As a nostalgic fan of games like Super Smash Bros, every potential new addition to the collection of quality 2.5 arena games gets me excited. Atomic Ninjas from Grip Games is a new contender to be in that painfully short list of goodness.
Atomic Ninjas lets the player control one of seven ninjas in an arena filled with traps, item pickups and powerups. From the trailer it seems the game looks more fast paced than most 2.5d arena games.
Earlier this week, developer, Dark Vale, announced in a blog post that their MMO A-RPG, Forge, is transitioning to a free-to-play model. Just a few moments ago, Dark Vale tweeted that the transition is happening today, and that game servers were being brought down to make room for the change.
Since the game’s launch, last December, Dark Vale has tweaked and patchedForge numerous times, and now they believe that to ensure their title’s survival, it needs to shift to the free-to-play model.
“…this next release is all about Forge’s survival,” Dark Vale explains on the game’s official website. “As you all know, we’re an Indie developer and are able to continue to support the game with new features from the sales of Forge every month. In order to continue to do this we must change our business plan in order to get more players playing Forge so it’s fun for everyone and to continue funding development. This is why Forge must go F2P.”
Dark Vale makes it very clear that Forge will not become a pay-to-win title. The developers point out that all items in their item store are cosmetic (apart from the XP boosters), and hope to add in the feature to further allow the player to customize those items, in the near future. Starter packs are also in the works, allowing for players to purchase packs of items on Steam, for themselves or their friends. Dark Vale plans to give out everyone who has previously purchased Forge a starter pack that includes an XP boost and a set of skins, for free.
“This is a really big change for Forge,” Dark Vale says. “We are hoping that with the new progression changes from the last patch that the new influx of players will have an easier time finding out how fun Forge can be. We are targeting next week for this release. The release will also contain some stability fixes as well. Thank you all again for all your help and suggestions that went into our F2P transition.”
Today’s Indie Links feature articles on Teslagrad, Gunpoint and Spin the Bottle.
Interview at Gunpoint (Games Industry)
“When Tom Francis was a teenager, living with his parents, he roughed out a plan for a game featuring a bounty hunter in space. Now, years later, he’s a respected games journalist and the creator of Gunpoint, a stealth game that has found success (and significantly large sales) on the indie scene.”
Spin the Bottle interview: team designing and marketing a TV-less console game (IndieGames.com)
“Redgrim (Dragon Pussy, MRS. DAD) and Knapnok (B.U.T.T.O.N.) are working together and marketing Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party, a party game coming this summer to the Wii U console that never uses the TV. Here, the two discuss working remotely, creating trailers for games not played on a screen, the characters’ “phallic-in-nature” design, and other challenges that come with marketing a “spin the bottle” game.”
Preview: Teslagrad (Indie Game Reviewer)
“Teslagrad from Rain AS based out of Bergen, Norway, is a puzzle-platformer currently in production for which IGR had the pleasure of sampling an early build. I got to experience play up until just after the first boss, at which point I came upon a boarded-up barrier telling me this was the end of what was in the current build. In the opening scenes I was impressed with the quality of animation in the character sprites. In fact, the whole aesthetic of Astro Boy classic style animation is incredibly well done. As for music, I could only enjoy the trailer teaser music as there was none in the build I played.”
Splatter Interview (Independent Gaming)
“Strolling through IndieDB can get you some awesome indie games, and I found Splatter, an upcoming (edit: now available!) shooter with a slick style. I contacted Thomas, the creator, to find out about how the art style was made, among other things.”
Call of Tomsk-7: An Overlooked Gem (Independent Games)
“Daniel Mercier, AKA Red Tree Games, first caught my attention with his excellent freeware puzzle-platformer Burn Pixel Wood. But that’s Daniel’s second game; his first game was released commercially in January of 2013 and flew so low under the radar that I only recently learned of its existence (not that I’m omniscient, but I do make it my business to at least be aware of as many indie game releases as humanly possible). That game, of course, is Call of Tomsk-7, and it turns out that I like it very much.”
The indieComplex (TIGSource)
“Some young gents are trying to pick up where the TIGCast left off. So, please guide and aid them in their endeavors.”
Kickstarter Katchup – July 7th (RPS)
“There are several failures this week, although most vow to return or to continue development by finding other means of funding. That’s becoming increasingly common by my reckoning. There are also more developers realising that while operating a campaign is hard work in and of itself, the amount of effort expended before even launching can be just as important. New space games make up the bulk of fresh entries and Centration is already at the top of my personal wishlist. Space Station 13 from a first-person perspective? Oh yes.”
