Monthly Archives: September 2009

Schafer shares sorrows

News Schafer shares sorrowsEverybody knows of Tim Schafer for his contributions to stuff like Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. And he’s big in the news nowadays because everyone’s gotten their metal horns and amplifiers all tuned up in anticipation for Brutal Legend. I count myself among those mindless hordes, of course. Who can say no to an unholy combination of music and video games, the game with a good splash of Sacrifice in its multiplayer? Of course you can’t!

Now, when Schafer’s not out supervising while Jack Black makes silly noises into a microphone, or writing (and starring in) satirical little Flash adventure games, he’s writing about his past. And quite a colourful past it was; can you believe he signed up to work for Hewlett-Packard? What a loss that would’ve been. Good thing, then, that they turned him down and he decided to send this ridiculous cover letter to LucasArts (then LucasFilm Games).

Go on and get your full history lesson now over here, and realise that everyone starts at the same place. Even Schafer, whom everyone knows. Odd, then, that nobody ever played Psychonauts.

- Chippit

Higher!

News Higher!I spent some time yesterday playing around with Higher!, a charming Flash game which has you trying to lift a house with balloons.

“Definitely worth a mention in Dev.Mag,” I thought. “I’m totally going to be the first person on the Internet to talk about this. Everybody will love me forever.” Then I checked my RSS feeds and realised that NAG Online had beaten me to the mark. D’oh.

Higher! is a pretty simple game, and even though it’s clearly just a relentless grindfest of collecting coins, dodging bombs and fetching more balloons to attach to your house, one kinda gets hooked on it. Maybe it’s the soothing piano music, or the charming blue-on-white visuals. It could even be something as droll as the control scheme. Whatever the reason, this game kinda makes you feel like you’re lifting a piece of your soul with all of those balloons. That silly old house is just a placeholder sprite.

Serving suggestions: play with a cat on your lap. It just feels like the right thing to do.

-Nandrew

Comp 23: L4D card game

News Comp 23: L4D card gameI feel like I’m begging to get my ass kicked by Valve for showing off all of these distinctly unofficial fan games, but if they can take a Guard Dog “fan update” in stride, then maybe — just maybe — the humble Comp 23 entrants won’t get torn apart by Saxton Hale.

Of course, being killed in such a way is probably one of the manliest ways for someone to go, so it’s pretty win-win.

Anyway, on to the subject of this post: community member Fengol has made himself an awesome little card game inspired by Left 4 Dead and is now proceeding to punt it all around the Internet. At least, I’m hoping he is: it’s for a marketing competition after all.

From what I’ve seen and heard, it’s quite the entertaining game with a pretty tight ruleset, and although it’s still technically undergoing revisions, there’s a fully playable version that you can print out and have a go at with your friends.

I’m personally looking forward to trying this one out at rAge in a few weeks: my printer access is limited and I’m really hankering for a shot. Especially since everybody else who has tried it seems to be enjoying it immensely.

As mentioned before, keep an eye out for more marketing comp highlights from Game.Dev within the next few weeks. And don’t be shy about commenting: devs like feedback, as long as you’re not spamming them with pictures of naughty bits.

-Nandrew

The computer cheats!

News The computer cheats!For me, game AI is interesting not in the way that one must make it smart (though this is, undoubtedly, a godlike feat at times), but in the way that one must make it convincing. I like to call this “stupidity coding”.

With that in mind, I found this column on GameSetWatch to be relevant to my interests. I forgot to mention it when I first saw it pop up in Gamasutra, so it’s nice to have an excuse to bring it up now.

It explains a funny little phenomenon that affects a lot of players: the illusion of unfairness in a system that is, technically, in perfect balance. The piece opens up by citing the apparent “cheating” of computer opponents in Puzzle Quest (a feeling which I totally sympathise with), then goes into a discourse that touches on human psychology as well as what gets to be considered a “fair” AI advantage as opposed to an “unfair” one.

