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

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New PC RPG, ‘Hero Of The Kingdom’

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I’m always excited to see more story-driven RPGs, so I was pleased to hear about Lonely Troops’ release of a Hero Of The Kingdom. The game promises a non-linear story, inviting players to leave their quiet shire home and go forth seeking revenge on bandits! From there, players’ choices will determine how the game unfolds. No word on whether you are the chosen one, prophesied to save the kingdom from certain destruction. (Sorry, I play a lot of RPGs)

Hero of the Kingdom is a PC adventure, promising a beautiful fantasy land. Players will meet many residents of this kingdom, and will need to talk to them to gain information or sometimes barter with them for essential items. But not all residents are cheerful and friendly, so players will need to defend themselves against enemies, or lead an attack on the enemies. When players aren’t directly saving the kingdom, they can hunt animals, collect herbs, and go fishing.

Hero Of The Kingdom is a PC game, currently available on Big Fish Games, and is waiting to be approved on Steam Greenlight. It’s surprising to see an indie accepted and distributed on a mass-market channel like Big Fish and still waiting for acceptance on Steam. (What’s taking so long to greenlight, Steam?)  Big Fish made some pretty major changes last year with Big Fish Unlimited, and I wonder if Hero of the Kingdom is an anomaly or if distribution channels shifting back in favor of Big Fish.

Here’s the gameplay trailer for Hero Of The Kingdom:

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – New PC RPG, ‘Hero Of The Kingdom’


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Upcoming Serious Game ‘Choice: Texas’

lariceThe upcoming indie game Choice: Texas is a very serious game. This project is an interactive fiction game discussing accessing to legal abortions in Texas. Like the successful serious game DepressionQuest, Choice: Texas will use a browser-based IF gameplay medium to engage the player in a storyline with a message.

    Choice: Texas, developed and designed by Carly Kocurek and Allyson Whipple, uses careful research into Texas legal regulations and demographics to create fictional characters. These characters encounter realistic situations, financial and geographic limitations, as well as personal choices and goals. By asking players to take on the role of one of these women, the developer invite players to consider the situation Texas woman might encounter, and asks the players for empathy and understanding.

    “This game is about an important issue effecting women in Texas, and is intended as a means of furthering discussion and empathy,“ says Carly Kocurek. (Carly will be on a panel with me, and other amazing women in game development, at Geek Girl Con, discussing women’s experiences in the games industry!) “We really think games can facilitate further conversation about and understanding of these kinds of issues.”

    I’ve written many times about the power of serious games to create understanding, not to mention the potential of text-based games. Depression Quest successfully used an interactive fiction format to bring players into the role of a person suffering from depression. Another serious game, McVideogame, threw the player into an unsympathetic role, and used this to build understanding and awareness of the interconnected relationships in the fast food industry. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Choice: Texas handles such a complex topic.

    Choice: Texas will launch an IndieGoGo campaign on August 19, 2013, and lasting through September 15th. The game will be developed in Twine and released for free play on the game’s website, so funds raised will support the development and publicity for the game.  From the IndieGoGo description:

“We are billing Choice: Texas as “a very serious game,” and we mean that. While the game is intended to be engaging, the issues it addresses are very serious. Women’s access to reproductive healthcare in Texas is significantly limited, a state of affairs that is especially true for women who are working class or poor, or who live in rural areas. One of the great strengths of games is that they can invite players to explore other people’s experiences; Choice: Texas is such a game, and asks players to seriously consider the plight of Texas women.”

More development news, including character art, can be found at choicetexas.tumblr.com.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Upcoming Serious Game ‘Choice: Texas’


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‘Cow Crushers’: A Message Game Done Right

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Auroch Digital  has released a new relevant game, Cow Crushers, around the recent scandal about fast food beef tainted with horsemeat. I’ve written about GameTheNews’ previous titles, My Cotton-Picking Life and Endgame Syria, and mostly concluded that although I admired the motivation behind relevant games, both titles ultimately fell flat for me.

But Cow Crushers is exactly what relevant gaming should be.

The mechanic is clear and engaging, and never deviates from the message. At it’s most basic, Cow Crushers is a pattern matching game. Animals appear in front of the players, as if brought in a conveyor belt, and the player needs to tap a burger, steak or chop button to smash that cow into the assigned cut of meat. Blood splashes up as animals become meat, and it’s surprisingly gristly for a stylized 8-bit game. As the game progresses, horses come in with the cows, and the player’s goal is to makes as many cow-burgers as possible without tainting the meat with too much horseflesh by accidentally making horse steaks. The contrast of gristly blood splash and the cute burger icon is particularly effective.