In celebration of Indie RPG developer Spiderweb Software’s 20th anniversary, studio founder Jeff Vogel has teamed up with Humble Bundle for a Weekly Sale promotion on his entire catalog. Spiderweb’s games are known for their open, sprawling worlds, epic storytelling and tactical combat; and Vogel has been prolific in his development schedule over such a long period of time. As such, there’s quite a bounty to be had here.
Name your price to receive the following titles: The Geneforge Saga (contains Geneforge 1, Geneforge 2, Geneforge 3, Geneforge 4: Rebellion, and Geneforge 5: Overthrow), Avadon: The Black Fortress, The First Avernum Trilogy (contains Avernum, Avernum 2, Avernum 3, and Blades of Avernum), Avernum: The Great Trials Trilogy (contains Avernum 4, Avernum 5, and Avernum 6).
You also get bonus game art and hint books with your purchase. Pay $1 or more to score Steam keys for all the aforementioned, and if you beat the average price (currently $4.56) you’ll pickup Avernum: Escape from the Pit and Nethergate: Resurrection as well.
So far the bundle has sold over 30,000 units and made over $140,000 for Spiderweb, Humble Bundle, and charities Child’s Play and Electronic Frontier Foundation. Head over to the Humble Weekly Sale page to pick it up, and hurry: There’s just over three days left (at time of writing) before the promotion disappears into thin air.
Indie service wars, platform confessionals, a day in the life of a programmer and more in today’s Developer Links.
Steam is king in service wars, Humble Store a sleeping giant, indies say (Joystiq)
“Twenty-one randomly selected indie developers walk into a digital room and ponder the question, “Which online distribution system has been the most effective for your games?” If this were the set-up to a joke, the punchline would probably be, “Facebook.” But for many indie developers, the question of which platform to publish their games on is a very serious one, with potentially dire consequences. Pared down, platform success is all about accessibility, upload and support, and in terms of those factors, there’s a clear, unsurprising favorite: Steam. But maybe not for long.”
Indie platform confessional: PSN, XBLA, eShop, ‘all of the above’ (Joystiq)
“The internet is kind of like a classic confessional – except it’s not a box, it’s a lot brighter and everyone can hear what you have to say. Still, we asked a handful of independent developers for their thoughts on what exactly makes a platform effective, and they spilled it all, dissecting the pros and cons of the most popular, current models of distribution. Today, we feature answers from SpyParty’s Chris Hecker, Retro City Rampage’s Brian Provinciano, Ska Studios’ James Silva, Thomas Was Alone’s Mike Bithell, and others. This group of developers had specific thoughts about Sony’s PlayStation Network, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Indie Games and Arcade services, the Nintendo eShop, and the dream of having it all.”
An Interview with Indie Developer Alistair Aitcheson (IndieGames.com)
“Alistair Aitcheson, one of the few developers that have properly endangered my iPad with his 2-players/1-iPad offerings and a genuinely talented crafter of games, discusses his creations and provides us with some handy tips for the aspiring game developer.”
From XNA to MonoGame (Gamasutra)
“A reprint from the May 2013 issue of Gamaustra’s sister publication Game Developer magazine, this article explains how you can transition your XNA projects to MonoGame.”
BattleBlock Theater Game Updates (The Behemoth)
“If you haven’t done so already, be sure to download the update for BattleBlock Theater on Xbox LIVE. We’ve updated a couple areas in the game.”
Design with the Devs: BattleBlock FF Selection (The Behemoth)
“Since opening night, players everywhere have embraced the BattleBlock Community Theater as the best place in the whole world to share your thoughts and dreams, so long as your thoughts and dreams looked exactly like BattleBlock Theater levels. Otherwise, you may just want to start a journal blog.”
Dungeon lovers dx (Auntie Pixelante)
“”Rooms 59-60 – These rooms comprise the interior of the temple proper. Its vast space is dominated by a stepped dais at the west end on which stands a golden statue of a two-headed serpent, the ancient god Sin.” The above is an excerpt from the computer game HELLFIRE WARRIOR. or, rather, it’s an excerpt from the book that comes with the game. if your digital avatar is standing in room 59 or 60, you might decide to look up the room’s description in the book. the “paragraph book” represents a strategy in digital game storytelling that rose out of the dungeons & dragons pen & paper role-playing tradition: when you set your playing pieces on the square on the map that represents the next room in the dungeon, the dungeon master – a live human emcee – will tell you what your characters see in that room. computers have always been good at displaying squares – when their graphic economy didn’t leave much room for visually describing the contents of one of those squares, game authors like jon freeman, joyce lane and jeff johnson – the writers of hellfire warrior’s “book of lore” – borrowed an idea from the game experiences that inspired theirs.”
