It’s official!

It’s happening, finally – it really is! As of yesterday, I am officially working on Starbound as a lore writer and universe creator! I’ve been working on the documentation for nearly two months now, but Tiy (aka Finn Brice), the team’s leader, announced it officially in Starbound’s IRC channel last night.

My job as lore master involves creating the background of six individual playable races and weaving their stories together with supplementary material like books, logs, and letters. Even though I’ve been working on it for two months, I feel like I’m barely 10% into the project – it’s a huge, exciting undertaking, and I feel like what I’ve completed so far is the best writing I’ve ever done (as well as being literally the biggest thing I’ve ever written).

I know this is a pretty short blog post, but I just wanted to express how pumped I am for this.

Praise Kluex, glory to the Chosen, and may the currents of time treat you well!

TF2 Unusuals: Explained

You just spent $2.50 on a key to open your Mann Co. crate, and to your utmost surprise, you found something actually valuable inside.

Congrats – you’re now part of an exclusive club of thousands of people who own unusual hats. Here’s what you’ve gotta know before you should even start thinking about trading it off.
Continue reading

iGAD Day 7: Hatland Adventures

iGAD is a series of blogposts, continuing until I finish [A SHITLOAD] of indie games. Yesterday, I looked at mmoAsteroids, a fresh take on the 80’s arcade classic, and today I’m checking out Hatland Adventures, a 2D platformer which definitely doesn’t have anything to do with hats. Definitely. Positively. Okay, I lied.

On that fateful evening, when Damon sat at his desk to hammer out a missive about Hatland Adventures, the atmosphere was charged with a special sort of feeling – the feeling that something wondrous would be happening. The air almost crackled with palpable excitement, and, somewhere nearby, a possum fell out of a tree at the sheer thought of a new blogpost hitting the internet. The furry tree-rat made a loud rustling noise as it hit a bush on its way down, and Damon’s dogs barked, mostly out of fear. They’re scaredy-cats.

Inside, however, the mood was quite different. You see, Damon was calm. He wasn’t overly excited at the thought of a new blogpost, since he’d written a shitload before, and he’d surely write a shitload more… but he knew that the game he was writing about this time wasn’t like the rest. As his fingers gently laid themselves to rest on his keyboard, he thought about why he liked the game. Was it the solid platforming, or was it the hats? He was an avid Team Fortress 2 player, as all his friends knew, and he absolutely loved hats – another fact his friends were all aware of, seeing as he was complimented often on his choice of headwear.

With the first two paragraphs of his post quickly written up, he decided to open the game to grab a few screenshots – pictures are worth at least five or ten words, after all. However, a slight frown quickly stole across his face, as an error message flashed up on his screen:

Ever the intrepid writer, he quickly screencapped it for posterity and turned to his laptop, which he’d played the game on earlier. And then he decided to stop being meta and actually get on with the process of writing his blogpost.

My first encounter with this game was at Adelaide AVCon 2012 – I included it in a roundup of indie games I’d played, but didn’t get much time with the actual game, so my write-up was… quite short. This time, however, I’ve been afforded the luxury of a press preview copy, courtesy of the lovely Matt Trobbiani from Fractal Alligator (the indie studio behind the game), which means that I can play it at home in my own time. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I wasn’t able to launch the game on my gaming PC, so I was limited to playing it on my laptop, which meant no screenshots. My workaround for this is… the official trailer!

If you’re loath to watch the video, here’s Hatland Adventures in a nutshell: it’s similar to Sonic, but instead of rings, you have hats, and some of these hats give you bonuses. There’s not much to it, other than the fact that your character is able to do a mid-air dash in any direction, which is controlled by the mouse (and/or controller). This ability can be buffed with certain hats (cooldown time, velocity, and travel distance being the attributes which can be modified), and is essential for navigating levels and escaping the fire which inexplicably is consuming the world. Don’t ask me – it’s just how it is. The fire wall does add a nice, frenetic touch to the tempo of the game, though it could use some animation – in its current state, it’s just a static image which races across the screen and makes it shake a bit. Not that menacing, really.

Moving on from the gameplay, I was able to play on two different levels: one, a grassland-inspired construction with trees and bamboo, and the second (which I think was the last level), an acid-trip-reminiscent sojourn through space, complete with roaming angelfish. The art’s quite nice, and the music is well-composed and matches as nicely as you’d expect.