An effective message game needs a solid, playable mechanic like Cow Crusher’s pattern matching. Players engage the game, and then Cow Crusher’s message, through the conveyer belt, the repetitive actions, and the scoring system that allows a certain percentage of horsemeat into the food. Hey, that’s just a simple mistake made by someone hitting buttons on a hurry to make steaks and burgers. The player is that “someone”, not some faceless baddie, and we’ve already seen how effective it can be to put the player in the role of the villain in many other serious games like Train and McVideogame.

Cow Crushers is available to play online, like Auroch Digital’s previous titles, but it’s also available for iOS, despite Apple’s policies against publishing serious games. The policy has been well discussed, but the crux is this passage from Apple’s developer guidelines.

We view apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.

(The full text is available here.)

LittleLouds Sweatshop game, Molleindustria’s Phone Story, silly border-crossing game Smuggle Truck, and even Auroch Digital’s Endgame:Syria have run into App Store trouble on this account. Endgame: Syria was renamed Endgame: Eurasia, the specific names were changed, and the game is now available on the App Store. Molleindustria’s Phone Story is a snarky satire about iPhone manufacturing, including sweatshop conditions and worker suicides, so it’s not entirely surprising that there would be some difficulty in getting it onto the App Store. Still, a policy against messages in games and serious games is distressing information for developers of serious indies and other devs experimenting with pushing the art form in new ways.

I’m glad that Cow Crushers made it onto the App Store to allow more potential players to check it out, and try such an engaging, and clever relevant game.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – ‘Cow Crushers’: A Message Game Done Right


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New Text-Based Adventure ‘Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck’ Out Now

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New text-based Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck arrives for all platforms today. In this interactive fiction game, players join the crew of the starship Lady Luck, and take on the role of a hyperspace pirate or a Galactic Police operative  working to stop their illegal activities. This is an interactive adventure novel by Christopher Brendel, using ChoiceScript to create interactions and reactions.  Players are presented with an event in the game narrative, and chose one of several text options to proceed.

Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck follows To The City In The Clouds, Heroes Rise: The Prodigy, Choice of the Star Captain, and many other popular Choice Of Games. In this game, as in Choice of Games’ previous titles, players are able to choose their protagonist’s gender, making an accessible and inclusive IF experience. Like all over-interactive fiction titles, Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck’s focus is on game narrative, but the game also uses traditional adventure game elements like exploring different areas,  collecting useful items (Translation for folks who didn’t grow up on Sierra games: That means stealing everything that is not nailed down.) and using one’s inventory to solve puzzles.  Christopher Brendel’s previous indie game releases include Lifestream and The Filmmaker.

Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck is available for iOS devices, Android, Kindle, and for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can get Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck on the Choice of Games site, the App Store or Google Play.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – New Text-Based Adventure ‘Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck’ Out Now


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‘Tip The Cows’: Students Cow-Tipping in New Hampshire

tip the cowsWe often joke that Zynga-style social games involve clicking virtual cows and spamming friends’ Facebook walls. A new Facebook game, Tip The Cows, uses just these elements as a prototype for a future transmedia game experience.

In CowClicker, Ian Bogost’s Facebook game hilariously satirizing Facebook games, players are asked to click a virtual cow, earn clicks by clicking, or paying premium currency, and then invite their friends to do the same. Players can also share their progress on their Facebook walls, or see their friends’ progress that way. The joke’s on Zynga-style Facebook games, where the vast majority of interactions are not what most of us would consider gameplay. But it’s playable, too, so it causes players to think about player motivations in click-wait-click social games, as they click the cows. (CowClicker has recently taken Farmville satire to a new level, and you now click the empty space where your cow used to be.)

Tip The Cows is less a satire than a proof-of-concept, but it distills the social side of Facebook sharing and leaderboard competition to its most basic elements. The game is part of a capstone creative project by students studying Animation Graphic Game Programming at New Hampshire Technical Institute.  Kyle Lambert is the main developer in Flash and Facebook, and Dan Chamberlain is the project backend and server programmer.

Gameplay involves earning points by clicking the cows that appear on your virtual field. Players can then share their scores on their Facebook wall. The game takes a maximum of thirty seconds, but can be played indefinitely, without waiting or paying in.Find and click the golden cow, and you can send special wall spam, er, a special Tip The Cows message to the students’ advisor, Greg Walek, a professor of game animation and design at NHTI.

