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


Survive Another Roguelike Apocalypse In ‘Cataclysm’

Shortly after taking the screenshot above, my character managed to slay the angry giant bees he had encountered in their forest hive. After waiting a while for the worst of their poison stings to wear off, he wandered deeper into the woods. He then found a strange mushroom, and ate it without successfully identifying it. My character began to hallucinate, and ended up being assailed by hallucinatory visions of his mother – attacking them caused morale damage. And then passed out and got eaten by ants. Yep, Cataclysm is a bit different.

You wait what feels like an eternity for a serious post-apocalyptic survival game, and what seems like a dozen come along all at once. Rogue Survivor, Project Zomboid, Neo Scavenger and others all spring to mind. The latest on the block is Cataclysm – a post-apocalyptic, semi-zombie-themed survival roguelike with a respectable level of depth and an impressive degree of modding support. Oddly enough, you might be best off skipping on the latest official release and go straight to the modding page on the official forums. The reason why? Despite being an ASCII-based game by default, there’s already an unofficial tiled graphics version.

As mentioned, while there are zombies, they’re more of an urban threat. Go off wandering into the deep woods in search of natural food and supplies and you’re far more likely to be accosted by giant mutant bugs or other such living abominations. Still, as a fresh character, the best thing to do is look for some nearby civilization as you stumble out of your poorly stocked fallout shelter. While it’ll take ages to bash through a door with your bare hands, a window can easily be passed through at the risk of some small injuries. From there, it’s just a matter of looting whatever you can, and getting the hell out of dodge once the zombies start stumbling into view.

In addition to the usual Roguelike open-world mode, there’s an ‘arcade’ survival mode where you have to fortify and defend a well-stocked structure from increasingly dangerous waves of enemies, which is a good introduction to the construction options offered. At higher levels (which I haven’t survived to see yet), the game apparently gets rather weird, with improvised bionic upgrades becoming an option, and self-mutations, vehicles, drugs and mental illness all playing their part. It’s not terribly gritty and realistic beyond needing food, water and sleep, but it’s good fun. Defence mode even offers the option to disable natural needs entirely and play it as a straightforward combat-oriented game. 

My main gripe at this point in development is that the UI is quite unintuitive, and that I would much prefer something along the lines of Brogue, which is an utter masterclass in Roguelike UI design, managing to cram in a huge amount of information and allow precise mouse control despite the ASCII graphics. Still, Cataclysm is still fairly early in development, and while you’re undoubtedly going to encounter some bugs (of the software kind, not giant and mutated), there’s quite a lot to like here already. The game even has a handy tutorial built in for newbies to learn the ropes with. Can’t say fairer than that; The game does at least teach you how to walk before it tears your legs off.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Survive Another Roguelike Apocalypse In ‘Cataclysm’


Freeware Game Pick – ‘Warsow V1.0′ Released Today

Seven years is a long time by anyone’s measure, unless you’re one of those nigh-immortal giant tortoises, and thus unlikely to care about videogame development. It’d also make you unlikely to appreciate Warsow, which is an arena FPS cranked up to Ludicrous Speed. Seven years is how long Warsow has been in open, public beta – today, it is officially a complete game, and available free for all on Linux, Windows and Mac PCs. The game weighs in at around 500mb all together, and can be downloaded here.

For those who have grown up on a diet of pseudo-realistic ‘tactical’ shooters, Warsow is going to be a terrifying experience of neon-bright characters hurtling around at a thousand miles an hour. Patterned fairly closely after Quake 3, this is one from that era of online FPS action where speed was life, and your best defense against railgun shells, rockets and raining plasma fire was to hurl yourself down the corridors so quickly that the human eye had trouble tracking you. Unlike in other shooters, holding the jump button automatically ‘bunny-hops’ each time you hit the ground, although the animations are smooth enough to represent it as a series of bounding steps, rather than a vertical leap, and there’s a secondary ‘kick’ button that allows you to vault off just about any surface you make contact with.

Those who were right there through the Quake 1-3 era, this is fairly familiar stuff, although with a few extra twists. In addition to the extra controls mentioned above, there’s more air-control than usual, wall-jumping and a higher level of speed across the board, making for a twitchier experience all round. It’s brighter than Quake 3, too, with pseudo-cel-shaded characters clad in clear and bright outfits with the occasional Futuristic Glowy Bit. The environments tend to be fairly drab colours for the most part; a deliberate decision to make the characters contrast better against the walls. The whole thing is geared very much towards a serious competitive audience.

The map design is probably the star of the show here. It’s designed almost entirely around the higher-than-average agility of Warsow characters, meaning that there’s plenty of long straights to get up to speed, angled walls to kick off to continue a headlong charge, ramps to springboard yourself up to higher levels by and plenty of alternate routes that require mastery of the uniquely springy movement. The weapons are more straightforward, and immediately familiar if you’ve ever played Quake 3. This is a game vying for an existing crown, rather than trying to carve out its own niche, but the more aerial movement system does make some old stalwarts like the rocket launcher harder (and arguably more skilful) to use.

