Slated to be Norwegian developer Rain Games’s first release, Teslagrad is a steampunk-styled 2-D puzzle platformer currently in development for the PC, Mac and Linux. Set in the titular capitol city of Elektropia, the game promises to be an electrifying escapade full of perilous puzzles designed specifically to test and tantalize one’s brain.
This is technically Rain Games’s second game; their first project, a multiplayer game titled Minute Mayhem, was put on hold in favor of finishing Teslagrad first. Despite vastly differing gameplay, both are set in the fictional universe of Chroma, and the developers have hinted at a desire to continue exploring Chroma in future releases.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a game that has sat in my Steam library for as long as I can remember. I think I picked it up in some indie bundle from a few years ago, but I honestly cannot remember. The only thing I knew about it was that it involved the tower defense genre, and because of that, I had very little interest in the game. My issue with tower defense titles is that I find them dull. Being stuck in an area and forced to watch as units scurry down a predetermined pathway is just incredibly boring for me. I prefer making on-the-fly decisions, being rewarded with bright explosions, and namely not being anchored to one location. To my amazement, Anomaly 2 delivers all of that.
How Anomaly 2 works is that it inverts the tower defense mechanic, so that it is the player’s job to get their convoy through the tower-filled gauntlet, and to the objective at the end. There are multiple pathways through every level, and players get to customize their convoy along the way. The enemies, just like a typical tower defense game, have plenty of towers at their disposal, and it takes an apt player to know what unit to use against what sort of tower. Knowing what to use when isn’t difficult thanks to a handy tactical map that players can pull up whenever they like. It shows not only the enemy positions but also allows players to alter their convoy’s route on-the-move. You, are the TomTom.
From what I’ve gathered with my five-ish hours within Anomaly 2, the human race is on the rebound after getting their butts kicked by some sort of robotic alien species that the humans have cleverly taken to calling “The Machines”. The last bastions of humanity have banded together in convoys to keep on the move, always running from their robotic pursuers. Hope for humanity remains in the mystery of Project Shockwave, a weapon which has the potential to wipe out the alien aggressors. The initial levels of Anomaly 2 involve seeking out the remaining scientists responsible for Project Shockwave and looking after their well being, to ensure their research does not go to waste.
While the story isn’t anything special, it really just serves as an excuse to fill a post-apocalyptic Earth with really badass robots. These machines are Decepticon-caliber cool. Unfortunately, they do nothing but try and kill you through the entire game. Fear not, for you have some pretty neat tools in your arsenal as well.
Players control a little commando future-soldier who they can order around the map. The soldier is not limited to the roads, so he is able to run anywhere the player wants him to. However, the enemies will target the soldier if he strays too far from the convoy, so it is generally a good idea to stick close to your little armada. The soldier is armed with some enhancements that play out to be crucial as the game progresses and the gauntlet becomes tougher to get through. One ability, for example, drops an area-based healing effect, that causes friendly units passing through to quickly regain their health. Another ability allows the soldier to drop an EMP bomb and disable enemy towers, knocking them offline until the convoy units engage them. While being a pretty straightforward mechanic, it really helps to keep the monotony of typical tower-defense games, at bay.
The convoy units themselves are not helpless, though. In fact, these units will do the majority of the work…as long as the player helps them stay alive. So far, every convoy unit has an alternative form. Take, “The Hound” for example: in its default form, it sports a big mini-gun that gradually powers up to full-speed, dealing massive amounts of continuous damage. This is great, if there is simply one enemy after another to take down. But, if there are two enemies across from one another, switching The Hound into its secondary form transforms the vehicle into a bipedal machine which sports a flamethrower on each arm, allowing it to roast two nearby enemies at once.
Some enemy towers are great at countering specific vehicle forms, so players have to literally stay ahead of the game by constantly checking the tactical map to know what is coming. Heading down a road unprepared will certainly get you killed.
