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E3 2011

Skulls of the Shogun: Will a New Strategy Game Be the Breakout Hit of IndieCade's E3 Booth?

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Sun, Jun 12, 2011 at 12:00 PM
click to enlarge Screen shot of Skulls of the Shogun - HAUNTED TEMPLE STUDIOS
  • Haunted Temple Studios
  • Screen shot of Skulls of the Shogun

Check out our E3 2011 category for more coverage from the show. See more photos in Shannon Cottrell's slideshows, "E3 2011: Day One" and "E3 2011: Day Two."

It's not all about big-name companies like Activision, EA and Capcom at E3. Much like the music and film worlds, gaming has its own indie community comprised of developers pushing the boundaries of the industry without major corporate backing. IndieCade, the annual Culver City festival described by founder Stephanie Barish as "the Sundance of the game industry," is at the center of this.

IndieCade's roots are at E3, where the organization launched five years ago. Over time, it's spotlighted games that have gone on to become quite successful, most notably Braid.

"Five years ago, when we started, it was really hard to be able to see an indie game," says Barish. "Now you can see them around. People are starting to realize how popular they are, how cutting edge and interesting and they're a little bit different or that they really challenge you."

click to enlarge The team behind Skulls of the Shogun - LIZ OHANESIAN
  • Liz Ohanesian
  • The team behind Skulls of the Shogun

IndieCade features more than just video games, although that's primarily what you will see. At this year's booth there was a Twister-styled race game in addition to a diverse offering of PC and console-based games. The breakout star of the booth, though, was a strategy-based video game called Skulls of the Shogun, which had racked up nominations and awards from a variety of publications by the end of E3.

"I'm going to say that's going to be one of the best known," says Barish.

Skulls of the Shogun is being developed by Haunted Temple Studios, which has three-full time developers and a few contractors involved in the process. We met with Ben Vance, one of the L.A.-based members of the indie firm.

"As a small team, we have to wear a lot of hats," says Vance. "Primarily, I'm doing programming, but we're all doing a lot of design work as well. I'm doing a lot of writing as well."

The group met while working at Electronic Arts.

"We've all been part of the big business, big games, and it gets a little tiresome after a while," says Vance. "Working at a big company is hard. There's always problems that you have to deal with and to make a good game, you have to make a lot of decisions. In that environment , it's hard to make decisions because a lot of people have to agree with you, so there's a lot of convincing and a lot of red tape."

Working outside of the corporate structure has major advantages in the decision-making process.

"In a game like this, with three of us at the core, to make a change in the game, we have to talk to two people at the most to make a change," he adds. "It's so liberating. We can move very fast."

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