I liked this piece so much, I read it twice. That’s commitment for you.

-Nandrew

Rosemary

There have been many games that would have ended up on the “games that kicked my ass”-pile if I hadn’t taken to keeping a notepad beside my grubby keyboard. After spending a fair number of hours on them, and even aided by walkthroughs, many old point-n-click adventure games and interactive fiction titles would often leave me struggling to remember what to do next after loading up an earlier saved game.

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Comp 23: TF2 Goldrush

News Comp 23: TF2 GoldrushChippit recently posted an announcement about Game.Dev’s Comp 23 (which, in Internet time, might as well have been years ago). The competition is focused on how well an entrant’s game gets marketed, rather than focusing on the game itself: an idea which some may well raise their eyebrows at, but which I personally deem to be quite important. After all, only about 0.001% of the gaming population ever really bothers to hone their mad marketing skizzles, which is a terrible shame and a bit of an obstacle to fame, glory and the rock-n-rolla lifestyle that we all know famous devs enjoy.

I’m particularly proud of one community member’s entry, which is an action/puzzle game based on TF2. It’s dammit’s first game project ever ever ever, and it’s already enjoying loads more polish and publicity than most first-timers would ever dare hope for.

This bugger is a valuable example to tout: most beginners quietly drop a piece of haphazard code onto a forum somewhere, make big promises and then don’t do anything else about it, either because they’re too shy or too lazy. In this case, I like to think that our new dev is receiving a far more encouraging — and exciting — introduction to game development: let’s hope this spawns more games in the future!

TF2 Goldrush isn’t a very long game, but it’s a fun little romp when you have a few minutes to spare. Also, it has achievements in it. Gosh-darn cute, that they are.

I’ll try spotlight more Comp 23 entries as the weeks wear on: that’s kinda half the point about the “marketing” premise, you know?

-Nandrew

Silent Conversation

It would seem that I’ve somewhat made a name for myself around her for being the wordy, story dude – because every time something pops up involving stories, epic narrative tales and, well, words in general, it gets passed on to me. Luckily, I really do enjoy these kinds of things, and that’s why I got a kick out of Silent Conversation.

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ShellBlast HD

So. Hot on the heels of my previous ShellBlast review comes this humble opinion of its new, Xbox-based cousin: ShellBlast HD. Vertigo Games was kind enough to supply me with a review copy for this sprightly bugger, so of course I latched onto it .

And hey, guess what? It’s just as good as the original. Continue reading

GDC Austin: Wolfire and Fez

News GDC Austin: Wolfire and FezIt is truly my greatest regret (at least in game development terms) that I’m a little too far removed from the first world to attend some of the awesome game development conferences that keep cropping up. The 2009 GDC Austin serves as a prime example of what I’m missing out on, and I can only hope that I scrape together enough newsworthy bits and videos to consider myself “in the loop” and not be snickered at by everybody else while my back is turned.

I saw a pair of interesting links on the news circuits today: one is a talk on indie game marketing delivered by Wolfire’s John Graham. And since Wolfire are the undisputed gods of game dev PR, I suggest giving this piece a look — even if it’s just a brief overview of the actual speech given, there’s a lot of solid advice in the report.

There’s also another cool spiel from Offworld’s Brandon Boyer. Not much talk at the link: just a collection of some of the more influential indie games that are doing the rounds today. Still, it’s worth a look, especially since Fez made a debut demonstration at the event. There’s also one or two games on the list that some of you may not have seen yet: checking them out is a refreshing experience.

GDC Austin is still running for another couple of days, so check out Gamasutra or one of its sister sites if you’re interested in keeping up to date.

-Nandrew

Indie game sales boosted on Xbox

News Indie game sales boosted on XboxThe oft-discussed Xbox Live Indie Games platform has been through its fair share of growing pains, but this GamerBytes report seems to indicate a recent improvement in game sales. Which is nice, of course.

Apparently a quick name change, new pricing models and a fresh community rating system are precisely the measures needed to boost sales — good news for anybody still eyeing the platform for their next commercial project.