The Verdict:

I’m not gonna lie, this is pretty fun. I’ve voted for it on Steam Greenlight, and if it gets released on everyone’s favourite digital distribution platform, I’ll be one of the first to shell out money for it. Worth your time when it releases? A definite yes.

iGAD Day 6: mmoAsteroids

iGAD is a series of blogposts, continuing until I finish [A SHITLOAD] of indie games. Yesterday, I looked at Vox, a voxel-world-based RPG (currently in alpha), and today I’m checking out mmoAsteroids, an online multiplayer adaption of the classic arcade game Asteroids.

The following is a stream-of-thought brought to you by an extremely tired mind.

Y’ know when you go into something, thinking “Eh, it’s not going to be that good, it’s probably going to be fairly boring” then, about three minutes in, you’re gasping for breath from laughing too hard? That’s basically mmoAsteroids in a nutshell. It’s so good. The best thing about it being good, in fact, is that it surprised me with how good it was, and that made it even better.

This probably isn’t a stock image.

Here’s what happened when I opened the game for the first time, last week: I logged in as a guest, flew around for a while, collecting ore (dropped from asteroids – used as the ingame currency), didn’t really see the point to it apart from the simple Red vs. Blue team-based format (which pits players against each other to see which team can collect the most ore in a round). Closed the game, decided to write about it another day.

Here’s what happened when I opened the game tonight:

  • Upon spawning, I’m immediately hit by a stray missile of some sort, which shrinks me down to half my size. This has the effect of making everything instantly hilarious.
  • I then mention this in the global chat, where I’m informed by the creator of the game, Paul Firth, that he intentionally designed the Shrink Missiles to have the aforementioned effect.
  • He then hunts me down and kills my tiny triangle of a ship.
  • After a few minutes, once he’s gone back to mining ore, I hunt him down, senselessly murder him, then steal his ore and take it back to my refinery to have it added to my permanent bank balance.
  • Once this quick transaction is over, I mosey on over to a green construction that, after careful observation, appears to be some sort of mining mecha which fires super-powered laser bursts. The caveat of this, however, is that it requires two pilots, who can be from either team. Each pilot controls a thruster (left or right) and a laser (left or right), which can result in some ridiculous maneuvering, by which I mean the mecha usually ends up spinning wildly.
  • A player from the other team joins me in the mecha, which surprises me, and we end up cooperating to blast asteroids and pick up ore. Once we wiggle our way over to a refinery, we deposit the cashmoney from the ore, and I become the richest player in the game. Not really. I’m rewarded with a series of bloops from my headphones, though, which is reward enough.
  • I cast my eyes to the right of the screen, where I realize that there’s an achievement system which is designed to reward me for learning how to play the game. Oops!
  • Suddenly, I realize exactly how much fun I’m having, and come to the sudden conclusion that this pre-alpha tech demo adaptation of an 80’s arcade game is more fun than RuneScape. It’s not saying much, of course, but…

This one also isn’t probably a stock image. *cough*

mmoAsteroids is a testament to the virtues of emergent storytelling: a game where, even though the world is small and the characters mostly-uniform (custom spacecraft skins are available for purchase with actual money), a unique experience can and will be, well, experienced, by everyone who puts more than a couple of minutes into the game. Mileage may vary, of course – of course people aren’t going to have the same experience as I did – but this little 2-D shooter has proven that the basic game design of Asteroids still works, and that it’s very scalable.

The Verdict:

Tired Damon loves this game. He suspects that Not-Tired Damon will also love this game. Maybe a little less, seeing as Tired Damon has a strange attraction to vector graphics.

Seriously, though, it’s great, and strangely addictive. It is most definitely worth your time to play.

iGAD (belated) Day 5: Vox

iGAD is a series of blogposts, continuing until I finish [A SHITLOAD] of indie games. Last time I blogged, I took a look at Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon, and now it’s time to check out Vox.

Foreword:

Firstly: my apologies for the lack of updates. A very long long weekend accompanied with a LAN party has the result of taking my productivity out the back and shooting it. It’s not all bad, though – I built myself a new PC, so I can play almost anything at maximum settings now. Good stuff. Secondly, I’m going to be messing about with formatting in the coming blog posts, but I promise I’ll settle down once I find a format that I like. <3

Moving on… to Vox

Alrighty. Now, I’m just going to say the first thing that comes to your mind when you view any of the images that I’ve inserted into this post: yes, it looks like Minecraft, and yes, it looks an awful lot like Cube World (by wollay). If it’s attempting to clone either of these games, though, it still has a very long way to go, solely for the reason that, in its current alpha version (0.17), it’s almost hideously incomplete, and needs quite a bit of tightening up before I’d even call it playable. In the interests of staying on topic, I’m going to just go through a typical playthrough of the alpha, with annotated screenshots, and post my stream of thought.