Disclosure: Greg is my friend from college and while I’m quite interested in his social game experiment, I would also enjoy watching his Facebook wall blow up with game spam. Yeah, yeah, working prototype for a larger experience, blah, blah, student creativity, yeah, the real highlight of this game is spamming my friends.

The developers say that Tip The Cows is an early proof-of-concept in what will become a larger transmedia game experience, creating games based around the idea that “what you do in one game should and will affect another. For example, we are planning to have items only in one game, but usable in another level. “ Walek says.

I hope these Golden Cows I keep tipping onto Greg’s wall will come in handy later on.


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‘Neocolonialism’: Fill Your Bank Account, While Ruining The World

neocolIndie designer Seth Alter’s Neocolonialism is a PC strategy game about taking over the world. But don’t start training an army or building a barracks, this serious game invites players to take on their friends, or the AI, though financial soft power and economic control.

Players assume the roles of greedy capitalists, that is, investors, and try to control the world. Straight violence isn’t the answer, but funding puppet governments is totally acceptable! So is insider trading, manipulating votes, and skimming money into your private account. By using game mechanics to represent the relationship between the investor’s financial choices and the worldwide consequences, Alter creates a simulation that’s playable as a strategy game and informative on other levels.

I’ve played Sid Meier’s Civ a few times with a non-violent house role, battling friends and the jerk Montezuma to control the globe by dominating trade routes, controlling resources, and spreading culture. Players who enjoy that sort of strategic challenge will enjoy the gameplay involved in Neocolonialism. Alter has aligned gameplay goals with economic exploitation, which uses both the moral thoughtfulness players have making virtual political decisions in Positech’s Democracy or Max Barry’s NationStates, and our desires to succeed in multiplayer games, and he creates a strategy sim that’s serious, moral and still engaging.

The Neocolonialism game map puts north on the bottom, and south on top. Alter hopes an upside-down worldmap will provoke discomfort, and draw attention to economic inequality between regions.  The reoriented map isn’t so usual that it brings social discomfort for me. As veteran boardgamers know, playing a game set on a world map, like Pandemic or Axis&Allies, means that someone at the table’s going to be sitting with the map upside-down. But it does require more thought and inconvenience to navigate on the upside-down map, and it works well with Neocolonialism’s disruptive themes and ideas of privilege.

The game is currently in alpha. The alpha version can be downloaded here from Subaltern Games, and there’s a Greenlight for Neocolonialism for distribution through Steam.

There’s a Kickstarter for the game too. Backers at the top tier receive a re-oriented play map, and a credit as an “Orthodox Cartographer”, a delightful bit of Orwellian phrasing. With enough money, Alter is saying, and you can have things your way! Pay enough, and you have have it the easy way, where you don’t have to think too much.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – ‘Neocolonialism’: Fill Your Bank Account, While Ruining The World


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Massachusetts Declares September 22nd “Independent Games Development Day”

 

Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick has declared September 22nd to be “Independent Games Development Day” in the commonwealth. The proclamation highlights the importance of game development, especially indie games, for creating jobs and contributing to the economy as small businesses, and for encouraging creativity and innovation in Massachusetts.
Exciting times for indie developers, and players!

September 22nd is the date of the first annual  Boston Festival of Indie Games, created by Boston Indies, Be Epic and the MIT Game Lab. The festival will be held at the MIT Campus in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although it’s on the MIT grounds, it’s a free event and open to everyone. The festival promises to showcase indie games, with a focus on Massachusetts and the rest of New England, and includes electronic games, tabletop physical games,  location-based games and interactive fiction. IGM’s Jonny Borron has more to say about Boston FIG here.

I’m especially pleased because I’m an east coast girl myself, and it’s sometimes a bit annoying to see how many industry jobs are out of major game development cities like San Fransisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and so forth, all on the west coast. Massachusetts might not spring to mind as a hotbed of game development, but with the rise of Boston game jams and this upcoming Boston Festival of Indie Games, that could well be changing!

And I bet the rest of the IGM staff is as excited as I am to see Indie Games Day spreading!

Here’s the full text of the proclamation. I don’t think whereas really gets enough use these days, do you?

