All posts by Sam D. Burr

Baldo is the perfect blend of Studio Ghibli visuals and Zelda gameplay

Baldo is the perfect blend of Studio Ghibli visuals and Zelda gameplay

Following on the Ni No Kuni-frickin-cute trend.

Italian studio Naps Team have released a gameplay trailer for Baldo, a game thats got that instantly noticeable Miyazaki aesthetic. We’ve seen titles do really well with this art style just recently, with Ni No Kuni capturing the imagination of players for its vibrant fantasy world above and beyond the actual gameplay. Is Baldo going to be more of the same? From the trailer, its a little hard to tell.

We’ve got very little information so far on this title, but according to the description under the PS4 trailer the story goes a bit like this: You are the “chosen child” navigating the fantastical world of Rodia, a place of green forests and strange creatures. Apparently, “the no heart creature sealed in the underworld by the wise owls is about to rise again”, I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds pretty mystical.

Also below this PS4 trailer, the description indicated that Baldo will be an open-world narrative adventure, with a main narrative and plenty of side-quests to keep you busy. This is where things start to feel a little Zelda, as the gameplay also consist of these quests as well as hidden temples to explore for new items and weapons.

The trailer gives us a great glimpse into a number of vibrant and colourful locations, as well us showing us some of the creatures we might meet along the way. Our hero fits into a similar Ni No Kuni template, looking naive and cute, but ready and willing for adventure. There is definitely a strong Legends of Zelda feel from the snippets of gameplay, but cut scenes with characters often reminded me of the Studio Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle, packed with character and mischief. I’m excited to find out more about this intriguing title and if you are too, keep an eye on Naps Team website.

Associate Editor

Kate has been gaming since she could control a mouse. In addition to having a penchant for indie games, Kate had a World of Warcraft account when she was far too young, and has a weakness for any game with ‘RPG’ in the description.

Kate Fanthorpe

Associate Editor Kate has been gaming since she could control a mouse. In addition to having a penchant for indie games, Kate had a World of Warcraft account when she was far too young, and has a weakness for any game with ‘RPG’ in the description.

These Mods Are An Indie Game’s Best Friend

The future is collaborative, and that benefits everyone.

For as long as there have been video games, there have been mods. Back in the classical days of early PC gaming, modifying popular titles formed the grassroots foundations of what we now consider to be the independent scene. So it’s no wonder there’s a thriving modding scene surrounding some of our favourite indie games. 

That’s not to say any two mods are created equal. While some make games easier or add funny touches, there are others that directly benefit the base game and developer. They’re the mods that demonstrate the power of a mod that has previously been fairly unrecognised.

Modders who interact with a game in such a way that adds to the base experience, or draws out an element of the base experience are creating not only a community to carry a game’s name, but also a method of highlighting an already excellent feature for further celebration. Rather than just decorating a space, they’re adding furniture. 

Take Stardew Valley, for instance. The product of five years of passionate personal creativity, the world created by Eric Barone is so full of possibility and nuance, a growing community of players adding their own personal touches to the game was inevitable. The New Machines mod allows players to invest themselves more in the cooking aspect of the game. While previously simple dishes could be conjured up to increase Energy and Health levels throughout your day, Igorious’ addition adds flour, sugar, and vinegar machines to Pelican Town for players to cook directly from their produce.

While at face value the New Machines mod offers some nice new ways to interact with your farm, the way it encourages players to engage with an aspect of Stardew Valley that perhaps doesn’t receive much limelight makes it a perfect example of an indie developer’s best friend. A mod that adds new items and interactions to your game while making your existing work better for it. Rather than simply changing how the game works, it’s mods like these that create an ecosystem of development and community that can be integral to the success of a title. 

Or, take the amazing Telemachus mod for Kerbal Space Program. Telemachus is a simple data link that starts out pretty redundant but once you realise the possibilities that come from hooking it up to other sources and outputs, you’ve got yourself an awesome space hub. Screen up and pull up a chair at your brand new flight deck console, with options to send basic commands to all your in-game vessels and chart atmospheric density, altitude and g-force charts and plenty of other flight dynamics.

Taking advantage of the rich data stored in all of KSP’s interactions, Telemachus not only adds new support to visualising this data (and making you feel damn cool while doing so) but also shows off the level of detail that has been poured into this experience by its original developers. Without such extensions, KSP would still be impressive, but the dynamic breadth of its under-the-hood complexity would never have seen the light of day – it’s a feature that still draws many to the game today.

Stardew Valley and Kerbal Space Program are exceedingly successful games. That’s by no means just down to the modding communities surrounding them, but there’s a reason so many in the independent industry are turning their attention to the power of mods in a game’s cycle. Mods are seeing a resurgence in relevance for today’s industry. Indies were built on mods, but saw a decrease in trust as games started bricking, and mods were mainly developed to add fun but ultimately redundant tweaks to a core structure of a game.

Now, though, companies like Modularity are bringing mods to the forefront of a game’s life cycle. ModDB’s brand new publishing label focusing only on games that offer a strong modding foundation or have been created from existing mods was announced in January. It’s industry moves like this that demonstrate how mods are the often unsung heroes of the entire indie scene, a creative collaboration under the inspiration of an experience built from similar passions can create amazing things. 

Sure, they can change a character’s appearance or rebalance a game’s difficulty, but they can also nourish an experience with new interactions that bring out the best of a game’s foundations. It’s the mods that take successful (or often overlooked) aspects of the main game and add a finishing flourish that serves as a developer’s holy grail.

Features Editor

Tabs’ perfect afternoon consists of a cuppa, a biscuit tin, and a good RPG. When she’s not writing, commissioning and editing indie game features, she’s writing for her own blog, Musings Of A Mario Minion.

There’s one E3 conference you don’t want to miss this year

Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a conference happening.

Over the last few years, Devolver Digital’s E3 press conference parody has become a staple of the painfully polished marketing catwalk we’ve all grown so tired of. Hosting from outside the venue like some contrarian protest against the mainstream industry, Devolver’s crazy antics have never failed to deliver a few anxious laughs – and this year they’re back at it again.

The announcement came on Twitter alongside a short gif image featuring the Robocop homage they finished the show with last year following the violent execution of Nina Struthers. Nina, who is Devolver’s ‘fictional’ chief synergy officer has been shouting marketing buzzwords at us for the last two years and this hints that a cybernetically enhanced version of her may be returning this time around.

In a strange way, Devolver’s E3 parody has become a bizzaro narrative experience of its own, not much different to the video games it publishes. Dare I say, one day we might see NinaCop star in a video game of her own. A parody game, based on a parody character, paying homage to an 80s sci-fi robot cop. Sounds suitably Devolver.

Either way, this should serve as a great opportunity to see some of Devolvers upcoming games, well, maybe. