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Found 20 results

  1. The Banner Saga released in 2014 to positive critical response and fan adoration. Fans will have the chance to showcase their love of the tactical RPG with Banner Saga-themed IndieBox, which will be The Definitive Physical Edition of the first game. This special collector's edition, pictured in the header above, includes the disc and case, soundtrack, instruction manual, and a 6 1/2" bust of Ubin. IndieBox is a monthly subscription service that focuses on, as the name would suggest, indie titles. Many of the games IndieBox partners with only received digital releases, so the company gives fans a chance at obtaining physical copies and merchandise of their favorite download-only titles. If you're itching for more Banner Saga, Stoic announced plans for a third installment to round out the trilogy. The Banner Saga 3's ETA is December 2018. Check out the game's Kickstarter video below. The Banner Saga Definitive Physical Edition IndieBox is available from June 20 to July 18. You can grab yours by visiting the IndieBox site. View full article
  2. The Banner Saga released in 2014 to positive critical response and fan adoration. Fans will have the chance to showcase their love of the tactical RPG with Banner Saga-themed IndieBox, which will be The Definitive Physical Edition of the first game. This special collector's edition, pictured in the header above, includes the disc and case, soundtrack, instruction manual, and a 6 1/2" bust of Ubin. IndieBox is a monthly subscription service that focuses on, as the name would suggest, indie titles. Many of the games IndieBox partners with only received digital releases, so the company gives fans a chance at obtaining physical copies and merchandise of their favorite download-only titles. If you're itching for more Banner Saga, Stoic announced plans for a third installment to round out the trilogy. The Banner Saga 3's ETA is December 2018. Check out the game's Kickstarter video below. The Banner Saga Definitive Physical Edition IndieBox is available from June 20 to July 18. You can grab yours by visiting the IndieBox site.
  3. In 2014, Polish developer 11 bit studios released the award-winning This War of Mine, a survival game focused on the civilian perspective of war. Last year, the developer announced their return to the survival genre, this time in a vastly different setting. Enter Frostpunk, a brutal look at the struggle of surviving in a frozen wasteland. Frostpunk's first trailer, "The Fall," released last August. In it, viewers got to get a glimpse at the perils that this new frostbitten world would unleash. During E3 2017, developers divulged gameplay details. Rather than centering on the individual like This War of Mine, Frostpunk looks at society as a whole and how it handles the most extreme situations. "What [is] society capable of when pushed to the limits? Are we able to survive? Who do we become in the process?" asks the informational materials for the game. Frostpunk takes place in an alternate reality 19th century with civilization erased by a deep freeze and only small bits of humanity remain. The player takes control of an expedition seeking means of survival, and in this world, that means finding a generator. They locate this crucial resource, but of course, plans have gone awry. A storm has isolated the small band of survivors around a frozen generator inside of a crater. As the game begins, the player will have to get the generator going by gathering supplies before beginning construction of a city. From there, gameplay takes the approach of the city builder with resource gathering limitations and daily survival goals such as warmth and food. What differentiates it is the emotional element. Every decision the player makes will have some sort of consequence for the individual inhabitants as well as the society as a whole. Choices will come down to morality weighed against survivability. "The game is about survival, but it's really about survival of the society, not any one particular individual," said Jakub Stokalski, Senior Lead Designer at 11 bit studios during an E3 demonstration. The leader mechanic forces players to make far-reaching decisions that look out for the good of the group (aka a rational strategy for survival). But the game's design will have the player be up and personal with the personal impact of those decisions. Enacting laws is a core feature of Frostpunk. An early example may be the choice to use child labor or how to deal with the sick and injured. Survivors will then gain or lose "hope" or "discontentment" metrics based on decisions. The society then shapes around not only chosen laws but how they are established. The survivors won't merely do the bidding of the player. They react and form opinions. For example, if a player decides to use child labor, the citizens will generally accept the necessity of the act but will comment about it. The long-term consequences unveil as the game plays out. Players will start out with an initial group of survivors, but beacons will let any others discover the location of the settlement. Utilizing the workforce effectively will be a challenge for players. They are key to building resources like medical posts or even shelters, but they are a limited supply. Pushing the workforce to work in unsafe or cold conditions can lead them to be sick or injured and that will strain the population. Research unlocks new technology, but that, of course, requires labor. The world initially starts in the crater but expands to more locations (the scope of exploration is not yet known). Like any city builder, the goal is to create an impressive settlement, but the survival element adds the need for planning. "You are expected, as the leader of these people, to strategize into the future and not just react to problems as they come," said Stokalski, "doing that will get you nowhere." Frostpunk will have a sandbox mode with randomized challenges as well as a story mode. Stokalski estimated that the story mode would take players around 30-40 in-game days to complete. The game is currently in pre-alpha and the developers are hoping to finish by the end of 2017. Stokowski, however, did mention that the team has a focus on quality, and if the game needs more time, it will be taken. View full article
  4. In 2014, Polish developer 11 bit studios released the award-winning This War of Mine, a survival game focused on the civilian perspective of war. Last year, the developer announced their return to the survival genre, this time in a vastly different setting. Enter Frostpunk, a brutal look at the struggle of surviving in a frozen wasteland. Frostpunk's first trailer, "The Fall," released last August. In it, viewers got to get a glimpse at the perils that this new frostbitten world would unleash. During E3 2017, developers divulged gameplay details. Rather than centering on the individual like This War of Mine, Frostpunk looks at society as a whole and how it handles the most extreme situations. "What [is] society capable of when pushed to the limits? Are we able to survive? Who do we become in the process?" asks the informational materials for the game. Frostpunk takes place in an alternate reality 19th century with civilization erased by a deep freeze and only small bits of humanity remain. The player takes control of an expedition seeking means of survival, and in this world, that means finding a generator. They locate this crucial resource, but of course, plans have gone awry. A storm has isolated the small band of survivors around a frozen generator inside of a crater. As the game begins, the player will have to get the generator going by gathering supplies before beginning construction of a city. From there, gameplay takes the approach of the city builder with resource gathering limitations and daily survival goals such as warmth and food. What differentiates it is the emotional element. Every decision the player makes will have some sort of consequence for the individual inhabitants as well as the society as a whole. Choices will come down to morality weighed against survivability. "The game is about survival, but it's really about survival of the society, not any one particular individual," said Jakub Stokalski, Senior Lead Designer at 11 bit studios during an E3 demonstration. The leader mechanic forces players to make far-reaching decisions that look out for the good of the group (aka a rational strategy for survival). But the game's design will have the player be up and personal with the personal impact of those decisions. Enacting laws is a core feature of Frostpunk. An early example may be the choice to use child labor or how to deal with the sick and injured. Survivors will then gain or lose "hope" or "discontentment" metrics based on decisions. The society then shapes around not only chosen laws but how they are established. The survivors won't merely do the bidding of the player. They react and form opinions. For example, if a player decides to use child labor, the citizens will generally accept the necessity of the act but will comment about it. The long-term consequences unveil as the game plays out. Players will start out with an initial group of survivors, but beacons will let any others discover the location of the settlement. Utilizing the workforce effectively will be a challenge for players. They are key to building resources like medical posts or even shelters, but they are a limited supply. Pushing the workforce to work in unsafe or cold conditions can lead them to be sick or injured and that will strain the population. Research unlocks new technology, but that, of course, requires labor. The world initially starts in the crater but expands to more locations (the scope of exploration is not yet known). Like any city builder, the goal is to create an impressive settlement, but the survival element adds the need for planning. "You are expected, as the leader of these people, to strategize into the future and not just react to problems as they come," said Stokalski, "doing that will get you nowhere." Frostpunk will have a sandbox mode with randomized challenges as well as a story mode. Stokalski estimated that the story mode would take players around 30-40 in-game days to complete. The game is currently in pre-alpha and the developers are hoping to finish by the end of 2017. Stokowski, however, did mention that the team has a focus on quality, and if the game needs more time, it will be taken.
