AntiHero, Sprinting Preview

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I have been playing a lot of platformers lately, so I got myself a Dualshock 4 controller in anticipation of one day being able to afford a PS4!  For now, I will settle for using one on my PC.  And today it really paid off.  Today I was able to burn through the Anti-Hero demo a couple times and get associated with this upcoming indie title.

Anti-Hero is a fast-paced puzzle platformer that takes you across the universe.  The main character is some sort of spaceman with interesting powers.  Now they aren’t terribly amazing, so don’t get all amped up for some crazy fucking ideas that will rend the universe itself, but the way the mechanics of the game are woven together provides a fun and challenging game that gets me excited to wear in my new gamepad.

First among the mechanics employed by Anti-Hero is the wall-run.  Apparently this space wanderer character is from a distant place where they still have ninjas, because he can run straight up a fucking wall.  As of right now there is even a tutorial that lets you practice wall running.  You run at a wall (moving forward while pressing L1 for me ) then press the jump button (X in my case) twice in order to start running up it.  Simple enough, but as high school does not offer extensive preparation for the real world, so, too, the tutorial is just child’s play compared to some of the wall-run challenges offered by the game even as early as the introductory level.  Now, don’t get it twisted: this mechanic has been woven into the game well.  It feels right, it isn’t terribly hard, but the game doesn’t hand you anything.  After speaking with Matt Lewis, an Artist and Animator on the project, I have a firmer idea on the thought going into the mechanic.

 

We do think about how the player is going to react to situations like wall-running.  People have said “it’s too punishing, I need check points.”  We respond, “The level takes 60 seconds to run through and you want a check point?”  That’s what I thought, wall running shouldn’t be an automatic thing; it should require timing and skill.  The idea was that we didn’t want sticky walls.  We want wall running to be a platform challenge, just like clearing a gap or timing platforms.

– Matt Lewis, Artist and Animator, Couch Fort Gamez

 

Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer at Couch Fort, also had his own thoughts regarding difficulty of the gameplay:

 

There are too many follow missions these days.  Personally, I want kids to hate me like I hate whoever programmed Mega Man 7

– Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

So the developers don’t want anything to be too easy, so the game feels satisfying with objectives and challenges that are fun and attainable.  But how attainable is wall running?  Well, I am glad I played it with the gamepad.  Despite my preference for my PC gaming input apparatus, the gamepad made the entire mechanic smooth and intuitive to get your hands around.  It is kind of like every other PC platformer in that it should have a warning label: DO NOT TRY THIS AT ASDF!  What is unique about this mechanic is the way it is presented in the demo.  There is a section of it where you have to wall jump up a mine shaft.  Everything about the mine is well-crafted, too.  You are running up a couple walls and jumping back and forth between them in time to catch the other side and keep running.  It takes some practice, but if you get it right, you can end up running up higher than your goal and coming back down to reach the objective.

Seriously, don't try this on any non-controller device

Just.. a little… further!

Another mechanic in the game that adds to the momentum of gameplay is the slide.  Pressing a certain key on the gamepad ( O for me ) triggers a slide, and when executed in certain locations you can slide even further.  Various obstacles throughout the level make you slide on your side for a good distance.  This results in a platformer with a speed and synergy that gets you moving fast and keeps you on your toes.  You want to maintain the momentum you feel with the main character, and it is definitely going to be a good title for speed-runners.

Through the game, you will also be tasked with some fairly simple puzzles.  These include throwing an object through a hovering hoop to unlock a door.  Throwing is accomplished with the left stick, and the character thrusts out his hand like a damn jedi.  You then control the object as it flies through the air.  Since this is a preview, you might have guessed the game is in early development.  The objects, for now, are blue cubes.  As you might expect, the game rapidly builds on the throwing mechanic by immediately having you take an object, throw it through a hoop and over an obstacle, while you slide underneath and catch it to continue the trajectory through to another hoop, which then opens a door.  If it touches the ground, the door doesn’t open.  It sounds like a bitch, but the way the game plays, it is very doable and very satisfying when you complete it.  I have replayed the demo 5 times just to be like, “hell, yea, just another space traveler doing some wicked slam dunks, comin’ through here.”  Using this ability also helps you kill your foes as early in the game you notice the blue cubes just chilling there.  You can take these babies and lob them at your foes, but many times I used them too hard and they landed in a bottomless pit.  Weaponizable objects are best used as “magic bullets” than dumb-fire missiles, swinging them through the air and guiding them closely.  Now, in a game driven toward momentum, this takes you out of the speed a bit, so the best way to just get through it is to watch your foes’ movements and run past them.

I knew my years of slip 'n' slide practice would come in handy some day!

I knew my years of slip ‘n’ slide practice would come in handy some day!

 

Some other elements that I enjoyed were the scenery layering.  Although the level platforms cut a bit suddenly in some places, overall the way the foreground reaches back into the background is great.  That is then layered with various elements that move naturally.  It is not like playing in a diorama but it feels like you are just on a hill in a busy forest-bedecked town. One point of this game that still feels a bit rough is the music.  The music in the trailer on the site is pretty exciting, but that in the game is comparatively overworldy.  It can be best described as platformer jive and it gets you rolling with the game, but it just feels like it should be in a version of this game retailed by Old Navy.  A game this fast-paced featuring a space traveler might feature something a little more techno-sprinter and a little less polo shirt overworld.

Finally, the storyline, though largely conceptual, also has a number of fantastic elements to it.  In the title screen you see a balloon that is rocketing out of the atmosphere to scintillate gently in the starlight.  Paul DiDomenico, the Lead Developer at Couch Fort, revealed to me that this symbolizes a key theme in this game’s golden heart: a child’s wish, which thrusts him into the heart of the story.

 

The idea is that a true wish from the heart can hold great power, and that power always draws more power.  It comes from a place of light and innocence, but it is coveted by those who wouldn’t use it for the like.

– Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

So right off the bat, I get the sense this game will have some serious feels.  But in a brilliant manner of true “yin and yang”, the main character, our space traveler, has a story that is dark and sad.

 

Eons ago his home world was at the brink of destruction.  He and a small council performed an ancient and forbidden ritual as a final effort to save their planet and species.  This effort, though bestowing upon them incredible abilities, ultimately failed and left them with the curse of immortality.  They have since wandered the cosmos decaying until they are mere husks of their former selves, unable to die.  Then, suddenly, one by one, they begin to disappear until only our main character remains, which is where his story and the child’s meet and our game begins.

-Paul DiDomenica, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

I am not sure about you guys, but this game looks and sounds like a lot of fun.  Though it is in its early stages, the amount of heart and work being poured into it makes me optimistic about the final product.  Through everything I have come to understand about Antihero, the only thing that get me feeling frustrated is that it will be some time before this title is finished.  Keep this title in the back of your minds, though.  This is a first look into what is going on with Couch Fort Gamez inaugural title.  Let’s wish them luck and get them the support they need and deserve!  Check out their site and keep an eye out for Antihero.

Keep an eye out to find out more about Antihero and learn what the devs have in store for our main characters!

Keep an eye out to find out more about Antihero and learn what the devs have in store for our main characters!

Plague Inc: Evolved, Eradicate Humanity!

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So I wiped out 99% of humanity today and still fucking lost!  Plague Inc: Evolved is a game for the strategic mastermind in all of us.  Take control of an infectious disease, evolve and kill everyone ever known by everyone you’ve ever known.

This title starts out simple enough, but gives you an idea of the scope you are dealing with in order to get there.  Initially you can only control a bacteria, but later organisms include prions, viruses, nano-viruses parasites fungi and some things I have never fucking heard of.  You then name your virus.  In prior Plague Inc titles (previously known as Pandemic) I always named my disease something insidious sounding like Writhing Death or The Manacles.  I lost every time.  So one day I made a disease named Booty Shoe out of denominational ennui.  Booty shoe eradicated the world population.  So this one got to be Nut Slipper.  I started Nut Slipper out in Indonesia, and altogether solid start location for any disease.  It has ports for oceanic export, planes for aerial export and it’s a warm, moist climate, which puts it two evolutions away from stepping out into the greater world.  Plague Inc seems to have 3 phases of play.  It’s not actually a part of the game, but the way the flow of the game seems to develop.  I call these phases initial spawn, transmission and eradication.  In initial spawn, you get DNA points for evolution from a few gameplay milestones in the beginning.  This is where your disease starts in its natal region and starts to breed.  When you spread out little by little to people in your starting country, Indonesia in this case, you’ll see little red and orange bubbles appear.  Pop these for the DNA points to evolve your disease.

