The Ocean Resorts Casino in Atlantic City hosted Gameacon 2018 for the first time, after a few years at another AC resort. Between October 19-21 Gameacon attracted to the Jersey Shore a mix of gaming enthusiasts, indie developers, vendors, interactive game providers and more! I had the pleasure of visiting the convention on its final Sunday, and I was joined by my 8-year old son so I could get a broader view of the event.
Now in its 5th year here in Atlantic City, Gameacon found a very nice venue, the newly opened Ocean Resorts which is just north of Hard Rock. It’s a very stylish and upscale resort and the conference venue was perfect for such an event.
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I’d say that the convention floor was shared by four different attractions: The gaming “arena”, the VR games, the indie developers and the vendors. The arena and the VR area were anchoring both sides of the venues, with everything else mixed in between.
The Saber VR area was really amazing. I’ve been trying VR games over the years and they always fell short. But the technologies that Saber brought here were really a step up and for the first time I could experience a real virtual reality game. Saber VR are located in the Freehold Racewya Mall where they have a lot more rigs than the ones they brought to Gameacon and I’d recommend a visit there.
For starters I tried a regular VR game on HTC Vive. It was basically standing, looking/turning around and using the controllers to shoot, and the zombie game I tried was very immersive. The sound was very spatially realistic and the reactions to your movement very precise. It was a frantic spinning around at pointing the hand to shoot at the oncoming hordes. Great graphics, amazing 3D effects, and very responsive controller system.
Even better was the Omni “treadmill” with Samsung controllers. Think Ready Player One as you’re strapped into a harness over a slippery surface, and then besides the turning around and shooting you had to walk around to move in an virtual arena. I can’t stress enough how exhausting this was, maybe because I was trying to move quickly (run!) around the environment. 10 minutes and I was done, dripping with sweat. But it’s as close as it comes to a real virtual reality environment, in which you “run” (in place), spin around, turn quickly and shot with both hands.
While this was too real/scary and too big for my 8-year old, he felt right at home on the gaming “stage”. While the main action took place around the big screen where serious gamers were fighting in a Gears of War tournament, there was plenty to do around. There were various PC’s set up to play Minecraft and a few other games. Also several Nintendo Switches with a variety of games for an even younger crowd. But the most popular was the Fortnite section where kids from 1st graders to young teens were battling up in duos and squads.
Gameacon had a big Fortnite tournament with prize money on Saturday, while Sunday it was just friendly games for fun. Other tournaments included Gears of War, Mario and others, and it was very competitive, with games projected on a big screen in front of the audience.
Around the vendors area you could find various collectibles, some gaming related toys, good bargains on used games, as well as the cosplayers booths. But I have to admit there wasn’t as much there as I had hoped, my son was hoping for a lot more toys, games for sale, maybe cool console accessories. Also for an event like this, there were extremely few cosplayers. But probably that’s the theme of the convention, more oriented towards gamers and the gaming experience.
The indie game area was extremely cool and I had the pleasure of meeting some very interesting developers. There were no big companies, just truly indie developers who were creating games mostly as a hobby. One of them was Kelly Davis from Nitetime Studios (so called because he’s a software engineer by day and game developer by night). His game Chrono Ghost is still under development and he was very passionate about it, making it sound really like a labor of love. It’s an immersive platformer where the character has to acquire special powers and solve puzzles to advance through the levels.
Another game we enjoyed was Trigono which is already available on Iphones and Ipads. It has a very original, truly unique idea for a geometrical puzzle, and it won a well-deserved award at Gameacon. I can’t wait to have it on Android systems because it got pretty addictive, but I live in an I-free home. A very addictive game was also Buzz Kill Zero, a personal project by Kaleb Parham of KaPaEnt. It’s an ’80-style, retro space shooter that reminded me of Galaga, but with an 2018 perspective that makes it more entertaining. Kaleb is still working on this project, and plans to release it on Androids and Iphones when it’s ready.
I think it’s awesome that Gameacon gave an opportunity to independent, unfunded game developers to showcase their projects. The convention was actually started by its creator, Ben Fox, when he heard indie developers need an event like this so they can go beyond social media to spread the word.
I had an exciting day at Gameacon 2018, which had something for every age. I enjoyed the VR games and talking to the developers, while my 8-year old loved both playing the established games on the main stage, and testing the indie games and providing feedback to their authors. I can’t wait to go back next year!
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