I personally thought that Thomas Was Alone was one of the best game's I've played in years. One of those games that you walk away from smiling, thinking that from the moment you launched it "this was worth it".
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My fixated determination to explore the deepest reaches of space has been yet again ignited by the long awaited release of FTL: Faster Than Light. This strategy based space exploration title would see players navigate the turmultuous frontier of a randomly generating galaxy in an attempt to save it.
As players oversee the crew of their vessel, providing orders and such, they must also manage the power distribution and upgrade attainment. Through the course of exploration, upgraded technology can be obtained through communication with six diverse alien races. In the like,FTL will provide captains with hundreds of text based situations demanding clearly actionable decisions be made; the likes of which may very well affect the various races you will encounter, your crew, and the galaxy at large. Heavy, well thought decisions will also play a large role in combat:
“In FTL you experience the atmosphere of running a spaceship trying to save the galaxy. It’s a dangerous mission, with every encounter presenting a unique challenge with multiple solutions. What will you do if a heavy missile barrage shuts down your shields? Reroute all power to the engines in an attempt to escape, power up additional weapons to blow your enemy out of the sky, or take the fight to them with a boarding party?”
Though, rest assured; while FTL is considered difficult, players are able to pause in the midst of battle do decide their next move.
Each deep space expedition is designed to be unique from the last, featuring newly generated enemies, events and results to the player’s actions. Thus, the game places a permanent weight to all that unfolds in the expanse, including the death of players, to ensure both thoughtful and multiple play-throughs.
FTL: Faster Than Light is available through Steam, DRM free with some bonus goodies onGog.com and for all platforms on the developer’s site. By all means, I encourage the lovers of management on a grand scale, and the lovers of space, to go check out Faster Than Light. I’ll be doing the same, so expect an eventual review.
- Doug Comstock
I’ve not had a proper interest in a science fiction game not predominantly featuring space exploration in quite a while. Bearing a large disposition for my ability to interpret and question, I sometimes find the realm of answers to be quite uninviting. Occasionally, however, I stumble upon a title that - while clearly owning an agenda for answers - prompts me to desire the very same answers it seeks to answer. Cradle, a science fiction adventure title produced by Flying Cafe for Semianimals, is one of those titles.
“Our goal is to deliver the player a specific emotional experience similar to what we may see in a night dream, where our life is completely different from the real one, with its own past and present. Cradle is a strange beautiful dream filled with anticipation of discovering a deep old mystery” - Ilya Tolmachev, Creative Director and Founder of Flying Cafe
Cradle sets players on a quest to restore the lost functionality your only companion; a mechanical girl, whom like yourself, has found herself residing near an equally neglected amusement park. Utilizing both the freedom of movement and the ability to interact with nearly everything around you to some end, players will piece together the solvent to the mysteries surrounding this strange locale. Who is this mechanical girl? Why is this amusement park deserted? And why, and possibly even how, did the girl and yourself end up here of all places?
Being purposefully enigmatic has only helped build some buzz around Cradle. With the game’s planned completion for this fall, we’ll hopefully not have to wait for too long to the previously pondered - and likely newly formed - questions answered. For more information about Cradle, check out the developers home site; and if you’re interested enough, give them a vote onGreenlight.
- Doug Comstock
Two weeks into Steam Greenlight’s quickly ignited and quickly revised life-span, the first ten games to be granted steam releases have been announced. With its foundations deeply set in community integrity, Greenlight’s credibility in its stake to lend discover-ability and accessibility to the games that warranted it most would be established by the integrity of this first list. Excluding Slender: Source - for which, the reasoning seems to be a whole story in and of itself - the ten games with the most votes, and thus receiving full releases on steam, are as follows:
Cry of Fear
Heroes & Generals
No More Room in Hell
The list itself features a diverse selection, not just in terms of genre. While the list is not quite telling as of yet, the mixture of both highly anticipated and intriguing titles and what some are calling “Clone” titles does raise a few questions. While heavily weighed in the favor of genuine content, so far, how much will the new adaptations of Greenlight effect future lists? Will the program’s community involvement continue to thrive as new titles are added to the poll? All remain to be seen. For now, however, this looks to be a fine list to me.