Exponential infection rates and the game gets excited over a few thousand? Psh.

Thousands of nuts are apparently warm and cozy. Why is this bad?

In Plague Inc, you don’t order your little bacteria where you want them.  Consider the game a simulation of the spread of a potential disease.  Your disease will spread on its own in an organic fashion across the various methods.  You control the disease by mutating it, granting it new characteristics along the way.  These characteristics fall into three categories: transmission, abilities and symptoms.  Transmission is how the disease is carried from one host to another.  These can be things like livestock, insects, air, water etc.  Being in Indonesia, I evolved air and water right away.  Now, the game also made it so that transmission via water would be hard off the bat for my disease.  Something about sanitizing boats.  But evolving that water transmission negated the effect.  Nothing would stop Nut Slipper from sailing the seven seas!  This brings us to where you are spreading to every country in the transmission phase.  You get DNA points for spreading to new countries and infecting large portions of the population.  People don’t need to know you are around yet, but you get the DNA points for infections.

Now one of the things that you get concerned about really fast is how well your disease spreads to other countries.  Does it like the climate?  How rapidly does it spread? Do they use class 3 or 4 antibiotics?  All legitimate concerns.  It used to be that getting your disease into Madagascar was a sure-fire win, but now fully infecting Greenland, Canada and other cold-climate countries is the true challenge.  Your disease will spread the slowest in these locations and if you get lethal too soon, you’ll kill the hosts before they can spread it to other people.  That is a no-go.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Once you have enough people eating, drinking and breathing in your disease it’s time to start the extinction of humanity!  This is my favorite part because once people start dying the music, which has sinister techno-ambiance, goes from ominous to downright fucking creepy.  It starts off with the EKG heart monitor noises woven into it just below audibility and the moves on to include some kind of sirens.  I think they might be the noise that ambulances make in countries not mine.  Ours are pretty obnoxious.  Either way, it moves on to people hacking and coughing and children singing ring around the rosey.  Awesome, ambient and creepy as fuck.

Now the extinction of humanity won’t be reached by making your disease resistant and transmissible alone, and this is where it gets tough.  In the eradication phase you get DNA points for wiping out populations and destabilizing governments.  Symptoms are the method for reaching these goals.  If you take symptoms too early in the transmission phase, your disease will be detected and cured fairly rapidly.  Take symptoms too late and you will not have enough points to develop the truly lethal symptoms.  Occasionally you will spawn random symptoms, but the game can be paused in order to devolve those and earn some DNA points.  With your bacteria, you want to aim for 70% – 79% of global infection to start taking symptoms, and when you take them take them fucking hard.  When I pump up the symptoms I will take them 3 – 4 at a time and let them go.  People start dropping dead faster than the game even knows how to react, and by the time the first death hits the news, hundreds of thousands are lying in their living rooms clinging fecklessly to their last breaths.  Even with Nut Slipper taking the world by storm, I was still greeted with this fucking screen at the end.

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

I am only partially joking about that, too.  I wiped out 99.9% of humanity and it was still not considered a fucking victory!  To give you an idea, the people who survived lived in Greenland, Canada, Italy and Sweden.  Everyone else in the entire fucking world was dead.  My problem was that I took symptoms around 65% world infection and killed all my hosts too fast.  I have no fucking clue how Italy, of all goddamn places, fucking survived, either.  I guess they didn’t go to the Olympics in London that year…   Granted none of them survived unscathed, but they survived.  One of the more fun features of this game is how you can make spectacular effects occur, like projectile vomiting, by combining various symptoms.  Projectile vomiting occurs when you have coughing and vomiting at the same time.  Once you have started to wipe out the population of planet Earth, people will start to do research in an attempt to survive.  This is signified by a blue plane that flies around.  You can slow them down by clicking little blue bubbles, too, but the best part is when you stop research by killing everyone in a country.  Then the country just goes dark as everyone slowly collapses.  This game is a tough one, but rewarding for the strategic enthusiast.  It can be gotten for 14.99$ on Steam and.. wait this is early access?  Well for an early access game, this one sure is well done.  Worth the money, in my honest opinion.  It also feels like one of those games that some people think might save the world by thinking about how to solve realistic problems, except in this one you are the problem.

Of all the things this game does right, there is one thing that still haunts my dreams.  The children.  When you start to go nuclear, as stated, you hear a group of grade-school children singing Ring around the Rosey.  I swear to fucking god this is the creepiest thing I have ever fucking heard in ever.  It is like the children of the corn, or some shit.  The music is fucking awesome, mind you.  That just enhances how creepy the children are.  They are like the fucking harbingers of the goddamn apocalypse!  I will be waking up in a cold sweat singing ring around the rosey tonight, I just know it.

 

Estudio Antropo, True Next-Gen Gaming

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Remember is Shadowrun how your characters had 2 different versions of the matrix to deal with?  Yea, sure, one was the Virtual Reality (VR) realm where hackers reign as gods, clad in icons to resemble all the deities of old as their meat body lays somewhere on a bed or floor neglected by the free-roaming mind.  The other was called Augmented Reality (AR) and it is where you find the visual interfaces that allowed you to see what specials and sales stores have going that day by looking at the logo through the right pair of glasses.  Nintendo was the first to really take advantage of this when they came out with the 3DS and its aptly named VR cards, which revealed a variety of simple, fun AR games that had my wife and I battling over who was the better virtual fisherman.  These cards were cards you lay on a table and then look at with your 3DS in AR mode.  Characters would then pop out of the cards or games would form out of the table.  It was fucking awesome.  Then there was this company that fucking decided to make a pair of computerized glasses, which hold the potential to plaster gaming all over the world.  There is another company, however, whose scope is more ambitious than just playing with cards and more exciting than karate chopping at the air or shouting virtual “clay pigeons” to pieces with your fucking thu’um.

Estudio Antropo said “That’s fucking neat and all guys, but what about the goddamn devices the entire society has already invested in?”  Not a direct quote, but one I like to imagine coming out of someone’s mouth.  These guys have developed a game for the boARd format, a Kurzor S.R.O. concept, that allows you to use your mobile devices to play board games.  Now, the trailers for this only show people with their iPads all spooled up and ready to go, but, the game is also scheduled to release with an Android element, as well.  I don’t see it being long before Andriod and iOS players can huddle around the same boARd to play a rousing game of Monopoly, or something.  Estudio Antropo currently have a kickstarter campaign up that ends August 1st.  If anything in this article excites you nearly as much as it fucking excites me, go there and throw some money in!

cartoneros-logo-01-long

 

Check my cardboard swagger.

Check that cardboard swagger

First among the titles that will pioneer the fourth fucking dimension is Cartoneros.  This title is one that has a kind of general appeal that plays out really cool.  Not to mention, even those hippies with their goddamn iPads will love the concept.  Cartoneros takes place in a world where people throw away vast amounts of fucking cardboard.  EVERYTHING is cardboard, including your characters.  Your characters then go out on their mission to clean up the world! Aw, yay!  That is so special!  Yippee! Love is magical!  They then proceed to battle over resources like the humans that undoubtedly spawned them and battle to the death over cardboard.  So yes, good intentions do pave the road to good gameplay.

In this tactical strategy, you control a small team of Cartoneros, these little guys that collect the cardboard detritus of the world.  Each of your cartoneros has strength and weaknesses, too, so it is not all cut and dry combat.  In your mad dash for sustaining cardboard, you will battle with other players.  Now, this carboard you collect isn’t really something you’ll use in-game to pump your cartoneros up, but between plays is when it comes in handy.  As you await your next round of play against your mortal foes (apparently your mom and little sister) you use the cardboard to beef up your cartoneros.  You will even be able to shape the gaming environment by building maps, characters, weapons, monsters and robots!  Its developers liken it to a combination of DoTA and XCOM.  Granted, if you spend your cardboard too frivolously, you will not have enough resources to maintain a competitive  team.  This honestly looks like it could turn into a fucking sport.

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn't that nice!

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn’t that nice!

