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

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Indie Metroidvania “The Iconoclasts” IGF Trailer

Konjak is one amazing developer. He’s already created some of my very favorite indie games available and he gives them all away for free. Noitu Love, Nopitu Love 2, Legend of Princess… seriously, I would pay money for each of these games as they’re definitely worth it.

Which is why I’m sooo happy he’s decided to submit his newest — still in development — Metroidvania title The Iconoclasts to the IGF as I think he definitely deserves some serious recognition for his work and the quality of games he releases for free.

Anyway, Konjak has created a brand new trailer showing off the game for the IGF people. It’s in widescreen, which is really cool since Konjak’s games are usually not. The graphics also look much sharper than what we’re used to. Apparently the newest build is in HD!

Check it out below and look for it when the IGF submissions are released latter this year.

In the mean time, if you don’t want to wait, you can download and play an earlier version of The Iconoclasts right now via the link below. According to Konjak the version available now is “quite inferior” to what he has now, but it should certainly satiate your gaming desires.

[Konjak]

Trailer


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IGF China 2011 Student Finalists in Video

Welcome to the student finalist edition of our IGF China discussion. Yesterday we looked at several great games in the main competition. There were quite a few 2D games in that batch, and I wonder if we’ll see the same today with the students’ projects. Stay to the end, as the final game will probably please Portal-like fans.

IGF China judges have narrowed down the student entries to six, so it won’t be as long as yesterday’s report (if you’re length adverse). Five of the six entrants are from Singapore, and three of those are from the DigiPen Institute of Technology. I’m roughly guessing that is where you want to go to school if you are in the region.

In Nanobytes by Singapore Polytechnic School of Design (Splat Studios), players seem to be tasked with clearing all the characters from the screen in a certain number of clicks. Different colored nanobytes may have other properties. From Nanobyte’s Facebook page, it seems you can cause the characters to panic and commit suicide. Patience is also key; one should allow the characters to multiply to destroy them all in a chain.

In Pixi by DigiPen Institute of Technology players heard this bright dashes of light called pixies to defeat the oncoming boxies and protect the star-ies (?) on the ground. It’s like Missile Command gameplay if you could guide the missiles like wind with Geometry Wars-esque visuals. I dig it.

In Robotany, players influence the behaviors of robot-like creatures in a garden-building sandbox game (genius game name!). Apparently, with just a limited amount of conditional commands the AI will determine what to do in unspecified situations.

Robotany by Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab not only has a video, it also has a playable prototype for your enjoyment.

Shadow Fight by China Central Academy of Fine Art is definitely a wild card for me. I enjoyed seeing the nurse literally fall to pieces as the hands of the heady zombie. I’m not sure how I feel about the Bumblebee Transformer. Animation and mechanics overall seem crude; for instance, characters don’t seem to die when their health appears empty. Still, I can’t recall many fighting games in IGF-style competitions, and I hope this inspires other developers to throw their fists into the fray.

Terra: the Legend of the Geochine by DigiPen Institute of Technology is physics puzzle platformer that allows players to control both their character and the world at the same time. Aesthetically, it reminded me of a 32-bit PSX/Saturn game called Pandemonium, but with must better graphics and more thoughtful gameplay. Ok, so as I watched, it became less Pandemonium, and more “How the heck can I handle the screen moving so much?!” but in a good way.

The final student finalist is Void by DigiPen Institute of Technology caught the attention of Indie Games back in August and seems to have done well to impress the judges thus far. It’s a first person adventure puzzler of sorts. Through various mechanics players go between (at least) two realities to traverse the game world and solve puzzles. Pretty damn spiffy!

Make sure to check out the IGF China 2011 main competition finalists, too. Winners will be announced in November.

[Gamasutra]


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2012 IGF Now Accepting Submissions

IGF organizers have announced they’re accepting submissions for the 14th annual competition which last year saw Minecraft take the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. This year a record amount of cash prizes will be up for grabs at just under $60,000. With the aforementioned McNally winner taking home a whopping $30,000–a 50% increase from last year.

Other notables include the abstract-applauding Nuovo Award which will net a dev $5,000, and $3,000 each for the rest of the categories: Excellence in Visual Art, Audio, and Design, Technical Excellence, Best Mobile Game, the Best Student Game, and Audience Award.

All games selected as finalists will be playable at the IGF Pavilion on the GDC show floor from March 7-9, 2012. If you’re an indie developer interested in submitting an entry, you can get more info here. Main competition submissions have until October 17, while students get an extra couple of weeks and have through October 31.

