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

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IGN’s Indie Dev Reality Series Returns; Go Lazy 8!

I guess this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but IGN has once again fired up its reality web series “The Next Game Boss” where they pit six indie development teams against each other in order to win a coveted spot in the IGN Open House along with $10,000 amongst other things. I’m still not sure how I feel about the show, but I’m sure it’s mostly all in good fun.


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Lazy 8′s Extrasolar Set to Outshine “Shallow and Repetitive” Web Games

Cogs developer Lazy 8 Studios has announced its next major project: Extrasolar. Anyone capable of browsing the Web has a chance to play a role in an expedition beyond Earth’s solar system.

In a trip to Epsilon Eridanie, players will explore the planet one photo at a time. Rover operators provide instructions to their rovers about where to go next and what to photograph. Since it takes a few real-time hours for the rover to receive the instructions, players can go about their human lives instead of clicking away frivolously to complete, say, some trivial farming task. Once received, the photos will give players clues they need to catalog exotic alien species and uncover the mysteries of the planet.

The “nothing is as it seems” nature of ARGs that Cogs was involved in (the Portal 2 ARG, to be exact) seems to have inspired the team. They have created an intertwining story that will play out back on Earth where the player will be wrapped up in the lives of several characters at the base that is in charge of the expeditions. Stated in the press released, “No one seems to know the whole truth behind the secretive foundation[,] and it will be up to the player to decide whom to trust.”

Rob Jagnow, the founder of Lazy 8 Studios, explained the inspiration behind Extrasolar. “Extrasolar isn’t so much a game as it is an interactive narrative experience.  I’m thrilled to see the Web emerge as a gaming platform, but the games that are currently available tend to be shallow and repetitive. We wanted to raise the bar enormously by offering deep story, compelling character development and stunning imagery. Our small, dedicated team has pioneered new technologies that allow this all to be done over the Web, even on mobile and low-cost devices.”

People wanting to stay informed and be the first to participate in Extrasolar‘s seminal voyage should sign up at www.exoresearch.com.


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Lazy 8 Studios’ Cogs coming for MAC users. Android, Linux users, too?!

cogsLogo

What more can be said about Rob Jagnow and his brain-bending Cogs? They really get gamers’ gears going. This award-winning, steampunk puzzle game has already graced several platforms: iPhone, iPad, PC, and netbook. Cogs been an Indiecade and IGF finalist and an Indie Game Challenge grand prize winner in the professional category and earned achievements in art direction and gameplay. Lead artist Brendan Mauro undoubtedly helped a great deal in those achievements. Now Rob is destined to rule the rest of the world with a MAC release this February. Specifically, Lazy 8 Studios is working with Chillingo to release Cogs for the Mac (via the App Store) on February 3!

Cogs will basically look exactly like the full PC version and be priced the same ($9.99).  Lazy 8 may do a launch-week pricing special. Rob has addressed some of the issues that were requested by the PC gaming audience.  For instance, if gamers play the game in full-screen, it always uses the native device resolution rather than up-sampling a smaller buffer.

Cogs has seen its fair share of well-earned press at DIY. In last February, DIY posted just how much Lazy 8 Studios earned from Indie Game Challenge: six figures, baby. DIY’s Peter Eykemans later wrote a full feature interview discussing how madly successful Cogs has been. Cogs is now conceptually around 8 years old, according to the interview. Though I am no game historian, maybe one day gamers will be able to refer to this as a classic. Does anyone know how long a game has to be popular to achieve such status? No doubt MAC users will appreciate being able to experience Cogs for themselves and extend the game’s success.

As for addressing the last part of the article’s title, Rob is talking to developers right now about Linux and Android versions of the smash hit.  There is no promise on a release date for those, but hopefully interest will spawn from the spreading of this exciting news!

For those that have never seen the game in action, check it out now:

Follow Lazy 8 studios on Twitter.


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Develop Games or Own a Netbook? Might Want to Check out AppUp [IndieCade]

AppUpOkay, so again, for the second time today, I’m kind of branching out of our usual domain of covering strictly indie games to bring you more of a converstation on the methods of delivering indie games, if that makes any sense.