Each game of Cartoneros will include 1 – 8 players, and the game style will change depending on the teams.  If everyone is on the same team, the game is more like an RPG with players working together to fight monsters and get cardboard.  If you split the players apart, it becomes a DoTA, XCOM fusion-style tactical strategy game.  Monsters in this game fall in three categories.  Little ones that flee, big ones that attack your characters and huge ones that make you crap your cardboard trousers.  Each monster will have special abilities that can be obtained by killing the monsters and eating its heart like a ancient n0rse warrior.  I might have made up that last part about eating its heart, but you really can get the powers of your foes for a limited period by destroying them.  Apparently there are some really neat features to the game structure, as well, allowing you to create your own game.  Maps can be created by arranging terrain on the board, missions can be created by designating objectives and stories created by linking maps.  The game is going to be tough, too; if you lose characters weapons, tools etc. in-game they are gone forever.  You’ll have to be careful how you spend your cardboard between games, but careful planning will pay off big-time in the long run.  You can read about Cartoneros in greater detail on its Kickstarter page.

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Does cartoneros sound too much like something that the family will enjoy and won’t be badass enough for your group of awesome buddies that only opt for the finest and most edgy of tabletop games?  The guys backing cartoneros are also developing Espionag3: Berlin Files.  If cartoneros’ strategic gameplay and winsome visuals don’t excite you, the dark world of spies and intrigue laid out in Espionag3: Berlin Files should.

It’s another strategic game where you control a network of spies and battle against your friends.  Berlin files looks really fun and with pitched gun battles and tailing missions, this game looks awesome.  I don’t fucking care what language the goddamn screenshots are in!  The players take up the role of secret government agents in Berlin, who have discovered that the mafia has moved in and are expanding rapidly.  It is up to players to utilize their stealthy spy tactics to overcome and eliminate their mafia enemies.  This gaming format has a lot of possibilities, from the simple and fun ideas to adult level games providing intrigue and excitement.  I could see a game like this taking place in 1930’s New York with players controlling a mafia family and vying for control of the illegal liquor trade.  Want a historical piece?  What if someone developed a game where half the players are the French Resistance fighters and the others are Nazis, and the players duke it out for control of Paris?  See, only limited by your imagination.

On any city street in Berlin...

On any city street in Berlin…

So why does this concept excite me and why should it excite you too?  Do you like tabletop games?  Anyone who has ever played Shadowrun, Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer and any other such related games should be able to see the potential this poses for awesomeness.  This format could easily be built upon by major developers to create a DnD game that works with ipads, android phones etc. so that you can sit down with your gaming crew and play some serious tabletop games.  You could have endless customization options for your Warhammer armies, all explained at your fingertips by the software of the game.  Terrain customization for Warhammer, DnD and Shadowrun games would be that much more detailed and the worlds you play in would, literally, just be a game screen away.  You would be able to almost touch them.  Super-nerdy niche games not your style?  This format could be used to give standard boardgames the modern update off of console systems they so desperately crave.  Instead of buying the whole box and all the pieces getting scattered by a rampaging dog, you could just play care-free on a paper-board!  Granted, the animals might poke holes in the paper boARd, but it saves you a hell of a lot more time searching for tiny houses.  Those fuckers are a bitch to step on at night, too.  So support Cartoneros on kickstarter up through August 1st!  It could really be the update of next-gen gaming that would really make people feel like they are living in the future!

 

World War Machine, Earth-Rending Preview

wwmlogo   So Square Enix has its own crowd-funding site, called the Square Enix collective.  Being removed from most mainstream news, I was unaware.  World War Machine is a title off that site, which sadly did not meet its fundijng goal of $50k.  Its creators, however, seem unfazed by this, and continue to promote the game accordingly.  It did manage to score $12,382 of its funding goal, though, so cheers to that.  After playing the pre-alpha demo of the game, I am impressed and I hope these guys somehow manage to pull it out of the fire.  Looking at the game on the developer’s site, it is something to be excited about.

World War Machine is a transhuman post-apocalyptic game that takes place after humans have thoroughly fucked up the world.  After a mass extinction event wipes out all organic life from the Earth (which you know happens from time to time if you watch Cosmos) humanity has changed drastically.  We used to be “fleshy meatbags full of sloshing” according to HK-47.  Sensing our impending doom, humans started downloading their consciousness to a computer.  Because, you know, even if our bodies die, it’d be cool to allow something of us to survive, right?  Nothing could go wrong here.  Except that the nodes that house our AI’s are damaged from the cataclysm, fragmented and separated.  Some of us forget who we were and our purpose becoming confused machines roving the decimated landscape.  You play one of those who remembers our past and fight to preserve the memory.  See, the other machines don’t know about the past, but somehow you do. In the demo, I had a level 10 machine.  You are basically a mini gundam ( or Jaeger ) and you fight against the damaged intellects of the other nodes, which house the human intellects.  The fight has been raging for centuries and finally one of the machines remembers.  This seems like you.  Now, the pitch suggests that the team here, Tuque Games, wants players to slip in and out of co-op seamlessly to take on group missions then revert to solo missions.  Missions will have a lasting effect on the world war itself, as well.

Did I mention that the concept art is cool as shit?

Did I mention that the concept art is cool as shit?

That is actually a look at your character in the concept art.  And given some of the differentiation visible between the player concepts on the WWM site, character customization seems to be part of the plan.  Whilst I was in the machine shop menu, I noticed something confusing about the character.  It is a machine, sure, but it looked bizarrely organic.  Now, this is not to say that it has fleshy bits.  It doesn’t.  But there are subtle little features, like wraps around the exposed joints and pieces of wreckage made into a front-plate, that make it look like a cybernetic lifeform evolving on its own in a post-human world.  All of the machines have this look, too, from the mongrels that run and kamikaze on you to the snipers and “reaper” artillery bots.  There is a lot more to this game than you’ll notice at first, for sure.

On the topic of enemies, one of the things I noticed is that they come out of the fucking woodwork.  They squeeze through cracks and doorways in the walls, they pour out of ruined buildings… hell! I was walking along when a chunk of the road imploded and enemies came flooding from the crevasse!  The mission in this demo was simply to get to the other side of the map, but that shit was hard to fucking tell!  Not because there was no explanation.  It clearly said to find the other outpost.  Sure there was no “arrow” but fuck, man, I couldn’t exactly try to go through a mountain of rubble!  What I mean is the level was more vast than I expected from a demo.  Every time I played (and I played several times) it was like I was finding another side path off the one I started on.  Not to mention hidden husks.  You can find shattered robot husks that house materials for crafting.

These stashes were usually hidden, but the nature of the engine lends itself to finding these pretty easily. Breaking things is fun to do.  Simple fucking fact.  This game allows you to destroy nearly fucking EVERYTHING!  If you can shoot it, you can break it.  I found myself demolishing walls, ruined buildings – you can even destroy the rubble!  Fucking seriously!  Too much fun with that, actually.  This is how the game makes it easy to miss stashes, if you aren’t attentive.  You could walk past a destructible terrain and miss out on some cool loot.  And loot in this game ranges from crafting items to weapons and cosmetic items.  I went into the machine shop, which is the crafting screen, and I was able to build some fun things.  You collect a variety of Spec Files from fallen enemies and then find the components to complete the blueprint.  These components are things like plastic and metals and can be found by killing enemies and destroying the props and terrain.  And trust me, one you blow up your first taxi or bus you’ll want to get more of them.  Of course, being a robot, you can tell which terrain pieces have something inside that will be useful.  I just had WAY too much fun destroying things.  I made a cape, which hangs from my character looking badass and tattered.  I also made a few weapons

wwmrkt

BOOM! Ha ha ha ha!

Weapons in WWM come in a variety of flavors: MG class, RKT class, SHTG class, MTR class, ATL class, Rail class.  MG class is your standard machine gun.  This fucker spits out bullets and most enemies will have them.  Luckily, you don’t just walk into the bullets like they do.  Not to mention you can widen the spread as you level up.  RKT is your rocket class weaponry, and these were fun.  Above you see the player blasting enemies with the standard locking missiles.  In the demo I got to try out the mouse-guided missiles!  Those were a riot.  SHTG class is a shot gun.  This sprays a wide burst of firepower in front of you.  I attached it to give my secondary a little more punch!  MTR class is the mortar.  This was awesome, but had a lower damage.  The ATL, however, is fucking scary as hell.  This artillery class weapon fires high, so you have to plan your blast pattern, but it is worth the wait.  The rounds are high explosive and wipe out even the toughest bosses in a short (ish) time.  The RAIL class is the only type of weapon I didn’t get to experiment with.  This beast looks awesome, though, as I fought a few snipers that had it.  The thing passes through terrain, enemies and basically everything the magnetic projectile hits.  Thus, this would be my favorite weapon to destroy terrain with!  One of the cool things I discovered is that you can attach multiple weapons to your body at higher levels.  This allows you to fire a shotgun, ATL combination, for example, that will nuke anything close.  And you have three firing modes (for each mouse button) to choose from! So you’re all kitted out with an arsenal of explosives and guns to make a redneck feel uneasy.  But your vortex of vicious projectiles isn’t at its limit.

