Nov 21, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #21.11

It has to be the weather; it really has to be it, as I frankly cannot find any other explanation for another incredibly intriguing week filled with lovable, hugable indie gaming news. I do of course choose to ignore all those silly holidays rumours. Well, obviously.

Let me start off then by suggesting you at least try the demo of Super Sec Soccer. It's an utterly stylised football thing with a frantic pace and some of the best local multiplayer since Sensible Soccer.

Generally speaking of things of the frantic variety, anyone interested in freeware, mostly great, fresh and at times experimental FPS offerings should definitely check 7DFPS out. It's a game jam and it's packed with 145 games.

Interested in something more procedural? Well, the equally rich Procedural Generation Jam 2014 is also live and packed with many hours of random fun.

Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, the original Maniac Mansion team, have promised us one classically fresh new point-and-click adventure with all the verbs we could ask for and are seeking funding via their Kickstarter for Thimbleweed Park.

Fredrick Raynal, the creator of both Little Big Adventure and Alone in the Dark, is crowdfunding 2Dark. A most intriguing and quite shocking horror thing.

Courier of the Crypts, a rather brilliantly themed puzzle RPG of sorts, is also appealing to the generosity of gamers over at IndieGoGo. Happily, it looks very nice too and promises a ton of deadly traps. I love deadly traps!

Kelvin and the Infamous Machine is yet another promising adventure game and another project to support via Kickstarter. Happily, it looks glorious in its cartoony way and offers a brilliant little demo too.

Oh, yes, and the pretty excellent Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork has launched for Windows and Mac. The game, by Pixeljam and comic book artist James Kochalka, fuses platforming with shmups.

I have only scratched its surface so far, but Lords of Xulima (Windows, mac) is a fantasy RPG that promises over 100 hours of fantasy adventuring and looks great. Loving it so far.

Nov 17, 2014

DualMondays: Did you cry?

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.

Talking about TV series with my brother yesterday, the conversation took an interesting turn: "Have you played The Walking Dead video-", he said, but was briefly interrupted by my nod. "This may sound weird to you, but I cried at the end", he exclaimed. This created a wonderful discussion over which videogames have made us feel sentimental in the past. Anyhow, as I started to wonder, I felt a nice warm feeling recalling the games I was connected to in such emotional way.

For a moment I got lost into a philosophical journey. In movies it's somewhat easier to cry and generally share or be overcome by certain sentiments/feelings, because the usual behavior we have while experiencing a story is to attempt to relate to it. But with games that's usually different, mostly because we have full (or at least the illusion of such) control over the protagonist's actions and the protagonist in most cases serves as a vessel of ourselves.

With the creation and the world-wide success of Elite, a significant change to videogames occurred. An alteration to the rule that a score must determine the skill of the player and the player's involvement to the game must resolve around his/her attempts to get the highest score possible. With Elite we were slowly introduced to something far greater. The probability that games could "just" have a decent storyline instead of a score. And as time passed and technology progressed, it happened. The early nineties were mostly dominated by Adventure Games and RPGs, both primarily focused on gripping story arcs and featuring elements such as branches, depth, setting, character development etc.

Even if the adventure game genre itself  lost part of its shine and glory, it helped immensely in paving the way for other genres to evolve; genres that were mostly focusing on excessive button mashing. Action / First Person Shooter franchises such as Max Payne, Metal Gear Solid, System Shock, Half Life, Resident Evil disengaged from the brainless stereotype of exaggerated, rapid frenzy and reckless gameplay to a more delicate, realistic approach. As storyline became an new element in game design, cinematic elements have also been introduced, gradually transforming videogames into a new form of art (even though that could be a stretch) - an art we can interact with our own ways within the limits that are presented to us (visible and not).

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Nov 14, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #14.11

It's been a busy week this one, you'll be glad to know, and indie game devs have come up with more than enough intriguing things that are either already playable or will soon be so. What follows is a selection of the most intriguing stuff.

We all hate Cedric. We've hated him ever since the first adventure games started speaking. We've hated him with a furious passion. Thankfully, the time for revenge  is nigh. Just grab Owl Hunt and murder the bloody bird.

