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

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Indie Links Round-Up: Regulating the Pulse

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A fresh dose of ILR-U, where this week we find ourselves in the hypothetical and theoretical as much as we do in the readily tangible. See what’s out there but don’t stay away too long, ya hear?

Super VVVVVVboy (Alec Meer/Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“The following, a conceptual reworking of Terry Cavanagh’s splendid/monstrous hyperdeath platformer VVVVVV is not a real game. By criminy, you’re going to wish it was.”

Interview: We chat with Klei Entertainment’s CEO on the PC port of Shank (John Callaham/BigDownload)
“It’s a game that has an ultra-violent main character, has a cool comic book art style and is just plain fun to play. It’s Shank, the newest game from developer Klei Entertainment. Released via download for consoles earlier this year from publisher Electronic Arts, Shank is now available to purchase and download via Steam.”

Game Developer Reveals Its ’20 Companies To Watch’ For 2010-2011 (Simon Carless/GameSetWatch)
“GSW sister publication Game Developer magazine has announced twenty ‘companies to watch’ for 2010-2011 in its recently debuted October 2010 issue, and we’re reprinting them here with highlights from each profile.”

Interview: Big Sandwich Games Goes Looking For PSN Gold (Simon Parkin/Gamasutra)
“After four of years work-for-hire development, boutique art outsourcing and consulting, Vancouver-based Big Sandwich Games is set to release its first in-house developed IP, action-strategy game coming to PlayStation Network on November 2.”

Co-op Space Sim ‘Artemis’ Recreates Star Trek Bridge Experience (Alice O’Connor/Shacknews)
“A co-operative video game where players each with control a single station on the bridge of a starship is surely the dream of many a Star Trek fan. While indie developer Thom Robertson’s newly-released Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator might not have the license, for now it’s perhaps the closest you’ll get to living out fantasies of boldly going.”

The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Beat Hazard (Justin McElroy/Joystiq)
“This week we talk with Steve Hunt, half of the team behind the music-fueled dual stick shooter action of Beat Hazard.”

Desktop Dungeons – A Cautionary Review of a Free Micro Rogue-Like Puzzle Game More Addictive than Crack (Indie Game Reviewer)
“From developers QCF in Capetown South Africa, Desktop Dungeons is an official entrant to IGF’s 2011 Festival that pays tribute to the early dungeon crawler Rogue which used randomly generated dungeons and has since become its own genre. QCF adds a twist by giving the player a finite amount of choices with which to solve the micro maps.”

Interviews: Hitbox Studios, Cipher Prime, David Sushil (Tim W/IndieGames)
“Here’s a collection of interviews recently uploaded by the indiePub team, featuring conversations with several of the indiePub Independent Developer Contest winners: Hitbox Studios (creators of Dustforce!), Cipher Prime (Auditorium), and David Sushil (Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix and Her Nightmare).”


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Indie Links Round-Up: Jumping the Fence

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Indie Links is (predictably) all over the place this time around. New avenues revealed, debates started and chances taken all fill out the list. Tread heavily upon it.

PSA: Sign the ECA’s Petition to ‘Protect Video Games Under the First Amendment’ (Xav de Matos/Shacknews)
“On November 2, the State of California is taking the fight against the video game industry to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite being struck down at district court. With only a few short weeks separating that fateful day from now, the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) is reminding U.S. citizens to sign its petition, arguing that video games be protected under the First Amendment.”

COLUMN: The Gaming Doctrine: Gaming and Confronting Our Humanity (Richard Clark/GameSetWatch)
“The Gaming Doctrine is a monthly GameSetWatch column by Richard Clark about the intersection of gaming, religion, spirituality, and morality. This month – how games can make us acutely aware of our own humanity.”

Indie gaming, meet Kindle… (Blitz1UP)
“Triple Town by Spry Fox is an match 3 puzzle game in which you are trying to grow a city. The larger the city you build, the more points you score…All pretty standard stuff. But what’s really interesting is that this is the first independently published game for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and it’s one of only a handful of games available on the platform. This is virgin territory, especially when compared to the 300,000+ apps now available on iTunes!”

Are simpler video games better? (Scott Steinberg/CNN)
“The holiday season is always a win for video gamers, as software makers jockey to one-up each other with slicker graphics, deeper play and more expansive 3-D worlds. But the larger and more complex modern-day epics like “Fable III” and “Fallout: New Vegas” become, the more it often pays to keep things simple.”

