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Found 224 results

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. Few games in the last few years exude as much charm as Save Me Mr. Tako, an indie PC title that uses a Game Boy aesthetic to tell the story of an octopus who doesn't want to fight. The tale of Mr. Tako was originally conceived by French indie developer Chris Deneos in 2014 as a way of honoring the 24th anniversary of the Game Boy. Since then, Deneos has fully committed to seeing the project through. As a pixel artist, Deneos really manages to create expressive and interesting visuals within the constraints of the chosen Game Boy style. The entire project has been constructed using Unity, which surprisingly manages to mimic the Game Boy visuals quite well. Fully titled Tasukete Tako-San: Save Me Mr. Tako, the platformer mashes together the spirit of the Kirby and Legend of Zelda franchises to weave a compelling world full of aquatic and land-based denizens and enemies. Players can absorb and use over fifty different powers from enemies as the titular Mr. Tako to help battle enemies and explore a large, non-linear world. The story of Save Me Mr. Tako centers around Mr. Tako, an octopus sent to fight humans in the great Octopus-Human War. One dark night, his unit attacks a human ship at sea. Mr. Tako doesn't want to fight humans and just wants peace. The octopi soldiers shove a woman into the sea to drown, but Mr. Tako dives in after her, saving her life. A sea fairy, seeing this act of bravery, gives Mr. Tako the ability to breathe outside of water in exchange for never hating another human. To bring an end to the war, Mr. Tako must brave the dangers of both the sea and land, and if that isn't the most adorable thing, I don't know what is. Deneos, working alone, is striving to add as much content to Save Me Mr. Tako as possible. The solo indie developer estimated earlier this year that the game was about half done, with over thirty levels, six towns, fifteen side-quests, and five hours of gameplay. The completed version of Save Me Mr. Tako will include the expected story mode alongside some form of multiplayer mode as well as a boss rush mode. Back in April he still hoped to finish work on Save Me Mr. Tako by the end of 2016, though that seems unlikely with about two weeks left in the year and no official release date announced. While the release date of Save Me Mr. Tako remains unknown, those who find the trailers and screenshots intriguing can download a free demo to see what the finished game will be like. The game is currently only on track for a PC release.
  10. Few games in the last few years exude as much charm as Save Me Mr. Tako, an indie PC title that uses a Game Boy aesthetic to tell the story of an octopus who doesn't want to fight. The tale of Mr. Tako was originally conceived by French indie developer Chris Deneos in 2014 as a way of honoring the 24th anniversary of the Game Boy. Since then, Deneos has fully committed to seeing the project through. As a pixel artist, Deneos really manages to create expressive and interesting visuals within the constraints of the chosen Game Boy style. The entire project has been constructed using Unity, which surprisingly manages to mimic the Game Boy visuals quite well. Fully titled Tasukete Tako-San: Save Me Mr. Tako, the platformer mashes together the spirit of the Kirby and Legend of Zelda franchises to weave a compelling world full of aquatic and land-based denizens and enemies. Players can absorb and use over fifty different powers from enemies as the titular Mr. Tako to help battle enemies and explore a large, non-linear world. The story of Save Me Mr. Tako centers around Mr. Tako, an octopus sent to fight humans in the great Octopus-Human War. One dark night, his unit attacks a human ship at sea. Mr. Tako doesn't want to fight humans and just wants peace. The octopi soldiers shove a woman into the sea to drown, but Mr. Tako dives in after her, saving her life. A sea fairy, seeing this act of bravery, gives Mr. Tako the ability to breathe outside of water in exchange for never hating another human. To bring an end to the war, Mr. Tako must brave the dangers of both the sea and land, and if that isn't the most adorable thing, I don't know what is. Deneos, working alone, is striving to add as much content to Save Me Mr. Tako as possible. The solo indie developer estimated earlier this year that the game was about half done, with over thirty levels, six towns, fifteen side-quests, and five hours of gameplay. The completed version of Save Me Mr. Tako will include the expected story mode alongside some form of multiplayer mode as well as a boss rush mode. Back in April he still hoped to finish work on Save Me Mr. Tako by the end of 2016, though that seems unlikely with about two weeks left in the year and no official release date announced. While the release date of Save Me Mr. Tako remains unknown, those who find the trailers and screenshots intriguing can download a free demo to see what the finished game will be like. The game is currently only on track for a PC release. View full article
  11. Look, games are weird. We know that. Heck, one of the most recognizable video game characters ever is a plumber who frequently fights a dragon and fraternizes with royalty. Maize, a game about scientists who create sentient corn, might take that weirdness to new, a-maize-ing heights. The team at Finish Line Games has concocted a first-person adventure game that has players exploring a secret government facility that has been overrun by living, breathing, walking, talking corn-people created by two scientists who misread a government memo. Players must figure out the secrets of the facility and its corny residence with the help of Vladdy, a talking stuffed bear with a crabby attitude, a robotic backpack, and a Russian accent. I don't have much to add, but Maize just looks like something everyone should be aware exists. Maize is available now for PC.
