The official line-up for the Indie Megabooth and PAX Prime 2012 just went live on their official website and they are officially the biggest independent booth ever in PAX’s history.. There are actually a lot of returning games and developers from PAX East such as Strange Loop, Gaijin Games, 17Bit, Ska Studios, Retro Affect, Capy, Firehose Games, Drinkbox, Dejobaan, Carbon Games, and 24 Caret Games. Other indies like Klei Entertainment and Arcen Games were at PAX East but not part of the actual megabooth section of the show, but they’re joining in this time along with newcomers SpryFox, Young Horses, Blendo Games, Gaslamp, Broken Rules, Two Tribes, Muteki Corp, Nicalis, Pixelscopic, Data Realms, Card Hunter, Eyebrow Interactive, Radial Games and Antichamber. Here’s a map of the Megabooth layout:
It’s the little surprises that make indie gaming so fun to write about, and I don’t think there are many things more surprising than 2008′s first-person arthouse spy adventure Gravity Bone getting a sequel. For those who haven’t played the original Gravity Bone, it’s probably a good idea that you rectify that right now. It was an experiment in first-person storytelling. A short spy story with a charmingly minimalist art style, fantastic music and some cleverly used cinematic techniques that don’t really get much use in videogames.
It also ran on a freeware, open-source variant of the Quake 2 engine. Recycling in action! It’s been a long time since Gravity Bone was released, and a sequel just seemed improbable now that Blendo Games have moved on to more commercial outings. Even more improbable is that the Idle Thumbs podcast (recently revived via Kickstarter) would offer to fund a Gravity Bone sequel as a stretch goal. But they did, and here we are. Here’s the trailer:
Thirty Flights of Loving is yet another piece of first-person, experimental arthouse gaming with a sense of humour befitting a Blendo production. A short story (maybe a quarter-hour long) about the events surrounding a grand heist, it’s difficult to say whether it’s worth the $5 asking price but there’s been no shortage of praise for it so far. Those who backed the Idle Thumbs kickstarter to the tune of $30 or more should have received their invitation back to the exotic the intriguing Neuvos Aires, but the rest of you can grab the sequel either direct via the official site or Steam.
Thirty Flights Of Loving is currently for Windows PCs only, and the combination blocky-headed characters and a Quake 2-derived engine should ensure that it runs on just about anything faster than a pocket calculator.
Brendon Chung of Blendo Games has emailed over several new bits of info regarding a couple of the devleoper’s titles. First off, the PC and Mac versions of Blendo’s latest offering Atom Zombie Smasher are heading to Steam–this news should be nothing short of spectacular for Steamheads* everywhere.
My preview does it some justice, but I’ve logged many more hours of playing time since then. It’s actually quite amazing and ridiculously addicting–I just finished a first to 20,000 campaign (that’s rescued versus infected.) That was my first overall winning effort against the zed outbreak, and damn it felt good. But now that it’s over, where do I go from here?
Oh, apparently the dev has been adding updates which include new game modes including permadeath, alt. spawning, and using the same merc multiple times, along with new mod parameters and a ton of bug fixes. Not only that, the mods from the game’s community have been rolling out since release, which Brendon describes as “crazy.” Question answered.
No release date or pricing info was mentioned for the Steam release, but what we do know is those who have already purchased the title will be able to get their copy onto Steam no problem and the version will contain Steamchievements, Steamstats and more Steaminess.
Lastly, Mr. Chung also shares that his turn-based space combat title Flotilla has been selected as a finalist for the D2D Vision Award at this year’s IGF (along with Hazard, NightSky, Amnesia and other indies we love.) Arsen reviewed the XBLIG version and was rather taken by the game. As always, good stuff pouring out of Blendo.
