As the world gradually eases out of lockdown, videogames – and those who make and play them – are finally emerging from the world of livestreams and Zoom calls for some time in the sun and fresh air. W.A.S.D is a brand-new consumer event coming to London’s Tobacco Dock where devs, publishers, and players alike can get together in-person to bask in their shared passion. Or, you know, network and spot future prospects. Whatever your cup of the proverbial is really.
Kicking off from April 7-9 and headlining the London Games Festival, W.A.S.D will play host to dozens of indies, as well as big-budget games. Among those confirmed so far will be Triple Hill Interactive’s 1v1 action-fighting game Die by the Blade, Team Junkfish’s survival-horror romp Monstrum 2, and LCB Game Studio’s “pixel pulp” Mothmen 1966.
Renowned indie publisher Team17 is heading to the event with a chonky line-up of games, as are Thunderful Games and Goblinz Studio – the latter is bringing four games for attendees to sink their pearly whites into, while Thunderful has nine titles at the show. So, safe to say there’ll be plenty to do, and that’s before we get to the industry panels and talks covering everything from the latest trends to getting into the industry.
One of the biggest jewels in W.A.S.D’s crown is celebrated indie publisher Devolver Digital’s presence at the event. The spirited publisher has kept its cards close to its chest about what games it’s bringing, clutching them tightly in its mitts (it’s cold out right now) and shielding them from view. But now the cards are down, the cat’s out the bag, and there are beans everywhere: join us as we chat to marketing manager Robbie Paterson about Devolver’s W.A.S.D lineup and the state of indie publishing in 2022.
PCGamesN: What can attendees expect from Devolver Digital’s area at W.A.S.D?
Robbie Paterson: A whole bunch of great new games – including the public debuts of Cult of the Lamb and Trek to Yomi – as well as an overwhelming air of self-importance. We’ll also be welcoming our fabulous group of cosplayers, along with developers Nerial, Firefly, Sos, and more! The full lineup is: Cult of the Lamb, Trek to Yomi, McPixel 3, Shadow Warrior 3, Terra Nil, Card Shark, Inscryption, Death’s Door, and Loop Hero. We might even let our finance and legal teams come along; they deserve a few days out.
Cult of the Lamb and Trek to Yomi are playable to the public for the first time at the show. What can you tell us about them, and what kinds of reactions are you hoping to see?
Cult of the Lamb is a cute roguelike about running a cult in a crumbling world of ritual and ruin. You play an adorable little lamb who’s rescued – and subsequently possessed – by an ominous presence bent on taking over the world. So, off you trot to recruit followers, grow your commune, and destroy false prophets through a combination of combat, dark magic, and necessary sacrifices.
Trek to Yomi, on the other hand, is a cinematic action-adventure game inspired by the classic films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. You play a young swordsman sworn to protect his town and the people he loves against all threats, but faced with tragedy and bound to duty, he journeys beyond life and death to find out who he really is.
It’s going to be really exciting to watch people finally play them. I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised! We’ve always prided ourselves on the diversity of our games, and I don’t think these two could be more different, so hopefully folks will see that we’ve got something for everyone.
Games like Terra Nil have benefited from digital demos at events like Steam Next Fest, too. How does the feedback compare to an in-person event like W.A.S.D?
Everyone’s pivoted to online events or public demos out of necessity, and it’s true that we’re able to measure their impact more as a result, but in-person events are a huge part of what got Devolver to where it is now, and there’s no better feedback for a developer or publisher than seeing people play your games right in front of you. But events mean more than that to us, because they’re also a chance to meet fans and see friends. It also goes at least some way towards maintaining the illusion that Devolver is actually made up of real people.
W.A.S.D will actually be our first in-person event in Europe since Gamescom 2019, so we’re very excited to not only be getting back on the road, but being part of a brand-new event, too. Our company exists entirely online, in home offices, on sofas, and in bedrooms. Our uniforms are pyjamas and blankets. Before the pandemic, we took as many opportunities as possible to gather together, and we’re hoping this year marks the start of their return.
It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for the industry and the rest of the world. How would you characterise the industry landscape now for smaller developers? Has it become more challenging, or have new opportunities arisen?
At the risk of fence-sitting, I think there’s been a bit of both. We’ve certainly experienced challenges in terms of developers shifting to remote work, for example, but the whole situation affects everyone differently.
Where some folks struggle, others thrive. The crucial thing for us has just been to make sure all of our developers are being looked after, and if plans need to be changed to accommodate that then so be it.
Devolver has blazed a trail for indie publishers and now it seems like everyone is getting into the business. Does it feel like you have more competition now? Has the company had to change its approach in response?
Well, I don’t know if you heard but we actually took the company public last year, so we’ve certainly evolved! This brought us the opportunity to welcome some of our best developer friends into the warm embrace of Devolver, which is rad, and means that we have the resources to look at games that may not have been viable for us before.
I love that there are more companies coming into the indie space, because it proves that these games are worthwhile investments, and that indie developers should continue to be supported. Some developers or publishers may grow and become more successful over time but there will always be a space for truly independent games, and they will always produce unique and interesting ideas.
Have there been any big changes at Devolver since going public?
Yes we all have yachts now. Fast ones.
Devolver’s also made a few acquisitions. What’s the relationship with the studios and what are the long-term ambitions behind the acquisitions?
Dodge Roll, Nerial, Firefly, and Croteam are our friends and we like making games together, so the goal is to keep doing that and maybe have sleepovers.
What acquisitions are next? Amazon? Square Enix? The moon?
We’re actually planning to announce Devolver Island for 2029! An all-purpose resort and development haven for washed-up gaming celebrities.