Dec 16, 2015

The Paradise of Issyos, Priorities and Progress

Two freeware games I'm most proud to have helped with have been released and that, dear reader, does make me rather happy. Here you can download Locomalito's excellent arcade platformer The Curse of Issyos and here you can play the Greek version of educational/political/strategy twine The Paradise of Debt (Ο Παράδεισος του Χρέους). I did come up with the Greek names for monsters and things for the former and translated the latter. 

Now that you know, I suppose it's time for me to get back to finishing Workers In Progress SE: Progress Harder which is almost done and looking way better than I expected it to and Earthling Priorities which has stalled again but is really close to release.

Dec 14, 2015

Game Cities: The Motionless City

Did you know that I spent over 10 years of my adult life almost exclusively studying cities, urban planning, the geography of cities and urbanism? Well, it's absolutely true. I even have the PhD, papers and teaching experience to prove this and, to cunningly and swiftly change the subject, as I've always been fascinated by those intricate, built manifestations of society and loved working on games, I've decided to bring the two together. My first attempt was that ambitious City RPG that's been --to put it mildly-- put on hold, but now more things are afoot.

I've already started consulting on city matters and exercising my fantasy urban planning skills for an amazing indie project I cannot say much about (yet), am actively looking for more work of the sort and have even slowly began organizing a book about the crafting of cities and settlements for games.

What's more, I thought it might be a nice idea to start writing a few simple articles about games and cities. Or even about the principles of urban planning that can be applied to level design. About storytelling via the built environment. Then again, a series of articles might be too time consuming to be a great idea after all. We'll just have to see how that goes I suppose, as I'm in no position to make any promises. For now, let me attempt a first take at an article of the sort.

Oct 28, 2015

Eye^Game^Candy: Life and Death

It may have been released across all major computer gaming formats and may have looked impressive on the Amiga, but it was always the CGA, MS-DOS version of Life and Death I considered the more appropriate. Its garish colours had an uncanny ability to make the subject matter just a little bit more disturbing to turn each operation into an exercise in bloody horror, whereas the PC beeper powered scream was simply unparalleled in its other-worldliness. Oh, yes, and this was actually the version I've always owned and loved complete in its magnificent box with the surgical mask and that brilliantly written The History of Surgery book. 

Find out more about Life and Death on MobyGames and Abandonia.

Oct 23, 2015

The City and the RPG That Never Were

I have been mentioning a certain RPG on and off for the past 15 or so months and have been working on it for longer than that, but it apparently just wasn't meant to be. Not yet at least and, shockingly, due to the very same reasons the wise Jonas Kyratzes was afraid of, but, admittedly, that's indie development you. There's always a chance you'll spend hundreds of hours for absolutely nothing.

Even more so if you are not a programmer and/or do not have access to several thousand dollars, euros, pounds, doesn't-really-matters.

Despite the fact that I am capable of fully comprehending this harsh reality, it remains incredibly disheartening to see such an ambitious and promising project simply die. Despite all the days poured into it and the brilliantly talented people that never gave up on it, the Kyttaro or City RPG as people used to call it will most probably never happen.

All I can do, after over a year of pre-production, countless pages worth of words, dozens of sketches and almost two prototypes, is attempt to give you an idea of what would have been and, in a way, preserve the game's memory. It was pretty important to me, you see, and having it cancelled almost made me give up games entirely, but, well, I do at least hope you'll find reading about the RPG-that-never-was interesting.

Oct 16, 2015

The Watchful Indie Watch #16.10

Now, that's more like it game dev dears. A healthy but not overwhelming week of new and intriguing indie things, that's managed to include a healthy mix of genres, styles and ideas.

On the retro-esque side of things, here's a little something I haven't played: That Dam Level. It's obviously TMNT and NES inspired and is cheap enough to be worth the risk.

On the generally sparsely populated adventure-platformer-RPG side of thing on the other hand we have Wanderer. It's seeking funding on Kickstarter and looking stunning.

