Oct 31, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #31.10

People are still making wonderful games all over the world and journos are frantically trying to cover everything; and failing. So, uhm, here are some lovely indie news you probably missed. Or not, but, still, great stuff indeed.

I wasn't fast enough to cover this wonderful freeware game elsewhere, but I really had to write something; Event[0] is an amazing first person narrative game that lets you talk with a rather brilliant AI. Available for Mac and Windows.

City planning games have been a favourite genre of mine even before I really found out what planning is all about and the just announced Concrete Jungle is looking rather fabulous.  It's also seeking funding on Kickstarter.

Do you know what DestinyQuest Infinite is all about? No? Well, I'm shocked and this preview of the thing should be most enlightening. People who enjoy interactive text will probably want to check out the full version too.

Sometimes searching look Greenlight can be incredibly boring. Unless you run into Skyhill, that is, for it looks so very moody and is aiming to become a unique and dark story-based rogue-like.

Hadean Lands is finally (finally!) available for Windows, Mac, Linux and iOS and it's both brilliantly epic and something everyone has to play. Repairing alchemical starships has never been this satisfying.

Have you played Like Clockwork yet? For shame... This is an absolutely bonkers and properly funny RPG thing of sorts and it's absolutely freeware too. You'll even get to meet Tam McGleish.

More traditional roleplayers (of the rolling dice variety) can support Dungeon Kingdom: Sign of the Moon on IndieGogo instead. It's all very Eye of the Beholder and its trolls are nice and imposing.

Oct 27, 2014

DualMondays: Technobabylon and Cyberpunk

DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things.

You know, a little while ago, around the AGS forums, but not that exclusively, a wonderful game appeared: Technobabylon. In three episodes, its author tried to introduce a bleak universe and a fantastic inter-connectivity between characters. And then, as the series was gradually getting huge attention, James Dearden (the author/developer) halted production. Personally, I felt as if I would never see more of it. 

But what is the game actually about?

Technobabylon revolves around the premise that people choose to accept the false sense of achievement presented in multiplayer videogames over the actual control on their lives, hence slowly deteriorating physically and mentally; getting addicted in a way not wholly dissimilar to drug use. Such is the protagonist of the game, but as  problems pop up, it will be impossible for him to get a last dose of the virtual world. The second game of the series, creates one of the most wonderfully revealed ties between two games - seemingly so different in almost every aspect, that literally the remembrance of it, still takes my breath away.

I do hope, the great content will be kept, if not intact, at least with the same spirit, maintaining the consistency and surprise factor present in the freeware release of the three episodes so far. I fully accept the choice to enrich and re-introduce the saga. Even though, I do feel this should have been out faster, I am still overly excited over the forthcoming release of Technobabylon. Yet nothing could ever excite me more than Cyberpunk as a genre. I'm not sure, but it's the amplification of post-apocalyptic environments surrounded by garbage bags flying around ultra-bright neon lights that does it for me.

To me, the genre always meant exciting, new, even exhilarating horizons being broadened, applying both mentally and perspective-wise a mesmerizing effect on my personal being. That is when the cyberpunk medium transcends the focus on one aspect and instead triumphantly establishes domination in every way.

Portraying flawed characters and an ironic, seemingly idyllic view of the future, whether it's dominated by a certain political view or a technological discovery/revolution, there is a thin line separating breathtaking and thought-provocative from just lasers and neon lights. I strongly believe that taking any story and transforming it into a cyberpunk version of itself is the easier way, and the most common one. While it's nice to see a plot through different glasses, perhaps adjusting its parameters differently, I'm not a huge fan of that.

That is why creating a reality based on projections of combined factors, plowing through plot holes and physical rules to narrate a story that would only be done justice under those calculated, specific list of circumstances and variables, is where the genre shines. It should always be visible to us, that it's not about telling conventional stories within unconventional surroundings, but rather about mystifying the audience with the setting, engulfing the reader, in ways that he/she feels the primal instincts and fears in different unconventional ways, purging reality of all the veils, like tears in the rain.

