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 is a quirky side-scrolling RPG set in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Beneath the charming and funny exterior is a world full of disgust and moral destruction. Players will learn what kind of person they are by being FORCED to make choices. These choices permanently effect the game play. If you want to save a party member from death, you will have to sacrifice the strength of your character. Whether it’s taking a beating for them, or losing limbs in a Yakuza style apology, or some other inhuman way. You will learn that in this world being selfish and heartless is the only way to survive…
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.
Indie studio Dopterra has just three days to reach the modest goal of $6000 for its colorful 8-bit title, Creepy Castle. Promising a mix of 2D platform-based exploration and turn-based RPG combat, the game follows the adventure of Moth (note: an actual moth) within the halls of the titular Creepy Castle in an effort to uncover and thwart a looming threat. Dopterra has also teased several other protagonists, playable in an assortment of scenarios that intertwine with Moth’s story.
With a graphical style inspired by the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and a catchy chiptune soundtrack, Creepy Castle certainly aims to present a fantastically old-school experience – but its six-person dev team is not afraid to pay homage to the modern indie game scene as well: It’s been revealed that characters from recent indie titles such as Shovel Knight and Super Meat Boy will appear in-game, possibly even in the form of playable characters.
With only three days to go in its Kickstarter campaign, Creepy Castle is tantalizingly close to reaching its goal of just $6000. Whether you’ve long dreamt of fluttering your way as a moth through a labyrinthine castle – drawn not to a flame, but to your awaiting destiny – or you simply enjoy old-school graphics and gameplay, Creepy Castle might just be the game for you: Head on over to the Creepy Castle Kickstarter page to learn more and pledge. You can also vote for Creepy Castle right now on its Steam Greenlight page. Finally, if you simply want to watch the game as it develops, be sure to check out the Creepy Castle DevLog on TIGForums.
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!
Very cool 80’s aesthetic going on in Drift Stage, a “modern evolution of the classic arcade racer”. Planned features include a roster of cars inspired by 80’s and early 90’s designs, local and online multiplayer, and a host of single-player modes, including circuit races, time trials, and a character-oriented career mode. No release date set, but the team is targeting PC/Mac with mobile and console possibly to follow.
This is a video that mashes up quite a few trailers for doujin games that will be available at this year’s Comiket (Comic Market), a Japanese self-published comic book festival (and the largest in the world, with over half a million attendees last year). Edelweiss, the doujin shmup developer behind Ether Vapor and Astebreed, has been putting these videos together for the past few years. The festival is taking place this weekend on August 15-17.
Links to each of the games featured in the video are available here on Edelweiss’s website.