Last Friday, at the very start of IndieCade, I was able to sneak into a panel on Intel’s new “AppUp” application store for netbook computers. The premise is fairly simple, Intel has released an app store — just like on Android, and iOS — for people who own netbooks. The idea is that since these computers are so small and are typically owned by people who don’t need a full sized computer they instead act more like a tablet or smart phone for many people hence the application store market should work.

The reason why I bring this up today is that, like all great app stores, AppUp is planned to have  a large section dedicated to games and gaming, free and otherwise, just like you would expect on any other app store.

Now, as a developer, it probably doesn’t make too much sense to develop a game exclusively for a netbook app store that is neither proven nor robust enough yet (it launched just 2 weeks ago). However, there are a few key advantages to at least porting your game over:

First, the panel I attended wasn’t only headed by Intel developers attempting to sell us their product. It was also headed by Rob Jagnow of Lazy 8 Studios, aka the developer of 2009′s IGF winner Cogs. He has just recently ported Cogs over to AppUp for the simple reason that it took him about an hour to port, and less than 10 days to work out all the minor kinks in the process. I don’t care who you are, 10 days development time for a port is pretty impressive. This means that, at the very least, you’re looking at getting your game onto a new platform with very little effort.

Second, this is Intel we’re talking about. If you think their idea of launching an app store platform is just about setting up a website where people can download it and begin buying stuff you’re wrong. At the panel, the Intel developers were quite adamant in letting us know that they’re partnering up with netbook manufacturers to include the store on their computers from day one. So, just like Android phones and iOS deveices ship with their various marketplaces, netbooks too will soon ship with their own app store.

Third, there are 70 million netbooks out there today. While recent trends show the netbook is declining, people are still buying them and if games can be successful on the iPad which has nowhere near that number of units out there, then certainly a game can be successful on a more numerous platform.

All in all, I was very impressed with what Intel had to offer on the service and their plans to roll it out. There are other benefits to making an app for AppUp as well, like free stuff and contests, but really the true benefit lies in getting in on the action before it becomes really prominent. The first apps on any app store traditionally do well, and I’d highly recommend taking a look at getting your own app on here as well.

And again, if you’re the owner of a netbook, go ahead and check out the AppUp store. It’s available right now as a free download and there seems to already be plenty of free and pay apps available across a wide selection of categories. I know from my girlfriend’s experience that finding games and software that can run on her netbook can be kind of a pain. This alleviates that problem.

AppUp apps currently support Windows 7 and Windows XP with MeeGo support supposedly coming next year.

[AppUp]


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Playstation Home Teaming with Indies

Home_NLogotype_Beta_PositiveGamasutra reports that SCEA has joined forces with Codename in order to bring independent games to the Playstation Home social space.

Four titles are lined up for release “over the next several months” and include some developers that are quite exciting. The Odd Gentlemen, the team behind The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, are bringing a game called Dueling Gentlemen to Home. Also, The Peanut Gallery, who entertained thousands last week with pOnd and their student title Spectre a few months ago, are dropping Minor Battle into the new partnership. Codename have developed a game called Super Awesome Mountain RPG and lastly Lazy 8 Studios have created a multiplayer version of Cogs to throw into the arena.

Altogether this further solidifies Sony’s interest in the indie marketplace on top of last month’s Joe Danger and the pending release of Slam Bolt Scrappers down the line. Microsoft may have it’s own channel, but Sony’s the one making the forward strides.

While the current headline reads “teaming with indies,” we as gamers can only hope the future will read “teeming with indies.”


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Lazy 8 Puts the Cogs Together [Interview]

CogsLazy 8 Studios hit the ground running last April with the launch of their clever puzzle title Cogs. Featuring steampunk visuals and increasingly difficult challenges, the puzzle title did quite well on Steam and later would wind up as a finalist in the “Excellence in Design” category at the Independent Games Festival and in contention for the Indie Game Challenge $100,000 prize.

While Monaco ran away with the Independent Games Festival honors, Cogs returned home with the $100,000 prize for edging out its competitors at the Indie Game Challenge. Along with around $80,000 in sales on Steam, one could peg Cogs as a financially successful debut into the indie game world.

Rob Jagnow, Lazy 8′s founder, and I grabbed dinner in San Francisco recently to talk about the game’s success and what’s next for him and his cohorts.