The key dates from today through the festival itself:

- June 30, 2011 – Submissions Open

- October 17, 2011 – Submission Deadline, Main Competition

- October 31, 2011 – Submission Deadline, Student Competition

- January 5, 2012 – Finalists Announced, Main Competition

- January 12, 2012 – Finalists Announced, Student Competition

- March 5 – March 9, 2012 – Game Developers Conference 2012

- March 5 – March 6, 2012 – Indie Games Summit @ GDC 2012

- March 7 – March 9, 2012 – IGF Pavilion @ GDC 2012

- March 7, 2012 – IGF Awards Ceremony (Winners Announced!)

Of course we can’t wait for the finalist list to hit so we can try out all of those great games that perhaps are still in their infant stages at this very moment. Oh the unknown potential!

[Gamasutra]


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Piclings From Fabrication Games: Augmented Reality Platformer?!

I like the concept of Piclings from Fabrication Games. Taking real life photos to create endless amounts of platforming levels is a stress-free way for people like me who don’t want to build levels from scratch. That’s Piclings innovative mechanic. From the video, there appears to be two enemies to avoid and coins and presumably a rainbow butterfly token to collect. The character design is cute enough. However, 3 characters seems like the tip of an iceberg for any platforming game. To me, Piclings is a great idea of a game and maybe the developers need to see some support to fully flesh out the concept.

Fabrication Games, who made Piclings, is no newcomer to game development. They won an International Mobile Game Award for Innovation for Kodo Evolved and picked up other awards along their 10 years of developing at IGF, Into the Pixel, and Nokia Innovation Challenge. Yes, some developers were part of Jadestone before, but that’s just semantics.

For those who have seen or want to discover platforming levels in everyday life, Piclings is available now for $0.99 to snap photos, jump around, and share.

Piclings official website


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Mattias Gerdt, Music For IGF Nominee Cobalt: Part 2 [Interview]

anosou title

DIY featured the first part of our interview with Anosou’s musical genius Mattias Gerdt here. This week, IGF will reveal if Cobalt wins the award for excellence in audio design. Award or not, Mattias is definitely building up a winning collection of tracks for Cobalt. And by winning, I mean the gamers win. And that’s really all that matters, right?

The conclusion features discussions about legal issues of using music, what makes a game’s sound IGF worthy, chiptunes, inspirations, and how everyone can do more to get gaming music more recognition.

DIY:  From a a legal standpoint, when is a sound yours? When are you allowed to borrow sounds?
Mattias: I personally have bought quite a few sample libraries, i.e. collections of musical data that can be “played” as instruments. I particularly love the stuff from BitWord and LapJockey, both focusing on more synthetic sounds.

In all these cases you can use them commercially as soon as you buy them because you gain a “license” to use the sounds. But in the case of synthesizers, you build them from the ground up.

I think most composers have a ridiculous collection of samples and synths really: free or bought.

DIY: It’s neat you use visualizations to imagine and create a song. Do you start to imagine how that place “sounds” or how the game BGM should sound?
Mattias: I think I’m a bit too jaded. I primarily start thinking about how that place would sound if it was a video game and what it’s role would be. I think a lot in terms of it being actually a game to begin with.

I listen to tons of game music myself. Then after that I start thinking about it as an environment that’s just that, an environment, but that’s more to get an extra dimension. In a lot of scenarios it makes no sense thinking of how a place “sounds”. For example, if it’s an abstract environment with geometric shapes.

I’m quite the game music fan (I have a collection of 270+ game music CDs for example) and I’ve studied how game music has been used before in both old and modern games. It’s perhaps particularly good when you want to avoid repeating what’s been done. If you know everything that’s been done, it’s easier to stay away from it if the situation calls for that.

DIY: Tell me more about the Radio Chip track.

Mattias: There’s a funny story about that track. It was made for Cobalt’s in-game “radio system”. We have these little radios sprinkled around the world and the player can change the channel and listen to some music that would definitely not fit as background music.

The chip track started out as a joke because at the time I were seeing all these indie games with chiptune soundtracks. It was kind of a “look, I can do it too!” thing. Then it evolved into something that doesn’t really share the “chiptune aesthetic” if there is such a thing. It’s not super melodic, and I mix in non-chip sounds, a TR-909 drum machine.

DIY: What does it mean to strictly adhere to creating chiptune or any other similar “concept”?

Mattias: Well there’s a whole world of that. I even wrote my bachelor’s thesis in musicology on Game Boy music and realized both how different yet strict it were.