  5. The second official day of E3 has come and gone (after a few unofficial days, that is)! We've been doing daily recaps of the action leading up to the show and we'll be doing the same for the show itself, so tune in to the Facebook Live broadcast or catch it later via other channels. You'll get a great rundown of what it is like to cover E3 along with the news of the day as told by the talented bunch of people we've collected to cover the year's biggest gaming trade show. Day five didn't have the major announcements, but instead we buckled down and saw the games. Super secret projects, major names, and indie games galore were found in droves at the show! Jack Gardner, Marcus Stewart, Naomi Lugo, and Aiden Strawhun cover the basic, need-to-know announcements from the day. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the show with us!
  6. The second official day of E3 has come and gone (after a few unofficial days, that is)! We've been doing daily recaps of the action leading up to the show and we'll be doing the same for the show itself, so tune in to the Facebook Live broadcast or catch it later via other channels. You'll get a great rundown of what it is like to cover E3 along with the news of the day as told by the talented bunch of people we've collected to cover the year's biggest gaming trade show. Day five didn't have the major announcements, but instead we buckled down and saw the games. Super secret projects, major names, and indie games galore were found in droves at the show! Jack Gardner, Marcus Stewart, Naomi Lugo, and Aiden Strawhun cover the basic, need-to-know announcements from the day. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the show with us! View full article
  7. until
    This event has been confirmed, however we need additional information before we start scheduling and adding details. Please RSVP if you are able to volunteer at this event. This festival runs for some long hours, so the more the merrier (and the shorter the shifts will be). This is a highly local event, so volunteers are welcome from other guilds, however attendance will be predominately Maryland, and more specifically, Baltimore residents. This event can be very busy at times, and will require a minimum of two to three volunteers during high traffic times in order to gain maximum benefit from our presence.
  8. A small, independent game released on Windows PC back in 2012. It was the indiest of indies, a title developed largely by one person using RPG Maker software. Many people outside the RPG Maker development community would never hear of Star Stealing Prince, but the community itself showered it with praise and awards. Years later, Ronove's independent game stands tall among larger turn-based RPGs with gorgeous art, an engaging combat system, and a captivating, unique story. Buckle in and listen to why you should check out a largely unknown, free, indie RPG. You can download Star Stealing Prince for free from its Wordpress site. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Wild Arms 'Godspeed' by audio fidelity and Theophany (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02351) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes (consider leaving a review!). A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  9. A small, independent game released on Windows PC back in 2012. It was the indiest of indies, a title developed largely by one person using RPG Maker software. Many people outside the RPG Maker development community would never hear of Star Stealing Prince, but the community itself showered it with praise and awards. Years later, Ronove's independent game stands tall among larger turn-based RPGs with gorgeous art, an engaging combat system, and a captivating, unique story. Buckle in and listen to why you should check out a largely unknown, free, indie RPG. You can download Star Stealing Prince for free from its Wordpress site. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Wild Arms 'Godspeed' by audio fidelity and Theophany (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02351) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes (consider leaving a review!). A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  10. Browsing the indie games in my Humble Bundle collection; I scroll through 33 games I have the best intentions of playing. Because I should. Because I know they are fantastic games. Because they sit in my queue looking at me sadly. My Steam library holds even more from seasonal sales and my penchant to collect digital wares. Why have I purchased so many indie titles? Aside from their generally affordable price, it’s because I should like indies, right? Why do we play indie games? Perhaps a better question is why are indie games made? I asked Dejobaan Games, Galactic Cafe, Gone North Games, Fire Hose Games, Image & Form, and Housemarque about independent game development. It’s an Indie Thing - What does it mean to be "indie" “It's an intensely personal thing. Maybe that is the heart of indie, the ability to move forward on things that are intensely personal,” shares Fire Hose Games’ Sean Baptiste. That intimacy is really a touchstone for many independent developers. Indie games have a rich recent history of being both provocative and evocative experiences. Indie games like Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable are rousing narratives that tend to get to the point and stay there. Whether with their message or function, most indie games have an opinion, usually rooted in their aforementioned passion. Brjann Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form shares similar thoughts, stating, “It doesn't have to do with how the company is set up. It’s more of a philosophy. We really want to be our own man, so to speak. We develop and publish our games ourselves. We don’t try to second guess what the market will want. But rather we want to make games that the market will embrace because of our games’ own merit.” Image & Form has managed to find a market to embrace Steamworld Dig as the title enters development on its fifth platform, the Wii U. “Nobody will love our games as much as we do. Or put as much love into both the development and publishing of it. That’s the strength that we have,” Sigurgeirsson adds. This flexibility to express opinion is of course influenced by relative autonomy from a publisher. Housemarque’s Tommaso De Benetti comments, "We are fortunate to have a management team that cares about money only up to a certain point. There is still passion in what we do. Being able to keep a degree of independence is important." Housemarque has a lineage of being independent. “Sometimes I see people say that Sony should just buy Housemarque, but we don’t want that. We have a great relationship with Sony, though someday there may be something we want to do that they are not interested in doing,” states Housemarque’s De Benetti. They intend to remain independent. The nature of being independent can shift depending on developer. Take the students who formed Gone North Games for example. Nominated for a Swedish Game Award several years ago with their prototype for A Story About My Uncle, the team began to develop a full game. Their inspiration came in the form of a directive from a class assignment. Gone North reached out to independent game developer Coffee Stain Studios, who also were nominated for a Swedish Game Award for Sanctum. The relationship forged allowed for the two independent studios to support one another. The connection between the two was markedly similar. “I think they saw something of themselves in us,” states Gone North Games’ Sebastian Eriksson. Coffee Stain agreed to publish A Story About My Uncle, which was recently released on Steam. Whether or not Gone North will continue to work with Coffee Stain Studios or self-publish is unclear, but perhaps a precedent has been set. