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

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YouTube as a Point and Click Adventure: Howard Glitch

Howard Glitch Screen Robert Allmand has recently released the interactive game portion of his escapism vs. reality project entitled Howard Glitch. I first posted the trailer for the animated segment of the project a few weeks ago, but now the point and click game is available to explore.

Utilizing YouTube’s placed comment links, it leads you through a variety of videos where you use both YouTube controls and logic to maneuver your way through the story. It’s an interesting use of the medium and possibly a sign of things to come. It works something like a choose-your-own-adventure with YouTube as the framework.

Check out the trailer for the adventure segment below and then go give the game a try yourself and let us know what you think. The game is clever in its use of points to click, so don’t think that you’ve won or lost the game after just a few screens. It goes on to get even more intriguing with the use of sound and silence and even other unique uses of the video site. But don’t take my word for it, there are interesting things afoot!

[Play]


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Free Browser Version of ‘Vanitas’

vanitasLooks like there’s some more news regarding Tale of Tales’ first venture onto the App Store, Vanitas. Thanks to the Unity plug-in, gamers can experience Vanitas on the PC. While the iPhone/iPod Touch tilt controls and touch screen may suit the game’s style better, players on the PC should not feel let down as the Unity engine will allow for the game to run smoother.

If you’re trying to avoid the current $1.99 price tag on the App Store, you’re welcome to go here for the free web version. As reported yesterday, Vanitas has also been updated with some minor fixes.

[Play Vanitas on PC. Buy on the App Store.]


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Browser Pick of the Week: Bouncing Around in e7

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Seeing as how we haven’t done one of these in a while, I feel like it’s a fantastic time to bring out another weekend browser pick. Flash browser games continue to be one of the largest and most popular areas of development for indie games and, since most of the time the developers aren’t banking on monetary means to help fund their next projects, many games truly attempt to branch out and try something new with their games. Today’s game, e7, is just such an example…

e7 starts off with you landing on an alien world somewhere far away from Earth. The story goes that somewhere on this planet is a missile that’s pointed at Earth. Your job is to find the missile and destroy it before the evil aliens that inhabit this world set it off. It’s a simple story, but one that easily sets up the context for the gameplay mechanics.

On the surface e7 is a pretty simple platforming game. You’ll only need to use three buttons (the left, right, and down arrows) to control your character and make it through each level. However, soon after you start playing, you’ll notice that this isn’t an ordinary platformer at all, this is a terra-influencing physics game.

Now, I know that last sentence might be a little hard to comprehend so allow me to explain it a little bit. First, the game is a platformer. You’ll be jumping around from one end of the level to the next in order to complete the level. However, what makes this game so much more is the way that you’ll be “jumping.” In order to get around obstacles and take down flying enemies, you’ll have to press down against the surface of the planet which will then spring back to launch your ship high into the air. It’s a fun way to handle jumping and one that provides an additional layer of gameplay depth to a pretty tired genre.

e7 only takes about an hour to beat which makes it a nice gaming experience within a short amount of time. If you find yourself looking for something new to play this Sunday afternoon/evening, you could do a lot worse than e7.

[Play]


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Mikengreg Release Liferaft: Zero

Liferaft 1Fresh off the release of Solipskier, the strangely addictive mix of Line Rider and Cananbalt, Mikengreg have already dropped their newest flash game out into the universe.

The new title is called Liferaft: Zero. It takes place in a series of laboratory rooms a la Portal, and you must get from the start to finish by jumping, grappling and avoiding any kind of death. If you die, a dispenser like machine drops a carbon copy of you back into the room (in a fancy Liferaft 3new color) and you try, try again. As scientists speak to you over a loudspeaker, you’re referred to as #001, #002, and so on, depending on your number of deaths.

You can wall jump and swing from grapple point to grapple point in a quick and agile fashion. The controls are quite tight, making this a fun little platforming experience. The animations also keep things moving smoothly from start to finish.

Liferaft 2You also have the option to collect delicious candy along the way. Generally the candy is hidden in tough to reach spots that will leave you impaled upon spikes.

I’m only a few rooms deep in the game, but it’s got style and intrigue. Give this free flash game a shot right now. It’s well worth your time.


