Indie game news, reviews, previews and everything else concerning indie game development.

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Crytek Releases CryEngine 3 SDK For Free

With a caveat, of course.

Much like Unity 3D Indie or the Unreal Development Kit, CryEngine 3 (the engine behind Crysis 2) has finally been released for general public use. It was announced way back in April, but with the SDK finally available, developers and modders can put it to good use.

The catch is that, like UDK, the engine and SDK may only be used for educational or freeware purposes for free. If you plan on creating a commercial indie game using the SDK, you must cough up some cash. Thankfully, said cash is only a 20% royalty rather than a standard licensing fee, so for first-time developers it’s definitely a good deal for the engine they are getting. It does cut significantly into profits, though, especially if the game is released on Steam.

CryEngine 3 is the most powerful development engine to be released to the general public, and we certainly hope other developers continue to follow suit. Personally, I would love to see the Frostbite or Geo-Mod engines made available to the public. Nothing like a bit of that old ultra-destruction!

You can download the CryEngine 3 SDK at the official website.


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Soul Tax Takes A Bit Of Souls

The SADev VI challenge produced quite a few good games, but I have to say that this is my favorite. Soul Tax has an excellent art style, a dash of humor, and thoroughly entertaining mechanics all in one package. This is the type of polished browser game that one would expect to see featured on Kongregate or Adult Swim, not sitting amongst incomplete peers in a development challenge’s games list.

You play as a ghost who has been haunting a bank that replaced his house years ago. Unfortunately, being a ghost requires you to pay a soul tax, and nobody told our hero that. Death shows up and informs the ghost that he has 8 years of taxes to pay off. However, the taxes are, in fact, souls that must be gathered from those slain via the ghosts actions. Understandably annoyed, the ghost sets off with Death in tow to create havoc and murder at various bank branches.

Practically, this translates into you possessing people and murdering others to fulfill your soul quota within the time limit. Each class of person has three attacks: punching (deals the most damage), kicking (causes huge knockback), and a special attack. For example, the special attack for the businessman is a briefcase swing that knocks enemies flying, while the special attack of the supervisor is a screech that sends people running regardless of any falls along the way. All of the levels revolve around using the special abilities to some degree, and there are a lot of them.

While Soul Tax isn’t particularly hard, there are quite a few levels to sink your teeth into, and each one has its own challenges and nuances. It’s perhaps the longest game in the competition that manages to stay fresh the whole way through. You can play online, download the standalone version, download the source, or even watch a walkthrough via the game’s competition wiki page.


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Psychopomps Escorts Souls Into The Afterlife

psy·cho·pomp

a person who conducts spirits or souls to the other world, as Hermes or Charon.

This rather obscure word is the focus of Psychopomps, an entry into the Something Awful “Death and Taxes” game development challenge. And while not many are likely to know the origin of the word psychopomp, there are a lot of familiar faces here.

The story is rather simple. Anubis has, for some reason, been out cold. In his absence, the ferrying of souls from the living to the afterlife has become severely dysfunctional, and his fellow psychopomps – Charon and Valkyrie – have been warped and disturbed in his absence. With the assistance of Death’s Messenger, he must make his way through his pyramid, defeat lost souls who have been driven made by neglect, and reunite with the other psychopomps.

In practice, it’s very similar to Cave Story. You run around, killing enemies and collecting their souls (life) and coins (weapon level). There are three different characters, each with their own attacks and special abilities. Anubis can turn into a dog to fit in corridors only one square tall and fires normal shots. Charon can jump normally in water and shooters a weak spread shot that travels through objects. Valkyrie jumps higher than the rest and shoots an explosive shot which breaks into tons of smaller pieces. It’s most likely you’ll stick with Anubis through most of the game, though, as his shot is quite powerful at max level.

While Psychopomps is definitely inspired by Cave Story, it stands on its own as a fun game, and it’s worth the thirty minutes or so it takes to finish. It also helps that the main characters have excellent art and animations. You can play it online, as it is a Flash game, or you can download it to your hard drive and play locally. Both are available on the project’s SADev wiki page. The developer is also promising to keep updating it with new levels.

psy·cho·pomp

<a href=”http://dictionary.reference.com/audio.html/lunaWAV/P08/P0899000″ target=”_blank”><img src=”http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/g/d/speaker.gif” border=”0″ alt=”psychopomp pronunciation” /></a> [sahy-koh-pomp] Show IPA

noun  

a person who conducts spirits or souls to the other world, as Hermes or Charon.