It kind of varies, though. American chiptune tends to mix in more “non-chip” sounds in my experience, while the Swedish music for example, especially Game Boy-based, are almost only Game Boy and nothing else.

I used a Game Boy (DMG-01) and LittleSoundDJ primarily for the Radio Chip track but processed it externally in Propellerhead Record and added the drums just to make it a bit beefier really. While I do admire people who strictly follow the limitations of the original hardware, it’s not something I think is better or worse really.

DIY: Outside of the Bladerunner reference, do you have any influences or inspirations that led to any of cobalt’s soundtrack?
Mattias: Influences always fluctuate; sometimes I’m really into this one band but the other day I’m completely obsessed with an old soundtrack.

For Cobalt, I think Steve Reich and Kimitaka Matsumae were important. While I got inspired by Reich, I can’t say I’m writing in any similar style like he is, but I love the thought of minimalism in general. I think it was there in the back of my head.

Regarding Kimitaka Matsumae, I had been listening a lot to his soundtrack for KILEAK, THE BLOOD. He personally sent me the soundtrack release, a re-recorded version, and it’s utter genius. It has this dark atmosphere with pulsating sounds, lush pads and repeating patterns that create an amazing mood. I can listen to that CD for hours!

Otherwise I get influenced by everything I see/read/hear/talk about in one way or the other. It’s hard to pinpoint something. Most of all I got inspired by the Oxeye theme and their game.

DIY: What about the team inspired you?
Mattias: Well, the three guys that are Oxeye are utterly amazing people. I was quite humbled by how nice and intelligent they were when I first joined their IRC channel to talk before I got the gig.

It’s a delightful mix of deep philosophical thought and a bunch of guys drinking beer and cracking jokes. They’re all really good at what they do too.

DIY: Have you listened to the other IGF audio finalists? What do you think earns a finalist nomination for IGF?
Mattias: That’s a really tricky question. I don’t think it’s innovation. Retro City Rampage is straight up NES, for example. Interactivity is perhaps a key point but then again RCR is a black sheep and Cobalt isn’t impressively interactive. It can’t just be music because Amnesia is a lot about SFX.

I think the key is how well the audio works with the game. If that’s interactive music like in Bit.Trip Beat or an innovative narrator like in Bastion, that’s up to the judges.

I think Cobalt was nominated because everything really worked together. The atmosphere is incredibly dense for a 2D platform/shooter/adventure. It’s innovative in that manner but I don’t know if that’s what people mean with “innovation”.

DIY: Are there more good games than there are good game soundtracks?
Mattias: That’s a filthy lie! Start with these. There are plenty of really bad games with great soundtracks, just look at Cheetahmen II!

I guess there might be some truth in your statement though but then again “good” is so personal, what’s a good game and what’s good music? Something I love as a game you might hate and vice versa.

DIY: Then let’s call it “critically acclaimed”.
Mattias: That’s just because critics don’t care about the music.

DIY: Good games seem to make more news headlines than good game music, sadly.
Mattias: It’s hardly ever mentioned in reviews, like ever.

DIY: So, how do we get OSTs to headline more articles?
Mattias: Good question, no easy answer either. I’m not sure you can force that because game music is made to enhance the game after all. Do SFX or controls get headlines? Art books?

I think it’s up to the gamers. If they do like the music and want to hear more about game music-related news and such, they need to make their voices heard. Sites like OCR really help promote and raise awareness of game music through arrangements. That’s very easy to write about for journalists. Making notes about soundtrack releases is probably news worthy, but that’s such a specialized interest.

I think the key is to get reviewers and media in general to just mention the music in games, how well it works etc. The more attention music gets as an integral part, the more people will realize that it IS an integral part. To be completely honest though, people are free to play games without music. I sure as hell listen to game music without having played the games.

It’s like movies. The best scores just complements the movie in some way (gives it more depth, enhances feelings, and mood). If they take too much attention, the viewer loses focus on the movie. That’s dangerous. The same goes for games many times, even though my opinion might be controversial.


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Mattias Gerdt, Music For IGF Nominee Cobalt: Part 1 [Interview]

anosou title

Oxeye Game Studio’s action platformer Cobalt has received honorable mentions in the technical and visual arts categories for the 2011 Independent Games Festival. It is also a finalist for excellence in sound design. IGF’s judges had this to say about Cobalt:

“The soundscape in Oxeye’s Cobalt was also praised for “giving it the amount of life it has”, with “immersive sound effect work that absolutely sells the atmosphere,” and a soundtrack that “stays away from melodic motifs to let the overall ambiance take center stage.”