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Exit Strategy Sets Sail with Pirates of New Horizons [Interview]

Pirates_Interview_01[Soenke Seidel, also known as Warby, and Friedrich Bode of Exit Strategy Entertainment dropped in this week to answer a gold pile of our questions regarding their upcoming title that caught our attention earlier this year, Pirates of New Horizons.

We were lucky enough to grab the first interview with the developer on the recently unveiled third person space pirates action adventure game that has us and much of the ModDB/IndieDB community abuzz with excitement.]

DIYGamer: Set the stage for us. Who are Exit Strategy Studios? Where are you based, and how many are working on Pirates of New Horizons?

Warby: We are 4 guys from all around the world …well Europe mostly: that would be Friedrich Bode from Germany who runs the business side of things (or will run that once it is a business,) Skjalg S. Maehre our lead-technical-software-engineer (is that a word?) who wrote the spectacular entity framework that i use to actually build the game content, Michael “Zacker” Schmidt from Denmark who helped me nail down the feel of the core mechanics over the last couple of weeks and me Soenke Seidel aka Warby, I make all of the actual game content.

We should probably give a shout out to 2 of our most valuable contributors too: Christian Wasser for the grappling hook feature and and Harry Mack for the swashbuckling soundtrack (no it’s not Dropkick Murphys although clearly inspired by it.)

Pirates_Interview_04DIYGamer: You have an interesting development schedule for PONH, first you plan on releasing a free prototype of the game (approx. 20 minutes/3-4 Levels) for PC, Mac and also playable in browser. How far away are we from getting our hands on that?

Warby: I have not yet given up hope that it could be by the end of August! There is only 1 more major task left that ill be done with this week but a million small things i want to change before releasing … so we will see how those turn out!

Friedrich: The last 10% of a game’s development often take up the longest time. There are all these “little things” that you had pushed aside before and that add up. Even if this is going to be a prototype, that is rough around the edges by definition, we want players to get a proper idea of what the final game would play like. If there are small, easy to complete tasks that significantly improve the way the game plays and feels we’ll try to get those done before releasing the prototype. We are doing a bit of user-testing with friends these days and there are some reoccurring topics that require little effort to fix. Still we would like to get this prototype out to an audience as big as possible, as soon as possible, so some things simply have to wait. End of August sounds optimistic, I would estimate end of September, but as Soenke said we have to see how fast we can get those final tasks done. Just be confident that it is rather a matter of weeks or months than years!

Pirates_Interview_06DIYGamer: You’ve also detailed that the response you receive from the prototype will determine whether a full version of the game will be worthwhile time and money wise to develop–mentioning that it would then be potentially shopped to consoles via digital distribution (XBLA, PSN, WiiWare.) Pretend I’m a big bad exec representing Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo, pitch to me why you believe the full version would be a great fit for my console download service.

Warby: Uhh I am gonna leave this to Frie I don’t like talking to business people I am all development. ^^ That said its my deepest conviction that: a good product pitches itself! So my dream pitch would work kinda like this: I enter a room, pop in the game, turn up the volume, hand the gamepad to one of those execs,walk over to the wall and lean against it with a smug grin on my face (all this without saying a word.)

Friedrich: The game is a great fit for online delivery services like XBLA, PSN or WiiWare because you can pick it up and get playing so quickly. There is no steep learning curve, the controls are very intuitive, in fact they are designed with a controller in mind. You need to know which button to press to move the character, which button to jump and which one to make the sword swing and you are good to go!

Everybody knows and loves pirates, but have you played a pirate “girl” before? A pirate girl on her flying ship venturing through a universe filled with aliens and robots to be specific? I think that’s what makes the game’s universe so interesting: there are enough familar elements to easily find your way around but also enough strange and mind-boggling stuff to draw you in and explore. Add to that there are not enough 3D Jump’n Run games out there nowadays. PONH mixes this with elements from popular games like Zelda and God of War, beautifully drawn visuals and content for all ages. Our plans for length and pricing of the game would make this a good fit for digital distribution too. Plus we are indie developers who invest a lot of our time, otherwise spent watching Starcraft II replays and debating interactive media as an art form, so we are really dependent on this kind of money…please?!