*Person posting “Waiting for it to come out on Steam…” in the forum/comment thread = Steamhead
When Brendon Chung of Blendo Games sent world that his latest title Atom Zombie Smasher had been released, I told myself I wouldn’t wait for someone else to tell me about the bizarre charm of the dev’s latest effort. Problem is I slouched on reaching out for a review copy and I found myself a few dollars short to purchase the full version at the moment, so instead I figure I’d run through the demo and share some thoughts.
The game takes place in a world where zombies exist and are dealt with as a military threat. During the zed’s mass resurgence in 1961, it’s up to you to slow the bleeding wounds of humanity by rescuing and rebuilding the remaining human race, capturing territories from the infected as you go along. You can do this by using the power of your ever-growing arsenal of mercenaries, who can perform a variety of tasks that will delay and/or destroy the zombie hordes (denoted by large purple squares) that attempt to surround the survivors (denoted by small yellow squares) you attempt to airlift to safety.
Your primary goal is to save a certain number of survivors, with the level concluding upon the elimination/rescue of the final survivor. Daylight and nighttime play factors, as you have a chance (however slim) to destroy all the zombies before nightfall where the undead literally pour in endlessly until any and all remaining survivors that haven’t been rescued are devoured. From the top-down perspective you really have to think fast to correctly use all of your assets with proper timing and efficiency. The first few levels are forgiving, but as the outbreaks become more severe the difficulty quickly ramps up. Each level runs around a minute or two, offering fast-paced play and elements of both the RTS and tower defense genres.
I came away very impressed with the depth of both the gameplay and the leveling system around it. There’s a ton of avenues to choose from, with different ways to improve your mercs as you level such as faster loading of passengers, reload times and increased detonations per round. It’s not your survival that’s at stake, it’s humanity’s. So any fear of the undead is immediately shrugged aside in lieu of tactical warfare as you lead a powerful and confident group, there for all your evacuating, sniping, demolition, and orbital bombardment needs.
The Zedpedia, a running dossier that grows as you progress through, is an awesomely stylistic way to present literally everything you need or would like to know about the title and how to play it. It includes mission briefings, controls, research, and of course lots of funny. Another nice touch is the Victory Tracker, which works as a campaign-spanning scoreboard between humans and infected–try and keep up.
And I have to mention the Dick Dale-esque soundtrack, which provides smooth surfer music and in-turn some comic relief when juxtaposed to the situation at hand. Blendo’s titles are certainly known for this kind of odd combination (rebel cats in space for instance) and frankly I love it–it puts you in a different frame of mind when fighting against the growing horde of infected.
Atom Zombie Smasher looks and plays great. The comic style and storyline has a nice feel to it, the rating and leveling system is addicting as hell, and the gameplay itself is just really, really fun. Whether you have five minutes or five hours there’s goodness to be had here.
The full game offers co-op, mod support and more, while the demo itself offers plenty for what you’d expect from a trial version. It certainly does its job of enticing players to throw down the $15 to unlock the full game.
Blendo Games (Flotilla, Air Forte, Gravity Bone) has announced the release of its top-down, procedurally generated undead destruction and survivor evacuation game Atom Zombie Smasher, available now for purchase/demoing for Windows, Mac and Linux users.
As typical with Brendon Chung’s efforts, AZS is gung-ho for establishing its own weird and funny style. It takes place in a world where zombies are dealt with as a military enemy. After the zed’s resurgence in the early 60′s, it’s up to you to slow and eventually stop the bleeding wounds of humanity by rescuing and rebuilding the remaining human race. This is done by evacuating survivors and of course, blowing-up lots and lots of zombies.
From the features list:
- Mercenaries for hire: Hire and upgrade your ragtag group of snipers, demolition teams, orbital bombardment crews, and more.
- No two cities are the same: Cities are procedurally-generated, giving a unique experience with each playthrough.
- Destructible environments: Yes, you can absolutely blow up everything.
- Play with friends: Up to three people can cooperatively play together.
- Mod support: Modify the game rules however you like, and share your mods through the Online File Share.