  12. Look, games are weird. We know that. Heck, one of the most recognizable video game characters ever is a plumber who frequently fights a dragon and fraternizes with royalty. Maize, a game about scientists who create sentient corn, might take that weirdness to new, a-maize-ing heights. The team at Finish Line Games has concocted a first-person adventure game that has players exploring a secret government facility that has been overrun by living, breathing, walking, talking corn-people created by two scientists who misread a government memo. Players must figure out the secrets of the facility and its corny residence with the help of Vladdy, a talking stuffed bear with a crabby attitude, a robotic backpack, and a Russian accent. I don't have much to add, but Maize just looks like something everyone should be aware exists. Maize is available now for PC. View full article
  13. This week Daniel Jones flies solo in an Honorable Mention dedicated to the zen mobile game Alto's Adventure. The endless runner (endless ski-er?) utterly captivated Daniel in early 2015 and has been a game he has found difficult to put down ever since. The premier effort from studio Snowman it managed to generate some significant buzz in the mainstream press who praised its quality. Take a ride with Daniel as he takes you down the slopes of the thoroughly enchanting indie skiing odyssey. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Chrono Trigger 'Neuga, Ziena, Zieber, Zom...' by The OC Jazz Collective and Wiesty (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03411) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes (consider leaving a review!). A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  14. This week Daniel Jones flies solo in an Honorable Mention dedicated to the zen mobile game Alto's Adventure. The endless runner (endless ski-er?) utterly captivated Daniel in early 2015 and has been a game he has found difficult to put down ever since. The premier effort from studio Snowman it managed to generate some significant buzz in the mainstream press who praised its quality. Take a ride with Daniel as he takes you down the slopes of the thoroughly enchanting indie skiing odyssey. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Chrono Trigger 'Neuga, Ziena, Zieber, Zom...' by The OC Jazz Collective and Wiesty (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03411) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes (consider leaving a review!). A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  15. The early days of turn-of-the-millennium internet held a lot of weird, experimental treasures. In early 2003, one of those corners was born out of game designer Zack Johnson's hand-drawn stick figures and a week of fevered madness. It was meant to be more of a joke than a game, a small effort to get something, anything, done. A year later Johnson's slapdash, slapstick, slapsilly game, an online, browser-based RPG called Kingdom of Loathing, had captured the attention of a pre-YouTube internet and over 300,000 accounts had been created. If you think that perhaps those numbers were a mere flash in the pan, you'd be wrong as Kingdom of Loathing retained a strong 100,000 - 150,000 players as of 2008. Johnson and his small team at Asymmetric Publications pumped out regular updates to the game and to this day keep new jokes and content flowing into the Kingdom of Loathing. The game has always been free and boasts no ads, but players can donate $10 to support the game and receive an in-game item called a Mr. Accessory that acts as an item on its own or can be traded for other powerful items at the Mr. Store. Over the years Mr. items developed their own economy among the player-base that has actually been studied by economists. After working on Kingdom of Loathing for over a decade, the team released their second game, Word Realms. The unique PC RPG tasks players with wielding words a weapons by way of a Scrabble-meets-Boggle combat system. The 2013 release went over well for fans, but seemed to generate little buzz in the more mainstream gaming world. Now, the year is 2016 and a mysterious little teaser has popped up for West of Loathing, a comedy RPG set in the tumbleweed drenched West of the Loathing universe. West of Loathing has already been greenlit on Steam Greenlight and Asymmetric Publications boasts that the RPG will hold a lot of content for players. The branching narrative will take place in an expansive world filled with turn-based tactical combat. The devs describe it as "basically a stick-figure Skyrim with beans and big hats." Players can choose from one of three starting classes to do battle with goblins, skeletons, snakes, and ghost accountants: Cow Puncher, Beanslinger, or Snake Oiler. Though many players still call the multiplayer community around Kingdom of Loathing home, West of Loathing doesn't appear to be a replacement for the MMORPG. The upcoming RPG will be single-player and that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon. West of Loathing is slated for an early 2017 release on PC, Mac, and Linux.
  16. The early days of turn-of-the-millennium internet held a lot of weird, experimental treasures. In early 2003, one of those corners was born out of game designer Zack Johnson's hand-drawn stick figures and a week of fevered madness. It was meant to be more of a joke than a game, a small effort to get something, anything, done. A year later Johnson's slapdash, slapstick, slapsilly game, an online, browser-based RPG called Kingdom of Loathing, had captured the attention of a pre-YouTube internet and over 300,000 accounts had been created. If you think that perhaps those numbers were a mere flash in the pan, you'd be wrong as Kingdom of Loathing retained a strong 100,000 - 150,000 players as of 2008. Johnson and his small team at Asymmetric Publications pumped out regular updates to the game and to this day keep new jokes and content flowing into the Kingdom of Loathing. The game has always been free and boasts no ads, but players can donate $10 to support the game and receive an in-game item called a Mr. Accessory that acts as an item on its own or can be traded for other powerful items at the Mr. Store. Over the years Mr. items developed their own economy among the player-base that has actually been studied by economists. After working on Kingdom of Loathing for over a decade, the team released their second game, Word Realms. The unique PC RPG tasks players with wielding words a weapons by way of a Scrabble-meets-Boggle combat system. The 2013 release went over well for fans, but seemed to generate little buzz in the more mainstream gaming world. Now, the year is 2016 and a mysterious little teaser has popped up for West of Loathing, a comedy RPG set in the tumbleweed drenched West of the Loathing universe. West of Loathing has already been greenlit on Steam Greenlight and Asymmetric Publications boasts that the RPG will hold a lot of content for players. The branching narrative will take place in an expansive world filled with turn-based tactical combat. The devs describe it as "basically a stick-figure Skyrim with beans and big hats." Players can choose from one of three starting classes to do battle with goblins, skeletons, snakes, and ghost accountants: Cow Puncher, Beanslinger, or Snake Oiler. Though many players still call the multiplayer community around Kingdom of Loathing home, West of Loathing doesn't appear to be a replacement for the MMORPG. The upcoming RPG will be single-player and that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon. West of Loathing is slated for an early 2017 release on PC, Mac, and Linux. View full article
