Portland, Oregon is known as an artist’s paradise. The pacific northwest city is bursting with creativity, from the ever-evolving art pieces that cover city walls, to auditorium halls that stage ballet, concert, and theatre. But for a community so entwined with the art world, Portland hasn’t established itself as a hotspot for game development. Nestled between the old tech behemoths up north in Redmond and Seattle, and the new world of Silicon Valley down South – Portland’s tech scene hasn’t found a voice to call its own.
With this past weekend’s inaugural Betacon, the city’s growing development community made itself heard.
Held at the Oregon Convention Center, the first annual Betacon brought together independent voices from across the Northwest. Through a combination of tournaments, panels, and live demonstrations – Betacon introduced thousands of Portland residents to the games being developed in their own backyard.
The most populated area of the show floor was easily the corner hosted by PIGSquad (short for Portland Indie Game Squad), a local non-profit that supports local independent developers. Through workshops, meetups, and public events like Betacon, PIGSquad is helping to push developers past the finish line. “It’s been a great event, all of the developers have been able to get a lot of valuable feedback,” said Will Lewis, a founding member of the organization.
Over a dozen creators put their projects on display, with the following standing out as some of our favorites.
VR was a popular format at Betacon, both with creators and attendees. The unique project on the floor was easily Ship-It, which pitches itself as virtual reality’s answer to Tetris. Set in a dystopic shipping facility, Ship It challenges you to pack suitcases with a flowing series of colored blocks. Each case needs to be filled as effectively as possible while wasting the fewest number of blocks on the line. It’s the perfect type of game for VR, forcing players to multitask and embrace the fidelity of motion controls.
Ship It is on Steam Early Access now, for $15.
Plunge is a simplistic, yet compelling take on isometric dungeon crawling. Your avatar is dropped onto a dungeon built out of tiles, only able to move from the first tile in a line to the last (unless otherwise obstructed). It’s reminiscent of action puzzlers like Laura Croft GO, turning combat into a ballet of precise movements across the board. With a bold art style that blends cartoonish designs and dank dungeon vibes, Plunge stands out in a crowd. The game is currently in development for mobile platforms.
Tetris has seen a lot of variations over the years, from physics-based reimaginings like Tricky Towers to hybrids that expand on the original -like Puyo Puyo Tetris. Quadra Digger takes a new approach, focusing the action downward. Filling a line the gap between blocks of dirt with puzzle pieces triggers an explosion, and rains the pieces above into the gaps below. Played solo, it’s a fun twist on the familiar. But in co-op, Quadra Digger‘s true potential reveals itself. Up to four players can simultaneously drop blocks on the same field, setting the stage for truly chaotic puzzle action.
Quadra Digger hits desktop and mobile platforms on April 28th.