Pirates_Interview_03DIYGamer: Sold! Alright, let’s get into the game’s guts a bit. From what we saw in the announcement trailer, the title seems to offer a variety of different core mechanics. What can players expect with the free release gameplay wise? Would the full version mean a lot more of what’s in the prototype, or would it potentiality bring some new mechanics in as well?

Warby: We have a huge backlog with ideas for mechanics that didn’t make it for the prototype do to time constraints …and well let’s just say experience ^^ for the full game I’d definitely love to resurrect some stuff out of that spoils-bag of ours! As far as the mechanics in the prototype are concerned you can expect alot of puzzles platforming combat and grappling hook action and also some slight adventure/quest-ish stuff! This may drift a little into technical territory but our extended player controller/scripts allow players to swim in water, slide down from too steep surfaces and be passively moved by elevators and other moving platforms. This may not seem like a big deal, if you are a 3D jump and run player all those things are pretty standard, but Unity’s out of the box player controller does not come with these features so we are very proud to have successfully added them and we will release this for free to the Unity community after the prototype is out! Promise!

Pirates_Interview_05DIYGamer: While the game certainly has its own charm, one of the reasons it grabbed my attention was that both the look and feel of it immediately conjured memories of good times with several classic titles and series. Sonic and Zelda jumped to mind for me, and looking through the game’s comment section, Super Mario Galaxy, Kingdom Hearts, One Piece, Jak and Daxter, Psychonauts and Windwaker all have been mentioned. That’s a nice list of names to be compared to at this stage, but what media (video games or otherwise) have you guys actually drawn upon as influences for the title?

Warby: When I wrote the design doc, the first chapter was MUST KNOW TITLES and I embedded youtube links to a hand full of games that whoever wanted to work on the game must have intimate knowledge of. Let me see if I can find that for you …. *searches* … I doubt all of my mates know all of these games to be honest ^^:

  • God of War (For its polish and just being the best game franchise EVER EVER!)
  • Psychonauts (For its characters and humor … this is the game that sparked this project into being.)
  • Monkey Island (For currently being the best pirate game…until we come along!)
  • Cave story (For its “el mariachi of video games” holy shit i can’t believe one guy alone did this factor)
  • Zelda: Windwaker (Art style and campaign structure)
  • Jak and Daxter (For its seamless-ness and love for geometry)
  • Portal (For its length and pacing)
  • Jet Set Radio Future (The connection here might seem a bit nebulous because the features that linked the games got cut)

I’m also gonna take this opportunity and deny some influences:

  • One Piece ( i had never heard of this until people started comparing PONH to it )
  • Super Mario Galaxy (Although an excellent jump and run game i am going for something completely different!)
  • Sonic (Not a big sonic fan especially not the 3d ones. That the sliding and picking up of coins has a sonic feel is pure coincidence.)
  • Kingdom Hearts (I have no idea what this is. I have seen tons of promotional artwork over the years but i couldn’t even tell you if this is a jrpg or a beat ‘em up)

Anyway, yeah being compared to high profile AAA titles feels quite warm and fuzzy. I hope people will still do that AFTER they played the prototype. =^.^=

Pirates_Interview_02DIYGamer: As mentioned, the main character is a rather beautiful female sky-pirate. May we have her name and a bit of backstory? Also, does she have a love interest?…and as a follow up to that question: Could it be me?

Warby: Her name is annha ( yes thats an “h” before the “a” think of it as a fantasy name,) her back story is what the prototype is about so i am not gonna spoil that here. The only thing she loves is gold ! And no 4th wall breaking in my game this is not Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation!

DIYGamer: I’m heartbroken, but I’ll keep it professional…let’s continue. Any other games or projects in the works beside PONH at Exit Strategy you can let us in on?

Warby: Should this prototype not yield the interest in the project that we are currently hoping for, I have 2 or 3 different ideas for game prototypes that I am DYING to build but I am not gonna spoil what those are here yet. Also it’s not strictly an Exit Strategy release but Christian ”grapplinghookaction” Wasser and I did a little Facebook game during one weekend just to gauge if there is advertisement money in it.