  17. Linelight, like its creator, has a uniquely “Brett Taylor” charm about it. His enthusiasm for the heart and soul of Linelight infects those around him. Despite a retail release being delayed until late January 2017, Linelight's strong showing has generated buzz around the game that has had a number of people in professional development and media circles asking one another, “Have you played Linelight yet?” Often indie games represent the most unique ends of the game industry and the people who make them are no different. I had the opportunity to talk with Brett Taylor earlier this year about his upcoming solo title, Linelight. For over a year, Taylor has been grinding out his personal passion project, a game staring a rectangle locked into a series of over 250 line-based puzzles. Though incredibly simple on the surface, Taylor has managed to leverage that core conceit into a dizzying array of clever puzzles with a surprisingly emotional core. It’s the kind of game where all the elements click together, leaving most who play it with a smile on their face. Talking with him, it was clear just how much effort and zeal Taylor had for Linelight. He’s focused, intent, and bending all of his energy toward finishing it, a colossal task for a single developer. How does someone function as the sole coder, animator, composer, director, marketer, and producer? What does it take to finish a game alone, let alone a game that seems to charm everyone in who plays it? Jack Gardner: What inspired you to make something like this? Why, out of all of the things that you could make, why Linelight? Brett Taylor: Linelight actually started as a programming challenge. I was like, "Okay, what if everything takes place in line? What if you're a line and everything takes place on lines? What would that be like? Is there a game there?" My question to myself was how I would program that. And I was like, "You know, I've never done anything like this before. It's very visual, and I'm a very visual person. I'll take a crack at it." I tried it out and [it was] way harder than I thought that it would be. There's linear algebra [in Linelight], but I initially thought it would be very visual. It's super heavy, data-based stuff; way more than I could have ever anticipated - way more than I'm comfortable with. The game's like [a person, saying,] "I'm belligerent, I'm going to be hard to work with!" I'm like, "I can beat you." So I stayed with it, I was persevering. Each of the mechanics in the game, each of the puzzles- there's no redundancy. There's no filler, it's basically as streamlined as possible with as few barriers between the player and the solution as possible. My goal was to remove all the noise from all the puzzles until I basically can't simplify it anymore. It does feel like a relationship, so I speak of it often as if it is one. It was very hard for me to understand and come to terms and speak the same language as Linelight in the beginning, but eventually we saw eye-to-eye; now we have a great relationship. I'm completely serious about this. [laughs] But yeah, I have a fantastic relationship with this game, and I'm so glad that I pushed through. It's been so rich and generous with its mechanics, and the types of puzzles that have come out, emergence. A lot of people ask me, "Where do you come up with all these ideas for the puzzles?" and honestly, most of the time I don't. The puzzles happen naturally. Jack: You're just discovering this game, rather than creating it? Brett: Exactly, I'm discovering [various aspects of the game]. I'm the one unearthing these gems, basically. So I guess my job is to go to patches of dirt where, using instincts or whatever experience that I have, I believe there's a lot of really great stuff beneath the surface and then [dig to] find those things. I never know exactly what I'm going to find; and in Linelight, I found some really cool stuff. I didn't know there would be this much gameplay in this one mechanic. I have so many more ideas, some small things I prototyped, and I had to stop myself from getting too invested in those because I have to finish the game. I could keep working on this forever, but I'm like no, this is my first independent solo release. Jack: So it's solo? It's all by yourself? Brett: 100% me, from code, music, art, design, to sound. Jack: [The visuals] look very Tron-esque. Brett: What's actually funny is that there's not nearly as much consistency in what people saying that it reminds them of, or what it's like so far. I've been getting a lot of different stuff so far. Jack: Which is really interesting because you have a very minimalist design. Brett: Yeah, actually I feel like it's like if you look at a stick figure, a face, it's like "Oh, this looks like that person" or whatever. It's like you can see it, interpret it, in your own way. I literally had my friend's wife say, "Oh, I don't want to hurt the character. He's so cute." I'm like, "First off, how is it a he? Second, it's a rectangle." Jack: It's a cute rectangle, though. Brett: Yes, it's a cute rectangle. The rectangle does more than just exist. It does move and behave. I programmed it and have given it the minimal amount of life it has, so it still feels like a plain rectangle, but it actually is a character and does emote so subtly in tiny ways. Just the way it moves and bends around corners and stuff gives it [a very light] sense of personality. Jack: Which [step of development] been the hardest for you to embrace? Music, coding, sound...? Brett: Production. Being the producer. Jack: Producer? Brett: I actually didn't think I would have an answer for that, but yes. Being the producer of the game is a role I did not think I was going to have to fill, but when you spend a few months telling people its 2-3 months away and you don't… I'm a very punctual person. I don't like being late, but flexibility is important too. But after having done that for a while, I was like I feel like I'm falling into a pattern that I've seen other developers fall into and that's unacceptable. [Delays are] not sustainable, I have to finish the game at some point. So being the producer was super hard because, months and months ago, I, as a producer, was very agreeable to myself. Imagine working on a project and having a producer who, if you asked for an extension or whatever for a deadline, would always say yes. You get nothing finished. I've asked people that before, and they say that sounds great – it’s not. You need someone to hold accountability and have deadlines and boundaries. It's challenging because there's Artist Brett who's - and all of this is happening in one head, which is difficult because I'm arguing with myself - previously, Artist Brett used to win most of the arguments, now it's Producer Brett saying, "Nope, good. Ship it." and Artist Brett's like, "Yeah, alright. Fine, ship it." Jack: So is Linelight done or is this still a couple months out? Brett: It's very close to done. [Editor’s Note: Brett and I talked for a bit about potential release dates and when work on the game would be done, but Linelight is now on track for a release on January 31, 2017, a bit later than he speculated] It’s difficult to estimate because I'm not just making the game, I'm also self-publishing. Jack: Which is its own headache, I'm sure. Brett: It's a lot of nouns. All the adjectives. There's a lot of stuff that I'm doing. So my goal is that if this does really well, my next project I can hire people. I'm not the best person to be doing marketing or PR. I like going into my silo and working and working, sealing myself away. I put my phone away, it's on airplane mode every day, all the time. I don't check Facebook, I don't do any of that stuff. My friends are like, "Did you check out my Snapchat?" I'm like, "Don't take it personally, I don't check anybody's Snapchat." Because I'm super zoned in on that, which is not conducive to somebody who's trying to get Twitter following and stuff and interact with people on Twitter. So [hopefully I’ll be] getting other people to help me with that. Jack: You're mentioning your next project. Where do you go from here? Do you stay with the minimalist stuff or do you go with something completely different? Brett: I don't know, I don't know…. Honestly, this is…. Jack: This is your life right now, your baby? Brett: Well, people have said it's my baby, and I get a little bit like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is a baby. And I am the parent of this baby, but saying "this is my baby" - my self-esteem is not tied to the success of this game, financial or critical, at least to the best of my abilities. Ideally, there would be like- there's got to be some ties there, but not too much. I don't want to get