Jun 30, 2014

The thankful Patreon Shout Out!

Time to put on the Patreon face, remind you of the fact that you can still support me and my work on indie gaming, and publicly thank some of the wonderfully generous people who have done so already. Mind you, those are not all my benevolent patrons, but just the ones who have provided me with the links and info for this shout out (hopefully more will follow).

Here's to some of the kind souls that have helped me then!

Christos “acer7” Tountas (twitterfacebook); a good friend and supporter of every game-related thing I have ever done.

Adventure developers and masters of all things black and white Expression Studios (twitter, web, email).

My friend, master pixel artist and indie developer Gionathan Pesaresi (twitter) of Neutronized.

The great producer of C64 cartridges James Monkman (twitter) of RGCD fame.

The kind St├ęphane.

My ridiculously (multi-)talented friend Eriq Chang (twitter, web).

And my dear, close friend Agustin Cordes (twitter) of Senscape; the creator of the best horror adventures ever and a staunch supporter for years.

Also, a huge thanks to Rob, Tim, Alan, Dan, Ben, Tam, Richard, John, Eric, Kurt, Ofer, Delyth, Dagda, Georgios and Daniel, who, I hope, will very soon get their proper shout out too (psst, just drop me a line)!

Jun 27, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #27.6

It's always the second installment in a series of posts that matters and apparently it's usually the longer one too. Also, here's what's been happening in indie gaming lately:

Wadjet Eye Games, those stalwarts of adventure gaming, have properly and unashamedly announced they are working with Grundislav Games on a little something called A Golden Wake: a roaring '20s adventure with a swingingly teasing teaser.

Brilliant platformer Thomas Was Alone has gotten its first DLC and it's both free and a prequel chapter. If you already own TWA you already own Benjamin's Flight. If not, you can currently own everything for a hefty 60% off.

Lovely freeware platformer You Only Get One... MATCH! for Windows and Mac has been made available to all former arcade goers and, happily, everyone else too. Jump around, light fireworks, avoid baddies and never let your match burn itself out.

Escape to Na Pali: A Journey to the Unreal has been published and it's a rather unique (and successful) attempt at a book about games. If you ever cared for Unreal or the construction of game worlds you should read it.

Dave the Devourer is out for (your) Windows on itch.io and Desura, and though I haven't found the time to properly try it out yet, I'm really intrigued by its art style. And the bonkers plot too.

The fifth major installment to the venerable DROD series of two dimensional puzzle-filled dungeon crawlers has been announced and it's none other than DROD: The Second Sky. The game can be demo-ed and pre-ordered and will launch on the very first day of July.

The Adventures of Clive McMulligan on Planet Zeta Four doesn't simply come with a long and satisfying name, but also with a hefty, 20 levels long demo. Also, a trailer.

And now for the crowdfunding-powered finale...

A Blind Legend; an ambitious attempt at creating an audio-only, fantasy action adventure, that can be enjoyed by everyone. Here's a most enlightening demo.

Based on a very interesting theory of dynamic narrative, The Hit aims to become a unique multiplayer stealth action game set in a living, breathing city. As an added bonus it's already looking lovely.

Never heard of dieselpunk before, but InSomnia will be set in a brutal universe of the sort. It will be a real-time combat sporting RPG too and even feature some pretty glorious retro-futuristic graphics.

As for Timespinner, well, it will hopefully become a beautifully pixelated Metroidvania with intriguing game mechanics.

Jun 25, 2014

Kaptain Brawe II singing for Viggo on a ZX Spectrum

Hello reader, here are three Kickstarter campaigns that deserve our love:

Kaptain Brawe 2: A Space Travesty

The original Kaptain Brawe, its very first demo to be precise, was one of the first indie adventures I covered on this blog back in 2006. It was a point-and-clicker that looked absolutely lovely in its hand-painted world  and one that spent a few years in development hell before finally becoming a good game ages later. Now, veteran game writer Steve Ince and Bill Tiller of Monkey Island 3 fame have been brought on board for what can only be described as an ambitious and exciting sequel that needs your crowd-funding moneys.

The campaign will be live for another day (at the time of writing) and can still use all the support it can get in order to reach its goal.

A Song for Viggo

Created using folded paper and stop-motion animation, A Song for Viggo is both visually striking and aiming to touch upon the depression that follows a tragedy. Its grim theme is in stark contrast to its beautiful visuals, its writing seems to be able to move and its mechanics will apparently be built around a single puzzle: living you life. Oh, and the two new videos the dev released (here and here) are more than promising.

The Story of the ZX Spectrum in Pixels

It's a new book on the ZX Spectrum by Chris Wilkins and, just like his previous books, it's looking lovely. It will apparently be a colourful and well-laid out affair covering most of the definitive Speccy games, while also providing interviews with developers and bits of history. The book will mainly be a visual journey from 1982 to the early '90s filled with huge screenshots, retro game advertisements, inlay artwork, loading screens and more.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in surviving long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming) words and things. Thanks! 