DIYGamer: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Warby: Thanks for the overwhelmingly positive feedback so far! I am always cautious not to get too hyped over a game pre release (I get burned quite often when i get too hyped for a game) so keep your expectations low for the prototype…so that we can then totally blow your minds!!!!!!

Friedrich: Thanks a lot for giving us the opportunity to get the word out about our game! Everyone who would like to keep up with our progress or would like to ask us directly is more than welcome to visit our website www.piratesofnewhorizons.com!


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Indie Links Round-Up: Honest to Goodness

Dustforce-Indie-LinksIndie Links is back with another playground for your eyes to run around on. In today’s round-up: Interview overload, Student developers should take the opportunity and one dev progresses by honestly reflecting on a failed game. Have fun and y’all come back n0w, ya hear!

A Letter To Students: Experimental Games Can Get You Jobs (Brandon Sheffield/Gamasutra)
“In this editorial, originally printed in Game Developer magazine’s special Career Guide 2010 issue (available for free online) editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield asks that students use their time in school to try new game concepts — while they’re still in an environment that supports experimentation.”

An action game with sweeping: talking Dustforce with Hitbox (Andrew Webster/ars technica)
“Independent games often tackle subject matter that is very different from more mainstream titles. Flower is about the dreams flowers might have. Machinarium is about separated robot lovers. And the upcoming Dustforce is about… sweeping. It’s a unique concept, and if the demo is any indication, the team at Hitbox might just have managed to find a way to make housework fun.”

Xbox Live Indie-Dome: August 2nd – 8th, 2010 (Rob Thomas/Crush! Frag! Destroy!)
“Welcome back again, everybody. Rob Rich is taking a break this week, as he was a bit under the weather. So, being the good boss that I am, I stepped up to relieve his burden by handling the newest Xbox Live Indie-Dome…”

Global Agenda Six Months Later – An Interview with Executive Producer Todd Harris (iTZKooPA/LoreHound)
“It’s hard to believe the way I discovered Global Agenda. As I was stomping through PAX 2009 (that’d be PAX “Prime”) I heard a man shouting something about “No elves.” Mildly interested, I turned to see a booth lined with computers, which people were huddled around playing a game I had never seen. Turns out, I knew exactly what the game was. This was the game responsible for shooting an elven mage in the head while he was casting.”

Interview: Blitz Duo Talk Kinect Development, Indies Program (Brandon Sheffield/GameSetWatch)
“Blitz Games’ Andrew Oliver and Chris Swan talk to our own Brandon Sheffield on addressing challenges in motion controls for casual games, distribution portals for indie titles, and their Blitz 1Up program to assist independent development.”

Chockablock: Minecraft Revisited (Jim Rossignol/Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“Gadzooks, it’s been over a year since I first ranted about Minecraft, the epic blocky building game by Markus “Notch” Persson. Clearly it’s well overdue a revisit from us. And there’s much to catch up on, too – including a Portal mod – so join me below decks, and we’ll explore the niche this game is carving out for itself.”

Midlife Gamer Meets: Mark Morris Of Introversion (Marconi/Midlife Gamer)
“Being flat is what I would love to be. How one little constanant could change my life persepective and indeed what benefits I would be entitled to. I would save a fortune on travelling costs by posting my little minimalist body through the post. For some their dreams came true when sleeping under a poorly screwed in notice board. For others they turn to Introversion Software to give them all their flat needs and more. So I took some time out to speak to Mark Morris and found out what it is like to hack, destroy and create a world of flat!”

The Ultimate Race Postmortem (Mandible Games)
“So, I made this game. And – let’s be fair – it sort of sucked.”

Interview: Zombie Cow’s Dan Marshall Talks About His Privates (Mike Rose/GameSetWatch)
“Continuing his interviews with independent game creators, Mike Rose catches up with Zombie Cow’s Dan Marshall, to discuss his new educational sex-related game Privates and his move into full-time indie game creation.”

Interview: Flower‘s Jenova Chen (Dave Cook/NOWGamer)
“The flOw and Flower creator talks about indie games and his new PSN project Journey.”


