Level Upstate Pitch Day Recap

We did it! Our first in-person gathering since early 2020 was hosted last month, and we’re pleased to report that Operation: TVGS IRL was a success. The event provided a chance for many of our community members to reconnect with old friends – and in some cases, meet one another for the first time after interacting virtually for the past two and half years.

The TVGS portion of the proceedings featured a revival of our Interactive Showcase event, presented alongside the closing ceremony and pitch day for RPI’s Level Upstate game dev incubator. The full day extravaganza featured game demos from local creators, pitches from Level Upstate participants, an interactive panel from TVGS and OpenHub, and a few major announcements about our new TVGS coworking office, current job openings for curriculum developers, and the impending return of our Lift Off diversity incubator program. The event culminated with the announcement of 1UpState, a regional game dev conference debuting in 2023 with support from TVGS.

Read on for a full recap of the event, including details about the game projects that local creators demoed during the TVGS Interactive Showcase, highlights from the panels and pitches, and a summary of the special announcements that were shared with attendees.

OMG TVGS IRL

At its heart, TVGS is a community with close ties to the Capital Region. We started as a local meetup, and established our coworking space in Troy soon after forming the group in 2014. Since that time, we have hosted hundreds of in-person events and classes at numerous venues, and in collaboration with various partners in our area.

But maintaining that sense of local identity hasn’t always been easy over the past few years. Although our shared coworking space has remained accessible to paying members, we have been hosting all of our events and classes via the TVGS Discord ever since shifting to virtual meetups in early 2020. This has enabled us to connect with more creators from outside the Capital Region, but it felt like some of this expanded reach came with the downside of slightly reducing that shared connection between TVGS and our local community.

Since going fully virtual with our events, we have experimented with different formats in an attempt to recreate the deeper sense of connection that comes from being in close proximity to one another. One notable example was a wonderful space in Mozilla Hubs created by longstanding community member (and former TVGS board member) Abigail. But most TVGS events over the past two and a half years have been video chats on Discord. This works well for some formats, but a few of our favorite recurring TVGS events just don’t feel the same without a physical gathering.

The Interactive Showcase was one of our most consistently popular recurring TVGS events. Unfortunately, it has also proven to be a difficult format to recreate virtually and has been on hiatus since early 2020. Prior to the pandemic, we hosted the showcase every month during Troy Night Out in the digital lab at The Arts Center. These monthly showcases offered indie game makers a chance to playtest work in progress, and it provided attendees with an opportunity to meet and connect with local creators while sampling their projects.

Many of us have missed participating in this event over the past couple years. During that time, we have also frequently received questions from community members asking us when TVGS might consider hosting another in-person event. This summer, we finally felt like the timing was right to try hosting a physical gathering. When we thought about what type of TVGS event would benefit the most from being in-person, bringing back the Interactive Showcase was one of the first ideas that sprang to mind.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Interactive Showcase is how it brings local indie devs together with new audiences. We’re always trying to create opportunities to increase the visibility of the game development scene within the Capital Region, and we love encouraging folks to step outside their usual bubble and make new friends. The best way to accomplish this is not only to organize the right event at the right time, but also to team up with the right partners.

In this case, we were fortunate that the timing of our return to in-person events also coincided with RPI’s Level Upstate game dev incubator. By coordinating with Darian Shump and other folks from RPI, we were able to come up with an event format that worked well as both the culmination of RPI’s incubator program and a grand revival of the TVGS Interactive Showcase. We were also able to collaborate with Anthony Rossi from 1UpState and Crosstalk Media, as well as Yulia Ovchinnikova and John Sturman from OpenHub, in order to expand the event to also include a panel discussion and some extra special announcements.

See below for the full list of games from our Interactive Showcase!

Interactive Showcase

The Interactive Showcase is all about trying out indie games and connecting with local creators! We’ve hosted many installments of this monthly event series over the years, and we’re proud to have provided so many Capital Region game makers with a platform to share their work and get feedback from players.