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Gone North pay it forward to the next up-and-coming Nordic indie developer. It has been discussed at length; the indie market has changed and continues change. The previously established champions of independent games are on their second and third passes, putting their independent status into question. “Jonathan Blow’s The Witness which looks horribly, annoyingly amazing, but is that an indie game? I don’t think it is,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe, creators of The Stanley Parable. “He’s already got a huge pot of money, he’s already got loads of people who played Braid. That’s not the same as the guy who made Ensign-1 on Steam Greenlight." But it seems that it is a fine balance between making games based on an artistic decision and making games that appeal to people. “At the end of the day you have to remember this is a business. We need to make games that can sell. If we don't, we have to fire people,” says Housemarque’s De Benetti. Whether your game is ready or not, you have to face the competition. Indie games are flowing to market at a relatively unchecked pace. Indies, Indies all Around - Visibility and discoverability of indie games Let’s say for a moment that indie games are a lot like baubles in a sea. Floating or bobbing up and down, making landfall and ending up a treasure on the shore. Maybe though, the sea is rife with baubles, and the shores are littered with pixel bits with little end to the tide. Once your shore is strewn with these shinies, how do you know what to take and what to leave behind? Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter have been gateways for a veritable deluge of games, though getting press and the Greenlight community interested in any given game can prove difficult. Merely being available is just a step in a process. Sebastian Eriksson from Gone North notes, “Before, getting onto Steam was like getting a golden ticket. But now there are ten or so games being released every day; it's still a struggle even though you get on Steam.” Ichiro Lambe, Founder/President of Dejobaan Games states, “It’'s all about discoverability. There needs to be a way for all the games coming out, or at least the good ones, to find their audience. I don't think that's happening yet, but it'll happen soon.” The developer’s title Drunken Robot Pornography may have found its place on Steam, with hundreds of player-created items in the Workshop. Elegy for a Dead World (currently in development), on the other hand, is an experimental writing game and may prove more difficult to find a niche. Lambe continues, “[the] indies' newfound ability to get onto platforms like iOS and Steam with relatively little pain has meant an influx of games. That's tough for established developers, as there are plenty of quality titles coming out.” With so much available in the indie game market, it can be difficult to maintain visibility. That sentiment is not uncommon among indie developers, especially those who develop primarily for PC. “The problem is that it is so wide open. Discoverability is a huge issue. It’s as wide open as music, anybody can do it, and everybody is,” says Sean Baptiste of Fire Hose Games. Fire Hose recently connected with Chris Chung, developer of Catlateral Damage. Chung's project screamed through the Steam Greenlight process. “[Catlateral Damage] was something extraordinary,” Baptiste states, “he made it through in seven days. Octodad took eight months. [Chris Chung's game] is a bit of an outlier.” Getting Paid - Making the decision of how to fund and when to crowdsource your project Connecting that game floating alongside so many others to an audience presents a challenge for developers without bulging marketing budgets. “Our marketing plan is basically screaming to avoid obscurity,” Baptiste laughs. The indie developer’s existence is not unlike that of other self-supported art mediums. The money to develop games has to come from somewhere. Independent developers may be hesitant to work with a publisher. They may surrender creative and philosophical tenets in order to have their game sent to market. That relationship between developer and publisher is an effective dynamic. “Whenever we have worked with publishers in the past you suspect they are not doing everything in their power to put out your game. There is no way of verifying that suspicion,” Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form states, “I think when you have a developer-publisher relationship there is always the risk that the developer wants to do as little as possible for as much money as possible and the publishers wants as much done as possible for as little as money as possible. In the middle is this poor, little game suffering. I think we can avoid that because we don't have a conflict of interest right from the start. Since we are doing it all ourselves, we only have the game’s best interests in mind.” While most independent games are funded privately or through copacetic publishers, some developers have seen success in crowdfunding. Whether it’s an effort to balance visibility and development support, crowdfunding can be an effective leveraging tool. “Being made aware of [a developer on Kickstarter], that’s a little stepping stone for people to be made aware of their game,” states Galactic Cafe's William Pugh. Kickstarter is used as a publicity platform as often as it is a generator for funding development. Many developers are carefully examining crowdfunding to round out development and bolster marketing. Visibility through crowdfunding combined with aiding development costs is becoming a consideration for indie developers. Though using the crowdfunding monster is not without its own set of challenges. While Kickstarter has proven successful for some indie developers, how it is perceived is varied. “I find it hard to justify the use of Kickstarter. The problem is if you see it as a pre-order. It’s weird kind of contract between the people backing and person who will be delivering. I’m wary about people asking for huge amounts of money they don’t really know how to deal with,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe. Being prepared is, of course, paramount. The consumer desires a degree of confidence that their contribution will garner a product. “We are looking into Kickstarting, not because we want it to fund everything, but rather to be able to insure that we get a few extra features into the game or more polish into the game,” states Image & Form’s Sigurgeirsson. Though he was sure to point out that, “it is also dangerous. If you don't get funded, it means your game is not good enough, not attractive enough.” The pitfalls of being unsuccessful are as severe as the laurels of winning are encouraging. “Any indie who is considering Kickstarter needs to take a really hard look at their project and be brutal about it before they even attempt it,” says Sean Baptiste from Firehose Games. Kickstarter also can be used to justify further funding, to prove that there is actual interest in the title being developed. Catlateral Damage has successfully completed its Kickstarter campaign, effectively reaching its niche. Finding Your Audience - Maintaining and growing your fanbase The nature of the indie tends to lend itself to smaller audiences. While this may mean smaller revenues for these titles, it also means audience with which you could actually have a relationship. Tommaso De Benetti advocates for this type of connection with gamers. “What we have been trying to do is build a friendly community. They are supportive. Sometimes people complain and they may be right. You try to have a dialogue. We are, if possible, making friends. It doesn't necessarily relate to direct sales. If you create friendliness around your game you get people playing who are willing to recommend your game. There is no reason not to do it,” De Benetti says. “Of course it helps that the games we make are good,” he continues, “it’s worth having the dialogue.” Being dedicated to your audience in earnest is important. While most companies do not have the marketing muscle, they do have the agility to interact with the individual. The individual can often have direct discussion with developers and their staff, something unlikely to happen with larger studios. ‘We work very hard to be to be likeable in social media and get the community to