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

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Indie Links Round-Up: Forest Folk

Lost_Spirits_Indie_Links

Some great games in today’s Indie Links, including Towerfall and Gunpoint.

It’s Like Super Smash Bros., But With Archery (Kotaku)
“Hey, it’s a cool-looking Ouya game! This is Towerfall, a multiplayer fighting game inspired by the likes of Smash Bros. and Bushido Blade. It’ll be out for Ouya on June 25.”

Gunpoint: The Kotaku Review (Kotaku)
“Good things often come in small packages. Gunpoint is just such a good thing, in just such a small package. Like the diminutive buildings you’ll spend the game circumnavigating and infiltrating, Gunpoint itself is an intricate array of interlocking circuits and gears, finely tuned and waiting for you to bend it to your will.”

Live Free, Play Hard: WHAT THE FRIDA KAHLO!? (RPS)
“THIS WEEK: Markov chain visual novel. Musical therapy for the surgical mech. Quantum energy is basically about superpowers.”

Kickstarter Katchup – June 2nd 2013 (RPS)
“I’ve been quiet for a few weeks so this Katchup is going to be a little different. I’ll add a few new projects, but I’m also looking back all the way to April 28th, when the last Katchup emerged, and checking the success or failure of every project included. That way everyone can remember why they were/weren’t enchanted by Dog Sled Slaga, tell all their friends (again) about that one cool cemetery game, and then commiserate or congratulate as the fate of all is revealed. Yes, the destinies of all are contained herein – even the sad future of that one reader who is doomed to spend the summer of 2016 adapting Portal for the big screen, only to find that Chris Tucker will be providing the voice of GlaDOS and Chell is now Cypher Raige Chad Danger, played by Danny Dyer. Michael Bay directs.”

Avatar and the Deadly Tomb (Indie Gamer Chick)
“From the studio that brought you the Oozi games comes an utterly generic, avatar-based punisher with bad level design. Can’t get enough of those. This is also one of those annoying auto-scrollers. Hate those in general. Especially hate them when they’re done vertically. I probably should have researched my game selection better, because there was almost no way I would have enjoyed Deadly Tomb from the get-go. Yea, it was a bit of a dick move for me to pick it. And if you’re expecting some Planet of the Apes style “it was a good game all along!” twist, think again. I played Avatar and the Deadly Tomb on the easy difficulty, because I’m shamefully bad at punishers and blunt in my admission of this. Even then, I found it to be beyond frustrating.”

Indie Pleas: Indie game crowd funding roundup for May 31, 2013 (IndiePub)
“Double Fine Production (creators of Brutal Legend, Costume Ques, and Stacking) is pitching its second project on Kickstarter. The company is asking $75,000 for Massive Chalice, a turn-based tactic fantasy game with loads of replayability. If you are a Steam game fanatic (like I am) and think that Combat Cats and GoD Factory: Wingmen look interesting, consider popping over to Greenlight and giving them an upvote. And keep an eye out for Call of the Wild and Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet! to be added to Greenlight in the future. ”

Preview: Lost Spirits of Kael (Independent Gaming)
“There are many cool things about Lost Spirits of Kael, but the gorgeous art is probably the first thing you’ll notice. The hand-painted visuals and animated sprites make it feel like you’re playing an illustrated storybook come to life. But this dark fairy tale is not necessarily for children. The primary themes of the game are loneliness and feeling lost. There is violent combat and despair; but there is also beauty and light.”

Blast cubes, shoot the core with Futuridium EP (Freeware Pick/Dev Interview) (IndieGames.com)
“After releasing a preview a couple of months ago as an entry in a game development competition run by GameProg.it, the much anticipated final version of Mixed Bag’s Futuridium EP in now available for free download for PC with a Mac version coming after App Store approval.”