Cynically hilarious (and brutally tough) point-and-clicker Randal's Monday has been released and is available for Windows and Mac via Steam and GOG. It's a gorgeous, cartoony game too.

On further adventuring news, excellent lovecraftian series The Last Door has gone mobile and you can tap your way through it on both iOS and Android. Not surprisingly, it's the enhanced Collector's Edition that got ported.

And, yes, there's more adventure gaming news! The alliterative Vincent the Vampire is currently seeking crowdfunding support over on Kickstarter.

Necklace of Skulls is a choose-your-own-adventure type of interactive fiction thingy that comes complete with combat, lovely illustrations and promising words. It's already available for iOS and Android.

7DFPS, the ultimate solution in FPS indie jamming, is once again here. Have a stroll and enjoy all sorts of weird and brilliant first person shooter.

Interesting and apparently surreal puzzle platformer Mushroom 11 can now be pre-ordered for Windows, Mac and Linux via the Humble Store. The full game will be released sometime in early 2015.

Dragon: The Game, an impressive action-RPG about being, yes, a dragon, will also be out in 2015, but at least you can early-access it via Steam. It's a Windows, Mac and Linux affair.

Bohemian Killing, currently asking for your IndieGoGo support, will be a courtroom drama set in 19th century, cyberpunk Paris. I love 19th century Paris. Especially late 19th century Paris. I sometimes enjoy cyberpunk too.

Twitch-racer freebie Barrier has gotten itself a new web-based version here. Android gamers can also purchase this excellent avoid-'em-up via the Google Play store.

Nov 12, 2014

Eye^Game^Candy: Cruise For A Corpse

Though largely forgotten today, Cruise For A Corpse was a stunning, triple-A adventure game back in 1991 that launched on the Amiga, Atari ST and MS-DOS and was probably the first Agatha Christie inspired game I truly loved. Granted, the colourful graphics, unique setting (spoiler: everything happens on a posh boat), stunning backgrounds, interesting plot and rotoscaped animation were all I cared for, as I did resort to using a walkthrough and can't really comment on the quality of its puzzles. As for the good news, well, if you still have the game's files you can properly play through it via ScummVM.

Nov 10, 2014

DualMondays: FFVI

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, someone is cringing at the comments going like " Do you mean Final Fantasy III?", so let's settle this for once, I will call this VI, cause it happened to be the 6th game of the series. I can't remember a single game I've played for the sole reason that it had great music and I actually wanted to hear more of it. I've been influenced musically, stylistically, game-design wise, but most certainly, entirely by this installment in the series.

Dissecting its nowadays considered cult introduction sequence, the very one accompanied by the most memorable tunes ever to grace a game, the attention to detail is miraculous. Slowly helping new and old players realize the setting, and applying strong and firm points of interest by playing around a typical cliche, we're slowly immersed into a world of conflicts. As technology battles magic, deeper connections are created, making it harder to pick a side. Both are justified in their unique ways, engulfing the incredibly complex cast of characters into choices and situations undesired. 

Final Fantasy's story alternates around the same perspectives - it's about the end of an era, as much as it is about the beginning of another one. I refuse to tell you anything about the story, dear reader, but I will tell you this: In this part of the saga called Final Fantasy, an important choice was made. A choice that every technological probability of the engine that would sport the game, would be used to its fullest potential. From the very first minutes, the proof is presented to us.

Heavily utilizing Mode 7 functions and tidbits for cinematic and general purposes, even though released almost 20 years ago, the graphical quality of the game still holds up to both sentimental but also historically innovative (for the time being) standard. In case you're wondering what on earth Mode 7 graphic effects are, they're basically various graphical tricks where a two-dimensional image is taken and skewed/distorted in such way that it gives the impression of a third dimension, without that dimension however ever actually existing; thus pseudo-3D. 

Now, back to the topic at hand, besides the wonderful protagonist(s), there's Kefka, one of the most notorious videogame villains of all time. Terribly underrated and rather overshadowed by Sephiroth, I strongly believe the latter would a be at best a common lackey under Kefka's rule. The game's opera sequence/cinematic is also what is held most dear by its players, not only for the music but also for the unprecedented and unexpected depth and epicness it provides to the central plot as the story seamlessly peaked.