root for us. Now we know our communities and how to reach them. Wherever we can viewed in a positive way, it is vital, crucial for us,” Sigurgeirsson said, “We try to promote ourselves as human beings. I am talking to you, not just the company.” And this is where many indie developers shine, whether we appreciate their genuine self or not. “We wanted it to be organic,” states Sebastian Eriksson with Gone North Games, “ But its really hard. There really isn't a good channel where you can speak to the community. I've been a lurker [on neoGAF]. I was so happy when I saw thread for A Story About My Uncle.” He then laughs, “but unfortunately it died out after like ten replies or something.” Eriksson continues, “We believe in going grassroots and reaching out to smaller outlets. We will talk to someone who has just ten followers because they can be just as important.” That kind of contact can make difference as how a community grows around a game. Rallying a community around your game is nothing new. If an effective community manager or team can build a foundation for an indie developer (often managed by the indie developer themselves), this can have a significant return on investment. Your smaller fanbase can often connect to a developer on a more personal level. Social media is the most prominent place for these relationships to be formed. Follow any one of the interviewed developers and you begin to get a sense of who they are and what they want you to think about them. “We have to be super dedicated if we are not a real publisher. Meaning if we don’t have specific budgets for ads or events then everything we work through is social media,” says Sigurgeirsson. One of the more engaging means to connect with you audience new or old is, of course, Twitch.tv. If you are an indie developer (or any developer) and you are not using Twitch, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity for audience engagement. “Twitch has identified our audience. It’s such a powerful tool to communicate directly with the people who play your games,” Baptiste states. I would be remiss if I forgot the Let’s Play community. Hundreds of thousands of YouTube views across hundreds of games creates devoted and vocal communities around games every day. Many indies encourage Let’s Plays to promote and create positive reception around their title. A Story About My Uncle utilized this avenue of support. “Let's Plays have been great for us,” Eriksson states, “lots of YouTubers have been supporting us. We decided to not put any restrictions on what people can show in the videos. The game mechanics are so unique that you can't really watch it and get the same satisfaction watching someone else do it and not want to play the game.” The Glittering Shore - The consumer reaps the efforts So, I navigate the shore of indie video games and feel overwhelmed by the treasures that beckon. I start slow, but I start. I try them on for size. Some have wooed me, most only summon a smirk, but several have floored me with their simple honesty. I have allowed a new breed of storytellers to share their tale or wrap me deep into their puzzles. The love in their games is evident and I feel personally invested because of it. Invested because they may struggle to remain relevant on a coastline brimming with other hopeful indie games. Invested because they will take the time to answer your question and strike up a real dialogue. These reasons move me to play the vast catalog I am curating. I can only hope to try enough of them in order to make room for the next tide.
  11. If you have been paying the barest attention to mobile gaming over the last couple months, chances are you’ve heard of the game Threes!, which was designed by indie developer Asher Vollmer. It turns out that Vollmer has been working on a different game in the wake of Threes! success and it happens to be one of the best games I’ve played at E3 this year. Close Castles is a unique take on the tower defense genre that plays like a minimalist reduction of a real-time strategy game. In its current state, Close Castles has no single-player or online multiplayer and as far as I know there aren’t currently plans to make either of those features. The game pits two, three, or four local players against each other in a battle of wits. The premise of Close Castle is, fittingly, that each player has built a castle too close to the neighboring castles of other nations and this has started a war. The war takes place on a grid with each castle residing in a different corner of the grid. Players move their cursor to different squares within their territory to build one of three different structures which then expand their territory. The most basic structures necessary for securing victory in Close Castles are houses, which spawn knights that can attack enemy buildings. If an enemy is invading your lands, towers are a great investment as they assault attacking knights. However, houses and towers don’t just build themselves; all buildings cost money and the more money a play has over their opponents, the more likely they are to secure a victory. To that end, markets are a must for any long-term conquest. I know that I said there were three structures, but another key element to Close Castles is constructing roads. Roads cost nothing and don’t expand your territory, but they are how you direct your knights from their houses to attack enemy buildings. With these basic rules and mechanics, Close Castles sets players loose against each other. On the surface, Close Castles looks simple enough: The last player with a castle standing wins. But how do you go about besting your friends? Do you go for a building out towers to slowly and safely expand your empire? Or do you build a couple early markets and then blitz your opponents with several houses spewing forth knights? Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages. Allowing a player to turtle for too long can result in an unstoppable wave of knights later on, while neglecting early defense can leave you wide open to an early house rush. There is definitely a learning curve to Close Castles that lends itself to evolving strategies over time. One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to build roads. Roads are what allows your knights to target enemy structures and you can target more than one building at a time. However, targeting multiple structures will result in an even split of your knights between those targets. Therefore, the more targets you have, the more you divide your forces. This can allow you to hit multiple locations at once, but if you aren’t careful you can simply end up losing all of your knights and leave yourself open to a counterattack. It is worth noting that we played Close Castles entirely with Xbox 360 controllers, which might make it the first RTS-like game able to be enjoyed with a gamepad. Each building was mapped to a different face button, while the cursor was moved using the left joystick. It felt smooth and responsive, which is incredibly important when you need to respond to an unexpected enemy attack. Close Castles is still in the early stages of development and there are almost certainly features that will be added or tweaked, but as it stands right now it is one of the most game-like games I’ve played at E3. It completely embraces the spirit of tower defense, while getting at the heart of what makes real-time strategy so engaging. It takes those concepts and strips them down to the bare essentials. That this is played against people who are physically present and frantically strategizing both against and with you adds to a sense of frenetic excitement. Though currently there is no release date for Close Castles, if the build I played went on sale for mobile, PC, or consoles tomorrow, I would pick it up and recommend you all do the same. Not because it is doing something radical or something new, the concepts on display are old as Chess, but because it does those old things so well that it makes them feel new. Like I said, Close Castles seems simple enough on the surface, but that simplicity stems from elegance. And elegance is a beautiful thing.
