In years past, E3 was usually a show where I focused on the big dogs: the Microsofts, the Sonys, the Activisions, but with the rise of crowdfunding and my growing distaste for the gaming zeitgeist’s lack of innovation, I made sure to spend plenty of time with the indie developers of this year’s show. Of course, the small-timers and oddities of E3 used to take up an entire hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center (Remember Kentia!) but are now a Battlestar Galactica-esque convoy of dreams and wishes. That didn’t deter me, though! Here are just a few of my favorites.
“I want to try out indie stuff, I want to try out Oculus stuff,” I said. “Well, do you want to play our game, then,” said Robin Arnott, developer of sensory-overload theater SoundSelf. Shy a dynamically-generated Boards of Canada soundtrack, it’s the perfect companion to your post-work wind down. Arnott says he was originally developing it for traditional monitors, but as soon as the Oculus Rift landed, he knew he had a target platform. In retrospect, it’s hard to see this game without the Rift.
The experience was a little weird to start because there’s no head-tracking in this experience; your view is fixed on an unnameable object. With little more than the instruction to make tonal noises into the headset they were slapping on, it was me alone with the game. If you remember turn-of-the-century music visualizers, then this will feel right at home, but you interact with the entity by making oohs and aahs, which then get recycled by the game. As your pitch gets higher, the it starts to warble and vibrate. As it slows down, or you slow down, it slows down. You could probably spend a whole afternoon humming into this game and not know it. Arnott explained that this was a tool for transcendence and that there wouldn’t be any game that emerged from it. Certainly more to it, but not a game. SoundSelf isn’t for conquering and winning cheevos for, it’s about being conquered, letting SoundSelf take dominion over you. He’s not sure where that will lead him, but after a recent Kickstarter, he’s got seven months of development time to figure it out.