After the success of their previous titles in the well-received Iron Grip universe, ISOTX has moved out of their elaborately created universe to make space for a new one in March of War. March of War is a free-to-play turn-based strategy set in an alternate universe during World War II. March of War calls itself dieselpunk, so expect some twists you wouldn’t normally see in a 1940s strategy game.
One of the most interesting aspects of ISOTX’s description of their cross-platform game is how the story will work in the game’s universe. The tagline goes “rewrite the twentieth century – join forces in March of War.” There is a lot of potential in this, and I am curious about how it will all come together with the game’s optional pay-to-play system. Playing games will earn the player gold and research points, but the player can “speed up some of the game elements” by using real world money to buy gems in the game.
Do you think this sort of system encourages a form of ‘cheating’ by letting players speed up, or even bypass the more tedious moments of the game? Or in a social game does this make things easier for those who do not have time to invest? Let us know in the forum thread here!
If you want to see the game in action, why not sign up for the recently released beta? All you need to do is sign up on the March of War website, and you are all set.
Auroch Digital has released a new relevant game, Cow Crushers, around the recent scandal about fast food beef tainted with horsemeat. I’ve written about GameTheNews’ previous titles, My Cotton-Picking Life and Endgame Syria, and mostly concluded that although I admired the motivation behind relevant games, both titles ultimately fell flat for me.
But Cow Crushers is exactly what relevant gaming should be.
The mechanic is clear and engaging, and never deviates from the message. At it’s most basic, Cow Crushers is a pattern matching game. Animals appear in front of the players, as if brought in a conveyor belt, and the player needs to tap a burger, steak or chop button to smash that cow into the assigned cut of meat. Blood splashes up as animals become meat, and it’s surprisingly gristly for a stylized 8-bit game. As the game progresses, horses come in with the cows, and the player’s goal is to makes as many cow-burgers as possible without tainting the meat with too much horseflesh by accidentally making horse steaks. The contrast of gristly blood splash and the cute burger icon is particularly effective.
An effective message game needs a solid, playable mechanic like Cow Crusher’s pattern matching. Players engage the game, and then Cow Crusher’s message, through the conveyer belt, the repetitive actions, and the scoring system that allows a certain percentage of horsemeat into the food. Hey, that’s just a simple mistake made by someone hitting buttons on a hurry to make steaks and burgers. The player is that “someone”, not some faceless baddie, and we’ve already seen how effective it can be to put the player in the role of the villain in many other serious games like Train and McVideogame.
We view apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.
LittleLoud’s Sweatshop game, Molleindustria’s Phone Story, silly border-crossing game Smuggle Truck, and even Auroch Digital’s Endgame:Syria have run into App Store trouble on this account. Endgame: Syria was renamed Endgame: Eurasia, the specific names were changed, and the game is now available on the App Store. Molleindustria’s Phone Story is a snarky satire about iPhone manufacturing, including sweatshop conditions and worker suicides, so it’s not entirely surprising that there would be some difficulty in getting it onto the App Store. Still, a policy against messages in games and serious games is distressing information for developers of serious indies and other devs experimenting with pushing the art form in new ways.
I’m glad that Cow Crushers made it onto the App Store to allow more potential players to check it out, and try such an engaging, and clever relevant game.
Set in the not too distant future in the world of DieCrypter the human races lifespan has been drastically cut down to just 25 in the wake of a global pandemic. Scientists have managed to get around this problem by uploading peoples personalities into virtual reality to continue living.
It’s an interesting premise and one that has strong Matrix overtones but with a slightly different approach making the story for DieCrypter sound very interesting indeed. The gameplay itself is a stealth action style set within the VR world, so just think of the Metal Gear Solid VR missions crossed with Frozen Synapse and you will have a fairly good idea on how this looks.
You play as an unknown human whose avatar became corrupted and for some unknown reason turns on the system he has been placed within. No doubt the story will be full of twists and turns with things rarely appearing to be what they seem and instead weaving an intricate modern day Sci-Fi plot.
The game looks very interesting and the gameplay does look to be a great deal of fun with some very nice design choices that help you whilst planning routes to take. This comes in the form of you and every enemy leaving a trail behind them showing their patrol routes which should hopefully allow you to plan your movements accordingly.
