Indie Games Live
Article by: Geek Girl Zelda|
Mistress Zelda recently attended Indie Games Live and reviewed some of the games showcased there...
I recently had the pleasure of attending Indie Games Live; an independent gaming showcase and collaboration between developers GungHo Entertainment, YummyYummyTummy and live streamed by GameTrailers. It ran concurrently with GDC Next in Los Angeles, which premiered a wide variety of video games and entertainment for the mobile/app market. With the ever increasing popularity of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, indie game developers are becoming more visible and prolific. Their passion is evident everywhere you look – these companies and their respective games exist only due to the dedication and dream that each of these indie devs bring. We are seeing some of the greatest innovation in the industry coming from this new breed of free thinking, creative development teams. I had the opportunity to check out some of the games at Club Nokia on Monday night, with wine and beer providing the conversation lubrication between press, devs, and convention goers.
The games were in various stages of development – some of these projects were close to release, while others were still in the pre-alpha phase. Regardless, each one showcased their potential – let’s hope they all succeed in making it there. While I didn't get the chance to try every one of the games, here are some highlights:
, as described by the devs: “LEADtoFIRE is an arcade-style RTS set in a world of animal revolution. Build your own faction, deck-building style, from units like mustard-gas skunks to bomb-dropping eagles. From the creators of the IGF-winning game Monaco: What's Yours is Mine, LEADtoFIRE features a perfectly streamlined RTS control scheme: You'll win or lose based on the merits of your strategy and the depth of your skill, not the speed of your mouse-clicking finger.”
, as I experienced it: The devs described their vision for this game as something along the lines of “We wanted to make a game that captured all of the elements of what makes Starcraft fun, while making it more accessible to people who don’t want to deal with...Starcraft. LEADtoFire is meant to be a casual RTS game that is still competitive without being exclusionary.”
A noble goal, in my opinion. RTS games are notoriously poisonous to new players due to their deeply ingrained competitiveness and steep learning curve. The game was still in an early alpha phase, but the mechanics were user-friendly and the game itself was easy on the eyes. There were only a few pieces of final artwork in the game, but even the temporary, non-animated units in the game had a kind of simplistic charm about them. The character and weapon designs are all cutesy animals, which should help attract the type of casual gamer that maybe hasn't gotten to experience an RTS game before.
Release Date: TBD
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
, as described by the devs: “Knight Squad is an 8 players top down competitive game. In the midst of the chaos created by the one hit kill combats, the players have to compete for the map's objective: have the most points at the end of the timer, capture the flags as a team, survive the longest, etc. The game is very fast paced, is incredibly addicting and is really funny with friends.”
, as I experienced it: Knight Squad
was the first game I got my hands on at the event. It reminded me of Bomberman combined with capture the flag. You play up to 4 players, with AI filling up any empty slots to keep the excitement and chaos of the gameplay going. The maps are destructible from certain power ups, and the games are very fast paced and silly. There are weapons like swords, bows and arrows, shields, and bombs – which I never figured out how to use correctly (I blew myself up several times during the game I played). If you are a fan of the classic Bomberman games, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out – it puts a fresh coat of paint on a classic game style, and it’s a perfect casual party game. I don’t think there is anything terribly innovative or new about it, but not everything needs to be. Some things are classic for a reason.
Release Date: Early 2015
Platforms: PC / Mac / Linux, Xbox One
, as described by the devs: “Neverending Nightmares is a psychological horror game inspired by the developer's actual battle with mental illness. In the game, you take on the role of Thomas who awakens from a terrible nightmare only to find that he is still dreaming. As he descends deeper through the layers of hellish dreamscapes, he must hide from horrifying apparitions and outrun his inner demons. He must discover which of the horrors he encounters are a manifestation of his own psychological state and figure out what reality will be when he finally wakes up.”