Jun 23, 2014

The Extremities of Alpha: Pike & Shot

Alphas are, generally speaking, not particularly enjoyable bits of gaming code. Yes, they can show all the promise in the world and maybe even hint at greatness, but, unless I'm playtesting something for a close friend, I do tend to avoid them. And I rarely suggest people try them out.

Unless, that is, we are speaking of the (currently Windows only) alpha of Pike & Shot by James Edward Smith, which I frankly believe is worth everyone's time. It's still little more than a decent looking prototype mind you, but the core gameplay mechanics that have been implemented so far are way too enjoyable to ignore. You get to directly command a unit consisting of pike-men and musketeers in a tactical arcade game pitting you against all sorts of enemies, each requiring a different approach.

Moving around the battlefield and choosing when to shoot and when to protect your missile troops is both satisfying and an impressive evolution of the North & South battle mechanics; a fine reflexes/strategy balancing act. A balancing act I seem to keep repeating over and over apparently.

And as Pike & Shot already looks pretty much okay with its cute pixel-men and there are a ton of things that can be added and/or fine-tuned, I know I'll be keeping an eye out for it. Hopes are high! 

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Jun 20, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #6.20

Welcome to the first Watchful Indie Watch dear reader; a brand new weekly Gnome's Lair column that will, err, watch out for things of the indie variety and let you know all about them. Said things could be anything from game releases I and most others failed to cover through the week, indie offerings people keep talking about, announcements, kickstaters, sales, demos, freebies and frankly anything I feel is worthy of a mention (and/or your attention).

Without further ado and with minimal drumroll then... here's the first, short installment to the series:

Episode 2 of Tiny Barbarian DX has been released for Windows and Mac (and, yes, Steam) and it's a free update for pixelated platformer-lovers who already own the original.

Hotly anticipated XCOM/UFO homage Xenonauts has also been released to slightly more funfair. Haven't tried it myself yet, but, when I do, it'll probably be via the DRM-free version available on GOG.

Tobias and the Dark Sceptres is an arcade adventure that's been 13 years in the making and has finally made itself available in all its glorious freeware glory. Also, it's big, wild, at times brilliant and comes complete with a short and must-see documentary.

Spy Chameleon - RGB Agent has been released only a few days ago and it's already on a (Steam) sale. Only played it for a while, but it's a rather intriguing puzzler.

Unrest, the RPG set in ancient Indie I've been waiting for quite some time now, has gotten itself a lovely demo. And, yes, the wait was worth it in what's shaping up to become a properly unique game.

Oh, and for anyone looking for an action platformer that wouldn't feel out of place on a Sega Master System but can be enjoyed on most mobile platforms, Afternoon Hero seems like a fine choice.

Keep in mind, that the sushi-eating, 32x48 pixels featuring Umai! is another interesting option for iOS and Android tablets/phones/things.

As for Okhlos, that strategy game featuring all those tiny little pixelated ancient Greeks, well, it got itself a new trailer. It's very nice indeed.

Tale of Tales launched a Kickstarter campaign for their revolutionary war game that doesn't sport guns (that'd be Sunset and it'd be set in a '70s high-tech penthouse). It got immediately funded.

Jun 16, 2014

Hey indie devs, here's how to contact the press!

Over the past eight or so years I must have received tens of thousands of press emails from hundreds of indie and not-so-indie developers and, as one would expect, many were more than able to do their job. Sadly, many more simply failed in helping me cover the suggested games; or, well, mostly games.

Now, despite having helped a bit with the brilliant How To Contact Press ebook by the PixelProspector and having shared a few thoughts on the matter over at IndieGames.com, I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that not everyone has followed our wise advice! Tsk, tsk and tsk is all I can say.

Seriously though, as I still get a lot of not particularly good press emails, I feel I have to share a few tips that will make your indie game promoting campaign slightly more successful.

First of all, you have to understand that the people who write about games do so mostly because they love them and the vibrancy of the indie community. The money just isn't there and the hours required are long (hint: that's why some of us decide to ask for help on sites like Patreon). We also tend to get dozens if not hundreds of emails per day and simply skimming through them all is more than time-consuming. Covering everything, regardless of how well presented or intriguing it sounds is simply impossible.

So, here are a few pointers disguised as a brief selection of bullets...

  • Make sure you address the receiver of your email correctly. Starting an email to IndieGames with a "Dear Rock Paper Shotgun" isn't winning you any friends.

  • Spelling is important and shows you've put enough care into your email; enough to earn the interest of an underpaid, overburdened person. Just spell-check the bloody thing and make sure to use proper paragraphs.

  • An easy to read email that's neither a sentence-long nor a huge wall of text has a better chance of getting read. Formatting, punctuation and a modest length (of say 3-4 paragraphs) are important.

  • Try to address your email to journalists who care about the kind of game you've crafted. Don't try contacting somebody specializing in sport-sims about your latest retro-esque adventure.