DieCrypter seem to contain a very interesting Sci-Fi story set in a very nice and detailed VR world with a lot of great design choices put into the game itself. Although no release date has been announced this is defiantly one to watch, and if you would like to support the developer be sure to up vote on Greenlight and check out the official site.
This coming weekend sees Send More People putting on a rather unconventional jam with the Weekend Warriors jam. The whole idea of this event is to encourage indie developers to just live stream development of their own game, it really is that simple with the grand prize just being a more complete game and a weekend well spent.
It’s a novel idea and is somewhat of a step back from the hyper competitive game jams we have seen over the past few years and focuses less about inspiration and constrains, but more about just doing. It will no doubt help many developers by allowing them to set their own goals and actually be forced to work towards them, with it being streamed the incentive is there.
The idea comes of the back of many indie developers developing in their spare time, often over the weekends. This event is somewhat of a homage to this notation, and from the looks of it a damn good one.
Send More People are literally asking the internet to send them more people for this event trying to make it something a little different. It does not matter how far along on a game you are, or your chosen method of streaming. All that matters is you send the guys your link and they will get it up.
Currently the event has a few developers including; Diado Gaming, Adam Long, U1zev and of course Send More People. For more information on how to get involved in this gaming social jam be sure to check the Send More People site and sign up for it yourself.
Following on today with more Global Game Jam 2013 games I bring you Amidos Entertainment’s entry, Simple Love. Following the theme of a heartbeat Amidos takes the concept rather literally as you navigate around this maze by following the sound of a heart beating.
In my opinion the heartbeat idea is an interesting one. However in Simple Love the heart beating did feel a little over engineered as the maze was very straightforward, and short. I assume this comes down to the game being made in just 48 hours. But I think this concept could be elaborated on and worked into a game to revival secrets and such.
The art style was very nice, it was very minimalistic but suited the game perfectly – and I have a thing for minimalistic games. With a puzzle game that takes such a minimalistic approach there is always the problem of creating room after room of the same thing, luckily this was not the case here. The game progresses nicely and even though being a top down game Amidos introduces a jump mechanic that I personally quite enjoyed, it just added a nice extra challenge and worked surprisingly well.
One of the biggest weakness however comes from Amidos not being a native English speaker. This becomes ever more apparent with the text seen throughout the game which suffers from being written by a none native English speaker. It is because of this it falls short of being romantic, and even occasional borders on the creepy side. No doubt the game being done in such a blitz didn’t help this and I feel the writing suffers a little because of it.
Average play time – 5 Minutes
Simple Love is a charming little game that plays surprisingly well. Of course being created within 48 hours getting a game from a blank screen into a working model can be very challenging, however Simple Love feels rather good for a jam game. Of course there is still a fair amount of refinement to be done here and there but overall Simple Love is a solid entry into the competition.
You can play Simple Love on Newgrounds (or othersites), The Global Game Game 2013 page for the game can be found here and Amidos entertainment”s site can be found here.
If you are a developer with A fun indie game that can be played over a coffee break, we want to hear from you! Private message us on twitter @IndieGameMag or shoot us an email at email@example.com with the subject “Indie Intermission” and you could be our indie intermission pick of the day!
Videogames aren’t very eloquent when it comes to expressing complex themes and emotions, despite the protestations of some art-minded gamers. Obviously things are getting better in this regard, as the industry goes through a state of developmental adolescence — ideas are now being communicated in a far maturer manner, but games still have some growing up to do. Well, at least in my opinion. However, every so often a title like Actual Sunlight comes along, handling weighty topics with assured confidence and making us realize how impactful the gaming medium can be. This piece of short interactive fiction, developed by Will O’Neill, has themes of depression and loneliness, and is absolutely free to play in its current form.
