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Where We Remain

I don’t think that the roguelike genre is particularly renowned for its storytelling. This isn’t to say that roguelikes are particularly crappy at this sort of thing, it’s just that designers tend to focus on other things which players usually appreciate more — providing games which are praised for their elegance, balance and depth in terms of rulesets rather than narrative.

Where We Remain has the trappings of a roguelike, but removes emphasis on combat and instead puts almost all of its focus on story. You’re still placed inside a procedurally-generated world full of danger and obstacles and whatnot, but you’ll generally need to avoid (or simply run away from) most problem situations. This is a particularly harrowing concept considering that the game runs in realtime and — in true roguelike fashion — delivers death rather swiftly to clumsy or cocky players.

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IGF winners announced

I think it would be nigh unforgivable to skip out on mentioning the recent IGF awards, IGF winners announcedeven if such a mention is a little later than most. After finally getting a chance to sit down and watch some juicy bits of the awesome video, I decided to post a quick summary of the facts:

The Seumas McNally grand prize went to Monaco, a co-op stealth game in

which four players have to pool their resources to pull off a heist. Developer Andy Schatz is, from what we understand, quite pleased with this.

Other prize winners were Limbo (Excellence in Visual Art, Technical Excellence), Closure (Excellence in Audio), Tuning (Nuovo Award, with a totally awesome acceptance speech from the dev) and Continuity (student showcase winner).

Check out the TIGSource write-up for a more detailed whassisname of the proceedings!

-Nandrew

XNA on phones, full 3D promised – really

Our local homies at Luma Arcade (swell buncha folks)
XNA on phones, full 3D promised - really have recently been up at GDC along with everybody else in the industry, and Microsoft has just showcased one of their projects, The Harvest as part of anannouncement about XNA-based game made for … well, the new ASUS Windows Phone prototype.

Needless to say, seeing a phone-based game demo of such promising caliber is probably going to send all of the XNA fans out there into one great big excitable tizz. At least, it will if the proposed new platform lives up to expectations. And despite Engadget’s coverage mentioning that some of the scenery in The Harvest was pre-rendered (a claim which is now being popularly referred to on several other sites), Luma’s Dale Best insists that the whole game is in full, real-time 3D.

Either way, more chunks of information (and hopefully some nice ‘n proper videos and stuff) are due to be unveiled at MIX next week, so the rest of us mere mortals will be able to get our answers then. In the meantime, here’s a cool little showreel of the stuff Luma’s done over the past three years:

Luma Arcade Showreel 2010 from Luma Arcade on Vimeo.

Local pretties – Bounty Arms

Look! More stuff comin’ from sunny SA. Bounty Arms is a side-scrolling platformer thingum, Local pretties - Bounty Armsmade with the recently released Unreal Development Kit, and has been under development for quite some time. But just today, the developers have just released a playable demo. It’s quite a hefty download, be warned, and the game is in no way complete just yet, but the video below gives you a good idea of what you can expect so far:

Over the course of the final game you gather power-ups that hugely alter your character and weapon arsenal, travel across the galaxy to many different worlds, unlock hidden doors to secrets, join with new comrades, fight the multitude of varying enemies that each world will bring, and defeat the bosses that rule them.

In addition to the above description, the developers even provide a game manual for you to review, though it’ll likely change a lot as development progresses. Go on ahead and give it a shot, it’s free! Oh, you’ll probably want to have an Xbox 360 controller plugged in for this. (280mb)

- Chippit

Valentines gifts?

Look, here I am again, trying to get you to spend money. Valentines gifts?Don’t you just love me? No? Well you should, because it was just Vamlumtimes Day and that’s what you’re supposed to do, I’m told. Anyway, this is all beside the point, because there are a whole bunch of developers who do love us and are offering a deal all sorta like that awesome Natural Selection/Overgrowth pack that was floating around the Internet a while back. Except this one involves 6 developers with their recently-released games. It’s the Indie Love Bundle.

Cheesy name aside, the pack includes six fantastic indie games at a price that’ll save you a whole 65 units of American cash money. You’ll get Osmos, Machinarium, Eufloria, Aztaka, Auditorium and And Yet It Moves all for only $20. And you get a trailer video absolutely free!

This fantastic offer makes the other two notable deals going around now – that is, a limited set of 555 hand-numbered Machinarium vinyl soundtracks, and an offer that nets every tenth person a free copy of Grappling Hook—look almost not worth it.

? Chippit

Continuity

So I was poking around on Twitter today (Digsby, thank you for making the Internet tidy again!) Continuitywhen I saw mention of an IGF student entry called Continuity. Armed with a decent Internet connection and high spirits, I decided that now was the time to spread my wings and get into the habit of clicking on random links once more.

