Andrew “Zarf” Plotkin is a well-known and influential figure in interactive fiction – on top of penning classic IF games like Spider & Web and Shade, he also developed the Blorb package format, Glx API, and Glulx virtual machine for making and playing them. His latest game, Hadean Lands, is four years in the making (following a successful Kickstarter) and is apparently one of the largest and most complex IF games to date, spanning 73,000 words of printable text and 170,000 words of logic (according to Andrew’s twitter). In the game, you play a young alchemist who has awoken to find him or herself trapped in a crashed starship, armed only with your knowledge of alchemical rituals and whatever ingredients you can scrounge up on the ship.
I’ll spoil some of the unique features of the game after the jump:
I’ve been wildly interested in ants since an early age, and have often wished that there were more games that allowed you to take control of an ant colony, such as the classic SimAnt, or 2008′s Ant Rush. So I was especially excited earlier today, when Formicarium crawled onto Kickstarter.
Billing itself as a strategic simulation game, Formicarium allows players to “become the invisible mind guiding an ant-hive through difficulties and dangers.” Drawing inspiration from other titles such as Dwarf Fortress and The Sims, the game aims to simulate a procedurally-evolving world where insects and arachnids struggle to survive the environment, and each other – with the player guiding their own colony of ants.
Similar to Dwarf Fortress, the colonies or “hives” of Formicarium will consist of multiple “cross-section” levels, extending downwards from the surface. Chambers will need to be dug, food will need to be stored, and new ants will need to be be birthed. All the time, the player will need to keep an eye out for potential dangers from the surface, including antlions, spiders, bees and wasps, and more.
Formicarium is being created by a team of just two people. The development side of this duo is Konrad Feiler, whose history as a mathematician and software engineer is being put to good use developing a procedural world, filled with all manner of bugs behaving in realistic manners. On the design side, artist Dorota Orlof has provided an incredibly eye-catching style, bringing each of the game’s “characters” to life through a clean and colorful approach.
So far, the duo has a working prototype of Formicarium, and they are now moving to bring the project to full fruition as a game on both mobile devices as well as PC and Mac. To reach that goal, the Formicarium Kickstarter campaign is aiming to raise just a modest $20,000. If the idea of being the overseer of a virtual ant colony – struggling to survive in a procedurally-simulated world of competition and danger – appeals to you, head on over to the Kickstarter page for Formicarium to learn more and pledge. You can also keep an eye on the game’s website and Twitter for more news, and even vote for it over on Steam Greenlight.
Lucas Pope has released a very early development build of his latest project, Return of the Obra Dinn. While the website warns that there’s “not much content”, the build does a great job of conveying the game’s wonderful atmosphere and introducing a few of the key concepts behind the title. Obra Dinn is the name of the merchant ship on which your adventure takes place. Lost on route to the Orient in 1802, the ship has returned to port four years later, and you’ve been sent to investigate as an insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office. Figuring out what happened aboard the Obra Dinn appears to be the central premise for the game, but how you accomplish that task is anything but ordinary.
Pope was the creator of the surprise hit Papers, Please, which made the seemingly mundane job of immigration inspector feel exciting and personal. It’s great to see him take that unique outlook into his next game, but with such wildly different themes, mechanics, and audiovisuals (which he describes in great detail in his fantastic TIGForums DevLog). Can’t wait for more.
LISA was successfully funded on Kickstarter on December 14, 2013.
Steam Greenlight: LISA
Legend of Grimrock 2 launched fairly quietly about a week ago. The sequel to the successful 2012 dungeon crawler, Grimrock 2 seems to improve and expand on nearly every aspect of the first game without sacrificing any of the classic exploration, combat, and puzzle solving that defined it. Probably the biggest change is the inclusion of expansive outdoor environments – whereas Grimrock 1 took place entirely underground inside dark dungeons and caverns, Grimrock 2 let’s you explore the surface of the Isle of Nex, traversing opulent beaches, forests, and other outdoor locales. Monster AI is also noticeably improved, and though the combat retains the “dance-like” quality of Grimrock 1, it’s not as easy to lead opponents around the same four tiles without getting hit. Monsters are more likely to anticipate and dodge your attacks, and are less inclined to walk into the range of your weapons. New races, new classes, an upgraded skills system, and a friendlier UI round out a list of improvements that should please fans who were satisfied with the original.