You also get powers to choose from.  We had access to them all, but among them a few really caught my eye.  First off, there was ultra-velocity, a mega-man super dash that lets you render enemies into tiny bits of scrap.  Another fun power is the EMP.  This will release a massive bust of electro-magnetic power that will stun most enemies.  Makes it a whole lot easier to deal with hordes of mongrels when they can’t even move.  Then there is my personal carnage-wreaking favorite.  Orbital strike.  This is every bit as much fun as you might imagine.  A laser centers on an area then blasts everything in its radius with a fucking cataclysmic death beam turning everyone into a thin vapor with a faint hint of ozone.

"Oo, look! It's shine.."     -Bob 3428's last words

“Oo, look! It’s sparkl..”
Bob 3428’s last words

Now, that is not the end of it.  You can level up, as stated.  I did not see too much of this, as I was level 10 when I got there.  Leveling seems pretty straight forward.  You get points per level and allocate them to your stats per level.  These stats are Weapon System, Operating System, Protection System, Sensor System and Mobility System.  Now, weapon system is pretty self-explanatory.  This is the power and efficiency at which you use your weapon.  Higher weapon system = more dead bad guys.  Then there is the Operating System.  This seems to be the equivalent of intelligance and govern recalculation, knockback and use count.  Use count seems to be the number of times you can use perishable items and knockback looks like it is either how far you knockback enemies or how well you resist the knockback of others.  Then there is recalculation.  Your guess is as good as mine.  Protection systems are fun, and govern your shields.  How well can you take damage?  Well, you want to be able to take a rocket or three, but let’s face it, you won’t be standing long if you take too many shots in the face.  Then there is the sensor system.  Now, this seems weird, but it is how well you can perceive the world around you.  You’ll have your minimap, right and you are constantly emanating this radar “ping”.  Now, when you ping, enemies will show up on your minimap as the ping hits them, got it?  The higher your sensor system, the faster you’ll ping, the further you can see, the longer you’ll see enemies on your minimap before the next ping goes off and the faster the ping will travel.  Granted, at higher levels, I hope the ping isn’t a constant, ear-splitting pain that just hisses in your ears fueling the rage that drives you through hordes of robots.  I am sure they have it under control, though.  Then there is your mobility system.  This governs your movement speed and how much you can carry in your inventory.  Now, the inventory is a perk all of its own, but speed makes sense in this game more than just the obvious.  Some enemies are slow-moving, but come in fucking massive waves that don’t seem to stop.  You will want to literally dance circles around them as you fire into the crowd.  It will keep you alive longer. Alongside the stats is the ability to overclock your character.  You can pick a single stat and each time you hit the button, your character will get a temporary boost to that stat.  Now weaponry makes a lot of sense, but what about a boost to ping?  Maybe you boost your speed to run away from a horde of mongrels?

There is a lot more to this game than will immediately occur to you, and I am finding new things every time I play. It bothers me that World War Machine did not reach its funding, but I admire the spirit displayed by Tuque Games.  Hopefully they will be able to find a way to make the game.  Perhaps do a pre-release and add content as it progresses?  I don’t know, but I sure do hope to see this title soon.  That is really the one thing about this game that pisses me off the most, too!  I am worried that it will just be another piece of vaporware.  A great demo in my Steam Library that collects electronic dust with my other favorite forgotten titles, like SIN Episodes or the original Thief series.

Want to know more about the game?  Check out their site.

Unbridled Shenanigans in the Dungeons of Dredmor

dredlogoIn anticipation of Steampunk Empires by the same developer as this title, I decided to give another dungeon run, for old-time’s sake.  Dungeons of Dredmor is another game that I wish existed when I was a kid.  In a way, this game did exist when I was a kid, but this is a modern reincarnation of those games it takes after whose places it takes over.  Surely, it couldn’t have existed when I was younger considering many of the elements of what makes this game fun, but that is ok.  We have it now, so let the shenanigans begin!

Take Zork: Grand Inquisitor, Diablo, a dash of Lovecraft, and the combined shenanigans of Ghostbusters, Firefly, Monty Python and you are still only getting started.  Dungeons of Dredmor is a pixelated masterpiece that splices click-to-kill dungeoneering with the humor of a by-gone era.  Then they add in all kinds of fun and exciting features that make this a game you are sure to play for hours on end.  Its pixel graphics and isometric view allow this title to have the complexity of gameplay that make it one of my top “do not uninstall” games.  Its procedural dungeon designs, loot and enemies also make it fun in a way that only slaughtering hordes of monsters in a dark, dank dungeon can deliver.

When you start you make your character, and the options to do so are pretty mind-boggling.  The three standard types of character are there: Mage, Rogue and Warrior.  But every character you create will be a combination of all three, whatever the division of powers.  As you level up, this division will fluctuate between the classes.  There are 45 skills that you have to choose from at the start, after you iron out your difficulty setting.  These range from polearms, shields and wand lore to archaeology, mathemagic and emomancy.  I wish I had time to talk about all them, but I don’t.  My favorite combination so far starts me off as a rogue that drives toward a magician as he levels.  When you select your skills, you have to pick apart the grand list of 45 fucking abilities and whittle it down to your 7 favorite.  At first you might pick all the neat ones, but that will get you killed.  You might avoid crafting, but that will also get you killed.  My favorite combination so far is definitely Staff-fighting, wand lore, fungal arts, alchemy, tinkering, rogue scientist and archaeology.

I like this combo because the abilities cooperate well.  First off, I just like the staves.  They tend to add defense and crushing, so it makes for a fun fight, if they get close.  My main skill is wand lore.  This is a tough one to focus on, though, because you will find yourself out of wand parts (and inventory space) by the 3rd level.  So, you will need something to back yourself up when enemies close in.  Fungal arts and alchemy work together well as alchemy lets you draw resources from various fungi that you cultivate on the bodies of the dead.  This gets you a number of good secondary weapons right at the start.  Tinkering is good, even if only for the bombs you can create.  These fuckers will take out an entire room, and there are mines too, if that is what you’re into.  Rogue scientist is a steampunk mish-mosh of tinkering, wand lore and alchemy that gives you some good hold-out moves and catches the bonuses of those three disciplines and lets you benefit from them.  Archaeology is a good way to get some miscellaneous experience.  Killing monsters is good and well, but I am not looking to be that guy that is grinding his ass off to get to a place where he can fight further down.  To put it into perspective, using Archaeology I have gotten to level 9 and I just started floor 3.  Yea.

These skills extrapolate out to the character’s 28 stats.  Yea, 28.  So, you can see how diverse in abilities you can make your character.  My character is a rogue-based wizard, essentially, and as such has remarkable dodge and counter-strike.  He also critical hits and gets haywire hits (magical crits) on a regular basis.  Of course if he gets hit, he dies fast, but I can make life potions, cultivate healing shrooms and there is also food as a final fall back.  I don’t like to let enemies get close enough to need fight hand-to-hand.  But when I do, I beat them with a big fucking stick.  Literally.  That is what the animation looks like and I love it.  Only thing about that I take issue with is I feel there should be a more face-crunching sound effect, you know?

levelup1

… will it keep me safe?

Once you get down to the dungeons you will notice that there is a vast variety of enemies from diggles and undead aethernauts to evil vegetables and flying, spell-casting skulls.  It is mind-boggling all the foes you will flay, but it never gets old.  Especially when you hit the zoos.  These are rooms filled wall-to-wall with enemies.  They could be as small as a former monster-collector’s personal burial chamber or as vast as ancient cisterns.  In the end, you will shit yourself when you bust the door down and pray you have some good AoE attacks.  For me I blast them with my acid wands, save up my Odious Puffballs and toss in a couple acid flasks.  Mosolov Cocktails in this game (basically molotov cocktails) also leaving a lingering fireball that other enemies walk through.  Bombs will also help out and kill giant holes in the crowd, but it is seriously just a monster convention in there.  IF you successfully complete the zoo without dying, you will receive a powerful loot item, too.