too... it's just a slippery slope. As far as next project goes, I'm assuming a similar process to how this started. I'm going to see what's interesting and then see where that takes me. If it doesn't go anywhere then I'll find something else. Actually last year I had an idea for this game but my goal was to have 10 prototypes done by, I think it was October. So I had a few months of just prototype stuff, and then I would decide which project I wanted to work on. But Linelight kept coming back. I was working on it on the side, and eventually I added some mechanics and I was like, "Whoa! Whoa! This is really cool." and then [the game and I] sort of fell into the relationship with each other I guess. Jack: How long have you been working on it? Brett: It's been a full year. Jack: Full year? Brett: Yeah. So I worked for a casual gaming company in New York City for three years, and I left at the end of May last year. Took a month off or so just to relax and not work for a little while, a month and a half, but I have to be doing something, so I was still working a little bit. But then mid-June, mid-July or whatever, I picked Linelight back up and I was full-time into development. It's pretty much been my full-time thing since. Now I'm doing seven days a week, but it's not all development work. A lot of it's housekeeping stuff because I'm also a business owner at the same time. There are a lot of tasks no one wants to do, and [it’s difficult to find people] to hire to do those tasks because generally nobody wants to, they're not particularly rewarding. Jack: Gotta live. Brett: Exactly. Jack: So I was going to ask, you worked at a casual gaming company. Where did you come from? What's your background? Brett: I've always been indie at heart. I was actually afraid of working at a casual game [company]. I got the job, and I worried that if I started working there I’d get the indie beaten out of me. It was an actual fear, I'm thinking questions like, "Will I start thinking in free-to-play terms?" And actually to a degree, yeah, I've changed what I thought my ethics were out of necessity just to work at the company and survive. It was also kind of fun and interesting seeing what overlap there could be between my interests and a viable product for a casual audience. So yeah, that's my only professional experience in the game industry, but I've been making games since freshman year of college. So it's been about 8 years, since 2008. Once I discovered how to program it was like everything I wanted to do, but couldn't put into words. But I've always been a musician. I was primarily musician, that's where it started. Jack: What did you play? Brett: Played piano and composer as well. I grew up really wanting to write the music for video games, and then I discovered how to program and I was like, "This is super cool!” It enabled me to get the ideas in my head out, and I have a lot of design ideas and all sorts of other stuff. I also like to do music so everything just sort of falls together. Jack: I can compose my own video games! Brett: Exactly! It would be very strange for me to hire somebody else to write the music for my own video games. Though there are some artists in mind that can write in the style that I can't that I really like. Jack: Like who? Brett: Nigel Good. Nobody knows about this guy, but Nigel Good is sort of, I don't want to say like Deadmau5. It's like electronic music, super upbeat, but it's not obnoxiously so. It's hard for me to describe it, but I really like his work. I never interact with anybody else about him. I've never found anybody else that knows about him, and literally his SoundCloud profile says "Canadian school teacher by day, music producer when I have time for it." [Laughs] Grant Kirkhope also has a place in my heart. His work hugely influenced me when I was younger. I started composing in 2003. I've been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I was late to the game for composing. But video game music, I was super into that. The musical style of Linelight is very much a juxtaposition of flowy and natural with the inorganic. There's piano music and strings with this glitchy, driving percussion track. If you play the game, you'll notice it, when the enemies come in they sort of represent that soundtrack. And there's no metaphor specifically behind it. I just like the sound of it. There's been no style guide for Linelight. People ask me questions that sort of imply that there would be and there's not. Everything's made to taste, which is not useful advice if someone's looking and asks, "Hey, how do I get into this?" and [I can only say], "Well, does it feel right?" It's not useful, but that is how I've been developing it. Jack: Is there a thematic or concrete story for Linelight, or is it a series of flowing puzzles? Brett: There are story elements. I had much more specific ideas for the story, but I ended up scaling it back dramatically because I realized what makes the game so great is the puzzles. That's the bread and butter of Linelight. That is the core of the game. I'm going to focus on that and, unfortunately, story had to take a backseat. Jack: Well it sounds kind of like the story fell on the same lines as your [minimalist] game design philosophy?' Brett: Yeah, it's definitely a minimalist story. There are bits and pieces of the story that- What's the best way to put it? It's not one big story, it's a lot of little stories and a lot of smaller moments. There's a lot of metaphors in the game just because it's so minimalist it's actually pretty easy to [put them in.] I could probably shoehorn whatever metaphor I wanted into it, but it did come from a deliberate place. There's an ending to the game that is probably the most specific piece of story that's like a very clear metaphor to me. It's all without text, so I'm not asking people to pick up on that, but that's for me at least. Jack: As the creator that's the only important thing, really. Brett: And that people play the game and enjoy it. But it all comes down to "Do I enjoy it?" My least good design decisions happen when I'm like "How are people going to react this? How can I make this communicate to other people? What would be cool for other people to experience?" It's not all about other people. I think of it in terms of like "What would be cool? Does this make sense to me?" I understand that, yeah, I have biases, but for the most part, when I ask the question "What do I think is cool?" that's where the best material comes from. I find that's true for a lot of other people's games as well. I feel like you can really tell when a game, or any sort of creative outlet or media, has come from a place of, the creator made it because they wanted it to exist or that it came from a place that they were excited about. I think most of my favorite games all come from that place, from a creator who had the idea and they just did what they wanted with it. And the game is almost saying, “I'm this way, and you can like me or not like me.” I'm not trying to appeal to anybody in any particular way, which is, casual gaming-wise, sort of the opposite. You want to appeal to as large an audience as you can. If I'd gone about that mission for Linelight it would be a very different game, and, ironically, it would not have appealed to nearly as many people. I swear that's totally true. Jack: You know yourself better than you know other people. Brett: Exactly, yeah, and I know what I like, and, generally speaking, I don't think that my tastes are crazy off the mark from [the tastes of the] majority of people out there. I have a very specific niches, things that I especially like or favorites, preferences. But on the whole, yeah. A big thank you to Brett Taylor for taking the time to talk with me at length about his life as a solo indie game developer and his personal journey creating Linelight. As of right now Linelight will release for PC and PlayStation 4 on January 31, 2017. View full article
