It’s been a while since Metroid was 2D, and there aren’t any new Mega Man games are coming out soon. Luckily, ReVeN is coming to satisfy that craving, since this 2D platformer/shooter just got funded..
Last week I sat down with Brjánn Sigurgeirsson – CEO of Swedish indie developer Image & Form – to discuss Steamworld Dig and gain exclusive information about the studio’s new project.
When I speak to Sigurgeirsson, the studio’s home city of Gothenburg is experiencing a rather damp winter afternoon and night-time is drawing in. Such miserable weather can be enough to be put a dampener on anyone’s sprits – “Gothenburg is a wet dream for rain lovers” – but he’s in a good mood, with the studio currently enjoying the successful launch of their most recent game on Steam.
They’re also a studio that’s pretty busy at the moment. “Quite a few things are happening,” Sigurgeirsson says once we get going; “these last few days, we’ve been responding to a few Game of the Year awards and trying to keep up with that. We were hoping to be on the shortlist for IGN, to be on their top 10 games of the year. We didn’t make that list, but we think we’re on the shortlist for handheld and indie games, which is good enough for us.”
With success comes recognition of course, so it’s no surprise that many people are wondering what’s coming next from the developer.
“When we finished Dig in June this year, we were looking forward to releasing in August on 3DS. We didn’t dare start development of the next game immediately – everyone had to pitch in with the release plans,” he explains.
“You won’t believe me, but we actually had very little planned even just a week before launch. We didn’t really know what to do; it was my task to launch the game, but I had trouble sleeping the whole summer because I was so ill-prepared for it. I really didn’t have any idea it would be as successful as it was. We’d had our noses so close to the screen the whole time in development that we didn’t know if it was a good game. And when we realised that it was a fabulous game, that people thought it was amazing, we thought: great!”
If he comes across as pleased with himself, then he has every right to be. So far on both platforms combined, Dig has been very successful – though Sigurgeirsson isn’t willing to share the exact sales numbers right now. He’s surprisingly modest and self-deprecating though, for a guy who’s just seen his studio go from being relatively unknown to an indie heavyweight almost overnight.
In the developer’s offices, some tastefully framed artwork adorns the walls – character art from Steamworld Dig and Anthill, one of their previous games on iOS. Other than that and a mural on one wall, there’s very little to indicate that you’re in anything other than just a regular office. But I have to wonder: does he ever feel like the success is going to his head?
“We’ve been very lucky,” he tells me. “People seem to think that we’re being very professional but really it’s more that a lot of things just happened to come together! We’ve been counting our blessings; I thought it would sort of ease down. So we just had to take a break from everything and try to be a little bit more prepared [when] we got the ok from Steam to have a version of the game on their platform.”
Sigurgeirsson isn’t ready to share the name of their new game, which is currently in the early stages of development. “If you know what we’re like then it will probably change,” he says, before giving a characteristically warm chuckle.
He is willing to share that it’s due to be another game set in the Steamworld universe. It’s not Steamworld Dig 2, though. “What we have ahead of us is 3 more games in the Steamworld series, for sure,” he tells me. “The thing that we’re working on right now is not Steamworld Dig at all; it won’t be a digging game. It will be in the Steamworld universe and the characters will be recognizable, [but] it will be totally different type of game.
“People who are hoping for a Dig sequel will have to wait, but [that too] will be bigger than the first game was, in all directions.”
If they weren’t before, then now the developer is certainly forward-thinking and rather ambitious. But if the next game in the series isn’t a sequel to Dig, what is it? Sigurgeirsson is surprisingly open on the studio’s plans – at least, as far as can be expected from a team enjoying such tremendous success and an increased profile. “When we started developing [the next game], what we kept doing for a month and a half was actually a prequel to Dig. But when we started working on the Steam version of Dig, the guys in the office came up with a really brilliant new idea: not a sequel, not Steamworld Dig 2, but perhaps the game that comes after, or the game after that. And so we looked at it and we just thought: God, that’s so brilliant. It’s so grand!”
Their plan is to complete their current project before moving on to Dig 2 and then later returning to the prequel that they’d previously started, he tells me.
I ask him what he means when he says the new game is grand. “The scale of the game is just so good that as soon as we had finished porting Dig to Steam, we immediately started focusing on that,” he replies.
With the talk about scale, people are obviously going to ask: is it an open-world game? “That’s a good question,” Sigurgeirsson says and it’s clear from looking at him and from the slight pause which follows that he’s choosing his words carefully.
I say to him that he seems to be trying hard not to give too much away, and he laughs. “Sorry about that! It’s just that I have a tendency to promise too much [and] you disappoint everybody if you don’t deliver.”