It’s easy to be wary of high-concept indie titles based around some quirky concept like time travel, gravity, teleportation, guns that shoot science instead of bullets, etc. When they work, of course, they work marvelously, like Portal, Braid, Antichamber, The Swapper, Fez, or any of the best puzzle platformers. But there’s no denying that there is a glut of gimmicky imitators in the genre, and more often than not the concepts, no matter how interesting they sound on paper, are stretched thin across never-ending tutorial levels. So despite Capybara’s strong record it was with some trepidation that I embarked on Super Time Force Ultra, the updated PC version of their time-traveling run n’ gun Super Time Force (which won Microsoft’s first-ever IGF “XBLA Award” for a publishing deal on Xbox 360 and Xbox One).
Thankfully, STFU shrugs off the stereotypes quickly and easily, and while the game is certainly unique and innovative, it has the frantic pacing of a good run n’ gun that is not found in most puzzle platformers. On top of that, there is an element of light tactics that strangely enough reminds me of Sega’s 1988 cult classic arcade game Gain Ground. It’s a mad idea that I would not have been brave enough to work on, but I’m happy that Capy was.
Band Saga is a musical roguelike—basically it generates action roguelike dungeons based on its own Genesis-like FM sequencer, which can then be played through. You can generate levels based on importing your own MIDI music, or by composing music within the game (which can be shared with a text string online with other players). Also interesting is that you can change a song while playing through the dungeon based on that song, which would then affect the dungeon you are in. And as you can see from the trailer, the animation is also very nice.
I interviewed Rekcahdam to get a more in-depth look into how it all works, read it under the jump!
Dog And Pony Studio (DAPS) is looking to raise just $10,000 in the final four days of their Kickstarter campaign for Pyrella, a Metroidvania-type game where the female protagonist is the only light burning against an unholy darkness. According to designer Jim Burner:
DAPS needs to raise $10,000 before the end of the game’s Kickstarter in just four days, but the team is hopeful. The game has been submitted to Steam Greenlight, and the campaign has several stretch goals ranging from character customization and alternate endings to entirely new game areas and even a PlayStation 4 port of the completed game.
If this project sounds like one you would like to see completed, be sure to head over to the project’s Kickstarter page to learn more and contribute.
After more than two years since the last update, a new version of Dwarf Fortress has been released by developer Tarn Adams. As always, the game is entirely free, despite it being Tarn’s full-time occupation – he is supported by the generous donations of players.
One of the largest and most notable features of this new update is that the in-game world will no longer be static after its initial generation, but will continue to change and evolve on its own in the background. This will include events ranging from civilization-scale events like foundings and conquests, to more individual actions such as births and deaths of historical figures. Additionally, forts that the player has “retired” will continue to operate within the world, rather than simply becoming abandoned, allowing for the player to visit them in Adventurer Mode and interact with the citizens.
Other notable changes with this update will include multi-tile trees, new site designs for several races, and overhauls of various systems including combat, conversation, movement, and AI. A more extensive changelog can be found here.
Image: Forgotten Beast, by Torgeir Fjereide
In what is hopefully part of a continuing trend, Crimzon Clover has been released on Steam as Crimzon Clover WORLD IGNITION, giving PC players around the globe easy access to one of the best doujin bullet hell shoot ‘em ups. Originally released in 2011 at Comiket 79, the game was largely created by one person: Yotsubane, also known as the Cave superplayer Clover-TAC. From there, its popularity led to an enhanced edition on Taito’s NESiCAxLive, a digital download platform for Japanese arcades, followed by this recent port to Steam.
In Crimzon Clover you have two main attacks, a rapid-fire shot that fires straight ahead and a lock-on shot that creates a quickly-expanding circle around your ship, targeting every enemy it touches for a powerful homing laser attack. On top of that, there is a third button, called the Break Button, which does different things depending on the status of the Break Gauge. Destroying enemies fills up the gauge and if it’s filled above a certain threshold, hitting the button fires a bomb that clears bullets. If the gauge is completely full, however, you enter a “Break Mode” where your firepower and scoring ability are increased dramatically for a limited amount of time. During Break Mode it’s also possible to enter a “Double Break Mode” that ups everything (including enemy ferocity) even further, turning the screen into a page from a Magic Eye book.
Fans of Japanese shoot ‘em ups already know about Crimzon Clover and this port, but it’s also a great introductory shmup that is polished and offers a lot of modern conveniences like tutorials and novice modes to help new players get accustomed to the brutal level of difficulty. Plus, the relatively simple, memorization-free scoring system and sheer destructive firepower at hand should be enjoyable for veterans and newcomers alike. If I have one complaint, it’s that the graphics veer toward the garish and it is often hard to find your ship’s tiny yellow hitbox amidst the sludge of bullets, stars, and machinery. But it could be argued that this eye-bleeding quality is part of the game’s appeal. In any case, at $10 on Steam, it’s never been easier to play this previously obscure jewel of the genre.