  18. Linelight, like its creator, has a uniquely “Brett Taylor” charm about it. His enthusiasm for the heart and soul of Linelight infects those around him. Despite a retail release being delayed until late January 2017, Linelight's strong showing has generated buzz around the game that has had a number of people in professional development and media circles asking one another, “Have you played Linelight yet?” Often indie games represent the most unique ends of the game industry and the people who make them are no different. I had the opportunity to talk with Brett Taylor earlier this year about his upcoming solo title, Linelight. For over a year, Taylor has been grinding out his personal passion project, a game staring a rectangle locked into a series of over 250 line-based puzzles. Though incredibly simple on the surface, Taylor has managed to leverage that core conceit into a dizzying array of clever puzzles with a surprisingly emotional core. It’s the kind of game where all the elements click together, leaving most who play it with a smile on their face. Talking with him, it was clear just how much effort and zeal Taylor had for Linelight. He’s focused, intent, and bending all of his energy toward finishing it, a colossal task for a single developer. How does someone function as the sole coder, animator, composer, director, marketer, and producer? What does it take to finish a game alone, let alone a game that seems to charm everyone in who plays it? Jack Gardner: What inspired you to make something like this? Why, out of all of the things that you could make, why Linelight? Brett Taylor: Linelight actually started as a programming challenge. I was like, "Okay, what if everything takes place in line? What if you're a line and everything takes place on lines? What would that be like? Is there a game there?" My question to myself was how I would program that. And I was like, "You know, I've never done anything like this before. It's very visual, and I'm a very visual person. I'll take a crack at it." I tried it out and [it was] way harder than I thought that it would be. There's linear algebra [in Linelight], but I initially thought it would be very visual. It's super heavy, data-based stuff; way more than I could have ever anticipated - way more than I'm comfortable with. The game's like [a person, saying,] "I'm belligerent, I'm going to be hard to work with!" I'm like, "I can beat you." So I stayed with it, I was persevering. Each of the mechanics in the game, each of the puzzles- there's no redundancy. There's no filler, it's basically as streamlined as possible with as few barriers between the player and the solution as possible. My goal was to remove all the noise from all the puzzles until I basically can't simplify it anymore. It does feel like a relationship, so I speak of it often as if it is one. It was very hard for me to understand and come to terms and speak the same language as Linelight in the beginning, but eventually we saw eye-to-eye; now we have a great relationship. I'm completely serious about this. [laughs] But yeah, I have a fantastic relationship with this game, and I'm so glad that I pushed through. It's been so rich and generous with its mechanics, and the types of puzzles that have come out, emergence. A lot of people ask me, "Where do you come up with all these ideas for the puzzles?" and honestly, most of the time I don't. The puzzles happen naturally. Jack: You're just discovering this game, rather than creating it? Brett: Exactly, I'm discovering [various aspects of the game]. I'm the one unearthing these gems, basically. So I guess my job is to go to patches of dirt where, using instincts or whatever experience that I have, I believe there's a lot of really great stuff beneath the surface and then [dig to] find those things. I never know exactly what I'm going to find; and in Linelight, I found some really cool stuff. I didn't know there would be this much gameplay in this one mechanic. I have so many more ideas, some small things I prototyped, and I had to stop myself from getting too invested in those because I have to finish the game. I could keep working on this forever, but I'm like no, this is my first independent solo release. Jack: So it's solo? It's all by yourself? Brett: 100% me, from code, music, art, design, to sound. Jack: [The visuals] look very Tron-esque. Brett: What's actually funny is that there's not nearly as much consistency in what people saying that it reminds them of, or what it's like so far. I've been getting a lot of different stuff so far. Jack: Which is really interesting because you have a very minimalist design. Brett: Yeah, actually I feel like it's like if you look at a stick figure, a face, it's like "Oh, this looks like that person" or whatever. It's like you can see it, interpret it, in your own way. I literally had my friend's wife say, "Oh, I don't want to hurt the character. He's so cute." I'm like, "First off, how is it a he? Second, it's a rectangle." Jack: It's a cute rectangle, though. Brett: Yes, it's a cute rectangle. The rectangle does more than just exist. It does move and behave. I programmed it and have given it the minimal amount of life it has, so it still feels like a plain rectangle, but it actually is a character and does emote so subtly in tiny ways. Just the way it moves and bends around corners and stuff gives it [a very light] sense of personality. Jack: Which [step of development] been the hardest for you to embrace? Music, coding, sound...? Brett: Production. Being the producer. Jack: Producer? Brett: I actually didn't think I would have an answer for that, but yes. Being the producer of the game is a role I did not think I was going to have to fill, but when you spend a few months telling people its 2-3 months away and you don't… I'm a very punctual person. I don't like being late, but flexibility is important too. But after having done that for a while, I was like I feel like I'm falling into a pattern that I've seen other developers fall into and that's unacceptable. [Delays are] not sustainable, I have to finish the game at some point. So being the producer was super hard because, months and months ago, I, as a producer, was very agreeable to myself. Imagine working on a project and having a producer who, if you asked for an extension or whatever for a deadline, would always say yes. You get nothing finished. I've asked people that before, and they say that sounds great – it’s not. You need someone to hold accountability and have deadlines and boundaries. It's challenging because there's Artist Brett who's - and all of this is happening in one head, which is difficult because I'm arguing with myself - previously, Artist Brett used to win most of the arguments, now it's Producer Brett saying, "Nope, good. Ship it." and Artist Brett's like, "Yeah, alright. Fine, ship it." Jack: So is Linelight done or is this still a couple months out? Brett: It's very close to done. [Editor’s Note: Brett and I talked for a bit about potential release dates and when work on the game would be done, but Linelight is now on track for a release on January 31, 2017, a bit later than he speculated] It’s difficult to estimate because I'm not just making the game, I'm also self-publishing. Jack: Which is its own headache, I'm sure. Brett: It's a lot of nouns. All the adjectives. There's a lot of stuff that I'm doing. So my goal is that if this does really well, my next project I can hire people. I'm not the best person to be doing marketing or PR. I like going into my silo and working and working, sealing myself away. I put my phone away, it's on airplane mode every day, all the time. I don't check Facebook, I don't do any of that stuff. My friends are like, "Did you check out my Snapchat?" I'm like, "Don't take it personally, I don't check anybody's Snapchat." Because I'm super zoned in on that, which is not conducive to somebody who's trying to get Twitter following and stuff and interact with people on Twitter. So [hopefully I’ll be] getting other people to help me with that. Jack: You're mentioning your next project. Where do you go from here? Do you stay with the minimalist stuff or do you go with something completely different? Brett: I don't know, I don't know…. Honestly, this is…. Jack: This is your life right now, your baby? Brett: Well, people have said it's my baby, and I get a little bit like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is a baby. And I am the parent