We’ve seen many remakes of retro titles in recent years, although rarely in the indie space. As such, it is interesting to hear of Black Lab Games’current project — a remake of the 1993 computer RPG Trial By Magic. The original game was written for DOS, and was developed in 1993/1994 by Silver Lightning Software, a studio founded by Paul Turbett. Paul now develops games independently as Black Lab Games, and has decided to re-imagine his early project in Unity. With the benefit of modern tools, hopefully Trial By Magic can surpass the original version whilst maintaining its sensibilities of retro role-playing design. Below is a screenshot of the game in its original form.
Trial by Magic is very different to the role-playing games of today. It has a distinctly old-school sense of pared down scale, and its concept is refreshingly minimal: a wizard known as ‘The Trialmaster’ presents a huge fortune as a prize for whoever can descend all 25 levels of his dungeon, surviving the monsters on each level. The game is set decades after the challenge was first laid down, and still nobody has returned alive. This is where your character comes in, the plucky adventurer who thinks he’s got what it takes to buck the trend. You choose from Warrior, Spellcaster, Ranger, and Thief classes, roll some stats and you’re good to go!
This is the kind of no-nonsense approach that I appreciate in my games, and it is a truly stark contrast to the intimidating complexity of lore in some modern RPGs. There is something about the purity of old-school RPG design which is appealing, as the lack of focus on narrative depth and environmental frills means the gameplay takes center stage. The Trial by Magic remake is in the early stages of its development, so details are relatively scarce right now (remember to bear in mind that the screenshots featured here are of the 1995 original, not the remake). However, the limited information we have so far, along with the fact that Black Lab Games’ previous title was the excellent Star Hammer Tactics, has been enough to pique my excitement.
You will hear more from us about Trial by Magic as development continues, as I definitely plan on continuing coverage of this title. Nonetheless, if you want the information straight from the horse’s mouth you should check out the Black Lab Games devlog here. You can also follow @blacklabgames for updates via Twitter. Oh, and you should totally buy Star Hammer Tactics too! It’s available for a pittance via Desura here.
For anyone who has followed IGM for sometime may actually remember me covering Cello Fortress way back in September of last year. Back in September Joost Van Dongen was getting the tech ready for the Indigo exhibition in the Netherlands.
Since the early unveiling of this rather inspired project Dongen has worked even more on this project, and has recently just released a new trailer for the technology. Needless to say the trailer has really gotten the internet buzzing with anticipation for the full project.
The idea behind Cello Fortress however should not be confused with other conventional music games like Guitar Hero. In Cello Fortress you are actually commanding a real Cello. The game operates does also operate as a twin stick shooter, with up to four players work together to take down as many turrets as possible.
The turrets are of course not controlled by the computer but rather by the Cellist and this is where the magic happens. The game works by processing differnt chords differently and as follows; dissonant chords will turn on flame-throwers, aggressive notes will activate the burst-cannons, and an ominous melody charges a bombardment. This creates a novel fusion of a classic musical instrument with the modern day video game market. It’s an interesting fusion and one that would be very interesting to see more of in the not to distant future.
Although the current build of Cello Fortress is still in the early beta stages it already looks a marvel to watch and play, really creating a unique experience for everyone. Even with a working prototype in existence there is still much work for Dongen to do as he tries to prefect the game and create the most engrossing experience possible.
Expect to see Cello Fortress touring more over the course of the year and maybe you will even be lucky enough to get to see this wonderful piece of technology live in action.
Need more goats in your platformers, sir? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that Escape Goat is coming to the PC, you batty fool.
If you weren’t familiar with Magical Time Bean’s original effort on the Xbox Live Indie Games service, Escape Goat is a delightfully kooky puzzle platformer in which a goat, having been incarcerated in a prison after performing illicit acts of witchcraft, attempts to escape said prison by enlisting the aid of a benevolent mouse. Using his unrivalled agility and impetuous cunning, the goat must overcome a myriad of traps, obstacles and menacing baddies as he attempts to pull off the greatest escape in goat history since the liberation of Asschwitz. I’m so sorry.
“Sing a song of six pence, a pocketful of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing. Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?”
Nursery rhymes now – we deliver. Though, that is not printed there for your mere amusement, it’s clearly had some influence on an upcoming shmup which goes by the name of Crow Regime. A rather spectacular shmup, we might add to that. Yes, Crow Regime is still heavy in development, so it would seem, but that hasn’t stopped it from slapping us with a rather large smile.