You play as Evan Winter, a sufferer of depression with feelings of isolation and worthlessness. The player slowly learns more about the mentality of the character throughout the game, from snippets of conversation, psychiatric transcripts, and journal entries, all presented against the backdrop of Evan’s mundane day-to-day existence. For this dynamic to work, obviously the game has to be entirely linear, with a large reliance on text-based exposition. If there is one thing about Actual Sunlight that is questionable, it is the fact that player interaction is minimal — you will spend most of your time bashing the space bar to progress lines of text. However, I don’t feel that this cheapens the experience at all, and the lack of player agency reflects the seemingly uncontrollable nature of the protagonist’s life.
I’m keen for this not to devolve into the ever-tedious ‘games as art’ debate, as it’s a pointless and cyclical discussion to which I see no positive conclusion. I’m a philistine who plays videogames, not an art critic. However, one thing I do know is that Actual Sunlight provoked a deep response in me, a feeling that few other games have managed to evoke. Evan’s doom-laden assessment of life, relationships and the corporate world is written in such a way as to make the player consider their own lives, and there are clear attempts to draw parallels between the gamer and the character. It’s hard to say much about the game without damaging the impact of the first play-through, but I hope my explanation has been enough to at least pique your interest.
Luna Shattered Hearts Episode 1 (Luna) is a brand new 2D action platformer from Daniel Gill (Gillisgames) and is focused around two main protagonists in a somewhat unique manner.
Luna gives you direct command over Lithien the main protagonist with Dez continually following him around on the adventure offering support. The story – although largely in development – sounds rather unconventional as these two characters have a past filled with terrible deeds. They are both self centred and arrogant people who try to distance themselves from the world at large.
Interestingly enough the story shows their character development from being these rather detached self centred characters into heroes that you genuinely grow attached to. The story and character development does seem to be at the heart of Luna giving this 2D platformer much more weight behind it then most.
Along with the compelling portrayal of the characters Daniel Gill implies a lot of novel and unique ideas into Luna to really make it a stand out platformer, and something just a little different. The first interesting concept in Luna is the ball of light that follows you around. This is the sole source of light for the level and requires you actively recharging it from time to time.
The light dynamic is an interesting one and will no doubt play a lot into the overall gameplay along with much of the aesthetics in Luna. It also ties nicely into the second really interesting mechanic, Dez. Dez is an NPC in which you meet very early in the game and although you have no direct control over her a lot of your actions will in fact impact upon her.
There is a meter which shows the relationship between the two characters, this will fill out as you keep Dez happy. This can be done in any number of ways throughout the game and as she grows more fond of you she will eventually get to a state of love for you. This is a very important mechanic within Luna as there is no way of acquiring extra lives, once you die you die and you may think that this is a bit harsh, but this is where Dez comes in.
Dez has the ability to bring you back to life once you have been killed, providing she is in this love state with you. It’s a nice addition and is aimed at creating a strong connection between the two characters, along with making a rather novel continue system.
Luna has been in development for over six years and Daniel Gill finally believes it is time to get it finished and launched, and from the looks of it I couldn’t agree more. Luna looks to be a very promising new action platformer that does things just a little bit differently to the conventional and for this reason it looks to be a stand-out title.
Daniel Gill however needs your help in getting Luna off the ground and is looking for a very modest sum of $8,000 via Kickstarter to finish the game. With only 11 days left to go and with just over $1,500 raised so far it is time to seriously consider backing the game.
If you are a fan of platformers and are interested in a story rich game that does things just a bit differently Luna is for you. If Luna sounds like a game you would buy consider helping out their Kickstarter.
Terraria and Dark Souls, two great tastes that normally would have nothing at all do to with each other. Until now, that is. Now that development of the exceptionally popular platform-sandbox action-RPG is complete, the community have moved in and started picking apart exactly how it works, and putting it back together in strange new ways. The Story Of Red Cloud is one of the most impressive and ambitious mods to be released so far, and sports a rather hefty feature list. Here’s just some of it:
Dark Souls Game Mechanic
12 uniquely themed Dungeon areas spread between both normal and hard modes
18 bosses (7 vanilla plus 11 mod bosses)
Custom Soundtrack inspired by Princess Mononoke & Zelda
Over 150-200 new mod items, weapons, and armors compiled from a dozen of the best mods from the community
In short, it’s a hand-crafted world, rather than a randomly generated environment. Things are more controlled and scripted than in regular Terraria, but there’s still nothing stopping you from taking the world apart with a pickaxe or building yourself a fortress home, but the focus does seem to be on exploration, combat and gear more than the regular playstyle. It’s definitely a little darker than the usual happy-go-lucky adventuring, with the story (as it is) beginning with you waking up in a shallow grave, and digging to the surface reveals that your homestead has been burnt to the ground, along with your protagonist’s parents. Grim, considering the cute 16-bit style. Still, this is more Zelda than Dragon Age, when push comes to shove.