Upon opening the game: to the character creation screen!

Upon opening the game, you’re given the choice to use “Steve”, a default character, or to make your own. I opted for the latter, who, by default, comes equipped with the same set of gear as Steve does. With my character fully realized, I clicked through to the next menu, to see what my options were in regards to where I’d be playing…

Also known as “this is my excuse for not having working worldgen code yet”

…oh well. Slightly disappointed, I loaded “Voxtopia”, a world which seems to have been pre-built for testing purposes (no worldgen code yet, I think). After walking around for a while (which was marred by the game’s odd handling of mouse movement – I had to check “invert mouse” in the settings), I decided to finally take heed of the perennially-visible “Press I to open/close the inventory” message and see what Vox had to offer. From the available weapons, I chose an “Ice Wand”, and then this happened:

I swear it’s not what it looks like.

Then I crashed.

Upon re-opening the game, I decided to take a look at the deeper customization capabilities for my character – pre-made body parts are available, but the player can also create custom ones through an ingame voxel editor, which is a process which I can only describe as being similar to building something with Lego, but having to step on every piece before you use it. Despite this, the outcome of my efforts were fruitful: I ended up with a veritable masterpiece, which I’m seriously considering 3D-printing and mounting on my wall.

You could say that I’m ‘ahead’ of the curve here with my postmodernist glitch-slash-pixel-inspired expression of emotional distress.


Combined with some cute pre-made body parts.

Who am I kidding? My creation was awful. Time to change subject. To escape the hideous visage of my horribly deformed character (in those fabulous shoes), I went into first-person mode, and immediately started making robot noises, as it seemed appropriate at the time. It didn’t help that I also had a sort of… throwing scythe, I think it was called ingame. It span around in the air, and I fell in love with it immediately, conveniently ignoring the fact that it seemed utterly incapable of actually hitting anything. Love makes us blind… especially to the ridiculously broken lighting system.

That’s a torch in my left hand, by the way.

I ended up ending my brief affair with the scythe, eschewing its spinny presence for something really fun – bombs. Somehow, my character had an infinite supply tucked in his pocket, and, as you expect, he started sprinting around and putting them to very good use. That use, of course, was blowing up everything for no good reason.

I’m channeling my inner Demoman.

After an interminable amount of time, and also after I’d destroyed a significant portion of the map, I decided to stop having my character throw bombs willy-nilly and go inspect the pointy-hatted humanoid, who, until this point, had been vacantly gazing into the distance. First, however, he got stuck in a hole, and had to manually dig his way out, like some sort of plebeian.

Torch: now with 100% more inexplicable fire!

Oh my goodness, I hate her already. I can tell we’re going to have a great professional relationship.

Just kidding. Fuck you, Melinda. Also, I crashed again.

The Verdict (those of weak disposition, please cover your eyes…)

In all honesty, I really can’t recommend dropping $10 to support this on Desura (it’s free otherwise, from IndieDB) in its current state. It’s more of a tech demo than anything, and one that’s fairly underwhelming. I won’t say it’s the worst thing I’ve ever played (see: Mek Warfare, Adelaide AVCon 2012), but at least it has potential, and that’s really what I’m banking on here. When it’s incremented a few version numbers, I might take another look, but right now, it’s just a waste of hard disk space.

The moral of the story is: don’t let Damon write these when he’s really tired.

iGAD Day 4: Super Hexagon (iOS)

iGAD is a series of blogposts, continuing until I finish [A SHITLOAD] of indie games. Yesterday I took a look at Moment Studio’s Skylight, and now it’s time to check out Super Hexagon, a ridiculously punishing iOS game by Terry Cavanagh.

You know when a game ruthlessly and effortlessly kicks your ass, and does it in a manner in which it’s totally your fault whenever you lose, and then you feel the uncontrollable urge to just give it one more try?

Super Hexagon is one of those games.

In this utter bastard of a game, you control a tiny triangle, spinning around the centre of the screen to avoid being crushed by various walls which take the form of polygonal shapes – hexagons, squares, and pentagons (at least in my experience of the game – there might be more shapes).

I think it says something about this game that:

1. The guy who developed it, Terry Cavanagh, also made VVVVVV.
2. The easiest difficulty is “Hard”, followed by “Harder” and “Hardest”. These are just the beginning difficulties, however – there are “Hyper” versions of each difficulty which make the gameplay a lot faster, and, by extension, ridiculously harder.

