Fantastic Arcade

Ben Vance
10/05/2011 at 9:30 AM

Fantastic Arcade was FREAKIN’ RAD! Fantastic Arcade, part of Fantastic Fest, happened a two weeks ago and was a great venue to play indie games, hang out, and meet lots of great people.


Our game was chosen to be one of the spotlight games!  We had the honor of being put into an honest-to-goodness arcade cabinet!!  We’ve been calling Skulls “arcade strategy” for awhile, but seeing it in a real arcade cabinet along with other amazing games was kind of shocking.

Unfortunately I was the only member of the team that could go.  Venturing down to Austin was a must for me as I called it home for a couple years (way back when).  I didn’t know what to expect from Fantastic Arcade, really, as it was open to the public and in an unusual setting.  Unlike many conferences we go to, this did not occur in a convention center and did not have the feel of an industry event.  Put on by Austin’s illustrious Alamo Drafthouse, the arcade was setup at their hip bowling/karaoke/cocktail bar which had a great 60s vibe and a really laid-back atmosphere.  There was an extensive food menu, drinks, old school arcade games… what’s not to like?

When I showed up the day before the event, the Highball was bustling as their team got everything into place, finishing up the cabinets, and troubleshooting the inevitable last minute problems.  I brought an updated build with me with a couple minor tweaks just for the arcade environment, and although there were plenty of reasons to be stressed out, the crew was super friendly, super helpful, and put me at ease instantly.  I updated the build, offered to help (they were total pros, they didn’t need a thing!), and as I headed out, started to imagine how this unusual, exciting event was going to pan out.

The experience was totally unique.  Here, you could actually talk to players – no roaring crowds or jumbotrons cranked to 11.  You could hang out with fellow indies and talk game design.  You could see how players react to your game in the wilderness.  Players could drop in for just a few minutes or hang out all day, kicking back in the comfy booths.  In addition to the arcade cabinets, bunches of laptops were setup with games from their showcase selection, so there was no shortage of games to play!

One of my favorite aspects of the event was the “developer’s commentary” that ran for 3 solid afternoons.  Various game developers were given an hour to talk about whatever they wished.  All of the talks I saw were great, with my highlights being: Lost Mars (some serious SCIENCE was dropped as our friends at Tiger Style gave an overview of current thinking on life on Mars before leading into their fiction and action-gardening gameplay), Radical Fishing (Vlambeer unfailingly entertains, especially when discussing new prototypes like Yeti Hunter), and Octodad (showing a prototype build with perhaps the perfect controller for Octodad… the Kinect!).

(showing off our “senior portrait” / band photo)

I was also given the opportunity to give developer’s commentary on Skulls. I discussed the game’s genesis, how the team came together, and showed some “behind the scenes” screenshots while we worked on various features, before inviting 4 players to duke it out on the big screen behind me.  I narrated the match, informing as they played and pointing out strategic opportunities and risks.  The winner took the nearest player out very quickly, then let the other two duke it out as he powered up his team.  It wasn’t necessary though, as the other player brought his troops closer, he made a fatal mistake, leaving his general exposed next to the pond.  The winner had clearly played Skulls on the show floor at least a couple times, as he used several advanced tactics.  Deservedly, he walked away with the prized SKULL GOBLET.

But you know what’s really awesome?  Even though Fantastic Arcade is over, a staggering number of the games can be played RIGHT NOW in the comfort of your very own bunker!  I’ve made it very easy so… you have no excuse!

And if you’re looking for games to anticipate, here are the up and coming games you’ll have to wait a bit longer for:

All in all, a great trip stuffed full of Texas hospitality.  Thanks to Kody and the Highball crew, Dave Idemoto for pictures, and all those who helped make Fantastic Arcade happen.  Don’t miss it when it comes around next year!

  • Joshua Fields

    Thanks for the kind words, Ben! FA was a lot of fun, and it was great meeting you!


    You too! Thanks again for everything – I can’t think of a more appropriate name than Fantastic Arcade. Can’t wait for next year!!


    I’d be interested in this spreadsheet if it is still available. Couldn’t find a way to email you directly though. Thanks for your help.