Anomaly 2 is not your typical lazy tower defense game. It’s badass, action-packed, and you’ll only survive by the skin of your teeth. With four difficulty settings that can be switched at the start of every level, the game ensures that all types of players will be able to find a challenge within the game’s hostile, ice-covered, environments.
Anomaly 2 is set to be released May 15th, pre-ordering through the official website gets buyers some pretty neat bonuses.
If you search for the name “Lionel Gallat” on IMDB, you’ll find the name attached to a number of animated feature films: animation director for The Lorax, animation director for Despicable Me, supervising animator for Shark Tale, and the list goes on.
But more recently, Gallat has stepped away from animated feature films, and started developing a video game…on his own. The game is called Ghost of a Tale, and with one look at a screenshot it is easy to see that Gallat’s artistic skills have easily transitioned into the video game. Ghost of a Tale looks beautiful.
“As an animation director I was responsible for the animation of entire movies, leading 60+ [person] teams,” Gallat explained to IGM. “I was longing to go back to the nitty-gritty of creation; writing, modeling, painting, rigging, programming and… playing. I’ve already been in a position where I mostly tell people what they should do (and it’s probable [that] one day I’ll go back to that position) but today I’m having a lot of fun doing things myself for a change!”
Gallat, who is in the middle of promoting the funding campaign for his debut title Ghost of a Tale, chatted with IGM for a bit about his experience transitioning from Hollywood to the game development scene, his woes with Kickstarter, and why Ghost of a Tale deserves your support.
IGM – What inspired you to start working on a game, and move out of the animation industry?
Gallat - It was a good time for me to do so. I’ve always loved games and I’ve always enjoyed writing stories, creating models and animating them. But I also love programming (I’ve written tools used in production in several studios). So it wasn’t really that far-fetched for me to put the two together.
As an artist who programs I can get lost in a coherent game world and get to look everywhere I want, and interact with things that I created. In a nutshell it’s a lot of fun. I feel like a kid again, when I was programming moving sprites (an achievement!) in Microsoft Basic. It’s a huge amount of work obviously, but so rewarding.
IGM – What are some of the pros and cons of working on developing a video game on your own…as opposed to working on a movie with a team?
Gallat - When you work on a big-budget movie the team is obviously very big. Quite a few people have their say, which is normal since a lot of money’s involved and the goal is to appeal to the widest audience in order to reduce the risks. Sometimes you run into the classic issue of “too many cooks spoiling the soup”. Also you are always in a situation were you do what you’re told, no matter your hierarchical position. Which is also very soothing in a sense, because you don’t really have to worry too much about anything else besides what’s on your workbench.
But for me, working on my own allows me to let my imagination roam free; I know where I want to go, I have an idea of where the journey’s going to lead me, but I’m not just doing a job. It requires a lot more personal discipline than when you work in a team. The hard truth is, when you work on your own, if you have a natural tendency of being complacent or if your motivation is only temporary you will fail.
So far that’s the main difficulty; only being able to rely on myself. I have spent my entire career collaborating with people on projects, so that’s a big change for me. So far I’m really enjoying the experience, although if I can manage to get a budget to pay some collaborators I’ll be a happy camper!
IGM had a chance to chat with Laurent Lavigne of Elefantopia on his hectic tower defense game, McDroid. McDroid is a gorgeous cel-shaded tower defense and 3rd person action adventure game where you collect strawberries. The game is currently still in Beta and available for PC, Mac and Linux.
When did you start developing games? What got you into programming and designing?
I started when I was 10, made a few rooms in a first person adventure game on my TI 97, then at 15, I completed the graphics for a game that was inspired by RTYPE, horizontal shooter with wave gun and modular weapon system in the back that doubled as a shield. Sold it to Thalamus, the company went under before the game became anything more than one level on the Amiga but it was a really fun level.
What game inspired you to make games? RTYPE but MULE and Gauntlet are close second, what am I saying, Marble Madness and Buck Rogers, The Pawn, Tass Time… they all build such a rich canvas of feelings.