Each floor has its own theme, too, but you will always see the diggles.  These little rubber-nosed bird-creatures are omnipresent in the dungeons, so Dredmor must’ve personally subsidized them.  Either that or they breed like cockroaches and act like subterranean pigeons, infiltrating every crack and crevice they can find and reproducing like dirty, little, drill-nosed rabbits.  Dredmor, in case I forgot to mention him, is the ultimate boss of the dungeons.  I think I am supposed to kill him at the end, but I haven’t seen that guy yet.  When the game first came out, you had to beat the game before you could load after death. Yep.  So when you died, the game would delete all your save files for a specific character.  It was infuriating, but the rush after getting to the lower floors was unparalleled.  Today I was able to play after dying once, so either the DLC that was released allowed me this feature, or I beat down to a level where I could unlock said feature.

Who ordered the large anchovy pizza?  Was it you Greg? You fucking DICK! We all agreed on pepperoni!

Who ordered the large anchovy pizza? Was it you Greg? You fucking DICK! We all agreed on pepperoni!

This game references almost every facet of popular sub-culture that it will make your head spin.  It has more video-game/movie references than every season of Big Bang Theory and Family Guy combined, past present and future.  There are Zelda and Braid jokes, Dragon Ball Z get one in, Firefly quotes echo through the dungoens, skill trees mimic the life and times of Indiana Jones, stats are named after Pirates of the Carribbean slang and I swear there are Monty Python jokes lingering around each corner.  You spend your days counting Zorkmids and you character’s portrait even decays exactly as in the original Wolfenstein 3d at the same levels of health degredation.  Conan the barbarian, emos, vegans: you name it.  It’s fucking in there.  There are also a number of puns that mostly only the British should get, but they’re obvious enough to be funny to us Yanks, too.  Overall, this game’s treatment of sub-culture and popular culture references are so far-reaching, expansive and awesome that this really is a gamer-culture work of art.  Every time I play, I find more references and jokes, too.  It is truly remarkable.

Then there are the little things that fill in the corners of this piece quite nicely.  Everything else is procedurally generated, why not the side-quests?  You pray at the shrine of Inconsequentia, the Goddess of Side-Quests.  Place your weapons on the Anvil of Krong for nice upgraded loot items.  Gallivant through the hordes of monsters wearing a roadcone and liederhosen.  I can’t say anything comedic.  I don’t need to.  This game is hilarious as hell all on its own.  Play through this title and you will be equal parts amazed, entertained and pissed that you missed so much free time indoors.  Buy Dungeons of Dredmor complete on Steam now for the summer sale!  That shit only runs you 2.93$ for the DLC that isn’t fucking free!  Just go get it.  This is one that you’ll be glad you bought.

Among all the games I have played so far, this one shines on top of the pile like a star, but it still has its rough spots.  What is it this time?  I played this game for FOUR FUCKING HOURS and only got to the 3rd floor.  You have to be ready to commit a good weekend to this game just to get far enough to even fucking smell Dredmor!  I have owned this title for literal goddamn YEARS and I have played it on and off and never ONCE saw the guy.  That fucking perma-death element went a long way toward keeping me away, but now that I can reload after death, I should be able to get that bastard.  Of course now I feel like a piece of shit that can’t hack the lower dungeons without dying once!  And what did I get killed by in my last play on that deep, dark level in an alternate dimension? Hmmm?  A GODDAMNED BUFFED-OUT DIGGLE!  The mickey-mousey comedic enemy of the ENTIRE FUCKING GAME!  You have no idea how hard and loud I raged.  I was in the army at that point and my roommates thought I was giving birth to a fucking watermelon out my ass.  AGH! Whatever, I am killing me some fucking buff-assed diggles this time.  Ain’t nothing gonna stop my fungus-eating, stick wielding, wand-sliging Titus Cezarius!

I have never felt more satisfied in this game than the first time I saw this screen, shaking and drenched with the blood of my enemies.

I have never felt more satisfied in this game than the first time I saw this screen, shaking and drenched with the blood of my enemies.

 

 

Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville, Post-Apocalypse Mayorship

RebuildlogoEver wondered what it would be like to take the place of Rick Grimes or the Governor?  How would you run things differently? What policies would your band of survivors have to get accustomed to?  Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville is a series that allows you to decide just that.  Lead your rag-tag band of survivors to take back the city from the dead.  Fight the ravenous hordes, train your people in various skills and work to bring back the world of the living amidst the hordes of undead.

Developed across two previous titles by Northway Games, Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville is a title that I have been following for a couple years now.  This latest incarnation is by far the cleanest version of the game, but because it is an early-access title, it is not without its issues. So don’t say you weren’t warned.  Where previous games, available in browser or on iOS platforms, drove for a more serious tone with a soundtrack out of a horror movie, Gangs feels more like a video game.  Rather than the realistic portrayals of survivors featured in Rebuild and Rebuild 2, Gangs uses vector graphics to portray its heroes.  Personally, this makes it a lot easier to detach myself from them.  If Rico Simms goes out for food and comes back holding his intestines, I will be more likely to just bury a hatchet in his head.  No worries.  That guy was annoying anyway.  Though the characters are now a little more toony, this has allowed the developers to make the town itself look altogether better.  Where before you had some simple doodles, now you have a more detailed and gritty map.  Granted, sometimes the map feels more like a page out of “Where’s Waldo?” but that makes it fun and slightly nostalgic to pan the view and looks at your surroundings.  One more major add-in for the city itself in Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville were rivers and coastlines.  This way you can reimagine that famous trailer for another run-of-the-mill zombie-smashing RPG at E3 2014.  Did you like this map? Good.  Save the seed and you can regenerate it every time you play or take a random seed for endlessly replayable apocalypse action.

From dismal winter to decrepit post-apocalypse, the styles really inspire the creeping depression of being the last people on Earth.

From dismal winter to decrepit post-apocalypse, the styles really inspire the creeping depression of being the last people on Earth.

Gangs of Deadsville also features other players.  In Rebuild 2 you had the possibility of running into a gang called The Last Judgement Gang.  They would frequently harass the colony, attack, steal food and generally provide villains for the player.  As your colony grows, it eventually becomes evident that you have to deal with them, and this culminates in a final showdown of epic proportions.  In Gangs, you get to deal with other factions.  As of yet, the only interaction I’ve had was with this russian guy named Gustav.  He always comes by and tries to get my people to gamble away precious resources, buy hookers and accept food loans.  That guy is more of an annoyance, really, but if you piss them off enough, their faction comes crashing in guns-blazing.  This isn’t the only other faction, but it is the only one I have met so far.  You can also run into enemy NPC colonies that basically end up battling you for dominance.  Instead of having a typical cut-and-dried enemy, now you have a real us vs. them feeling with a battle for survival with a group of people you might have been best buddies with in another life.

When I started Gangs of Deadsville, I was given the standard options: make a character, pick a profession set town parameters.  As I clicked through the random name generator, I noticed a few fun monikers I might take on.  Among them were Johnny Dangerously, Arma Geddon and James Tyberius  Kirk.  Clearly the character I was concocting was a man of honor.  As if that didn’t make it obvious enough, the selection of former occupations is spectacular: politician, Police Officer and Doctor are fairly well coveted in the real world, but more realistically, you can choose to play as a Retiree or a Shop Clerk.  Each occupation starts your leader off with an item and a bonus quality, which makes them unique.  Being clever and dashing, I chose the Shop Clerk occupation, which made scavenging easier and got me better deals when bartering and trading.  And of course, started me off with the tool most favored by shop clerks worldwide: a crowbar.  I would have pick a backpack or a flashlight, but shop clerk comes with a crowbar.  I mean, I am not disputing the realism of a game where you spend your time fighting zombies, but every self-respecting gamer knows that the crowbar is default weapon of the scientist.  Jeez.

Reminds me of where my in-laws live minus the mindless, brain-eating hordes.. but then again, they do live in Jersey...

Reminds me of where my in-laws live minus the mindless, brain-eating hordes.. but then again, they do live in Jersey…

Each survivor has their own story involving things ranging from baking and homelessness to gardening and shoulder-lizards.  As your people level you will choose news perks for them, skill enhancements, equipment etc.  Equipment becomes important, too.  While your main source of food should start off angled toward farming, you will still need to avidly scavenge for weapons, tools, ammo, fuel, building materials and an array of other goods that are hard to come by and expensive to purchase.  And with other factions and colonies searching for the same goods, you need to move fast.