So what can he tell me? “What we want to do is to create much more of a ‘community’ game in the Steamworld series, meaning that people will play it for many more hours and discuss different strategies. No-one will complete this game in a day or two; they’ll be playing hopefully for weeks, and then we’ll add more stuff to it.”
Explaining a bit more about what he means, he tells me: “You can buy Dig and you can finish it in maybe one sitting, in a single day. And then when you’re done with it, it’s interesting to talk to people about how you solved certain things. But a game you can discuss while you’re playing it is just so much more interesting.”
When he mentions community aspects, does he mean multiplayer?
There’s that trademark laugh again before he responds: “Maybe! I would love to just be able to give a simple answer. I think the game that we’re working on now would lend itself wonderfully to co-op play, but we’re very aware of how much more development time it would take to perfect that. If we can manage it then we will make a bigger game and then we will be able to have multiplayer.”
So it’s certainly a possibility then. If it does happen, what form will it take?
“If we can get multiplayer in there, it won’t be versus play; it will be co-op. If we could get that in, it would be tremendous but it [would have to] be excellent, the best game of the year.”
He goes on: “What we’re looking at now is a single-player game that lends itself excellently to people discussing various strategies, how they tackle things and how different people solve things across different playthroughs. There will be so
many ways to tackle every scene in the game… it will be very open to discussion.”
Does that mean random generation? After all, roguelikes are currently experiencing something of a comeback at the moment, with Path of Exile, FTL and Rogue Legacy – among others – working to make the genre a favorite in the indie scene.
Once again, Sigurgeirsson laughs and it’s clear that he’s enjoying my attempts to tease more information out of him. “Yes, there will be a lot of random generation: it will be a core feature of the game. Also, it will be random in more than one way. You’ll understand it when you see it, because the premise that we have is that we want people to ask themselves: how will I succeed in the game this time? The conditions of the game will be different every time.”
I mention Fez and how the game’s challenge extends beyond the platforming and into wider areas with the amount of secrets and riddles to be solved. Is that, I wonder, something which the team is considering?
“I don’t think, at least at this stage, that we’ll have that wider level of meta-discussions going on about the game; but I really think it will be perceived as a grand game, with a lot of new takes on how a game like this can be played.”
There’s yet more laughter as he pleads: “Can you please stop asking me about this now?”
It’s clear that he’s becoming wary of how much information he’s giving out about the upcoming title, so I ask him what platforms they’re currently hoping to release on and when they think the game will be finished.
“We’re kind of looking at everything really. One thing we try to be very clear about with ourselves is how wonderfully the Nintendo community – and the company itself – has treated us. We were really nobodies before Nintendo lifted us up. So we’re never going to forget what they’ve done for us and the 3DS is one of the platforms that we want to launch on from day one; and then obviously Steam, if they’ll have us again, and [after that] we’ll look at what the other platforms are doing.”
He has to think for a moment before discussing the hoped-for development timeframe and I’m reminded of what he said earlier about promising too much and not being able to deliver. “Realistically, I think we’re looking at a release in October 2014. If we count 8 months and take into account Swedish vacations, we’ll be done maybe next September,” he says cautiously.
“With Dig, it took us about 8 calendar months. We’re aiming to have a much grander game [this time], but developed in the same time frame; we’re very careful to make sure that we’re doing everything right, from the very start of development.
“We don’t want to make a game that is smaller than Steamworld Dig, and we don’t want to make a game that is the same. We want to make something great.”
Later that evening, as I listen back to the interview recording and read through my notes, I’m struck by just how ambitious Image & Form are being with their new title. With any creative team that’s tasted success, there’s pressure to follow up on it. For many, the temptation is to take the easy route and play it safe, but that’s a temptation that Brjánn Sigurgeirsson and his team are certainly resisting.
Whether or not they are able to deliver on those ambitions and strike gold a second time is something that we won’t know for certain until their next game is released; but for now they’re thinking big. That’s something to be applauded in an industry where so many follow-ups are just more of the same with a different number next to the title.
As nearly everyone has already told you, the Steam Summer Sales are taking place. However, what you may not know is that a number of indie developers have decided to price match their games, to match the Steam Sale prices, on their own websites using the Humble Store widget. The benefit of this price matching is simple: the Humble Store only takes 5% of the total sales made, as opposed to Steam’s 30%.
A Reddit user by the name of “Pharnaces_II” has generated a list of many of the indie games that are price matching to the current Steam Sale prices in an attempt to influence fans to buy through their site, netting them a 95% profit, as opposed to the 70% profit they would make through Steam. All of the games purchased through the Humble Store come with Steam keys (so long as the game is on Steam in the first place) and the majority of the games also come with DRM-free versions of the game as well.