Blockman Dash mod mixes Mega Man Legends and Minecraft (David Hinkle/Joystiq)
“In Minecraft, you can pretty much build anything, so some fans set out to ease the tension of waiting for Mega Man Legends 3 Project by creating a Mega Man Legends-based mod called Blockman Dash.”

GDC China Adds Angry Birds, Monaco Creators To Summits (Gamasutra)
“This December’s Game Developers Conference China is debuting a host of new Chinese and Western speakers for its December 5th-7th Shanghai event, with all talks simultaneously translated between English and Chinese languages, and multiple new Summit speakers now confirmed.”

Interview: Supergiant’s Kasavin On How Lifelong Game Love Led To Bastion (Simon Carless/GameSetWatch)
“GameSpot veteran Greg Kasavin describes how a lifelong love of games and dreams of making them brought him from writing through development — now going indie with Supergiant Games, creator of the intriguing Bastion.”

Wot I Think – Winter Voices: Avalanche (Quintin Smith/Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“The prologue to episodic indie RPG Winter Voices, Avalanche, was released over the weekend, available for the pocket-sized price of €4.49. Even for an indie game Winter Voices has a standout concept- you’re a girl simply trying to overcome the death of her father.”

Indie Games Arcade: Skulls of the Shogun (Mike Rose/IndieGames)
“When I first posted the above trailer last month, we didn’t really know much about Skulls of the Shogun other than it was a very pretty-looking Advance Wars style strategy game. I got the chance to play it at the Indie Games Arcade recently, and oh wow… now I must talk about it more. I really must.”

The amazing and humble success story behind iPhone game Trainyard (Ben Gilbert/Joystiq)
“Going from the barebones outline seen above to the top of the iTunes App Store in approximately 16 months, Matt Rix’s Trainyard is a runaway success. Rix details the game’s development — and astronomical sales — on his blog, showing its humble beginnings scribbled in a notepad, development delays due to his other job (he developed Trainyard at home in his personal time), and how the birth of his son allowed him to finish the game last May.”


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Indie Links Round-Up: Multiple Choice

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Indie Links are back, but not with a vengeance. For better or worse, that emotion is strictly reserved for humans. At least the plotting kind…now if you’ll excuse me I have some unfinished business with the guy who got his grimy hands all over my laundry. Don’t touch the threads dude.

Tim Schafer on Indie Trailblazing, Costume Quest, and Double Fine’s ‘Creative Campus’ (Jeff Mattas/Shacknews)
“Last Friday evening at the IndieCade 2010 awards, eleven independent games received awards for excellence in a variety of categories. Along with the crop of stellar games honored, Double Fine Entertainment’s founder, and beloved game developer, Tim Schafer, received the festival’s very first “IndieCade Honorary Trailblazer award for Lifetime Achievement.” I caught up with Tim after the ceremony to congratulate him on the award, and he was kind enough to spend a few minutes chatting a bit.”

Left 4 Minecraft: Blocky Modding (John Walker/Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“You may have seen some sites reporting yesterday that Michael Louisseize, operator of World Of Minecraft, is creating a Left 4 Dead mod that merges Valve’s four-player shooter with Notch’s world-taking-over craft-em-up. We have a few more details about it below.”

From Flash To Minis: Mediatonic On Creating Tiny Wonders (Simon Parkin/Gamasutra)
“Our own Simon Parkin catches up with London-based studio Mediatonic, home of quirky, acclaimed Flash games (Amateur Surgeon) and PSP Mini/XBLIG titles (Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess)”

The Joystiq Indie Pitch: DETOUR (Justin McElroy/Joystiq)
“This week we talk with Geoff Keene, CEO of Sandswept Studios, about his upcoming XBLIG release, DETOUR.”

All about the Journey (Michael Abbott/The Brainy Gamer)
“At IndieCade on Saturday, Jenova Chen and Robin Hunicke discussed their work on Journey, the follow-up (due in 2011) to thatgamecompany’s superlative Flower. If you’re a regular visitor here, you already know about my unbounded affection for that game. Needless to say, I was especially keen to hear Chen (Creative Director) and Hunicke (Producer) present a work-in-progress report on their newest creation.”

COLUMN: @Play: Sprinting Rapidly Through The Dungeon (John Harris/GameSetWatch)
“‘@ Play’ is a monthly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre. This time, he reveals exciting new Dungeon Crawl variant Dungeon Sprint.”