The games featured shall be relocated to the “Greenlit” section, where they will patiently await release. The list can be viewed, with discriptions of each game, as well as links, here. For an easy, up to date, method of following which games are leading the Greenlight Polls, take a look at this data tracking site. And lastly, what about Slender: Source? The folks at Etheral Entertainment stated via twitter, that they were not greenlit because “We’re talking to Valve about it currently”. News on the developing future of Slender: Source, and Valve’s personal involvement will hopefully be soon forthcoming.
- Doug Comstock
The realm of horror in video games remains consistently botched by two outstanding design facets: predictability and replayability. As more developers implement the timing, atmosphere and design proven most effective to ensure quality products; more players have slowly walked the same corridor lit by the sporadic flashes of a damaged over-head lamp, on edge and waiting for the third door on the left to burst open revealing horror’s new costume. As players become conditioned to expect these sort of design ethics, the first enjoyment of new titles can be sometimes hampered - regardless of quality, let alone a second play-through. The most recently popular method of circumventing this issue has been a reliance on immersion, through tailoring atmosphere and the like to keep the experience as personal as possible. Alas, while most attempts seem to ring more soundly with each release, none of the titles available have truly landed the mark. Immersion is about the player; so, wouldn’t putting the player on the mantle and creating an environment tailored to their individual habits be the sure solution? Is this ideal too ambitious or costly for scripting and AI pathing to actualize? Well, with bio-feedback being the foundation, Nevermind is attempting the sure solution.
Under the creative direction of Erin Reynolds, Nevermind is “a PC biofeedback-enhanced exploration horror game in which you venture into the minds of trauma patients to discover the truth behind their horrific experiences”. One wordy description. Basically, as players assume the role of an employee at the “Neurostalgia Institute” tasked with tapping into the mysteries hidden by the repressed memories of trauma patients, they will face any number and shape of horrors. With the tone and setting in place, the rest is on the player. Intended to be played while using a GARMIN heart monitoring device, Nevermind is structured to ramp up its own difficulty as players become more anxious; and, return to a more gentle state as players calm themselves. This brilliant notion opporates under the ideal that in order to progress in the game efficiently, players will need to learn to temper and manage their own anxiety.
While adjusting the playing-field to properly address the issues horror games have faced in predictability and replayability; Nevermind’s biofeedback-enhanced game-play is poised to change the way horror games are designed fundamentally, and could possibly provide a new angle for anxiety management. As a player’s ability to manage their stress changes Nevermind’senvironment, the all-ready-instated goal of being as unpredictable, varied and fluid as possible can stand to have much more valuable impact through multiple play-throughs.
While unable to provide the heart monitors with the game currently, the specific one can be easily purchased here. However, Nevermind is built with an algorithm designed to track play styles and adapt accordingly, allowing the game to be enjoyable even without a sensor. For more information about Nevermind and its future, see the IndieGoGo page or the game’s homesite.
- Doug Comstock
Since Steam’s Greenlight debuted less than a week ago, seven hundred submissions have added to the roster. While that feat, in and of itself, is impressive; not all of the line-up is as impressive. There is wonderful content to be found in the list, but so much of it is buried behind content that does not match the ideals of the program. Rather posted as a joke, or by fans not quite understanding Greenlight’s intention, submissions have been flooded with material players just aren’t interested in seeing. As the first step toward refinement, Valve has implemented a two part update to Greenlight’s current functionality.
The first of which has warranted the majority of the attention. In order to establish a more thought and commitment driven submission process, a $100 fee has been attached to the submission process itself. The proceeds will not go to Valve, however; but, to the Child’s Playcharity organization. A Valve announcement thread noted that “We have no interest in making money from this, but we do need to cut down the noise in the system”. As well, current submissions need not worry about retroactive fees, as any game listed before the update will not be subjected to the bill.
Secondly, what with the goal of narrowing the submission field all ready in place, Valve intends to narrow the way players search for the games on Greenlight. In the stead of the page full of titles Greenlight sifters were used to perusing, a cleaner more concise list comprised of popular and new titles will be presented as the mast-head. The list will not contain any game the user has previously ranked, and will serve the same function as Steam’s featured items list - suggestions in the forefront, with the ease of a filtered or broad search readily available.
As the discoverability of new titles remains the priority on Greenlight’s agenda, this two part update stands to further that end. The $100 toll for entry will halt the influx of spontaneous or misunderstood submissions, allowing serious developers a little more elbow room on stage; and give to a great cause. All the while, the reformed search and presentation system will provide gamers with a more pleasant discovery experience.