Here’s a summary of the projects that were included in the TVGS showcase:

Regicide

Created By

Jamey Stevenson & Spoony Bird

Project Website

dreamlogician.itch.io/regicide

Project Description

Regicide is a digital board game of courtly intrigue for 5-10 players. Claim the crown and avoid being dethroned, but beware! Deception and conspiracy lurk around every corner. Who will you trust?

TEA for well-being

Created By

Jamie Brewer

Project Description

Tea for Well-Being is a short visual novel/interactive comic about a desperate young woman, a mysterious tea shop, and the meaning of life.

So To Speak

Created By

Erik Andersen

Project Website

sotospeakgame.com

Project Description

So to Speak is a puzzle game that simulates traveling in Japan and using context clues to guess the meaning of what you see and hear. You encounter Japanese words in signs and conversations and must connect them to nearby objects or text with the same meaning.

PowerBots Builders

Created By

Nonage

Project Website

nonage.net/powerbotsbuilders

Project Description

PowerBots Builders is a base building game built for split-screen multiplayer fun! Collect PowerStones by building bases and fending off enemy robots.

It was truly inspiring to see the variety of projects on display during the event, and to have the opportunity to showcase the indie projects mentioned above alongside demos from this year’s Level Upstate participants.

There’s nothing quite like the experience of being in a shared space with so many creative folks, and getting a chance to directly ask them questions about their work. Thanks to everyone who played our showcase games! It was a great turnout, and we hope you’ll join us again.

But of course, there was much more to the festivities than just these interactive demos! The event also featured a unique panel discussion, and an evening of pitches from the Level Upstate teams.

Panel And Pitches

What would Pitch Day be without a plethora of pitches? With six different teams from RPI’s Level Upstate incubator program lined up to present, the pitches were plentiful.

But before the pitches got underway, TVGS teamed up with OpenHub to host a lively panel discussion featuring a stellar lineup of panelists:

The discussion topic for the panel was Breaking Out of the Indie Bubble and Connecting with Supportive Communities, and it featured a unique “fishbowl” format hosted by John Sturman from OpenHub. Thank you to all of our panelists for sharing their time and expertise, and special thanks to everyone in the audience who shared questions to keep the discussion flowing.

When the evening rolled around, it was pitching time. Six out of seven Level Upstate teams shared presentations about what they’d been working on during RPI’s summer incubator program. The teams that went through the program were MeDKit, Nauticus Studio, Growler Interactive, Werewolf Moon Studios, Headstone Interactive, Pine Drake Games, and Aestronauts. Check out the pitches for yourself here!

Special Announcements

Following the pitches, TVGS Executive Director Jamey Stevenson shared a few special announcements, including news about some exciting opportunities for folks in the Capital Region and beyond.

The special announcements were:

  1. TVGS has a new dedicated coworking office
  2. TVGS is currently hiring curriculum developers
  3. TVGS is now accepting applicants for Lift Off 2022

TVGS Announcement #1: New Coworking Office

The first announcement was that TVGS has a new dedicated office space that is accessible to all of our coworking members!

As you may know, TVGS currently offers 24/7 access to our shared coworking space for paying members. TVGS memberships are just $50/month, which makes it the most affordable coworking space in the region by a substantial margin. In comparison to more generic coworking venues, our space is also specifically tailored to the needs of game devs, multimedia creators, and digital artists.

Our coworking studio is within the first floor of the Quackenbush building at 30 3rd Street in Troy, colocated with the Tech Valley Center of Gravity makerspace. Until recently, our members have typically utilized the downstairs common area for coworking. But thanks to TVCOG’s generous support, we now also have a dedicated TVGS office up on the mezzanine. This bonus area is only for TVGS coworkers, but our members will retain access to the rest of the space as well.

