I’ve always loved the adventure genre and enjoy finding out about upcoming titles at expos. But playing narrative titles at such events can be incredibly difficult. They tend to get lost among the bright lights, loud sounds and over-enthusiastic PR staff; and projects which rely on telling a story and creating an atmosphere find it far harder to do so in a crowded environment.

LudoNarraCon may therefore be the answer. A new event organised by Fellow Traveller, an indie label, the first one took place over the past weekend and is still going on until early tomorrow morning. What makes it different is that it’s the first convention to be hosted entirely on Steam. So forget long lengthy queues and deafening noise (not to mention the sweaty bodies) – here’s a platform created that celebrates innovative titles and replicates as many of the benefits of a physical experience but within a digital format.

In the same way that developers have booths at expos, they made an appearance on their store pages by exhibiting their games in broadcasts. This was a great idea: it meant the creators could show off their ideas and the work that has gone into them while gamers could both watch and wishlist or buy in one click. For those who couldn’t make the live streams, the videos were repeated throughout the weekend and should be shared on YouTube in the very near future.

A talk about Night Call by writer Anthony Jauneaud and producer Liam O’Neill from Raw Fury had me instantly intrigued. This murder-mystery title is set in Paris where you’re a taxi driver, working enough to earn a living while also helping the police with their investigations by getting your passengers to talk. And after watching Clifftop Games and Faravid Interactive play Whispers of a Machine, I immediately purchased the title for myself and got stuck into it the following day.

I also had the pleasure of trying out several demos for projects I’ve had my eye on for a while now. First up was Neo Cab by Chance Agency, an ‘emotional survival game’ where you play as the last human driver-for-hire on the streets of Los Ojos; and I also really enjoyed In Other Waters by Jump Over The Age, a unique underwater exploration title I’d initially caught a glimpse of at EGX Rezzed last year. Posts about both of these will be coming later this week so stay tuned to find out what I thought about them.

Alongside the games, developers also participated in panels which were streamed on a dedicated Steam page. That by Patrick Ewing from Chance Agency, Cassandra Khaw from Ubisoft Montréal and Whitney ‘Strix’ Beltran from Hidden Path Entertainment was very interesting. Entitled Games are a great medium for storytelling, they discussed how interactivity makes video games a special medium, and one which can pass on emotions to another person like no other.

You may think hosting panels in this way, and on Steam too, could leave them open for some nasty comments in chat. But I have to say I didn’t notice any trouble at all; in fact, viewers were happily talking to one another about the adventure games they’ve played and which ones they’d recommend. Fellow Traveller arranged for a team of volunteer moderators to monitor the event and made use of the tools offered by Valve, so it was great to see them taking precautions even though they didn’t appear to be needed (at least when I was watching).

It’s always going to be difficult to capture that ‘buzz’ experienced at real-world expos in an all-digital convention, because there’s something about being among a crowd of people with the same interests and who are just as excited as you. But LudoNarraCon did an awesome job; as well as allowing ‘quieter’ narrative games take centre stage, it’s the perfect way of making conventions accessible to everybody. Hopefully it will return next year and we’ll get to do it all over again.

Thank you to Suzanne from Fellow Traveller for the invitation, and to all the developers who took part in and made it a great event.

LudoNarraCon 2019 photo gallery

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LudoNarraCon 2019: a round-up

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