But dedicating your people to one set of tasks constantly will leave other areas of your colony neglected.  There are 5 classifications that survivors fall into: defender (red), leader(blue), builder(green), scavenger(yellow) and engineers (purple).  Each of them play an integral role in the sustenance, expansion and strength of your colony.  Sure, everyone likes to kill zombies, but not all your survivors are good at it.  Send a builder out with a hammer to kill zombies, and he can get small groups, but as the numbers of walking dead rise, they will only be able to support the real fighters.  Likewise, an engineer might be able to lend a hand with manpower when expanding the colony into new sectors of the environs, but he is much better suited in a laboratory.  This is where the leader of the town comes in handy.  Sure, you might be a shop clerk, but you are a special shop clerk.  You are able to use your leader for any task and level him up in all skills, while your other survivors only level in their specific skills.  Of course, that makes it so that you are the only non-drone in a colony of ants, but as long as you address them with titles and call them specialists, they shouldn’t rise up in revolt.  I mean, doesn’t “Rage Specialist” sound so much better than “instrument of my own vengeance and violent will”?  Yea, I know, has a sort of ‘I respect your autonomy and special snowflake-ness despite the fact I control your every action’ feel to it.  Just what you need in a leader of men and women.

Cause you also need to keep those fuckers in high spirits, too.  Now the aforementioned hiring of hookers is a good way but costs food and the dignity of many people involved.  A better option is to renovate a nearby bar or church and let your people spend time there.  They can also do ‘time off’ missions in their quarters, but hanging out in a run-down apartment complex is only fun to a point.  There is more to life than seeing how many birds you can hit with your spit from above. Trust me.  Another neat feature of this game are the random events.  People show up at your gates, animals might attack, someone might find a fucking raccoon in the goddamn shed.  Whatever, the odd-ball and.. uh.. RANDOM fucking nature of these events adds a tangential factor to the game, making it feel like it takes place in a real and changing world.

Now, there are zombies in this game.  Did I mention that? Ok, good. Pay the fuck attention.  Now, when the game starts you have a few straggling zed-heads, which are easily dispatched by your survivors, builders, scientists, defenders alike.  But as you progress, your people, who presumably haven’t showered since the fall of modern civilization and can be smelled in the next state over, attract zombies like North Koreans to a bulgogi buffet.  Thus, the zombies start to shamble toward you in ever-growing numbers like the rotting parade of stank-sniffing gut-munchers they are.  This means you need to seriously amp up your game if you don’t want to end up as fertilizer.  Zombies aren’t the only way to die, though.  Go ahead, rely on scavenging as your main food source.  Your people will die THE DAY AFTER YOUR FOOD RUNS OUT!  And your people might die on a mission, get caught up in a random event or just catch a mother fucking fever.  Still more neat mechanics exist, like the ability to switch between real-time and turn-based strategy.  Seriously, the problem is choice!  So reach out, expand your reach and get that technology research moving!  Did I miss that too?

So as you expand you will encounter labs and drive-in movie theatres and other neat shit.  Now, you could ignore the messages and subtle hints, but as you move your game along, you can even get technology up and going again.  Like, refrigeration, movies, PORN!  Christ’s sake PORN man!  Is there a more noble cause to reach back into the annals of knowledge left by the ancients?!  O, yea, there is also the ability farm more efficiently, build better walls, kill zombies more effectively, but shit, man, who doesn’t like to watch other people fuck on film?  It’s purely for research.. and morale.. and stress relief.. or something..

All-in-all, this game allows you to live the fantasy of leading people to salvation through a gurgling masses of horrifying flesh-suckers, and Sarah, the developer, has done everything to make this a title worth your time and money.  The best part is that the game is still coming out with more content.  I mean, that is good news to me!  It means that if the game’s state bothers you, come back to it in a few weeks and there should be another update to explore.

"You, there!  Peasant!  Throw yourself in front of those zedheads so I can escape." You'll miss the days of just 'tripping the fat guy'

It says “kill 5.651153016444607 massed zombies”.  Documentation of the last fucking time I ever let the engineering team go on defensive maneuvers.

Above you will see an excessively accurate detail of how many massed zombies those guys were fighting.  Evidence of the only thing that truly angers me about this game.  Bugs.  Of course, this is a PRE-RELEASE title available on Steam through the combined auspices of Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter.  But that does not make it any less fucking frustrating when you have a memory error appear on your screen after about an hour and a half of non-stop gameplay.  I mean I can’t even fucking binge-playon my favorite goddamn game!  If I want to waste HOURS of my fucking time murdering zombies and micro-managing my people’s lives, I want it to be uninterrupted by binge-halting errors.  The base game is $14.99, but fuck that.  Don’t do that to yourself.  You WILL love this title.  Just spring for the extra 10$ and get the deluxe edition.  You can even download that AFTER you decide whether you like the base game or not as it is listed as DLC!  This DLC will bring you some neat art and such later, but will also grant purchasers 5 extra professions, each with their own unique item.  So, you’ll be cursed with more fucking choices!  And if you’re into that whole ‘instant-gratification’ thing, the DLC ‘deluxe’ version will also give you Rebuild 1 and Rebuild 2 in all their formerly browser-embedded glory.  That way you can formulate your strategies on the earlier (but by no means easier) games.  So go on Steam, and throw 24.99$ at getting this title moving.  Its end state will be a title to make Sid Meier jealous.  I mean, seriously, that guy is probably like making a title called Sid Meier’s Zombies! Too late, ya bastard! Too fucking late!

You can find more from Northway Games here, follow the development of the Rebuild Series here and check out another title by this development family here.

IndieDevs and IndiE3, Hope for Gaming Future

Art by @hellomavw (via Twitter)

Art by @hellomavw (via Twitter)

Never heard of IndiE3? I don’t blame you.  24 hours ago it was an itch that creator TJ Thomas (  ) finally located and scratched like a furious demon with poison ivy on his balls.  Yesterday it was nothing.  As of typing this sentence,  it has gained 593 followers on Twitter and attracted the imaginations of Indie Gamers and Indie Developers alike.  The feed is buzzing with contributions from artists ( as seen above ), writers and statements from its creator.  But why does anyone care?  Why should any single fucks be given?  Here’s why. On an article written yesterday on Kotaku, Jason Schreier set out to explain why being a Game Developer sucks worse than you might think.  Imagine working a job for a major company in its field, and suddenly, you’re not getting paid.  A month later the company NO LONGER FUCKING EXISTS.  As Jason describes, this was all too real for developers of 38 Studios.  He then lists dozens of companies that have had layoffs, some in the thousands.  It’s too easy to look at this and run into the streets naked proclaiming the death of gaming altogether.  Granted, it shows the volatility of the industry, but there is a measure of security in being a developer for a major company.  I mean, all things considered, it must be worth it if the game is making millions of dollars American, no?  But if your game tanks or is delayed, you’ll likely be fired.  And if your tanked game is the sole hope upon which the company is depending for its next big break, that whole company is fucked. The article tells us that Over-Saturation, the over-hiring of staff to hit strenuous dead-lines, and corporate financial strategizing are often to blame.  It blatantly says “Priority number one for [major publishers] is keeping shareholders happy, which means showing big numbers on their earnings reports every quarter” in the article.  They’ll fire people just to save fucking money.  As you might have guessed, major companies like EA and Activision put the priority of returns WAY over any value in personnel, or even their fucking customers.  As long as their games are bought, they couldn’t give a single flying apeshit about anyone but their shareholders.  If they saw this they’d panic for their bottom lines and run to the presses to denounce me (or promote me as strategies permit would best suit the situation) and apologize to everyone.  They would lament for the travesties they lay on developers and maybe even send them a fruitbasket.  But in the end, we can generally assume that is just to serve the benefit of profits. And the bastards go ahead and try to make it look like they give a crap about the little people by featuring a small handful of Indie Developers at E3 2014 and act like they’ve broken through some vestigial preconception established by a cruel and uncaring society.  A society that they happily feed into with their hype and PR etc.  And why the fuck not? It makes them hundreds of millions, even billions to maintain the status quo.  It’s like they think Indie Game Developers are a social group experiencing discrimination.  What they don’t realize is that Indie Developers are rising and becoming their own factor.  Valve already took the first steps in making Indie Gaming a movement when they released Steam Greenlight back in August 2012. While it is not perfect (and I mean really not perfect), it’s still miles better than anything anyone else is trying. Like Apple. For most developers being on Itunes is like buying a damned lottery ticket.  Greenlight even makes me feel warm and fuzzy toward Valve.  Many developers, like Lorne Lanning of the Oddworld series, seem to agree that contracting syphilis would be preferable  to working for major game developers and going indie is the cure.  I mean, Lanning was quoted thusly in an interview with VG247 regarding the release of his new indie title, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty and his feeling of releasing games retailside :

“Fuck that business. I don’t want to play with that business, because it was a losing business,” he lamented. “I just don’t want to go back and play the old [publisher] game. I’d rather not make games than go fucking be a slave for public companies who care more about their shareholders than they do about their customers.  “Why did Battlefield 4 ship? You know that team was crying. You know that team knew that game wasn’t ready to go. You know that team fucking spent a lot of sleepless nights building that shit out to look as good and play as good, when it was able to be experienced, being played as they were intending it to be played. Someone made a decision that the shareholders are more important than the customer. And we see a lot of that. How do you blow that? How do you take that fucking jewel and ship it with dirt all over it?”