And I have this weird feeling, Technobabylon could be one of cyberpunk's best.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Oct 24, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #24.10

Another week, another update sporting all the indie gaming news you most criminally missed. Well, not all of them to be absolutely frank, but merely those I thought would tickle your fine sense of taste reader dear.

If I could officially sponsor a game, that would have to be Nubarron: the adventures of an unlucky gnome. It features the most beautiful gnome to ever explore a gorgeous fantasy puzzle platformer while being chased by a rather deadly cloud. Also, it's on Kickstarter and must happen.

Speaking of games that have to happen, here I am reminding you of another mouth-watering Kickstarter: H. P. Lovecraft: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It will be a 3rd person cosmic horror point-and-clicker set in HPL's Providence and the campaign has only a week left to it.

The 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition is waiting for you go and try it's wonderful, freeware and very texty games and possibly vote on the best. My personal favourites so far would include Zest, HHH, Hill 160 and Krypteia.

Friendship, love and technology meet each other in else Heart.Break() and its lovely new trailer. As for me, well, I was actually reminded of Little Big Adventure myself.

Quintet is a spaceship bridge sim that lets you fantasize about being Captain Kirk (or equivalent) and lead your friends to glorious defeats in space. It is also seeking our support on Steam Greenlight and is properly free for all to enjoy.

Those into space trading and strategizing on the other hand should probably take a look at the freshly released Smugglers 5: Invasion by Niels Bauer. It seems like a highly promising stand-alone expansion to a game I already love. The thing's also available on Steam and GOG.

And to spice things up with a freebie, here's the bonkers Man Giving Up. It really is too silly for words, but also crafted with AGS.

Finally, Go To Bed! And, if possible, survive the night with Touchfight's first game that may still be in beta but is looking gorgeous in its moody black and white graphics.

Oct 22, 2014

Fantasy Freeware Frolicking For Fun

Now, if everyone would kindly ignore my pathetic attempts at alliteration, I'd be more than happy to let my faithful reader know that my Freeware Annarian Games list has been updated. Yes, again, and you can find all the new freebies that made it in right where you'd expect them to be. Right among them older ones.

But, as this is neither the first nor the last addition to the list, there really doesn't seem to be a point in writing this very post, does it? Shockingly, it does.

First of all, I'd like to make sure you know the list is constantly being updated with the best freeware stuff I can find and, secondly, this freeware talk is the perfect chance for me to let you know that I've started writing for Rock Paper Shotgun. Yes! Woohoo! I'm doing a daily column called Freeware Garden which, you guessed it, is all about the best free games for the PC and I believe you'll love it reader.

Oh, and what with the humble but crucial support I've been getting via Patreon I'm still contributing articles to both Warp Door and IndieGames.com.

Now you know. 

Oct 20, 2014

DualMondays: The Indie Game God Dream

This message never stopped you from playing. 
Come on, whether you've already made or just thought about making a videogame, you've dreamt the dream. It's not a shame, I tell you. What are dreams for if not for evoking the seemingly improbable or unobtainable? It's not worth bothering with something that provides no challenge whatsoever. It has to tax you both physically and intellectually. But being an indiegame god, is a different thing.

It's not just about making a living out of videogames; countless game designers have done that. Neither is it about creating a product or a service worth being invested in. It all boils down to perceiving and producing what others have not before. Thus, by the end of your estimated time of production, you accomplish what separates the game designers from the game gods. You change the course of the entire videogame industry. Whether your concept is based upon a certain genre, bringing new, exciting, never before used/implemented elements or it single-handedly creates a new one. Regardless of which, you rise from obscurity to worldwide fame and glory (or a portion of it).

You transform a hobby/passion into work.

It isn't simply saying "I make money from selling videogames", it's knowing you craft hours worth of excitement and innovation (even if it's scarce or minor) for people that have trusted/invested in you. And the stories of failure may indeed be present, perhaps far more present than I want to admit (this is an article to hype you, reader), but there's no game designer that set up his/her own indie game company, that started knowing how big his/her initial dreams would get. If that wasn't true, people like Dan Marshall, Agustin Cordes, Dave Gilbert, wouldn't exist. They would still be living in their parents' house/basement, or living their daily routines as they were, before they took the boldest step.