of this baby, but saying "this is my baby" - my self-esteem is not tied to the success of this game, financial or critical, at least to the best of my abilities. Ideally, there would be like- there's got to be some ties there, but not too much. I don't want to get too... it's just a slippery slope. As far as next project goes, I'm assuming a similar process to how this started. I'm going to see what's interesting and then see where that takes me. If it doesn't go anywhere then I'll find something else. Actually last year I had an idea for this game but my goal was to have 10 prototypes done by, I think it was October. So I had a few months of just prototype stuff, and then I would decide which project I wanted to work on. But Linelight kept coming back. I was working on it on the side, and eventually I added some mechanics and I was like, "Whoa! Whoa! This is really cool." and then [the game and I] sort of fell into the relationship with each other I guess. Jack: How long have you been working on it? Brett: It's been a full year. Jack: Full year? Brett: Yeah. So I worked for a casual gaming company in New York City for three years, and I left at the end of May last year. Took a month off or so just to relax and not work for a little while, a month and a half, but I have to be doing something, so I was still working a little bit. But then mid-June, mid-July or whatever, I picked Linelight back up and I was full-time into development. It's pretty much been my full-time thing since. Now I'm doing seven days a week, but it's not all development work. A lot of it's housekeeping stuff because I'm also a business owner at the same time. There are a lot of tasks no one wants to do, and [it’s difficult to find people] to hire to do those tasks because generally nobody wants to, they're not particularly rewarding. Jack: Gotta live. Brett: Exactly. Jack: So I was going to ask, you worked at a casual gaming company. Where did you come from? What's your background? Brett: I've always been indie at heart. I was actually afraid of working at a casual game [company]. I got the job, and I worried that if I started working there I’d get the indie beaten out of me. It was an actual fear, I'm thinking questions like, "Will I start thinking in free-to-play terms?" And actually to a degree, yeah, I've changed what I thought my ethics were out of necessity just to work at the company and survive. It was also kind of fun and interesting seeing what overlap there could be between my interests and a viable product for a casual audience. So yeah, that's my only professional experience in the game industry, but I've been making games since freshman year of college. So it's been about 8 years, since 2008. Once I discovered how to program it was like everything I wanted to do, but couldn't put into words. But I've always been a musician. I was primarily musician, that's where it started. Jack: What did you play? Brett: Played piano and composer as well. I grew up really wanting to write the music for video games, and then I discovered how to program and I was like, "This is super cool!” It enabled me to get the ideas in my head out, and I have a lot of design ideas and all sorts of other stuff. I also like to do music so everything just sort of falls together. Jack: I can compose my own video games! Brett: Exactly! It would be very strange for me to hire somebody else to write the music for my own video games. Though there are some artists in mind that can write in the style that I can't that I really like. Jack: Like who? Brett: Nigel Good. Nobody knows about this guy, but Nigel Good is sort of, I don't want to say like Deadmau5. It's like electronic music, super upbeat, but it's not obnoxiously so. It's hard for me to describe it, but I really like his work. I never interact with anybody else about him. I've never found anybody else that knows about him, and literally his SoundCloud profile says "Canadian school teacher by day, music producer when I have time for it." [Laughs] Grant Kirkhope also has a place in my heart. His work hugely influenced me when I was younger. I started composing in 2003. I've been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I was late to the game for composing. But video game music, I was super into that. The musical style of Linelight is very much a juxtaposition of flowy and natural with the inorganic. There's piano music and strings with this glitchy, driving percussion track. If you play the game, you'll notice it, when the enemies come in they sort of represent that soundtrack. And there's no metaphor specifically behind it. I just like the sound of it. There's been no style guide for Linelight. People ask me questions that sort of imply that there would be and there's not. Everything's made to taste, which is not useful advice if someone's looking and asks, "Hey, how do I get into this?" and [I can only say], "Well, does it feel right?" It's not useful, but that is how I've been developing it. Jack: Is there a thematic or concrete story for Linelight, or is it a series of flowing puzzles? Brett: There are story elements. I had much more specific ideas for the story, but I ended up scaling it back dramatically because I realized what makes the game so great is the puzzles. That's the bread and butter of Linelight. That is the core of the game. I'm going to focus on that and, unfortunately, story had to take a backseat. Jack: Well it sounds kind of like the story fell on the same lines as your [minimalist] game design philosophy?' Brett: Yeah, it's definitely a minimalist story. There are bits and pieces of the story that- What's the best way to put it? It's not one big story, it's a lot of little stories and a lot of smaller moments. There's a lot of metaphors in the game just because it's so minimalist it's actually pretty easy to [put them in.] I could probably shoehorn whatever metaphor I wanted into it, but it did come from a deliberate place. There's an ending to the game that is probably the most specific piece of story that's like a very clear metaphor to me. It's all without text, so I'm not asking people to pick up on that, but that's for me at least. Jack: As the creator that's the only important thing, really. Brett: And that people play the game and enjoy it. But it all comes down to "Do I enjoy it?" My least good design decisions happen when I'm like "How are people going to react this? How can I make this communicate to other people? What would be cool for other people to experience?" It's not all about other people. I think of it in terms of like "What would be cool? Does this make sense to me?" I understand that, yeah, I have biases, but for the most part, when I ask the question "What do I think is cool?" that's where the best material comes from. I find that's true for a lot of other people's games as well. I feel like you can really tell when a game, or any sort of creative outlet or media, has come from a place of, the creator made it because they wanted it to exist or that it came from a place that they were excited about. I think most of my favorite games all come from that place, from a creator who had the idea and they just did what they wanted with it. And the game is almost saying, “I'm this way, and you can like me or not like me.” I'm not trying to appeal to anybody in any particular way, which is, casual gaming-wise, sort of the opposite. You want to appeal to as large an audience as you can. If I'd gone about that mission for Linelight it would be a very different game, and, ironically, it would not have appealed to nearly as many people. I swear that's totally true. Jack: You know yourself better than you know other people. Brett: Exactly, yeah, and I know what I like, and, generally speaking, I don't think that my tastes are crazy off the mark from [the tastes of the] majority of people out there. I have a very specific niches, things that I especially like or favorites, preferences. But on the whole, yeah. A big thank you to Brett Taylor for taking the time to talk with me at length about his life as a solo indie game developer and his personal journey creating Linelight. As of right now Linelight will release for PC and PlayStation 4 on January 31, 2017.