Tale of Enders by Thunderware is way simpler. It's an ASCII maze exploration game and a refreshingly elegant one at that. Also, cheap.

Also, also, graveyard exploring, tombstone reading sim Boon Hill has been released and it's as fun as it doesn't sound. A very interesting and somber piece of gaming.

The Mooseman has appeared on Steam Greenlight. Looks wonderfully moody and has a shaman as its protagonist. I do love shamans.

Oh, and if you are looking for a seemingly addictive strategic-RPG-of-sorts-thingy, I suppose Templar Battleforce is worth checking out. Feels very Space Hulk-y and very good, though admittedly I've only played for an hour or so.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and, of course, actual games and things. Thanks!

Oct 14, 2015

Strolling through the texty fields of 2015 IF Comp

The 21st Interactive Fiction Competition, the aptly named 2015 IF Comp, has opened its virtual doors (to its titular virtual fields obviously) and you can now either download a single .zip archive containing all 55 --I think-- texty entries, or simply follow this link to the comp's games to download and play stuff individually. 

Many will work better online, some might require you type words, others will come with digital feelies and most parser-based ones should probably be played using an interpreter like the excellent Gargoyle, but, I know, you care not for the details.

You love your interactive fiction, crave text adventures and deeply appreciate CYOAs. You are my precious reader and it's this texty time of the year when you get to play, discuss and judge an excellent selection of i-f offerings. A selection that's so far proven so amazingly good, I couldn't help but think that an exhibition might be a better idea than a competition after all.

As for the games I've already played, well, I've been writing about them over at the Impish Words, Spirited Games page on facebook, though I do suppose I could edit and post some of those mini-reviews here. Actually, I just did:

Oct 9, 2015

The Watchful Indie Watch #9.10

Not much content posted on Gnome's Lair this week, I know, but not only have I been busy writing for IndieGames and Warp Door, but I've also been working on a rather huge article on that RPG that never was. You'll love it. Anyway. Here's the news:

Cyberpunk, pixel art adventure Read Only Memories has been released for  Windows, Mac and Linux and looks glorious and as close to Sega (Mega) CD Snatcher as we'll ever get. Haven't played it yet, but am looking forward to doing so very soon.

Shardlight has been announced by Wadjet Eye Games and it's a wonderfully post-apocalyptic game all about disease, death and hunger. Shardlight will be released sometime during the spring of 2016. The debut trailer's stunning too.

Prehistoric and suitably retro-like action platformer There Was A Caveman has made its debut on Steam. Love the pixel-art on this one.

And speaking of fresh releases on Steam, one simply has to mention Lumber Island - That Special Place for Windows. It is --quite obviously-- a first person horror thing.

Game of Drones is the latest update to excellent sci-fi explore-'em-up Duskers, that unsurprisingly focuses on drones. A list of additions and an appropriately nerdy video update have been released.

Arcade first-person shooter Devil Daggers has been announced and can already be glimpsed and voted for on Greenlight. It's being developed by Matt Bush of Dustforce fame and is looking decidedly '90s, which can only be a good thing.

Metroidvanias are also generally considered good things. You could go on and try creating your own with the pretty clever and aptly named Metroidvania Game Kit.

Memoranda is very close to becoming a magical reality point-and-clicker inspired by Murakmi's work. All it needs (and deserves) to make its stunning self a (magical) reality is a bit of Kickstarter support.

Bertram Fiddle, the colourfully nosed animated victorian adventure, is currently crowdfunding its second episode. Judging by the quality and humour of the first, this simply has to happen.

It's the month of the adventure gaming Kickstarter; that much is obvious. Here's the promising Demetrios - The Big Cyninal Adventure campaign and here's where you can vote for it on Steam Greenlight.

Oh, and now for one final Kickstarter campaign. This one has absolutely nothing to do with point-and-clicks. It's the cartoony RuGBoT and it's all about blasting things.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and, of course, actual games and things. Thanks!