Rob graduated from M.I.T. With a PhD in Computer Science and Photo-realistic Graphics, just before the inception of the GAMBIT Games Lab. Taking his knowledge with him, he spent a year traveling the world before landing in San Francisco with his partner where he first decided to start Lazy 8 Studios.

He conceived the idea of Cogs back in 2003, so between concept to completion, the development time for Cogs was around five years. But it wasn’t until he met artist Brendan Mauro that the stark visual design of the title you know today would come to be.

“[Brendan] is great to work with, he gets the technical side of things,” states Rob. He’d worked with artists in the past who didn’t understand both sides of the coin, and having an artist who was happy to work for next to nothing who did “get it” made the project progress much more smoothly. He’s keen to work with Brendan in any capacity possible going into the future.

Cogs was able to make the jump from its PC home onto the iPhone late last year and ended up as a launch title for the iPad where it now stands as a featured title. I had the opportunity to take Cogs for a spin on Apple’s new tablet, and it’s fascinating to see just how the game’s design works with tracing your fingers over the playing field and rotating the puzzle with a sweep of two fingers. It all feels very natural and even with my limited experience of the iPad game library, I’d say any iPad owner should get a copy.

Cogs_Sale_D2DBut these weren’t always the platforms Lazy 8 had aimed for. When they submitted Cogs to Microsoft to gain approval for Xbox Live Arcade, they claimed the game was too casual. So when they changed directions and took it to Big Fish for PC distribution, they claimed it was too hardcore. So after consideration of who the audience was, they took it to Steam where it did quite well.

While Steam took 30% of the gross profits, in a year Cogs has made a gross of $79,000 and a net profit of $55,000. “The interesting thing is that it made $21,000 on a single day, though,” Rob clarified. The title went on sale for $2 last Christmas Day and the general populace snapped it up in droves.

The game has been released for over a year now on PC and Lazy 8 had to make a decision about how to handle the roll out. They could have either released it and never spoken of it again, or taken the route that Rob decided on. This route involved a year of upkeep on the game, making sure review sites were getting keys to the game, keeping the title mentioned in the news, and generally providing great support to the title. But the downside to such a course of action is that they haven’t been able to move on to their next game in thirteen months.

But because of the prize and sale money, Rob was able to compensate his contractors for their hard work on the game, and he himself has been contracted to design puzzles for an undisclosed company. These positive moves in the company’s financial department have allowed Rob to enter development on a new game…and it might not be what you’d expect.

Their goal is to “bring high fidelity content to a casual audience.” So what this all means is that Lazy 8 Studios is turning to Facebook, an arena dominated by the casual gaming powerhouses. “Zynga [operates by] hijacking flaws in the human psyche, [whereas we want to make] good content that is not purely addictive.”

So without giving away the entire concept of what they’re doing in front of a marketplace rife with copycats and stolen ideas, I can give just a tiny, teasing quote. They’re aiming to make a Facebook game with “more sophisticated visuals.” It just started coding last week, and they’re not entirely ready to disclose too much.

Any move away from the current market-dominating titles is a good move in my eyes, so I’m curious to hear what else Lazy 8 reveals as their development furthers.

We’re also giving away ten copies of Cogs alongside this piece. To enter to win, just drop a quick note in the forum thread saying something to the effect of “enter!” We’ll accept entries until 12pm PST on Friday, June 11th.


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Cogs 50% Off on D2D

Cogs_Sale_D2DDirect2Drive has slashed 50% off of Lazy 8′s acclaimed puzzle game Cogs, going for only $5 now on IGN’s digital distribution service.

The title has players building machines from sliding tiles, with simple puzzles giving way to more complex, three dimensional ones as you progress through.

The title includes 50 levels and three gameplay modes: Inventor, Time Challenge and Move Challenge. With new unlockable puzzles gained by building contraptions quickly and efficiently.

The typically $10 title is available now for $5, though exactly how long the sale lasts is unclear. From the feature list:

Cogs Download Features

Inventor Mode: Starting with simple puzzles, players are introduced to the widgets that are used to build machines — gears, pipes, balloons, chimes, hammers, wheels, props, and more.

Time Challenge Mode: If you finish a puzzle in Inventor Mode, it will be unlocked here. This time, it will take fewer moves to reach a solution, but you only have 30 seconds to find it.

Move Challenge Mode: Take your time and plan ahead. Every click counts when you only get ten moves to find a solution.