Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Watchlist: That Which Sleeps

Title: That Which Sleeps
Platforms: PC
Release planned for late 2014/2015
That Which Sleeps is a turn based strategy game in which the player takes on the role of an awakened evil from the world's past and must manipulate a living, reactive world from the shadows using a cast of unique corrupted Agents.
That Which Sleeps is an upcoming strategy game that promises a unique and intriguing twist on the genre. Rather than controlling a burgeoning kingdom or nation, you are an ancient evil, a Cthulu-esque force awakened and prepared to take control of the world once more.
But in That Which Sleeps, you are far more clever and insidious than the mere mortals of other strategy games. Outright conquest is beneath you. No, through your influence and power, you turn the nations and enemies that might destroy you against themselves, by manipulating kings through dreams or sending out prophets and agents to do your bidding while you wait and scheme in the shadows. Sow chaos, bloodshed, and dissent in a randomly generated world that adjusts to your growing corruption; more aggressive actions will slowly alert the world to your presence. Great heroes will seek to destroy you, but with your abilities, you may be able to corrupt their minds or send your agents to fight back.
That Which Sleeps is currently in development. You can follow its progress on IndieDB and TIGForum. A Kickstarter is planned for September.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Q&A: Bill Lowe on Before

Back in April, I wrote about the in-development game Before. Developer Bill Lowe was kind enough to answer a few questions about this team's prehistoric survival RTS, its progress, and the game's future.
1. What inspired you to become an indie developer?

I guess I’ve always wanted to make games, I spent a lot of my teenage years dabbling in mapping and modding with games like Half Life and Unreal. But it wasn’t until Unity came along a few years ago that I started taking things more seriously.

2. Between Before, Let’s Go Camping, Fancy Skulls, Aer, Sustain, and other games, low-poly graphics seems to be quite popular now. Why do you think the visual style is so appealing and what led you to use the style for Before?

I was inspired by a few of the low poly artists and illustrators out there and just started playing with the style really. It’s caught on pretty quickly in the indie scene, I think mostly because it’s a lot quicker to produce than any other style.

3. On your site, “protecting their young” and the idea of developing culture and a visual history implies possible generational legacy feature in Before. Could you talk more about how the player will be able to develop their tribe over time and how this might influence other aspects of gameplay?

Those kind of systems are a big part of what we want to do later on in development, but nothing is set in stone. Initially we’ll have a basic system of inheritance through breeding, and then later things like cultural practices, beliefs and rituals which will develop more slowly. I want this stuff to feel emergent and organic, rather than controlled by the player explicitly.

4. Reading through your blog, I found the information about the interplay between wildlife quite interesting. Can you discuss Before’s ecosystem and animal AI? Will seasonal migrations and other animal behaviors have an effect on a tribe’s survival?

Certainly the wildlife will play a central role in the day to day life of the tribe. The tribe need to hunt, and defend themselves from predators, but perhaps other relationships will form… a pack of wolves may follow a roaming tribe to feed off what they leave behind, for example. Seasons, weather and other larger scale events are definitely on the map, too.

5. Rival tribes and dangerous predators are listed as some of the dangers in Before’s world. Is combat a big part of the gameplay?

In one form or another, yes. But we’re not putting a lot of focus on RTS armies sort of combat, rather things are more focused and smaller in scale, but hopefully with more weight. I’ve always wanted there to be drama in even the smallest of fights, and to have each death feel like an important event.

6. So...will we encounter any saber-tooths or terror birds?

You’ll have to wait and see!

7. Prehistory is rife with cave drawings and records of shamanistic rituals and other divine beliefs. Will deities, worship, and mystical elements be a part of Before?

Absolutely, but I don’t want to go into too much detail on what we have planned. Surprises are fun!

8. Your site mentions ambitious features such as sailing and underground areas. What other features do you envision in a fully-realized Before?

There are lot of ideas we want to explore, big and small - but I’d rather keep some things under wraps for now. I really miss the times when games evoked a sense of mystery, so my hope is to do that with Before - but that means not talking about some ideas.

9. The concept of establishing a tribe and leaving your mark on the world seems ripe for multiplayer. Do you have any plans for online modes or features in Before?