  12. You can scour the land for a century or more, but you’ll never find a better place to get your hands on amazing indie games than at PAX. Between the appropriately titled Indie Megabooth and the PAX 10, there are enough titles to choke a large chocobo. These are the most awesome indie games from PAX West 2016. Echo Platforms: PS4, PC Release Date: Q1 2017 Stare long enough into a void of mystery, and it might start looking back at you. Echo tells the story of En, a woman attempting to revive someone through the mysterious powers of a seemingly sentient palace. All goes well enough until the palace, activating its own defenses, begins to create violent and aggressive clones of En. The kicker? The palace only learns as much as you’re willing to teach it. En’s unwanted copies are ultimately a benign obstacle until she’s forced to adapt, opening doors, launching over barriers, and utilizing weapons. The clones slowly but surely adapt to every new maneuver you employ, dramatically increasing the likelihood of detection and death. Employing a sort of rapid “day and night” cycle to indicate when the clones will begin to employ your own tactics, Echo quickly becomes an exercise in risk versus reward and stealth versus desperation. Knowing that your own mistake is about to make things even worse is powerful, and allows players to choose their own play style. The team at developer Ultra Ultra might be commanding their corner of the Indie Megabooth, but the game stands as a technical and visual marvel in its own right, right alongside anything more highly funded. Old Man’s Journey Platform: Android, iOS Release Date: 2017 Fun fact: Roughly a quarter of all gamers are over the age of 50. So yes, you should keep trying to get your old man to play American Truck Simulator, even if it kills you. But if he’s not jonesed about a trip down spreadsheet lane, then perhaps the more serene Old Man’s Journey will be his cup of tea. Old Man’s Journey, developed by studio Broken Rules, captures the lengthy, meditative travels of an old sailor, on a mission of unknown intent, stopping only occasionally to enjoy Austria-inspired scenery. Gentle rolling hills turn into cobblestone roads. An old woman badgers you from her second floor window. A sly cat leads you along the path, and all the while the aura of a small town whispers through the streets. It’s every bit as peaceful as it is artsy, evoking a painterly style that’s both warm and embracing. Thankfully, gameplay seems to maintain a similar level of approachability. On mobile, players bend and layer the environment to line up with the area they want to reach, gently rearranging the landscape. Each segment is capped off with an impeccably illustrated still frame, capturing a moment in time of the protagonist’s storied life: A chance meeting with a girl, a gentle kiss to his pregnant bride at the summer harbor. At an estimated 90 minutes of playtime, you have no excuse not to find time for this game. Dog Sled Saga Platform: PC, Android, iOS Release Date: September 22, 2016 (full game, early access currently available) The onslaught of overly charming 2D “retro” indie games is inescapable. Many retro-inspired games seem to take the framework of a more recognizable era of gaming, but forget to put their own modernized twist on the end product. I don’t know with what else I’d compare Dog Sled Saga, because while its visual style invokes an entirely retro aesthetic (developer Trichotomy Games even rigged their demo to play on an NES controller), its gameplay comes across as both oddly personal and challenging at all times. After making the drastic decision to start a new life in the frozen Alaskan wilderness, the player finds themselves managing a rotating crew of sled dogs, qualifying for tournaments and maintaining their wellbeing over a season. It reads more like the back of a Football Coach Simulator 2016 box than any personal narrative, but each victory and failure along the way is an intensely intimate and earned one. You’ll need to precisely throw rations to your dogs in order to maintain their energy, while also ensuring they don’t injure themselves in tangled sleigh lines or due to lack of rest. The journey becomes just as much yours as it is theirs, and within a tight ten minute window I was already drawing a connection to my loyal steeds. Dog lovers need not miss this. Thimbleweed Park Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux Release Date: January 2017 LucasFilm’s 1987 hit Maniac Mansion set the bar for all future point-and-click games, establishing more than just a simple control scheme, but also the very nature of a video game narrative. Gone were the ultra-linear paths and obfuscated motivations for saving a block-shaped princess, replaced with a full cast of characters and player choice. Almost 30 years later, Maniac Mansion co-creators Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox, and their team are returning to the roots of what makes a great point-and-click narrative with Thimbleweed Park. Sardonic wit, whacky yet engaging characters, and inventive puzzles that play out across the entire cast all come together to craft an engaging mystery. Ignore the obvious parallels to The X-Files. Gilbert and Fox say they didn’t even realize it until the first playtesters made a mention of it. It’s just a good old fashioned murder mystery with clashing FBI agents – until it isn’t and the amateur game programmer/factory heiress and depressed clown show up. Battle Chef Brigade Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux Release Date: 2016 If you have even the slightest interest in the indie scene, you've more than likely heard of Battle Chef Brigade, and for excellent reason. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and three years in development, the cooking action puzzler is shaping up like few other games of its kind. Merging side-scrolling platforming and combat with Bejeweled-esque culinary puzzles, Battlechef Brigade challenges players to whip up the best darn dish in a fantasy world inhabited by your unusual assortment of heroes and devilishly handsome orcs. Wrapping it all up is an art style evocative of famed Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, or the more recent Mamoru Hosoda, but with enough of its own unique flair as to be entirely unique. With a wonderfully colorful cast and cooking competitions that would make Top Chef look like Julia Child, Battlechef Brigade is a dish best served on every gamer's plate. If there's one thing all PAX attendees can agree on, it's that the number of games at PAX is far too vast to play all of them. Make sure to check out the rest at both the Indie Megabooth and PAX 10 web pages and beyond, and to let us know what your favorite game from PAX West was. View full article
  13. You can scour the land for a century or more, but you’ll never find a better place to get your hands on amazing indie games than at PAX. Between the appropriately titled Indie Megabooth and the PAX 10, there are enough titles to choke a large chocobo. These are the most awesome indie games from PAX West 2016. Echo Platforms: PS4, PC Release Date: Q1 2017 Stare long enough into a void of mystery, and it might start looking back at you. Echo tells the story of En, a woman attempting to revive someone through the mysterious powers of a seemingly sentient palace. All goes well enough until the palace, activating its own defenses, begins to create violent and aggressive clones of En. The kicker? The palace only learns as much as you’re willing to teach it. En’s unwanted copies are ultimately a benign obstacle until she’s forced to adapt, opening doors, launching over barriers, and utilizing weapons. The clones slowly but surely adapt to every new maneuver you employ, dramatically increasing the likelihood of detection and death. Employing a sort of rapid “day and night” cycle to indicate when the clones will begin to employ your own tactics, Echo quickly becomes an exercise in risk versus reward and stealth versus desperation. Knowing that your own mistake is about to make things even worse is powerful, and allows players to choose their own play style. The team at developer Ultra Ultra might be commanding their corner of the Indie Megabooth, but the game stands as a technical and visual marvel in its own right, right alongside anything more highly funded. Old Man’s Journey Platform: Android, iOS Release Date: 2017 Fun fact: Roughly a quarter of all gamers are over the age of 50. So yes, you should keep trying to get your old man to play American Truck Simulator, even if it kills you. But if he’s not jonesed about a trip down spreadsheet lane, then perhaps the more serene Old Man’s Journey will be his cup of tea. Old Man’s Journey, developed by studio Broken Rules, captures the lengthy, meditative travels of an old sailor, on a mission of unknown intent, stopping only occasionally to enjoy Austria-inspired scenery. Gentle rolling hills turn into cobblestone roads. An old woman badgers you from her second floor window. A sly cat leads you along the path, and all the while the aura of a small town whispers through the streets. It’s every bit as peaceful as it is artsy, evoking a painterly style that’s both warm and embracing. Thankfully, gameplay seems to maintain a similar level of approachability. On mobile, players