  19. While the first attempt at recording Episode 41 might have failed due to technical difficulties, we've returned this week with a brand new and totally original discussion of Flower, the PlayStation 3's 2009 indie darling. While playing as the wind using motion controls might have been a breath of fresh air, has the game become stale over time? What about the prestigious "Best Independent Game Fueled By Dew" award that the Spike Video Game Awards bestowed upon Flower? Has the honor of that accolade dimmed over the past years? More importantly, is Flower 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: Shenmue 'Reflections' by Reuben Kee (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01159) 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! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  20. While the first attempt at recording Episode 41 might have failed due to technical difficulties, we've returned this week with a brand new and totally original discussion of Flower, the PlayStation 3's 2009 indie darling. While playing as the wind using motion controls might have been a breath of fresh air, has the game become stale over time? What about the prestigious "Best Independent Game Fueled By Dew" award that the Spike Video Game Awards bestowed upon Flower? Has the honor of that accolade dimmed over the past years? More importantly, is Flower 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: Shenmue 'Reflections' by Reuben Kee (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01159) 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! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  21. You can scour the land for a century or more, but you’ll never find a better place to get your hands on amazing indie games than at PAX. Between the appropriately titled Indie Megabooth and the PAX 10, there are enough titles to choke a large chocobo. These are the most awesome indie games from PAX West 2016. Echo Platforms: PS4, PC Release Date: Q1 2017 Stare long enough into a void of mystery, and it might start looking back at you. Echo tells the story of En, a woman attempting to revive someone through the mysterious powers of a seemingly sentient palace. All goes well enough until the palace, activating its own defenses, begins to create violent and aggressive clones of En. The kicker? The palace only learns as much as you’re willing to teach it. En’s unwanted copies are ultimately a benign obstacle until she’s forced to adapt, opening doors, launching over barriers, and utilizing weapons. The clones slowly but surely adapt to every new maneuver you employ, dramatically increasing the likelihood of detection and death. Employing a sort of rapid “day and night” cycle to indicate when the clones will begin to employ your own tactics, Echo quickly becomes an exercise in risk versus reward and stealth versus desperation. Knowing that your own mistake is about to make things even worse is powerful, and allows players to choose their own play style. The team at developer Ultra Ultra might be commanding their corner of the Indie Megabooth, but the game stands as a technical and visual marvel in its own right, right alongside anything more highly funded. Old Man’s Journey Platform: Android, iOS Release Date: 2017 Fun fact: Roughly a quarter of all gamers are over the age of 50. So yes, you should keep trying to get your old man to play American Truck Simulator, even if it kills you. But if he’s not jonesed about a trip down spreadsheet lane, then perhaps the more serene Old Man’s Journey will be his cup of tea. Old Man’s Journey, developed by studio Broken Rules, captures the lengthy, meditative travels of an old sailor, on a mission of unknown intent, stopping only occasionally to enjoy Austria-inspired scenery. Gentle rolling hills turn into cobblestone roads. An old woman badgers you from her second floor window. A sly cat leads you along the path, and all the while the aura of a small town whispers through the streets. It’s every bit as peaceful as it is artsy, evoking a painterly style that’s both warm and embracing. Thankfully, gameplay seems to maintain a similar level of approachability. On mobile, players bend and layer the environment to line up with the area they want to reach, gently rearranging the landscape. Each segment is capped off with an impeccably illustrated still frame, capturing a moment in time of the protagonist’s storied life: A chance meeting with a girl, a gentle kiss to his pregnant bride at the summer harbor. At an estimated 90 minutes of playtime, you have no excuse not to find time for this game. Dog Sled Saga Platform: PC, Android, iOS Release Date: September 22, 2016 (full game, early access currently available) The onslaught of overly charming 2D “retro” indie games is inescapable. Many retro-inspired games seem to take the framework of a more recognizable era of gaming, but forget to put their own modernized twist on the end product. I don’t know with what else I’d compare Dog Sled Saga, because while its visual style invokes an entirely retro aesthetic (developer Trichotomy Games even rigged their demo to play on an NES controller), its gameplay comes across as both oddly personal and challenging at all times. After making the drastic decision to start a new life in the frozen Alaskan wilderness, the player finds themselves managing a rotating crew of sled dogs, qualifying for tournaments and maintaining their wellbeing over a season. It reads more like the back of a Football Coach Simulator 2016 box than any personal narrative, but each victory and failure along the way is an intensely intimate and earned one. You’ll need to precisely throw rations to your dogs in order to maintain their energy, while also ensuring they don’t injure themselves in tangled sleigh lines or due to lack of rest. The journey becomes just as much yours as it is theirs, and within a tight ten minute window I was already drawing a connection to my loyal steeds. Dog lovers need not miss this. Thimbleweed Park Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux Release Date: January 2017 LucasFilm’s 1987 hit Maniac Mansion set the bar for all future point-and-click games, establishing more than just a simple control scheme, but also the very nature of a video game narrative. Gone were the ultra-linear paths and obfuscated motivations for saving a block-shaped princess, replaced with a full cast of characters and player choice. Almost 30 years later, Maniac Mansion co-creators Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox, and their team are returning to the roots of what makes a great point-and-click narrative with Thimbleweed Park. Sardonic wit, whacky yet engaging characters, and inventive puzzles that play out across the entire cast all come together to craft an engaging mystery. Ignore the obvious parallels to The X-Files. Gilbert and Fox say they didn’t even realize it until the first playtesters made a mention of it. It’s just a good old fashioned murder mystery with clashing FBI agents – until it isn’t and the amateur game programmer/factory heiress and depressed clown show up. Battle Chef Brigade Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux Release Date: 2016 If you have even the slightest interest in the indie scene, you've more than likely heard of Battle Chef Brigade, and for excellent reason. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and three years in development, the cooking action puzzler is shaping up like few other games of its kind. Merging side-scrolling platforming and combat with Bejeweled-esque culinary puzzles, Battlechef Brigade challenges players to whip up the best darn dish in a fantasy world inhabited by your unusual assortment of heroes and devilishly handsome orcs. Wrapping it all up is an art style evocative of famed Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, or the more recent Mamoru Hosoda, but with enough of its own unique flair as to be entirely unique. With a wonderfully colorful cast and cooking competitions that would make Top Chef look like Julia Child, Battlechef Brigade is a dish best served on every gamer's plate. If there's one thing all PAX attendees can agree on, it's that the number of games at PAX is far too vast to play all of them. Make sure to check out the rest at both the Indie Megabooth and PAX 10 web pages and beyond, and to let us know what your favorite game from PAX West was. View full article