We have some ideas, but they’re pretty vague at this point - right now the focus is on singleplayer.

10. On your site, you mention a playable alpha in the works and a Kickstarter in the future. How is Before’s development progressing? Any estimates on when we can expect an alpha or crowdfunding campaign?

Kickstarter was the plan, but another offer came along and we took a break over the summer while we worked out the details. Development is starting up again now and we’re really excited to push towards a playable alpha, and see where that takes us. Expect to see more news soon!
You can learn about Before on the game's site and developer's Twitter page.

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 8/23

Developer: Dillon Rogers
Gloomwood is a first-person adventure game set in a dark, procedural Victorian city. The game has some rogue-like elements (death will reset the city and all its inhabitants), but is altogether more focused on atmospheric/narrative elements than purely goal-based. The cloaked denizens of Gloomwood wander the streets in various masks. Each type reflects the kind of behavior the denizens exhibits: the constable searches for criminal activity (but can be bribed), the doctor sells various apothecarial solutions, the priest heals those who have done no evil (and sometimes can also be bribed). Some denizens of the same type are non-hostile, others not so much.
Learn more here

Americana Dawn
Developer: Bitbonton
Americana Dawn is a role playing game which explores over two centuries of early American history and folklore. For the duration, we follow Foster, the spirit of the sea, a gentle and innocent being who arrives in America with no heritage or home. Lost to the wilderness of the Shenandoah Valley, he lives in complete isolation for a hundred years until one day he is recruited into the Virginian Colonial Militia. Thus begins his strange journey, spanning across three wars and the entire eastern seaboard of North America. From the French and Indian War, to the American Revolution, from the colony of Georgia, to Quebec City.
Learn more here

Dead Cells
Developer: Motion Twin
Dead Cells is a zombie survival game where you and your friends will fight for your lives against an invading horde of zombies! There's only one problem... 
The winner is the last man standing.
Cooperation or betrayal. It's all up to you: just don't be the victim. The aim of the game is to be the last alive, but the longer you survive the more loot you get and it's not easy going it alone. So choose the right moment to make your move...
Learn more here

Neptune, Have Mercy
Developer: Octopodo Interactive
An exploration game about sailing a submarine below the ice of Triton, Neptune's largest moon. Features modular submarines, procedural environments, and lots of strange alien sea creatures. The gameplay is focused on exploration, combat, and strategy. It controls a bit like a real time strategy game at the crew zoom level – and an action game at the submarine zoom level.
Learn more here

Monday, August 25, 2014

IOS Review #84: Spooklands

Title: Spooklands
Developer: Luderia
Platforms: IOS Universal, Android
Price: $0.99
The arena shooter is one of the more ubiquitous genres on mobile, from Radiangames' popular titles to Minigore and Infinity Field. Spooklands may not have the flashy screen-filling effects or varied modes of other games, but it more than compensates with its wonderful art style and unique gameplay.
Across three arenas, each with its own diverse enemies, you evade and blow away the growing hordes. Rather than the familiar dual stick set-up, you maneuver your character by tapping the screen, your gunfire doubling as thrust. This unique control scheme gives Spooklands a different pacing than other arena shooters. You're not firing wildly while weaving between the hordes, but must instead be mindful of every gunshot, carefully clearing a path through the hordes and then being able to navigate that path. While other shooters are all visual overload and frenetic firing, Spooklands feels more subdued, as timing your shots and creating space to maneuver is as important as evasion. If you're not in control and just tap wildly, you'll likely just run headlong into an enemy.
Completing specific high score goals unlocks new power-ups to use; these power-ups spawn randomly on the map, turning your default shot into a shotgun-like spreadshot or slowing time and allowing you to line up shots without moving or increasing the size of your projectiles. Holding the screen unleashes a powerful piercing shot so timing the use of these charged shots is vital to surviving for longer periods and clearing away the overwhelming numbers of enemies.
Spooklands' colorful and vibrant art style completes this fun and finely crafted game. Varied power-ups, tap to move controls that totally change the pacing compared to other shooters, and intense challenging gameplay makes Spooklands an addicting arcade action experience.

You can purchase Spooklands for $0.99.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Indie Game Enthusiast is one year old!