What is your favorite indie game right now that you are playing? Why?
I am not playing any indie game at the moment, the free time I have I dedicate to McDROID and the real world. But I did spend hours on FTL and loved it, it was scratching that grinding itch and showed me some really tight gameplay and subtle bindings I’ll re-use.
Earlier in the week, six students working on a game for the National Graduate School of Games and Interactive Media (known as ENJMIN, Ecole Nationale du Jeu et des Medias Interactifs Numériques) released a trailer for their game, Lune. The game has quite an interesting hook: instead of playing as the protagonist, players control the moon, to help the protagonist through the levels.
In an idea that seems straight out of the faux-Peter Molyneux Twitter account, @PeterMolydeux, Lune will have players controlling the moon, rather than the protagonist, to manipulate gravity, the tides, and shadows to assist the main character through the game. Yesterday, I chatted with Lune’s game designer and scripter, Sergey Mohov. He explained to me that apart from considering the Moon a character itself, Lune really focuses around just one character: a masked girl.
“She’s a young woman in a mask,” Sergey said, “and you don’t really know much about her apart from the fact that she has the power of the Moon…she’s no different from you and me. She doesn’t jump especially high, she’s not particularly strong or fast, she doesn’t do any magic tricks, doesn’t have a mana bar above her head. All in all, she’s quite normal.”
“Except she controls the Moon.”
Lune takes place on an island full of mysteries, and terror. A lone tower dominates the landscape, and Sergey told me that the masked girl isn’t the only inhabitant of the island: giant rock guardians roam the island, protecting its secrets for unknown reasons. “[The guardians] can smash our character’s head with one blow, but they can’t see in the dark. So what you do is you manipulate tides, gravity, and light to hide from the guardians, avoid dangers, and remove obstacles.”
Sergey is part of the six person team working on Lune. The rest of the team includes Fabian Bodet (art/modeling), Matthieu Bonneau (sound design), Leonard Carpentier (project management), Raphael Chappuis (gameplay programming), and Alexis Payen de la Garanderie (graphics programing). Previously, Sergey has worked with Fabian and Matthieu on both Paradis Perdus and Spotlight for Game à Niaque and Indie Speed Run competitions, respectively. The trio, along with Leonard, Raphael, and Alexis, are now working hard to get Lune ready for the Hits Playtime competition, this June.
The Hits Playtime competition is for French game design students, and only the ten games with the most Facebook “likes” will be entered into judging for the grand prize.
“We’re a bit under pressure because of Hits Playtime…forced to fight for every like on Facebook, really annoying…hence the trailer,” Sergey said.
Luckily for the team, the trailer is not only completed and they can go back to focusing on developing the game, but the trailer generated a solid amount of publicity for Lune, giving them a better chance of succeeding in the Hits Playtime competition. However, there are thirty other student projects in the race to win, six of which are from Sergey’s own school, ENJMIN, so Sergey asks that anyone who wishes for the project’s success to visit Lune’s Facebook page, and give them a “like” as that will greatly help their chances of becoming finalists.
I asked Sergey how the team plans to distribute Lune, upon the game’s completion, and if they plan on attaching a price-tag to the student-built game.
“Yeah, we’re planning to sell it and we hope that people will find it good enough to pay for it. It’s been more than just a student project to us from the beginning. We just happen to be lucky to study in a school that lets you keep rights to your games and encourages any kind of further development.” As far as game distribution goes, Sergey said the team plans to distribute Lune in all the typical ways: through direct to consumer methods, Steam, GOG, and any other option that makes itself available. But nothing is certain, yet.
While talking to Sergey, I learned that he already has a Bachelor’s degree in Automation and Computer Science, and turned down a job at Crytek, choosing instead to pursue a Master’s degree at ENJMIN.
“AAA [game development] is not really my thing. Thankfully, I have met some wonderfully talented people at ENJMIN, and I think that there’s a good chance that we will do something together when school is over,” Sergey said.