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‘Scale’ Preview: Sizing Up The Next Awe-Inspiring Puzzle Platformer

Scale

We mentioned in our quick overview of the games on show at the IndieCade booth at E3 that Steve Swink’s Scale sounds like a promising idea, but little is actually known about it, despite it having been in and out of development for a while now. The principal behind it, we’re told, is that you can manipulate the environment through shrinking and growing it. From this central idea, the gameplay wraps itself around and many different puzzles will be born. Having one strong mechanic such as this usually proves successful – look at Braid and Portal for two of the best known examples. Surely we’re desensitized to such clever ideas now though? Our reaction to seeing Scale in action proves that may not be the case.

As this is the first time Steve has ever shown off Scale to the public, he wants to make sure that it is clear that everything is placeholder for now. The colorful presentation with the blue sky and green islands will stay, and things will just look different by the time the game has finished, which Steve says might be another couple of years away yet. Scale is first person and, yes, you do have a gun in your hand. The ammo, if you like, in this case is something called ‘Scale Juice’. With this, you can shrink and grow objects at will. If you shrink an object, you gain more juice and by growing it you’ll lose some. This restriction is necessary so that puzzles can be based around it, and also so that players cannot go mental and just grow every object out of proportion.

Scale

Steve’s interest in the the scaling mechanic comes from his observation of the effects size can have on human perception. His example is that a normal-sized chair is boring; make it huge, however, and some may call it art or at the very least will gaze in amazement. Similarly, shrinking a chair becomes something you want to pick up and examine, even play with as part of a doll house. So how does this translate into the game? Things start off simple, as is always the case; players will be gradually introduced to the kind of things they can achieve through shrinking and growing objects. Something may be blocking a tunnel, in which case you should shrink it so it is no longer a problem. If there’s a ledge you cannot reach, then simply jump on the small pillar in front of it and then grow it so that is lifts you up to the desired height.

A little further into the demo, things get a little more interesting as more physics-based considerations hinge off of the scaling. Of course, as an object gets bigger they gain mass and can be used to weigh down a button on the floor. Momentum is next, with a ball gaining speed the bigger it is and the slower the smaller it is. As movement is introduced, certain obstacles have to reduced in size so that others can get through, thus gradually making the puzzle elements slightly more frantic. Though not implemented in the game yet, Steve also showcases his plans with a dollhouse – something that seems to be a central motif – having the player grow it to go inside and grab another doll house, bring it outside and then put the first dollhouse inside the second dollhouse. Obviously, it needs some work, but there’s something in there.


[Courtesy of Kotaku]

Another idea brought to the table by Steve evolves from his thinking that the player is creating worlds which were not accessible before. When you grow something that was initially inaccessible to due to the size of the player’s character, you will find new discoveries. For instance, imagine a creature blown up to a much bigger from of itself. You could then enter into its mouth and discover a whole new reality. This is the kind of thing Steve is thinking up in terms of level design now that the gameplay is more or less sorted. His ideas regarding creatures are actually much more exciting than the puzzles based around lifeless objects. In the demo, he scales up a butterfly and jumps on to reach an area across an open stretch of sky, being careful to shrink obstructions on the way. He also amused himself with the idea of making the player have to create a huge spider, just to tease arachnophobes. Futher still, a fresh take on enemies in Mario-like style: stomping on, say, a Goomba’s head would kill it, providing you’re the right size in relation to it so that the mass provides enough downward force.

While all of this is very exciting, Steve went one step further to showcase what we have all been waiting to see – something that makes your lower jaw just every so slightly drop. He built a Grand Canyon level just to showcase how far he was taking the mechanic. How do you pass over the Grand Canyon? By shrinking the entire world, of course, and simply stepping over it. Pretty exciting stuff. It was then that Steve brought in his latest consideration – the manipulation of time. He says that by shrinking the land like he did with the Grand Canyon actually opens up the game to time-based puzzles, because you can skip needlessly long treks by making the distance each step makes bigger. Travelling up mountains can literally be managed with just one step, if you manipulate the land in such a way.

Scale

The IndieCade demo was being played with a PC, so a PC release for Scale seems very likely. Steve cannot say anything about any other platform at the moment in time, as that’s not on his mind, but he seems up for a release on consoles, though. We’re pretty sure that once the necessary people see it, Scale will easily secure a console release in some form or another. There’s no official website for Scale yet, but there will be very soon, and you can catch a quick Q&A about the game on this page for now.