It's a terrible thing that the majority of the Final Fantasy fanbase was taken over by the luscious prerendered quality of the 3D graphics and the impactful death scene of Iris by Sephiroth, ever-forgetting this masterpiece. If it wasn't for the release of FFVII, this gem would be significantly more appreciated by the mainstream (because the press is doing its best to restore its value). But those who have had the fortune to spend hours upon hours on it, know it deep in their hearts and cherish it. And perhaps secretly wish for a proper remake or a sequel.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Nov 7, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #7.11

Let's skip the pointless intro and keep things brief this time around, shall we? Lovely, thank you so much dear reader. Here's what you need to know then...

Care to see an action adventure with stealth elements, assassins and glorious pixel-art happen? Good. You should probably support Aerannis on Kickstarter then, thus allowing a robot-run virtual world to exist.

Neutronized have released a new trailer for their forthcoming and incredibly cute iOS action platformer Drop Wizard. Watch it here.

The first chapter of the second season of lovacraftian point-and-clicker The Last Door has been released and it's none other than The Playwright. And, yes, you can play it for free or, better yet, support the devs a bit and get a downloadable version and all sorts of goodies.

Harebrained Schemes, the devs responsible for the excellent Shadowrun Returns RPGs have just announced their new game: Necropolis. A game about "brutal combat and survival, set in a magical deathtrap that shifts and reconstructs itself around you".

And if you are looking for a freebie to play right now, definitely have a look at The Illogical Journey of the Zambonis. It's got puzzles, looks weird and play ever weirder.

Excubitor, a fresh new shmup for Windows, has also been announced for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can try its demo here and, if you are feeling particularly kind, support it over at Steam's Greenlight.

Oh, and beautiful and incredibly clever explore-and-puzzle-'em-up TRI has appeared on Steam. You should probably do the wise and tasteful thing and buy it.

Nov 5, 2014

Ticket to Dixit: Tales of the Arkham Hill

Erik Zaring may currently be busy preparing the huge and beyond lovely fifth episode of The Dream Machine, but he's also a most generous Patreon supporter of mine and has mentioned he enjoys reading all about board games. Well, here's your patreon-powered feature article dear sir!

2014 has been a hellish year so far and one of the things that did actually help keep spirits up was playing board games with my wife and a selection of close friends. Now, don't get me wrong, I do love board games no matter what, but I just never really expected the enjoyment they provide to be this, well, this therapeutic.

What follows, then, is a piece on the five games we've played the most this year. Not my five favourite ones nor the best ones to be released during this year, just the five we played the most. And, yes, I too wished we gave Space Hulk or Space Alert more time, but was usually voted down. 

Betrayal At House On The Hill
Picture courtesy of Wired
Betrayal At House On The Hill is probably the most versatile game I have ever played and a rare game that balances cooperation with the chance to be incredibly nasty to other players. But that reads like a review, doesn't it? Well, I frankly wouldn't like to review anything here; merely let you know that despite having explored the halls of the spooky titular house a couple dozen times at least, I'm still nor bored of it.

The game, you see, always begins the same way. Each player chooses a character and goes around exploring the house by randomly revealing tile after tile of rather exotic rooms -- that may include an indoor graveyard and a conservatory--, picking up items, trying to improve their stats, discovering secret doors, gathering omens and running into events. These events usually require you make a skill check or decision and provide the plot bits for the first part of the game. 

Also, they can randomly create some lovely little stories. In one game, for example, my character run into his future self who kindly provided him with a truly handy item, only to eventually run into his past self and return said item.   

As for Omens, uncovering those usually provides with a powerful ally or artifact, but can also lead to a haunting, which signals the beginning of the second, main phase of the game. According to when, how and who ran into the Omen, one player (usually) gets turned into a traitor and a scenario is chosen that will determine whether said traitor or the rest of the investigators win the game. These scenarios also happen to be where Betrayal At House On The Hill truly, brilliantly shines.

They can be about anything from a witch trying to conclude a ritual and beating Death at chess to having the traitor turn into a huge serpent and stopping the whole house from lifting off into outer space. Impressively each scenario comes with drastically different rules and condition and even a well written bit of plot to round things up.