                                                                                                                                      – Lorne Lanning with VG247, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty – “it’s not a fucking HD remake”

Divesting the major game development scene for the indie scene is not a move everyone makes.  There is a section in the Kotaku piece where a guy doing QA for a porn company talks about how he hates his job now, but losing development jobs again and again was still not a better option for him.  He has a life and a family, you know?

Arinn Dembo, developer for Sword of the Stars with Kerberos Productions ( @Erinys via Twitter ), replied to a request for input from a major developer gone rogue and was able to corroborate some of what others were saying, specifically about the volatility of the industry.  She spoke from experience, having worked for Sierra in her early days as a dev.

“Sometimes it’s not just that the industry is volatile. It’s outright toxic.” For Arinn, the license to freedom was just too attractive to pass up.  Her motivations to move on to Indie Development were clear. “I had two reasons. One: I wanted to stick with my team. They were and are the best human beings I have known.  Two: I couldn’t resist the unprecedented, unrestricted Creative License to Kill that I’d have in the SotS verse.”  Her thoughts left a lot to think about, and sure enough she left with one classy line that I think describes the overall Indification of Gaming succinctly…

Erinys

Kerberos currently has Kaiju-a-Gogo (yes, the Pacific Rim Kaiju) listed on kickstarter! Support them NOW!

With all that in mind, Indie Game development is no picnic in the park.  It’s a picnic in a desert where you have to trudge for miles before finding a nice, shady spot to sit down.  It’s full of pitfalls, pain and anguish that can only be braved by the truly dedicated.  And Indie Developer, Clay Hayes (@RNassassin via Twitter), agreed to describe the life of an Indie Game Developer for me.  Under the name Bloodshot Games, Clay is the sole developer working on the Third-person Shooter/Stealth game, Redneck Assassin.  He tweeted a message for Indie Developers, which I thought described Indie GameDev life with vibrant emotion.

rnassassin In an e-mail correspondence, Clay revealed to me some of the strains that Indie Game Development is placing on his marriage, considering he has been on development of Redneck Assassin since May 2013, Mrs. Hayes must be a saint. “My wife is always upset with me cause I’m never home for the dinner she cooks.  My diet consists of Red Bull and SoBe green tea.  Occasionally MacDonalds  and Top Ramen.” I ate more than that in college.  But Clay also faces  mounting occupational difficulties. “The title has been pushed back several times now.  I’m shooting for January 2015, after the Christmas game rush.  It’s most challenging doing EVERYTHING.  Art, code, design, animation, pr and administration; I’m seeing teams of Indie [Developers] literally pass me by on development progress.  It’s not hard to keep up, it’s impossible.  So, if you are a solo Indie[Dev], DON’T compare yourself to teams.  It’s an ice-skating uphill battle.” And Redneck Assassin faces further challenges in the industry. “Apparently Redneck Assassin is an offensive title and Apple will not allow me to have the term ‘redneck’ in my game.” So after all that, Indie Developers get to face rejection on the basis of a term that refers to a group of people synonymous with Confederate flags on raised pick-up trucks.  Apple can suck a dry, dirty dick.  Clay is looking into featuring Redneck Assassin, in all its man-hunting glory, on IndiE3 with a possible demo version.  Clean of any of Apple’s clutches as “Apple is bitches about sharing works-in-progress.” But despite being a hard path fraught with difficulty, I fully believe that Indie Gaming is developing into a counter-culture that has the potential to become greater than mainstream gaming.  First, Indie Games are able to experiment in ways that major game companies simply cannot.  Looking at games like A Clumsy Adventure by Excamedia, which fuses elements of retro games with modern games, or Concursion by  Puuba Games, which fuses platformer, shooter, hack-n-slash, jetpack and maze racer/puzzler games into one.  Major game companies simply couldn’t market games like these to wide audiences, mostly because they wouldn’t know what to fucking do with it.  There are so many more games like this, that it boggles the mind, but they are out there. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, is where major gaming companies go to touch each other in front of the media, unveil new ideas and the future of gaming, and generally drum up as much hype as they can in a few days.  It’s like the World’s Fair for gaming.  Originally, anyone who could afford the ticket prices could enter, but in 2007 E3 closed to the public, reverting to its original “industry-only” format.  Well, as stated earlier, they invited a few Indie Developers and decided to call that fair.  Honestly, the number of Indie Developers is staggering, so how do we keep track of all them?  Wikipedia’s List of Indie Game Developers compiles many, but not all of them.  How can we hear about the newest in gaming innovation on the Indie side?  Well, the man wants you to think E3 has that too now, but Indie Gaming is so much more. Which brings me back to IndiE3.  Basically, this site was nothing as of June 5th, but literally overnight it began to establish a formidable following that continues to grow.  While I was writing this article, which honestly took me all night, it grew to 611 followers on twitter.  IndiE3 represents more than just a place to go, it is OUR place to go.  The Cyber-event will take place June 9th – June 16th with various “channels” that you’ll be able to watch as the event proceeds.  Opening day will include live panels (they’ve received support from Indie Haven and The Spawn Point ), ranging from indie game coverage, design manifestos, to round-table discussions and lightning talks submitted to IndiE3 and seen live only at hitbox.tv.  June 10-14th will feature the official IndiE3 Game Jam, hosted by Game Jolt! You create the games at #IndiE3.  They’ll also encourage developers to sell their IndiE3 games as well.  June 15th, they’ll collect the Game Jam games and show them off all day. Numerous streams and game tournaments will run throughout the whole event and Warp Door will have their own channel/booth to show off various unique little games. I hope this event plays out to be as much fun as it seems like it will be.  Although they are billing themselves as E3’s rebellious little brother, this event seems best attended with E3 playing (possibly on mute) on your television in the background.  I will leave you with TJ Thomas’s very own words on IndiE3.  There are more intriguing thoughts and motivating words on the IndiE3 Project’s Twitter feed.  Check it out for yourself. Thanks to @ttl_anderson for the use of his small logo for the tweet link.Tj1 TJ3 TJ2TJ4

Blade of Rage, Scorching Preview

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Ready for Rage? An indie title currently vying for votes, Blade of Rage is a throwback to RPG’s of a bygone era, but with a few slick surprises.  If you remember hours of play time with the early Final Fantasy titles or got down in the dark place with Avernum: Escape from the Pit, then you’re the target audience.  Your main character is a spell-sword called Rage the Blade, and alongside his travel companions, Gudu the Groundbreaker and Vespa the Viperess, you get some serious slaying going on.  I’ve just played through the alpha demo and I’m ready to grab a handful of steel and start Ragin’!

After contacting the sole developer, “Lone Wolf” Don, I downloaded the alpha demo and got playing.  A few minor adjustments for my personal play-style and I was off to Oswar.  Now, if you go into this adventure expecting the standard fantasy RPG romp, you’ve got another thing coming.  I went up against my first few foes and nearly got my ass handed to me.  So up front this game has you on your toes.  Not to mention, the enemies can take a beating.  At first I thought “Oh, shit! How am I supposed to win this?” but then I got a handle on the abilities of my team mates and started laying my foes out.  Immediately I was taken back to that “front lines” fantasy rpg feeling.  I was Rage, a spell-sword issuing orders to each of his comrades.  And that is how it feels.  Every fight, every time; you are thrown into a dire struggle against vicious monsters hell-bent on your destruction.  If you attack when you should have blocked or used a Cureall potion when you should’ve cast cure, you’re going to feel it.  If not sooner, then later.

