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

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IGM Aus – Dev Diary Edition

The wonderful thing about modern technology is the ability to maintain a level of connectivity with your audience. The dev diary allows the chance for a creator to provide a unique perspective on a project before, during and sometimes after the product is out on store shelves. A while ago I featured a few blogs, but there’s so many out there I figured it was time to visit a few more and see what’s going on out there in the wide world of game development from those who devote their life to it.

grapple knight in actionLet’s start with Red Knight Games, a young studio who are currently developing the platform game Grapple Knight. The team has had been making many an alterations to how the game looks and plays over the last few months and their blogs are a perfect insight into how that development has shifted their focus.

Suddenly changing everything you know, especially on something you’ve put a lot of time into already, can be a difficult process. That’s especially the case if it means literally throwing out your existing results and starting over. But the latest blog by the team proves that some times change can be for the better, in this case shifting from a modern visual presentation to a more pixelated, retro art style. It makes for interesting reading, a chance to see things from another point of view from a developer who clearly loves what they do and isn’t afraid to put in the hard work or try something they haven’t done before in order to get it right.

blastpoints androidFrom working on an upcoming game to reflecting on how it all went. Pub Games released their iOS and Android game Blastpoints recently but came across some interesting hurdles along the way, especially when developing the Android edition as their current blog update explains.

“There are well over 1500 unique Android devices, all with different hardware specifications, from different manufacturers and different video chips,” the team explains, going into great detail on the kinds of problems were brought up when developing Blastpoints. They went so far as to break things down into 9 different performance types based on what product the game is playing on at the time and creating an option for players to change that level within the game itself.

There’s the promise of more insight into the development process over the coming weeks, along with reactions and opinions by the team on Blastpoints success and issues post release. Again, it’s great to read such a candid and open opinion not just on how the game went, but what went wrong and how the team are devoted to fix the issues they came across.

Finally we come to the video blog, the opportunity for a dev to show more than just a few words or a screenshot or two. Now I realise that the Firemonkey’s team aren’t as indie (in name) as they used to be, being an Electronic Arts studio these days, but there’s still a great level of independent development in Real Racing’s blood. The below developer diary video is just one of a few the team has uploaded so far, detailing the work put into the newest race tracks within the game:


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IGM Aus – The R18+ Debate

The following IGM Aus is rated R for Radness. Or maybe not.

R18 I wanted to take a little time out this week and focus on an issue that has been building up and up for a few years now. Something that many people here in Australia have been waiting on for some time which, as of just a few short days ago, has finally become reality. It is, of course, the R18+ rating.

For many countries, an R rating is a given. Restricting the sale or viewership of a certain piece of entertainment to those above 18 years of age seems rather obvious given the modern depiction of violence and our tendency to protect our children from it (where we can). Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of the Australian industry, who’s ratings system until just recently never had an 18+ rating. That meant the sale of many games to those aged 15 or over.

MA15

As of right now, the R rating is finally a part of the code. That means games just too violent for MA15+, or featuring high levels of sexual content and language, will be allowed into the country if it passes the strict requirements under the adults only category. We already have our first entrant, the Tecmo created Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for Wii U, which is certainly warranted given that series’ penchant for blood letting at the bucket load. In the past, such a title would have been banned in Australia (as in Warner Brothers’ Mortal Kombat reboot) or edited/watered down (a.k.a. Left 4 Dead 2).

So what does all this mean to the local Indie industry? Not a great deal, at least not yet. This rating only relates to retail stores, not those online. Given that both Apple and Steam provide their own ratings system outside of those used in any release country means that it’s up to those providers to bring about some kind of balance. Apple is actually rather strict when it comes to releasing games on their system (well, at least when it comes to content, maybe not nearly as good when it comes to quality control … but that’s another story). Both also allow some kind of parental guidance over what you purchase, warning users if the content is adult only before purchasing for example.

Trine 2This could all possibly change in the future. There’s been calls over recent years to control online ratings in the same way as retail stores, wiping the slate clean to provide one clear and concise system (or something of that sort). Given how freely it is to purchase and download anything you want these days, controlling that content was an inevitable suggestion by those with the power to suggest it. That’s not to say it’ll happen any time soon, if at all, but it’s something to keep a close eye on.

If it did go ahead, it would mean more hard work for those indie devs trying to release their game locally, instead of a universal system as it stands now. That problem has already reared its head recently, with Frozenbyte’s Trine 2: Director’s Cut on Wii U still awaiting release in Australia because of a delay in submitting to the ratings board, pushing the release date well back from its scheduled time frame. No doubt many headaches have set up shop ever since.