  22. You can scour the land for a century or more, but you’ll never find a better place to get your hands on amazing indie games than at PAX. Between the appropriately titled Indie Megabooth and the PAX 10, there are enough titles to choke a large chocobo. These are the most awesome indie games from PAX West 2016. Echo Platforms: PS4, PC Release Date: Q1 2017 Stare long enough into a void of mystery, and it might start looking back at you. Echo tells the story of En, a woman attempting to revive someone through the mysterious powers of a seemingly sentient palace. All goes well enough until the palace, activating its own defenses, begins to create violent and aggressive clones of En. The kicker? The palace only learns as much as you’re willing to teach it. En’s unwanted copies are ultimately a benign obstacle until she’s forced to adapt, opening doors, launching over barriers, and utilizing weapons. The clones slowly but surely adapt to every new maneuver you employ, dramatically increasing the likelihood of detection and death. Employing a sort of rapid “day and night” cycle to indicate when the clones will begin to employ your own tactics, Echo quickly becomes an exercise in risk versus reward and stealth versus desperation. Knowing that your own mistake is about to make things even worse is powerful, and allows players to choose their own play style. The team at developer Ultra Ultra might be commanding their corner of the Indie Megabooth, but the game stands as a technical and visual marvel in its own right, right alongside anything more highly funded. Old Man’s Journey Platform: Android, iOS Release Date: 2017 Fun fact: Roughly a quarter of all gamers are over the age of 50. So yes, you should keep trying to get your old man to play American Truck Simulator, even if it kills you. But if he’s not jonesed about a trip down spreadsheet lane, then perhaps the more serene Old Man’s Journey will be his cup of tea. Old Man’s Journey, developed by studio Broken Rules, captures the lengthy, meditative travels of an old sailor, on a mission of unknown intent, stopping only occasionally to enjoy Austria-inspired scenery. Gentle rolling hills turn into cobblestone roads. An old woman badgers you from her second floor window. A sly cat leads you along the path, and all the while the aura of a small town whispers through the streets. It’s every bit as peaceful as it is artsy, evoking a painterly style that’s both warm and embracing. Thankfully, gameplay seems to maintain a similar level of approachability. On mobile, players bend and layer the environment to line up with the area they want to reach, gently rearranging the landscape. Each segment is capped off with an impeccably illustrated still frame, capturing a moment in time of the protagonist’s storied life: A chance meeting with a girl, a gentle kiss to his pregnant bride at the summer harbor. At an estimated 90 minutes of playtime, you have no excuse not to find time for this game. Dog Sled Saga Platform: PC, Android, iOS Release Date: September 22, 2016 (full game, early access currently available) The onslaught of overly charming 2D “retro” indie games is inescapable. Many retro-inspired games seem to take the framework of a more recognizable era of gaming, but forget to put their own modernized twist on the end product. I don’t know with what else I’d compare Dog Sled Saga, because while its visual style invokes an entirely retro aesthetic (developer Trichotomy Games even rigged their demo to play on an NES controller), its gameplay comes across as both oddly personal and challenging at all times. After making the drastic decision to start a new life in the frozen Alaskan wilderness, the player finds themselves managing a rotating crew of sled dogs, qualifying for tournaments and maintaining their wellbeing over a season. It reads more like the back of a Football Coach Simulator 2016 box than any personal narrative, but each victory and failure along the way is an intensely intimate and earned one. You’ll need to precisely throw rations to your dogs in order to maintain their energy, while also ensuring they don’t injure themselves in tangled sleigh lines or due to lack of rest. The journey becomes just as much yours as it is theirs, and within a tight ten minute window I was already drawing a connection to my loyal steeds. Dog lovers need not miss this. Thimbleweed Park Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux Release Date: January 2017 LucasFilm’s 1987 hit Maniac Mansion set the bar for all future point-and-click games, establishing more than just a simple control scheme, but also the very nature of a video game narrative. Gone were the ultra-linear paths and obfuscated motivations for saving a block-shaped princess, replaced with a full cast of characters and player choice. Almost 30 years later, Maniac Mansion co-creators Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox, and their team are returning to the roots of what makes a great point-and-click narrative with Thimbleweed Park. Sardonic wit, whacky yet engaging characters, and inventive puzzles that play out across the entire cast all come together to craft an engaging mystery. Ignore the obvious parallels to The X-Files. Gilbert and Fox say they didn’t even realize it until the first playtesters made a mention of it. It’s just a good old fashioned murder mystery with clashing FBI agents – until it isn’t and the amateur game programmer/factory heiress and depressed clown show up. Battle Chef Brigade Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux Release Date: 2016 If you have even the slightest interest in the indie scene, you've more than likely heard of Battle Chef Brigade, and for excellent reason. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and three years in development, the cooking action puzzler is shaping up like few other games of its kind. Merging side-scrolling platforming and combat with Bejeweled-esque culinary puzzles, Battlechef Brigade challenges players to whip up the best darn dish in a fantasy world inhabited by your unusual assortment of heroes and devilishly handsome orcs. Wrapping it all up is an art style evocative of famed Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, or the more recent Mamoru Hosoda, but with enough of its own unique flair as to be entirely unique. With a wonderfully colorful cast and cooking competitions that would make Top Chef look like Julia Child, Battlechef Brigade is a dish best served on every gamer's plate. If there's one thing all PAX attendees can agree on, it's that the number of games at PAX is far too vast to play all of them. Make sure to check out the rest at both the Indie Megabooth and PAX 10 web pages and beyond, and to let us know what your favorite game from PAX West was.
  23. Supergiant Games released Bastion on Xbox 360, followed shortly by a PC release, back in 2011. It smashed onto the indie scene with isometric action and light RPG elements. The art design from Jen Zee, the musical work from Darren Korb, and a groundbreaking narration preformance from Logan Cunningham arguably reframed indie games in the public consciousness. However, that work was five years ago. Does Bastion still hold up in 2016? 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: Bastion 'A 'Kid-pella' by Andrew McLaren, David Lane, Dorothy Hayden, Ryan Billington, and Square Law (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02673) 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! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  24. Supergiant Games released Bastion on Xbox 360, followed shortly by a PC release, back in 2011. It smashed onto the indie scene with isometric action and light RPG elements. The art design from Jen Zee, the musical work from Darren Korb, and a groundbreaking narration preformance from Logan Cunningham arguably reframed indie games in the public consciousness. However, that work was five years ago. Does Bastion still hold up in 2016? 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: Bastion 'A 'Kid-pella' by Andrew McLaren, David Lane, Dorothy Hayden, Ryan Billington, and Square Law (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02673) 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! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  25. The stealth genre is one that has historically been populated by a smattering of high profile hits like Metal Gear Solid or Thief and more than a few attempts that failed to leave more than a lingering impression. Not many companies were looking to take a big risk on a stealth game in 2012, let alone a 2D sidescrolling action-platformer (which, to the best of our knowledge, hadn't really been done prior). Indie studio Klei Entertainment embraced minimalist design principles and took a big gamble on Mark of the Ninja. Players took on the role of a ninja tattooed with the madness-inducing mark of their clan and entrusted with the task of defending it from villainous mercenaries. How does this moderately well-received indie title hold up several years later? 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: The Legend of the Mystical Ninja 'Oedo Hop' by Palpable (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01255) 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! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
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