bend and layer the environment to line up with the area they want to reach, gently rearranging the landscape. Each segment is capped off with an impeccably illustrated still frame, capturing a moment in time of the protagonist’s storied life: A chance meeting with a girl, a gentle kiss to his pregnant bride at the summer harbor. At an estimated 90 minutes of playtime, you have no excuse not to find time for this game. Dog Sled Saga Platform: PC, Android, iOS Release Date: September 22, 2016 (full game, early access currently available) The onslaught of overly charming 2D “retro” indie games is inescapable. Many retro-inspired games seem to take the framework of a more recognizable era of gaming, but forget to put their own modernized twist on the end product. I don’t know with what else I’d compare Dog Sled Saga, because while its visual style invokes an entirely retro aesthetic (developer Trichotomy Games even rigged their demo to play on an NES controller), its gameplay comes across as both oddly personal and challenging at all times. After making the drastic decision to start a new life in the frozen Alaskan wilderness, the player finds themselves managing a rotating crew of sled dogs, qualifying for tournaments and maintaining their wellbeing over a season. It reads more like the back of a Football Coach Simulator 2016 box than any personal narrative, but each victory and failure along the way is an intensely intimate and earned one. You’ll need to precisely throw rations to your dogs in order to maintain their energy, while also ensuring they don’t injure themselves in tangled sleigh lines or due to lack of rest. The journey becomes just as much yours as it is theirs, and within a tight ten minute window I was already drawing a connection to my loyal steeds. Dog lovers need not miss this. Thimbleweed Park Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux Release Date: January 2017 LucasFilm’s 1987 hit Maniac Mansion set the bar for all future point-and-click games, establishing more than just a simple control scheme, but also the very nature of a video game narrative. Gone were the ultra-linear paths and obfuscated motivations for saving a block-shaped princess, replaced with a full cast of characters and player choice. Almost 30 years later, Maniac Mansion co-creators Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox, and their team are returning to the roots of what makes a great point-and-click narrative with Thimbleweed Park. Sardonic wit, whacky yet engaging characters, and inventive puzzles that play out across the entire cast all come together to craft an engaging mystery. Ignore the obvious parallels to The X-Files. Gilbert and Fox say they didn’t even realize it until the first playtesters made a mention of it. It’s just a good old fashioned murder mystery with clashing FBI agents – until it isn’t and the amateur game programmer/factory heiress and depressed clown show up. Battle Chef Brigade Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux Release Date: 2016 If you have even the slightest interest in the indie scene, you've more than likely heard of Battle Chef Brigade, and for excellent reason. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and three years in development, the cooking action puzzler is shaping up like few other games of its kind. Merging side-scrolling platforming and combat with Bejeweled-esque culinary puzzles, Battlechef Brigade challenges players to whip up the best darn dish in a fantasy world inhabited by your unusual assortment of heroes and devilishly handsome orcs. Wrapping it all up is an art style evocative of famed Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, or the more recent Mamoru Hosoda, but with enough of its own unique flair as to be entirely unique. With a wonderfully colorful cast and cooking competitions that would make Top Chef look like Julia Child, Battlechef Brigade is a dish best served on every gamer's plate. If there's one thing all PAX attendees can agree on, it's that the number of games at PAX is far too vast to play all of them. Make sure to check out the rest at both the Indie Megabooth and PAX 10 web pages and beyond, and to let us know what your favorite game from PAX West was.
  14. When Braid released on the Xbox 360's fledgling Xbox Live service, it changed everything for the indie games industry. It broke the barrier between artistic game development and more entrenched industry institutions. Its legacy is hard to ignore. The discussion in this episode gets a bit heated, so you know you're in for something good. Does Braid stand as one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod Outro Music: FTL 'Faster Than Rock' by Little V (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03137) New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  15. When Braid released on the Xbox 360's fledgling Xbox Live service, it changed everything for the indie games industry. It broke the barrier between artistic game development and more entrenched industry institutions. Its legacy is hard to ignore. The discussion in this episode gets a bit heated, so you know you're in for something good. Does Braid stand as one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod Outro Music: FTL 'Faster Than Rock' by Little V (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03137) New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  16. The livestream show will be over fifteen hours long this year, featuring dozens of indie games that span varying degrees of recognizability. Hosted by indie developer Robot Loves Kitty, the team behind Legend of Dungeon and the upcoming Upsilon Circuit, expect the show to have numerous special guest streamers, plenty of gameplay from new indie titles, prize giveaways, and possibly a few reveals. The showcase will begin at 8am PDT on August 8. A few of the more prominent games that will be making an appearance: JotunWanderlust Adventures Yomi’s Gate Hacknet Lost Orbit Mushroom 11 Over a dozen other titles will be shown. For a full list of the games listed to make an appearance, check out the Supershow schedule. An aftershow stream featuring even more indie games will be hosted by the Main Menu Twitch team. You can tune into the stream on Robot Loves Kitty's Twitch channel.
  17. The livestream show will be over fifteen hours long this year, featuring dozens of indie games that span varying degrees of recognizability. Hosted by indie developer Robot Loves Kitty, the team behind Legend of Dungeon and the upcoming Upsilon Circuit, expect the show to have numerous special guest streamers, plenty of gameplay from new indie titles, prize giveaways, and possibly a few reveals. The showcase will begin at 8am PDT on August 8. A few of the more prominent games that will be making an appearance: JotunWanderlust Adventures Yomi’s Gate Hacknet Lost Orbit Mushroom 11 Over a dozen other titles will be shown. For a full list of the games listed to make an appearance, check out the Supershow schedule. An aftershow stream featuring even more indie games will be hosted by the Main Menu Twitch team. You can tune into the stream on Robot Loves Kitty's Twitch channel. View full article
  18. until
    Over sixty game developers will be showing off their latest games one-on-one to a crowd of 500 people. For developers, this is a great opportunity to show off their games (finished or unfinished) and get direct feedback from players. For everyone else, it's a unique opportunity to try out the biggest collection of games made in and around NYC all in one place. Each game gets its own booth as players meet the developers and try out their games. Throw pizza into the mix and you get Playcrafting's biggest event! http://www.playcrafting.com/education-detail/?event_id=17189233460
  19. Browsing the indie games in my Humble Bundle collection; I scroll through 33 games I have the best intentions of playing. Because I should. Because I know they are fantastic games. Because they sit in my queue looking at me sadly. My Steam library holds even more from seasonal sales and my penchant to collect digital wares. Why have I purchased so many indie titles? Aside from their generally affordable price, it’s because I should like indies, right? Why do we play indie games? Perhaps a better question is why are indie games made? I asked Dejobaan Games, Galactic Cafe, Gone North Games, Fire Hose Games, Image & Form, and Housemarque about independent game development. It’s an Indie Thing - What does it mean to be "indie" “It's an intensely personal thing. Maybe that is the heart of indie, the ability to move forward on things that are intensely personal,” shares Fire Hose Games’ Sean Baptiste. That intimacy is really a touchstone for many independent developers. Indie games have a rich recent history of being both provocative and evocative experiences. Indie games like Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable are rousing narratives that tend to get to the point and stay there. Whether with their message or function, most indie games have an opinion, usually rooted in their aforementioned passion. Brjann Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form shares similar thoughts, stating, “It doesn't have to do with how the company is set up. It’s more of a philosophy. We really want to be our own man, so