A Day in the Life of a Programmer (Gaslamp Games)
“The programming team codenamed our current milestone El Dorado after the mythical city that doesn’t really exist. Most of the stuff that we have been doing towards El Dorado… well, it isn’t ready yet. Also, a lot of it is systems which are transparent to the user (networking, refactoring, serialization, etc.) It’s all important, but it’s not glamorous. We should, however, have a few interesting things to show next week. We (well, mainly Micah) wrote up some of the work that we did on our threading and messaging system, and submitted it to an academic conference; I am pleased to report that HotPAR ’13 (the Usenix Hot Topics in Parallelism conference) decided to accept our paper, which will be presented at some point in June. I should figure out when that is…”
Today’s Indie Links comes bearing gifts such as an awesome list of free games, an indie game tribute music video and Haikus about Ludum Dare entries.
Scrolls, Lists and Freeware Games (Gnome’s Lair)
“So, yes, it did have to happen. After years of playing through hundreds of free games and after writing about dozens of the things, well, the time has come for me to finally set up a nice and update-able list with the best of the lot or, to be precise, those I enjoyed the most. Have a look and worry not; more playable freebies will be added to it.”
Boy Band Pays Tribute To…Steam Sales & Indie Games (Kotaku)
“New Zealand “boy band” (read: StarCraft tribute act) Viva La Dirt League have released this track called Indie Game Anthem (Thrift Shop). It’s an ode to both the affordability of indie games and the fact you can buy them en masse during Steam sales.”
The Wonderful, Rare Sloppiness Of The Monaco Soundtrack (Kotaku)
“Of all the terms one could use to describe a video game soundtrack—exhilarating, emotional, sad, uplifting, lonesome, boisterous—the word “sloppy” almost never comes up. Seriously, pause for a minute and name a video game with a sloppy soundtrack. Unless you’re talking about a poorly-played Rock Band track or a bar pianist in Red Dead Redemption, they’re few and far between.”
Gaming’s New Frontier: Cancer, Depression, Suicide (Polygon)
“Brian Ramage has made traditional hardcore games for all his professional life, and still does. He recently encountered a very different kind of experience, one that altered his view of what games can achieve.”
Bennett Foddy’s Speed Chess is QWOP designer’s take on classic game (Shacknews)
“Bennett Foddy, the creator of games like QWOP and GIRP, debuted a new take on chess at New York University’s No Quarter exhibition. Kotaku caught a look at what Foddy describes as “anti-Chess,” a 8v8 multiplayer game that rewards reflexes more than long-term strategy.”
Review: Machines at War 3 (IndieGameReviewer)
“Machines at War 3 suffers from a dated presentation that makes it difficult to engage with whatever strategic or tactical challenge the game may have to offer. In many ways it does reminds of Command & Conquer—a game I played over fifteen years ago, and which has been improved upon by other titles in the genre. The game leans heavily on nostalgia for the classic RTS games of the 90s, and thus runs the risk of overplaying its hand. It feels very much like a fan mod of one of those old games rather than a new production, and not entirely in a good way.”
Teslagrad (Pixel Prospector)
“Teslagrad is an upcoming story driven puzzle platformer about magnetism and electromagnetic powers. It’s story is purely told through visual means which means the game does not have any text or dialogue.”
Games based on depression, an award winning game we’ll never get to play, and other interesting titles in today’s Indie Links.
How Jason Rohrer Won The Game Design Challenge (RPS)
“A real high-point of every GDC is the Game Design Challenge. Well, was. Sadly the tenth year of this annual treat was the last, with organiser Eric Zimmerman bringing proceedings to an end. And wow, did it go out in style. With the apposite topic, “Humanity’s Last Game”, some of the biggest names in the industry put forth their pitches for the last game we’d ever need. And one man entirely stole the show. For a second year, that man was Jason Rohrer.”
Mobile review: Ridiculous Fishing (Shacknews)
“Fishing is a tough endeavor, one that isn’t as easy as it looks on TV or in the movies. Homer Simpson once had an idea to dump a plugged-in bug zapper into a lake and it resulted in a whole lot of easy-to-catch (if somewhat high voltage) fish. That’s a ridiculous idea. Yet it’s not as ridiculous as some of the heavy artillery that’s used in Ridiculous Fishing, the latest iOS title from Vlambeer (Super Crate Box), Greg Wohlwend (Puzzlejuice), and Zach Gage (Halcyon).”