The games on the list include:
Chivalry Medieval Warfare
Kentucky Route Zero
Legend of Grimrock
Retro City Rampage
Remember, supporting the developer directly through their website puts more money in their pockets.
There is some controversy with this method though. Some indie developers wish for people to buy through the Steam Store strictly to increase their sales rank, to attain a wider audience (since the active Steam userbase is in the millions).
Strategy games have been making a comeback after lying somewhat dormant for a few years. On the back of this we have seen several rather interesting Kickstarters and games coming out that have really added a great deal to the often forgotten genre.
Last week, Wastelands Interactive, a well-established Polish developer who has released a number of historic strategy games over the years, started their Kickstarter campaign for their latest venture, Worlds Of Magic.
Worlds Of Magic is Wastelands Interactive’s attempt at creating a spiritual successor to the great 4x Master Of Magic by setting Worlds Of Magic in a rich fantasy world. In Worlds Of Magic you will be able to choose from ten leaders to take control over, to rule the lands. However, there is an option to create your own if you would rather tailor the game more to your own personal style.
Wastelands Interactive is dedicated to making Worlds Of Magic the true successor to Masters Of Magic and feel they are the right team to do it. Their aim is capture a lot of what made the original great and to build upon its core foundations whilst adding in extras to really create a new and exciting game.
Worlds Of Magic is currently looking for additional funding on Kickstarter after Wastelands Interactive started up their Kickstarter earlier this month. Although there is still over twenty days left so far the funding has been very encouraging with the campaign currently raising a third of the total needed.
If you are interested in finding out more about Worlds Of Magic be sure to check out Wastelands Interactive’s Kickstarter for additional information. If you like what you see consider supporting the developer and help make Worlds Of Magic a reality.
With over twenty days left for the Kickstarter campaign, KING Art Games is sitting comfortably above the goal they initially set. The current count has Battle Worlds: Kronos sitting just above $165,000, which is $4,500 over their starting goal. Now, the developers are trying to keep their momentum going, by pushing for success on Steam Greenlight.
Earlier this week, Valve revealed they would announce the next batch of titles to be Greenlit on Steam on April 17th. KING Art Games undoubtedly would love to see Battle Worlds: Kronos included in that announcement, and seeing the success that they found with the Kickstarter Campaign (fully funded within seven days), being approved for Steam in twelve days doesn’t seem like such the impossible feat.
“We’re blown away by the support we’ve already received on the Greenlight campaign; it’s great to know we have so many committed people behind us on this,” Said Jan Theysen, Creative Director, KING Art Games. “We’re expecting to reach our first Kickstarter stretch-goal very soon, so that with the help of our loyal backers and community, we can bring an even more amazing experience to Steam.”
On Wednesday, KING Art Games posted a new update to the Battle Worlds: Kronos Kickstarter campaign page, featuring the Greenlight announcement, as well as the second video in their Battle Worlds Academy tutorial series.
The developers plan on providing Steam keys to Kickstarter backers, if the game becomes Greenlit, at some point in the future.
“We talked to some other developers with Kickstarter and Steam experience and it looks like we’ll be able to provide enough codes for every backer interested… if we get on Steam, so please vote,” KING Art Games said in the newest Kickstarter update.
Visit Battle Worlds: Kronos on Kickstarter, and visit the game’s new Greenlight campaign page. KING Art Games has setup a donation method through PayPal, if that is preferred, which can be found on the game’s official website.
It seems that King Art Games have a rather interesting philosophy when it comes to designing games, after their last game The Book Of Unwritten Tales rapidly became a success, even though it was in a genre apparently unpopular at the time.
This has given the studio a rather fantastic perspective of the market and now they believe it does not matter what is currently popular because good games will always be good games, and this is their hope for Battle Worlds Kronos.
Battle Worlds Kronos is a turned based strategy game that aims to bring back in long term planning, tactics to create a truly strategic game. Taking influence from Battle Isle and Advance Wars Battle Worlds Kronos hopes to bring back a lot of the difficult decision making and update it with modern day technology to create something altogether awesome.
The game will include a complete single player campaign that will span approximately 30 hours creating quite a substantial game just in the single player side of things. On top of this expect challenge maps, live multiplayer and even the option to play asynchronously with others.
This is such a great option that should be in ALL Turn based strategy games, due to the length of time they can take to complete it makes for a much more manageable multiplayer experience.