Huntsman The Orphanage - Help Me

Here’s another interesting note; a majority of Australian indie games rarely reach the heights of such a rating. One that does come to mind though is upcoming PC horror game Huntsman: The Orphanage. If it did ever go to retail stores (which I certainly hope it does), it’s hard to say if it would reach an R rating, given the game forgoes violence in favour of straight up horror scares. Then again, it’s hard to predict exactly what will or won’t be given such a rating in the future. Violence is one thing, but how will the board see psychological issues or depictions of scary or unnerving scenes?

For now the R rating should hopefully provide extra incentive to adults to find out exactly what it is their kids are playing, to ensure they aren’t getting involved with something that’s just not built with their imaginations in mind. Let’s not, however, use this higher rating to glorify a love of violence et al in games. That’s the last thing this world needs right now.

Devs make games that entertain, but they also make games for certain audiences, especially adult ones. That’s not a law of course, just an industry trend.

That’s all for IGM Aus this week. I think next week I might have to talk about rainbows or cookies … or maybe not. Game on!

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – IGM Aus – The R18+ Debate


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The EB Expo Wrap: Part Three – More Games

Alright, on to part three. Here’s another lot of great aussie games I had the luck to check out in person during my EB Expo adventure, starting with:

Giant Robot Destroy Everything (by Team Robot) - So instead of leading a giant robot into battle, why not try to defend the hero by drawing lines across the screen to deflect incoming fire from enemies? That’s what Giant Robot Destroy Everything (GRDE) is all about, and it’s easy to pick up and play so anyone should be able to get into it. GRDE is like an 80′s arcade game with a sprinkling of modern game play, or as the Team Robot guys like to call it, the elegance of Pong combined with the spectacle of the Power Rangers, which is actually rather spot on. It has to be said, deflecting enemy attacks in other enemies or using the barriers to block fast moving targets was rather satisfying. I had a lot of fun with this one, though I’ll need to work on my high score a bit!

Protocol E (by Silver Nova Software) - Being a Tron fan, Protocol E’s cyber inspired world caught my eye. It’s an RTS by nature, but in a very different style to the previously mentioned Frozen Hearth. Instead, you’re main hero craft will be surrounded by a number of minions, who you will lead into battle to take down the enemy as quickly as possible before they do the same to you. You’ll have different combat techniques, ranged minions and the ability to fully control were said minions go. There’s a few different game modes in the works too, though I think where this game will shine is in the competitive multiplayer scene. There’s plenty of potential there to build upon, why not try it and let me know what you think.

Bouncer (by Brennan Hatton) - Bouncer thankfully doesn’t have anything to do with that really bad Squaresoft game on the PS2. It’s a point and click puzzle game that you can download directly from the official site where you must correctly direct the bouncing ball towards the exit goal. Thankfully for me, failing a few times just gives you another ball to bounce and correct your mistake. While the existing bouncers stick around to remind you how bad your earlier attempts were. Not that I made that many mistakes. Honest. This is another one of those addictive puzzle games I just can’t seem to get away from, and that’s a good thing. It isn’t Brennan’s first game, but it’s arguably his most entertaining, so check it out!

Buzzy Republic (by Lime Rocket) - I briefly mentioned Buzzy Republic in part one, and it really is the kind of game you’ll have to pick up and play in order to understand the concept. What I did see though, was a team that’s really keen on building something beyond a standard MMO, where you can play anywhere at any time with anyone around the world. Like the above photo illustrates against a massive outdoor wall.

More specifically though, it’s about building a community around the concept of rebuilding a galaxy through multiple avenues. Say for example playing on a massive screen or said side of a building, while people wait at a bus stop or in between a time out at the basketball. While Buzzy Republic may act as a tech demo that other devs should be interested in getting to know more about the game itself looks the goods too! You can sign up for the game here.

BlastPoints (by Pub Games) - The action of BlastPoints is full on space combat. Built using the Unreal engine, what I saw looked very smooth and it’s great to see a combat game that makes use of the iPad’s grunt to create something visually powerful enough to pull off such a game style. The enemy A.I. seemed challenging, with a ton of them on screen at any one time without any sign of slowdown. Again, it’s the kind of game that’s perfectly suited to the multiplayer world, though there’s the promise of plenty of content and the ability to create your own ship from a plethora of part types and upgrades. If you’re a fan of Starfox 64 like I am, this one’s for you, so keep an eye out for it.

Vigilante: Speak for the Dead (by Divisive Media) - So imagine if you had your own clan and you wanted to put a hit out on another clan. You choose your target and set the price, then watch as every other clan around you reacts to your choice by either joining in or fighting against you. Vigilante gives you that choice among many others within its social building design, but like Buzzy Republic, it’s a little difficult to explain it all without getting in on the action. But you won’t have to wait long as it’s due very soon to coincide with the release of the Australian produced movie ‘John Doe’ (BSG alumni Jamie Bamber is in it!). As a social game, the concept is tremendous fun and apparently it’s already got some interesting feedback during beta testing, which came to a close just the other day.