DIYgamer had a chance to speak with Mattias Gerdt of Anosou Music. Some of the highlights of this first part are sound effects, looping music, and an awesome extended cooking metaphor.

DIY: Is it common to have another person work just on sound effects (SFX)?
Mattias: It ultimately depends. In some cases a programmer or graphics guy does SFX too. Many times the musician and sometimes a guy do “just SFX”. The latter is, in my experience, least common.

DIY: That brings up a possibly interesting point. Outside of music games, do you feel SFX “fits the atmosphere” of a game or are they just functional?
Mattias: I dunno.. again this very much depends on the developer, but I think there is some thought behind what’s used.

DIY: Do you ever work on SFX?
Mattias: Pretty much never. I sometimes do more “musical” effects like small jingles when you pick up items and little bleeps that go with the music or just atmospheres that are less musical and more ambience, but hardly ever SFX.

DIY: Do people ever talk about the importance of looping tracks? The first generation of CD based gaming on consoles sometimes didn’t have loops.
Mattias: Looping is pretty much mandatory; it was in the 80s and it is today. Interesting, though, I haven’t thought about that. How horrible to have awkward silence all the time!

DIY:  I like the “club on demand” inside and outside tracks. Was it just a simple filter or effect applied to make the second version?
Mattias: To be quite blunt, yes, yes it was! There was some additional use of EQ to make it just distant enough but nothing more spectacular than that. It’s kind of the throbbing heart of Trunkopolis, the City in the Cobalt IGF demo. You couldn’t actually venture inside the club in the demo, so nobody playing that heard the “inside” version.

DIY: Does the filtering have a specific name?
Mattias: The outside version just has a simple low-pass filter, staple of all synths ever. The track was actually quite different first, this version is based on talking to my fellow Oxeye colleagues. I specifically got some amazing descriptions of what Daniel “thewreck” Brynolf imagined it sounding, and I found some references in Jens “jeb” Bergensten’s musical taste, EBM/synth music. (Jens is one of the developers at Oxeye Games who’s developing Cobalt. Nowadays he’s also an employee at Mojang, makers of Minecraft.)

DIY: Did you intentionally avoid “melodic motifs”?
Mattias: Well, yes and no. I naturally wrote more ambient, mood-building music for Cobalt because I think it really fits the mood. It’s kind of Bladerunner-ish at times. I did write a “main theme” of Cobalt though, a really short little theme. I think it’s not instantly memorable but it gives many tracks a sense of unity because you can spot it appearing everywhere.

DIY: Was the idea or “thesis” behind Cobalt’s main theme yours?
Mattias: There was no real collaboration when it came to the theme itself, though I do tend to show a lot of “work in progress” versions and similar to my colleagues. The actual melody I call the “main theme” just kind of happened when I composed the menu track. Then, I grew so fond of it. I re-visited a few tracks that I considered finished and added this little melody. Later, I also based the elevator music around the theme, which was the last track I did for the demo before IGF.

DIY: Can you walk me through your creation of the theme?
Mattias: Well, it’s hard for me to elaborate how the actual theme came to be.. especially since it’s in different settings each time it appears.

For the creative process in Cobalt, we have a private IRC channel and a dropbox which are my main channels of communication with Oxeye. I personally really like hearing what the developers are expecting and thinking about the music, so we had a lot of long talks about that. I got pretty much free hands though, even though they had personal preferences that I could either adopt or ignore.

For a level track, I basically start by pinpointing its function in the game, the back story. Simple things like “jungle or city?” and when in the game it appears. Then if there is concept art, I usually have that as my desktop background for inspiration while working on the track. I love having a reference picture around like that. I even set up a big whiteboard behind my desk for that specific purpose!

When the background is relatively clear to me (including things about the game like speed and genre etc.) I just sit down by the computer, find a sound I want as a starting point and start improvising on my MIDI keyboard.

DIY: Sounds mythical!
Mattias: From here, it’s pretty much like cooking. Once you’ve decided the main ingredient, you can try with different complementary ingredients until it’s just about right. But in the case of music, you can actually remove ingredients that don’t fit.

I tend to really focus more on finding a good sound than writing a kick-ass riff though, especially in the case of Cobalt.While game music has a history of being very melodic and catchy I’m not sure that’s always the best approach, it really depends on the game. In any case though, when we have these amazing tools and crystal clear audio, why not spend the extra time to work on the soundscape?

DIY: When you say complementary ingredients, that to me almost seems prescriptive. How do you innovate?