The guys over at King Art Games seem to have many great ideas on how to make a new turn based strategy game and even though Battle Worlds Kronos is still in the very early stages of its development it seems a promising project. King Art Games are currently running a Kickstarter for Battle Worlds Kronos and if you would like to find out more about this project besure to check out the Kickstarter page and read a little more information on it. If this project sounds like something you would like to play be sure to support them.
In today’s Developer Links: web design, video game websites, and serial cross-platform development.
Bastion‘s Argument For Doing Away With Cross-Platform Development (Gamasutra)
“In a talk at the DICE Summit on Wednesday, Supergiant Games co-founder and studio director Amir Rao (Bastion) talked about the year-plus his team spent taking Bastion to different platforms. Along the way, he urged the audience to get away from the concept of simultaneous ‘ports’ and ‘lead SKU’ and towards a thoughtful, non-parallel multi-platform development process.”
Apple Pie Chart (Mommy’s Best Devlog)
“Serious Sam Double D XXL is super close! Go go go! Time to let people know! What’s so cool about it? Let’s tell everyone! That’s what most of my time is devoted to currently and it’s getting very exciting! We’ll be heading to PAX East to promote the game and we’re even throwing a pretty big Mid-West game dev launch party here in Louisville on March 1st!”
What’s In The BattleBlock Theater Beta? (The Behemoth Development Blog)
“The BattleBlock Theater Closed Beta will be here sooner than we think. We’re still locking down all the details, including the beta testing dates, but we do have an exciting update to share! In addition to story levels and the level editor, we’ll be giving Beta Testers access to all the arena modes!”
A Week As Webdesigner (Computer Games)
“Probably not many of you know that before going indie, I was a (rather poor to be fair) webdesigner. Many people probably think that being a webdesigner is a creative job but the reality is that after you do the 100th website, you start to have enough… Anyway, this week I was waiting for some people to send me assets (writing, art, music, etc) so I was idle. If wasn’t Winter I would have use this unexpected “free time” to do some trips around here to relax, but since it is, I thought to finally begin the redesign of my website, something I’ve been procrastinating for too long!”
Going Forward With Drox (Soldak Entertainment)
“First off, we have Drox Operative on Steam’s Greenlight. If you haven’t already, go vote for Drox Operative on Greenlight so we can get the game on Steam. Please tell all of your friends, family, and anyone else that will listen to do so also.”
The Video Game Kickstarter Report – Week of February 8 (Zeboyd Games)
“Big week for new kickstarters! Let’s get started!”
Good Morning Gato # 109 – Warm Kitty (Ska Studios)
“PAX East is 42 days away! Ska Studios will once again be exhibiting, keeping with our trend of showing at every single PAX East there has ever been. When will this dang Charlie Murder game ever be done?! You’re asking, our friends are asking, and even our moms are asking. We still can’t tell you but we can sure show you what we’ve done so far. Come see us and play and listen to us expertly dodge the “when will it be done” question! We may just have a different answer for you by the end of March (disclaimer: we also may have the same answer for you by the end of March).”
Big List of Top Video Game Websites (PixelProspector)
“I have just updated the Big List of Top Video Game Websites. All ~130 sites offer now some basic info (Country, Platforms, Coverage, About). Furthermore I have also created a spreadsheet that you can download here.”
We’re on fire with today’s Indie Links! There’s a game about burning things in a fireplace, a game about Santa Claus lighting houses on fire… and a game where you have to treat a customer right or you’re fired.
Recommended Game: I Get This Call Every Day (Independent Gaming)
“I Get This Call Every Day is a Gordian knot that resists being cut. It’s an intractable situation that some people, such as the game’s author, have to deal with on a daily basis without getting fired. David S. Gallant’s latest game (and the first one that’s being sold and not freely distributed) is an autobiographical tale of workplace absurdity.”
Free Picks: Happy Little Murder Friends, Fistful of Gun (Farmergnome) (IndieGames)
“Under the Garden and Under the Ocean developer Farmergnome (Paul Greasley) sure makes pretty games, no matter the size. He just released substantially updated, free builds for his recent Ludum Dare game for Windows, Happy Little Murder Friends, and another side project called Fistful of Gun.”
Feedtank’s Pangolin: Anteaters FTW (Independent Gaming)
“Sounds like a platformer? You’d be surprised. This vivid, surreal indie ios game by the 2-man devteam at Feedtank, is …NOT a platformer. In fact, it’s the very antithesis of a platformer. You don’t control this loveable anteater who looks like a bowling ball. Rather, he is entirely at your mercy as you bounce him around the world with trampolines.”