That’s measured in seconds, not minutes…

Super Hexagon is a game for masochists, and I love it. It’s not unfair, like some “hardcore” games can be – it’s completely fair, and, just like VVVVVV, laughs in your face every time you fail. It doesn’t help that there’s an amazing 8-bit soundtrack (composed by Chipzel) throbbing behind the action, goading you into having just one more try…

Verdict: I hate myself, and heartily recommend that you, my loyal reader, purchase this game. It’s great fun, and a fantastic timesink. Go grab it from the App Store before all your friends do, so that you can be all hipstery about it.

iGAD Day 3: Skylight

iGAD is a series of blogposts, continuing until I finish [A SHITLOAD] of indie games. Yesterday I took a look at Project BC’s Encarmine, and now it’s time to check out Skylight, a Moment Studio production with a killer feature that has me very impressed.

Skylight is a game about jumping. When you boil it down, that’s literally all there is to it. Your player character is a robot who inexplicably soars through the sky, bouncing off of differently-coloured tiles which crack after he lands on them. Apart from that (very) simple gameplay mechanic, designed to force progression, there’s nothing else, and this minimalism is just a portion of what makes Skylight beautiful.

I guess you’d call Skylight a casual game – that’s what the creator, Bill Borman, calls it at least. The reality is that it is, in fact, a casual game, but one that is very much crafted in a manner which ups the difficulty as the player progresses, which I think is pretty rad. It’s quite fun to play, especially with the sparse scenery which floats around you – flocks of birds and fluffy clouds appear from time to time, and they only add to the experience of being a flying robot.

Of course, I’ve saved the most fantastic part of Skylight for last. The guy who made this game is a trained musician, and he decided to put that experience to work by making a custom music engine for the game – and boy is it neat as all hell. Skylight’s entire soundtrack is procedurally generated, and the progression of the music is controlled by the player’s progress ingame (hitting tiles causes notes to play, and the zebra-striped piano tiles play a quick flourish of notes). It’s an aural mechanic which works wonderfully, and is a large part of why I love this simple, minimalist game.

I suppose that I’m lucky that all of the games I’ve played so far have been pretty good. Skylight is no exception.

Verdict: Go buy it. It’s worth it.

iGAD Day 2: Encarmine

iGAD is a series of blogposts, continuing until I finish [A SHITLOAD] of indie games. Yesterday I took a look at Dejobaan’s Drunken Robot Pornography, and now it’s time to check out Encarmine, a Ludum Dare 24 entry by a development team made up of Bishop Meyers, Kate Holden, and Yan Rodriguez.

Hmm. I didn’t expect to be blogging about an interactive novel. Is it really a game? Anyway..

Encarmine is an interactive novel made with the Ren’Py visual novel Python framework, and because of this, it’s not very complex, or action-packed. There’s no real gameplay to speak of, other than clicking through dialog and making limited choices to alter the story. In spite of this, Encarmine manages to weave a compelling, riveting story which, well, just works. It’s fun to experience.

To be honest, I was surprised by this game. Ludum Dare entries can sometimes be of, ah, questionable quality, and that’s what I half-expected when I started Encarmine up. I’m not just saying that Encarmine is pretty good just to be nice to the indies who made it – it actually is pretty good. There are some flaws, of course, which include a bunch of spelling errors and what I suspect was a failure to run background scene change code in Maurus’ side of the story, but these are mostly-excusable, seeing as this interactive short story was made for a game jam.

I should probably talk about the story itself, shouldn’t I?

The story follows two fiend-hunters (fiends, in this universe, are demons which possess humans and cause them to do generically evil things) by the names of Lucia and Maurus – the former a maiden wielding a sword, and the latter a warlock with a troubled past. In the process of chasing down a fiend, they get separated, and run into different sorts of trouble on their chosen paths. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling the story, but I’m glad to say that it’s not a waste of your time to experience the story – accompanied with the art (which, in itself, is quite well done) and the music (also well made), it’s great for a rainy day.

Verdict: This game isn’t even Call of Duty. 0/10, would not blog about again.

(in all seriousness, if you’re feeling bored, go buy it and play it. It’s worth the $5.)

iGAD Day 1: Drunken Robot Pornography

So! First blog out of… quite a few. Phew! I don’t know how I’m going to get through all of this – we’ll just have to wait and see, shan’t we?