I wasn’t able to get my hands on a review copy, so I’m making my way through the demo now. I’ll report back soon with a preview, as this looks like a title worth its $15 price tag. Check out the trailer:
Brendon Chung of Blendo Games has released a new update for his animal of a space shooter Flotilla, bringing the turn-based strategy title to version 2.4.
The patch brings improvements to the game’s AI, camera tweaks, added control options and more. From the patch notes:
- Crash: Fixed crash in audio initialization.
- Game: AI now chooses enemy targets on a more random basis.
- Game: Fixed issue with Bruja Heart item not working.
- Game: Camera no longer automatically zooms out after all ships have orders. Player can manually invoke camera reset by clicking mousewheel.
- Game: Fixed Adventure issue where player has no more planets to visit.
- Controls: Q and E now lower/raise the camera.
- Controls: can now use numpad for camera control.
The file can be downloaded now automatically for owners of the game on Steam, with a manual patch available via Blendo.
You can check out the Flotilla demo on both PC and Xbox 360, with the title running $5 on the XBLIG channel and $10 via the developer and digital distributors for PC. Arsen had plenty of good things to say about the game in his review way back in April, so read up before you get beat up foo.
In the heat of Summer, you can always rely on Indie Links to cool you off, especially if your means of air conditioning is near your computer arrangement. I did my best to diversify this week.
Lots of interviews, in depth coverage of current/upcoming games, and in the end, ten awesome links from ten different sites.
The Big List Of Indie Game Sites (Pixel Prospector)
From the guy who brought us the 200 (or so) free indie games in 10 minutes videos. A comprehensive and categorized list of all the indie sites and coverage out there, DIY included of course. Super love!
Hands On: Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Eurogamer)
“I think a mark of quality in a game is whether you can return to a room you’ve previously been in, and know you were there earlier by the destruction you wrought. Amnesia, the new first-person adventure from Penumbra developers Frictional, does not paint rooms in the blood of your enemies, but rather in strewn desk drawers, boxes and broken glass. And light. Amnesia is looking to be an extremely dark game, but rather than offering you the opportunity to sneak silently in the welcoming shadows, here darkness is your enemy. It is the path to insanity.”
Interview: Loved’s Ocias Seeks Depth, Player Confrontation (Gamasutra)
“While E3 dominated games industry headlines in recent weeks, an unexpected candidate for people’s attentions in June has been Loved, a browser-based game by Australian artist and designer Alexander Ocias.”
Gryzor87′s Retro-Inspired Sound: Hydorah Music Q&A (IndieGames)
“Freeware game Hydorah is the brainchild of Locomalito of Andalucia, Spain. For the soundtrack, whose cover art is by illustrator Marek Bayej, musician Gryzor87 drew on the established audio styles of retro sidescrolling shooters, while also infusing his own rock and classical-inspired tastes.”
Review: Fault Line (TIGSource)
“This month Fault Line was released. I don’t know if you’ve been following Nitrome. I know I sure wasn’t. Their game Tiny Castle got a plug on the Indie Games Weblog as well as the AV Club’s Sawbuck Gamer column. And it was an interesting game, more for it’s idea that for how well it pulled it off. But Fault Line has got me digging into their backlog.”
Interview: We chat with the founder of Joystick Labs (Big Download)
“There are a number of ways game developers can find money to help fund their projects; through publishers or awards, grants and more. But what about actual help during the development process to make the game better and to establish contacts in the game industry that will allow the developers to sell the game? That’s the plan of the newly announced Joystick Labs, a Durham, North Carolina-based company that was officially announced this week. The company will not only pick games and development teams to help fund their creations but also to mentor them in various aspects of game development and business.”
The Joystiq Indie Pitch: iBailout (Joystiq)
“This week we talk with Nick Marroni, who, after deciding he’d had enough inferior games that combined Ms. Pac-Man and the Federal Reserve, set his mind on making his own.”