Well first before getting to anything else, I wanted to apologize for the long gaps between posts in recent weeks (and some long over-due articles if any developers are reading this). Between my recent vacation, preparing for my upcoming college semester, technical issues with my laptop, and some personal situations, I haven't had much time as I had hoped to play some games. But I plan to get back on track this weekend and the upcoming week so expect more regular articles soon.

Okay, on to the good news: Indie Game Enthusiast is one year old today! A year ago, August 21st 2013, I posted my first article: Welcome to Indie Game Enthusiast. Since then I've written about 106 PC games, 83 IOS games, as well as numerous upcoming games, free games, and interviews. Honestly I never expected much when I started IGE, sure as hell didn't expect I'd have many followers on Twitter, or get many views. And yet last month was the best yet in terms of page views, especially thanks to a totally unexpected shoutout on Rock Paper Shotgun. I've talked with great developers and learned about so many interesting games.

But I don't write for page views. Page views are nice and always appreciated, but I started IGE to help indie developers, to spread the word about games that deserve far more attention and exposure than they receive. It's a passion for me, and it's a pleasure to see responses like these:

- "You're an indie game dev's fantasy come true“

- “Thanks for the support and spreading the word...Not just for Claire, but all indie games. You bring light to a lot of cool stuff."

- "It's inspiring to see someone who truly loves what they do and who takes such an active role in building the indie community."

- "Indie Game Enthusiast is a good blog to follow if you’re looking for new reasons to care"

So to those who read my blog or follow me on Twitter;
To the developers who have reached out to me, who have chatted with me on social media and email;
To the developers who post on TIGForum and NeoGAF and Reddit and Screenshot Saturday and Toucharcade and various other forums, who share their hard work and the progress of their incredible projects, and never cease to amaze me with their diversity, originality, artistry, and just sheer fun;
To the friends who encourage me and send me tips about cool games;

Thank you for an awesome first year for IGE. I really appreciate it.

If you wanted to follow me elsewhere or want to chat, I'm very active on NeoGAF (More_Badass), and post regularly on Reddit (Bronxsta) and TIGForum (Christian). I also started as a freelance writer for the mobile gaming-centric site Game Mob, which has been a great experience so far and granted me an louder voice and greater reach to spread the word about IOS indies.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PC Review #106: Tinertia

Title: Tinertia
Developer: Candescent Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $14.99
Ah, the rocket jump. Such a wonderfully blatant disregard for physics and a core skill for FPS maestros the world over. Tinertia marries the wild high-flying antics of rocket jumping with a fast paced precision platformer.
Your goal is simple: race through levels as fast as possible, avoiding the myriad hazards along the way. Tinertia would fall apart if the controls weren't finely tuned or accurate, but thankfully they are, allowing you to fire your rockets with precision, in mid-air as you fly over gaps. Shoot the ground to propel yourself upward, at walls to wall jump, and so on; combined with an air dash, you have a diverse moveset  based on skill and precise timing. Shooting down barriers, bouncing over deadly platforms and saws, ricocheting through narrow tunnels and around corners...all at high speeds and a controlled flurry of rockets.
Along with the numerous stages, various modes, and boss fights, Tinertia completes the platforming fun with its stylish visuals, 2D gameplay set in 3D environments that allow for sprawling levels that coil and twist. Tinertia is a fast-paced platformer that requires precision and practice to succeed, and a worthy challenge for fans of speedrunners. The game is currently available on Steam Early Access; the full release will include 80 levels, more bosses, character skins, leaderboards, and other additions. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

IOS Review #83: Pako

Title: Pako
Developer: Tree Men Games
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
After ten seconds in the first stage, you know exactly what Pako is about. Control your vehicle in increasingly cluttered mazes of houses, streets, and other cars as a growing legion of cops close in. One collision into a wall, a police car, a light post ends your run. Only through deft evasion and skillful maneuvering can you achieve a high score and climb the leaderboards.
Pako’s gameplay is simple, but the game is never dull. Each area offers a new twist on that core gameplay seen in the first stage. You evade police in a small mall parking lot. You thread a hearse through rows of tombstones as zombies rise from the dirt. You weave between traffic on a freeway and dodge cannon fire from tanks in a rickshaw. The controls take some getting used as you adjust to the physics of each vehicle, but prove to be responsive, allowing you to pull off tight turns and donuts with ease. A great soundtrack and stylish visuals complement the action.
Through intense hair’s-breath close calls, fast paced evasion, and a varied array of stages, Pako delivers an exciting new addition to the arcade action genre. You can purchase Pako for $1.99.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 8/09