Indie Games Arcade: Hohokum (Mike Rose/IndieGames)
“I really enjoyed Honeyslug’s last game Poto & Cabenga, and therefore was looking forward to giving its latest work Hohokum a go at the Indie Games Arcade.”

Interview: Gregory Weir – creator of hit Flash game The Majesty of Colors (CasualGirlGamer/Alex Kearns)
“To say that Gregory Weir thinks outside the box with his game designs is something of an understatement. He was never in the box in the first place. This is a man who draws the inspiration for his games not from what others in the gaming industry are doing but from his own dreams and hyperactive imagination. As a result, Gregory’s games are like nothing else you will have seen, and they are all the better for it.”


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Indie? Maybe. Awesome? Most Definitely. Trine 2 [Trailer]

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As promised it looks like the guys over at Frozenbyte have been hard as work on the upcoming Trine sequel that had everybody in the indie world in a tizzy over last E3. While the trailer doesn’t show terribly large amount of gameplay it does seem that the game’s amazing platforming action and aesthetic appeal has returned for a second time around. Additionally, the co-op gameplay is looking mighty tasty. We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the turns out as the game’s “Spring 2011″ release date nears.

[Trine 2]

Trailer


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What a Polite Pickpocket…Pirates of New Horizons Prototype [Impressions]

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They’ve offered up the soundtrack for free, gave us an interview for free (we take nothing for granted) and now Exit Strategy Studios has released the free prototype for their 3D action platformer Pirates of New Horizons. Available now for all to try, and judge if the project is worthwhile to devote the resources to completing a full version.

I spent a solid hour playing through from start to finish and wanted to share some thoughts. As the prototype is by definition an unfinished product, it would be unfair to say I’m reviewing it–so we’ll just call this a deeper than usual impressions piece. Although honestly prototype doesn’t really fit this offering’s bill, as it evokes the word alpha in a lot of ways. Extended demo would be a better description of what we’re getting into.

This version of the game, in my humble opinion, seems quite far along in many ways. It offers an opportunity to play through the first 15% of what could be the final product: a 5-8 hour downloadable title somewhere in the range of $10-$20 that could appear on both PC and consoles. Now, let’s get into the meat.

Immediately after a great intro that really shows the values–or lack thereof–of our female space pirate hero, the action hits square in the face. Now the sole owner of an amazing airship I found myself in control of Annha, besieged by enemy vessels and boarded by baddies. I slashed up the boat-wreckers and used my ship’s cannons to take care of the surrounding ships, all the while destroying anything crate or barrel I came across to increase what I called my “plunder total.”

Shortly after, I landed near an island that ends up being the central hub to the rest of the game. What’s both cool and slightly disappointing (in a good way) about the island is that it has all seven area portals set up and available to open. The only problem being that the levels behind them don’t exist yet. They end up being like easter eggs and they’re certainly teases that made me want more.

On top of that, any NPC you encounter here and apparently anywhere Annha will make an attempt to swipe a small amount of gold from them when engaged in conversation. If they’re a dick you take a little more. An excellent touch.

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Vulcano Island National Park is the one full level you get to visit, it has tons of fighting, grappling hook action, puzzle solving and all sorts of other platformy goodness. No real boss fight though, which I thought to be a bit of a letdown, and I did experience some minor framerate issues during one of the battles. All in all, a level with plenty of depth to it.

A notable problem, and one prevalent in 3D platformers in general, is the camera control. As the player you have majority control of which way the camera is aiming, but there’s also an auto-correct function that occurs at extremely inopportune moments (trying to clear huge gaps, land in tight spots etc.) Without an option to turn the auto-adjust off, you’re at the mercy of when it’s determined you have bad visibility, whether you actually do or not. It’s definitely something I’d see addressed going forward. Another issue to mention, some of the NPC’s were gigantic compared to Annha as well and looked very wonky standing side-by-side with her.

Also, I’d hope that there’d be a few more collectibles other than just funds in a finished product. I’m not saying I’m full of suggestions, but Banjo-Kazooie and PSX Spyro spring to mind when playing this and they were chalk-full of different kinds of quest items and goodies to collect.