That “something” could be a more extensive version of what they’re currently planning for Lune, but that all depends on the game’s success with the Hits Playtime competition.
To help Sergey and the rest of the Lune development team, just visit Lune’s Facebook page, and “Like” it. The page happens to be the best place to keep up with the latest information about Lune, too.
This issue features a ton of great in-depth interviews with some rising indie game developer stars. Learn more about LeGrudge and Rugged – the 2 man team that took their prototype to full commercial release with KRUNCH. Learn about the Husband and Wife team behind the epic RPG Adventure Driftmoon, and don’t forget to checkout McDroid, the cel-shaded tower defense game. Check out an early preview of Delver’s Drop, the Zelda inspired adventure game that raised over $150k on Kickstarter last month. There’s also reviews of Richard & Alice, 99 Levels to Hell, Book of Unwritten Tales, and Driftmoon. Stay up to date with the indie game scene by grabbing this issue of the indie game magazine.
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This issue features a ton of great in-depth interviews with some rising indie game developer stars. Learn more about LeGrudge and Rugged – the 2 man team that took their prototype to full commercial release with KRUNCH. Learn about the Husband and Wife team behind the epic RPG Adventure Driftmoon, and don’t forget to checkout McDroid, the cel-shaded tower defense game. Check out an early preview of Delver’s Drop, the Zelda inspired adventure…
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I am not one for tower defense games. I know a lot of people are, but for me, they’re just not that entertaining. There are a few exceptions, such as Kingdom Rush and Revenge of the Titans, but largely, I rarely approach the genre. A few years ago, I discovered Orcs Must Die, a third-person tower defense game that had players running around through castles and dungeons, attempting to hold off waves of orcs, trolls, goblins and other nasty creatures. Players were given a number of trap types to strategically place through the levels, and a crossbow to use to pick off a few monsters through the mass waves. While similar in nature, Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves goes above and beyond it’s genre predecessors, adding in lots of cool little mechanics that help create a very memorable experience.
Jack and Jos are the two heroes of Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves, and their sister has just come into town, right in the middle of a werewolf outbreak. The game revolves around protecting the log cabin home, and other local buildings (hen house, the mill, etc) throughout the night. At sundown every evening, players are given a map which shows what sort of werewolves will be approaching, and what buildings they will be heading to. With this knowledge, players are required to position traps throughout the area, in order to destroy, or at the very least impede, the beast’s progress.
Players can lay out fire barriers that the wolves will not cross unless they have to, allowing the player to divert some of the beasts around through a longer pathway, buying some extra time. Bait can also be used to slow down the wolves, as they will be unable to resist stopping to munch on the dead animals. Tree traps are available, and consist of a large net, holding up boulders, strung through the trees. Shooting these tree traps will break the ropes, and drop the boulders on anything below…like some wolves munching on bait. There are many other traps that unlock as progress is made through the game: spike traps, bear traps, essentially anything that is time relevant to a hunter of the 1850s…and maybe a few other outlandish surprises.
Much like a real hunter would need to, players must take into consideration sound and wind, while out defending at night. Shooting the rifle, or shouting, will be heard by any beast in the vicinity, and they will break off of their paths, to investigate. This is both a blessing, and a curse. A smart player would use the diversion to bring other beasts off of their paths, and into crossover zones, to get multiple waves trapped together. However, if the player finds themselves in a pinch, and shoots off their rifle, more trouble will soon follow if they don’t leave the area quickly. On top of using sound to lure creatures, simply kiting a monster along just by using your scent, is a possibility. Just be careful they don’t get too close.
Players are armed with a musket. Since it’s the 1850s, reloading a musket is no simple process. After expending the single shot, players who wish to reload must do so, stationary, over the course of about ten seconds. Right-clicking helps speed the process up, but there are still about eight seconds where the player is completely vulnerable. Luckily, there is a mechanic called “fear factor” that comes into play here.
