Posts with ‘ErinRobinson’ Tag

Puzzle Bots

By: Derek Yu

On: May 14th, 2010

Puzzle Bots

In Erin Robinson’s latest game, Puzzle Bots, you control a team of small robots as they go on adventures in and around Dr. Hugo’s factory. It’s a spiritual sequel, or commercial upgrade ($15), to Erin’s freeware adventure game Nanobots, which comes recommended, and is being published by Dave Gilbert’s Wadjet Eye Games (best known for The Shivah and The Blackwell series). This game was put together by people who love the adventure game genre and it shows.

So I was critical of Wadjet Eye’s Emerald City Confidential because I felt it pandered too much to a casual audience. Well, I do think Puzzle Bots is also aimed at a more casual crowd, too – while there are some tricky puzzles at the end, the majority of the game is pretty easy, and made easier by the lack of inventory and a generous hint system (which inexplicably has a recharge period that is very short). Also, each of the robots can only perform a single action, instead of having two like in Nanobots. That said, I wasn’t really bothered by it. Whereas ECC felt quite intrusive with its hand-holding, in Puzzle Bots it’s mostly handled within character. Makes a big difference.

And I did really like the characters in this game. The humans are cartoony and somewhat archetypal but have enough nerdy, game-informed quirks to make them endearing. The voicework is consistently good. The robots did not feel quite as fleshed out as the ones in Nanobots personality-wise, but were nonetheless cute and chirpy and pretty hard not to like.

The consistent humor, the interaction between the humans and the robots, the play on differences not only in physical scale but how humans/robots see the world, and the way the story unfolds as it’s passed between these two groups, is what really makes Puzzle Bots shine. As someone who thinks highly of challenge and mechanical depth, I’m almost loathe to say it, but I think the game’s non-intrusive casualness is actually a selling point for this game, because I was eager to watch the story unfold in a timely manner. Which isn’t to say that the puzzles aren’t interesting – there are some clever ideas (especially later on) and it’s fun to make the robots work together. It’s just easy, that’s all, and that kind of jives with the game’s pacing.

Technically, the game has some hiccups. The animation, especially for the humans, feels jerky – the number of frames used would be adequate for pixel art, but is jarring for large, hand-drawn characters (I did appreciate how large the sprites were). There also aren’t enough facial animations, so you’ll see disparity between what’s being said and how the characters are talking. The robots, which are smaller, animate more smoothly than the humans but also have some weird moments when they’ll slide across the screen in a straight line instead of hopping, flipping, or whatever else they should be doing. Finally, there are some places where characters or the environment interact in a way that is slightly counterintuitive to either reality or the puzzle at hand.

Nanobots is a really fun adventure game, and this extends on it in a lot of ways that fans of that game will appreciate. The mediocre animation, technical issues, and too-compressed story makes Puzzle Bots feel kind of rough, but the creator’s personality and enthusiasm comes through crystal clear, which is the most important thing for this indie game (and I’ll take roughness over slick-to-a-fault any day). It’s lighthearted, fun, and very charming. I hope it does well because it’d be great to see the ‘bots (who are, DAWWW, way too cute) continue their adventures.

TIGdb: Entry for Puzzle Bots

Trailers A-Go-Go

By: Derek Yu

On: July 15th, 2009

Canadian animator, illustrator, and cartoonist Michel Gagné and the programming team at FuelCell have released a new trailer for Gagne’s upcoming XBLA game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. (Source: Tim, via

A trailer for Death Party aka Shotgun Ninja II aka the sequel to my favorite cactus game.

Finally, here’s a sneak peak Erin Robinson’s Puzzle Bots, the sequel to her popular adventure game Nanobots. The game is being made in collaboration with Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games (The Shivah, The Blackwell Legacy), and also includes pixel art by Ishi (Treasure Treasure).

GDC/IGS Videos

By: Derek Yu

On: May 6th, 2009

For those who were unable to attend, and those who want to relive the magic:

Thanks, Fuzz, for uploading cactus’s presentation!

