm
by Phelanpt
I wish I could go to PAX.
Great post, it really makes me want to try D+ and see how it's like now. :)

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:11 pm
by Feud
So, is there any background info on why the good doctor decided to quit? Was it something external or could he just not bear to watch his creations destroy themselves?

As for a slogan, maybe something that plays off of the nameIntroversion?

Introversion: Entertainment for the Individual [size=0](My first thought was Introversion: We play by/with ourselves...)[/size]

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:17 pm
by Weatherproof
Haha! I love the Darwinian 'Genome' ! :D
Maybe IV should have a contest or something for the best slogan and the winner could get a free copy of the game or fluffwinian or something!

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:24 pm
by xander
I am going to be honest here for a moment. Over the last couple of years, I have come to care less about Introversion than I did when I first came over here and discovered Darwinia (I had been playing Uplink for a while by then, but as a Mac users, it came from Ambrosia, and I had no idea that it might have been created by someone else). Darwinia was (and is) an amazing game, and it managed to create a sense of wonder and excitement that I don't feel has been adequately duplicated by IV since then. Furthermore, I sometimes get the sense that IV don't really care about us (the players and the modders) as much as they might. Customer service often seems to be slow (though that might just be an effect of those few disgruntled people posting on the boards), and added support for modding seems to be in a permanent state of DIY and delay (there are a ton of features for the Darwinia editor that have been talked about but not released; there is still no map editor for Multiwinia; modding Defcon is a bit of an arcane art if one wants to do anything more than change some sprites).

However, this post made me care again. When Chris talks about Darwinia+, there is so much love and excitement about the game, that it is difficult not to share in it. The game sounds like a highly polished gem, and I really do hope that people enjoy it. For me, discovering Darwinia was exciting, and I hope that others feel the same way.

That said, I still feel like many of the old fans and supporters are being left by the side of the road. I feel that a kind of false hope has been built up. After Defcon came out, Darwinia got very little attention. After Multiwinia came out, Defcon got very little attention. Might we assume that the earlier games are going to be ignored once Darwinia+ is out? Is IV abandoning its PC players in favor of console players? Can we anticipate ever seeing any of these Darwinia+ extras on the PC? What about Multiwinia for Linux?


Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:00 pm
by Ace Rimmer
I have to agree with xander to a certain extent, particularly at the seemingly "set it 'n forget it" mentality that appears to be prevalent at IV. However, I have always attributed that to the limited resources/necessity of money making to stay in business. Certainly, one of the most important factors I consider when making purchases of any kind is the type/level of customer service and product support after the sell. Fortunately for IV, Defcon just so happens to be the game I always wanted.

In short, I've always believed that IV has great intentions and really cares about it's fan base, but never really considered any solution for keeping the 'moral' (for lack of a better word) of it's existing community high.

IV basically has a giant, willing, and knowledgeable "staff" at it's fingertips (not me, others) and does pull from it every so often, but has never taken true advantage of this resource.

Just one option would be to create some sort of veteran player (for each game) group with *access, and in lieu of £'s, give that person/group freebies. If nothing else, such freebies could be distributed amongst the rest of the population in the form of prizes, awards, gifts of appreciation (for superb community service, e.g. Dedcon/Dedwina). Obviously, some sort of NDA-like agreement would be needed.

Bang, you now have pseudo "customer support" and the community goes "wow! they just confirmed they really do care!". No offense Martinmir, but I think I speak for most out here when I say "meh". I mean, great idea and it showed action on the part of IV, but based on the **expectations set, "meh" is all we get? There could be so much done...

*In the case of Defcon, having the right access to finally get rid of those pesky bugs.

IV, About Us, wrote:Martin joins us at an interesting time for Introversion, working with Vic as a marketing assistant. Here to stir things up with the Introversion online community and to also bring new ideas to the bedroom.

Just my thoughts.

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:16 pm
by Rkiver
Feud wrote:So, is there any background info on why the good doctor decided to quit? Was it something external or could he just not bear to watch his creations destroy themselves?

As for a slogan, maybe something that plays off of the nameIntroversion?

Introversion: Entertainment for the Individual [size=0](My first thought was Introversion: We play by/with ourselves...)[/size]

Introversion: Individual Entertainment maybe? I do like it though. Sounds....right.

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:27 pm
by Feud
xander wrote:That said, I still feel like many of the old fans and supporters are being left by the side of the road.

Personally, I think that happened a long time ago.

Next month will be three years on this forum for me, not nearly as much time as some but enough for me to notice a few things. Introversion is very, very good at some things. I can think of few other developers who have the same eclectic vision that brought games like Uplink, Darwinia, and Defcon. Their games are rich, deep, easy on the system resources and wallet, and they have a great online community that allows greater freedom while at the same time enjoying greater calm and civil temperament than anywhere else I've seen. I can't remember the last time I really played an Introversion game for more than a few minutes (probably around teh Multiwinia launch), but I've stayed for the community.

However, Introversion also has a number of problems that, despite claims made in the past, they seem either unable or unwilling to fix. They are terrible with their money, which is a significant part of why the company is in such trouble. Whether this is due to a poor business model or just over indulgence of the those who hold the purse strings, the result is the same. Each time between games they've hit money issues, you'd think they would have learned but it doesn't seem like they have.

And as mentioned, their customer service and game support is horrible. Broken promises and patches that break games and don't get fixed, small companies depend on customer loyalty and yet they, quite honestly, don't seem to care. Anyone else remember the Defcon patch that was supposed to fix some issues that they'd created in the previous patch, but which got forgotten about, creating several months of regular/beta patched division?

I'll probably stick around for a long time to come, provided there is a forum to stick around in, but honestly, I don't have a reason anymore except for social. Darwinia is long dead, Defcon (their best selling game) has been ignored for a couple years now. Console gaming? I've played those games before, no reason to spend my money on them.

The only thing new out there, the only thing worth an ounce of the older players time or wealth is Subversion. Quite honestly, Chris certainly has shown he can have vision, but there has been such a tight lid on Subversion that to me it's uninteresting. There's nothing to get excited about, from what's been shown I have no reason to think it's anything other than a tech demo without the demo.

Darwinia and Defcon make me want the company to succeed, both are not only fantastic games but two of only a few games that I might consider works of art. But stories of PAX, changes in the company slogan, and scribbles on a napkin aren't ways to convince fans that there is a reason to stick around.

I want to hug you guys, quit being pineapples!

Rkiver wrote:
Feud wrote:Introversion: Entertainment for the Individual [size=0](My first thought was Introversion: We play by/with ourselves...)[/size]

Introversion: Individual Entertainment maybe? I do like it though. Sounds....right.

Much better!