We’re thrilled to be able to offer this upgraded space as a perk for our paying members! In addition to providing a cozy getaway spot away from the main coworking zone to recharge our introvert batteries, this new space allows us to further customize our shared office to better meet your game development needs. Here’s a small sample of the many useful features our space includes for members:

  • Powerful PC, Mac, and Linux workstations with monitors of various sizes
  • Digital art and audio creation peripherals, including drawing tablets and keyboards
  • VR-capable dev machines and multiple types of VR headsets (Oculus, HTC)
  • Shared pool of Android and iOS devices for testing mobile games across a range of phones and tablets
  • Vast collection of consoles and games spanning retro to modern era, for all of your “research” needs
  • Growing library of game development books and learning resources

Not a TVGS member? Click the button below to sign up now!


TVGS Announcement #2: Curriculum Developer Job Openings

The next announcement was that TVGS is continuing to expand our educational partnerships within the region, notably via a partnership with Questar. TVGS is excited to be providing co-instruction and curriculum development support for Questar’s new full-year Gaming & Multimedia high school class. Along with this news comes the related announcement that we are currently hiring additional curriculum developers to help us create new lesson content in areas like 2D game art, animation, graphic design, and audio composition.

If you’re interested in applying for a curriculum development role, or if you just wanted to stay informed about upcoming job and volunteer opportunities with TVGS, be sure to let us know by filling out the TVGS educator, mentor, and guest speaker interest form.


TVGS Announcement #3: Lift Off Diversity Incubator

The grand finale of the TVGS presentation was the announcement that our Lift Off diversity incubator program will be returning in 2022 with a new and improved virtual format. Applications are open now!

Lift Off is a free six-week program for people with underrepresented genders (including cis women, trans women, trans men, non-binary people, and those who are otherwise marginalized) to make their first game; no prior experience needed!

This diversity-focused virtual workshop invites selected applicants of varied backgrounds and interests to create their own game project with direct, one-on-one guidance from professional mentors. Participants will practice applying essential game making skills including design, art, coding, audio composition, and more.

We’re also seeking additional organizers, mentors, and guest speakers to join our 2022 crew! If you’re open to sharing your expertise to support diverse creators, let us know by filling out this sign up form.

Lift Off will return this October, and applications for our 2022 program are open from now until September 23rd. Join our 2022 cohort and take the first step toward bringing your creative ideas to life with support from our team of experienced mentors and the friendly community at Tech Valley Game Space!


1UpState – Celebrating Games & The People Who Make Them

Following the TVGS trilogy of special announcements, the final speaker of the evening was Anthony Rossi from Crosstalk Media. Anthony took the stage to reveal some launch details about 1UpState, a new game developer event coming to the Capital Region in 2023 with support from TVGS, Grifkuba Gaming Services, Discover Albany, Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy, and RetroGameCon.

Anthony described 1UpState as “A Celebration of Games and the People Who Make Them,” and outlined the general vision for the event. The event will include a full day of talks from game developers, with a particular focus on indies and diverse creators. This will be followed by an after party in the evening that’s all about the games, featuring live music and a variety of playable demos.

There have been a few local gaming events in recent years, such as Empire Game Expo in 2019 and the annual HVGamerCon eSports tournament. We also have some more general tech conferences in the region, such as HVTechFest. But with the burgeoning game development cluster in our area, the timing feels right for a new conference that can shine a spotlight on creators from across the Capital Region and beyond. The event will aim to cover the full spectrum of game development, with talks and content for professionals, indies, students, aspiring creators, and general fans of gaming alike.

Visit the 1UpState website to learn more, and be sure to sign up for newsletter so you don’t miss out on the latest news and announcements about the event!


COnclusion

As you can tell, our first in-person gathering since 2020 turned out to be quite an eventful day. It was wonderful to see so many of our community members meeting up and connecting with one another in our communal space. Thanks again to everyone who attended!

If you weren’t able to join us for Level Upstate Pitch Day, don’t worry – we have a feeling you might be getting another opportunity to attend a TVGS event in person some time in the not-too-distant future. Don’t forget to follow us on social media and check out our events calendar to ensure that you don’t miss any of our upcoming TVGS activities.

In the meantime, the best way to connect with our community continues to be joining the TVGS Discord and participating in our virtual events. We hope to see you there!

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