Mattias: A certain instrument or synth sound might give just as much to the game’s mood as to a melody. In keeping with the cooking analogy: if you go ALL over the world, how many dishes with chicken are there? I would bet there are quite a few. And perhaps more interesting there are chicken nuggets and “chicken” dishes that hardly have any chicken, just synthetic flavors. Even if you approach it from a “recipe” stand-point, you can endlessly vary it because the ingredients available in modern music production are so many it’s nearly impossible to understand.

Innovation is a word that’s often very positively looked at; everything needs to innovate. Then look at the chiptune renaissance. That’s basically innovating backwards, still chiptune soundtracks are extremely popular.

DIY: With all these ingredients, are people making any new sounds or just borrowing from the cupboard?
Mattias: Well, that’s the fun part. It’s a combination of the two! You can grow your own mutated vegetables or buy a plastic-wrapped head of lettuce.

I tend to search through a lot of pre-made sounds but then alter them to really make them fit what I’m going for. Then I might also use some sounds I’ve made myself using, for example, the Thor synthesizer in Reason.

But again, the desire for innovation might be overstated. Compare it to the orchestra, which has retained a similar shape for ages and the previously mentioned chiptunes. Just using a not-well-known sample library will give you a pallet of sounds nobody has ever heard. But even if they had, I don’t think it would matter that much if it worked great in context of the game.

DIY: Do you ever have game development ideas for Cobalt or any other games you’ve worked on?
Mattias: I’ve played quite a few games, and I like thinking about how they’re built. I pretty much always have opinions and thoughts about game design, level design, systems, and story, if developers want to hear me out. I’ve even mocked up a few design documents myself but I’m not confident enough to contact a programmer about anything.

[Check back tomorrow to see the conclusion of our interview with Anosou Music's Mattias Gerdt.]


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GDC is Coming Up, We’ll Be There!

gdc

As many of you may or may not know, GDC, the pre-eminent developer conference in the world is going to be taking place from February 28th – March 4th. Basically, if you’re a developer, this should be the one pilgrimage you make should you be able to.

Anyway, the reason for this brief post is because, well, we’ll be there representing DIYGamer! Both myself and Peter will be available, although Peter has some other sites he needs to write for. In either case, if you are an indie developer and you would like one of us to swing by, say hi, check out your game, etc. Email me, right now!

We’re an indie games blog and we want to see and speak with indie developers, no matter how small you think your game might be.

Email me at: geoff.gibson [at] diygamer.com to schedule a meeting, informal or whatever.


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Voxel Music Man Is Ready – Voxatron Trailer

Pixels, with height, width, and now as a limited time offer: DEPTH!

Pixels, with height, width, and now as a limited time offer: DEPTH!

Meant to post about this last night, but got sidetracked. Indie dev Lexaloffle just recently dropped a nifty little trailer of their upcoming shooter (and IGF 2011 entrant) Voxatron, and it is looking fine.


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Know Your IGF: A Mobius Proposal

MobiusProposal001

So this “game” has an interesting story attached to it. It was actually designed with the intent to propose and, for whatever reason, Matt Gilgenbach, of 24 Caret Games, decided to submit it to IGF to see if he could win anything. Well, he certainly won something… our hearts. No wait, I mean his girlfriend’s heart as the two are set to be married now.

There’s really not much for me to explain here. Check out the video below and all will be revealed.

Oh and for those who aren’t sure who Matt is, he’s the guy making the intriguing shmup, rhythm game Retro/Grade, a game that won our “Best Overall Experience” award at this past year’s PAX 2010.

Congratulations Matt!

[A Mobius Proposal, 24 Caret Games]


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IGF Receives Record Number of Student Game Entries

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I had almost completely forgotten that, aside from the record amount of traditional indie games that IGF had received, we were also waiting on the student indie games that had been submitted under the student competition at IGF. As one can imagine, this section of the IGF is entirely devoted to current students who are learning and creating games from their respective schools, ala DigiPen or MIT as an example.

Well, as with the regular IGF, it seems that the student showcase was quite the hit around the universities this year with a record breaking 283 games being entered into the contest. Impressive numbers considering the 2010 student showcase only saw 193 entries.

I believe that this kind of consistent record breaking phenomena for an indie games contest is further proof that indie games are definitely on the rise around the world. In some manner of respects the indie developers are almost becoming the “middle class” of the game development hierarchy. I can’t wait to see what the next few years has to offer.

Follow the link below to check out the entries.

[IGF, IndieGames.com]