The fear factor is a bar on the user-interface that moves depending on how afraid the beasts around you are. Shouting and killing them, increases their fear, but over time they will become bolder and move in on you. The fear factor meter will shrink over time, and once its gone, the beasts attack. During the pre-night setup, players can strategically place bonfires where they feel they might have to make a strong stand against multiple beasts. Lighting a bonfire, and standing within it’s area-of-effect radius, provides a nice boost to the player’s fear factor, allowing multiple shots with the rifle, to be made. The wolves will prowl around the edge of the bonfire’s light, waiting until either they’re bold enough to attack…or until the bonfire goes out. It’s a very spooky scenario to be in.
In between levels, players can visit the local town, where they can purchase extra supplies, upgrades, and have their weaponry and munitions blessed by the nuns to do extra damage to the hellish beasts.
Excellence in Visual Art ($3,000) Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Nuovo Award ($5,000) Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Excellence in Audio ($3,000) 140 (Jeppe Carlsen)
Excellence in Narrative ($3,000) Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Technical Excellence ($3,000) Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)
Best Student Game ($3,000) Zineth (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
Audience Award ($3,000) FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
Excellence in Design ($3,000) FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
Seumas McNally Grand Prize ($30,000) Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Finalists for each category were as follows:
Seumas McNally Grand Prize:
FTL: Faster than Light
Kentucky Route Zero
Honorable mentions: Gone Home (The Fullbright Company); Starseed Pilgrim (Droqen & Ryan Roth); Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh); The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe); and Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games)
Excellence in Visual Art:
Kentucky Route Zero
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Honorable mentions: Eleven (Christoffer Hedborg, Datahowler (Ross Edman)); FLY’N (Ankama Play); Hundreds (Semi Secret feat. aeiowu); The Bridge (Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda); and Thomas Was Alone (Mike Bithell, David Housden and Danny Wallace)
Honorable mentions: 140 (Jeppe Carlsen); Foldit (University of Washington); Gateways (Smudged Cat Games); Mobiloid (Monty Melby); and Skulls Of The Shogun (17-BIT)
Excellence in Design:
FTL: Faster than Light
Super Space ____
Kentucky Route Zero
Honorable mentions: Dust: An Elysian Tail (Dean Dodrill – Creator and President, Humble Hearts LLC); FRACT OSC (Phosfiend Systems); Gone Home (The Fullbright Company); Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation); and Thomas Was Alone (Mike Bithell, David Housden and Danny Wallace)
Excellence in Narrative:
Kentucky Route Zero
Thirty Flights of Loving
Honorable mentions: 7 Grand Steps (Mousechief Co.); Analogue: A Hate Story (Christine Love); Goblet Grotto (thecatamites, j chastain, NEW VADERS); Papo & Yo (Minority Media); and The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe)
7 Grand Steps
Honorable mentions: Frog Fractions (Twinbeard); Renga (wallFour); Starseed Pilgrim (Droqen & Ryan Roth); The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe); and Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games)
Student Showcase Finalists:
Back to Bed
Knights of Pen & Paper
the mindfulxp volume
Honorable mentions: Anodyne (University of Chicago and Carleton College); Chrono Disfunglement (DigiPen Institute of Technology Singapore); Narcosis (ENJMIN); Plushy Knight (Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy); SerpenteS (ENJMIN); SneakSneak (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht); Tales from the Minus Lab (University of Southern California); and The Moonlighters (University of Southern California, Interactive Media Division)
The duo of LeGrudge and Rugged recently released their first commercial game, Krunch. This game is indie all the way created by two dudes, a musician, a sound wiz and an artist. It’s an incredibly challenging game about escaping and surviving. IGM took a moment to interview this new and promising gaming duo.
I know that you guys created the prototype for Krunch for a Ludum Dare game jam, but what inspired you to take that game and develop it into a full commercial game?
Michael: I think overall we just saw lots of potential in the mechanics. I also felt “floating” left the door open for what we could do graphically and atmospherically.