Dream Chaser (by Evoke Method) - Last but certainly not least we have Dream Chaser, which is in early development but is already looking mighty promising. Like a cross between Temple Run with a deeper, more meaningful storyline. You’ll play a boy who runs through his own dreamscape jumping and dodging through very strange environments. I got some early hands on time with the dev build and though I’m not the best ‘runner’ in the business, I had fun with the concept and there’s certainly a market for games like it, especially something with solid controls. What’s also promising is the early character designs, the young boy in pyjamas not unlike the child from Where the Wild Things Are. You can check out the prototype and give the team some much needed feedback here.

Now I will have a lot more on all of these and the games I mentioned in my next part over the coming weeks, including some back story and behind the scenes exclusives. But in the meantime a big thank you to all of the studios who spent some time with me, the experience was one of a kind and I hope, for everyone involved, the feedback and support passed down by fans and devs alike was rewarding in itself.

Every game I played or checked continues to prove the consistent quality of production in the local Australian indie scene, which continually grows every day. As a fan and as a writer I’m proud and excited about what’s around the corner, and you should be too.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – The EB Expo Wrap: Part Three – More Games


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IGM Headed To The EBExpo 2012 Australia

The EBGames Expo Sydney 2012

One of the dreams I had growing up with video games was to visit E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the biggest event in the industry, where surprises and big names are there for all to see? Unfortunately as dreams go, they aren’t always that easy to attain in real life (I live a long, long way away, for example). So imagine my delight to see EB Games, the Australian division of GameStop, create the next best thing in the EBExpo. It’s a chance for Australian gamers to get in on the act and get some hands on time with the biggest names, and I’m going to be there!

This is the expo’s second year in action, shifting from last years debut in Melbourne to Sydney this time around. It brings with it a host of massive titles that everyone can’t wait to get stuck into, familiar faces such as Assassin’s Creed III and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, many of which are playable for the first time anywhere. But there’s another new element to the expo’s schedule that has me far more excited, one that I’m sure many of you will be keen to know about.

The Home Grown Gaming exhibit, which has its own area within the rather large and well planned out Olympic Park (former home of the Sydney 2000 Olympics), will play host to a number of local Australian talent in both software and hardware development. Not only will it act as a showcase, but it could very well open the eyes of many gamers who are yet to taste the indie gaming world.

Many of these companies you may not have heard of, but soon you will know all about them. Take Blunt Instrument for example, a small studio based in Sydney who are working on two soon to be released mobile and PC titles, Missile Control and Ignite The Skies. Or Epiphany Games, who are hard at work on the ambitious RTS Frozen Hearth, the first part of an expansive and ongoing series. That’s just two of many hard working and respected studios who will be at the show, mixing it up with the likes of Nintendo, Sony, Electronic Arts and Activision.

The exhibit will also play host to a number of e-sports events and the opportunity for local fans to check out some of the newest gaming hardware developed down under as well up and coming items of worth. But the chance for new and young developers to show off their work will be of special interest, especially with a sell out crowd of near 17,000 (and counting) over three days of action.

As a fan, a gamer and a lover of all things indie, you can be sure I’ll be there taking it all in and meeting some of the talented artists and devs right in my own back yard. I’ll be getting the lowdown from all of them, so you’d better keep it logged to IGM as the event kicks off this weekend!

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – IGM Headed To The EBExpo 2012 Australia


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The Why of Indie Games: ‘Super Meat Boy’

I have a buddy who describes Super Meat Boy in three letters. The three letters stand for the essence of what Super Meat Boy is at the core. The three letters are ABS, which is quite the acronym. It stands for “always be sprinting”, which is essentially the attitude of Super Meat Boy. It eats what we traditionally know as a genre and vomits it out unabashed at the grotesque nature of the genre’s reincarnation. That is some heavily gruesome imagery, but Super Meat Boy tends toward the gruesome in a genre full of color and joyous scenery. Likewise, Team Meat, vaunted developers of Super Meat Boy used it to flip nearly all other platformer conventions into fully new ideas, which shines a light onto what the modern gamer is drawn towards.

There are a smattering of platformers available right now. Go ahead, pull up Steam or Desura and search for platformers, then proceed to marvel at the billions. There is no problem with that; however, I would not bargain to guess that anyone has either heard of them or that they have seen any significant amount of success. Surprisingly though, Super Meat Boy hit it huge. Rightfully so, because it is a fantastic, addicting, and innovative game, which is instantly accessible. It also says something about the modern gamer as compared to the gamers of the 90′s; the setup is all about immediate payoff in an age of the attention deficit gamer whereas old games required the player to work and persevere for success.