Turns out that this is quite the gem. Continuity distinguishes itself from other platformers in the way that the various “building blocks” which make up a level can be rearranged while you’re moving through them. And so, while half of the game may just be about runnin’ and jumpin’ and gettin’ keys to open various red doors, it turns into quite a fiendish puzzler later on when you have to keep zooming out and sliding bits of the level about to make sure you can get from A to B via C and — somehow — D.

On top of that, it really is quite well-designed. Puzzles are precise, new concepts are introduced gently and the background music is … well, awesome. Give this one a shot, it won’t disappoint!

-Nandrew

A whole bunch o’ stuff

Okay, so today I’m going to be lazy (I’ll accept the explanation that I did this to save all our readers time too) A whole bunch oand lob a whole bunch of stuff in this post. Not because all of this isn’t particularly important, but just because I either somehow missed it or it all appeared magically over this last weekend. Anyway, here goes:

  • Remember that super awesome pre-order deal I mentioned a little while back? Well, the Wolfire guys wrote up a post-mortem about the deal over here, and give everyone a good idea of how well it went. In fact, it went so well that beards were, in fact, dyed pink.
  • In related news, Natural Selection 2 (one half of the super awesome pre-order deal I mentioned a little white back) snagged itself ModDB’s prestigious Indie Game of the Year award, edging out Wolfire’s own Overgrowth. Following that, they released a super awesome looking new pre-alpha trailer, showing off their pretties and simultaneously offering an interesting physiology lesson: aliens see out of their mouth. Apt, really.
  • The IGF’s released its next batch of competition winners under the mobile games category.
  • Finally, and most importantly, some news from the home-front. I’m posting this because Nandrew’s both too modest and too busy making awesome things to post it himself: see this forum thread? You can find an early version of a game there. Go and download it right now, because you’ll certainly be seeing and hearing a lot about this one in the near future. And I told you right now.

- Chippit

Ribbon Hero, take 2

I mentioned this a few days ago, when it was first announced, but had yet to personally give it a run through.Ribbon Hero, take 2 Having now finally jumped through a few hoops to get it installed*, I’ve now given it a good look and stand by my original judgement that it appeared to be little more than an interactive tutorial, and that its classification as a game is tenuous at best.

In fact, it’s probably a bit odd that I’ve dedicated another post to this at all, but given that I regularly use the entire Office suite, it is fair to note that it serves as an elegant way to accustom people with all the functions of the software and its nebulous new Ribbon interface. Everything down to the satisfying ‘ding’ sound as it counts up how many points you’ve earned, and rewarding you for not only learning a new technique but then again for remembering to use it again at a later stage. It’s a kind of positive reinforcement cycle that is nabbed straight out of traditional game design for use in an unconventional manner. So, basically, it is everything is says on the box.

So, Ribbon Hero isn’t strictly a game. It might not even teach you a single damn thing either. But it’s an interesting experiment in applying game design concepts in an unorthodox manner, and there might be something for even traditional game designers to learn by looking at its implementation.

- Chippit

* Not only did it require .NET 3.5 SP1, but had an additional runtime dependency that had to be downloaded separately. For future note, Labs guys, please disclose all this stuff in advance. When I download an installer, I really just want that to be everything I need to download. In fact, that goes for everyone. Thank you.

** This post worth 18 points!

Global Game Jam wraps up

After excessive coffee and pizza consumption, the Global Game Jam has finally come to an end. Developers dragged themselves home after aGlobal Game Jam wraps up(mostly) sleepless weekend spent (almost) successfully tripling last year’s game tally. The theme was “deception”, and it was worth 931 games, 10 of them from sunny SA.

Notable among that list are Press Tilda, made in Unity by a Game.Dev forum member, and YouDunnit, crafted by a group comprising wholly of Game.Dev and Dev.Mag crew. In fact, I would’ve waited for Nandrew to make this post himself, but he’s apparently still catching up on 2 days of sleep.

And while you wait for those to download, have a look at the inspiring keynote video for this year’s event:

- Chippit

TIGJam UK games. Also, flixel

News TIGJam UK games. Also, flixelWhen bandwidth permits it, I like strolling through threads like this to pick up on all the teensy little games that people make at events like the UK TIGJam. After seeing the announcement on IndieGames and checking on one or two of their recommendations, I decided to browse through some of the other games and was startled to find just how many of them relied on the flixel framework to get the job done in a just few hours.

Flixel has been on my mind a lot recently, and I’ve also used it to make one or two Flash game prototypes in a startlingly short time period: it’s very easy to learn if you’re already acquainted with ActionScript in some form, and seeing all of the TIGJam entries that it has produced fills my heart with joy and bunnies. In fact, I’m off to get said bunnies surgically removed right now, since they’re starting to screw up my blood circulation.

If you’re looking for just a few games to try out, IndieGames recommends I’m Not A Bad Person Really, I Just Have Low Self-Esteem and This Is How Bees Work. I recommend Solar Defense because it has bloom effects. Wheee!

-Nandrew

Game while you write?