Vieko: Lots of potential for sure – I’ve always enjoyed the rush you get when KRUNCH is about to kill you and you save yourself just at the right time… this spelled “commercial” to me.
What challenges did you run into evolving your quick prototype into a full commercial game release?
Vieko: Staying motivated / focused for a long period of time can be challenging, specially when life forces you to take lengthy breaks between milestones. Adding @twobitart (Sara Gross) to the mix, helped us get back into the groove and finish our game.
Michael: KRUNCH grew organically. I think one of the most difficult parts was just determining when it was done, that said I’m glad we took it to the point that it’s at now. There are still things we would like to add, but overall I think the game is a pretty complete experience.
On Friday, I was lucky enough to be sent a preview-build of Pixelscopic’s upcoming platformer-roguelike, Delver’s Drop. You might remember us discussing Delver’s Drop, earlier this month when the Kickstarter campaign and new website, went live. In preparation for PAX East later this month, and more than likely to get an extra boost of well-deserved publicity, Pixelscopic sent out a preview-build of Delver’s Drop’s “Endless Drop” mode.
As this was my first hands-on experience with Delver’s Drop, I was able to see first-hand that the artistic talent at Pixelscopic is a force to be reckoned with; Delver’s Drop is gorgeous. The style is very cartoony, but every aspect of it is perfect, and nothing feels out of place. The shadows, the pieces of slain enemies flying about, the bobbing of the protagonist as he runs to and fro, everything all comes together beautifully.
How the Endless Drop mode works is that players are given the simple task of seeing how far they can drop. Each level has a pit that Delver can fall into, that takes him to the next level. Sometimes the pits are closed and only open when all the enemies in a particular level are cleared out, other times Delver must trip a switch that opens the closed pit, and sometimes the pit is already open and players must simply survive the level long enough to get to the pit. In Delver’s way are various enemies, like phantoms and giant rats, and obstacles like pits (not the kind you are trying to fall into) and auto-firing cannons. Luckily, scattered through the levels are crates and pots to smash that will occasionally contain weaponry and life-replenishing ham shanks.
“The big differences from the main campaign,” Pixelscopic CEO and co-founder, Coby Utter, explained to me in regards to this secondary game mode, “is not having contiguous rooms and levels, and thus [there is] no exploration, no narrative, and only a very loose sense of progress. We decided to send out this mode, as it was easier for us to ensure that fewer WIP things would be shown/noticeable, because there are still large chunks of things missing from the main campaign.”
The preview build only allowed me to play as the rogue character, but that’s fine, as that is what I would have picked anyway. At first, I was a little thrown-off by how slippery the rogue maneuvered about. It felt like I was running on ice. However, I quickly got used to the carried momentum and everything was fine in no time. Using my Xbox 360 controller made things much easier for me to control, and I ended up doing better than when I tried playing with the mouse and keyboard. Both ways controlled great, it is simply a matter of preference.
I asked Coby how the other two revealed character classes (sorcerer and barbarian) would feel, in comparison to the rogue.
“The sorcerer actually floats a bit,” Coby explained, “so he has an innate advantage when it comes to pits, but he will also be a bit more difficult to control…The barbarian will feel the least “slippery” out of all the characters. He’ll have a very high grip, but lower acceleration and top speeds. In some ways, he will be easier to control, but also difficult to move nimbly.”
The rogue, the sorcerer, and the barbarian are just three of the five character classes that will be available upon the game’s launch. Pixelscopic is letting the Kicksterter funders choose what the fourth and fifth characters will be. Coby told me that they have a handful of options for those fourth and fifth characters, and that the team would be releasing them soon, as they are finishing up some concept art for them.
As an incentive to fund the game, Pixelscopic is offering a bonus, sixth, character for people who back the game at the $50 mark. For more information on incentive rewards, do visit the Kickstarter page for Delver’s Drop. The campaign has a little over a week left, and Pixelscopic is just around $12,700 under their goal. Help out if you can, and if you can’t spare the change, spread the word.