Just think about the modern teenager. Everything is accessible to that teenager through their phone, internet, television, and tablet. There is no longer a need for the modern teenager to work for anything. The modern teenager should see no reason to sit down and play an engrossing 100 hour RPG, when they can play 3 levels of Super Meat Boy in a matter of 5 minutes. That is not to say that those 100 hour RPGs are not successful as Skyrim exists, but its obvious that gamers crave ease of accessibility. Even Skyrim is a walk in the park for the majority of gamers. The switch is to a casual style of gaming which is always rewarding the player instead of punishing the player.

Super Meat Boy is a near perfect example of the modern casual game and even though it is challenging, still manages to never truly make the player wait or suffer. If a player dies in Super Meat Boy they are instantly reincarnated to make another run at the level with no load screen or punishment. Players can beat Super Meat Boy‘s main story line in the first sitting if they ignore all the optional Dark World and Warp World stuff. Could you imagine beating Contra in a night?  Super Meat Boy even eliminates enemy interaction because every enemy must be faced in the same way; by avoidance. Super Meat Boy becomes a casual game by streamlining the whole platformer process, most specifically the time required from a single sit-down.

Old style platformers all operated on similar conventions and the most successful template was from Mario series. Mario contained a myriad of long and difficult levels with no check points and limited lives. Players would have to take long periods of time to battle through these levels, and spend nights trying to learn the structure of each stage. I would argue that Mario would struggle to make it in this day and age abiding by that same style. It would still be successful, but not the mega hit it was in the 80′s and 90′s. Super Meat Boy requires much less time, attention, and commitment from the gamer. A player of Super Meat Boy can turn it on and play for 30 seconds and make similar progress percentage wise as a Mario player could in a half hour. But that is the thing. This is what players have begun to crave. Our attention spans have shortened, and our tolerance of difficulty has gone down.

Do not get me wrong, Super Meat Boy is a lovely game. It is cheeky and fun and definitely deserves your time. You can pick it up on Steam or on supermeatboy.com.  I just think the community’s love affair with it goes beyond its fun. It is timely in a world which now has 1000 means of entertainment and is fully up for a quick thrill, even in gaming.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – The Why of Indie Games: ‘Super Meat Boy’


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The Problem With Greenlight – An IGM Roundtable

The last few weeks have been packed with news about Steam’s new peer-to-peer approval service, Greenlight. Though meant to help indie developers bring their games to a larger market, the service has criticized left and right by consumers and developers alike while Valve have been steadily tuning the outlet to their liking. Everything from changing the text on rating buttons from “Like” to “Would you be interested in this game if it were on Steam” to more major  actions such as censoring certain games for sensitive content has been done at this point, but nothing seems to have struck a cord as much as their most recent change.

Since being announced as a free service accessible to all developers, Greenlight has been met with a flood of submissions. While mostly from legitimate developers, many have come from trolls and civilians submitting the works of others, somewhat diluting the legitimacy of real Greenlight entries. To remedy this, Valve decided to institute a mandatory $100 dollar donation in order to submit ones project; their way of keeping submissions true to Greenlight’s intended purpose.  When word of this mandatory donation reached the public, it was met with mixed commentary from the public as some felt Valve were going back on their promise of a free chance for all indies to make it on to Steam.

The subject especially interested us here at IGM, so we decided to sit down and get our opinions out to the public. We have asked writers from around the office as well as a wide net of developers to present their stance on the Greenlight fee and this is what we’ve come up with.

IGM Staff

Dominic Tarason - Senior Editor

There’s nothing quite like a $100 fee to make people stop, read the rules, and then question whether you’re serious about trying to get this game marketed and on a major storefront. The clever twist here is that Valve aren’t pocketing the money themselves, but rather forwarding it to the Childs Play charity. In theory, time-wasters get filtered out, and some sick kids get happier.

Personally, I’m in favour of it, with some small reservations. The number itself can be argued to hell and back, but it’s not a figure outside any serious commercial developers reach. I poked around for a point of reference, and the price for an indie press table (the smallest you can get, with no additional promotional materials) at the San Diego Comic Con is $500. While there’s some grumbling on Twitter about the chosen figure, it does bring us back to the purpose of Greenlight: It’s a system whereby established indie developers can forward their existing audience to a voting page in order to fast-track them onto Steam, where they have a good chance at making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you’re not sure that your game has a market to begin with, and you’re unwilling to put $100 on the line, then there’s nothing stopping you from releasing via Desura, the Humble Store, directly to your audience or via one of a hundred other routes and raise some money that way. Steam is the biggest and most high-profile store, but it’s not always the first and last step. Even indie classics like Aquaria started out selling direct to fans before getting a larger distribution deal.

