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Found 106 results

  1. EA announced that Fe, one of the upcoming indie titles from their EA Originals program, would be launching early next year. Fe tells the story of a small animal that awakens in a forest full of sounds and music. Over the course of the game, players learn to communicate with the world around them and learn to interpret the wordless story as they encounter friends and foes on their journeys. Fe has been developed by Zoink Games, the Swedish studio behind indie titles like Stick it to the Man and Flipping Death. Klaus Lyngeled, the CEO and creative lead at Zoink released a statement alongside the release window saying, “We wanted to create a game that gives the feeling of exploring something special. We would spend hours in the woods as kids, and while it felt scary at first, eventually the strange sounds became familiar -- you become part of nature and the forest feels like home. Players will realize similar feelings as they play through Fe. Wherever and however the game is played, we ensure it will be a unique experience of discovery, unlike anything played before.” “Through Fe, Zoink has reminded us that everything is connected. They have created a game where the magic and beauty of nature, and all its creatures, come alive,” said Patrick Soderlund, the EVP at EA Worldwide Studios. “This game and this studio embody the spirit of the EA Originals program that we started a little over a year ago – the freedom to create, and to bring uniquely innovative and memorable games to players all over the world." Fe will release worldwide in early 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
  2. EA announced that Fe, one of the upcoming indie titles from their EA Originals program, would be launching early next year. Fe tells the story of a small animal that awakens in a forest full of sounds and music. Over the course of the game, players learn to communicate with the world around them and learn to interpret the wordless story as they encounter friends and foes on their journeys. Fe has been developed by Zoink Games, the Swedish studio behind indie titles like Stick it to the Man and Flipping Death. Klaus Lyngeled, the CEO and creative lead at Zoink released a statement alongside the release window saying, “We wanted to create a game that gives the feeling of exploring something special. We would spend hours in the woods as kids, and while it felt scary at first, eventually the strange sounds became familiar -- you become part of nature and the forest feels like home. Players will realize similar feelings as they play through Fe. Wherever and however the game is played, we ensure it will be a unique experience of discovery, unlike anything played before.” “Through Fe, Zoink has reminded us that everything is connected. They have created a game where the magic and beauty of nature, and all its creatures, come alive,” said Patrick Soderlund, the EVP at EA Worldwide Studios. “This game and this studio embody the spirit of the EA Originals program that we started a little over a year ago – the freedom to create, and to bring uniquely innovative and memorable games to players all over the world." Fe will release worldwide in early 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. View full article
  3. Afterthought Games, an indie game studio based in Michigan, recently launched a Kickstarter for their upcoming Violent Sol Worlds. The two-man indie studio is looking to raise $5,000 to complete development, with the goal of completing the title by December of this year. Violent Sol Worlds is a top-down shooter where players are stranded on an alien world to send supplies back to the core worlds while surviving in the rough and tumble wilds. Players must scour the world for resources to craft defenses and upgrades while also shipping supplies home to get the support of the Aviro Corporation. At the heart of Violent Sol Worlds is an AI director to help make sure that there are always new events and stories happening around the procedurally generated world. This AI ensures that players will feel consistently challenged, avoiding that pesky feeling of power creep in the later stages of open world games that leads to action feeling more routine. Players will clash with alien monsters and sentient beings, some good, some bad, all at the whim of the AI director. Players can find vehicles and use them to explore the world. Exploration will unveil stories of ancient alien races and previous settlers sent by Aviro Corp. While Aviro might not care much for its settlers, those who provide the company with enough resources gain access to its space station and 3D printing technologies to make new weapons and gear. Regardless of whether Violent Sol Worlds meets its modest goal, the developers have sworn that it will be finished. However, they can't guarantee that it will be finished by the end of December 2017 if they don't meet their $5,000 target. "This game is getting made one way or the other," Afterthought Games' statement reads, "it will just be better with your help. The only risk is that it could be delayed. We are shooting for a Christmas release, but as life happens delays are possible. We are pretty good about digging in and getting the job done in the time frame set in front of us, so we are not too worried about delays." One of the really cool parts about Violent Sol Worlds lies in its connection to Extra Life. Phillip Brossia, one of Afterthought Games' co-founders, also volunteers as the Extra Life Guild president in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has been participating in Extra Life for the past four years. He shared Violent Sol Worlds in the forums and announced a plan to give 5% of the Kickstarter earnings to Extra Life! I have been with Extra Life for 4 years now and I am the President of the Grand Rapids guild. So this isn't spam. My little company Afterthought Games is going to be doing a Kickstarter campaign next week for a game we are making called Violent Sol Worlds. We're not allowed to advertise it on the Kickstarter (which is ridiculous) but our plan is to give 5% of our earnings to Extra Life, 10% if we are funded in the first 24 hours. Violent Sol Worlds will be coming to PC (hopefully) later this year. Afterthought plans to launch the final game with modding in mind - players should be able to pick up Violent Sol Worlds and find it easy to mod, both for veteran modders and beginners alike.
  4. Afterthought Games, an indie game studio based in Michigan, recently launched a Kickstarter for their upcoming Violent Sol Worlds. The two-man indie studio is looking to raise $5,000 to complete development, with the goal of completing the title by December of this year. Violent Sol Worlds is a top-down shooter where players are stranded on an alien world to send supplies back to the core worlds while surviving in the rough and tumble wilds. Players must scour the world for resources to craft defenses and upgrades while also shipping supplies home to get the support of the Aviro Corporation. At the heart of Violent Sol Worlds is an AI director to help make sure that there are always new events and stories happening around the procedurally generated world. This AI ensures that players will feel consistently challenged, avoiding that pesky feeling of power creep in the later stages of open world games that leads to action feeling more routine. Players will clash with alien monsters and sentient beings, some good, some bad, all at the whim of the AI director. Players can find vehicles and use them to explore the world. Exploration will unveil stories of ancient alien races and previous settlers sent by Aviro Corp. While Aviro might not care much for its settlers, those who provide the company with enough resources gain access to its space station and 3D printing technologies to make new weapons and gear. Regardless of whether Violent Sol Worlds meets its modest goal, the developers have sworn that it will be finished. However, they can't guarantee that it will be finished by the end of December 2017 if they don't meet their $5,000 target. "This game is getting made one way or the other," Afterthought Games' statement reads, "it will just be better with your help. The only risk is that it could be delayed. We are shooting for a Christmas release, but as life happens delays are possible. We are pretty good about digging in and getting the job done in the time frame set in front of us, so we are not too worried about delays." One of the really cool parts about Violent Sol Worlds lies in its connection to Extra Life. Phillip Brossia, one of Afterthought Games' co-founders, also volunteers as the Extra Life Guild president in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has been participating in Extra Life for the past four years. He shared Violent Sol Worlds in the forums and announced a plan to give 5% of the Kickstarter earnings to Extra Life! I have been with Extra Life for 4 years now and I am the President of the Grand Rapids guild. So this isn't spam. My little company Afterthought Games is going to be doing a Kickstarter campaign next week for a game we are making called Violent Sol Worlds. We're not allowed to advertise it on the Kickstarter (which is ridiculous) but our plan is to give 5% of our earnings to Extra Life, 10% if we are funded in the first 24 hours. Violent Sol Worlds will be coming to PC (hopefully) later this year. Afterthought plans to launch the final game with modding in mind - players should be able to pick up Violent Sol Worlds and find it easy to mod, both for veteran modders and beginners alike. View full article
  5. Hey guys, I have been with Extra Life for 4 years now and I am the President of the Grand Rapids guild. So this isn't spam. My little company Afterthought Games is going to be doing a Kickstarter campaign next week for a game we are making called Violent Sol Worlds. We're not allowed to advertise it on the Kickstarter (which is ridiculous) but our plan is to give 5% of our earnings to Extra Life, 10% if we are funded in the first 24 hours. We are also launching a game called Cornflower Corbin the day before and we are going to be promoting both of them at the Maker Faire in our city next weekend. Anyway, I just wanted to post about both here to try to get the word out. I will post again when they both are live. Below are the relevant links if anyone is interested. Violent Sol Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/651297750/1491401610?ref=328434&token=4afc02f2 Cornflower Corbin on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/624780/Cornflower_Corbin/ Thanks in advance for checking them out.
  6. Have you ever dreamed about who would win in a no holds barred fight between Guacamelee's Juan and Trace from Axiom Verge? Or pondered the result of a conflict between the fish-man from Nuclear Throne and Captain Flinthook from... well, Flinthook? Bounty Battle aims to satisfy your itch for indie action by throwing 30 characters from various independent franchises together for one of the most unique grudge matches in gaming. Developed by DarkScreen Games, Bounty Battle draws heavily upon fighters like Super Smash Bros. and PlayStation All-Stars to deliver its odd charm. Up to four players can select their characters from a roster of 30 fighters (20 indie guests and 10 original characters - with up to 18 additional contenders coming as free DLC post-launch). Controls are simple and universal across all characters; no unique Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat combos to memorize in Bounty Battle. Players have a limited amount of energy that allows them to use strong attacks, special attacks, ultimate attacks, and dodge. As players rack up combos and kills, they earn Bounty Points. Those Bounty Points can be used to to perform devastating attacks or to summon a minion to aid in combat. Minions exist in the background and survive until your character falls in battle. Each minion has been taken from the game specific to each hero. While the fight rages on, players can pick up both positive and negative status effects known as marks. Colored energy orbs will occasionally fall from the sky, granting temporary boosts to speed, life, or stamina. A number of different arenas will ship with Bounty Battle. These will include one arena for each indie guest on the roster, with possibly more coming for each DLC character. That makes for over 25 arenas at the very least! Players will battle over these locations in local co-op, arcade, challenge, and story modes. Oh, yes. Bounty Battle has a story that explains how all these indie heroes appeared together. At some point, a flash in the sky heralded the arrival of a giant vortex above a multitude of worlds. This vortex introduced a new material to these worlds. Known as Ethereal Mana, people could use this material to communicate and even travel to those distant planets. This substance even granted seemingly magical powers to those who handled it. Eventually, the power of Ethereal Mana created strife and war across the worlds and a tournament was agreed upon that would decide the fate of the universe. Each world anointed a champion, each with a bounty on their head. The greatest bounty hunter in the universe would rule the cosmos. Each character will have their own unique ending, so players will have an incentive to play through the story mode multiple times. The full roster of Bounty Battle's guest fighters can be found below: Juan from Guacamelee! (Drinkbox Studios) The Crusader from Darkest Dungeon (RedHook Studios) Thora from Jotun (Thunder Lotus) Sheriff Lonestar from Awesomenauts (Ronimo Games) Shield maiden from EITR (Eneme Entertainement) Trace from Axiom Verge (Thomas Happ Games llc) Pankapu from Pankapu (Too Kind Studio) Captain Flinthook from Flinthook (Tribute Games) Fish from Nuclear throne (Vlambeer) The Unslain from Doko Roko (Okobu Games) Tetrobot from Blocks that matter (Swing Swing Submarines) Gully from Battle Chasers: Nightwar (Airship Syndicate) Hermetic Champion from Tower of Samsara (Martelo Nero) Harry from The Bug Butcher (Awfully Nice Studio) Rudy fromBlubber Busters (Thar be Monster) Rad Rodgers from Rad Rodgers (Slipgate Studios) Otus from Owlboy (D-Pad Studio) Marduk from Undungeon (Laughing Machines) Eshe from Sundered (Thunder Lotus) Violet from The Metronomicon (Puuba/ Akupara games/Kasedo Games) DarkScreen Games has been working on the title for the past three years. The team consists of François von Orelli and Grégoire Laporte who collaborated with Benjamin Daniel for Bounty Battle's narrator and Jon Lankry's for the illustrated multiple endings. Bounty Battle will be closing its crowdfunding campaign next week, but it has already surpassed its fundraising goal of $30,000. If it makes it to $45,000, DarkScreen will be adding 12 more indie guests to Bounty Battle, each with their own arena and minion. If the project makes it to $60,000 more animated cutscenes will flesh out the story. Bounty Battle is slated for release in late 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac.
  7. Have you ever dreamed about who would win in a no holds barred fight between Guacamelee's Juan and Trace from Axiom Verge? Or pondered the result of a conflict between the fish-man from Nuclear Throne and Captain Flinthook from... well, Flinthook? Bounty Battle aims to satisfy your itch for indie action by throwing 30 characters from various independent franchises together for one of the most unique grudge matches in gaming. Developed by DarkScreen Games, Bounty Battle draws heavily upon fighters like Super Smash Bros. and PlayStation All-Stars to deliver its odd charm. Up to four players can select their characters from a roster of 30 fighters (20 indie guests and 10 original characters - with up to 18 additional contenders coming as free DLC post-launch). Controls are simple and universal across all characters; no unique Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat combos to memorize in Bounty Battle. Players have a limited amount of energy that allows them to use strong attacks, special attacks, ultimate attacks, and dodge. As players rack up combos and kills, they earn Bounty Points. Those Bounty Points can be used to to perform devastating attacks or to summon a minion to aid in combat. Minions exist in the background and survive until your character falls in battle. Each minion has been taken from the game specific to each hero. While the fight rages on, players can pick up both positive and negative status effects known as marks. Colored energy orbs will occasionally fall from the sky, granting temporary boosts to speed, life, or stamina. A number of different arenas will ship with Bounty Battle. These will include one arena for each indie guest on the roster, with possibly more coming for each DLC character. That makes for over 25 arenas at the very least! Players will battle over these locations in local co-op, arcade, challenge, and story modes. Oh, yes. Bounty Battle has a story that explains how all these indie heroes appeared together. At some point, a flash in the sky heralded the arrival of a giant vortex above a multitude of worlds. This vortex introduced a new material to these worlds. Known as Ethereal Mana, people could use this material to communicate and even travel to those distant planets. This substance even granted seemingly magical powers to those who handled it. Eventually, the power of Ethereal Mana created strife and war across the worlds and a tournament was agreed upon that would decide the fate of the universe. Each world anointed a champion, each with a bounty on their head. The greatest bounty hunter in the universe would rule the cosmos. Each character will have their own unique ending, so players will have an incentive to play through the story mode multiple times. The full roster of Bounty Battle's guest fighters can be found below: Juan from Guacamelee! (Drinkbox Studios) The Crusader from Darkest Dungeon (RedHook Studios) Thora from Jotun (Thunder Lotus) Sheriff Lonestar from Awesomenauts (Ronimo Games) Shield maiden from EITR (Eneme Entertainement) Trace from Axiom Verge (Thomas Happ Games llc) Pankapu from Pankapu (Too Kind Studio) Captain Flinthook from Flinthook (Tribute Games) Fish from Nuclear throne (Vlambeer) The Unslain from Doko Roko (Okobu Games) Tetrobot from Blocks that matter (Swing Swing Submarines) Gully from Battle Chasers: Nightwar (Airship Syndicate) Hermetic Champion from Tower of Samsara (Martelo Nero) Harry from The Bug Butcher (Awfully Nice Studio) Rudy fromBlubber Busters (Thar be Monster) Rad Rodgers from Rad Rodgers (Slipgate Studios) Otus from Owlboy (D-Pad Studio) Marduk from Undungeon (Laughing Machines) Eshe from Sundered (Thunder Lotus) Violet from The Metronomicon (Puuba/ Akupara games/Kasedo Games) DarkScreen Games has been working on the title for the past three years. The team consists of François von Orelli and Grégoire Laporte who collaborated with Benjamin Daniel for Bounty Battle's narrator and Jon Lankry's for the illustrated multiple endings. Bounty Battle will be closing its crowdfunding campaign next week, but it has already surpassed its fundraising goal of $30,000. If it makes it to $45,000, DarkScreen will be adding 12 more indie guests to Bounty Battle, each with their own arena and minion. If the project makes it to $60,000 more animated cutscenes will flesh out the story. Bounty Battle is slated for release in late 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac. View full article
  8. Nobody at Queasy Games wanted to work with Beck. Well, almost nobody. The alt-rock musician can be a divisive figure, for sure, but that wasn’t really why the team working on 2012’s Sound Shapes had misgivings about his involvement in its game. Prior to this, the game’s development possessed a distinctly “indie” feel, and the publisher, Sony, had kept red tape to a minimum. Throwing a Grammy winning rock star into the mix would surely overcomplicate things, as far as they were concerned. Yet the partnership ended up producing what many fans consider to be the highlight of the Sound Shapes experience. “Cities,” the first of three Beck-soundtracked levels in the game, is all gloom and groove, presenting a strange dichotomy between the song and the visuals on screen. It’s set against the backdrop of a war-torn metropolis and a dance-able beat. Beck sings of a dead city as the refrain “You weren’t made for this place/ It’s not your fault,” billows from smoke stacks, while missiles, bulldozers, and other instruments of destruction strut along to the beat. It’s at once distressing, relaxing, beautiful, and sad. It’s Sound Shapes at its best. Originally, Sound Shapes wasn’t even conceived as a video game, but rather as a music visualizer. Shaw-Han Liem is a Toronto based musician known by the stage name I Am Robot and Proud. After a show in his home town, Liem met Queasy Games founder, and fellow Toronto native, Jonathan Mak. The two began hanging out and playing around with the concept of fusing interactive art with sound. “At first,” says Liem, “our intention wasn’t to create a game, we just wanted to explore, in general, music and visuals.” Though Sound Shapes would grow into a multi-studio production, involving major label musicians, according to Liem, “it literally started out with two people in a basement.” In the beginning, Liem was the only musician on the project and thus, he set the groundwork for how the design teams would work with the other musicians. “I was working with the team every day so I was the closest one,” explains Liem, “so with the levels I did, we tried to have the musical aspect of the game involved at a much earlier stage for the level.” That would require the music itself to be fluid and moldable. If an object needed to make a different sound, Liem could easily make that change in his song. As Liem describes it, “The levels and music were written as one process.” When the alt-folk songwriter Jim Guthrie became involved, the process didn’t need to change too much. “He’s also in Toronto and he’s a friend of ours, so it was easier for him to be more involved and do more iterations and revisions,” says Liem. The team of designers that worked with Guthrie to make four levels based on his songs, was the same team that would go on to work with Beck’s music, though the process would prove to be very different. When it came to Beck, the team simply didn’t enjoy the same collaborative benefits it had experienced with Guthrie and Liem. “With me and Jim,” says Liem, “you could do that, but obviously you can’t call up Beck and be like, ‘can you try this drum beat 10 BPMs slower? Because the level’s too hard.’ It was an experiment for us to see – does this concept scale? Does it allow us to take an already completed song and turn it into visuals or gameplay in a way that feels organic?” Beck’s lack of involvement was a big sticking point for the team at Queasy Games, but Sony’s marketing department saw it as a worthwhile trade-off. Level designer Danny Vader and producer Mathew Kumar – both on loan from Capy Games – were handed what was, at that time, the unenviable task of translating Beck’s songs into the Sound Shapes format. Vader was the only Beck fan on staff and remembers the initial hesitation. “The other artists,” he says, referring to Beck and Deadmau5, “were secured by Sony corporate as like, ‘here, we paid these guys some money to use these songs.’ That’s totally fine, it’s just different from how we did all the other stuff.” As Vader explains, “Beck has singing and lyrics and nothing else in the game had done that. So that was a huge challenge.” Every object in Sound Shapes visually represents a part of the song that accompanies each stage. A kick drum might be represented by a hopping enemy that always lands on the beat, or a dancing blob might represent a song’s buoyant bass line. Lyrics required a completely different approach; they needed a physical, on-screen representation. However, whereas instrumentals left room for interpretation, the lyrics told a story that somewhat dictated what the designers could do. “We can’t just do whatever we want with this “Cities” level because it’s sort of saying something and we had to discern what was being said,” explains Vader, “I remember all of us sitting around listening to this song over and over again, not just trying to figure out what he’s saying, but figuring out what we are going to do with these lyrics in terms of conveying the meaning of the song.” At one point, the team even considered cutting the lyrics altogether. “I think we were pretty beaten down trying to figure it out,” recalls Vader, “it was even floated, ‘F___ it, let’s just cut the lyrics. Let’s cut the singing and just use the instrumentals. I was pretty adamant and maybe even a jerk about keeping them… We have Beck, we gotta have Beck singing. You can’t call it Beck if it’s just some beats and s___. We gotta have his voice.” They devised a few clever solutions to the problem. At one point in the song, the words “move a little/ shake a little/ hurt a little/ break a little” are personified by a platform that does exactly as the words say. When Beck says move, it moves, and when he says hurt, the platform turns red and hurts the player’s little avatar. The lyrics end up providing context and warn the player of coming danger. It’s a clever little solution to the problem, and “Cities” is full of examples just like that. Originally, however, when Queasy received the “Cities” track from Beck, it was only instrumental. Without the lyrics, the song does possess a more uplifting vibe. The original instrumental track that the developers received from Beck’s team was even titled “Happy Africa”, which caused a bit of a mix-up. Vader and Kumar worked with Pyramid Attack, a Toronto based art studio, to develop the level based on the “Happy Africa” theme. Kumar recalls the confusion. “When we got more feedback from Beck’s people, we were like, ‘oh we need to throw all of that away.’ We’d actually gotten it all wrong.” “There was all this sort of African mask stuff. We went heavily in that direction,” adds Vader. “I think the file we got from Beck – he probably just… had made the beat first and just named it Happy Africa as a file name. We got that file, and then [his people said], no no here’s the song. And we hear the lyrics and we’re like, ‘oh f___, this has nothing to do with Africa at all. He’s just using a kalimba and calling it that.” Meanwhile at Pyramid Attack, Steven Wilson, the artist working on the Beck stages, needed to redo all of the artwork he had originally conceived for the “Happy Africa” version of the level. Every time Vader and Kumar had to change an asset – which was often – they asked Wilson for a different take on something he’d already given them. “He was a trooper,” jokes Kumar, “we got back five versions of everything we asked for, until we could drill down exactly how the level looked.” In the final version, none of the African themes made the cut. “It ended up having what I think is an unexpected visual vocabulary,” says Wilson. “The concept of this level doesn’t fit the song at all, but somehow it works. The song has a sense of space and place that I really liked. I pictured an African savannah at sunset with baobab trees, swooping insects looping in the air, friendly-looking animals, huts, campfires, dancing musical instruments, etc.” Though he tends to have a fondness for the Happy Africa version of the level, Wilson appreciates that the final design helped distinguish “Cities” from the pep and color of other levels in the game. Another point of contention between Vader and Kumar and the rest of the design team, was the giant red sun that slowly envelopes the screen several times in the song. Some of the team leads were afraid that the sun wouldn’t be pliable enough for player creators in the user generated content. Player created content was the number one priority for Queasy Games – if something wasn’t useful in the level editor, it wasn’t worth putting in the game. But the designers fought to keep the sun in there. “I remember there being a lot of discussion on that,” says Kumar, “because it was such an overpowering entity in the game. But to me, that’s one of the Beck moments that we wanted. We kinda had to fight about that.” Vader and Kumar had to convince the project leads that the sun was worth keeping in the level. “I think there was a lot of discussion about, ‘ok, that is an important sound in the song,” says Vader, “but how are we going to make an entity out of that? So let’s just make that into notes, or let’s cut that sound.’ But that is such an important sound. For that not to have a gameplay component just seemed like it was going to be such a glaring omission.” The legacy of Sound Shapes is one of collaboration; players are not only listening to a song, but actually engaging with it, contorting it, and taking some ownership of it. “It speaks so much to how music is different things to different people,” says Kumar, reflecting on the game’s legacy. “We were able to create this thing that people could bring themselves to by playing the level and seeing what we have to say about it, or by taking those pieces and making their own stories with it.” Despite the challenges of working with a major artist like Beck, the team found that his involvement was well worth the added complications. “With this, we were sort of changing the idea of what authorship means - what does it mean to have a completed piece of music? So Beck was a great match because just before we had talked to him he had released an album that was just sheet music,” says Liem, referring to Beck’s sheet music album, Song Reader, which encouraged listeners to record their own versions of his songs for YouTube, just as so many Sound Shapes players have remixed the pieces from “Cities” into thousands of creative levels. Liem continues, “so he’s obviously interested in experimenting with ways of releasing music that aren’t an album on CD.” Beck has never released “Cities” or any of his Sound Shapes tracks in any other form. They exist today, only as interactive songs inside the game. “Cities” lives almost exclusively inside that context, and the team is proud of that fact. “We’re the only people to hear those songs the way he recorded them,” recalls Kumar, “We were basically told that as far as he’s concerned, the versions in the game are the versions that should be out there. That’s something I appreciate and I think Beck understood that when he gave it to us.” View full article
  9. Nobody at Queasy Games wanted to work with Beck. Well, almost nobody. The alt-rock musician can be a divisive figure, for sure, but that wasn’t really why the team working on 2012’s Sound Shapes had misgivings about his involvement in its game. Prior to this, the game’s development possessed a distinctly “indie” feel, and the publisher, Sony, had kept red tape to a minimum. Throwing a Grammy winning rock star into the mix would surely overcomplicate things, as far as they were concerned. Yet the partnership ended up producing what many fans consider to be the highlight of the Sound Shapes experience. “Cities,” the first of three Beck-soundtracked levels in the game, is all gloom and groove, presenting a strange dichotomy between the song and the visuals on screen. It’s set against the backdrop of a war-torn metropolis and a dance-able beat. Beck sings of a dead city as the refrain “You weren’t made for this place/ It’s not your fault,” billows from smoke stacks, while missiles, bulldozers, and other instruments of destruction strut along to the beat. It’s at once distressing, relaxing, beautiful, and sad. It’s Sound Shapes at its best. Originally, Sound Shapes wasn’t even conceived as a video game, but rather as a music visualizer. Shaw-Han Liem is a Toronto based musician known by the stage name I Am Robot and Proud. After a show in his home town, Liem met Queasy Games founder, and fellow Toronto native, Jonathan Mak. The two began hanging out and playing around with the concept of fusing interactive art with sound. “At first,” says Liem, “our intention wasn’t to create a game, we just wanted to explore, in general, music and visuals.” Though Sound Shapes would grow into a multi-studio production, involving major label musicians, according to Liem, “it literally started out with two people in a basement.” In the beginning, Liem was the only musician on the project and thus, he set the groundwork for how the design teams would work with the other musicians. “I was working with the team every day so I was the closest one,” explains Liem, “so with the levels I did, we tried to have the musical aspect of the game involved at a much earlier stage for the level.” That would require the music itself to be fluid and moldable. If an object needed to make a different sound, Liem could easily make that change in his song. As Liem describes it, “The levels and music were written as one process.” When the alt-folk songwriter Jim Guthrie became involved, the process didn’t need to change too much. “He’s also in Toronto and he’s a friend of ours, so it was easier for him to be more involved and do more iterations and revisions,” says Liem. The team of designers that worked with Guthrie to make four levels based on his songs, was the same team that would go on to work with Beck’s music, though the process would prove to be very different. When it came to Beck, the team simply didn’t enjoy the same collaborative benefits it had experienced with Guthrie and Liem. “With me and Jim,” says Liem, “you could do that, but obviously you can’t call up Beck and be like, ‘can you try this drum beat 10 BPMs slower? Because the level’s too hard.’ It was an experiment for us to see – does this concept scale? Does it allow us to take an already completed song and turn it into visuals or gameplay in a way that feels organic?” Beck’s lack of involvement was a big sticking point for the team at Queasy Games, but Sony’s marketing department saw it as a worthwhile trade-off. Level designer Danny Vader and producer Mathew Kumar – both on loan from Capy Games – were handed what was, at that time, the unenviable task of translating Beck’s songs into the Sound Shapes format. Vader was the only Beck fan on staff and remembers the initial hesitation. “The other artists,” he says, referring to Beck and Deadmau5, “were secured by Sony corporate as like, ‘here, we paid these guys some money to use these songs.’ That’s totally fine, it’s just different from how we did all the other stuff.” As Vader explains, “Beck has singing and lyrics and nothing else in the game had done that. So that was a huge challenge.” Every object in Sound Shapes visually represents a part of the song that accompanies each stage. A kick drum might be represented by a hopping enemy that always lands on the beat, or a dancing blob might represent a song’s buoyant bass line. Lyrics required a completely different approach; they needed a physical, on-screen representation. However, whereas instrumentals left room for interpretation, the lyrics told a story that somewhat dictated what the designers could do. “We can’t just do whatever we want with this “Cities” level because it’s sort of saying something and we had to discern what was being said,” explains Vader, “I remember all of us sitting around listening to this song over and over again, not just trying to figure out what he’s saying, but figuring out what we are going to do with these lyrics in terms of conveying the meaning of the song.” At one point, the team even considered cutting the lyrics altogether. “I think we were pretty beaten down trying to figure it out,” recalls Vader, “it was even floated, ‘F___ it, let’s just cut the lyrics. Let’s cut the singing and just use the instrumentals. I was pretty adamant and maybe even a jerk about keeping them… We have Beck, we gotta have Beck singing. You can’t call it Beck if it’s just some beats and s___. We gotta have his voice.” They devised a few clever solutions to the problem. At one point in the song, the words “move a little/ shake a little/ hurt a little/ break a little” are personified by a platform that does exactly as the words say. When Beck says move, it moves, and when he says hurt, the platform turns red and hurts the player’s little avatar. The lyrics end up providing context and warn the player of coming danger. It’s a clever little solution to the problem, and “Cities” is full of examples just like that. Originally, however, when Queasy received the “Cities” track from Beck, it was only instrumental. Without the lyrics, the song does possess a more uplifting vibe. The original instrumental track that the developers received from Beck’s team was even titled “Happy Africa”, which caused a bit of a mix-up. Vader and Kumar worked with Pyramid Attack, a Toronto based art studio, to develop the level based on the “Happy Africa” theme. Kumar recalls the confusion. “When we got more feedback from Beck’s people, we were like, ‘oh we need to throw all of that away.’ We’d actually gotten it all wrong.” “There was all this sort of African mask stuff. We went heavily in that direction,” adds Vader. “I think the file we got from Beck – he probably just… had made the beat first and just named it Happy Africa as a file name. We got that file, and then [his people said], no no here’s the song. And we hear the lyrics and we’re like, ‘oh f___, this has nothing to do with Africa at all. He’s just using a kalimba and calling it that.” Meanwhile at Pyramid Attack, Steven Wilson, the artist working on the Beck stages, needed to redo all of the artwork he had originally conceived for the “Happy Africa” version of the level. Every time Vader and Kumar had to change an asset – which was often – they asked Wilson for a different take on something he’d already given them. “He was a trooper,” jokes Kumar, “we got back five versions of everything we asked for, until we could drill down exactly how the level looked.” In the final version, none of the African themes made the cut. “It ended up having what I think is an unexpected visual vocabulary,” says Wilson. “The concept of this level doesn’t fit the song at all, but somehow it works. The song has a sense of space and place that I really liked. I pictured an African savannah at sunset with baobab trees, swooping insects looping in the air, friendly-looking animals, huts, campfires, dancing musical instruments, etc.” Though he tends to have a fondness for the Happy Africa version of the level, Wilson appreciates that the final design helped distinguish “Cities” from the pep and color of other levels in the game. Another point of contention between Vader and Kumar and the rest of the design team, was the giant red sun that slowly envelopes the screen several times in the song. Some of the team leads were afraid that the sun wouldn’t be pliable enough for player creators in the user generated content. Player created content was the number one priority for Queasy Games – if something wasn’t useful in the level editor, it wasn’t worth putting in the game. But the designers fought to keep the sun in there. “I remember there being a lot of discussion on that,” says Kumar, “because it was such an overpowering entity in the game. But to me, that’s one of the Beck moments that we wanted. We kinda had to fight about that.” Vader and Kumar had to convince the project leads that the sun was worth keeping in the level. “I think there was a lot of discussion about, ‘ok, that is an important sound in the song,” says Vader, “but how are we going to make an entity out of that? So let’s just make that into notes, or let’s cut that sound.’ But that is such an important sound. For that not to have a gameplay component just seemed like it was going to be such a glaring omission.” The legacy of Sound Shapes is one of collaboration; players are not only listening to a song, but actually engaging with it, contorting it, and taking some ownership of it. “It speaks so much to how music is different things to different people,” says Kumar, reflecting on the game’s legacy. “We were able to create this thing that people could bring themselves to by playing the level and seeing what we have to say about it, or by taking those pieces and making their own stories with it.” Despite the challenges of working with a major artist like Beck, the team found that his involvement was well worth the added complications. “With this, we were sort of changing the idea of what authorship means - what does it mean to have a completed piece of music? So Beck was a great match because just before we had talked to him he had released an album that was just sheet music,” says Liem, referring to Beck’s sheet music album, Song Reader, which encouraged listeners to record their own versions of his songs for YouTube, just as so many Sound Shapes players have remixed the pieces from “Cities” into thousands of creative levels. Liem continues, “so he’s obviously interested in experimenting with ways of releasing music that aren’t an album on CD.” Beck has never released “Cities” or any of his Sound Shapes tracks in any other form. They exist today, only as interactive songs inside the game. “Cities” lives almost exclusively inside that context, and the team is proud of that fact. “We’re the only people to hear those songs the way he recorded them,” recalls Kumar, “We were basically told that as far as he’s concerned, the versions in the game are the versions that should be out there. That’s something I appreciate and I think Beck understood that when he gave it to us.”