  • If you have the time do personalize the emails or at least those directed to the publications you are most interested in. I always appreciate a "Hello Konstantinos" or "gnome".

  • Always have a nice picture of your game embedded in the body of the email. It helps in giving an idea of what it's all about.

  • Speaking of help, make sure to help the journo you are contacting cover your game. Don't make the poor soul search for trailers, pictures, website links, available formats, platforms, prices (or whether a game is freeware), official press releases (if any) and other crucial information. Provide with links to the important stuff.

  • Most people prefer a web-based presskit instead of downloading .zip files. Presskit() comes highly recommended.

  • Humour works. As does being nice.

  • Get quickly to the point. Make sure I (for example, that is) immediately learn why your game is interesting and what's so special about it. Why will I love it?

  • Avoid sounding like a corporate PR machine. It's grating and doesn't help.

  • Briefly introducing yourself or your team is also a good idea, provided the email doesn't get too long.

  • Always, ALWAYS, make sure whoever gets your email can email you back. Always, ALWAYS, answer such emails and be nice. Oh, and do mention that you 'd love to answer questions.

  • If possible, provide a download, Steam/iOS/whatever key of your game. Don't ask if we want one; we need one -- writing about a game means that we must be able to play it without paying.

And, that's it really. The rest is up to you. Just keep in mind that the advice above will not guarantee coverage. It'll just help you improve your chances. Oh, and great games really do help.

[UPDATE - extra bits:] As more than a few people have kindly offered more tips I believe I should let you know of the ones I deeply agree with: 1) having someone proof-read your email can do wonders, 2) as iOS codes are indeed a limited resource they should be handed out only to the more crucial outlets - Testflight is a good alternative, and 3) downloadable presskits with logos and high-res art and everything can be a handy supplement to your web-based presskit.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in surviving long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming) words and things. Thanks!

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Jun 12, 2014

VVVVVV: the creatively free Make and Play Edition

Don't know if you remember the happy days dear reader... The days when we both didn't have a care in the world and the sun was shining. The days during which I went on and in the most careless of fashions made a little VVVVVV level called Nasty Drop. Remember how we laughed at the hairy invader? Remember how many times you died making that vertical dive?

No? Oh, well. Still, those were the days indeed, though thankfully Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV remains an exquisite platformer and, even better, one that has just been ported to iOS, Android and Ouya.

More importantly, you can now enjoy a certain edition of VVVVVV for absolutely nothing. Granted, it may be a build lacking the brilliant level design, silly plot and demented rooms, but it also happens to be one  wisely focused on unleashing your creativity. It isn't called VVVVVV: Make and Play Edition for nothing; it's a freeware version of VVVVVV for Windows, Mac and Linux that includes only the game's level editor and some of the better community created offerings.

It is thus an excellent and incredibly easy to use tool, that will let you use and manipulate the VVVVVV engine in order to craft your own small games, try out platforming ideas, possibly remake Manic Miner and experiment with designs before sharing your creations with the world. Here's a lovely tutorial to get you started!

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon and survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming) words and things. Thanks!

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Jun 10, 2014

Avaus Text Adventure -- So you wish to become a mighty software developer?

Certain cautionary tales do have to be circulated it seems, if only to save those poor starry-eyed children from a dark and desperate future. But, let's not start by discouraging those young, creative people, shall we?

Better have a go at the free, browser-based Avaus Text Adventure instead; the one subtitled "So you wish to become a mighty software developer?". It's simple, highly enjoyable, plays like a proper piece of interactive fiction and sports some delightfully lighthearted dev stereotypes. Oh, yes, and several extremely well-designed puzzles that are definitely worth your time. Also, after spending over an hour with the thing, I haven't finished it yet, so please do let me know if it's as good as it seems.

Jun 8, 2014

Workers In Progress: The Source Code

Assuming you have found my simple Twine-powered political simulation Workers In Progress interesting enough or would like to give Twine a go, I believe you will appreciate having a look at the source code of WIP -- just download it here in one handy .zip file containing the html, twee and twine story files.

I haven't done anything fancy with the game, mind you, but you will get to see how Workers In Progress has been designed, maybe find some useful CSS code and see an example of variables usage. Hopefully, it will be quite helpful for people who haven't twined anything yet.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon and survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming) words and things. Thanks!

Jun 6, 2014

Busy Gnomes need Patr(e)ons to make Words and Games!

Writing for games does not pay; even if you've been doing it for the better part of a decade. Then again, crafting freeware and indie games doesn't really pay much either and thus, dear reader, the time has come for me to search for patrons who'll help me keep on with my indie game supporting/discovering/writing/crafting work. People who think that what I've been doing is worth their help and are willing to provide me with the monthly equivalent of a cup of coffee.

Yes, I have setup a Patreon page for my humble self where you can donate and even get something back for it, all the while allowing me to do more than ever and --finally-- properly and fully revive Gnome's Lair!

Thank you,

the guy whose monocled face you can see above