In the end, the simple fact of the matter is that something had to be done. It’s not unreasonable to say that the majority of submissions to Greenlight were from people who either failed to read the rules to begin with (lots of people putting their favourite non-Steam AAA titles up), or were trying to market games that never would have had a chance to begin with. No shortage of ‘my first game’ projects using FPS Maker or similar drag-and-drop toolkits. Personally, I think this should stop the worst of it. If it manages that, it’ll have done its job.

Alex Wilkinson - News Editor

Valve had to change some policies regarding the Greenlight project as when it originally launched it was far too open to abuse from people submitting ridiculous ”joke” ideas. In small numbers, this can be vaguely funny, however with the continued string of absurd titles being placed on Greenlight, Valve needed to create some barriers to entry. The $100 entry fee is a suitable interim solution as it will stop most people dead in their tracks and so will solve the problems, however this is not a good long term solution. It does slightly alienate a lot of new developers of course $100 is not a great deal but I feel Valve would be remiss if they do not consider better development of the Greenlight project beyond what they have already produced.

Gareth Kay (the developer from Vineland) did sugest to me on this matter that Valve should reduce the fee and instead have a valid website and company name to have to prove authenticity. This i feel is already a better idea that would work for the medium to longer term, although it is anyone’s guess where Valve will end up on the Greenlight project I have every faith it will work out, hell look at Steam when it first came out compared to now!

Jamell Brown - Editor-in-Chief

While I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague’s, I think I’m going to play somewhat the devil’s advocate on the subject. Honestly, the idea of a fee — or mandatory donation — seems like a quick and easy way to incentivize developers to take a more serious look at their product before moving to that outlet. With no barriers to entry, what reason do I have to not throw the Pacman-esque flash game I just created on Greenlight? Worst case scenario, it sits there and I’m no worse off, best case it gets on Steam and I make tons of money! What I think most people are more upset about is how sudden and random the institution of this fee seems.

Valve is a pretty big company with plenty of experience in the digital distribution market. Greenlight is far from the first channel developers have had to go digital, Desura, the Humble Store and others like them have shown that there are tons of indies out there looking to jump into a larger market. As seasoned as Valve is, it seems like they would have observed these markets and known that there would be  a lot of people trying to get onto Steam right away, thus giving them a reason to institute some barrier from the offset to stem the tide entries. By starting off as a free service and then hastily throwing a fee into the mix, Valve virtually promised every Steam hopeful the world before shutting the doors in their faces. Greenlight has gone from an attempt at equal representation to a $100 lottery ticket over night, and in that sense, Valve has somewhat let their community down.

What I would prefer to see is Valve pocketing the money instead of hiding behind this “donation” as a way to try and offset some criticism. If the money could provide incentive for Valve to put more resources behind moderating the content and comments on Greenlight, the overall quality of the service would improve and more people would actively scout the games there, increasing everyone’s chances of getting on to Steam. Whatever Valve decides to do next should be carefully planned and calculated, hastily throwing out solutions is only going to make their audience more irritated.

Developers

Sergey Mohov (@krides)

In my opinion, Valve did what was best for Valve in all regards. Greenlight is not a charity system, it’s not meant to help anyone per se, it’s only there because the old Valve’s review process could miss some of the potentially lucrative titles (and god knows it did: Offspring Fling was first rejected, and we all know that story). Now, I personally don’t think that there’s something wrong with this situation: acting in your company’s best interest can hardly be a reason to blame anyone. On the other hand, I think that we, as developers, should also act in our own best interest, or at least that is what I am going to do.

I am not ready to pay $100 for an objectively thin chance of getting published: whether this money goes to a charity, to Valve, Microsoft, Apple, US government or Willy Wonka. I just don’t have $100 to throw away to be a member of this elite club. Fortunately, paying the XBLIG and AppStore fees still means that you get your game(s) published and is likely to stay this way. Clearly, Valve believes Steam to be superior than all the other platforms, and, to be fair, in a way it is. I just don’t believe that it can work miracles. As far as I can see, publishing still doesn’t automagically mean profit, so what you are really buying when you pay the Greenlight fee is a chance to get a chance to sell a game, which is of course not exactly money well spent.

For now, I will stick to this belief and see how Greenlight develops. So far, everything already went wrong in it, and, hopefully, Valve will come up with a somewhat more feasible system to banish trolls from the system rather than building a dollar bill barrier. The good news for me is that I’m not forced to pay for Dédale, since it’s already in the system. As for my next project, I am beginning to think that, for all of its flaws, Windows 8 is a more indie-friendly environment now.

Phil Charlise (@zoombapup)

I think the $100 thing is a red herring. What concerns me more is the quality of the comments on games. Not very mature. Ultimately paying $100 to be hurled abuse at like I just posted a puppy video on Youtube is not my idea of good business.