, as I experienced it: This game has a really killer art style that I haven’t seen before. I especially liked the way light was displayed through the weight of the crosshatching technique. I wanted to try the game, but the booth was unmanned every time I went by. Watching a couple other people try out the game, I couldn’t pick up on any actual gameplay elements. You just seemed to be walking endlessly through a surreal black and white landscape with the occasional splash of blood red for ambiance. As someone who has suffered through mental health issues herself, I support video games as a new landscape to explore our psyches and recognize the potential for them to be therapeutic. I didn't see anyone actually involved in the game’s development at the booth the entire evening, and they were packed up and gone early into the event. It sort of lends legitimacy (and mystery!) to the creator’s mental health issues. Maybe he is a ghost? Maybe those people were never actually playing at all and I imagined Neverending Nightmares
. Maybe that booth got sucked into another dimension. I don’t know, but I would have appreciated a little more effort in showcasing the product and talking about the process that went into its inception/creation as it appeared to have the potential to be really unique and interesting.If you're trying to use your game as a way to open a dialogue about mental illness, you should make yourself available for that dialogue.
Release Date: Available now.
Platforms: PC, Ouya
There Came an Echo
, as described by the devs: “There Came an Echo is a real-time strategy title with a heavy narrative focus. The player can use an innovative voice control system to direct their units around the battlefield to ensure a tactical advantage over the enemy.
The game features a AAA voice cast, led by Star Trek regular Wil Wheaton and internet sensation Ashly Burch."
There Came an Echo
, as I experienced it: Unfortunately, Indie Games Live was not the ideal environment to play this game. The mechanics of the game were based on innovative use of microphone voice commands. It was too loud to get a proper playthrough, although I could see how it would be very cool under better circumstances. The art style is reminiscent of Shadowrun: Returns, which gets the stamp of approval from me since I have put many obsessive hours into that game. There Came an Echo’s
lead designer took me into the game editor to show me how the artwork was built – although the map appears as high-res 3D, it is also actually built as layered 2D pixel and invisible light planes. It is difficult to describe without showing a photo, but it’s pretty ingenious. It allows the game to have high quality graphics without being a resource hog, and should display well even on low tier gaming rigs. I’m not normally one for gimmicks, but this one looks like it could unlock something new in video games. The game was still in a pre-alpha phase but was definitely one of the most imaginative products at the event, and I look forward to seeing where the game goes. The devs had big smiles their faces on during the entire evening – it was obviously a group of passionate folks making Echo
Release Date: Q1 2015
Platforms: PC / Mac / Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
, as described by the devs: “WARMACHINE: Tactics is a turn based tactical strategy set in the steampunk universe of WARMACHINE. Based on the award winning tabletop by Privateer Press, WARMACHINE: Tactics features both single player and multiplayer modes and is about 1 month away from coming out of Early Access and releasing the full game on Steam.”
, as experienced by me: WARMACHINE: Tactics
was definitely the highest budget game out of the bunch. The models, environments and visual effects are killer and the UI is (mostly) very easy to understand once you get going. For anyone who likes turn based strategy games like X-COM or tabletop games like Warhammer (or WARMACHINE
– duh), its worth getting your hands on. The game has somewhat of a learning curve, and it was difficult for players to sit down and pick up all the mechanics of the game at an event that mostly featured casual games. There is a great breadth of gameplay and tactics in the game, and 20+ hours of single player gameplay. It updates twice a month with new content and was one of the most successfully funded Kickstarter games of all time. There is definitely a learning curve for new players and folks who come from the tabletop game have an obvious advantage, but there is a skirmish mode to test out different units and custom squads. The variety of gameplay styles should keep the replay value high, and there is a strong community already assembled around the game even though it is still in Early Access. There is still some work to be done on the camera, bug fixes and content, but it’s already a long way into being a great game.
Release Date: November-December 2014
Platforms: PC / Mac / Linux
, as described by the devs: “Lying on your back in a warm grassy field, you watch the birds flit between the clouds above. Apsis is a playful and emotive experience about a flock of birds. It starts with a single bird high above the ground. Guide the bird through the sky with your touch or a mouse, exploring the world and finding other birds to join you. Your flock grows as you travel across the beautiful skies of a far-off land and creates an expressive story without words. Apsis is a bit of a love letter to the games we'd like to see made: games that aren't about winning, scoring, conquering or even necessarily making progress. We want you to sit down, wrap yourself in a short journey and return to your life feeling just a bit better.”