My first blog post in the indie-Game-A-Day series concerns an alpha of a game which I was sent about a month ago by Dejobaan games, the charming gents responsible for AaAaAAAaAAAA!!! and 1… 2… 3… KICK IT! (Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby), amongst others. This game is, surprisingly enough (unless you read the title, of course, in which case you win a gold star), called Drunken Robot Pornography. Spoiler alert: it’s fun.

Drunken Robot Pornography, or DRP, takes place in the same universe as the AaAaAA!! games – a futuristic version of Boston, floating miles above the ground. This allows Dejobaan to do whatever they want with the art style, and they’ve really gone in a great direction with this game: the general aesthetic consists of lasers and chrome. It’s pretty freakin’ rad for someone like me, who definitely appreciates the finer points of laser-and-alcohol-fueled 3D bullet hell.

That brings me to my next point, which really should have been my first point, since I haven’t actually talked about what the game actually IS yet: DRP is a 3D bullet hell game, which is basically the best way to describe it, really. The gameplay, in the PAX build, consists of the player character, armed with only a laser gun and a jetpack, facing off against robotic “calendar girls” (also known as Titans), which are all bedecked with an amount of weaponry which can only be described as patently ridiculous. It seems a little unfair, actually – these robots have a bunch of little types of laser guns, and all you have is a piddly little one. In spite of this, the gameplay seems pretty balanced (though rough around the edges), and the Titan creation aspect of the game is intriguing – my copy of the game doesn’t include this.

“Oh my gosh, Damon, this game sounds amazing! Why isn’t DRP out yet?” you ask.

While DRP is fun, and that’s an undeniable fact, the game still needs a lot of polish before Dejobaan should even start thinking about fully releasing it. A sense of progression is basically nonexistent (apart from moving through Titans like a greatsword through a cheese wheel), and the general feel of the movement and aiming mechanics needs a serious workover. On the positive side, however, all of this stuff should be pretty simple to fix, and I’m certain that Drunken Robot Pornography will be awesome upon release. Here’s an excerpt from Dejobaan’s press release:

A massive, angry robot fires banks of lasers at an orphanage, slicing it apart to the horror of thousands of onlookers. You emerge from the wreckage on your jetpack, and blast at its weak points, breaking it apart like you’re dismembering a boiled lobster. The hobbled robot regards with you mournfully with a single, giant red eye before you fire the killing shot, sending the crowd into a frenzy. This gladiatorial event would make the great Caesar weep, had he lived in a floating arcology miles above Boston.

[…]

When you’re done playing the hero, use pieces of your opponent’s shattered body to fashion your own multistory monstrosities, and unleash them on other players. Start with a skeleton of titanium girders, then mount pulse cannons and shielding over hard points. Add actuators so your Titan can flex its arms or tentacles, and jets for locomotion. Pick your materials carefully — an aluminum finish may be pretty, but graphene armor will better withstand attack. Then choose between ethanol, methanol, and isopropanol to temper its personality.

I moustache you a *BZZT* *FLESHBAG DETECTED*

If all of this is implemented, I can see this being an extremely fun shooter – not to play only on your own, but as a “pass-the-controller-around” party game. Hell, if I had a few controllers, I’d invite friends around to play this too – it’s very fun in its current state. In fact, I actually got distracted from writing this blogpost with beating my own high score on the game (126,523 points, if you’re curious).

Anyway, that’s it for this first blogpost! I apologize if I’ve rambled a bit – it’s been a long day of gaming. Borderlands 2 is just so damn addictive, and the plethora of indie games I’ve got to munch through aren’t helping either. Oh, and since I’m going to make this a thing:

Verdict: Cool. Cool, cool, cool. Needs work, but as an alpha, shows a lot of promise.

P.S.: The health/jetpack meters would look much better on the bottom corners of the screen. Just sayin’.

iGAD: Blogging about an Indie Game every day!

‘ello!

So I made this post on /r/gamedev last night, asking indie developers to send me their games in exchange for free publicity.

Aaaand…. then this happened.

Oy vey!

So, starting from tomorrow, all three of my loyal readers can expect a blogpost about one of those indie games, starting with Dejobaan Games’ Drunken Robot Pornography. I might even upload it tonight, if I’m feeling uber-productive. :)

DAMON OUT!

P.S. I might be previewing something awesome too, but we’ll see about that. ;)

Oh, also, since I don’t pay attention to what I’m writing: The title stands for indie-Game-A-Day. Derp.