‘So’, I hear you ask; ‘Where does the Dark Souls part come in?’ Well, that’s your whole secondary progression mechanic. Each enemy type drops a certain number of souls, and they effectively act as a secondary currency. You can spend them (via certain special crafting recipes) at rare demon altars scattered around the world in order to upgrade both your character and your gear, although you’ll still be able to get some mileage out of the regular Terraria construction system. Unlike Dark Souls, this mod isn’t going to force you head-first into a meatgrinder – there’s even included Easy and Hard mode variants of the mod, just in case you want something more casual or hardcore.
Swimming in lava might be bad for your 'Elf
Probably the largest weakness here is the storytelling. Terraria was never designed to tell a story – you tell your own through playing – so your own character’s internal monologue, dialogue with other characters and even hints on dungeon progression are all provided through signs posted throughout the world. It would have been nice if there was some kind of involved dialogue system, or some way to present this information without using such an awkward kludge, but Terraria was never designed to be modded in the first place. It’s impressive that they’ve done so much without any official tools or support, and I’d imagine that the quality of fan-made tools will improve for quite some time to come.
There’s clear limitations imposed by the framework of the game it’s built on, but the world of The Story Of Red Cloud is well designed, and the many dungeons are complex, multi-layered things with plenty of switches, mechanisms, traps, blind drops and obstacles. Enemy spawning – however it is managed – seems to be a lot more controlled than in regular Terraria as well, and an optional plugin allows you to wield an ‘off-hand’ weapon so that you can alternate between melee and ranged styles more freely, although this, too is a little bit of a kludge, overriding the right-click ‘use’ functionality and not looking too hot in action. Useful, though, and it does technically let you dual-wield weapons, if you’re really looking to put the hurt on something.
Souls, and the slimes that hoard them.
The installation process for The Story of Red Cloud is a little bit convoluted, but shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and is well worth a play if you’ve already exhausted all there is to see in regular Terraria. There’s a lot of fun to be found in exploring a hand-crafted world, rather than a procedurally generated one. The mod is still being actively developed with small updates being released every now and then (the main focus being high-level balance right now), but it’s currently considered stable and complete. You can find the latest build and full installation instructions on this Terraria Online thread. If nothing else, this should help those feeling Terraria withdrawal pains survive until the release of Starbound.
Gahlmac Game Studio has shot an arrow through the hearts of Rayman: Origins and Abe’s adventures in Oddworld, crafting a gorgeous metroidvania out of the resulting splatter. No, Exodus is not violent nor nearly as messy as that scene describes. In fact it is magnificently prim unlike its many predecessors. Place it in a frame and hang it up in an art gallery and it wouldn’t go amiss. Passers by would likely chortle at the suggestion that it isn’t finished yet, that is, until they see the honest look in the claimant’s eye.
Upon closer inspection the makeup behind this artistry is inconsistent – not in quality but in method. Watercolors make broad, abstract strokes in the background and unfortunately lack some depth. The more alluring fore is finely detailed, painterly so, with leafy cushions and stringy webs decorating the scene with an unbridled elegance. Grass sways, branches rock and butterflies, well, flutter with the smoothest of animation. Then there is the most prominent layer, containing the Na’vi-like (Avatar, not Zelda) main character alongside its foe; fleshed with the help of computer technology but with flawless animation as a result. It’s quite the combination and blends rather well.
It’s rare but becoming more common that indie game enthusiasts are treated to a visual pudding such as the one present in Exodus. So blame us not for gorging when we have the opportunity. Fate tempts a danger though, for sacrifices are often made in other departments when one is so vivid. Naysayers be distraught! For what can be surmised from playing Exodus in its first alpha release is far from disappointing. And it’s likely that we haven’t yet seen all that even this small snippet has to show, given that there are many hidden areas to explore.