  10. Feature: Review: Rime

    Rime begins with stormy seas, a red scrap of cloth buffeted by the wind whipping through the air, and a young boy washed up on the shores of an island covered in the ruins of a once mighty civilization. Without a word, players assume control of this child and help him to move through this world full of spirits, magic, and ancient technology. In fact, Rime contains not one line of dialogue – Tequila Works communicate their entire narrative through breathtaking visuals and an absolutely astounding score by David Garcia Diaz. Bright colors swirl across the landscape making everything feel alive and vibrant. The use of these popping colors make it all the more potent when the adventure inevitably descends into darkness and mystery. Majestic soundscapes weave an element of vanished magic into the game, as if the music itself was always grasping to reclaim just a little more of the lost glory the island’s ruined spires. The world of Rime is one that has been afflicted by something terrible. Something so destructive that it has shattered the very fabric of the world. This loss permeates every facet of the adventure. Weeping statues and grasping, shade-filled halls lay in the world’s forgotten corners. For every bright, shining moment in the sun, there is one in which the shadows envelop the red-caped protagonist. That ever-present conflict between light and dark? That escalating tension and deepening mystery? Those are the building blocks of every great adventure. The entire presentation readily draws comparisons to the work of Studio Ghibli, a similarity noted in other reviews of Rime. While I think the observation surprisingly apt for the audio-visual elements, Ghibli tends to make their work aimed squarely at children – Rime takes aim at an older crowd. While it can certainly be enjoyed by younger gamers, the themes and payoff will affect more seasoned players on a deeper level. The seemingly overplayed narrative carries an edge that cuts to the bone with loss and love. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack" href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack">RiME (Deluxe Soundtrack) by David García Díaz</a> Each step of Rime’s journey presents an obstacle to be overcome, puzzles to be solved, or enemies to defeat. However, Rime isn’t about any one of those aspects on their own. There are some platforming sections, but it isn’t a platformer. Problems beg for solutions, but Rime isn’t a puzzle game. While sometimes enemies do make an appearance, few would ever describe Rime as a game about combat. Instead, Rime places its focus squarely on maintaining a sense of adventure and subtle storytelling. That emphasis on adventure smooths the gameplay experience. Few will need to grab a strategy guide or watch a walkthrough in order to find the solution to a puzzle. The platforming demands little in the way of reflexes. Combat is about as far from hack and slash as one can get; it’s more of a larger, faster puzzle than anything else. One might wonder how Rime manages to remain compelling with its gameplay when enjoyment doesn’t come from reflexive skill. The narrative hook of learning what happened to the island and our protagonist pulls the player relentlessly forward. Lacking any dialogue to explain the situation or internal monologue to learn what kind of a person the protagonist might be, all we learn about him is from what we can see during gameplay – how he chooses to interact with the world. Perhaps most informative interaction comes from the child’s ability to shout, which causes different interactions with objects throughout the world. Sometimes that shout is a call; other times it becomes a humming sing-song of a half remembered song; and as danger mounts it becomes a whimper. That one interaction can show our protagonist cry, laugh, and grieve. But through all those emotions, he continues to move through the world on his journey, leaving much up to the player’s interpretation. Rime certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. A relatively focused playthrough can make it from beginning to end in about four hours. Tequila Works doesn’t reuse puzzles – though occasionally similar puzzles reappear as character-building moments. The short length works in Rime’s favor and lends itself to multiple playthroughs. Players who love to scour every inch of their game worlds will find a nice challenge in discovering all the knickknacks hidden away (which all serve a narrative purpose as well). There are certain tropes that fledgling story writers are taught to avoid at all costs: Never open a scene with an alarm clock going off; do not include a gunshot followed by a cut to black; and never ever end with the dreaded phrase, “it was all a dream.” The overuse of these storytelling devices drill them into the public consciousness and rendering them clichés. However – and this is one of storytelling’s biggest secrets - a story can use a cliché, provided that it works. For example, a house full of alarm clocks fills the opening of Back to the Future and that works because the movie revolves around our human relationship with time. The film makes appropriate use of the device in a refreshing way - it’s played as a joke that reinforces the central premise of the film - turning it from a cliché back into a trope, and tropes are just tools in a storyteller’s toolbox. In a gaming landscape filled to bursting with indies, many might take a look at Rime and imagine it to be the latest in a long line of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw dubbed Small Child, Scary World (SCSW) games. Limbo, Ico, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Braid, these games all take similar forms and tackle themes of being alone in an unknowable world that threatens danger at every turn. The storytelling trope of SCSW has certainly proven to be effective, but its overuse threatens to plunge into cliché territory. And while Rime certainly does fit into the same category, it turns the very concept on its head in a way that works beautifully. Conclusion: Some people might have certain expectations as to what Rime will be – Set those expectations aside and to go into it blind. While Rime certainly might seem to have the trappings of indie gaming tropes that are coming closer to cliché, Tequila Works subverts those expectations in a masterful fashion. 2017 has been a fantastic year for video games – so many quality titles, both big and small, have released. It is a testament to Rime’s quality that it stands as the best thing I have played so far amid the AAA giants that have flexed their gaming muscle over the past several months. It conjures up a mythical adventure that sweeps players up in its majesty. Rime expertly plays with emotion like a master pianist would compose a captivating solo. Rime ends on a haunting final note that doesn’t deliver the empowering resolution many might desire, but it leaves the player with something much better: A powerful artistic statement about how beautiful and terrible and lovely and difficult life can be – and how we can all recover from the worst tragedies and find peace. Rime is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC - a Switch version is scheduled to release later this year View full article
  11. Review: Rime

    Rime begins with stormy seas, a red scrap of cloth buffeted by the wind whipping through the air, and a young boy washed up on the shores of an island covered in the ruins of a once mighty civilization. Without a word, players assume control of this child and help him to move through this world full of spirits, magic, and ancient technology. In fact, Rime contains not one line of dialogue – Tequila Works communicate their entire narrative through breathtaking visuals and an absolutely astounding score by David Garcia Diaz. Bright colors swirl across the landscape making everything feel alive and vibrant. The use of these popping colors make it all the more potent when the adventure inevitably descends into darkness and mystery. Majestic soundscapes weave an element of vanished magic into the game, as if the music itself was always grasping to reclaim just a little more of the lost glory the island’s ruined spires. The world of Rime is one that has been afflicted by something terrible. Something so destructive that it has shattered the very fabric of the world. This loss permeates every facet of the adventure. Weeping statues and grasping, shade-filled halls lay in the world’s forgotten corners. For every bright, shining moment in the sun, there is one in which the shadows envelop the red-caped protagonist. That ever-present conflict between light and dark? That escalating tension and deepening mystery? Those are the building blocks of every great adventure. The entire presentation readily draws comparisons to the work of Studio Ghibli, a similarity noted in other reviews of Rime. While I think the observation surprisingly apt for the audio-visual elements, Ghibli tends to make their work aimed squarely at children – Rime takes aim at an older crowd. While it can certainly be enjoyed by younger gamers, the themes and payoff will affect more seasoned players on a deeper level. The seemingly overplayed narrative carries an edge that cuts to the bone with loss and love. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack" href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack">RiME (Deluxe Soundtrack) by David García Díaz</a> Each step of Rime’s journey presents an obstacle to be overcome, puzzles to be solved, or enemies to defeat. However, Rime isn’t about any one of those aspects on their own. There are some platforming sections, but it isn’t a platformer. Problems beg for solutions, but Rime isn’t a puzzle game. While sometimes enemies do make an appearance, few would ever describe Rime as a game about combat. Instead, Rime places its focus squarely on maintaining a sense of adventure and subtle storytelling. That emphasis on adventure smooths the gameplay experience. Few will need to grab a strategy guide or watch a walkthrough in order to find the solution to a puzzle. The platforming demands little in the way of reflexes. Combat is about as far from hack and slash as one can get; it’s more of a larger, faster puzzle than anything else. One might wonder how Rime manages to remain compelling with its gameplay when enjoyment doesn’t come from reflexive skill. The narrative hook of learning what happened to the island and our protagonist pulls the player relentlessly forward. Lacking any dialogue to explain the situation or internal monologue to learn what kind of a person the protagonist might be, all we learn about him is from what we can see during gameplay – how he chooses to interact with the world. Perhaps most informative interaction comes from the child’s ability to shout, which causes different interactions with objects throughout the world. Sometimes that shout is a call; other times it becomes a humming sing-song of a half remembered song; and as danger mounts it becomes a whimper. That one interaction can show