- Doug Comstock
The reasoning behind this thread is not to shine a spotlight on the people exulting their own art; rather, it is questioning the motive. Independent music, for example, has a bad habit of being exclusionary. The "I can't believe you haven't heard this" mentality creates a sort of impasse for people looking to get into a new genre. The same thing is starting to surface with independent games. All indie developers, and all main stream developers as well, mean for their games to be a personal, enjoyable experience for any who might wish to play. Why then create a pedestal from which developers claim to be "better" than others? The general consensus on this thread is that there is room for diversity in the industry. It can be even argued that indie games would not have the appeal or draw that they have without the existence and popularity of AAA games. Where does this disdain come from, within the independent community, and why has it started to thrive in so many circles?
I appreciate all of the comments thus far. It should be noted that this thread was created primarily for research purposes, as I am attempting to write an article on the subject. There is no better way of going about it than starting with the gamers themselves. So please, keep on with the flow of opinions - they are wonderful.
Have Indie Elitist statements from across the board - such as Tommy Refenses' statement that AAA games are "Shit", and he doesn't make "Shit" (Indie Game: The Movie) - impacted the way members of the gaming community interact with each other? In connection, are Jonathan Blow's statements referring to the notion that all games should be of higher concept (Indie Game: The Movie, CBS Interview and more), attempting an artistic vision fitting of his standard, a fair assessment of the gaming industry at large? Or, should the subjective nature of the art lend to a more diverse pallet? While games hold an impressionable stance, is it fair to debunk games that simply aim to be games? Do we need social commentary on a grand scale in games like VVVVVV, or is the simple whimsy and companionship displayed by the game enough?
With the IndieCade festival looming only a month away, the curtain has been drawn on this year’s nominee list. Ranging from PC releases to playground games and everything in between, the selection includes thirty six features of a variety of flavors. Here are a few of the titles listed that caught my attention.
A Closed World:
“Have you ever been so frustrated, so fed up with where you are, that you just want to throw it all away and run off to somewhere new”? Assuming the role of a young resident of a village nestled in the shadows of a forbidden and monster inhabited forest, players attempt to do just that - go somewhere else. The character’s desire to journey on surfaces after witnessing their beloved - having grown weary of the authoritarian and oppressive behaviour of the other villagers - brave the unknown dangers of the forest, in search of unknown freedom on the other side. Now, with only their brain’s and charisma to battle would be foes, our hero must set forth in search of their love and their freedom. A flash game still in its proto-type stage, A Closed World’s interesting visual and game-play style can be experienced here.
Having played quite a bit of this title, myself (purchased via Humble Bundle), I felt the need to highlight it here. A point-and-click adventure from the makers of Machinarium; Botanicula surrounds the trials of five friends in their conquest to save the last seed of the tree they inhabit. As the group races against the evil parasites draining the life force from their home, they will encounter a menagerie of puzzles, find hidden bonuses, and collect cards of all fellow tree-dwellers. This story-book like game can be enjoyed here.
The playground game promised above, Staccato is fairly straight forward in its conception. Split between offense and defense, the goal is to score more points than the opposition. While offense passes the ball to each other and attempting to bounce it into the goal, defense’s objective is merely to block. Sounds simple enough, right? The defining facet of Staccato, is that it is essentially turn-based. Defensive players can only move while the ball is in motion; so, with only a minute to play the offense must manage to strategically circumvent defenses with as few tries as possible. For more information about Staccato, head on over here.
Inspired by Co-creator Aaron Rasmussen’s temporary blindness resulting from a high school chemistry explosion, “BlindSide simulates the experience of waking up blind in a world filled with deadly monsters”. Assuming the role of Case, an assistant professor who wakes up blinded and hearing of his city destroyed and being ravaged by monsters, players will bump into objects, slide along walls and rely on the help of their girlfriend to survive this apocalypse. Providing an opportunity for the visually impaired, as well as average sighted gamers, to experience a new sort of Audio-driven adventure game; BlindSide is available here.
A full list of this year’s festival features can be found on the IndieCade nominee list. For a full list of the awards granted, festival tickets, volunteer information, conference registration, travel over to the IndieCade homepage. Time is running out.
- Doug Comstock