to speak. We develop and publish our games ourselves. We don’t try to second guess what the market will want. But rather we want to make games that the market will embrace because of our games’ own merit.” Image & Form has managed to find a market to embrace Steamworld Dig as the title enters development on its fifth platform, the Wii U. “Nobody will love our games as much as we do. Or put as much love into both the development and publishing of it. That’s the strength that we have,” Sigurgeirsson adds. This flexibility to express opinion is of course influenced by relative autonomy from a publisher. Housemarque’s Tommaso De Benetti comments, "We are fortunate to have a management team that cares about money only up to a certain point. There is still passion in what we do. Being able to keep a degree of independence is important." Housemarque has a lineage of being independent. “Sometimes I see people say that Sony should just buy Housemarque, but we don’t want that. We have a great relationship with Sony, though someday there may be something we want to do that they are not interested in doing,” states Housemarque’s De Benetti. They intend to remain independent. The nature of being independent can shift depending on developer. Take the students who formed Gone North Games for example. Nominated for a Swedish Game Award several years ago with their prototype for A Story About My Uncle, the team began to develop a full game. Their inspiration came in the form of a directive from a class assignment. Gone North reached out to independent game developer Coffee Stain Studios, who also were nominated for a Swedish Game Award for Sanctum. The relationship forged allowed for the two independent studios to support one another. The connection between the two was markedly similar. “I think they saw something of themselves in us,” states Gone North Games’ Sebastian Eriksson. Coffee Stain agreed to publish A Story About My Uncle, which was recently released on Steam. Whether or not Gone North will continue to work with Coffee Stain Studios or self-publish is unclear, but perhaps a precedent has been set. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Gone North pay it forward to the next up-and-coming Nordic indie developer. It has been discussed at length; the indie market has changed and continues change. The previously established champions of independent games are on their second and third passes, putting their independent status into question. “Jonathan Blow’s The Witness which looks horribly, annoyingly amazing, but is that an indie game? I don’t think it is,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe, creators of The Stanley Parable. “He’s already got a huge pot of money, he’s already got loads of people who played Braid. That’s not the same as the guy who made Ensign-1 on Steam Greenlight." But it seems that it is a fine balance between making games based on an artistic decision and making games that appeal to people. “At the end of the day you have to remember this is a business. We need to make games that can sell. If we don't, we have to fire people,” says Housemarque’s De Benetti. Whether your game is ready or not, you have to face the competition. Indie games are flowing to market at a relatively unchecked pace. Indies, Indies all Around - Visibility and discoverability of indie games Let’s say for a moment that indie games are a lot like baubles in a sea. Floating or bobbing up and down, making landfall and ending up a treasure on the shore. Maybe though, the sea is rife with baubles, and the shores are littered with pixel bits with little end to the tide. Once your shore is strewn with these shinies, how do you know what to take and what to leave behind? Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter have been gateways for a veritable deluge of games, though getting press and the Greenlight community interested in any given game can prove difficult. Merely being available is just a step in a process. Sebastian Eriksson from Gone North notes, “Before, getting onto Steam was like getting a golden ticket. But now there are ten or so games being released every day; it's still a struggle even though you get on Steam.” Ichiro Lambe, Founder/President of Dejobaan Games states, “It’'s all about discoverability. There needs to be a way for all the games coming out, or at least the good ones, to find their audience. I don't think that's happening yet, but it'll happen soon.” The developer’s title Drunken Robot Pornography may have found its place on Steam, with hundreds of player-created items in the Workshop. Elegy for a Dead World (currently in development), on the other hand, is an experimental writing game and may prove more difficult to find a niche. Lambe continues, “[the] indies' newfound ability to get onto platforms like iOS and Steam with relatively little pain has meant an influx of games. That's tough for established developers, as there are plenty of quality titles coming out.” With so much available in the indie game market, it can be difficult to maintain visibility. That sentiment is not uncommon among indie developers, especially those who develop primarily for PC. “The problem is that it is so wide open. Discoverability is a huge issue. It’s as wide open as music, anybody can do it, and everybody is,” says Sean Baptiste of Fire Hose Games. Fire Hose recently connected with Chris Chung, developer of Catlateral Damage. Chung's project screamed through the Steam Greenlight process. “[Catlateral Damage] was something extraordinary,” Baptiste states, “he made it through in seven days. Octodad took eight months. [Chris Chung's game] is a bit of an outlier.” Getting Paid - Making the decision of how to fund and when to crowdsource your project Connecting that game floating alongside so many others to an audience presents a challenge for developers without bulging marketing budgets. “Our marketing plan is basically screaming to avoid obscurity,” Baptiste laughs. The indie developer’s existence is not unlike that of other self-supported art mediums. The money to develop games has to come from somewhere. Independent developers may be hesitant to work with a publisher. They may surrender creative and philosophical tenets in order to have their game sent to market. That relationship between developer and publisher is an effective dynamic. “Whenever we have worked with publishers in the past you suspect they are not doing everything in their power to put out your game. There is no way of verifying that suspicion,” Sigurgeirsson with Image & Form states, “I think when you have a developer-publisher relationship there is always the risk that the developer wants to do as little as possible for as much money as possible and the publishers wants as much done as possible for as little as money as possible. In the middle is this poor, little game suffering. I think we can avoid that because we don't have a conflict of interest right from the start. Since we are doing it all ourselves, we only have the game’s best interests in mind.” While most independent games are funded privately or through copacetic publishers, some developers have seen success in crowdfunding. Whether it’s an effort to balance visibility and development support, crowdfunding can be an effective leveraging tool. “Being made aware of [a developer on Kickstarter], that’s a little stepping stone for people to be made aware of their game,” states Galactic Cafe's William Pugh. Kickstarter is used as a publicity platform as often as it is a generator for funding development. Many developers are carefully examining crowdfunding to round out development and bolster marketing. Visibility through crowdfunding combined with aiding development costs is becoming a consideration for indie developers. Though using the crowdfunding monster is not without its own set of challenges. While Kickstarter has proven successful for some indie developers, how it is perceived is varied. “I find it hard to justify the use of Kickstarter. The problem is if you see it as a pre-order. It’s weird kind of contract between the people backing and person who will be delivering. I’m wary about people asking for huge amounts of money they don’t really know how to deal with,” says William Pugh with Galactic Cafe. Being prepared is, of course, paramount. The consumer desires a degree of confidence that their contribution will garner a product. “We are looking into Kickstarting, not because we want it to fund everything, but rather to be able to insure that we get a few extra features into the game or more polish into the game,” states Image & Form’s Sigurgeirsson. Though he was sure to point out that, “it is also dangerous. If you don't get funded, it means your game is not good enough, not attractive enough.” The pitfalls of being unsuccessful are as severe as the laurels of winning are encouraging. “Any indie who is considering Kickstarter needs to take a really hard look at their project and be brutal about it before they even attempt it,” says Sean Baptiste from Firehose Games. Kickstarter also can be used to justify further funding, to prove that there is actual interest in the title being developed. Catlateral Damage has successfully completed its Kickstarter campaign, effectively reaching its niche. Finding Your Audience - Maintaining and growing your