Also, the GDC Vault has released 3 videos: Jason Rohrer’s IGS session, titled “Beyond Single-Player,” The Indie Game Maker Rant, and The Game Design Challenge: My First Time, which features Heather “moboid” Kelley and Erin “The Ivy” Robinson. Thanks, Simon!

Hopefully more is on the way!

IGS ’09: The Indie Game Maker Rant

By: Derek Yu

On: March 24th, 2009

Phil Fish

(Photo courtesy of Infinite Ammo)

12:02 – I finally got into this session, which was supposed to start at 11:45ish. It’s PACKED, mostly because nobody from the previous session left. The basic idea, which was conceived by Phil Fish (Fez), is that various game developers get up and rant about something, anything, for 5 minutes. Phil was the MC for the session, and also participated.

Coming in late, I unfortunately missed Heather Kelley‘s rant – it was ending as I came in. Mark Johns just got up. He reminds us that he’s the creator of Shit Game, and is thus in the best position to talk about games and art. Some highlights of his rant include his assertion that critics of games as an art form, like Roger Ebert, will someday die and a reference to the somewhat notorious article about messhof in the New York Times. (One hopes that the NYTimes, which is in attendance, takes the mention in stride.)

12:05 – Steve Swink is up. He’s a designer at Flashbang/Blurst and also one of the IGS organizers. His rant is titled “Ethical Game Design.” He’s talking about personal freedom by using furries as an example. (Looking up at his scattered manbeard, I think he might be one!)

Steve equates ethical game design at least in part with making use of our freedom by creating worthwhile activities. “Don’t make the video equivalent of fast food and cigarettes. Don’t waste people’s fucking time.” “Worthwhile” is obviously kind of a difficult thing to define. Is it social? Is it about changing our way of thinking? Is it happiness?

And then Steve’s time is up.

12:11Infinite Ammo‘s Chris Lobay just got up. He has a film background, so he’s tying auteur theory to game development. He argues that independent game developers all fit the mold of the auteur. Game development, he posits, should not be decided by committee.

12:16Erin “Ivy” Robinson starts by revealing that she’s working on a new game called “Puzzle Bots.” And hey, now she’s talking about humor in games and using the TIGSource Demakes Compo as an example. Hold Me Closer, Giant Dancer is shown on screen and gets some hearty chuckles out of the crowd.

She just did a “dramatic reading” of Gears of War 2. Marcus Fenix and Augustus Cole wax poetic about how many metric shit-tons of locusts must be down there. Somewhere, an undead Marcel Proust facepalms.

Erin talks about some modern examples of mainstream games which employ humor, including Little Big Planet and Spore. She ends by talking about satire and the awful PETA game Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals. It’s Majesco’s straight-faced response that draws the most laughs.

12:21 – “Those crazy artists from ”“>Tale of Tales” are up! Auriea Harvey opens by saying that this is “a slightly meditative conceptual rant about being an indie developer.”

Auriea and Michaël wonder openly what it is that indie developers are independent of, exactly? They are taking turns reading out loud the various possibilities (which are displayed on the projector with occasional images). I can’t write them all down, but here are a few of the things they’re mentioning: game publishers and developers, time spent with loved ones, clothing, sexual orientation, web 2.0, C++, Shigeru Miyamoto, CliffyB, ideologies, morality, success, air, Edge Magazine, Steam, XBLA, language, Final Fantasy, TIGSource Forums, love, pets, Simon Carless (who I’m sitting right next to), mortality (a picture of Paul “rinkuhero” Eres accompanies the slide), Google, debugging, object-oriented programming, and finally, whether or not games are art and whether the audience thinks they are pretentious for making their rant.

They’re walking off with a simple picture of the Earth on the projector. Phil Fish says “Thank you for that. I mean it!”

12:25thatgamecompany‘s Kellee Santiago wants to talk about that step “after games are art.” She’s comparing games to radio and television.

In what strikes me as a very Obama-esque moment, she rallies developers to work together to bring about change in the games industry.