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Freeware Friday: King Arthur’s Gold

It’s been two weeks, and I am still hopelessly addicted to King Arthur’s Gold. The combination of large-scale multiplayer, building fortifications, and mining for gold is endearing in a way that few games can compare to. Even now, in beta, it’s one of the best freeware games I’ve ever played, and quite possibly the best freeware game this year. The previous article didn’t quite do the game justice, so here we are. It’s time for Freeware Friday, and as such it’s time for a closer examination of King Arthur’s Gold.


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Tristan & Isault fights for the kingdom

I’ve got a secret to share: I have a soft spot in my heart for tactical RPGs. That’s why Tristan & Iseult is so incredibly fun. Using some free graphics from various sources – most notably Oddball’s sprite set for the Assemblee Competition at TIGsource – might sound like a recipe for disaster, but the developers pulled together to make an excellent turn-based strategy game. And RPG. Sort of.

Tristan & Iseult follows two star-crossed lovers from the British Isles. You’ll never guess their names. As the game progresses, you kill guys and act like a general badass. We aren’t too clear on the specifics, namely because the story is extremely pulpy. It’s awesome for those into really cheesy old-school fantasy, but it’s not quite up our alley, so we skipped it.  Thankfully, the visuals are pleasing, even if the character designs are a bit too anime. The mechanics are a simplified form of what you would see in an Advance Wars game: move unit to enemy, select attack, win. Hopefully.

It’s a game that’s a bit rough around the edges, like most of the characters and writing. While the individual pieces of artwork are nice, the styles clash too much (pixelated units, detailed background, anime character portraits, and real-like backdrops for conversations). It also has a very slow pace. If you want to see if it’s your cup of tea, you can check out the developer’s website for a download and a run-down of the plot. It’s very historic.


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A Tale By Alex drifts between realities

There are a lot of visual styles floating around out there, but I’ve never seen one quite as striking or interesting as the one using in A Tale By Alex. While the game itself is your standard platformer-with-a-twist, the visuals quickly mark it as unique.

A Tale By Alex follows a child as he wanders around his parent’s house, pretending that he is a knight in a dark, forbidding forest. This manifests itself by separating the game into three sections, all of which are controlled at the same time: reality, mixture of fantasy and reality, and fantasy. Once you are down to one character (usually the one in reality, as a house isn’t that dangerous), the game ends. It’s mostly progression based, and your end goal is to make the leaderboards by going as far as possible. However, as you are unlikely to do well on the first try, the game also has a shop in-between rounds for you to give your knight more of a fighting chance.

The real excellence comes from the diagonal pixels. All of the art is done in pixels that have been rotated 45 degrees, and it somehow softens the whole experience. Rather than being a cute, but ultimately forgettable platformer, it instead evokes memories of quilts and childhood. The heady days when imagination is just as good as reality, and the best way to entertain yourself was to just pretend the floor is lava. You can check out the game through TIGsource (links to an FGL page, which requires an FGL account).


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King Arthur’s Gold builds and destroys its way to treasure

There’s a lot to love in 2D sandbox construction game King Arthur’s Gold. While some will probably call it a Minecraft clone, they would be incredibly inaccurate. It shares more in common with Ace of Spades, and is simply the latest game in a niche genre.

The short of it is that you must build fortifications using stone and wood, attack the enemy base relentlessly, and collect gold within the bowels of the earth. Everything you construct – except for the stone backdrop – is important for your team’s survival. Three classes keep things interesting, and despite the lack of a million pretty blocks it’s still a blast to make a nice-looking fort. Building up a wall around your tent to block catapult shots, constructing an elaborate labyrinthine safe room for your gold sacks, and setting up a huge sky bridge to cross the map are all enormous amounts of fun, even if you aren’t actively grabbing gold or attacking enemies. It’s a game that encourages teamwork through sandbox construction, and that’s something we definitely get into. It’s becoming way more popular thanks to Reddit and /v/ setting up 32 player servers as well, so chances are you can find a large game to join.

King Arthur’s Gold is currently in beta, and you can download/leave feedback in the TIGsource feedback thread. There’s also a devlog to peruse if you care to. Keep in mind that once you download King Arthur’s Gold, you won’t have to do it a second time, as it comes with an automatic patcher.


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Freeware Friday: The Wager

The Wager is an interesting beast. Somewhere between the classic Sid Meier’s Colonization and the odd Strange Adventures In Infinite Space, it manages to merge the two into a Frankenstein monster that somehow works. And it works very well. So well, in fact, that it’s taken a spot alongside Desktop Dungeons as a coffee break game of choice. Nothing quite like relaxing with a little betting, after all. Or exploration. Or both!