As with many shmups, you’ll be travelling to the right and shooting to the right. The catch is that you’re a flying stove and you’re shooting blackbirds. With what we don’t know – flames, presumably? The crows carry bombs on occasion and will dash at you; one strike and you’re out it would seem. There is a way to make things easier for yourself, though it does come with a slight risk. This is really the genius part of the game.
Once you shoot a crow, its feathers will fall off, leaving it to flap away all pink and naked. It is then – at its most vulnerable – that you shall show no mercy and suck up the crow into your spiky stove mouth. From here, you shall bake the crow into a pie. However, doing this means you cannot shoot so you’ll have to dodge the incoming crows. The longer you bake the pie, the bigger it will be, but what good does that do you? Well, once the pie is baked it then joins you in shooting the crows – and you can have multiple pies of different sizes to aid you.
Add on some boss fights, a crisp art style, smooth animation on top of that hilarious outset and this is a game we can only give two thumbs up to. Crow Regime, we need you! Unfortunately there is no official website for the game as of yet, but you can keep up to date by following the programmer’s blog or subscribing to the YouTube channel. There’s of course no planned release window, but we do know that Crow Regime is headed to PC, Mac and iOS.
Spiderweb Software have now revealed all of the details regarding that Avernum Bundle we saw registered on Steam the other day, it includes Avernum 4-6 and is actually called the Avernum: The Great Trials Trilogy.
After the success of their Geneforge Bundle (who would’ve thought a bundle would be successful?), Spiderweb Software now bring forth the Great Trials Trilogy on Steam which includes the second Avernum trilogy for just $11.99 and with an extra 20% off for the first week. That’s a big drop from the $45 asking price on the official Spiderweb store.
Avernum 4-6 are RPGs with an old school sentiment and were originally released between the years 2006-2010. With the remakes of the original Avernum trilogy (on through three), Spiderweb are hoping you’ll be interested in playing the second trilogy.
Don’t know about you but we’re lost already, all of these trilogies, remakes, ahhhh! You don’t necessarily have to have played the original trilogy to be able to follow the events of the second trilogy as it is set many years afterward, but within the confines of the same underground civilisation. Each game in the trilogy features a huge world, unique stories, challenging enemies, and up to forty hours of gameplay. Here’s a brief summation of what’s going on in Avernum 4-6, handily provided by the developer:
“Avernum 4 takes place long after the previous game and will have you protecting Avernum from new monsters and assassins rising from the darkness that threatens to destroy your home. In Avernum 5, take a new role as protectors of the Empire, seeking to thwart assassins who would lay it low. Finally, in Avernum 6, a food blight and invasion of barbarian lizard people drive the underworld of Avernum to the brink of extinction. In each game you shape the world and the ending as you travel through the enormous, deadly world of Avernum.”
You can purchase Avernum: The Great Trials Trilogy over on Steam for Windows only on this page. More information on the trilogy can be found over on the official website.
Built for the Dreamcast primarily, Redux: Dark Matters is a slick, retro-style shmup that begs attention and boy does it deserve it. The collaborated team behind the game is nearly as impressive as the game – René Hellwig from NG:DEV.TEAM (GunLord, Fast Striker, Last Hope and DUX) and KTX Software (The Haunted: Hells Reach), plus the soundtrack is being provided by Andre Neuman and Chris Huelsbeck (Turrican, R-Type).
You may be a little bit bummed out if you haven’t got a Dreamcast then, considering what the game looks like (see below) and who is making it. Good news is that there are plans to bring it to iOS, PC via Steam, PS3 and Xbox 360.
The problem is the developers need money to get hold of those development kits to do so. As such, they have set up a Kickstarter which is allowing people to put their money forward and get hold of the game’s soundtrack in various forms, as well as limited editions of the Dreamcast version of the game. Those who do pledge enough to get the copies of the game will also receive NG:DEV.TEAM’s DUX 1.5 edition which is a more polished version of the game’s 2009 release.
Redux: Dark Matters contains “super fine” HD graphics (they’re not kidding!), THAT soundtrack, six stages to battle through with huge bosses too and, as this is an arcade game, lots of highscoring to achieve. Now look below for that glorious media – gameplay and screenshots galore!