Oct 2, 2015

The Watchful Indie Watch #2.10

Now that was another properly and quite unexpectedly hectic week with dozens of intriguing releases, more than enough interesting Kickstarters and all sorts of indie stuff happening all over the place. Early autumn is apparently ideal for doing things when you are indie.

The texty games of the 2015 IF Comp have been made available to download, play and --if you are so inclined-- judged. They all seem incredibly delicious, though I have only managed to play through one so far: the excellent TOMBs of Reschette.

On the more commercial front on interactive fiction, you'll be happy to know that the excellent, steampunk, globetrotting, sci-fi adventure 80 Days has been expanded and ported over to Windows, Mac and Linux.

The equally excellent Jotun has been released on Steam and is one of the most beautiful indie games of late, what with its majestic hand-drawn graphics, awe-inspiring bosses, breath-taking vistas and its overall stunning version of the mystical Norse Purgatory. It's an action-combat-exploration thing.

It might lack the detailed setting of Jotun, but Dino Run DX is filled with dinosaurs and has also finally appeared on Steam. It's better than ever too and, provided its unique crowdfunding campaign keeps providing, it'll evolve more.

Cataegis - The White Wind: Ziggurat Chapter has also launched, but not only on Steam. You can find it on too. It's a very old-fashioned combat-platformer with EGA-like graphics.

ORBIT by 4-bit Games is a brand new twin-stick shooter. Looks very interesting, I haven't played it yet, but I will do so soon. You had to be told though.

Another thing I haven't played yet and will try to find the time to do so is iOS and Android interactive fiction offering PataNoir. It's a parser driven, illustrated noir mystery after all, and I do tend to love those.

Oh, and Assault Android Cactus is another twin-stick shooter. Haven't played this one either, though the graphics do look nice. As mentioned, this was a ridiculously busy week.

Moving on to crowdfunding news, excellent afro-noir adventure game The Journey Down --following two brilliant installments-- has moved to Kickstarter in order to make sure the third and final chapter of the series will not only happen, but will be the best one possible too.

Something else I wish I had more thoroughly looked into is the incredibly intriguing Top Secret Kickstarter. It's a game about hacking, surveillance, NSA and the Snowden leaks.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and, of course, actual games and things. Thanks! 

Sep 28, 2015

Shouting Out for Patreons One More Time

Ah, esteemed reader, how are things? How's the family? Played anything interesting lately? Did you perhaps notice just how drastically my output of indie gaming focused words increased? Should I once again remind you of the existence of my Patreon or should I just thank you one more time for your crucial support?

I know; I'll give another shout out to the three lovely entities who've generously joined the ranks of my supporters instead:

Eclectically geeky indie dev Melissa Avery-Weir (@averymd) of Future Proof Games and (creepy, satirical, unique, brilliant) Ossuary fame.

Author Tony Scavone whose book Dardenfall: West of the Earthvein I still can't buy and read due to those blasted capital controls, but will do so as soon as its allowed.

Infamous Quests: the amazing adventure game developers who have already given us excellent point and clicker Quest for Infamy and are working on three new games. 

Sep 25, 2015

The Watchful Indie Watch #25.9

Quite a week this one. Quite an incredibly irritating and not particularly happy week to be precise, but at least one with some rather interesting fresh new indie things. You know, like these:
House of Wire released Trawl (Windows, Mac, Linux) over on and it's one of the few games that effortlessly combine ships and typewriters in an impressively atmospheric whole. Highly recommended and I'll soon be writing more on it.

For a more frantic experience, my esteemed trigger happy reader will be happy to know that Fistful of Gun is available on GOG, Steam and the Humble Store. It comes complete with 9 psychotic gunslingers determined to cancel the railway's expansion from the Wild West to Hell.

I have been waiting for else Heart.Break() for quite some time now and it can finally be played. Still looks clever, lovely and unique, which is very nice, though I still haven't grabbed my copy yet. Will be fixing that momentarily.