Craig Stern (@sinisterdesign)

The amount is excessive, and will disproportionately hurt small developers barely scraping by on their sales. Weeding out fake entries is a good idea, but there are other ways of doing it that don’t hurt small indie developers. At the very least, they should make it a deposit that gets returned when a game is found to be a legitimate entry. If they’re really concerned about discoverability, though, they need to fix their interface and implement smart sorting. Charging an arbitrary fee just to be considered is a lazy way of trying to boost discoverability.

Cale Bradbury (@netgrind)

If the game is really good enough for Steam and your completely strapped for cash you could probably find someone to cover it. People need to stop worrying about Steam in the early, still concept games, just build cool shit.

Michael Louisseize (@micleee)

We think it’s great, it insures that all the projects on Greenlight are from actual serious developers. If you can’t put down $100 on your game, you aren’t serious enough about it.

As you can see, there are as many sides to the argument as there are people to argue the point. Since the first wave of games moved from Greenlight to Steam, most people are really beginning to see Greenlight in the more positive light I believe it deserves. What do you think about the matter? We want to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment in the area below, or head to our forums to strike up a real conversation. If you want to check out some of our favourite Greenlight projects, keep an eye out for IGM Limelight every Friday afternoon right here on IGM.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – The Problem With Greenlight – An IGM Roundtable


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DIY Dungeons – Hands On With The ‘Legend Of Grimrock’ Editor

When I reviewed Almost Human’s neo-retro dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock, I admit that I may have rated the game with a future feature update in mind. While the dungeon in the game is fiendishly clever in its design, there were rumblings that a full level editor would be released soon after launch. Weeks passed, turning to months, and no editor surfaced. Doubt began to set in – would we ever see one? Would it even give us anywhere near the quality of tools needed to replicate the quality of the base game? With the first public beta release of the Grimrock editor, I’m happy to say that any and all doubts have been crushed like so many unequipped adventurers.

Anyone with the Steam edition of the game (although the editor will eventually come to all versions) can grab it now by right-clicking on the game in their Library panel, opening up the Properties screen, and opting in to the option given in the Betas tab. The update is quick and painless, and adds two intuitive options to the main menu – Dungeon Editor and Custom Dungeon. The former launches the editing suite, and the latter gives you a list of all player-made dungeons on your PC, as well as a Steam Workshop link so that you can browse and download more; a process that only takes a few seconds.

To say that this editor is easy to use is a huge understatement. Within five minutes of starting, and without any documentation, I had created a small dungeon of several rooms, lit it with torches and placed a few enemies to fight. I then immediately began playing this from within the editor itself using a handy picture-in-picture preview window. Within another five minutes, I’d figured out basic switch/door logic. Another five minutes after that, I created a large chamber that completely transformed in configuration, using a simple toggle switch on the wall linked up to a maze of secret lifting panel walls. Within half an hour, I believe I had learnt just about everything you’d need to make a respectably detailed dungeon, although the very most complex puzzles and traps will require a bit of LUA scripting, but even that is handled entirely in-editor.

So, making quality dungeoneering experiences is a walk in the park, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to letting you use all the tools and resources in the base game, Almost Human seem to be opening up mod support to allow changes to everything short of the core gameplay mechanics. Custom tilesets, sounds, graphics, enemies and gear are all possible. They’ll require the use of external tools in order to implement fully, but it should be no more complex than modding any other game. With a little bit of artistic talent and a dash of elbow grease, it doesn’t look like it would be hard to completely recreate classic dungeon crawlers such as Eye of The Beholder, graphics, monsters and all.

Those who are sticking to the DRM-free version of the game won’t be starved for mods either, of course. While the Steam Workshop integration is nice, the Nexus modding hub have set up a Grimrock Nexus page to help support those that can’t or won’t use the Workshop UI. In short, everyone wins. The editor is currently in beta, although given the level of polish on show already, I’d be quite surprised if the full editor update wasn’t pushed out within a week or two.  Legend of Grimrock is currently available for $15, and if you buy it direct from the developers, you generously get both the DRM-free and Steam editions of the game.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – DIY Dungeons – Hands On With The ‘Legend Of Grimrock’ Editor


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The Why of Indie Games: ‘To the Moon’

I am so very young and my knowledge of this world is limited. So then is my knowledge of the human being equally as limited. Everyday I meet people who I assume details about. I look at them and project a past of which I know nothing. They could be someone who would become a lifelong friend, a love interest, or a critical teacher; yet, they are instantaneously projected by my mind to be something less. They are humans too; ones who have lived full lives and experienced life entirely different than I. If I could only see their past maybe I could better understand their present and fall in love with their perseverance, convictions, and passions. Kan Gao takes this notion and challenges the gamer to open their mind to another’s life in To the Moon and in doing so challenges the notion that the human being can ever be fully understood, no matter what we know.