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Hummingbird Mind Blends Retro Charm and Meditative Experience

hum mindCardboard Computer first popped their heads up with the release of the flash title Beulah and the Hundred Birds and continued that flash excellence with I Can Hold My Breath Forever (click both those links and play them if you haven’t already, I’ll wait).

They recently released a new flash title that is a departure from the platform-stylings of their earlier works. Enter Hummingbird Mind. It’s a rumination on both cluttered thoughts and procrastination, two elements that probably spawned the idea in the first place.

It has the charm of an old Commodore game with pleasant music and textual choices that lead you through the simple tale. It’s not pretending to be anything it isn’t, and its charm lies in its simplicity.

I’d suggest taking fifteen minutes to experience it the next time you need just a minute to breath.


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Just Chawp’n Up Some Lasers

Chawp!001

Who knew that “chawping” up some lasers could be so much fun? Ted Lauterbach and Brian ‘brod’ Rodriguez that’s who as they’re the recent creators of GameJolt’s latest indie, browser-ish hit game: Chawp!

Chawp! is a pretty simple game, as I’m sure you’ve surmised by reading the title. Basically, you are given various moving parts that are connected by different colored lasers (red, green, or blue). Your job is to use the color to “chawp” up the lasers so that it disconnects from the other piece causing them to explode. You do this by first selecting your color — green destroys green lasers, etc. — and then you use you mouse to move your spaceship (?) to slice and dice. The tinier the slice you create the more points you get, but if you end up hitting anything not a laser, you’ll die and use one of your lives.

The game is really simplistic, but it has a lot of fun attached to it as well, especially in some of the latter levels where the laser designs can get pretty ornate. So, if you’ve got a few minutes to spare –  a lunch or break perhaps? — then give Chawp a stab. There’s no download required, after all.

[Chawp!]


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Mediums Align for Howard Glitch

Howard Glitch ScreenPixel Prospector pointed out an intriguing new project to me this morning which follows a mysterious story through (at least) three different mediums. And we all know that intrigue is one of the most powerful tools an indie developer has at their disposal.

The tale is about passengers trapped aboard a futuristic shuttlebus and its told through a book, music and animation. But the developer has confirmed that there will be an interactive element as well placing this project somewhere in the realm of being an experimental indie game.

The developer told me the following about the interactive aspect for the project: “I’m using Youtube as my actual gaming platform, and despite attempts that have been made before to do so in an interactive way, I’m really pushing the medium as far as possible in an experimental way.” Because  he didn’t want to reveal more for fear of spoiling the experience, all we can do is scratch our heads until more information is released.

But I’d urge you to watch the teaser trailer that digs into the situation the passengers are in:

If you’re interested in poking around some more, there are a few more questions answered on the official website though they give no further look at the game element of the project.


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Britain is, Once Again, a Totalitarian Nation in “The Curfew” [Browser]

TheCurfew001

I don’t know what it is about the British people (or English, depending on who is largely responsible), but damned if they aren’t either seriously frightened of what their government might become, or just really, really keen on showing everybody how horrible an experience it would be should they ever actually convert to such a totalitarian government. It seems like every other month there’s some movie, or game, or book that’s being released featuring the horrors of evil British government oppression. Today’s example just happens to be free indie browser game called: The Curfew.

The Curfew, developed by Channel 4 and Little Loud, is a thriller-esque type mystery game involving London in the near future (2027) where everybody has a designated curfew and the government is so oppressive that in order to buy a hamburger from a “special” line you need designated “Citizen” points. Needless to say, it’s a place that’s not tolerable to either you or me, especially, since it seems all the best video games are coming out of China… seriously, China! I shudder at such a “grind-tastic” future.

Anyway, the game plays out like a sort of point and click mystery/talk to various people to get information game. You play as some random information carrying agent who is attempting to offload the “secret” data to another trusted agent. The only problem is that you need to find just who it is out of four different people. In order to see who is trustworthy you then play as a brief moment of their past in order to uncover just exactly who they are before you select which one.

It’s really an interesting game, if not a little slow. Still though, the game is completely free to play, offers high production values, and is generally pretty pretty interesting, despite the overly heavy themes of “government… bad.”

The Curfew is available right now for you to play, although it’s in beta so it can be particularly “crashy” at times.

[Play]