Contributing author: Antal Bokor
With everyone forced to stay home for threat of disease, lots of conventions are either completely canceled, or attempting to find a digital solution. LudoNarraCon already has it figured out. This all digital convention, put on by Fellow Traveller Games and hosted on Steam, is running for its second year. It kicks off April 24th,runs through the 27th, and features a whole lot of games, game sales, and video panels you can watch to get some insight into these narrative rich games. There will be over 40 game exhibitors, featuring over 50 games, with over 20 playable demos, all hosted on Steam.
I’m sure most are excited to get their hands on some of the available playable demos, but LudoNarraCon isn’t just about playing games, it’s about how these games and their rich narratives develop. With over 12 hours of live panels scheduled, there is a ton to check out. For this preview we’ve selected a few favorite panels and games to look out for once the con begins tomorrow at noon (our time).
As with any other convention we’ve written about, panels are an essential part of the experience. You can learn so many amazing things about the things you love and get fantastic behind the scenes information, or even learn to create in ways you never have before. Though the panel schedule for LudoNarraCon isn’t as grueling as, say, C2E2’s and you won’t have to queue for two hours just to have a chance at a seat, the lineup is so good it was hard to narrow it down. That said, here’s some of the panels we can’t wait to see come tomorrow:
Kicking it off Friday at 12pm CST is Games: The Transformational Experience. It’s a great way to start a convention that’s all about the emotional depth of narratives in video games, and sort of ease into how developers create those experiences, and we think it’ll provide a great celebratory vibe to kick off the convention.
Then it’s immediately on to a topical deep dive Friday at 1pm CST with a discussion about Creating Emotional Touchstones in Emergent Narratives, which will tackle the ins and outs of creating an emotional impact in a medium where you also need to allow the player agency.
Though we’re likely to camp all the panels from the comfort of our comfy couch in our yoga pants, our final pick for Friday is the 5pm CST panel on Storytelling Without Dialogue, which should be an illuminating look at how you can affect people emotionally with things like the game’s art, music and even game mechanics, something we explored in some depth with the VGA Gallery in their System Link: Video Games as Memoir exhibit from earlier this year.
Saturday, with a fresh set of sweats and a bowl of Lucky Charms, we’ll take on a second grueling day of panels from the comfort of our same old spot on the couch. Here’s what we’re most psyched for:
A subject that’s important more now than ever, Saturday at 12pm CST we’ll be at the ready for exploring Cultural Dissonance–which helps developers and those interested in any kind of narrative really, for video games or beyond, how to learn about other cultures that narrative might involve.
At 2pm CST Saturday, we’re also very excited to join the conversation about Personal Storytelling in Games. Some of our favorite games of all time have been those whose narratives come straight from the hearts and lives of people who’ve lived the experience, and it’s something worth celebrating and learning about so that we can all find ways to tell our stories.
Rounding out the panels Saturday, we’re also very excited for 3pm’s Narrative Design panel, which no doubt will tie in everything else we’ve learned about narrative driven games, storytelling and cultural awareness to equip us to be able to use the “secret sauce” of game storytelling to put together something truly special.
With over 50 games being featured at LudoNarraCon, some of which we’ve seen here in Chicago via BitBash events and at VGA Gallery, there are plenty of great games to look forward to or even play right now available to learn about during the event. Here’s some favorites to look out for.
Another game with interesting environs and great art that we caught in person at MSI earlier this year and got intrigued by from E3 2019 was Genesis Noir which takes you to the jazz era for the creation of everything, a sort of space-birth speakeasy that sets the scene for you to roar through the universe to destroy the whole damn thing while nursing a Negroni.It’s an up and comer we’re excited to see in its final form on PC, Mac and XboxOne at a date to be determined. Follow its progress via their Twitter account.
Under the sea is a lot like outer space, and another game we had the privilege of reviewing recently was indie Aquatic-Life-esque exploration game In Other Waters, where you play the part of the AI operator of a deep sea vessel uncovering the details of a mystery of the deep. In Other Waters released on Steam in early April so you’ll be able to play it now.
Here’s a few others that caught our eye in the LudoNarraCon lineup:
There’s Coda, another artistically impressive title in the works that uses an action we do often and without even really being aware of it–blinking–and integrates that into its tale of a journey to the afterlife that its creators think will allow you to explore regret and acceptance. Follow them on Twitter or wishlist it on Steam so you don’t miss out on this game when it releases (and we hear there’s a release date announcement coming soon!)
Eliza is a moody looking visual novel about a therapist in Seattle. But hold the tossed salad and scrambled eggs, and replace them with a tale about an AI counselling program and a woman who’s searching to understand the people the program helps, and it already seems like a pageturner. Luckily, you won’t have to wait to get your hands on the game on Steam or itch.io, and if you put the Animal Crossing down for a minute, available for your Nintendo Switch, too.
Meanwhile, another game that caught our eye in just a few screenshots and brought to mind another great indie with a strong narrative, Sea of Solitude, Röki looks gorgeous and together with its narrative origins in Scandanavian folklore make for a game we want to make sure we’re keeping tabs on when it releases and are excited to get to try the demo which will be available on Steam throughout the con and follow them on Twitter to keep up to date.
Something else that we’re excited to see on the lineup for Ludo is Telling Lies. Not a nonfiction account of the current White House administration, Telling Lies is actually a follow up title to the well loved and critically acclaimed Her Story. Telling Lies seems along similar lines, where you’ll search through secretly recorded conversations to figure out whodunit, and after all the fun we had with Her Story, we’re already building a date night around this one. This is another one that’s in full release on Steam and it’s on sale all weekend for the con by itself or in a bundle with Her Story, and you can also get the game on Nintendo Switch, XboxOne, Apple’s App Store and Playstation 4.
This is just a small sample of the amazing stories you can be a part of when you play the games from this year’s LudoNarraCon selections (now or later, if they’re still in development), and you can see all 50 games that were selected here.
LudoNarraCon begins tomorrow, at noon Chicago time, so stay well hydrated, bring the hand sanitizer, wear comfy clothes and stay the F at home for a fantastic indie games convention experience. We’ll see you there…virtually. For more information on how to experience the con live or access the videos from panels later on, click here. You can sign up to attend for free from April 24-27 for free if you have a Steam account, and even set yourself a reminder via text or email. And like with any other con, stay tuned here as we see what interesting announcements and reveals come to light during the convention.
Editor’s Note: As with any convention, times listed (which we’ve converted to CST here in Chicago) are subject to change. Check LudoNarraCon’s official website or follow hosts Fellow Traveller Games on Twitter to be sure you’re getting the most up to date information.
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