So, yes, that's hours upon hours of fun exploring all kinds of B-movie horrors, scheming and manipulating opponents and comrades.  

Image stolen from Shut Up & Sit Down
Dixit is my main board gaming recruiting tool. It is, after all, absolutely beautiful to look at, extremely easy to get into and (with the expansion we grabbed) can easily accommodate up to 12 players. Hell, even my mother tried it and almost enjoyed it, which should probably classify as a miracle.

And it helps break the (non-existent) ice at (small) parties, as people are bound to say ridiculously outrageous thing when playing it. 

Playing, in case you are wondering, consists of picking a card from your hand and describing it to the rest of the players. This description could be anything: a single word, a movie title, a little story, an obscure reference only a few will pick up, anything at all, as long as it ensures that at least one of the others figures out which card you've described. Make the description too blatant for everyone to guess right though and you'll lose. 

Intrigued? Good. Moving on then to...

Arkham Horror
Straight from the now defunct GameSetWatch
Fantasy Flight's definitive classic, Arkham Horror, is as close to a full blown, strategic, narrative heavy RPG as a board game can ever get while still remaining a proper board game and I love it for this and a million other reasons. It may also be a game that tends to last for several hours and one which comes with a brutal, built-in, analog, wise yet bonkers A.I. that controls them roaming monsters and keeps opening inter-dimensional gates at the most inappropriate of places, but still, and despite the initial complexity, everyone seems to, handily, love it too.

I suspect this could either be due to Arkham Horror being a stunning game that captures Lovecraft's desperate style of cosmic horror or to the fact that us humans simply enjoy attempting to banish Nyarlathotep from 1920s New England towns. Or, if we are really lucky, Hastur.

In case you've been wondering how the game actually plays, well, you can always read this little PDF instructions booklet or bare with me for a few more words while keeping in mind this is a game I quite adore. And have been doing so for almost five years now.

Arkham Horror is a collaborative affair in which 1 to 8 investigators run around Arkham trying to close dimensional gates, travel to such places as the Plateau of Leng or the Dreamlands and battle a huge menagerie of lovecraftian beasties. Oh, yes, and have dozens upon dozens of mini encounters while trying to gather clues (the game's most important resource), keep their sanity, learn spells, recruit allies and possibly becoming the town sheriff. Sounds overwhelming? It really isn't. It's quality time in a box.   

Tales Of The Arabian Nights
An image from Stargazer's World
Did you know that I'm working on a CRPG of epic proportions with Kyttaro Games and a team of amazing writers, designers and artists? Well,  I am, and the Tales Of The Arabian Nights game was my initial inspiration for it. A game that's been doing demented storylets for ages and the only board game to ever have me change sex, spend years in jail trying to fast-talk my way to freedom, cajole me into making a powerful djinn enemy and allow me to attempt to enter a camel and drink the rain.

Yes, it's all about crafting wonderful, absolutely weird and brilliantly written stories in the world of Sinbad and Sheherazade; the world of One Thousand And One Nights.

Tales Of The Arabian Nights comes with a huge book sporting literally thousands of stories and variations. Every round you will draw an encounter card, say a lion or a princess or even a storm, and then you'll have a set of action-verbs (determined each time) to chose from: pray, drink, enter, hide, fight etc. Your response will lead to a bit of story and you losing or gaining something and, quite frequently, to increasingly surreal other stories. Much hilarity ensues, though, admittedly, what with each character having skills, you could also attempt to play sensibly; tactically even.

Am I making sense? No? Okay, then do please have a look at this and all shall be clear. 

Ticket To Ride
Image slightly borrowed from Blog, She Wrote 
This one I stopped playing. Yes, I did and I know it's considered to be a masterpiece of elegant design, but I think it simply overstayed its welcome especially after I won 10 or so games in three days; in a row.  

Still, Ticket To Ride, even though slightly on the more casual side of gaming, is a beautiful game played on a beautiful board with tons of plastic little train wagons. It can get quite tactical too and is not as random as it looks, but it's definitely not something to be played each and every day. And, yes, I do know that the satisfaction of connecting Madrid with Kiev can be immense.

Besides, building your railroad empire will definitely help you get European geography if you are in need of a reminder. Should also work on children if you are training them to be travel agents. 

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