News Game while you write?Right, so as I’m typing up this post, making good use of all of Word’s fancy productivity features, Ribbon Hero‘s running in the background, scoring my performance. Or, rather, it would be if I had realised that an additional .NET 3.5 SP1 download was required to get it running, the requirement of which was, unfortunately, undisclosed.

However, the theory goes like this: Office 2007 (with its nice new controversial Ribbon) means many people have to relearn everything all over again. The blokes over at Office Labs figured that if something can be learned, and that leaning can be measured and rewarded, a game can be made out of it. So Ribbon Hero tries to do this for the three big names in Office 2007 and 2010.

How well does all this work? Well, the trailer videos seem to show what is simply a competitive tutorial, but I’m going to withhold judgement until such a time as I’m able to test it out. I’m only giving it this much chance because Daniel Cook was involved anyway. I have faith in his game design skill, even if whether or not this is a game is disputable. I shall post my thoughts then.

- Chippit

IGF Student Showcase top 10

News IGF Student Showcase top 10An often overlooked half of the IGF is the Student Showcase, where up and coming devs who are still learning the ropes compete for recognition. And it’s often quite naïve to disregard them, having successes like Narbacular Drop originating from academic sources like DigiPen.

Anyway, the fellas over Think Services agree, and have included a special student category in the IGF since 2003. And the latest lot (all 190 of them), have just been reduced to a shortlist of 20, 10 declared winners, the other 10 receiving an honourable mention from the judges. Some names here might be familiar, like ASCIIpOrtal, and there are many that are not-so-familiar. Check out the list and take your guess as to which one will take way the $2,500 first place prize when the GDC rolls into San Francisco in March.

- Chippit

How much?

News How much?The part that comes after the creation of a game is just as nebulous as the actual creation itself. So everyone knows they need to market, and everyone knows they want to sell eventually. But many questions arise, such as “how?” and, eventually, “how much?

Thankfully, Gamasutra answers the second question with this article, sharing the reasoning behind the pricing of a handful of popular indie totals, with special focus on Apple App Store goodies. Give it a read, there are a few useful insights in there.

- Chippit

Platform design wizards share thoughts

News Platform design wizards share thoughtsBack in the late 80s and early 90s, there existed two platformers that were marvellous examples of the best gaming had to offer at the time, and each one was essentially made by a single person. The first of those went on to seed a massive franchise that runs to this day, extending as far as Hollywood and as close as everyone’s game shelf (because you’re really not a gamer unless you’ve played at least one Prince of Persia game; preferably the first one, but Sands of Time will do).

The second, Another World (Out of this World for those New World fellas across the ocean) fell somewhat off the map, often only being remembered by association to its spiritual sequel, Heart of Darkness. However, both of these titles are remembered fondly today (well, okay, yesterday) as Gamasutra reposts a translated interview featuring both designers.

Go on, give it a read.

- Chippit

Organic Indie Preorder Pack

News Organic Indie Preorder PackI’m going to assume you know Wolfire; they’re a grand bunch of blokes who share interesting thoughts, occasionally drop games in our inbox, and make cute videos while occasionally dropping games in our inbox (no, I’m not biased, why would you say that?).

Now, the guys over in Overgrowth dev-land have struck a deal with the guys over in Natural Selection 2 dev-land, Unknown Worlds, to bring everyone a fantastic pre-order bundle, the Organic Indie Preorder Pack. Yes, that’s what you think it is, both Natural Selection 2 (squeee), and Overgrowth (squeee) bundled together for one price. And we have been assured that at least the Overgrowth pre-order will work in Steam, for those who like to keep their games in one place – the NS2 is likely to do so also, but this is unconfirmed just yet.

But that’s no matter, because you get two great indie games for one great price, and the money goes straight to them.

Go and grab it. Now! You even get early access!

Oh, what’s that, you say? “But I’ve already pre-ordered Natural Selection 2/Overgrowth!” Well that’s perfect for you, because you’ve just gotten Overgrowth/Natural Selection 2 absolutely free. Enjoy!

- Chippit

IGF Judging demystified

News IGF Judging demystifiedUntil this handy little article on IndieGames came along, I never really understood the IGF. I mean, a whole lot of games go in, a few of them come out, everybody gets excited for a while and then trophies get handed out. But what makes a good IGF game and how do the judges make their decisions?

Well, this in-depth look from judges Jens Bergensten, Alex May and Michael Rose will tell you all you need to know about the mysterious inner workings of the judging process. It’s a particularly interesting read if you’re even remotely keen on the idea of submitting your own game to the IGF (and to be honest, it’s always an entertaining thought).

Once that’s whet your appetite, take a look at The Boing Boing Guide to the 2010 Indie Games Festival if you haven’t already tripped over the million and one IGF finalist summaries that are knocking around the Internet (Dev.Mag will probably go hands-on for a few of the games too, kicking ass all the way). It’s a great way to get you pumped for some really cool indie games … even if half of them aren’t available yet.

Play on!

-Nandrew