GamerBytes has a lot of graphs and anecdotal evidence to support this claim, and apparently it’s the rating system in particular that serves as the magic bullet: demoralised indies are finding less apps and more actual games making it onto the top picks list (no more rumble massagers!) and have had theirs spirits lifted accordingly. Or something like that.

GamerBytes suggests that people who have played Xbox indie games in the past should go back and rate the stuff that they’ve tried out. I think this is a damn fine suggestion myself: people need better feedback and support for these games, especially so that onlookers can better sift through the muck to find the real goodies.

So go and support the troops by throwing your opinion into the marketplace mix. It’s the right thing to do and stuff.

-Nandrew

Hate vs. Respect: Gaming as a Developer

I’ll waste no time in dropping the hammer: I really don’t like World of Warcraft.

The grinding bores me, the mentality upsets me and the game world just doesn’t engage me enough to warrant the odd five gazillion hours that you need to pour in just to get… well, anywhere. I’ve tried it out, honestly!

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Two years of trixels

News Two years of trixelsSo. Fez. No, not the hat; it’s that Paper-Mario-but-not, 3D-but-2D platformer with voxels. Um, I mean trixels. Yes, the one that won the Excellence in Visual Art award in last year’s IGF. Everyone’s waiting for it, and 2010 can’t come any sooner for XBLA customers who want to get their head around crazy perspective shifts.

A little under week ago the developers, Polytron, released an enlightening series of images chronicling crazy bugs, pretty visual effects and, most importantly, progress. Two whole years of it. And it looks good.

- Chippit

Wikirunner

News WikirunnerPretty much everyone is familiar with the concept of six degrees of separation. And, of course, with any widespread concept there are those who will twist such concepts into different contexts, such as is the case with Six Degrees of Wikipedia. Similarly, there’s somebody who is going to try and make a game out of it.

A Mini Ludum Dare #12 entrant locked onto this concept-made-game — as initially defined by Jeremy Bushnell —and made a fully-fledged Python offering out of it, complete with AI to assume the role of either player in the game (or even both at once). The idea of Wikirunner is quite simple: 2 players are given a random Wikipedia page each, one chasing, one trying to evade the other, each constrained to following the links on their respective pages. In practise, it’s a combination of luck, a trivia/general knowledge game, more luck, and the educational value of those delightful wikitrips people tend to take when they’re bored. And it’s often amusing enough watching the AI chase itself all over Wikipedia.

Try it out.

- Chippit

Via Indie Games Weblog.

Game.Dev on TV

News Game.Dev on TVA while back, our very own Danny “dislekcia” Day appeared on a local gaming TV show to talk about Game.Dev and what we do; in the process, both Xbox titles to have come from our community were featured on the show.

Just recently, we’ve discovered a recording of said show, where you can have a good look at what we’ve done, and then laugh at Danny’s awkwardness in front of a camera – well, no, not really, but you’re allowed laugh anyway.

Check it out!

- Chippit

Time, Gentlemen, for more from Ben and Dan

News Time, Gentlemen, for more from Ben and DanSo a little while back — less than 3 weeks, actually; these guys work fast – we mentioned Zombie Cow Studios’ plans to Go Episodic. Well, two interesting pieces of news have surfaced since then.

Firstly, you can expect Ben There Dan That Episode 1 – otherwise known as Revenge of the Balloon Headed Mexican – to have all the wit and charm of Time Gentlemen, Please in a small, 1-hour sized package. While there’s no ETA yet, we can live in hope that we’ll be able to GET GAME before long. The name is half the battle, right?

And until that time, you can contribute a little to the dev’s efforts yourself by telling them how much you’d be willing to pay for their new episodic titles. That way nobody goes bankrupt! In theory, of course; economists will say there’s a lot of theory to these things, but we all know they’re actually lying. Right? Right. Now go lend a dev a hand, wouldya?

- Chippit