Indy PopCon: Game developers Scott and Ellie Akers 

click to enlarge Ellie and Scott Akers on their Noblesville farm. - MARK A. LEE
  • Ellie and Scott Akers on their Noblesville farm.
  • Mark A. Lee

There's a lot gestating on Ellie and Scott Akers' Noblesville homestead. We'll start with the goats, for they are adorable. The kind of baby goats who'd eat your notebook if you'd let them. We might add the egg-laying hens; there are about a dozen, accompanied by a sole rooster.

And when I visited in early May, the Akers were readying the launch of their sci-fi farming game Weirspace, which will officially debut at Indy PopCon.

I'll let Ellie tell you about the concept; she's the more talkative of the two and the first to make her name as a developer: "The idea of Weirspace is you're a colonist, you've been sent out by your governing city and you need to settle the asteroid belt, which is populated by this energy called Weir.

"When Weir is refined it makes a wonderful, safe fuel; like most magic sci-fi fuels it has no weight and is infinitely compressible. But when it's just out there in the environment, it's incredibly aggressive; it just eats things, tears things apart."

The look is rural steampunk; the gameplay is cosmic whack-a-mole; and the hope is that people will get involved with the game "so that they really feel like it's their home."

click to enlarge Ellie with a giant plush rabbit to be given away during Indy PopCon. - MARK A. LEE
  • Ellie with a giant plush rabbit to be given away during Indy PopCon.

  • Mark A. Lee
That's a lesson Ellie learned from her first, unexpected success with HuntAndJump.com, a horse breeding game she created at age 19. Its biggest selling feature - "that it has correct genetic systems," says Ellie, so that horse nuts can try out all sorts of different combinations and colors - was enough to draw a quarter of a million users over its near-decade of life.

Still online, HuntAndJump.com it's the sole source of income for both Akers: "People are passionate and emphatic about this game and joke that it's still cheaper than a real horse, so that gives you a hint of their justification on the spending," Ellie says.

And HuntAndJump.com has bankrolled the development of Weirspace, which they started creating two years ago with the notion of "tapping into all of our geekdom and fandom growing up." (Born to parents who worked in computers, Ellie jokes that "I was watching Star Trek before I could pronounce Star Trek; I would be really excited because Ar Tech was coming on.")

click to enlarge An intrepid asteroid farmer from Weirspace.
  • An intrepid asteroid farmer from Weirspace.

The Akers, who are releasing Weirspace under the auspices of Gyrocopter Games, thought it important to get involved with PopCon on the ground floor, so that they might encourage the convention to "really embrace independent gaming."

It's a chance to put their own name out there, while putting some of their horse game resources to work for the community: "A lot of independent gaming companies are right on the edge of really starting to make it, so for them to have a space where they can really show off to potential fans and get some traffic is huge."

And to lure traffic in, not only is Gyrocopter giving away a giant stuffed alien rabbit based on those found in Weirspace, but Ellie also led the charge in creating a Minecraft rendition of Monument Circle playable on the gaming floor. The circle is true to scale - "I went through on Google Earth and measured all of the buildings," she says - but fly down Meridian or Market to find a world of whimsy filled with stuff like a flying pirate ship and the balloon-hoisted house from the movie Up.

click to enlarge Ellie Akers led a Minecraft build of Monument Circle for Indy PopCon.
  • Ellie Akers led a Minecraft build of Monument Circle for Indy PopCon.

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