, as experienced by me: I remember when this game was called Flower/Flow . It's ok that this game is very derivative - the world needs more "games" to get stoned to. In fact, I am pretty sure South Park already designed a game like this . Regardless, the game is pretty, relaxing, and does exactly what it promises. Not every game needs to have a story or a goal - why can't some games be art for art's sake? Apsis seeks to answer that question.
Release Date: Spring or Early Summer 2015
Platforms:PC / Mac / Linux, iOS, Android
Jump Tanks, as described by the devs: "Dash and bound through vibrant battlefields in your 20 ft tall custom built tanks. Battle it out in 5 vs 5 battles that are equal parts skill, tank customization and team work. Build the perfect battalion of 3 tanks based on your play style by choosing each tanks pilot, chassis, gun, legs, shield and up to four additional attachments such as radar jammers, hover drives, x-ray scanners, floating gun pods and many more.
Jump Tanks re-imagines the feeling of heart pounding action found in classic Japanese shooters. Dodge and weave through incoming laser blasts and mortar shots while returning your own volleys of attacks. Use the shields on the front of the tanks to block attacks and wait for just the right moment to raise it and blast your opponent into shrapnel. Leap from 90 story buildings and perform a jump crush attack on unsuspecting foes below. Out maneuver barrages of heat-seeking missiles while you charge up your cannon and get ready to release your own personal bullet hell. Welcome to the world of Jump Tanks!"
Jump Tanks, as experienced by me: Jump Tanks is still pretty early in it's development, which makes a game that is exact and fast paced like this one feel a little bit clunky, but I still had a good time playing it. The developer was getting interviewed by GameTrailers when I went to play it, so I actually got the preview from his proud father who was beyond excited to share his son's accomplishment - exactly the kind of thing I love about indie games. The controls were easy to pick up and the map designs were fun, although I didn't get to try out any of the actual tank customization mechanics. I generally think of tanks as slow, plodding, and heavy hitting (and certainly not vertically capable!), and the designs had more of a mech feel about them, so the name Jump Tanks was a little bit lost on me. It was fun for anyone who is looking for a casual shooter with a slight twist, although I'd want to spend some more time playing it to see how the different types of tanks play and how they are balanced overall. I enjoyed it enough to sign up for their early access preview build, so we will see how it progresses :)
Release Date: TBD
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Homesick, as described by the devs: "Homesick brings a beautiful 3D world and a first person perspective to the great point-and-click adventure game genre. Exploring an abandoned building, you are at peace, encountering puzzles and clues, and opening new areas of the building. You seem to have been there so long that direct sunlight is blindingly bright, yet you feel at home. But when you sleep, you are plagued by nightmares, frantically running down hallways chased by darkness, an axe in hand, trying to escape.
You’ll discover the world, yourself, and the meaning of the nightmares, as you try to escape in both your nightmares and the waking world."
Homesick, as experienced by me: Homesick is another game that is being made through the power of Kickstarter. I didn't get the opportunity to play it myself, although I watched some folks as they explored. I am a fan of the old point and click adventure genre - it's one of the very first types of games I remember from my childhood 20+ years ago. In fact, watching this game brought up some serious MYST nostalgia - it had sort of a similar atmosphere in the environment, ambiance and color palette. The devs described it to me as a puzzle game, although in the time I watched it it seemed to be more pure exploration. I wanted a bit more variety in the landscape although I am sure it varies from level to level (they said the gameplay was only 2-3 hours long total). I'm glad to see developers still making strides in this genre and exploring new methods of immersion although I felt like this game was missing a little bit of "Oomph". They still have a long way to go into development, though.
Release Date: TBD
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Here are some more shots from the event...
Article by: Geek Girl Zelda
Event photos by: GungHo Entertainment
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November 05 2014