More information on Redux can be found on its official website, but that just directs you to the Kickstarter page so you may as well just head there first.
“I can’t stand Guitar Hero”, announced the ever-enthusiastic John Brodsky from Lucky Frame during his talk about Creative Music Games at Indie Connect. John brought a lot of energy and discussion to the festival on and off stage, so it was clear that he has a lot of passion for what he is doing. Before he divulged his stance on the more commercial side of rhythm/music games though, he exposed his roots. These were, not too surprisingly, planted in the punk rock scene – playing in a makeshift band and carrying the anti-establishment values that come as standard.
Of course, it’s not too much of a leap from that to the side of indie games, in which developers create their own games how they see fit and often do not conform to standard practices and teachings. That, when combined with being a kid of the modern age, made John all too eager to create his own games with a music core to drive them. The initial urge came from seeing what a friend and now colleague of his made – the Wii Loop Machine. Quite simply, this was a game in which the Wiimote could be used to chop up and rearrange music in an intuitive fashion. With the seeds sown, John took the plunge into programming so that he may move closer to that lifelong dream of creating his own game.
Thus, Musjik was born. This was a simple effort and mostly served as a seminal piece for what would become Lucky Frame’s later and more popular projects. One thing John realised he really wanted to achieve from this point onwards, was a simple and user-friendly interface for creating music. John remembers creating music on his Gameboy all those years ago and he grew very attached to that interface; the A and B buttons as well as the D-Pad. He claims that the majority of players get used to and rely on certain interfaces and refuse to let go of them. Therefore, he didn’t want something that would cause a barrier between the player and the act of creating music.
That is the most important thing for John and Lucky Frame, “creating music”, which is why he despises the franchises that allow players to play music – other people’s music, not the player’s own creations. Of course, there is some capacity for players to create their own music in those games but not to the degree that Lucky Frame look to achieve.
With all of this in mind, John showcased a prototype he made for his next game, Space Hero. What was clear from the start with this game is that John had made the act of creating music a recognisable game in itself. Imagine Space Invaders with falling shapes which, when shot, would emit a sound produced by a drum machine that loosely slotted in with the rhythm of the soundtrack.
Space Hero wasn’t a bad effort but it was inspiration from the Monome SHM Software that led up to his best creation so far. This electronic instrument is operated by a person pushing down on its grid interface which would cause several lights to come on in random places and emit corresponding sounds, eve more variation can be had if more than one square in the grid is pushed down. From this came a game jam creation in which the player could control the environment in a tower defense style game – the catch being that the player was trying to create music but the enemies would destroy it.
It’s not easy to adequately surmise what John was showing the audience but it clearly impressed the room for both its simplicity and originality. The latest work from John and Lucky Frame is, of course, Pugs Luv Beats – a take on the tower defense title from the jam with more polish and a whole lot more character. Still present was the grid-based interface though, which had different terrains spread across it as the titular pugs skipped across to different chimes collecting beetroot.
Now, the whole point of John’s talk on Creative Music Games was to inspire the many developers present in the room to start thinking about designing games with music in mind, as it clearly leads to some very interesting game designs. Not entirely self-indulgent, John pointed out a few examples of games that allowed the player to create their own music and to an impressive result. These were Tambour, FRACT OSC and Proteus, which we’ll now quickly outline.
Tambour is showcased as a drumming game primarily in a versus mode style attack-defend scenario. However, it can be played with just about anything as long as rhythms can be played. Mostly, it’s a strategy game with timing being the crucial factor as you would imagine. Players can deploy shields and fire cannons and hope for high scoring combos – the game’s 1.0 version is due to be released on May 8th.
FRACT OSC is no stranger to this publication. A puzzle game mostly, FRACT OSC has the player wondering around figuring out the music-based environment as they go. They’ll come across ancient machines that are in-game synthesizers that can be used to create custom music and with such an incredible range too.
Proteus is markedly different to the previous two examples in that the player doesn’t create the music so actively, but it is created around them, reacting to their movements. The game is best surmised by the idea that the developers a re conducting an electronic orchestra around the player as they explore. Animals, the elements and plant life are the instruments in this magical land.
John is clearly very experimental and ambitious with what he does and he’s been part of some brilliant game designs. Hopefully, upon sharing his creations and techniques we’ll start to see more of these creative music games emerge, not only because music is important to all of us and computer games, but also because it brings fresh approach to game design and leads to some exciting discoveries.