Without the proper introduction to the game yet in place, we’re left to interpret intercom chatter with a fellow alien stuck in a stasis pod like the rest of the species, picking up the pieces of the story as we go. The trapped alien informs us that three Extractors must be traversed in order to obtain their gems, hidden inside. Only when these are under our possession will the gates to the city Exodus open and our heroic tale come to an end. Essentially, we’re the only hope for our species so we best make haste, and carefully! So off we trot, and sneak, and jump. Not many dangers come across as being so deadly; merely snoozing in the sun or harmlessly flapping overhead – why was our higher up telling us to so cautious? But when provoked, even the slightest, these creatures will panic and aim to defend themselves as if part of a real ecosystem. About the only exception to this provoke-for-danger system are the spiders which cast a line towards you and reel you in for the nibble regardless of how hostile you seem. Fortunately the alien bi-pedal which we steer comes naturally armed with a claw.
Being a game of jumps, the biggest threats are long falls, lava and spikes. Survival can be made easier by collecting a trail glowing essence, which can be spent to upgrade every aspect of the alien protagonist. Peril is had upon death, as all the collected essence is lost but can be reclaimed if the site of death can be reached again. Later, being able to double jump and attack in different ways allows new places to be opened up which weren’t previously accessible, as the metroidvania sub-genre demands.
The alpha demo is more limiting than that though, offering a rounded experience, including a trip through one of the much harder Extractors. While exploration outside is quite pleasant, these foreboding deathtraps serve to show up the game’s more clunky side at this stage. This concerns the platforming side of things mostly. Landing in between rows of spikes passed the check of excellence. So too did the dodging of a huge swinging blade. Then came more awkward design, which relies on mid-air jumps and timing which can’t be judged – leaving the player with no way of avoiding death at times.
Then there was the boss fight, which seemed initially pretty difficult, but after learning the pattern of attack necessary, it was actually fairly easy. Given that this is the finale of the alpha demo, things were clearly not as polished as the rest of the experience, as proven by a background tile misalignment. Was the alpha demo a little rushed in its final stages? If so, this means that changes are very plausible and that our worries of harmful level design may be alleviated in the future. Crossing our fingers is hardly a leap of faith – not with such finesse already on display.
You can play the Exodus alpha demo for yourself by downloading it from this page. Look out for updates on the game’s development on the developer’s official website.
Hope for the future of gaming is looking more and more promising, merely because student projects continue to be interesting and push boundaries. Take for example A Story About My Uncle. This was produced in just 11 weeks by a small team of students as part of the Södertörns Högskola’s game program – their task was to make a non-violent first person game using the UDK Engine. But get this: these are first year students who had never used the UDK Engine before.
From what we can see in the game’s trailer, it was very deserving of the Swedish Game of the Award nomination it received. Unfortunately the game didn’t go on to win, but these students obviously have a lot of talent and ambition behind them; they should go far. So what’s it all about? The playable character, a young boy, searches for his uncle but he somehow ends up in a strange but fantastic world – part of the course was to write a deep and engaging storyline so there’s a little more to it than that as the trailer seems to show at its beginning.
As you can see in the trailer, in this weird world, the player is able to explore quite freely using a grappling hook as well as different types of jumps and leaps to traverse the environment. Apparently, the game caters to both novice and advanced playing types, in terms of the platforming parts of the game; how it does this is not made clear though. The other thing of note is that the story doesn’t stop once you enter this beautiful world; there’s a civilization to discover and presumably interact with in some manner. From the looks of it they are quite gangly green people, a peaceful sort that live in close communities amongst rocky cavers. If only we had a more apt description for you, alas, we have but the trailer for now.
The student team are looking to pursue things much further though, not necessarily with this project but in terms of becoming a game development company. If this is what they can produce in a matter of weeks with an unfamiliar engine we can’t wait to see what else they can come up with given the time and resources. More information on A Story About My Uncle and an impressive gallery of the game’s art is available on the official website.