our protagonist cry, laugh, and grieve. But through all those emotions, he continues to move through the world on his journey, leaving much up to the player’s interpretation. Rime certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. A relatively focused playthrough can make it from beginning to end in about four hours. Tequila Works doesn’t reuse puzzles – though occasionally similar puzzles reappear as character-building moments. The short length works in Rime’s favor and lends itself to multiple playthroughs. Players who love to scour every inch of their game worlds will find a nice challenge in discovering all the knickknacks hidden away (which all serve a narrative purpose as well). There are certain tropes that fledgling story writers are taught to avoid at all costs: Never open a scene with an alarm clock going off; do not include a gunshot followed by a cut to black; and never ever end with the dreaded phrase, “it was all a dream.” The overuse of these storytelling devices drill them into the public consciousness and rendering them clichés. However – and this is one of storytelling’s biggest secrets - a story can use a cliché, provided that it works. For example, a house full of alarm clocks fills the opening of Back to the Future and that works because the movie revolves around our human relationship with time. The film makes appropriate use of the device in a refreshing way - it’s played as a joke that reinforces the central premise of the film - turning it from a cliché back into a trope, and tropes are just tools in a storyteller’s toolbox. In a gaming landscape filled to bursting with indies, many might take a look at Rime and imagine it to be the latest in a long line of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw dubbed Small Child, Scary World (SCSW) games. Limbo, Ico, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Braid, these games all take similar forms and tackle themes of being alone in an unknowable world that threatens danger at every turn. The storytelling trope of SCSW has certainly proven to be effective, but its overuse threatens to plunge into cliché territory. And while Rime certainly does fit into the same category, it turns the very concept on its head in a way that works beautifully. Conclusion: Some people might have certain expectations as to what Rime will be – Set those expectations aside and to go into it blind. While Rime certainly might seem to have the trappings of indie gaming tropes that are coming closer to cliché, Tequila Works subverts those expectations in a masterful fashion. 2017 has been a fantastic year for video games – so many quality titles, both big and small, have released. It is a testament to Rime’s quality that it stands as the best thing I have played so far amid the AAA giants that have flexed their gaming muscle over the past several months. It conjures up a mythical adventure that sweeps players up in its majesty. Rime expertly plays with emotion like a master pianist would compose a captivating solo. Rime ends on a haunting final note that doesn’t deliver the empowering resolution many might desire, but it leaves the player with something much better: A powerful artistic statement about how beautiful and terrible and lovely and difficult life can be – and how we can all recover from the worst tragedies and find peace. Rime is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC - a Switch version is scheduled to release later this year
  12. Disco Bear Will Dance into Your Heart

    Laughter filled a small corner of the crowded convention space. In the middle of the largest show aimed at putting gaming's biggest and flashiest on full display, laughter is often in short supply. Excitement? Oh, you better believe it! Smiles? All over the place. Cheers? Constantly ringing out. But laughter is a rarer thing. So when I heard laughter from around a tiny booth tucked away on the show floor of E3 2017, I knew I had to investigate. And that's when I found it - a game so pure and good that it improved my life with its simple existence. Disco Bear. Players control the titular disco bear, a polar bear who loves to dance. After suffering an embarrassing, traumatic incident in 1977, Bear leaves the dance floor for good. Five years later, he comes out of retirement to bust a move one last time to save the local roller skating rink. The characters are all still images of animals in various poses of varying ridiculousness. The gameplay isn't deep, merely using the arrow keys to boogie to the best of the player's ability. The idea appears simple on paper, but the humorous execution leaves players smirking and laughing along with the comedic narrative. Disco Bear isn't the most complex game ever created, but it is certainly an incredibly effective game at achieving its goals. While I watched people play it in that E3 booth, everyone was smirking and chuckling as they wiggled their way through Disco Bear's adventure. I can honestly say that my life is better for having played it, and that's not something that can be said for a lot of games that I've played throughout my life. I had an opportunity to talk with Katie Pustolski, a graduate student at the University of Southern California and one of the co-creators of Disco Bear. Here's what I learned. Could you tell me a little about Disco Bear? I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. Katie Pustolski: [Brian Handy and I,] we made this within a course of 15 weeks. The project is a heartfelt story about a bear being asked to dance again. It's an interactive narrative, it's very simple controls; it's only arrow keys, and there's no objective, no challenge, it's really just kind of a cute, silly experience. One of our experience goals was actually just to make people laugh, and smile, and it seems to be working really well! We've been getting a lot of positive feedback. The best thing about showing this game is seeing everybody's reactions. Certain people react differently, but there are certain points within the story where most people just burst out into laughter, or it's so unexpected--they weren't expecting the girl in the beginning to die. It's dark humor. So how did you actually go about and get pictures of the animals? Did you get those online? Pustolski: Yes. A lot of searching online; we tried our best to find images under creative commons licenses so that we can actually use them, cut them out and whatnot. Actually, during the credits, we have this giant wall of text that credits to all the pictures that we found online, and we did the same with sounds. We also have a music composer on the project who made the music, who is not here, but he is Bill Piyatut. He is not at the table at the moment, but yeah, other than that, we had Eileen Mary O'Connell who is a comedic consultant, so we asked her about comedy, and how do we try to make this funny, what can we do better? How did you decide on "Disco Bear"? That seems like a very specific thing, or alternatively, a very random thing. Pustolski: Oh yeah, so random. So during the ideation phase, when Brian and I were brainstorming, we knew we wanted to do something funny. Something with comedy, and spoil the space because this is a space within gaming and interactive media that's not touched on a lot. We're fans of awkward physics games like Octodad, but we didn't really want to do awkward physics, we wanted to experiment with other forms. Other forms of awkwardness? Pustolski: Awkwardness, and something to get a really good reaction from the player that's silly and fun and makes people smile. A little bit whimsical in a way. And we found through prototyping that simple interaction, such as playing with the arrow keys, was enough to get people smiling and laughing at a bear just dancing on the screen. One of the inspirations for this project was Colin's Bear. I'm not sure if you're familiar with it? It's like this small video on YouTube, I believe it's around 10 years old, but don't quote me on that because I'm not sure when it came out. This student made an animation project, but didn't feel like he got a lot out of his animation class, so he fulfilled all the requirements for the project within 20 or so seconds with this awkward dancing bear [laughs] and at the end it says 'Thanks for nothing.' That was one of the inspirations, and then of course, it just went from there, from that prototype of a dancing bear and simple interactions, expanded it, and it became what it is today. A lot of people approach video games and they have these grand visions of castles in the sky and giant wars and sweeping stories. So what made you focus on a dancing bear rather than a bigger, more hyperbolic experience? Pustolski: Brian and I worked on smaller projects together in the past for school, and we found that we have very similar humor. And again, during the ideation phase, we were trying to figure out what are we doing for this project? Ok, how about comedy? Ok, we we have a similar sense of humor, let's give it a go, let's try something in this area, because again, it's not touched on much. we wanted to experiment a little bit. So the base goal, just make people smile, make people laugh. Pustolski: I really like making people laugh and smile, so it just fit. How did you wind up at E3 with this game? Pustolski: It was actually Brian's idea to submit to IndieCade and we submitted it, and I guess they did some kind of judging and it was picked! And suddenly, we were here! And we're showing at E3, and this is great because this is my first time showing a game at a show or a festival; I'm a newbie at this. But Brian helped show a different project last year so he did something like this last year; he has more experience showing than I do. He's very good at showing games to people, and I'm still working on that. What is it like? Because not everyone gets to show off a game at E3. I'm sure there are good parts, and probably not so great parts. Pustolski: Good parts is networking with people, and obviously seeing people's reactions to the game. So far we've gotten a lot of positive feedback, positive responses and that's fantastic. Bad part, it's very tiring! And I go home, and my feet feel like they're on fire, but it's totally worth it. Would you ever considered making an expanded retail version of Disco Bear? Pustolski: We haven't discussed anything beyond what we already have, but this next year, Brian and I have to work on our thesis projects. Disco Bear can't be your thesis project!? Pustolski: Well, it doesn't count, because we have a full program, and a full year of working on our thesis. And it's individual too. So Brian has his own project he'll be working on, and I have my own project. How can people play Disco Bear? Is it out? Pustolski: Ah! Yes! It is out online right now at discobeargame.com. It is based in the browser. It's not mobile, it's only desktop/laptop because you need the arrow keys to play, but otherwise it's free, and you can go online right now and play it. --- Go out and play Disco Bear - it will at the very least improve your day with a ridiculous dancing bear.