In To the Moon, we join two doctors, Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene, as they help a dying man named Johnny fulfill his final wish of going to the moon. To do so they must travel back and navigate through Johnny’s life to attempt to plant the idea of being an astronaut into his memory. The concept teems of sci-fi ridiculousness, but it is far beyond the point of the effort. As the doctors travel back through time, they learn about Johnny’s life and relationships, only to find an understanding of Johnny which none of the people close to Johnny, nor did Johnny even have. To the Moon is an exploration of the human life, through an exploration of one fictional dying man’s life. The exploration poses life lessons throughout the 4 hour experience.

One of the more important lessons I was able to take away was how To the Moon posed Johnny’s most important memories. Through backtracking our player experiences the critical moments of Johnny’s life, of which 90% center around his relationship with his deceased wife. I never knew of Johnny’s job, nor had I thought about what Johnny or his wife did for a living until long after the credits rolled. To the Moon made me reflect on my fondest memories and reminded me that love stands out distinctly amongst other experiences. I have been strongly affected by many moments in my life, but likely none more than love and love lost. Johnny is no different and love not only affects his life, but holds it steadfastly in place. It is idealistic, I know, but the love is realistic and imperfect all the same, which adds a needed aspect of realism.

The realism comes in that Johnny’s love is flawed and never understandable. I could not tell you why Johnny and his wife were in love nor could I tell you why they were initially drawn to each other. Despite viewing Johnny’s past openly and without restraint I could still not understand his emotional draw towards this girl. Surely there was reason, but I could not truly know why, and I think that is an important lesson to take away from To the Moon. We can know and judge others based on their actions, but unless we truly understood their reasons and emotional state we truly know nothing about them. That is why it was impossible to understand the draw between Johnny and his spouse and too impossible to understand why people do what they do. This led me to come to the conclusion that I could never understand the characters. I could not understand their decisions, loves, hatreds, and wishes and I was not meant to. I was meant to learn but never understand, because people are a complex and distinctive animal with depth beyond any of our capability of understanding.

To the Moon constantly questions the depth of the human being. To the Moon posed a story, but not a simple one; it was a complex narrative which challenged the way we view of strangers. That which we assumed about every character was not necessarily true and it reminded me I need to work harder to get to know those I love without assuming things about those I do not know. It taught me that video games as a whole can be moving and thoughtful, while being direct and full of conviction. To the Moon was linear, so I assumed nothing because all I could know was given. The game strictly unwavered from its story while keeping details about the characters abstract, in a way starkly and beautifully contrasting itself. Most importantly, it taught me that no matter how much I truly want to know or even come to learn, I can never understand why another human being does what they do. Despite all of this, I know now that I want to learn more about everyone, because it helps, even though I will never truly understand. This alone can free me from trying to understand, and rather accept the beauty of what I know of a person. I will carry that lesson with me for the rest of my life.

Go check out To the Moon when you get a chance. You can find it on its official website and on Steam and be sure to look at what Freebird Games is up to on their official website or on Twitter. Stay tuned next week for another The Why of Indie Games, where I will cover another indie game’s importance to life or to gaming. For all your other indie gaming news keep with Indiegamemag.com.

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Source: The Indie Game Magazine – The Why of Indie Games: ‘To the Moon’


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Gaming As An Integral Part Of Life: Why We Game

9/11 is a time for reflection and in that reflection reminds us of the sheer magnitude of the world around us. It is also a day which reminds us that there are always current events happening, and that we often are uninformed on worldly tragedies. I am probably projecting, but that is how I judge myself to be often ignorant of world events. Instead of reading a newspaper or online news I spend my time writing about and playing video games, as many of our readers do. To rationalize with my choice and reflect upon my reasons I have been thinking about why we as a community, game.

One of my first true memories of why I game was on September 11. I remember where I was when it happened, but that is not all that important; rather what I did when I arrived home from school sticks out in my mind. I was really young when the tragedy occurred and I believe that although I hate the date myself, I was in 5th grade. I came home from school and found my mother crying, and I could not help but be confused because although the tragedy was announced, I was too young to truly understand what had happened. Seeing my mother in tears brought me to tears and I recall a brief period of time where I simply sat down baffled. I eventually got up and the day went on as normal, with the news on in the background.

Me. Around 5th Grade

The story seems mundane and it is nothing heartbreaking, but I would imagine 99% of Americans my age have a similar story; except their story may have ended with a different coping mechanism. I went into my basement and popped on my PS2. I played Tekken Tag Tournament (TTT) for a solid 4 or 5 hours that night and never stopped to watch the news or learn anything about the attacks, I immersed myself in the TV and pulled myself away from the real world.

Today, I still game with a similar fervor to my past self and still play as a coping mechanism. Gaming is, as most things in life are not just for the plain purpose of having fun. We are too evolved for that to be the end reason for playing video games. I played 4 hours of TTT that day because I was too young to face the crisis. My brain was nowhere near mature enough to know I should have comforted my mother so I did what was safe; I gamed.