Storyteller preview: In the eye of the beholder (Joystiq)
“”Wait, save that. No one’s done it that way before. You made it more complicated.” Daniel Benmergui reached out to grab the mouse and save a screenshot of my panels in his comic-book narrative game, Storyteller, where I had just concocted a tale of love and loss based on the page’s prompt, using a trio of static characters. One click and Benmergui let me regain control – he resumed his place over my shoulder in a quiet room off of the main GDC concourse, paper and pen in hand, taking notes on my visible thought processes as they played out on-screen.”
Preview: Hiversaires (TIGSource)
“After years of releasing engaging short-form games, prolific digital artist Aliceffekt is nearing completion of his first independent commercial project, Hiversaires, for iOS. Committing himself to full time development at the beginning of February, Aliceffekt has worked solo on the game, handling design, code, art, and music.”
Little Inferno scores big sales (Destructoid)
“Little Inferno didn’t have a lot to help it become a financial success. A fireplace simulator made to parody and critique current trends in videogames isn’t exactly what the big publishers would call “a surefire hit with a huge pre-installed fan base.” Thankfully, word of mouth, positive reviews, and the reputation of the game’s all-star development team seemed to have made up for any lack of marketability.”
Second Thoughts with the Chick – Terraria (Indie Gamer Chick)
“I reviewed Terraria for PlayStation Network/Xbox Live Arcade. I said that I did have fun playing the title, but I didn’t recommend it because it was too glitchy and unfinished. I also said that I had lost interest in the game. Since then, there hasn’t been a review up at my blog. Why? Because I’ve been busy playing Terraria. So allow me to eat some crow and do a 180 here. Terraria IS worth your time, glitches and all.”
Last year, indie developer Hitbox Team released their first game, Dustforce, on Steam. A little over a year later, Hitbox Team is happily reporting on their financial success and providing valuable feedback to other developers within the indie game scene.
In a blog post, on the official Hitbox Team website, developer Terence Lee went into detail about the specifics of the team’s financial strategy going into developing their first game as a team, and the inspiring outcome of their risky endeavor.
“Now that we’ve finished our own first project, we’d like to contribute our own data about Dustforce to the growing trend of transparency in indie game development,” Lee explains. He goes onto explain that the origins of Dustforce began in the rush to complete the original prototype in the months leading up to the 2010 IndiePub Games Independent Game Developers Competition. In the end, the prototype won the team a $100,000 check, and armed with financial stability, the team was able to completely focus on developing their prototype into the game as it exists today.
Though, Lee pointed out, just like motivation and patience, money will eventually run out, and so the team set a strict deadline: have Dustforce completed by January 2012. An invitation by Valve to release Dustforce on Steam and some positive press following the prototype’s award provided the extra boost to get the project rolling.
Lee goes on to discuss how the four-man team figured out living expenses, and established monetary goals that Dustforce would have to meet, in order to be considered a financial success.
“We had no idea what to expect. We could only speculate, using sparse data points and ballpark figures. Was the past year and a half worth it? Of course it was, —we worked the hardest any of us have ever worked, and we created something we were truly proud of. Yet, there was a lingering uncertainty of financial expectations. Our goal was to just make enough money to be able to do it again. If we could work on our next project independently and without being restricted by a financial cut-off date, then we’d consider Dustforce a financial success.”
Nine days following Dustforce’s January 17th, 2012 release date, the game was a financial success. After the initial surge of post-launch sales, Dustforce was selling 30-50 copies daily. Then, in the first week of May, Hitbox Team got their first taste of a Steam Sale.
“Over the 3 days of the promotion, we sold 17,462 copies of the game, more than the amount we sold during the first 3 days of the January launch. Of course, at 50% off, the revenue was a bit less, but it was still an instant 37% boost in lifetime revenue.”
Hitbox Team’s Steam Sale Figure
When the Humble Bundle 6 launched in September of last year, Dustforce was one of the games included. The Humble Bundle promotion not only brought Hitbox Team roughly $153,915, but they also saw an uptick in Steam sales, following the conclusion of the promotion.
“Dustforce was our first finished game, and we went into it without much experience, especially in the business side of things. Through this project, we learned firsthand that time is money, and that sacrifices have to be made when resources are limited…We are really grateful to have a strong start, and are very happy with how the game turned out…We are all humbled and elated by how well Dustforce has been received. The joy from our players is enough to keep us making games, —the financial success is just an incidental blessing.”