Interview: Brendon Chung of Blendo Games — What did the Rastafarian cat say to the Glowing toucan? (Level Forty-Two)
“I had the chance to interview Brendon Chung, a videogame developer and the founder of Blendo Games. We talked about his future endeavours, his games Flotilla and Gravity Bone, the nature of game development and the origins of Blendo Games.”
June 2010 Video Spotlight — UFO: Alien Invasion (IndieDB)
“Just when you thought it was safe to walk in tall grass again a wild Spotlight appears! Introducing the first IndieDB Spotlight video, jammed packed with umm well Indie games.”
Interview: Hothead Games on DeathSpank (GamingNexus)
“”When confronted with the idea of developing Ron Gilbert’s DeathSpank character introduced by his Grumpy Gamer comic series, the Penny Arcade duo gave the go ahead to Hothead to transition gears from their series to start work on the action RPG game. We had an opportunity to delve more into the back story of both the development of DeathSpank, as well as the details behind the gameplay itself via a roundtable discussion with Executive Producer Vlad Ceraldi, Lead Designer Darren Evenson and RPG Designer Dennis Detwiller.”
Blendo Games has released a new update for its journey-through-the-galaxy title Flotilla, now available for download.
The v2.332 patch brings a few fixes including a trio of crash issues along with an increase in the online scoreboard listing, which now lists the top 1,000 player scores. Additionally, how score is calculated is more intricate as well, though it’s vague exactly has been added or adjusted to make this so.
The file can be downloaded now automatically via Impulse and can be had manually from the game’s official site. From the change log:
Fixed crash in audio initialization
Fixed crash in scoreboard
Fixed soft crash in online scoreboard when no Internet connection is available
Added more granularity to score calculation
Increased online scoreboard listing to top 1000
If you remember our review of the XBLIG version of Flotilla, Blendo Games’ incredible space strategy experience has you playing through a different adventure every time. Because of the developer’s trek to widen the number of distributors for this great title, you can officially find Flotilla on Steam. Best of all? It’s discounted at only $8.99 (10% off) for a limited time (but only on Steam). Flotilla can also be found in several other ways, however. You could still go for the XBLIG version, which is only 400 MSP ($5). But for the PC gamers, you could go to the game’s official website, Impulse or GamersGate.
In Flotilla, you take on the role of Captain (insert your name here) and discover that you’ve only 7 months to live. In spite of this, your character takes to the skies and you trek through space–encountering some crazy, crazy characters along the way. Flotilla is most certainly a challenging experience and restarts every time you play the game. Feel like you’ve got what it takes? Check out the demo.
[Source: Blendo Games]
I’m against 400 MSP ($5) XBOX Live Indie Games. I know I’m not the only one, but my reasons delve deeper than simply being a cheapskate. While I do enjoy dollar gaming and taking advantage of sales (that pretty much qualifies me as a cheapskate, huh?), I also feel a strong sense of allegiance to indie developers; if I believe a title to be worth it, then the expenditure is justified.
However, with XBLIG you’re taking quite the gamble. Microsoft Points aren’t direct dollars and parting ways with those points for a mediocre product can feel underwhelming. But as the old MasterCard commercials imprinted into our minds, the feeling of obtaining a worthy purchase = priceless. Blendo Games’ Flotilla is one of the best XBOX Live Indie Games, no question about it. Considering its PC counterpart is sold at $10, Flotilla is a steal on Microsoft’s platform. And for any strategy, space, or abstract indie game fans… Flotilla is a must-own.