  13. Laughter filled a small corner of the crowded convention space. In the middle of the largest show aimed at putting gaming's biggest and flashiest on full display, laughter is often in short supply. Excitement? Oh, you better believe it! Smiles? All over the place. Cheers? Constantly ringing out. But laughter is a rarer thing. So when I heard laughter from around a tiny booth tucked away on the show floor of E3 2017, I knew I had to investigate. And that's when I found it - a game so pure and good that it improved my life with its simple existence. Disco Bear. Players control the titular disco bear, a polar bear who loves to dance. After suffering an embarrassing, traumatic incident in 1977, Bear leaves the dance floor for good. Five years later, he comes out of retirement to bust a move one last time to save the local roller skating rink. The characters are all still images of animals in various poses of varying ridiculousness. The gameplay isn't deep, merely using the arrow keys to boogie to the best of the player's ability. The idea appears simple on paper, but the humorous execution leaves players smirking and laughing along with the comedic narrative. Disco Bear isn't the most complex game ever created, but it is certainly an incredibly effective game at achieving its goals. While I watched people play it in that E3 booth, everyone was smirking and chuckling as they wiggled their way through Disco Bear's adventure. I can honestly say that my life is better for having played it, and that's not something that can be said for a lot of games that I've played throughout my life. I had an opportunity to talk with Katie Pustolski, a graduate student at the University of Southern California and one of the co-creators of Disco Bear. Here's what I learned. Could you tell me a little about Disco Bear? I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. Katie Pustolski: [Brian Handy and I,] we made this within a course of 15 weeks. The project is a heartfelt story about a bear being asked to dance again. It's an interactive narrative, it's very simple controls; it's only arrow keys, and there's no objective, no challenge, it's really just kind of a cute, silly experience. One of our experience goals was actually just to make people laugh, and smile, and it seems to be working really well! We've been getting a lot of positive feedback. The best thing about showing this game is seeing everybody's reactions. Certain people react differently, but there are certain points within the story where most people just burst out into laughter, or it's so unexpected--they weren't expecting the girl in the beginning to die. It's dark humor. So how did you actually go about and get pictures of the animals? Did you get those online? Pustolski: Yes. A lot of searching online; we tried our best to find images under creative commons licenses so that we can actually use them, cut them out and whatnot. Actually, during the credits, we have this giant wall of text that credits to all the pictures that we found online, and we did the same with sounds. We also have a music composer on the project who made the music, who is not here, but he is Bill Piyatut. He is not at the table at the moment, but yeah, other than that, we had Eileen Mary O'Connell who is a comedic consultant, so we asked her about comedy, and how do we try to make this funny, what can we do better? How did you decide on "Disco Bear"? That seems like a very specific thing, or alternatively, a very random thing. Pustolski: Oh yeah, so random. So during the ideation phase, when Brian and I were brainstorming, we knew we wanted to do something funny. Something with comedy, and spoil the space because this is a space within gaming and interactive media that's not touched on a lot. We're fans of awkward physics games like Octodad, but we didn't really want to do awkward physics, we wanted to experiment with other forms. Other forms of awkwardness? Pustolski: Awkwardness, and something to get a really good reaction from the player that's silly and fun and makes people smile. A little bit whimsical in a way. And we found through prototyping that simple interaction, such as playing with the arrow keys, was enough to get people smiling and laughing at a bear just dancing on the screen. One of the inspirations for this project was Colin's Bear. I'm not sure if you're familiar with it? It's like this small video on YouTube, I believe it's around 10 years old, but don't quote me on that because I'm not sure when it came out. This student made an animation project, but didn't feel like he got a lot out of his animation class, so he fulfilled all the requirements for the project within 20 or so seconds with this awkward dancing bear [laughs] and at the end it says 'Thanks for nothing.' That was one of the inspirations, and then of course, it just went from there, from that prototype of a dancing bear and simple interactions, expanded it, and it became what it is today. A lot of people approach video games and they have these grand visions of castles in the sky and giant wars and sweeping stories. So what made you focus on a dancing bear rather than a bigger, more hyperbolic experience? Pustolski: Brian and I worked on smaller projects together in the past for school, and we found that we have very similar humor. And again, during the ideation phase, we were trying to figure out what are we doing for this project? Ok, how about comedy? Ok, we we have a similar sense of humor, let's give it a go, let's try something in this area, because again, it's not touched on much. we wanted to experiment a little bit. So the base goal, just make people smile, make people laugh. Pustolski: I really like making people laugh and smile, so it just fit. How did you wind up at E3 with this game? Pustolski: It was actually Brian's idea to submit to IndieCade and we submitted it, and I guess they did some kind of judging and it was picked! And suddenly, we were here! And we're showing at E3, and this is great because this is my first time showing a game at a show or a festival; I'm a newbie at this. But Brian helped show a different project last year so he did something like this last year; he has more experience showing than I do. He's very good at showing games to people, and I'm still working on that. What is it like? Because not everyone gets to show off a game at E3. I'm sure there are good parts, and probably not so great parts. Pustolski: Good parts is networking with people, and obviously seeing people's reactions to the game. So far we've gotten a lot of positive feedback, positive responses and that's fantastic. Bad part, it's very tiring! And I go home, and my feet feel like they're on fire, but it's totally worth it. Would you ever considered making an expanded retail version of Disco Bear? Pustolski: We haven't discussed anything beyond what we already have, but this next year, Brian and I have to work on our thesis projects. Disco Bear can't be your thesis project!? Pustolski: Well, it doesn't count, because we have a full program, and a full year of working on our thesis. And it's individual too. So Brian has his own project he'll be working on, and I have my own project. How can people play Disco Bear? Is it out? Pustolski: Ah! Yes! It is out online right now at discobeargame.com. It is based in the browser. It's not mobile, it's only desktop/laptop because you need the arrow keys to play, but otherwise it's free, and you can go online right now and play it. --- Go out and play Disco Bear - it will at the very least improve your day with a ridiculous dancing bear. View full article
  14. I've been spending a fair bit of time fighting on the massive, free-for-all battlefield of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The Steam early access game has taken the indie world by storm since its release, garnering a playerbase of over 4 million in the handful of months since its March 2017 release onto early access. For those who haven't yet set foot into the battlegrounds, the concept is deceptively simple: Roughly 100 players are dropped from a cargo plane onto a sprawling island with cities, towns, and various types of terrain and then battle to be the last one standing. The game can be tackled solo, co-op, or in a three to four person squad. Players drop onto the island without any items or equipment aside from the clothing (or in some cases underwear) on their backs and must frantically scavenge for supplies while keeping an eye out for fellow scavengers. The island is, as mentioned before, massive. Even with 100 players, players find themselves facing long periods of silence, the occasional gunshot ringing out in the distance. In order to bring players together, the map will periodically flood everything outside of a white ring with blue energy, slowly killing everyone who doesn't make it to the safe zone. This white ring continues to collapse as the game progresses, forcing everyone into smaller and smaller spaces until the last player, or the last team, is standing. And winners? They get to feast upon delicious, delicious chicken. The message "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" appears on screen to congratulate players on their victory - before booting everyone out of the match. I won my first chicken dinner alongside some trusty teammates just a few days ago. As the feeling of accomplishment swelled within me, I became curious about the lore of Battlegrounds. Why were all these people parachuting onto an island to battle to the death, day after day? How are the same player-created characters able to die, rise, and then die again? What is really going on? The various materials available online about PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds seem to have precisely nothing to do with the surrounding context of the events happening within the game. This lack of clarification could be explained with the old "it's just a game, don't think about it, too much" answer, but where's the fun in that? While pondering over the dreamlike quality of Battlegrounds' setting and internal game logic, I think I hit upon an explanation for the entire game: Valhalla. In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the golden hall where Odin and his Valkyries brought chosen warriors for their afterlife. Once there, those warriors would fight all day and then retire at night to drink, eat, and heal their wounds. They fought each day to hone their abilities and combat prowess to prepare for the coming end of the world when they would march forth from their otherworldly training ground to fight in the final battle alongside Odin. Why do I think that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is Valhalla? Let's look at the facts. Fact: There are no 100% night conditions in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Fighting in the moonlight is not something that happens in Battlegrounds. Sure, there are maps with varied lighting conditions and even a rare version of the map that is played at sunset, but no outright nighttime versions of the island are playable. Why is this important? Because the night is when those who have gone to Valhalla feast and heal from the day's fighting! And who gets the finest portion of the feast? The day's winner in combat, of course! They eat to the tune of, "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" Fact: The vast majority of player-characters rise from their mortal wounds to fight again. Now, true, this happens in a lot of multiplayer games. However, it is an important data point that each player character is the same character. This seems to fit with the first fact - we're not faceless killers, but people with names, styles, and personalities. Fact: The last authoritative text describing Valhalla was written in the 1200s. The authoritative sources on exactly what Valhalla is like come from ancient Norse poems and histories. The most useful of those sources comes in the form of Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson who lived from 1179-1241. Valhalla was described as a golden hall thatched with the shields of heroes, spear shafts holding them aloft, and benches adorned with chainmail. You might notice that this bears no resemblance to anything seen in Battlegrounds. However, Valhalla being a heavenly realm - who is to say that over 800 years of advancement might not make the Valhalla of 1200 much different than the Valhalla of 2017? It seems to me warriors of today would keep pace with modern technology, so it stands to reason that they'd be magically transported to a cargo plane to drop onto a Soviet-esque island to do battle for the day before being whisked away for feasting and healing in the golden hall. Fact: Friendships and rivalries extended into the Valhallan afterlife. There are stories in the Norse Eddas of great heroes making their way to Valhalla only to encounter old allies and possibly forgotten enemies. In PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, I've gone into battle alongside numerous friends, but also encountered rivals who had killed me in the past. These smaller stories, the stories of minute to minute gameplay would constitute the conversation, laughter, and jokes told at night within Odin's hall. Many outlets have written about how Battlegrounds is a veritable factory of emergent stories friends share together. Fact: No one knows exactly why they are fighting on the island, they just know that they must fight or die. if you ask several people why people are fighting in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and you'll likely get several different answers. The only thing everything can agree on is that they are magically transported onto a small island, then into a cargo plane, and then trapped on a larger island until a magical blue energy field starts closing in - and if they don't survive to be the last person/group alive, they'll succumb to either the deadly blue energy or to the bullets of enemies. From all the hard, irrefutable evidence present in the game and the lack of information from the developers, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is definitely the mythological Norse hall of the slain, Valhalla. I rest my case. Do you have a theory that explains what's going on in PUBG? Share it in the comments and maybe we can all come up with an even better theory!