All nit-picking aside, the point of the prototype boils down to one question: Do I want more? and no matter how you slice it, the answer always comes up a resounding yes. I don’t necessarily believe what’s there in the prototype is anything I haven’t seen before in some fashion, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The timing is especially good because lately, there hasn’t been many representatives in the 3D platform genre to speak of. For me, it’s just what the doctor ordered, the same way I felt about Amnesia being the first horror game I’d played in years.

Go play, then take the survey at the end and answer that same question for yourself: Do you want more?

The PC and Mac clients for the free Pirates of New Horizons prototype are available to download now via the mirror masters over at ModDB.

The game is designed for the Xbox 360 controller, so if you have one plus the corresponding USB plug the developer strongly suggests you play with the gamepad. However, I played the game with my keyboard and mouse and found it to be a completely workable situation once I set the mouse sensitivities to my liking (I recommend doing the same for whatever suits you best.)

Since they’re not mentioned in the prototype, I’ll list the PC controls for those going in without a gamepad:

  • WASD/Mouse: Movement/Look
  • Mouse 1: Slash
  • Mouse 2: Use Key Item
  • Space Bar: Jump
  • Numbers: Hotkeys for Key Items
  • E: Confirm
  • Q: Block

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Indie Links Round-Up: Thick as Thieves

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Round-Up is back today with plenty of odds and ends from the world of indie. Awards and inside information aplenty, as well as an early review on a potential GOTY candidate and some excellent interviews. Have at it.

Technology without direction is nothing [A developer's rant on XBLIG's Flawed Infrastructure] (MStar Games)
“I’ve said repeatedly, here and in interviews and on the XNACCO website, that Microsoft deserve credit for the XBLIG project in general, and the XNA Framework in particular. It’s an excellent framework – flexible and powerful, relatively easy to comprehend and work with, and when used right it gives great results…What is less certain however is the supporting infrastructure in place around XBLIG releases. The sales stats and dashboard lists are glitchy and prone to failure.

AI War and the hidden cost of indie games (Graham Smith/PCGamer)
“Earlier this month Chris Park revealed that his company could be bankrupt by November. His company is Arcen Games, the developer of popular space strategy game AI War. Despite that game’s excellence, it wasn’t a surprise to find he was struggling: most indie games developers do.”

Super Meat Boy review: Into the grinder (Richard Mitchell/Joystiq)
“There was a time when I thought I was pretty good at video games. I’ve brought down the likes of Earthworm Jim, Rocket Knight Adventures, Ninja Gaiden (2004), Mega Man 9 and many others without much trouble and only the occasional spurt of profanity. Having completed the story (but not nearly all of the levels) of Super Meat Boy, I can soundly declare that it trumps them all. As of this writing, I have died 1,792 times and several hundred of those lives — at least — were spent trying to conquer the last level.”

IndieCade Recognizes Tim Schafer With ‘Honorary Trailblazer Award for Lifetime Achievement’ (Jeff Mattas/Shacknews)
“With this year’s independent gaming festival less than two weeks away, IndieCade has announced that Double Fine’s Tim Schafer will be the first recipient of a newly-created “Honorary Trailblazer Award for Lifetime Achievement.”"

RPS Indie Awardoramarama (Alec Meer/Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“The Eurogamer Expo has been and gone, but RPS’s brain-dumps about the games therein will continue over the days to come. YOU WILL LISTEN AND YOU WILL BELIEVE AND YOU WILL UNDERSTAND. One of the things we did at the Expo as well as play games, however, was judge some games. Specifically, the 12 splendid titles selected with the help of the good folk of Mudlark to form the Indie Games Arcade.”

Interview: Hello Games’ Murray On What Joe Did Next (Mike Rose/Gamasutra)
“Following the critical and commercial success of Hello Games’ PSN title Joe Danger, Gamasutra sits down with co-owner Sean Murray to discuss the title’s reception, and what the young studio has been working on since.”

The Song Of Onionbog, Pt 4: Fascism & War (Quintin Smith/Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“Onionbog is booming. Booming like a stinking, sulphurous deep-sea crater, emitting stinking hot burps on a regular basis. But I’m no fool. That’s why I’m building defenses. To keep my lovely hole in the ground safe. I love this place. I hate this place. I’ll hate to see it fall. I’d love to see it fall.”

Something From Nothing: Nimblebit On How Free-To-Play Is Redefining The App Store (Simon Parkin/GameSetWatch)
“Two-man indie Nimblebit explains to our own Simon Parkin its move to a free-to-play model, detailing how that decision has led to the team’s latest iPad game, Pocket Frogs, securing 1.25 million downloads in just 14 days.”