Right now there’s a decent number of populated servers up, and the number should rise as word of the V1.0 release gets around. Still, most of those players have been around for ages and will stomp you flat if you go in unprepared. Fortunately, there’s bots to practice with if you’re unsure of your skills, and want to learn the maps offline before you go bouncing around like a fool. There’s a lot of maps included with the game, too – the biggest thing changed in the V1.0 release is a bunch of new levels, but there’s a variety of additions, such as a smoother, more modernized UI, various tweaks to play balance and some new systems to make E-sports streaming easier.

Interest in Warsow has been flagging a bit as of late, partly due to the massively extended Beta phase of development, but largely due to the resurgence in Quake 3‘s popularity via Quake Live. This might well be the game’s time to shine, though – the release of V1.0 coincides with a very controversial Quake Live update that leans much more heavily on players to pay up to get access to the whole package. Given that Warsow doesn’t cost a penny, that’s a pretty strong marketable point.

Warsow is a good-looking, fun, fast and surprisingly gore-free shooter. Given that it’s also completely gratis, runs on just about any hardware setup and is available on all three cardinal PC operating systems, there’s not much reason to skip on this one if you’ve any interest in the genre. Download it and give it a spin; you might not find it completely to your tastes, but you’ll definitely be bouncing off the walls. Unless you’re a giant tortoise.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Freeware Game Pick – ‘Warsow V1.0′ Released Today


Freeware Game Pick – Starshatter: The Gathering Storm (Open Source)

Sometimes, something huge slips under my radar. I’m officially late to the party on this one, but pleasantly surprised to find people still partying anyway. StarShatter: The Gathering Storm was an ambitious, semi-sandbox space combat game developed by Destroyer Studios published by niche wargame-centric outlet Matrix Games back in the mid/late 2000s. The big thing setting it apart from the competition was that the entire military theatre of the game was procedurally managed, so that you could play as anything from a lone fighter ace to a fleet commander and make a real impact on the universe. It never really found any degree of success. Partially due to the lack of interest in the genre, partially due to the heavy learning curve of the game, which forced the player to learn everything from fleet command tactics to atmospheric dogfighting techniques.

The game was discontinued a long time ago, but about six months ago (I told you I was late to the party), the source-code and full content of the game was released to the public for free. While this hasn’t exactly resulted in a grand bounty of new content and features released, there have been a couple of fan-patches aimed at bringing the game up to modern spec and ironing out some of the older, outstanding issues. While the community site that used to host the game has apparently imploded, you can find the latest game client and updates on this Freespace 2 forum thread here. You can also find a variety of other files (including the highly recommended Vox.7z, which adds a lot of immersive battle chatter) on SpaceSimCentral’s database here.

There’s a pretty intense learning curve here, and the tutorial campaign ‘Live Fire’ is pretty sparse. Thankfully, you can also find the full documentation in the Manuals folder of the game. The default flight model in the game is far more realistic than most in the genre, offering full Newtonian flight physics, and even an atmospheric model for when you’re fighting planetside. Flight sim fans should feel right at home, and those wanting something a bit more substantial than X-Wing or Freespace might well find it here. The real depth is in the strategy elements, though – players work their way up from mere fighter pilots to fleet commanders, and the entire scale of the game changes over time. It’s impressive stuff, even if the game is a bit aged, graphically speaking.

Due to the nature of the dynamic campaign structure, things might feel a little dry and repetitive if you’re used to the rousing and escalating cinematic battles of X-Wing, or the oppressive atmosphere and drama of Freespace. There’s none of this here. It feels almost like a huge strategic simulation played between two massive AI forces, with the commander of one side giving you access to a small portion of its fleet in order to help swing the battle through a bit of human ‘X-factor’. What it lacks in personality, it makes up for in replay value and player agency, though. Not many space sims have the nerve to let you fly around in a flagship, or decide exactly how many wings of fighters to launch into an engagement.

There’s also multiplayer offered, although the semi-realistic scales of the engagements means that there’s really not much room for two players to go head to head against each other in anything but a close dogfight, as navigation in singleplayer is almost always done through time-accelerated autopilot. This is a fairly solitary experience, aimed at those who can see themselves at the helm of an enormous starship, commanding a battle from the back lines. It’s good to see it still being supported, albeit in limited fashion by the fans. There’s not been much in the way of real space sim quality released these past few years, so why not have a look at what you might have missed? Download Starshatter and give it a spin.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Freeware Game Pick – Starshatter: The Gathering Storm (Open Source)


Freeware Game Pick – The Battle For Wesnoth V1.10

For the past few years, The Battle For Wesnoth has been one of the grand pillars of PC freeware/open-source gaming, but a quick poke through our archives here shows that we’ve not said anything of note about it – clearly an egregious oversight to be rectified. What better time for it, too? A major new release is looming and a release candidate is available now for the public to pick over, so put on your robe and your wizard hat; it’s time for some hex-based strategy RPG’ing.


Freeware Game Pick – Tales of Maj’Eyal: Age of Ascendancy

In a year when Dungeons of Dredmor was released, and Dungeon Crawl ascended to new heights, Tales of Maj’Eyal (aka TOME 4) won the hearts of dungeon crawlers in the ASCII Dreams Roguelike Of The Year awards, and was voted best of 2011. What makes this sleeper hit such a big deal, winning over even the most hardened of loot-hoarders and monster-mashers, and usurping the would-be-king that was Dredmor? Find out after the break in our freeware pick of the day.