Happy Little Aliens are working on their next title for iOS, PC and Mac which they call Meteor Storm Escape – though it’s early stages we’re digging it’s style.
Happy Little Aliens are busy chipping away at their next project but we’ve wormed our way into their workshop and had a look around – things are looking good. The project is known as Meteor Storm Escape which handily sums the game up really. You play as some form of flying/hover craft and zip across the landscape dodging the ensuing meteor shower as well as the many obstacles up front on the ground. Of course, if you get some air you also do some stunts – the usual flips of course…because why not?
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the game is the art style and what you can see isn’t an early prototype (it’s not final either) but is the smooth, minimal look the developers are aiming for. We like it, though there is a feeling that not everyone will – each to their own. The game is fast-paced to the core and in some ways resembles Wipeout without the racing part and the sci-fi visuals.
There’s not much else to speak of regarding Meteor Storm Escape except to point you in the direction of the latest gameplay video which is intended to flaunt the game’s three distinctive level styles so far – Mountains, Dune Sea and Megatropolis. The game is expected to be released “soon” and will be for iOS devices, PC and Mac.
More information on Meteor Storm Escape can be found on the developer’s official blog.
An anonymous source from a shady and fraudulent mobile app marketing company has revealed how the process works and why Apple can’t stop it. The confessions bring into question whether the App Store is worth the time and effort for an honest-to-goodness indie developer.
The App Store has become a place of indie developer dreamers and hopefuls – get a successful app on there and you’ll make some good money, all it takes is simplicity most of the time. Of course, it’s also driven an interest in money makers who produce clones and uninspired knock-offs, there’s so many in fact that it’s actually become a trend on there, with seemingly every corner crammed with mass appeal re-hashes. At GDC last week, Capybara Games, developers behind the critically acclaimed iOS hit Sword and Sworcery, encouraged indie developers to take risks rather than go with the flow of all the clones if they want a better chance at success.
The fact is that there are so many apps vying for attention that it’s more of a lottery’s chance at success for any developer. It seems the chances of any indie developer getting noticed on there is made even lower by the many companies that specialise in using dodgy tactics to promote apps, which they charge between $4,000 and $17,000 for. While it’s nothing new, one of the people behind one of these companies says that Apple doesn’t really have a way of stopping them, meaning that success on the App Store will probably remain a matter of price for a while now.
Citing companies like Appmagenta, AdMob and GTekna, the anonymous source speaking to DigiDay revealed the methods which are used to attempt to get an app in that all important Top 25 Chart:
“They use bots. They say they don’t, but they do. There’s no mathematical way they can generate the volume of traffic they do for the amounts that we’ve paid them and switch it on and off so quickly. They’ll even go as far as to buy display ads on a few iPhone sites for show and then say they can’t disclose the rest of their activity.”
Apple recently announced that it was going to take action against these tactics and the companies that use them, though the source seems to think that’s impossible:
“The reality is, Apple doesn’t really have a way to stop it. They can threaten to shut people down but from a technical perspective it would be extremely hard for them to identify. Apple doesn’t have, or at least would never openly admit to having, access to data coming from within an application. All they track is whether or not they’ve delivered the software. Maybe there’s a way they could look at download patterns: investigate apps that go through huge bursts and then trace downloads of them back to specific accounts. I think it’s going to be very hard for Apple to shut this down.”
While there’s no use in discouraging indie development on the App Store there are many things going against honest developers. Perhaps the best way to reach success or at least recognition on the App Store is to follow Capybara’s advice and make something totally unique and “risky”. Relying on marketing, it seems, is not going to get anyone very far when such shady tactics are being used, especially if your game has nothing unique to brag about.
Good stuff. Indie dev Infinite Ammo has released a set of video tutorials designed to ease newcomers into the Unity3D Toolset, which was recently given a free release. Even better, Infinite Ammo has the resume to fulfill the task as the developer’s titles thus far–Paper Moon, Heroes + Villains and Marian–were all created using the software.
The tutorials are there for those a bit taken aback by the daunting tasks of learning how to use the software and then using it to create the game envisioned. Alec Holowka really does a good job of breaking everything down step-by-step. Hopefully it will encourage a wider audience to give the game development process a try.