Belated Weekly Report #3 (Paul Eres/TIGSource)
“This is a new feature where I’ll be covering ten notable releases and newly posted games in production of the past week.”

What videogames lack: Deeper Intent (Frictional Games)
“Tonight a [sic] watched a fantastic documentary called Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, and it was a true emotional roller-coaster ride. It is an experience, straight from reality, that swings you between laughter and heartbreaking despair. I urge you all to see it. The reason why I want to bring this up, is because this movie has something that video games lack: it has been made with the intent to share something deep and meaningful.”


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A Different Kind of City Simulation: Urbanix, for PSN Minis

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Ubanix, the odd arcade city building “simulation” game by Nordcurrent, is currently available to purchase on the PS3 or PSP Minis channel.

Now, I put simulation in quotations marks because while the game isn’t really a simulation it is fairly reminiscent of the old Sim City styled strategy games. Here’s what Urbanix is actually about:

Urbanix is an enhanced version of decades-old arcade hits. Player controls a tiny little tractor that has to build a town on an empty field in a given time, while avoiding the enemies. Players are welcome to complete 150 levels from 3 locations, with different gameplay mechanics and visuals. With such a variety, there will be hours and hours of faced-paced pure arcade fun!

While I’ve yet to play it, given the trailer (below) I can definitely say the game looks incredibly charming. The tractor is, if nothing else, completely adorable.

So, yeah, check out the trailer. If it seems like the kind of game for you then head on over to the PSN store on either your PS3 or PSP and buy the game. It only costs $4.99 which really isn’t all that bad (think: downtrodden voice) in this economy.

[Nordcurrent]

Trailer


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Popular iOS Shmup Sky Force Heading to PSP

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Developer Infinite Dreams has announced today that they’re bringing their popular and well received iOS shmup, Sky Force, to Playstation’s own PSP Mini downloadable service.

For those who have yet to play or try Sky Force on the iDevice it’s a remarkably good looking top-down 2D/3D shmup that features just about everything you’d expect to be in a shmup: hordes of enemies, ridiculous weapons, and ginormous bosses.

No release date or price has been set for the game, but Inifinite Dreams has released a series of screenshots.

[Infinite Dreams]

Screenshots




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About a Blob To Be Released Through Sony’s Pub Fund Initiative

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Some fantastic news today for our friends from DrinkBox Studios! Their upcoming, extremely fun Katamari meets 2D platformer game, About a Blob, has been approved for release on Sony’s new “Pub Fund” initiative. This is the same initiative that both Hello Games, creators of Joe Danger, and DoubleSix have used in the past.

For those unfamiliar with the Pub Fund initiative, it’s basically Sony’s way of securing great indie games as exclusives to their platform. For a long time the Xbox 360, with it’s XBLA and XBLIG channels, have kind of ruled that domain and, earlier in this console generations’ lifespan, Microsoft was securing the bulk of great console indie games. Earlier this year Sony hit back with their Pub Fund initiative which promises a development budget matching royalty guarantee from Sony.

Drinkbox CEO Ryan MacLean has this to say about being included in the initiative:

“Pub Fund has been a good fit for us. The royalty guarantee and other Pub Fund terms have allowed us to confidently focus on finishing our game while retaining ownership and artistic control over the project. Working with SCEA has been a great experience in general: The advice they have given us over the course of development has helped us build a better game. We’re excited to be working with them on this project!”

As Peter already unveiled in his PAX preview, the game was already set to be a PSN exclusive, so it’s nice to see the devs able to get an added bonus for creating what is arguably going to be one of Sony’s strongest PSN titles next year.

[About a Blob]


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Auditorium Making Music on XBLA and PSN

Auditorium comes to XBLA and PSNCipher Prime’s Auditorium has been racking up the accolades on PC and iOS devices, most recently as an Indiecade finalist.  Now, thanks to a partnership with Zoo Games, Auditorium will broaden its reach even further on PSN and XBLA.  Auditorium blends music into its gameplay like few other games as you bend particle streams through colors and sounds to solve each puzzle.  Of course, that’s just scratching the surface of the game, but for more detail I’ll defer to Geoff’s preview as part of the Indicade finalist series.

Auditorium will release on PSN on November 2, followed by an XBLA release the next day on November 3.