First Level of Time Hammer is now Available

I’ve been covering indie game Time Hammer quite a bit here on Not so much because the game is mine-blowingly awesome, although it does have its charm, but rather because of the promise of the open source, free-to-use HTML5 engine the developers are continuing to create alongside the game. That, in my opinion, is the most important part of this project and why I’m, personally, looking forward to seeing the end project.

But, for those of you more interested in the game, the developers have gone ahead and released a beta version of the first level so you can kind of see what the game is about and how the HTML5 engine works. Just make sure you’re running a modern browser with HTML5 support. I believe the latest Firefox has those capabilities.

If you find that you enjoy the game, consider contributing to the project’s Kickstarter campaign which only has a few days left.

[Time Hammer]


Indie Gem Time Hammer Promises Open Source HTML 5 Engine

I love indie developers. When you guys aren’t just creating kick ass games for little to no money, you’re also striving to simply help others create amazing games by supply tools and instructions on how to help the community at large. It’s part of the reason why I started this site in the first place.

The developers behind indie game Time Hammer are going above and beyond in supplying something that doesn’t even yet exist: an open source HTML 5 engine for other indie developers to use and create games out of. I’m not sure on the specifics of it just yet, but from what I’ve seen personally, it looks pretty damned impressive.

To showcase this amazing engine, the duo developers are creating a small platformer called Time Hammer. Here’s a basic description from the developers:

[Time Hammer is] a retro, 8-bit throwback to an earlier time, but with some modern touches that we just couldn’t help but include.  Low gravity, destructible environments, a kickin chip-tune soundtrack… yeah, it’s a blast!

I’ve also been told there will be various time-based mechanics surrounding the game, hence the name.

Now, since the game is built entirely in HTML5 and Java Script that means the game will work in any modern browser. No flash, or other plug ins are required so long as you use one of the many supported HTML 5 browsers like the most recent version of Google Chrome or Firefox.

Once the game and engine are finished the developers are promising to release both for free and as an open source project so any gamer/developer can pick up right where they left off and use it to create whatever they please. Very cool!

The guys are currently running a Kickstarter campaign for some additional funds to see the project out. In the video you can see some of the engine as well as the game they are making. It all looks really impressive and, having played the game a bit myself, I can attest to the quality.If you can find some spare change, why not lend a hand to a great project?



Freeware/iOS Game Pick – Frogatto & Friends v1.1

Initially released last year, Frogatto & Friends was hailed as a quiet triumph of open-source development. A splinter project by several of the people behind open-source strategy-RPG behemoth The Battle For Wesnoth, Frogatto offers beautiful Amiga-esque pixel art, lovely music and a whole lot of classic platforming action to get through. Even in it’s original state, it was well worth a download.


Adventure Game Studio Engine Source Code Released

A solid development for game devs, programmers and their respective student followings who have adventure titles on the brain and an understanding of C++: The already free game creator Adventure Game Studio (the same one that spawned titles such as Time Gentlemen, Please! and Snakes of Avalon) has recently offered up its engine source code as well.

Those interested have been instructed to use Visual C++ Express 2008, a free download from Microsoft — as opposed to the 2010 version — and will also need the DirectX SDK from Microsoft installed. There are also a few caveats for those looking to poke around, which the author has outlined:

  • DO NOT use this source code as a learning resource or a guide on best practice.
  • The state of the source code is VERY BAD and should in fact be considered an example of BAD PRACTICE.
  • Unlike the AGS Editor code which is relatively modern and a generally good standard, the engine code dates back 12 years to 1999, and has a severe case of the another-bit-being-bolted-onto-the-side disease. It also retains compatibility with old versions which means that some of the old and particularly dire code paths cannot yet be removed.
  • So just to be clear, YES I KNOW that the code is in a bad state. You don’t need to tell me that.
  • I also know that AGS is used by thousands of games with thousands of combinations of game settings and script functions, and that any attempt to refactor the code into a better state is likely to inadvertently break something in someone’s game, which is why I haven’t attempted to do it yet.

Curious parties can obtain the files and full details over on the AGS forums.

[Source: IndieGames]


Gish Update Adds Tons of Community Content, Open Source the Culprit?

Gish_update_hibAward winning 2D platformer Gish has recently been updated with a large content patch to what appears to be no fanfare, and well not much of an explanation of how the content was put together.

The update–available now for PC, Mac, and Linux–adds community campaigns that total 40 new levels along with four new community versus levels as well. Though I can’t find any literature to back this up anywhere, I wonder if this could be the first of several content updates for the game that relate to its recent source code release following the Humble Indie Bundle success. Regardless the new community created additions are all there.

A download link, instructions for how to update your game to 1.6 and all patch notes can be found here. From the change log:

Version 1.6

  • Added community campaigns totaling over 40 new levels
  • Added 4 new community vs. levels
  • Changed file saving locations in Windows and OSX to be in user folders
  • Added 64-bit Linux support