12:32 – Mare from metanet takes the rant to a more directly practical area by talking about why demos are important. Her main point is that there are cons from the developer’s perspective, but not from a consumer’s perspective.

12:34 – Raigan, the other half of metanet, proposes some solutions to making 3d games easier to create. He talks briefly about using simple shapes like boxes, non-photorealistic rendering (e.g. NPR Quake), and post-processing (e.g. Textmode Quake).

12:38 – “Up next: me,” says Phil. He says he couldn’t think of anything, so he’s taking requests from the audience. Someone asks him what the most important thing about Fez is for him, and he fumbles a bit before exclaiming that this was a stupid idea.

Someone then shouts out “What’s wrong with the IGF?” Which is probably the best thing that could have happened at this point. The rant begins.

IGF is broken! ”">[Pixeljunk] Eden should not be nominated for IGF." Phil says the rules for entry are “hell” of vague. “I have a problem with a guy entering IGF who created Star Fox for fuck’s sake. What if portal was entered in IGF? Would anyone here have a problem with that?” He asserts that he likes the game itself, but compares Erik Svedäng’s Blueberry Garden, which was made by a single guy in a bedroom or basement, with games backed by large companies.

“The [IGF 2008] Art Award for Fez made me.” Phil mentions young developers on TIGSource who don’t even have $100 to spend on the IGF admission fee. “What’s 100 dollars to Q-Games? It’s like a fart.” He thinks Eden’s submission was a “cynical marketing campaign” meant to promote their upcoming expansion pack (to be announced at GDC later this week).

12:42 – Simon Carless gets up and walks to the podium with a smile on his face. “Are you going to stop me?” asks Phil (sincerely, I should note, and not like a guy going crazy on PCP, as you might read it).

Simon addresses the audience and says that he’s the director of IGF. He wants to clarify that Eden was submitted long before the expansion had been announced.

Phil ends by saying that he’s so proud of being indie, that it kind of drives him nuts that it’s so hard to define.

12:44 – In response to Phil’s rant, Matthew Wegner comes on stage briefly to mention that there are 22 finalist games, some of which have bigger teams than Eden, and suggests that we celebrate how wide the spectrum of IGF finalists is.

12:45Petri Purho is attempting to do the impossible – to make a game in the 5 minutes allotted to him for the rant. The room, already pretty riled, applauds wildly. “This is the indiest thing you can do,” exclaims Petri. Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howls.

Petri’s got Visual C++ open on his screen. “I already have a basic framework…” It crashes as Petri tries to compile it, to laughter. Erik Svedäng got people to write game ideas onto slips of paper for Petri to use in his game. The first idea is pulled out of the bag.

“…Peggles?” The audience seems to generally think that this is a shitty idea, so they pull out another one. “Ragdolls.” Okay… Petri starts coding away like a madman, cursing like a Finnish sailor. “FFFFFFUCK. This is the worst idea.”

With 2 minutes left, Petri tries to compile, but there’s a bug. “Fuck.” After a couple of tweaks, success. A wireframe ragdoll falls from the top of the screen and hits the ground, to the cheers of the crowd.

“We still have to add Peggles to the game.”

With roughly 1 minute remaining, Petri stands up and beats on the keyboard like the drummer on a Nordic slave ship. Even though we’re indoors, a warm breeze somehow makes its way into the room and unravels his ponytail, sending his flaxen hair waving as Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries is pumped in through Moscone’s humble speakers. Code is scrolling across the screen like it’s The motherfraggin’ Matrix. Men and women alike unconsciously lift their shirts and display their chests to this… this… Finnish demigod of game development.

But even Odin himself couldn’t beat these odds – the final grains of sands are making their way to the bottom of the hourglass.

“Cactus, help me!”

And the young Swede jumps on stage and the two of them create what can only be described as Ragnarök on a laptop. A game made in 5 minutes. About ragdolls. And Peggles. It is done.

Phil returns to the podium as the duo are carried away by a heraldic griffon. “Welcome to the first and probably last indie game rant.”

Somewhere in the distance, a stag whispers its final breath and dies alone in the forest: “Indie Games.”