One of the features of this game is the ability for the player to choose whether to experience random encounters or not.  Anyone who has played through Final Fantasy will know that when you are low on health, potions, money and mana, the last thing you want on the way to the inn is a horde of zombies harrying your escape.  This toggle feature allows you to slip back to the inn for some much needed R & R.  I know I needed it one or twice, and I am not afraid to say it saved my ass!

So, after taking shelter in a ruin, I was off to find the Stone’s Throw Inn, when I happened across a dwarf.  I helped him out of his predicament and found another feature of the game that made me giddy. When you play a video game, you want to slip, if only for a minute, into the skin of another person.  And I don’t know about you, but I want that someone to be considerably more badass than I am!  That being said, Battle Action Response allows you to take full control of the fight rather than letting the computer roll out the results.  So, when you dictate your fighter to take off someone’s head, you just tap the action key at the right time and you can get off a little extra damage and the increased chance of a critical hit.  That might not sound all too crazy at first, but, trust me, when you start getting off critical hits and extra damage, you’ll feel the thrill of battle like you’re swinging the sword yourself.

Later on, my new travelling companion in tow, I was venturing through a dark and deadly forest.  Suddenly some spiders jumped out at my crew and ate a deer that wandered onto the path.  After laughing furiously, I realized that a battle was about to commence.  Suddenly a bar appeared with a sliding sword icon.  Recalling the game’s briefing on the Battle Advantage feature, I prepared for the fight.  With Battle Advantage turned on, you can get a chance to attack first in the fight, as long as you can press the action key in time.  Though my bellowing laughter left me slightly flat-footed, I was still able to secure that pre-emptive attack for my adventurers.  It has little elements like this, which, when added to games, make for a more immersive and entertaining adventure for the player, and this game certainly has the player in mind.

Giant razor sword of death! I choose you!

Giant razor sword of death! I choose you!

Another surprising element in this game is the ability to fast travel, and for those of you rolling your eyes and saying something about “Elder Scrolls”, shut your damn mouth!  Fast travel in this is quite different.  A world map appears and you move your character from one place to the next rather than walking them through every twist and turn of the forest.  Similar to the Final Fantasy world map travel when you have a Chocobo or an airship.  And as in The Elder Scrolls, you’re unable to use this view to get to places you haven’t been yet, but once you’ve traveled there, it’s fair game.

Aside from that, the art for the game is enjoyably original, the animations are flashy and fun and the music had me jamming along at some points.  In a boss battle the music started as the usual fight song but then the music died off after a bit.  At first I thought it was just Alpha-tester’s blues, but then that shit came back and it was rowdy!  I started jamming out as I dealt out heavy crits and killing blows.  The background even started to oscillate a bit, adding a little more tension to a fight with a fearsome foe.

 

Come to the Stone's Throw Inn: we won't throw a rock at your head!

Come to the Stone’s Throw Inn: we won’t throw a rock at your head!

Games like this are a refreshing part of the indie gaming scene and are an example of why I love Steam.  Steam via Steam Greenlight gives solo developers the opportunity to share retro-gaming experiences with fresh new stories in a format we’ve come to love and respect.  Without Greenlight, a number of worthy experiences would never even have the chance to see daylight, and this is one I hope gets voted up into release.  Granted, as an alpha demo, it isn’t without its issues, but there are more highly esteemed games with developing teams selling their games before they’re even finished.  With one man spinning this thread before our very eyes, it’s clear that this game is a work of heart.  Interested in learning more about Blade of Rage? Go to the Blade of Rage website or the Steam Greenlight BoR page and unleash your Rage!

Every gem has its flaws and there is one big flaw that I have to address here.  I am violently opposed to the game’s treatment of Dwarfs!  That’s right! Dwarfs!  First off, this token-racial character isn’t even a full-fledged Dwarf!  He’s a half-breed human-dwarf, not that there is anything wrong with racial mixing, but he spends the rest of the game trying to make up for that fact!  He says ‘lad’ and ‘arse’ and even seems to worship a goddamn rock!  Dwarfs might live and work and play underground, but worshipping rocks?  Reminds me of a racially distinct first for a major game franchise involving animal slavery… Just call him a stunty, you rat bastard.  Rage would be the name of my life, not just the name of a game!

Story about my Uncle, Physics was never this fun

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A Story about my Uncle is the story about how your uncle transforms you into a technological spiderman/rocket knight hybrid. But after playing this game for two and a half days, I realize that this was probably meant to be a little longer.  Exhilarating gameplay, story-driven exploration and a tender touch are what makes this game unique.  So that works to force you through the game faster than you might expect.  But what makes it fun it its blatant disregard for the safety of children and a solid understanding and complete dismissal of physics.  It almost feels like this game was made to showcase the physics engine.  Either way,  Newtown’s laws of Motion shall claim their vengeance!

So you start this game and you hear a father putting his daughter to bed with a story.  She won’t go to freaking sleep, so we have to play the game to make her.  Whatever.  Turns out that the father is your character and you are playing as his former childhood self.  You go to his uncle’s house only to find it empty.  As you look around, he tells his daughter about all the things he remembers that day.  Looking at maps, postcards, exploration suit that lets you fly through the air like a genie, teleportation pad that you use to travel to another world.  You know.  The usual.

Then you flip a switch and travel to a world with floating platforms everywhere.  After using your grappling hook to navigate some simple platforms, you get another crystal core for your suit and shit gets tougher.  You also see these frog people, which is cool, but they are really just a part of the scenery.  You meet one named Maddie, and she spends a lot of the game on your back, keeping you company, making side comments and occasionally taunting you.  My character says he wants to be careful not to bump her head, but I would be struggling not to whack her head on a rock purposely.  It’s ok, though, mostly she helps you keep from feeling like you’re playing Portal again.  Solitary, silent protagonist taunted and forced through a treacherous terrain.  Here, you are a winsome protagonist listening to the discussion between a father and daughter with frequent input form your travelling partner.  There is the matter of a couple turns of phrase that come out a little awkward, but those are so minuscule I doubt anyone but me will even notice that shit.

Eventually Maddie leaves you, and I have to admit that I missed her toward the end.  The most of this game is the nail-biting manner in which you travel from one point to another.  I am not a puzzle-game guy, but this was fun as shit.  Sometimes you can choose any of a number ways to travel toward your destination.  There are also little machines that you find, and you take their readouts, but nothing much is mentioned about them toward the end.  They aren’t easy to find, but getting to them is their own reward.  I couldn’t help but feeling a bit of excitement every time I landed with a satisfying crunch.  And with all the hang time you get while swinging by a glowing thread of energy, you sure have plenty of time to weigh the choices in your life that led you here.

You really have time to think while you pray you have the momentum to reach that platform...

You really have time to wonder if you have momentum to reach that platform while soaring through the air at ass-chapping speeds…

Another thing about this game is that you get a remarkable amount of upgrades.  Once you get the rocket boots, you are pretty much all set, though.  And another thing that this game seems to excel at is giving you awesome powers, allowing you to get used to them and then throwing insane obstacles at you.  O, you just got a handle on that grappling hook?  Good, here is a series of orbiting flying rocks to navigate!  You just got that long jump?  Ok, use your tractor beam to catch a rock at the end of your reach mid air after performing a long jump!  I almost shit myself a million times, but death in this game is more a relief from the white-knuckle feeling of flying through the air.  It’s not nearly as jarring as you expect falling from soaring heights into misty and uncertain depths should be.  That is good too, cause you’ll probably fall a few times.  That made it easy for me to feel like I wasn’t failing so much as learning what I needed to continue.  The game doesn’t make you feel like an asshole.  It just picks you up, dusts you off and says, that’s ok, we’re just having fun.  Not quite art, but definitely a cut above your standard game.

So what bothers me so much about this game? The FEELINGS!  I mean, it’s sooooo cute!  You’re a kid looking for his uncle!  Adorable!  Even though the guy made a suit for you, something that places you in a remarkable amount of danger. Blatant disregard for your safety!  And then!  O, the way you let Maddie go off on her own?  And the ending? AH!  Fuck you Gone North Games!  Fuck you for making me… feel for the characters.  O, well.  Time to go back to the standard thoughtless murder of hordes of flat enemies that is standard fare for games these days.