  15. I've been spending a fair bit of time fighting on the massive, free-for-all battlefield of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The Steam early access game has taken the indie world by storm since its release, garnering a playerbase of over 4 million in the handful of months since its March 2017 release onto early access. For those who haven't yet set foot into the battlegrounds, the concept is deceptively simple: Roughly 100 players are dropped from a cargo plane onto a sprawling island with cities, towns, and various types of terrain and then battle to be the last one standing. The game can be tackled solo, co-op, or in a three to four person squad. Players drop onto the island without any items or equipment aside from the clothing (or in some cases underwear) on their backs and must frantically scavenge for supplies while keeping an eye out for fellow scavengers. The island is, as mentioned before, massive. Even with 100 players, players find themselves facing long periods of silence, the occasional gunshot ringing out in the distance. In order to bring players together, the map will periodically flood everything outside of a white ring with blue energy, slowly killing everyone who doesn't make it to the safe zone. This white ring continues to collapse as the game progresses, forcing everyone into smaller and smaller spaces until the last player, or the last team, is standing. And winners? They get to feast upon delicious, delicious chicken. The message "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" appears on screen to congratulate players on their victory - before booting everyone out of the match. I won my first chicken dinner alongside some trusty teammates just a few days ago. As the feeling of accomplishment swelled within me, I became curious about the lore of Battlegrounds. Why were all these people parachuting onto an island to battle to the death, day after day? How are the same player-created characters able to die, rise, and then die again? What is really going on? The various materials available online about PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds seem to have precisely nothing to do with the surrounding context of the events happening within the game. This lack of clarification could be explained with the old "it's just a game, don't think about it, too much" answer, but where's the fun in that? While pondering over the dreamlike quality of Battlegrounds' setting and internal game logic, I think I hit upon an explanation for the entire game: Valhalla. In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the golden hall where Odin and his Valkyries brought chosen warriors for their afterlife. Once there, those warriors would fight all day and then retire at night to drink, eat, and heal their wounds. They fought each day to hone their abilities and combat prowess to prepare for the coming end of the world when they would march forth from their otherworldly training ground to fight in the final battle alongside Odin. Why do I think that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is Valhalla? Let's look at the facts. Fact: There are no 100% night conditions in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Fighting in the moonlight is not something that happens in Battlegrounds. Sure, there are maps with varied lighting conditions and even a rare version of the map that is played at sunset, but no outright nighttime versions of the island are playable. Why is this important? Because the night is when those who have gone to Valhalla feast and heal from the day's fighting! And who gets the finest portion of the feast? The day's winner in combat, of course! They eat to the tune of, "WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!" Fact: The vast majority of player-characters rise from their mortal wounds to fight again. Now, true, this happens in a lot of multiplayer games. However, it is an important data point that each player character is the same character. This seems to fit with the first fact - we're not faceless killers, but people with names, styles, and personalities. Fact: The last authoritative text describing Valhalla was written in the 1200s. The authoritative sources on exactly what Valhalla is like come from ancient Norse poems and histories. The most useful of those sources comes in the form of Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson who lived from 1179-1241. Valhalla was described as a golden hall thatched with the shields of heroes, spear shafts holding them aloft, and benches adorned with chainmail. You might notice that this bears no resemblance to anything seen in Battlegrounds. However, Valhalla being a heavenly realm - who is to say that over 800 years of advancement might not make the Valhalla of 1200 much different than the Valhalla of 2017? It seems to me warriors of today would keep pace with modern technology, so it stands to reason that they'd be magically transported to a cargo plane to drop onto a Soviet-esque island to do battle for the day before being whisked away for feasting and healing in the golden hall. Fact: Friendships and rivalries extended into the Valhallan afterlife. There are stories in the Norse Eddas of great heroes making their way to Valhalla only to encounter old allies and possibly forgotten enemies. In PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, I've gone into battle alongside numerous friends, but also encountered rivals who had killed me in the past. These smaller stories, the stories of minute to minute gameplay would constitute the conversation, laughter, and jokes told at night within Odin's hall. Many outlets have written about how Battlegrounds is a veritable factory of emergent stories friends share together. Fact: No one knows exactly why they are fighting on the island, they just know that they must fight or die. if you ask several people why people are fighting in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and you'll likely get several different answers. The only thing everything can agree on is that they are magically transported onto a small island, then into a cargo plane, and then trapped on a larger island until a magical blue energy field starts closing in - and if they don't survive to be the last person/group alive, they'll succumb to either the deadly blue energy or to the bullets of enemies. From all the hard, irrefutable evidence present in the game and the lack of information from the developers, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is definitely the mythological Norse hall of the slain, Valhalla. I rest my case. Do you have a theory that explains what's going on in PUBG? Share it in the comments and maybe we can all come up with an even better theory! View full article
  16. People who frequent my work know that I have a soft spot in my heart for small indie games. As I was browsing through the work of S. Jean, the developer of one of my favorite indie RPGs, Star Stealing Prince, and I happened to see that Lauren Shigihara was releasing a game on May 10th. If her name doesn't ring a bell, chances are that you've heard her work. She's the composer behind Plants vs. Zombies and has contributed music and vocals to games like World of Warcraft, Super Meat Boy, To The Moon, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Band Saga, and Cosmic Star Heroine. She's a big deal and finding out that she was making a game solo? Well, that caught my attention, but then I learned about the subject matter and I absolutely had to share it with all of you. Shigihara's game is called Rakuen and it focuses on telling the story of a young boy who's fallen ill and been indefinitely confined to a hospital. His mom reads him stories to lift his spirits. After some time goes by, the boy asks her to take him to the fantasy world from his favorite story so that he can ask the spirit who lives in that world's forests for one wish. In order to gain his wish, the boy will have to complete a series of quests to prove himself worthy by helping the alter-egos of the hospital's residents who live in that world. These problems aren't of the "go out and kill monsters" variety, though. Rakuen is an adventure game where players will have to solve puzzles and figure out solutions to the problems that plague a crazy cast of colorful characters. Those who live in the hospital all have their own unique problems that range from an old man who guards a broken music box to a little girl who never got to say goodbye to one of her friends after her diagnosis. Solving these problems will send players through dungeons with escape puzzles and mysteries in both the environment and in the character interactions. Over time, the boy begins to discover that the hospital holds more secrets than he ever could have guessed and that unraveling them might make the hospital a better place. As you might imagine, Shigihara composed the soundtrack to Rakuen herself, tying its tracks and vocals to the various denizens of her worlds. While the plot might deal with heavy concepts and situations (one plot line involves a woman in a coma whose husband hasn't left her side in months), Shigihara has done her best to alleviate the tone with whimsy and humor. Rakuen isn't so self-serious that it will play like a funeral dirge. There's hope and laughter and charm all over the screenshots and trailers. Ultimately, the game is about making the world a better place. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack" href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack">Rakuen Official Soundtrack by Laura Shigihara</a> Shigihara was inspired to create Rakuen by her work to create a song called "Jump." It was written for the album "Play for Japan" which was put together by Akira Yamaoka, a composer known for his work on the Silent Hill series and recent games like Let It Die and Rime. The album benefited the victims of the Tohoku earthquake disaster in 2011. Shigihara recalls creating the song, saying "While I was writing it, I imagined a story about a boy living in the hospital whose mother invents a grand adventure for them to go on (I think in the beginning, they originally braided bedsheets together to climb out the window and into a fantasy world). Later on, I told my friend Emmy (now the concept artist) about it, and we decided to make a little animated music video for it... However, after thinking more about the story, and being inspired by Emmy's concept art, I said, 'this is too much for just a music video, we should totally make a game!'" Rakuen releases later this week for PC via Steam.
  17. People who frequent my work know that I have a soft spot in my heart for small indie games. As I was browsing through the work of S. Jean, the developer of one of my favorite indie RPGs, Star Stealing Prince, and I happened to see that Lauren Shigihara was releasing a game on May 10th. If her name doesn't ring a bell, chances are that you've heard her work. She's the composer behind Plants vs. Zombies and has contributed music and vocals to games like World of Warcraft, Super Meat Boy, To The Moon, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Band Saga, and Cosmic Star Heroine. She's a big deal and finding out that she was making a game solo? Well, that caught my attention, but then I learned about the subject matter and I absolutely had to share it with all of you. Shigihara's game is called Rakuen and it focuses on telling the story of a young boy who's fallen ill and been indefinitely confined to a hospital. His mom reads him stories to lift his spirits. After some time goes by, the boy asks her to take him to the fantasy world from his favorite story so that he can ask the spirit who lives in that world's forests for one wish. In order to gain his wish, the boy will have to complete a series of quests to prove himself worthy by helping the alter-egos of the hospital's residents who live in that world. These problems aren't of the "go out and kill monsters" variety, though. Rakuen is an adventure game where players will have to solve puzzles and figure out solutions to the problems that plague a crazy cast of colorful characters. Those who live in the hospital all have their own unique problems that range from an old man who guards a broken music box to a little girl who never got to say goodbye to one of her friends after her diagnosis. Solving these problems will send players through dungeons with escape puzzles and mysteries in both the environment and in the character interactions. Over time, the boy begins to discover that the hospital holds more secrets than he ever could have guessed and that unraveling them might make the hospital a better place. As you might imagine, Shigihara composed the soundtrack to Rakuen herself, tying its tracks and vocals to the various denizens of her worlds. While the plot might deal with heavy concepts and situations (one plot line involves a woman in a coma whose husband hasn't left her side in months), Shigihara has done her best to alleviate the tone with whimsy and humor. Rakuen isn't so self-serious that it will play like a funeral dirge. There's hope and laughter and charm all over the screenshots and trailers. Ultimately, the game is about making the world a better place. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack" href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack">Rakuen Official Soundtrack by Laura Shigihara</a> Shigihara was inspired to create Rakuen by her work to create a song called "Jump." It was written for the album "Play for Japan" which was put together by Akira Yamaoka, a composer known for his work on the Silent Hill series and recent games like Let It Die and Rime. The album benefited the victims of the Tohoku earthquake disaster in 2011. Shigihara recalls creating the song, saying "While I was writing it, I imagined a story about a boy living in the hospital whose mother invents a grand adventure for them to go on (I think in the beginning, they originally braided bedsheets together to climb out the window and into a fantasy world). Later on, I told my friend Emmy (now the concept artist) about it, and we decided to make a little animated music video for it... However, after thinking more about the story, and being inspired by Emmy's concept art, I said, 'this is too much for just a music video, we should totally make a game!'" Rakuen releases later this week for PC via Steam. View full article
  18. There was once a game called Advent Rising. It was hyped up as the next great science-fiction adventure that would transcend games and become something more. Unfortunately, it released in 2005 with a multitude of bugs in an era where patching post-release was a rarity at best. Advent Rising caused the implosion of its development studio, GlyphX Games. A group of individual developers escaped the studio's downfall, banding together to form Chair Entertainment. The newly minted indie studio went on to develop and release Shadow Complex in 2009. The 2.5D metroidvania sidescroller adopted a more realistic aesthetic and spawned a series of novels authored by Orson Scott Card. The game released and seemed to fill a niche in the indie gaming world that hadn't been filled in quite that same way before. With a recent remaster, it seems like a perfect time to ask the question: Is Shadow Complex 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. Outro music: Tales of Phantasia 'The Koan of Drums' by djpretzel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01500) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  19. There was once a game called Advent Rising. It was hyped up as the next great science-fiction adventure that would transcend games and become something more. Unfortunately, it released in 2005 with a multitude of bugs in an era where patching post-release was a rarity at best. Advent Rising caused the implosion of its development studio, GlyphX Games. A group of individual developers escaped the studio's downfall, banding together to form Chair Entertainment. The newly minted indie studio went on to develop and release Shadow Complex in 2009. The 2.5D metroidvania sidescroller adopted a more realistic aesthetic and spawned a series of novels authored by Orson Scott Card. The game released and seemed to fill a niche in the indie gaming world that hadn't been filled in quite that same way before. With a recent remaster, it seems like a perfect time to ask the question: Is Shadow Complex 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. Outro music: Tales of Phantasia 'The Koan of Drums' by djpretzel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01500) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  20. In an unlisted year end YouTube video, the creator of Mega Man says that Comcept has finished the core game of Mighty No. 9 and are now entering the porting and promotional phases of development. In the video, Inafune wishes everyone a happy new year and talks about how hard the team at Comcept has been working to bring Mighty No. 9 to the public. Comcept's initial Kickstarter asked for $900,000 to make the spiritual successor to Mega Man, but the company received over $4 million in crowd funding. Usually receiving several times the amount of money asked for in a Kickstarter campaign results in delays, but Mighty No. 9 looks to be chugging smoothly along toward its spring 2015 release.