fanbase The nature of the indie tends to lend itself to smaller audiences. While this may mean smaller revenues for these titles, it also means audience with which you could actually have a relationship. Tommaso De Benetti advocates for this type of connection with gamers. “What we have been trying to do is build a friendly community. They are supportive. Sometimes people complain and they may be right. You try to have a dialogue. We are, if possible, making friends. It doesn't necessarily relate to direct sales. If you create friendliness around your game you get people playing who are willing to recommend your game. There is no reason not to do it,” De Benetti says. “Of course it helps that the games we make are good,” he continues, “it’s worth having the dialogue.” Being dedicated to your audience in earnest is important. While most companies do not have the marketing muscle, they do have the agility to interact with the individual. The individual can often have direct discussion with developers and their staff, something unlikely to happen with larger studios. ‘We work very hard to be to be likeable in social media and get the community to root for us. Now we know our communities and how to reach them. Wherever we can viewed in a positive way, it is vital, crucial for us,” Sigurgeirsson said, “We try to promote ourselves as human beings. I am talking to you, not just the company.” And this is where many indie developers shine, whether we appreciate their genuine self or not. “We wanted it to be organic,” states Sebastian Eriksson with Gone North Games, “ But its really hard. There really isn't a good channel where you can speak to the community. I've been a lurker [on neoGAF]. I was so happy when I saw thread for A Story About My Uncle.” He then laughs, “but unfortunately it died out after like ten replies or something.” Eriksson continues, “We believe in going grassroots and reaching out to smaller outlets. We will talk to someone who has just ten followers because they can be just as important.” That kind of contact can make difference as how a community grows around a game. Rallying a community around your game is nothing new. If an effective community manager or team can build a foundation for an indie developer (often managed by the indie developer themselves), this can have a significant return on investment. Your smaller fanbase can often connect to a developer on a more personal level. Social media is the most prominent place for these relationships to be formed. Follow any one of the interviewed developers and you begin to get a sense of who they are and what they want you to think about them. “We have to be super dedicated if we are not a real publisher. Meaning if we don’t have specific budgets for ads or events then everything we work through is social media,” says Sigurgeirsson. One of the more engaging means to connect with you audience new or old is, of course, Twitch.tv. If you are an indie developer (or any developer) and you are not using Twitch, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity for audience engagement. “Twitch has identified our audience. It’s such a powerful tool to communicate directly with the people who play your games,” Baptiste states. I would be remiss if I forgot the Let’s Play community. Hundreds of thousands of YouTube views across hundreds of games creates devoted and vocal communities around games every day. Many indies encourage Let’s Plays to promote and create positive reception around their title. A Story About My Uncle utilized this avenue of support. “Let's Plays have been great for us,” Eriksson states, “lots of YouTubers have been supporting us. We decided to not put any restrictions on what people can show in the videos. The game mechanics are so unique that you can't really watch it and get the same satisfaction watching someone else do it and not want to play the game.” The Glittering Shore - The consumer reaps the efforts So, I navigate the shore of indie video games and feel overwhelmed by the treasures that beckon. I start slow, but I start. I try them on for size. Some have wooed me, most only summon a smirk, but several have floored me with their simple honesty. I have allowed a new breed of storytellers to share their tale or wrap me deep into their puzzles. The love in their games is evident and I feel personally invested because of it. Invested because they may struggle to remain relevant on a coastline brimming with other hopeful indie games. Invested because they will take the time to answer your question and strike up a real dialogue. These reasons move me to play the vast catalog I am curating. I can only hope to try enough of them in order to make room for the next tide. View full article
  20. If you have been paying the barest attention to mobile gaming over the last couple months, chances are you’ve heard of the game Threes!, which was designed by indie developer Asher Vollmer. It turns out that Vollmer has been working on a different game in the wake of Threes! success and it happens to be one of the best games I’ve played at E3 this year. Close Castles is a unique take on the tower defense genre that plays like a minimalist reduction of a real-time strategy game. In its current state, Close Castles has no single-player or online multiplayer and as far as I know there aren’t currently plans to make either of those features. The game pits two, three, or four local players against each other in a battle of wits. The premise of Close Castle is, fittingly, that each player has built a castle too close to the neighboring castles of other nations and this has started a war. The war takes place on a grid with each castle residing in a different corner of the grid. Players move their cursor to different squares within their territory to build one of three different structures which then expand their territory. The most basic structures necessary for securing victory in Close Castles are houses, which spawn knights that can attack enemy buildings. If an enemy is invading your lands, towers are a great investment as they assault attacking knights. However, houses and towers don’t just build themselves; all buildings cost money and the more money a play has over their opponents, the more likely they are to secure a victory. To that end, markets are a must for any long-term conquest. I know that I said there were three structures, but another key element to Close Castles is constructing roads. Roads cost nothing and don’t expand your territory, but they are how you direct your knights from their houses to attack enemy buildings. With these basic rules and mechanics, Close Castles sets players loose against each other. On the surface, Close Castles looks simple enough: The last player with a castle standing wins. But how do you go about besting your friends? Do you go for a building out towers to slowly and safely expand your empire? Or do you build a couple early markets and then blitz your opponents with several houses spewing forth knights? Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages. Allowing a player to turtle for too long can result in an unstoppable wave of knights later on, while neglecting early defense can leave you wide open to an early house rush. There is definitely a learning curve to Close Castles that lends itself to evolving strategies over time. One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to build roads. Roads are what allows your knights to target enemy structures and you can target more than one building at a time. However, targeting multiple structures will result in an even split of your knights between those targets. Therefore, the more targets you have, the more you divide your forces. This can allow you to hit multiple locations at once, but if you aren’t careful you can simply end up losing all of your knights and leave yourself open to a counterattack. It is worth noting that we played Close Castles entirely with Xbox 360 controllers, which might make it the first RTS-like game able to be enjoyed with a gamepad. Each building was mapped to a different face button, while the cursor was moved using the left joystick. It felt smooth and responsive, which is incredibly important when you need to respond to an unexpected enemy attack. Close Castles is still in the early stages of development and there are almost certainly features that will be added or tweaked, but as it stands right now it is one of the most game-like games I’ve played at E3. It completely embraces the spirit of tower defense, while getting at the heart of what makes real-time strategy so engaging. It takes those concepts and strips them down to the bare essentials. That this is played against people who are physically present and frantically strategizing both against and with you adds to a sense of frenetic excitement. Though currently there is no release date for Close Castles, if the build I played went on sale for mobile, PC, or consoles tomorrow, I would pick it up and recommend you all do the same. Not because it is doing something radical or something new, the concepts on display are old as Chess, but because it does those old things so well that it makes them feel new. Like I said, Close Castles seems simple enough on the surface, but that simplicity stems from elegance. And elegance is a beautiful thing. View full article