The teaser trailer for Warballoon Games’ Star Command has landed, giving us a glimpse into the fantastic pixel art of their upcoming spaceship-management game.
Star Command allows players to take control of a starship in humanities distant future. Players build their ship, staff and manage their crew, explore the galaxy, battle other species, discover far off worlds and attempt to control the universe.
The game is scheduled to launch this summer on iOS and Android devices, but the developers have plans for a future, “Ultimate” PC version as well, which would include “all the campaigns, all the expansions, [and] possible multiplayer.” I can not wait!
Shores of Hazeron is an indie sand-box space MMO currently in Open Alpha/Beta stage, bringing to mind such media as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, the Elite series, Noctis, and Spore, to list a few.
Similar to other great labor-of-love projects such as Dwarf Fortress or Noctis, Hazeron‘s current graphics, interface, and performance might not seem cutting-edge (and combined with frequent lag and server downtime threaten to drive many a newcomer away), yet the game boasts incredible features and depth. Allowing for seamless, free-form exploration and colonization of planets in a procedurally-generated universe (containing unique solar systems, planets, animals, and plants), Hazeron allows players to build up a galactic empire from humble beginnings, or join a pre-existing and established empire. Players can design and customize spaceships and space stations, take-off and land seamlessly on planets and moons, fly between stars, and both interact peacefully or wage war with other players and empires.
Tonight, onstage alongside the esteemed Game Developers Choice Awards, the winners of the 2011 Independent Games Festival were announced. This lucky thirteenth year’s festivities were kicked off by now-veteran IGF Chairman Brandon “Real Brandon” Boyer, who you may know from Offworld, once one of the finest and most indie-friendly blogs around. (And source of countless aped posts back on TIGSource That Was.)
The ceremony proper was helmed by another Indie Apostle, Anthony Carboni of Bytejacker, perhaps the first host to date with actual hosting experience (nothing personal, Andy). And he did quite the bang up job! Of course, it just wouldn’t be the IGF Awards if the live feed‘s audio wasn’t mixed by a partially deaf clown. Despite Anthony’s every breath being the only thing audible, inside sources have confirmed that, yes, people did in fact laugh at his jokes.
There were quite a few memorable moments peppered throughout the show, some of which I’ve listed at the end of this post. And, while I didn’t stick around to watch, word on the street is Limbo and Minecraft grabbed a number of GDC awards as well. Yet another landmark year in the growing History of Indie Games! But enough prevaricating about the bush.
Indicated by pink superlatives, The 13th Annual IGF Award Winners are…
Hey, everyone! The dates for TIGJam 3 have been set. We be jammin’ over Halloween weekend, so feel free to dress up as your favorite Cave Story character (best costume wins a date with Jeff Lindsay). This year the jam will be held at the palatial Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California… just a hop, skip, and double jump from San Francisco. Like previous years, the cover charge is $50 and goes into a secret slush fund that is used to bribe IGF judges and also feed and clothe you while you make cool stuff and enjoy the love of your fellow indie developers.
For more information, keep an eye on the TIGJam forum.
GDC is essentially the start of the year for me. It’s more of a personal landmark than Christmas or my birthday. When I get home, that’s my January 1st. This year, like every year, was profoundly inspiring, motivating, enlightening, exciting, and everything in between. Just being around so many people who decide to do the same crazy thing you do, who have such passion, is almost magical. (Especially after months of solitary work!)
Yet, GDC is also different each year. The indie community keeps growing and changing. This year there were so many new faces, more than ever, so many surprises, and an overall feeling of… something I can’t put my finger on, but that’s good! It was certainly the best year yet. (On the other hand, what year wasn’t?) Here’s to seeing even more indies next year!
I’ve got plenty of stories to tell, but the front page isn’t really the place for it. Instead I’m going to put down my coverage of The Independent Games Summit already. Sitting at each session, furiously scribbling notes, I thought, “Yeah, I’m on top of it this year!” Of course the real journalists were typing right into blog posts, or Twitter, or whatever fancy new thing they’ve got on their fancy-pants laptops. (I would say something here about me being “too indie” and so on, but the truth is I was woefully unprepared for everything, as always.)
So, in lieu of most (if not all) of the sessions being posted to death already, I’ll provide summaries, plus my own personal, first-hand impressions of everything I saw, along with links to some of the better write-ups online. If you’ve seen enough already, or just don’t care, I apologize, carry on. But if I reach just one child’s heart… it’s worth it.
Hey y’all, just a day and change left to grab The Indie Love Bundle! That’s “six award-winning indie games valued at $85 for the low cost of $20.” The low, low cost. I hope my mom’ll let me use the credit card…
The games you will soon be playing are, alphabetically: And Yet It Moves, Auditorium, Aztaka, Eufloria, Machinarium, and Osmos. All of which are excellent. (Actually, I’ve yet to play Aztaka, but it looks pretty sweet?)
Tell your friends! Tell your enemies!
Gnop is a clever reinvention of the similarly named arcade classic, in which the player’s role is inversed. Instead of playing as the traditional Ping-Pong paddle, here you play as the ball. Since the game is so short, not a great many applications of this gameplay mechanic are explored, but what is here makes for a surprisingly fun and challenging game. To account for the ball’s horizontal movement, Bit Battalion has moved the game space from a single room to a collection of interconnected rooms that can be progressed through by consistently avoiding the right paddle. In each room, a different strategy must be used in order to continue successfully. Any description of these puzzles would prove to be a bit spoilerish, so do go and play the game yourself. It’s very much worth the five minutes it takes to complete.
Play Gnop in your web browser here.