Flotilla‘s gameplay consists of two elements: exploration and turn-based battle. You’ll start your adventure off as Captain [Insert GamerTag here] and have just discovered that you have 7 months left to live. In lieu of this, you decide to take charge of your flotilla and explore what’s around you. Each time you play you’ll have to start a new adventure. Along the way you’ll find penguin pirates, stray cats (that can speak), haunted ships, and a lot of other really random shit. When you travel from planet to planet, you’ll usually have a choice of what to do. Say you run into some stray cats: either turn them into the authorities or help them escape. The outcomes of your decisions are predetermined so unfortunately you won’t be able to act anything out. This is my first problem with Flotilla. The amount of content the game provides is sufficient; even the variety of scenarios is intriguing. But the game falls short because it doesn’t deliver any mini-games. Sadly, that was a sorely missed opportunity. In the occasion that you don’t have a choice of what to do, you’ll most likely have to be fighting pirates, authorities, angry penguins, and so on.
As I mentioned before, this variety of content makes the game exciting. Each adventure that you begin (or basically, each time you sit down and play the game) will randomize all encounters on the planets. This increases the replay value of the game tenfold. However, with no save function, it is a bit frustrating to not be able to replay certain segments that a gamer would enjoy having the opportunity to replay. With the many RPG elements that come equipped with Flotilla, it’s hard to believe the lack of a save mechanism.
Those two major flaws have little bearing to the overall effect, though. Exploring is still fun because of the randomization. The unexpected humor in the game will make you want to venture through and through. It helps that the battles are incredibly exciting too. Okay, maybe “incredibly exciting” is overkill but they’re extremely tense. Since the battles take place in a 3D plane, basically anything is possible. At the beginning of the game, you start out with two little ships. Your objective is to shoot enemy ships down by mostly flanking and hitting them on the underbelly or in the rear. That being said, you’re vulnerable in the exact same positions. Since the battle gameplay is turn-based, it’s broken down into a few stages. First, you choose a ship. Then, you choose where to move the ship in the plane, vertically and/or horizontally. Third, you choose whether to attack while moving, move without attacking, or attack without moving. You do this again for all remaining ships and then enjoy a 30-second enactment of what you’ve chosen. The scene plays out under some unnamed piano tune (probably a classical piece?)…which seems eerily fitting. Sure, this may not sound like the high-intensity action of God of War, but this is a turn-based game after all. You’ll have to live with the nothingness of space as you wait for the 30-second scene to subside.
Flotilla is also excruciatingly difficult. Chances are that gamers will die just a few planets in to their first adventure. Some may take this as a negative, but I only see it as a negative when it’s coupled with the fact that there are no save points. Flotilla‘s core turn-based mechanics are put into play excellently and–with the power-ups and ships you collect along the way–the desire to improve will keep you interested for a long time.
Brendon Chung of Blendo Games has done an outstanding job with the design and style of this 3D experience–the ship models during battle, the images and artwork during exploration, even the font. When you play Flotilla, you know you’re playing Flotilla. The extra layer of humor and charisma throughout the experience top off an already stellar stylistic accomplishment. Expect some of the most polished and colorful art-styles you’ll find in any current indie game.
Since Flotilla’s story is more tongue-in-cheek than anything else, I can’t really base too much of my opinion off of this characteristic. Yes, you’re a captain of a flotilla who has discovered he is terminally ill. You decide to take to the skies and explore space in your final seven months. In most cases, you’ll die before you reach the end. But if you reach the end…well then you’ve got some serious skill. Obviously, the open-ended choices and far-fetched occurrences will have an impact as to how your story ends–which should make it all the more exciting.
I’ve pretty much beaten the elements of the game to death by now. However, I want to point to Flotilla as an example for XNA developers. Even though gamers are hesitant to purchase 400 MSP titles, Flotilla should be that exception. It’s a remarkable achievement in terms of originality and flow. There’s no denying the game’s flaws, of course, but Blendo Games’ effort transcends those shortcomings. This is a title you can obtain for half of its regular price on XBLIG, and I suggest it to anybody who may be interested.
For more info, including the PC demo, check the game out right here.
[DIYgamer obtained a promotional code for the game for review purposes. This in no way affected the outcome of the review.]