Kickstarter isn’t what it was. Back in 2013, the pitch “Dungeon Keeper in space” garnered Maia £140,000. Skip ahead three years and another charming pitch – “Dwarf Fortress meets Elite” – barely scraped £10,000. That’s absolutely no reflection of the quality of the product. After all, despite being a one-man game, Sol Trader is well on course […]
Video games don’t often do subtle or literate. Games like Gears of War and Call of Duty succeed with no philosophical hinterland or characters worth talking about. Cutesy games are sickeningly so, shooting heroes speak in single syllables, and sincere indie games beat you over the head with how much everyone is suffering. Few […]
Is nostalgia so all-encompassing in this industry that no game can just be left to die? All of the games of my childhood seem to have clawed their way out of their graves recently. Megaman, Ultima Underworld, Planescape Torment, System Shock… If the original developer doesn’t fancy the legal tribulations of the revival process, then […]
It’s now been seven years since Markus Persson first released Minecraft as a free pre-alpha on the Tigsource forums. Yet no other indie game has approached its success before or since – over 70 million copies sold. From that original simple exploration / crafting title, it’s gradually swelled in size and capabilities, until it now […]
Sooth, the indieapocalypse cometh. The four horseman of developer doom – Distribution, Saturation, Stagnation, and Free Software – are putting sugar cubes in their steed’s feedbags and sharpening their implements. In co-working spaces around the world, indies in the midst of development are hearing the horror stories from those who released recently, those who’ve dumped their game into […]
The devil, we’re told, was early into the music scene. His monopoly on all the best tunes meant that it wasn’t uncommon for wannabe musicians to start haranguing any vaguely sinister person they met at a crossroads, in the vague hope of swapping the contents of their soul (eternity, redemption) for next year’s Christmas Number […]
They’re the same across the world. On a high street, but not in the best part, a clattering arcade taunts the norms to pass it by. Inside, amidst the deafening pachinko machines, one-armed bandits and coin cascades, a pair of lank-haired teenagers are bouncing in perfect synchronisation to the poppy beat mandated by a hyperreal dance […]
With indies, we don’t talk about the failures. Those students who banded together to make their first project, the hard-worn AAA veterans gambling homes and careers for a chance at their dream game, the Eastern European developers living eight to a room… The stories we tell are of the winners, not the losers. This focus on success encourages the gamble, the way that black young men on the streets of Chicago focus on the rich gang leaders and not on the guys dying on the corners. Banished’s creator, the former console developer Luke Hodorowicz, was similarly starry-eyed but at least is aware of how lucky he was.
Do we forgive the ultra-violence in video games because we played them as children, before age legislation came in? Did Mortal Kombat and Doom really twist our minds? I’ve been a gamer for 25 years and I’m starting to wonder if my perspective was fundamentally shifted by those early exposures. It’s 1992. My brother and […]
Dave Grossman is one of the games industry’s hidden gems. Starting at LucasArts in 1989, he’s worked on most of the most significant graphical adventures ever made, starting with Monkey Island, before working on children’s games for ten years, before joining Telltale Games to oversee groundbreaking series like Sam and Max, The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us and Back To The Future. After nearly ten years at the helm, he’s just left to join Reactive Studios, who are working on innovative audio-only titles like Codename Cygnus.
Kickstarter is dead, long live Kickstarter. When gaming Kickstarters started, it was a way for indie teams to get funding to complete their game prototypes. Then the mainstream community came and started paying hundreds of dollars for nostalgia projects from famous old developers. Now the mainstream’s evaporated with disappointment and the site has reverted to […]
Tim Keenan had a good life. Each time he set himself a goal, he achieved it. First, to work in AAA video games (at Rainbow Studios on ATV: Offroad Fury and Splashdown), then to work in movies at Dreamworks, as an FX artist “simulating natural phenomena towards an artistic result, this nice merger of science […]
Marc Laidlaw is best known as the writer of Half-Life but he started his career as a fiction writer, with his first parodic novel ‘Dad’s Nuke’ published in 1986. He grew up in Laguna Beach, California, but eventually settled in San Francisco, where he worked as a legal secretary. He discovered games through Myst, which […]
There are fewer game concepts more bizarre than that of Mushroom 11. In development since the 2012 Global Game Jam, you control an amorphous organism across an apocalyptic landscape, battling swarms of mutant creatures. It’s a puzzle-platformer at heart so the uniqueness comes in its control mechanic – the organism will regrow any damage except […]
Everyone has a list of their favourite games, and some of those games are now unplayable. Perhaps two years ago, my personal version of this list would have been a lot longer. After all, most of the games I personally want remade are mostly in the process of being rebooted, or having spiritual sequels made […]
Among the many casually-abused terms prevalent in our joyous den of hedonism, few have been battered about as much as ‘adventure’. The origin Latin word ‘adventurus’ means something like “about to befall”, giving a sense of the excitement you have when you take your first step on a journey of a thousand miles, like Bilbo poised at the entrance of Bag End. It’s a changing, a shifting, the sniffing of the air that precedes rain or a change in the wind. And, of course, a change in the adventurer.
