There Was Great Local Talent at Logan Theatre’s Playtest Party 2017

Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Last Friday the usually spacious Logan Theatre Lounge was packed with local game designers and developers eager to show off their prototypes. Hosted by the Logan Theatre and the Nerdologues the fourth annual Playtest Party was held on the 20th and is part of the Logan Theatre’s ongoing Nerdy November - a combination film-fest and celebration of all things nerdy. Playtest Party is a free event where early builds of video and table top games can be played. The Logan Theatre has an ample lounge area, but the crowd of eager gamers and developers packed it to the gills. It was a unique opportunity and a hell of a lot of fun, with swag bags, food, drinks and plenty of interesting games to sit down with, and the environment was fun and inclusive. We never passed a game we weren't invited to check out, and it made for a great time. This year a juried competition sponsored by C2E2 saw two participants winning booths at C2E2 2018. Attendees had a chance to vote on their favorite, but the popular vote was only one consideration taken by the panel of jurors. With so many great local creators, it would have been hard to choose just one winner from all of the great video and table top games. Luckily, C2E2 had room for two – one from each category. Cosmo’s Quickstop by Big Sir Games won for video games and Crypt by Road to Infamy Games won for tabletop games. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Cosmo’s Quickstop was easily my favorite game of the night. This is a time management game where you have to serve customers in the vein of VR The Diner Duo or Overcooked, but with a unique premise. Set on a space gas station, players must top off customer ships’ fuel and 02 while also maintaining bathrooms, vending machines and the gift shop. With a cute art style and smooth gameplay this prototype feels like an almost finished game. Despite winning a booth at C2E2, their Kickstarter has yet to meet its funding goals. You can check out the game and become a backer here. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Other video games we got a chance to play and thought deserved a mention include mobile game Up Golf by Thomas Huffman. It’s a simple concept executed well and presented with an attractive, whimsical art style. In it, you’ll punt a cute woodland creature up levels, through portals, and around sand traps to the next hole while the ground disappears beneath you. Up Golf is harder than you’d expect and far more addictive. You can check it out here for iOS. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Nameoki  Bottleworks by David Antognoli and Michael Vaughn Green was another favorite. In this game, tragedy has befallen a bottling plant worker and you’ve been recruited to take his place on the assembly line. You’ll have to learn the ropes of the plant without letting too many bottles hit the floor with each day  on the job presenting new challenges and mechanics. It’s a gorgeous game with a wicked sense of humor we could sink hours into. Developer SomaSim was on hand showing off a tablet build for Project HighriseA somewhat unique entry due to its already available desktop retail version, Project Highrise Tablet Edition condenses the building management sim into a mobile package. Build an efficient, enticing high rise office building in this skyscraper simulator. Fans asked for a mobile version, and they will be getting one when it releases early next year. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Ruby and Majesty: Treasure Team is a puzzle game that has the duo of Ruby and her companion, Majesty the Bat navigate pixel-art obstacles by solving puzzles in tandem. Majesty the Bat obviously can fly, making her handy for flying over holes and spikes, while Ruby is able to carry items, push blocks and withstand wind. This charming puzzler can be played solo, where one player controls both characters simultaneously or cooperatively with a partner. If you want to check it out it’s currently in alpha and available to purchase here. Also on display was DrunkDevs' Ground Floor Z , an arcade “elevator-em-up” that has you fighting off a hotel zombie apocalypse. Not only are the DrunkDevs local developers, but they also stream their development on Twitch. They give tips and tricks for developing as well as incorporating feedback into their games. You can usually catch Gavin streaming on the DrunkDevs’ Twitch channel or you can check out their other games on their website. Ground Floor Z is the DrunkDevs first potential commercial release, so keep an eye out for it in the future. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. In addition to the video game fun, there was an incredible amount of tabletop talent. Sometimes simple is genius, and that was the case with John Davies’ game, Just Write - a deceptively simple word game in the vein of Words with Friends, Scrabble, and Boggle that forces you to think in a whole different direction. It’s simple enough for kids to play but challenging for all, and it's portability make it a game you can play practically anywhere. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Another game that caught our eye was Color Hustle by Side Hustle Studios. This tile game is like the card game Speed went to art school. Players must get rid of their multi-colored tiles as quickly as possible while following a set of rules that can change on the fly. Simple but adaptive tiles allow for lots of variations in rules and Side Hustle Studios even encourages you to come up with your own.  You’ll need to think hard and fast to win this one. Check out this and other Side Hustle Studios' other projects here. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Cursed! By FoxBo Games, is a game inspired by Bloodborne where you play monsters trying to escape hunters and other players while you try to achieve your goal- curing your affliction. Curing yourself puts you at a disadvantage though because the closer you are to regaining your humanity, the weaker you become. You can use the very hunters who are chasing you to your advantage by siccing them on your opponents or using them to block your foes' path. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Finally, there’s Excavate by Keith A. Majewski and Brian Ewell, an expanding treasure hunting game where you and up to five other players search for treasure while battling monsters and avoiding traps. The board is everchanging and revealed as you explore the vast labyrinth in hopes of reaching the ultimate treasure, the prized McGuffin. Despite being a prototype, it’s absolutely slathered with absurd humor and charm. Intrepid web adventurers might be able to dig up a downloadable version of this game to playtest for themselves, but for now it remains a work in progress. Playtest Party at the Logan Theatre. Photo by Marielle Shaw. The Logan Theatre’s Playtest Party was frankly, a wonderful surprise. Gamers were friendly, curious and enthusiastic and developers were hands-on and just as ready to have fun with guests as they were to show off the fruits of their labor. Shopping local is something you might not think about as much when it comes to video games and Chicago isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think about the industry, but if this party was any indication, there’s a whole lot Chicago has to offer the gaming world- on consoles, computers and tabletops everywhere. To us, that makes everyone a winner.        
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.