Xbox Live is starting to look up; with well established Indie names making their way to the Xbox in the next year with Polytron’s ‘Fez,’ and Derek Yu’s ‘Spelunky,’ heading to the XBLA in 2010, and XBLIG starting to have actual, non-massage games, the Xbox is slowly becoming an Indie portal.
However, even with these fine names coming to XBL, there’s a few things I demand before I will consider XBL a true host to the Indie community.
First and Foremost: Roguelikes, and lucky me – not one, but two roguelikes are headed to XBLIG this winter.
ASCII Quest was born out of an epic goal, yet as an indie title, quickly ran into restraints. “We realized that the game would require way too many assets; [we were] really interested in making an RPG, but full graphical RPGs take a lot more work than we had time for at the moment,” explained president of Jade Vault Games, Daniel Hanson. “I found a couple online articles on roguelike development, and that inspired me to make a quick prototype. I had begun to notice that there were many people who were asking for a roguelike on Xbox LIVE Indie Games, and realized that there was a market for this kind of game.” Thus began ASCII Quest.
Obviously, aside from crossover pc users, a roguelike will be a new experience for many console players. To this end, ASCII Quest aims to be an “easy roguelike, one that anyone could pick up and play.” Rogue veterans need not worry however, for there are several difficulty levels. The hardest of these levels incorporates several extra features, or rather, it takes away a feature (saving) in leu of another (an online high-score list, the Hall of Heroes).
Although a roguelike might seem a simple project for first-time developers, developing one for the Xbox presented some issues. Hanson explains, “Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of implementing a roguelike on Xbox 360 is creating an approachable control scheme. PC roguelikes are fond of using most of the keys on the keyboard. Instead of having a universal action key, a separate key is used for each specific action (drinking potions, equipping weapons, and so on). Obviously, this isn’t very feasible when most people have only an Xbox controller. Even something as simple as movement is difficult to get right. Roguelikes are turn-based games, and movement occurs on a tile grid.” In answer, Hanson and his crew have opted for a ‘universal action button.’
“The left thumbstick or DPad is used to aim this cursor around the character. Then the player must press the ‘A’ button to confirm movement in that direction. This ensures that all movement is precise and in the direction that the player desires, which is important in a turn-based game. Movement is also used to perform many actions; to attack an enemy, simply bump into it. In fact, bumping into anything will perform the default action with that entity (open doors, talk to NPCs, and so forth). To pick up items or to walk up/down stairs, stand over it and press ‘A.’”
With the implementation of simplified controls, as well as multiple difficulty levels, ASCII Quest will hopefully be welcomed by players on XBLIG, RL veterans and newcomers alike, when it releases this December for 80MSP ($1US).
Dungeon Adventure‘s development was inspired by the developer’s first taste of the RL community. “I picked up Rogue on the iPhone by chance one day, and became completely addicted to it. Iâ€™ve been a longtime fan of RPGs and adventure games, but am always sad when I reach the end of a game since there usually isnâ€™t much more content once youâ€™ve completed the main story arc,” said UG.
Like Hanson of Jade Vault, UG understands that there are obvious reasons no one has put a RL on Xbox yet. “Roguelikes are usually regarded as niche games. But,” adds UG, “I think they have a very wide appeal.”
“Iâ€™m trying to bridge the gap between hardcore ASCII roguelikes and more casual gamers,” says UG. Dungeon Adventure incorporates several aspects that might make it a bit easier to pick up; the most noticeable is the option to use a graphical tileset rather than the standard ASCII characters. This graphical set doesn’t break the old-school feel of the game, but will definitely make it a bit easier on players eyes, especially for those newcomers who might never have seen a traditional roguelike before. There is even an option to use your XBL avatar as the player sprite, should you so desire it.
As for the issue of controls, UG has put a ton of time into making sure the player has several options concerning how they want to control the game. Besides the ‘standard’ method, using only a few of the buttons on an Xbox controller, UG has also incorporated the Xbox ChatPad as well as USB keyboards. “And Iâ€™ve spent a lot of time just playing the game with each input device to make sure the control scheme is comfortable and easy to use on all of them. This is something that I notice is lacking in a lot of games, especially in Indie games â€“ the developer adds buttons for new actions and features as they are made, and since they are playing the game throughout its development cycle itâ€™s very hard for them to realize that someone whoâ€™s never seen the game before may have a problem memorizing a wall of button prompts!”
“One of the most difficult things to get right was movement. Roguelikes demand precise, octo-directional, digital movement, which analog thumbsticks arenâ€™t suited to at all. That probably took an entire month alone just to perfect, but it was well worth it! There are two different control schemes, one where you move the thumbstick or DPad in the direction you want to go, and another that I call Sure-Move, where you use either the thumbstick or DPad to highlight the direction you want, and hit A to move. This is also why I highly recommend hooking up a ChatPad or USB keyboard when playing, since there is just no substitute for the tactile feel of a keyboard when moving around.”
Dungeon Adventure is set to arrive on XBLIG this winter.
Hey, all. Edmund McMillen just had gall bladder surgery a few hours ago and is recovering right now. He fell ill yesterday and went to the hospital early last morning. Thankfully, he is okay and will hopefully be able to go home soon.
Please send him your love and if you’ve ever wanted to give Ed a donation for all the fun and hijinks he’s given us, now would be the time! Unfortunately, a trip to the hospital means a bill, and Ed doesn’t have health insurance. You can donate via PayPal here. Also, here’s his Facebook if you want to write something to him on his Wall.
Get well soon, Edmund! We’re looking forward to Super Meat Boy and whatever games the surgery will inspire in you.