My ship has been sitting in the Great Khan’s docks for two months because of a fatal mistake. Not on the part of the Khanate’s people – I’m an emissary of the enemy so I’m understandably watched and shunned. Not on the part of the scheming dead of Fallen London. Not because of wistful devils or aggressive mountains or giant crabs or ambitious pirates or any of the other threats of the Unterzee. But because I didn’t listen to the Blind Bruiser properly and accidentally spent the thousand echoes that he gave me. Yes, genuinely; I wasn’t paying attention and spent a gangland boss\’s bribe to a foreign diplomat.
One is a medium that seems age-old to its youthful players, set in its ways, rarely fresh and dominated by people who think that the old games are the best. The other one is board games.
The trend is mature now, but board games over the last few years have been a much more interesting space to watch than video games. The spread of geek culture has made high-quality, complex board games desirable, compared to the cheap, badly-designed rule-systems we grew up with (Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo and the rest). Globalisation and technology advances have made small, high-quality board game print runs viable. Kickstarter meant that once designed, board game developers don’t have to fund the costs of creation and shipping – and they might even make a profit before they’ve even shipped.
Garry Newman is best known for his multi-million selling Garry’s Mod, a sandbox expansion for Half-Life 2. However, in recent years he’s moved into development proper, setting up Facepunch Studios to work on games like the zombie survival sandbox Rust and several other projects. We caught up with him to ask about the topics of the day.
You’ve never been a traditional developer, nor part of the indie community. How would you describe yourself?
Garry: I don’t know, I’m probably closer to a modder than a traditional developer. I’ve never worked in a real game studio.
Female protagonists, oh my. Given the oh-so-friendly atmosphere around gender and games at the moment, prior to writing this article I’ve blocked all methods of communication I can and have booked a ticket to the middle of the Kalahari desert. (I have a shotgun ready for any persistent carrier pigeons.) That caveat aside, this week I’m just looking for the best games with female protagonists. Of course, many RPGs and MMOs let you create your own female character. But that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for great games that make you play a believable female character.
Game design is an art, not a science. It’s haphazard, with forking paths that take developers down dead ends, that for indies is a day’s lost work and beans for dinner, for an AAA studio can mean months, millions of dollars, and a hundred lay-offs at project’s end. Very few games look the same from start to finish.
And the stage at which everything is most fluid is that initial pitch. It’s amazing how many of our favourite games changed completely in their first few months. I’ve collected together a few of my old interviews and dug up design documents to look at a few of the biggest games that could have been completely different.
The title of this week’s round-up isn’t my creation. No, it’s a genre that’s just starting to emerge, seemingly sparked by people wanting to say that FTL can’t be a roguelike. Is there much to distinguish the procedural death labyrinth from the roguelike? Well, both Lars Doucet and Tanya X from Gamasutra seem to think there is. You can read more about it at here. If you can’t be bothered; basically, there’s a ‘Berlin Interpretation’ of what constitutes a roguelike, derived from the 2008 Berlin international roguelike conference. The conference, like its subject matter, featured permadeath, incomprehensible tomes, and was packed with monsters. The Berlin Interpretation of the roguelike mentions phrases like ‘non-modal’, which were probably argued over for days.
For a game developer, reputation is everything. However charming, handsome and pleasant you are in person or on screen, however technically gifted you are at instantly turning ideas into code into games, if you’ve screwed up your reputation, you may as well give up now, because no-one will buy your game. Most game developers I’ve met are good people. They’re creative and excited, keen to turn the strange ideas into their head into the nearest-to-reality that they can. They may not always manage a 1-to-1 conversion, but most of the games I play end up fun enough – and a lot better than they did ten years ago, pre-Unity.
Its arguable that Valve’s greatest achievement wasn’t Half-Life 2, but the amount of vitriol generated when they created the Steam Tags system. All sorts of games were cruelly tagged as the system opened up, with no title escaping the bitterness of Steams crowds of teenage old vandals. Despite Valve suppressing the offensive tags, two attendees at the Develop Conference in Brighton last week admitted that their games had been tagged as Hipster Bullshit on Steam.
I was the writer on a game (http://pandora.proxy-studios.com/). Like many writers in games, I wasn’t brought in at the start, but towards the end of the project. My job was to provide a backstory, dialogue, characters, and descriptions for everything in the game. All of which the game had managed perfectly well without until quite close to release. And, to be honest, this was a more word-heavy, creative game than many out there.
The kingdom or city builder genre is all about giving players godlike power to shape a realm however they like, and hopefully enable it to survive. The realm itself doesn’t matter so much, though differing settings give you wildly different objectives – the aim of Theme Park, for example was to massively increase the salt on your cheap fries so that everyone was forced to buy your horribly overpriced soft drinks. Or at least that was the way I played it. After all, they can’t call you megalomaniac, if you really are in charge.
Look at that title. What hubris, to call the modern day a Golden Age! Sceptical scientists out there will argue that games are neither valuable nor chemically inert enough to justify such a moniker. Yet, when I think of the simulation games of my childhood, huddled in the realistically-cast shadow of more exciting, more gamesy games, modern sims have come a huge way.