Over time I have grown as a gamer and I now game for different reasons. I no longer game because it is safe, but rather because it helps me grow as a human being. I have played video games to help deal with breakups, to come to terms with family loss, to learn, to be amazed, to participate in a community, and for so much more. Gaming is so versatile and fosters such a tightly knit community that figuring out why we game is important to not only our growth as a gamer, but to our growth as human beings.

We could grow our being through other means, but we do not. Every day we choose gaming over everything else life has to offer. Sure, we have hobbies outside of gaming but we choose gaming as one of our main activities. We do so because it offers an experience individualized to each and every gamer. We each can take different qualities out of the same experiences, and more importantly are able to interact with another person’s artwork, which they may feel fully different about than we do. We each game for different purposes, but I refuse to believe we game with no deeper purpose.

I game for so many reasons that I could not possibly list them, because many of the reasons I play video games are still unknown to me. I know I game for comfort, for coping, for exploring, for  interaction, and for philosophy. But why do you game? Why do you choose gaming as an activity over other possible pastimes? Please comment below and we can discuss and learn from each other.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Gaming As An Integral Part Of Life: Why We Game


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Greenlight Bears Fruit: The First Wave Of Approved Titles Revealed

Update: Now with additional speculation on the next 10!

Drama, controversy, yelling and flailing and confused arguments over classism, poverty and financial stability seem to have been the only things to come out of Valve Corporation’s indie fast-tracking system, Greenlight, in recent days. That seems to have finally changed today, as the first wave of games to get official distribution deals on Steam via this new system have been chosen. It’s an interesting set, including a couple of non-commercial entries as well. Here’s all the ones that I’ve been able to pin down:

  • Black Mesa by The Black Mesa Team – The legendary (and much-delayed) fan-made remake of Half-Life 1 is officially comes home.
  • Project Zomboid by The Indie Stone – The gritty and realistic zombie survival sim/RPG has proven the size of its audience.
  • No More Room In Hell by the NMRiH Dev Team – Yet another mod, and yet more zombies. This time of the competitive sort.
  • Routine by Lunar Softworks – The gorgeously pretty retro-futuristic lunar survival horror game hits the big leagues.
  • Dream by Hypersloth – A first-person game of exploration, interpretation and even a dash of horror. Looks interesting!
  • Towns by SMP – Dwarf Fortress too complex? This is similar in style, but geared towards easy, accessible management gameplay.
  • Heroes & Generals by Reto-Moto – An ambitious blend of WW2 action, strategy and even long-term grand strategy elements.
  • Cry of Fear by ruMpel – Possibly the most enduring Half-Life 1 mod out there, and recently expanded. Now officially on Steam.
  • McPixel by Sos Sosowski – Wario Ware meets point-and-click adventure with a crude, lewd sense of humor. Endorsed by pirates!
  • Kenshi by Lo-Fi Games – Post-apocalyptic samurai roleplaying with a focus on realism. Still early in development, but looking strong.

There may be more, but those are the only ones that I can see bearing the official Thumbs Up from Valve themselves. Interestingly, a few of the highest-voted games, including Slender: Source have been passed over, highlighting that Greenlight isn’t just a mere popularity contest, but rather a shortlist for Valve to hand-pick games from. There’s also several non-commercial entries they’ve picked out, which suggests that freeware games may well be admitted to Steam, if enough people want it.

Congratulations to the developers chosen, and best wishes to those still in waiting – with the most wanted skimmed from the list, it frees up the rankings for another set to rise to the top. It appears that almost all the ten chosen games were picked from the highest-percentage-boasting games. Based on current figures and trends, this would make the next potential ten an… unusual set.

We might well see Eve Online-inspired MMO Perpetuum added soon, as well as retro platformer revival Project Giana. Much-vaunted ‘AAA Indie’ FPS Interstellar Marines is high in the rankings, and third-person RPG deathmatch game Forge is in the running as well.

It gets weird as we hit Postal 2 – the infamous shock comedy (reminiscent of Troma films) FPS – which seems to have a fair few fans. Weirder still (but in a good way) is Octodad 2: Dadliest Catch, which is something I’d love to see hit the big leagues.  Creative and classy shadow-based puzzle/platformer Contrast seems a likely choice, and the extended re-release of third-person horror shooter Afterfall InSanity is up there too.

At the tail-end of the next ten potentials is another internet phenomenon – the Yogsventures game – a standalone action-adventure based upon the ridiculously popular Minecraft podcast. Last of the likely next few is Miasmata, a first person survival sim. It’ll be interesting to see whether any of these make the final cut when Valve pick the next set, but I’d be very surprised if they all slipped under the radar.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Greenlight Bears Fruit: The First Wave Of Approved Titles Revealed