Right after playing a little bit more with the freeware Fire Dance With Me, to be honest. The only game ever that dared introduce Twin Peaks to Dance Dance Revolution.

Sigma Theory. It's enigmatic, it is.

Available as Early Access via Steam, 20XX is an action platformer that looks brilliantly 16-bit and has so far impressed me. Despite being a rogue-like, that is.

Then again, if you want to play something really good and refreshingly non-casual on your iOS device, the excellent Blackwell Deception has hit the App Store. Here's my review of the PC version of said indie-adventuring classic.

Feeling the need to kickstart something intriguing? Well, Surface definitely does look interesting. Intriguing even .Especially if you are looking to investigate pixel art things while undercover.

Oh, and as you must have heard SOMA has been launched. And, yes, it's a truly scary horror game. Very scary. Very scary indeed.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and, of course, actual games and things. Thanks! 

Sep 21, 2015

Workers In Progress Special Edition: Progress Harder

Workers In Progress despite being rushed to completion and never truly achieving version 1.0, is a texty little political simulation I'm very fond of and one that has miraculously proven almost popular. It has also made me immensely proud by getting itself a few kind reviews and a couple of lovely translations into Turkish and Spanish and, one has to admit, it's a game that really does deserve better.

So, WIP is indeed going to get all the attention it should have required, as I've finally decided to start working on its fresh, new Special Edition which --at the very least-- will come with polished texts, fixed typos, translations in Spanish and Turkish, an aesthetic overhaul and a few more changes here and there. 

That's not all though. I will try to find the time and go the extra mile: translate the game into Greek, add more content and new branches, see whether a soundtrack can be arranged, make sure it gets a few illustrations and hunt around for more translations in order to craft the best Workers In Progress possible. 

If you think you would like to help, either with contributing further translations, graphics, music (or insight on how to incorporate a soundtrack into Twine) or by doing something clever with the game's stylesheet then, by all means, please do drop me a line. I'd love to work with you on this little project.

Oh, and everyone else, do not worry. Earthling Priorities is progressing slowly but nicely and above all surely. Should be ready before anyone of us dies.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and, of course, actual games and things. Thanks! 

Sep 18, 2015

The Watchful Indie Watch #18.9

And just like that, The Watchful Indie Watch returns and hopes to stay around a little bit longer (wink, wink) in order to entertain its lovable reader with the indie-est of tales in a gaming world that's gone impressively indie indeed.

So, let's kick things off with a Kickstarter, shall we? Of course we shall, for this is the House Of Many Doors crowdfunder I'm talking about and it's bound to be an excellently worded and text heavy RPG complete with procedural poetry and FTL-inspired battles. I've already interviewed its soul, a Mr. Harry Tuffs, here.

The special edition of Death Ray Manta has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting audience by a certain wonderful Rob. It is the aptly named Death Ray Manta SE, it's got lasers and flashing lights and trippy tunes and costs less than any cocktail anywhere in the world. Apparently DRM is also part of the latest Humble Weekly Bundle too!

Adventure gamers and people who love people (also, hugs) must play Dropsy. Dropsy loves you. Dropsy cares for you. Dropsy is one of the best adventure games ever. I reviewed it here. Keep in mind, that Dropsy is also a clown who cannot read.

And here's another brilliant point-and-clicker that's bound to become a classic: STASIS. This one's a less heart-warming and more terrifying sci-fi horror affair, obviously inspired by Alien and Event Horizon. Great puzzles, great atmosphere.  

Sticking to adventures, you'll be happy to know that Blackwell Legacy is currently free for them iOS devices in anticipation of the release of Blackwell Deception on the platform. Blackwell Unbound and Convergence are on a 50% sale for the same reason.

And if you can stop playing for a moment, you'll be pleased to know that there's still time to submit your game/interactive story to the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. All entries are due by September 28.

Had enough text and graphic adventuring already? Lucky you. Here's a charming and rather surreal RPG that will remember everything you ever do to it and its world: Undertale. It's all about a human trapped in place filled with monsters and, apparently, friendship.