The step to attempt to give it all up to conquer even the smallest possibility of gaining enough of their yearly income, to live, play and create videogames. And how do you start doing that? Is there a specific trick to it, you ask? I'm afraid not. All you need is an idea and a way and perseverance. Bluntly put in the simplest of words, you have to try without fear of failing, dear reader.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Oct 17, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #17.10

I missed last week's update, I know, but here I am once again watching the indie scene for all sorts of interesting things and letting you know about them. Hopefully, I'll even manage to stick to a schedule too and finally get around to letting you know about certain things I am working on too.

So, what better way to kick things off than with a mention of the new HM Spiffing Kickstarter? None really, as this is shaping up to become a truly hilarious point-and-clicker and comes complete with its playable demo.

Then we have the launch of lovely shmup BloodSpace by the KayaBros and Amon26. The game, besides sporting a unique visual style, is free when you play it on your browser, whereas a downloadable special version can be bought here.

The Pirate Bay Bundle is a brilliant collection of quality freeware games curated by @moshboy you can grab via one handy torrent. The thing sports 101 brilliant, weird, small, not-so-small and generally ignored games.

Hilarious and excellently designed adventure game Metal Dead has finally appeared on Steam and has unsurprisingly retained all of its Heavy Metal/zombie charm and character. Surprisingly, it's gotten a bit better too.

Wunderverse is aiming to become a rather unique app that will allow people to craft interactive, possibly illustrated stories on the iPad. It's currently seeking funds via Kickstarter.

And another Kickstarter: Immortal Empire. This one promises to combine XCOM, DOTA and Diablo into a highly intriguing RPG thing. A massively multiplayer one at that too and one that really looks like something worth supporting.

As for this week's final Kickstarter, well, it's non other than the already successful That Which Sleeps. A god-game in which you'll get to play a most definitely lovecraftian god.

Oh, and if you are wondering just how tough developing games actually is, I suppose the recently released Crunch Time! is the game you've been waiting for. It's a humorous card game and one that will only set you back $3.99.

Oct 13, 2014

DualMondays: Inspiration

DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things.

Or the lack thereof. Everyone's been there. And we've all found our ways to force inspiration, even though such a thing is basically impossible. But we have found our "muses" -- techniques, people, things, trinkets etc -- to help us get there. My personal favorite is the movie "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" For some reason that remains unknown, I've always found the title infinitely more interesting than the movie itself.

When I first came across it, I'd surrounded the initial possibilities of the plot in my head with a veil of mystery and intrigue, creating my own version of what I could make out of the title. Thus, unaware of the actual story arc, I  gradually started realizing the endless scenarios I could create in my head under this specific title. The bleakness and the ironic grin that goes with facing the inevitability of life's events are what I like about the very expression; the one concerning the euthanasia of horses.

An innocent question to end one's innocence. Don't we sometimes have to learn to let go?

Not just people, but also creative projects, as they sometimes go astray and it's hard to pursue the goals we set out to achieve through them. Even if inspiration is the main drive, the result has to be judged and justified under different parameters. Personally, it saddens me to see a project I really wanted to see, wither away. But in the same time, I am well aware that those behind it, have their reasons. They've matured and gained experience from this whole experience.

The goal of reaching release stage is irrelevant when you've achieved and gained other things. Vital elements to be used in the future, in dreams that may come to exist. And that's how game designers evolve: by throwing down the pit of darkness, at the loneliest corners of their harddrives, what they consider as dead-weight. Whether it's easy to do so, or super-hard, no matter how much you've been clung to something, it won't fix the issues that revolve around it. And moving onto different things is the hardest thing to do.

Personally I've abandoned a good dozen of half-started games. Yeah, I admit it. But so have you. Think about it - we all have. Whether we put work or we just thought about them for a day or two - or an hour. In the spirit of the old Sierra adventure games, we learn through countless hours of trial and error, Until we see the much desired exit/solution to the puzzle. And then we consider the entire process as a wonderful journey.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Oct 6, 2014

DualMondays: A strong background

DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things.