Developer: Derity
Eitr is an Action RPG which takes inspiration from games such as Dark Souls, Golden Axe and Diablo. The game will be challenging and require timing and precision to progress through the environments. Players will need to use a combination of blocking, combos, buffs and positioning to succeed in battle.
More info and GIFs in the game's devlog

Among The Willows
Developer: Triple Vision Games
Among The Willows is a turn based tactical RPG about corruption, deception and betrayal, inspired by X-COM, 868-HACK and Chess. It is set in a Wild West where morality is a luxury that few can afford. Make difficult decisions on who to trust, who to recruit and who to betray. Everyone has enemies, just make sure you don't make the wrong ones.
More info and images in the devlog

Captain Forever Remix
Developer: Pixelsaurus Games
Captain Forever Remix is a 2D action roguelike where you create a spaceship and blast apart randomly-generated enemies for spare parts. You better build a pretty tough ship, because you're gonna need it. Experience all-new gameplay that wasn't in the original cult-hit Captain Forever. Earn special bonuses, unlock new starter kits & special abilities, discover new ship modules, and fight powerful Bounty Hunters.
Learn more and preorder here

Developer: Halfbus
Basement is a drug dealing tycoon game. You take control of an enterprise, that main profile is drugs production. You're hunted by police and mafia, keep your enterprise growing, to achieve great goals.
More info and a free demo here

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Watchlist: Cavern Kings

Title: Cavern Kings
Developer: Vine
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Releasing late 2014
Inspired by action-packed games like Vlambeer's "Super Crate Box" and the increasing difficulty aspects in "Risk of Rain", Cavern Kings aims to explode with special effects in classical arcade fashion and create interesting synergies with its powerup system.
Cavern Kings isn't coy about its inspirations. Risk of Rain, Super Crate Box, even a little Spelunky, the influences are clear but Cavern Kings doesn't feel like a ripoff or derivative. I lost an hour to the beta; this is a fun challenging action platformer with a lot of potential and promise.
In Cavern Kings, you have one destination: down. Armed with randomly selected ranged and melee  weapons, you tunnel your way through the ground into increasingly difficult arenas, filled with enemies and hazards of all kinds. Collects gems and gold from crates and defeated enemies allow you to unlock chests, maybe granting you a new power up or a new weapon to the overall armory. Similar to Risk of Rain, power-ups stack, so an especially successful run might end with your guy able to triple jump, fire missiles at random, be protected by a shield, or countless other permutations. Take too long, and a massive grinder begins descending from above, forcing you to move on or die.
Gameplay is fast paced and frantic, as you desperately evade and shoot the enemies encroaching from all sides, blast flying worms out of the air, decimate the arena with TNT, jump over saw blades and spikes. Your arsenal is varied and satisfying to use, from the blade-throwing Sawdriver and Nailgun to the ground-pounding Kinetic Fist. Even the Shovel is an effective weapon; each feels different, requires different strategies, and the power-ups only allow for more diverse play styles. 
Cavern Kings is currently in beta, with more enemies, playable characters, weapons, power-ups, levels, and bosses to come. You can download the beta here, support the game on Kickstarter, and vote for Cavern Kings on Steam Greenlight.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Quick Fix: Learn about promising indie games at the r/gamedev Quarterly Showcase!

About five months ago, the first Showcase Thread was launched on Reddit and it was a big success, with many developers participating. I really enjoyed that thread; I learned about games like Nothing To Hide and Gamma Void, and had some great informative chats with developers. So it was quite disappointing to me to see the number of comments dwindle with each subsequent Showcase and then the lack of Showcase threads all together.
I feel it's important to give these hard working developers and their projects the exposure and attention they deserve. That's why I've revived the Showcase, so developers can talk about their work and others learn about the many impressive experiences being crafted.
The Showcase is here, and lasts for the next 24 hours. Learn about cool and promising games, chat with developers, ask questions, leave comments.