Little Inferno Is A Delightfully Grim Tale, But Its Best Story Is A Hidden One (Kotaku)
“Maybe it’s because Little Inferno doesn’t present the side of Armageddon that we’re used to seeing in games, but you might not even pick up on its apocalyptic storyline. Yet as I burned prize after prize in my Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, a thought tugged at the back of my mind: why am I doing this?”
Mew-Genics Is Multi-Platform, One of Which Is iOS (Joystiq)
“Mew-Genics will be available on iOS devices, but that’s not all. Well, actually, that is all for today. The weekly Mew-Genics teaser simply says that the game will launch on multiple platforms, one of which is iOS, as demonstrated by the accompanying iPad mock-up. Considering the mobile angle and Edmund McMillen’s recent involvement with Sony, we’re personally hoping for a Vita release as well.”
Indies Met Challenges, Learned Lessons In 2012 (Gamasutra)
“Recently, I spoke to a number of well-known independent game developers to find out if they too shared the sense that this has been an extraordinary year for indie games. Part of that conversation focused on the lessons other small teams might learn, as indie games move from niche to mass-market, via digital distribution hubs on consoles, mobile and PC. What have they learned this year as they strove to get their games noticed? How have they been able to find success?”
Holly Jolly Pyromaniac: A Christmas Game With Villainous Spirit (Polygon)
“Indie developer Underground Pixel is no stranger to gamemaking.Holiday Havoc and Pastry Panic, known for their retro, arcade play-style are proof of that. Fresh off its second Ludum Dare jam, the developer is proud to present its latest title: Holly Jolly Pyromaniac, a holiday-themed title brainstormed and built in just 72 hours.”
Review: La Mulana (Re-Release) (Indie Game Reviewer)
“La-Mulana is a room-based side-scrolling Metroidvania adventure game released in 2012 by EnjoyUp for the Wii. This Indiana Jones-inspired action title is a remake of the 2005 game of the same name by the same developers: GR3 project with updated graphics and ‘decreased difficulty,’ as the original was notoriously unforgiving. While at first this seems like another cash grab by a developer doing the whole ‘HD’ remake thing that was so popular in 2012, they actually bring some improved and interesting new features to the title, one of which is support for XBOX 360 controllers (PC). It doesn’t sound like much, but the feature adds a lot to the game’s playability and shifts it from a keyboard-mashing platformer to a smoother experience, though unfortunately it inherits all of the original’s control issues.”
Today, Jet Set Games proudly announced the release of their turn-based strategy game, Highborn, for PC and Mac users. Previously, Highborn was an iOS and Android game, but now the game is available through Steam, and discounted 25% off for the duration of its release week.
Highborn has players participating in top-down strategic gameplay, set in a fantasy setting. The PC/Mac release sees the inclusion of both redesigned levels and artwork, now that the game can take advantage of the powerful hardware powering most PCs and Macs. Jet Set Games originally built Highborn for mobile devices, so it was made for gamers on the go. This works for well for the game in that it provides a strategic fix for gamers, while not requiring a good deal of time to get used to how the game works, as is the bane of some strategy games.
“Many of Jet Set’s employees have a long history of building strategy games for the PC, and it feels great to be developing for this platform again,” said Rade Stojsavljevic, president and co-founder of Jet Set Games. “We chose to bring Highborn to Steam, not only to satisfy our customer’s demands, but also because we knew we could take advantage of the processing power of the PC to really showcase the amazing graphics and improved gameplay that we’ve put into this re-imagined version of Highborn.”
I hope by now everyone is fully aware of the fantastic FPS Natural Selection 2 (NS2). Released last year by Unknown Worlds NS2 was the long awaited sequel to the original mod and one of the best asymmetrical FPS of all time.
Unknown Worlds have been working tirelessly over the past year to develop NS2 continually post release along with fostering an e-sport community, and considering it is an online only shooter this is vital. Amongst all of the new maps and updates that have come out over the past few months we now see the actual Decoda integrated development environment (IDE) being released to the public. Decoda was the IDE used to create NS2 with, no doubt many developers have eagerly anticipated this day.
Unknown Worlds co-founder Max McGurie stated the studio was now in a position to give something back to the community and felt Decoda would be a great open source asset for all. Unknown Worlds hope the community will now look to play around with NS2 and their own games using this powerful development platform to create something awesome.
This is great news for developers and modders looking to tinker with some of the tools in the IDE or to start developing their own projects using this powerful system. This should also encourage user mods for NS2 and in time maybe a whole new genre defining game itself.
It’s really great to see Unknown Worlds opening their IDE to all, who knows what next. You can always find out more about Decoda on the official Unknown Worlds site.