  21. Josef Fares founded Hazelight, a new development studio under EA, with a core team composed of veterans who worked with him on Brothers. The indie studio's first project is still unnamed, but is teased at the end of the video announcing Hazelight. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a fantastic accomplishment and I really can't wait to see what Hazelight has in store for those two gentlemen on that train.
  22. We've written a fair amount about No Man's Sky over the past year. From impressions, to podcasts, to in-depth stories on its fascinating community (and how it helped save someone's life), people have had reactions ranging from disgust to enthusiasm. It's fair to say that the title from Hello Games proved to be one of the most divisive games released in recent memory. Despite the controversy surrounding its launch and the perceived gulf between its advertised features and the apparent features in-game, Hello Games has quietly continued working on their universe-sized sandbox. That work resulted in the 1.1 Foundation update, which added base-building, multiple game modes (Normal, Creative, and Survival), mobile saving, expanded inventory space, the ability to leave messages for other players, and gave players the option of hiring aliens to pilot freighters to give a massive boost to material collection capacity. It even gave PS4 players a photo mode that allowed them to take pictures of their adventures. Perhaps it strikes people as somewhat surprising that Hello Games haven't cut their losses and moved on to another game. After all, these updates aren't exactly providing the team with extra income since they release at the low cost of zero dollars. However, the team remains committed to the universe they created and has been steadily tweaking and adding new things to the worlds that have been found and those that remain unexplored. No Man's Sky 1.2, titled The Path Finder Update, expands on Foundation while adding a bevy of features in its own right. Ground vehicles have been added to provide players with ways to quickly and efficiently cover more ground on the planets they discover. They provide greater speed, protection from the elements, and more cargo space. There are currently three types: the agile Nomad hovercraft, the hardy, wheeled Roamer, and the gigantic mining vehicle Colossus. These vehicles can equip mining lasers and weapons to defend themselves from attackers and harvest resources from the safety of the vehicle. Vehicles also boost scanning capabilities. Expanded base-building features have more than doubled the available customization options for No Man's Sky architects. This will help players to set their bases apart from those created by other players since this update also allows players to share their bases online, allowing other No Man's Sky explorers to stumble onto bases created by others from around the world. New weapon types give players additional options on foot and in the sky. In addition to the standard bolt caster, the multi-tool can now be specialized into the short-range scatter blaster, the mid-range pulse spitter, and the long-range blaze javelin. Ships now can be equipped with the cyclotron projector, the cone-like positron projector, and the rapid fire infra-knife accelerator. A permadeath mode has been added with unique achievements for those who can manage to make their way through the cosmos unscathed. The survival mode has also been amended to start players on the nearest planet with a crashed space ship when they die in the cold vacuum of space. The ambient music selection has increased by over 50% with new soundscapes from 65daysofstatic. Players can rename everything they own and they can now own a lot more. Multiple ships can now be kept in storage for use as needed. The camera mode has received adjustments and will now be accessible on PC as well as PS4. The camera now has various filters that can be applied. Time can also be stopped and shifted around to get optimal lighting and sky positioning for the perfect picture. To demonstrate the capabilities of the photo mode Hello Games worked with game photographer DeadEndThrills. New traders have been added that deal with a new currency called nanite clusters. Traders on space stations will accept nanite clusters for rare blueprints. As the player's standing increases with various factions, the rarer the blue prints offered will become. Even the graphics have received an overhaul. The lighting has been made more accurate and revealing. No Man's Sky can now support high and ultra resolution textures. Post-processing has been improved and the game now supports HDR for compatible TVs and monitors. The results are definitely noticeable. A sweeping number of bug fixes for combat, UI, spawning, etc. You can find the full list of changes on the No Man's Sky site. There are more additions, too. For a visual overview of what's in store, check out the Path Finder trailer below. View full article
  23. We've written a fair amount about No Man's Sky over the past year. From impressions, to podcasts, to in-depth stories on its fascinating community (and how it helped save someone's life), people have had reactions ranging from disgust to enthusiasm. It's fair to say that the title from Hello Games proved to be one of the most divisive games released in recent memory. Despite the controversy surrounding its launch and the perceived gulf between its advertised features and the apparent features in-game, Hello Games has quietly continued working on their universe-sized sandbox. That work resulted in the 1.1 Foundation update, which added base-building, multiple game modes (Normal, Creative, and Survival), mobile saving, expanded inventory space, the ability to leave messages for other players, and gave players the option of hiring aliens to pilot freighters to give a massive boost to material collection capacity. It even gave PS4 players a photo mode that allowed them to take pictures of their adventures. Perhaps it strikes people as somewhat surprising that Hello Games haven't cut their losses and moved on to another game. After all, these updates aren't exactly providing the team with extra income since they release at the low cost of zero dollars. However, the team remains committed to the universe they created and has been steadily tweaking and adding new things to the worlds that have been found and those that remain unexplored. No Man's Sky 1.2, titled The Path Finder Update, expands on Foundation while adding a bevy of features in its own right. Ground vehicles have been added to provide players with ways to quickly and efficiently cover more ground on the planets they discover. They provide greater speed, protection from the elements, and more cargo space. There are currently three types: the agile Nomad hovercraft, the hardy, wheeled Roamer, and the gigantic mining vehicle Colossus. These vehicles can equip mining lasers and weapons to defend themselves from attackers and harvest resources from the safety of the vehicle. Vehicles also boost scanning capabilities. Expanded base-building features have more than doubled the available customization options for No Man's Sky architects. This will help players to set their bases apart from those created by other players since this update also allows players to share their bases online, allowing other No Man's Sky explorers to stumble onto bases created by others from around the world. New weapon types give players additional options on foot and in the sky. In addition to the standard bolt caster, the multi-tool can now be specialized into the short-range scatter blaster, the mid-range pulse spitter, and the long-range blaze javelin. Ships now can be equipped with the cyclotron projector, the cone-like positron projector, and the rapid fire infra-knife accelerator. A permadeath mode has been added with unique achievements for those who can manage to make their way through the cosmos unscathed. The survival mode has also been amended to start players on the nearest planet with a crashed space ship when they die in the cold vacuum of space. The ambient music selection has increased by over 50% with new soundscapes from 65daysofstatic. Players can rename everything they own and they can now own a lot more. Multiple ships can now be kept in storage for use as needed. The camera mode has received adjustments and will now be accessible on PC as well as PS4. The camera now has various filters that can be applied. Time can also be stopped and shifted around to get optimal lighting and sky positioning for the perfect picture. To demonstrate the capabilities of the photo mode Hello Games worked with game photographer DeadEndThrills. New traders have been added that deal with a new currency called nanite clusters. Traders on space stations will accept nanite clusters for rare blueprints. As the player's standing increases with various factions, the rarer the blue prints offered will become. Even the graphics have received an overhaul. The lighting has been made more accurate and revealing. No Man's Sky can now support high and ultra resolution textures. Post-processing has been improved and the game now supports HDR for compatible TVs and monitors. The results are definitely noticeable. A sweeping number of bug fixes for combat, UI, spawning, etc. You can find the full list of changes on the No Man's Sky site. There are more additions, too. For a visual overview of what's in store, check out the Path Finder trailer below.
  24. An adorable roguelike is on its way toward becoming a reality as Pixel Princess Blitz reached its funding goal on Kickstarter yesterday. The indie project cleared its €77,700 goal with a whopping €102,418. The money will be used by the Hamburg-based indie group to create the PC version of their sandbox action RPG with a crazy endearing art style. The indie devs plan to port the title to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch after the PC version of Pixel Princess Blitz releases mid 2018. Pixel Princess Blitz has huge ambitions to present an open world spread out over a grid that is explored in turn-based form. Encounters and dungeons are tackled in real-time with special attacks, reactive AI, and fluid action. Players will need to use the resources they discover to survive, outfitting themselves with upgradable items. Players who aren't careful could see themselves fall victim to permadeath, a system the devs describe as tough, but fair. Multiple factions inhabit the world and how players interact with them shapes how the story unfolds. In fact, every NPC that players encounter has a backstory and motivations that they pursue - that might even include a romantic relationship with the protagonist, Kuruna. Strengthening ties to NPCs can yield a slew of benefits, like combat companions and perhaps even the chance that they will show up to save your from the brink of death itself! Players take on the role of Kuruna, a young adventurer who travels the kingdom of Verad to help those in need. Some strange activities have been reported in the province of Hummingwoods, so Kuruna begins a patrol of the area that quickly becomes much more than she ever imagined. Keep an eye out for Pixel Princess Blitz sometime next year on PC. View full article
  25. An adorable roguelike is on its way toward becoming a reality as Pixel Princess Blitz reached its funding goal on Kickstarter yesterday. The indie project cleared its €77,700 goal with a whopping €102,418. The money will be used by the Hamburg-based indie group to create the PC version of their sandbox action RPG with a crazy endearing art style. The indie devs plan to port the title to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch after the PC version of Pixel Princess Blitz releases mid 2018. Pixel Princess Blitz has huge ambitions to present an open world spread out over a grid that is explored in turn-based form. Encounters and dungeons are tackled in real-time with special attacks, reactive AI, and fluid action. Players will need to use the resources they discover to survive, outfitting themselves with upgradable items. Players who aren't careful could see themselves fall victim to permadeath, a system the devs describe as tough, but fair. Multiple factions inhabit the world and how players interact with them shapes how the story unfolds. In fact, every NPC that players encounter has a backstory and motivations that they pursue - that might even include a romantic relationship with the protagonist, Kuruna. Strengthening ties to NPCs can yield a slew of benefits, like combat companions and perhaps even the chance that they will show up to save your from the brink of death itself! Players take on the role of Kuruna, a young adventurer who travels the kingdom of Verad to help those in need. Some strange activities have been reported in the province of Hummingwoods, so Kuruna begins a patrol of the area that quickly becomes much more than she ever imagined. Keep an eye out for Pixel Princess Blitz sometime next year on PC.