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‘Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition’ Splitscreen Is Only Available On HDTVs

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition

One of the unique features of Minecraft on the Xbox 360, which was released yesterday, is that players could participate in four player splitscreen. We noticed that we were getting quite a few comments on our site about this feature and outrage also kicked off in the Minecraft forums; many people asking how to make the splitscreen work. It turns out that in order to access that feature you need to have a HD screen, though no one was told this prior to buying the game.

The developers who handled the port, 4J Studios, were asked via Twitter whether a HDMI input was required to make the splitscreen work, to which they replied with this tweet:

“Splitscreen mode needs a High Def screen, so either HDMI or Component cable.”

The problem with this requirement is that it was never stated anywhere (and we mean anywhere) that this was the case. The press weren’t told, it was never included in statements about the game, the trailer or even on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Kotaku contacted Microsoft about the dilemma and they then released this statement:

“In order to deliver the best consumer experience, and to support the text needs of the inventory and crafting system, split-screen multiplayer in Minecraft does require an HD screen. Currently, in game prompts alert players of the HD requirements for split-screen multiplayer.”

So there you have it – you need a HD screen in order to access Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition‘s splitscreen. It would be nice if they had told people beforehand though, eh?

You can purchase Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition over on the Xbox Live Marketplace and you can find out more information about the game on its official website.


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Is the Indie Games Winter Uprising Event a Failure? No.

Indie_Games_Uprising

Wow, so the event isn’t even over and yet we already have sites like Kotaku and Edge trying to poke at the seams of the collaborative marketing endeavor to see if it’s a failure or not. Sometimes I despise the mainstream press, I really do.

But first, let me tell you what Edge has uncovered. Basically, in a sit down chat with Robert Boyd, we’ve gone on to find out that of all the titles released thus far Epic Dungeon has done the best going on to sell over 6,000 copies. Not bad for a channel hardly anybody visits. The next one up is Break Limit with a scant 400 copies sold… ouch. Not the best news, I’ll give you that.

The article goes on to say that while the event was planned to have each game released within the first week of December, ultimately that never came to pass hinting that this might be a reason for the event’s “failure.” In truth, I believe spreading the event over a period of a month as opposed to a week would be better anyway given this particular time of year being so jam packed with so many games.

Of course, you can’t really blame Robert, or the developers, for having their games get delayed. The way the Xbox Live Indie Game system works is actually kind of stupid. Upon completion, you submit your game. It goes under peer review for a period of around 2 weeks. If approved your game will go live within 48 hours. You have no say in when it goes live. This means it’s incredibly difficult to market the game effectively in gearing up for a release. Additionally, should any random bug be found and the game not be approved then the entire submission process has to begin again further adding on to the time of the game’s release. It’s all incredibly frustrating, I can imagine.

Still, despite these hiccups and developmental speed bumps, does this paint the entire event as a failure? Absolutely not. In the history of the channel I have not seen as much press from around the internet speaking about either the channel or individual games not named “I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1″

It’s hard to imagine what the month of December would have looked like without the Indie Games Winter Uprising event occurring, but I can guarantee you that not Kotaku, not Edge, not IGN, not Joystiq, not any of the mainstream video game press would have written a single word about the channel had it not existed, and certainly not as much as they have leading up to the event.

So, was the event as successful as maybe Robert had hoped? Probably not, but then things rarely ever go according to plan. But was it an outright failure? Absolutely not and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

[Indie Games Winter Uprising]


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Explaining Miegakure’s 4D (or at least trying to)

miegakureNot that mega-sites need anyone else linking into their features, but Kotaku has an in-depth look at Marc Ten Bosch’s Miegakure today that is well worth a read.

I played the game back at IGF and had extreme trouble trying to describe it, so Stephen Totilo’s lengthy discussion with Marc and look at the game does a great job at trying to break down what it’s all about.

It’s still absolutely confusing to read it in words, but any lingering reflections about the game’s concept are welcome as the game works its way towards release.

As indie fans, it’s a worthy read for absolutely everyone and great to see such exposure for a unique indie developer.