Whereas Massachusetts is a world leader in technological innovation and home to one of the largest and most diverse clusters of video game companies and talent in the country, with over 90 companies and over 1,500 direct employees (not including retail) now in the Massachusetts game industry; and

Whereas in 1961, MIT students Martin Graetz, Steve Russell and Wayne Wittanen invented the game Spacewar!, one of the first video games ever created; and since then the game industry has continued to flourish and proven to have the wherewithal to take us into the future; and

Whereas Throughout the Bay State, innovative independent game developers are pushing the limits in game design while supporting one another through a vast community within the State; and

Whereas On this day, the first-ever Festival of Indie Games takes place to celebrate independent game development, supporting and showcasing the efforts of local developers and creating an intersection between community, academic and independent interests in game play,

Now, therefore, I, Deval L. Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, do hereby proclaim September 22nd, 2012 to be

Independent Game Development Day

And urge all citizens of the Commonwealth to take cognizance of this event and participate fittingly in its observance.

I won’t be in Massachusetts on Saturday, but I’ll definitely be participating fittingly in it’s observance by playing indie games!

(Proclamation text via Indie Game Dev Day in MA on Mass.gov)

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Massachusetts Declares September 22nd “Independent Games Development Day”


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‘Strife’: a retro RPG for Mac OS

Strife is a new action RPG for Mac OS, in the retro style of favorites like Doom, from indie developer Javier M. Chavez. This is an interesting departure from Chavez’ previous title, a vocab quiz iOs game called Word Champion.

In Strife, players enter a detailed world. After a comet strike, plagues and famine, the  dust is settling and the world’s massive conflict is between two major groups.  ”The Order” is  the ruling cult of religious fanatics, who’ve come to power after this series of disasters has taken place, and “The Front” is a group of underground rebels, dedicated to fighting their fanatical overlords. The player is quickly caught up in the conflict between “The Front” and “The Order”, but the game’s story is not linear. Players have the option to choose whether to work to battle the overlords, to squash the rebels, or work entirely alone as an untrusting mercenary.

In addition to choosing sides in Strife’s game world, the player can also choose weapons or stealth to accomplish his desired goals. The game story has multiple possible resolutions, so the player’s actions are reflected in the world.

Strife’s interface, with a first-person view and retro inventory slots, and the world’s graphics that will remind most players of old favorites. And the gameplay promises to resemble classics adventures as well, allowing players to level and customize their character’s stats through play, to find weapons and ammo, and to upgrade weapons with loot.

Check out the gameplay trailer here:

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – ‘Strife’: a retro RPG for Mac OS


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Beam, Bomb, Freeze with ‘Bubble Shot!’

Fat Fish Games, the British indie studio behind Pork Chop, Keepy-Uppy and others, announces the release of their new iOs puzzle game called Bubble Shot! today.

This free new game is a fast-paced, classic matching and popping bubble game. Players swipe or tap to fling bubbles and match up colors to clear the game board before time runs out. Players of Bubble Shot! will also have access to four types of power-ups, called Beam, Bomb, Freeze, and Barrier, designed to help players of different styles, or players on different game boards, do well. Each of these power-ups grants the player a short-term special ability to help solve the screen. The “Bomb” destroys a circle of surrounding bubbles, the “Beam”extends the length of the targeting beam, “Freeze” pauses game time, and the “Barrier” ability clears extra bubbles. Players gain power-ups and bonuses by winning Goldfish coins, and of course Bubble Shot! also allows players to shares scores and challenge friends through Facebook, for head-to-head battles or just bragging rights.

The game is available as a free download from the app store, and the trailer is here:

There are so many versions of the addictive match-three for iOs, Android, and PC, and so many themed versions as well. It will be interesting if Bubble Shot!’s bold colors and power-ups can make it stand out in such a crowded field.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Beam, Bomb, Freeze with ‘Bubble Shot!’


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Take Flight With Sweet ‘Little Dragon 3D’


Flyleap Studios, an Australian indie studio previously creating mods, announces the release of their first mobile game, Little Dragon 3D. The game is out on iOs and Android, so thanks to Flyleap for not making us wait several months for a Droid version!

Little Dragon 3D is described as a physics-based gliding game, but from the looks of the trailer, this is hardly a typical flinging-objects physics game. Instead, players learn to master the effects of wind resistance, lift, gravity and drift in the air as they learn and improve at dragon flight. Once the adorable little dragon is a competent flyer, players will have new flying challenges, with different maps and obstacles. Some are pre-existing levels, and some are randomly generated, but allare  composed of these eye-catching cell-shaded environments.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Take Flight With Sweet ‘Little Dragon 3D’