I've always come to the conclusion that sometimes a story can be told in a far superior way through its setting/environment. The releases that we've come to consider as polished, have accepted this. Designers tend to painstakingly focus on the minor details, but it's no minor thing when everything breathes and expresses in its own unique ways. Adding purposefulness and reasoning behind each thing, character, behavior and action, should in fact be treated as a necessity. Enhancing each part that the game is placed in, in every possible way, is something that requires quite a bit of craftsmanship (from the perspective of the game designer); firstly because it's usually a terrible amount of work and secondly due to the chances of it being utterly ignored and/or missed by the majority of the players.

Loom offers an immense depth to a magical world, even if it's pixelly.
And I'm not talking exclusively about the little nods to a cultural piece of art/history. But, rather, speaking of the amount of seemingly uninteresting yet occasionally oh so relevant pieces of backstories that enrich the main plot arc, provided you're willing to spend your time exploring properly, seeking them out. It could be a library full of book titles someone spent his time writing, so that you could enjoy each entry. So that each part of the library felt worth bothering with looking for more.

As well as a game designer, but mostly as a gamer, I've come to enjoy the background elements, whatever they may be, that were rather "silent". A typical TV Soap Opera, endlessly repeating tropes and cliches, a hand-drawn picture by a child, an abandoned shelter, a message on the telephone that didn't get the chance to be heard, a murder scene in a hotel room always posing the same questions. The list literally goes forever.

But the strength of these small points is unique. They're not something random and pointless, like a movie scene that is only there to fill the required time set by the movie studio. In their own peculiar way, they prove that the story elements, of which they are part of, exist. Unlikely, they're not a work of fiction to comfort the needs of the storyteller, but on the contrary the conditions and the setting, make the story arc to exist out of logical order. You know, handing out more reasons to the characters than "because!" and instead combining the surrounding parameters and the basic drives of each protagonist (or antagonist) to a valid interaction with the world, simply put in the fewest of words, depth.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Oct 3, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #3.10

You weren't expecting this, were you reader? You though that the Watchful Indie Watch was dead and buried, right? There's no shame in admitting this mind you, but I obviously digress. What really matters is that a lot (an exciting lot, actually) has been happening these past few weeks and here are the more interesting things from the indie world:

First and most importantly, we have the lovecraftian Case of Charles Dexter Ward Kickstarter campaign. It will probably become one of the best horror adventure games ever and the first game to proudly carry Lovecraft's name in its title. Based on HPL's only novel, the Case of Charles Dexter Ward will also benefit from the design talents of Agustin Cordes (of Scratches and Asylum fame) and the knowledge of scholar S.T. Joshi.

16-bit RPG Pier Solar has made the transition from the Sega MegaDrive to modern Windows, Mac and Linux PCs and all are finally happy. It's a rather epic, pixelated, top-down affair, you see, and one that will last you for a few dozen hours of fantasy fun. Oh, and it's also available for PS3, PS4 and the OUYA.

Wonderfully written and swashbucklingly epic interactive fiction Down Among the Dead Men has made it to Apple's App Store and is now available for all iDevices. It's an excellent read filled with more than enough intriguing choices to help you feel that piratey vibe and even comes complete with crisp illustrations.

This one has been out for quite some time now, but being a kindly freeware exploration game I can't recommend it enough and must thus remind you of Dust City by Kitty Horrorshow. It's a surreal 3D game with tons of stuff to explore and some awesome meta-content. Also, a mystery.

GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is currently up on Kickstarter and aims to become a feature-length documentary exploring part of the indie gaming community. All sorts of lovely people will be appearing, including Tale of Tales, Rami Ismail, Christine Love, Catt Small and, for some reason, John Romero.

Oh, and I almost forgot; there are more big news for adventure gamers, especially those craving a serious sci-fi story, as J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars has been released both as a DRM-free download and on Steam. It's bloody amazing, it is, and a huge improvement over the original J.U.L.I.A. I reviewed ages ago here.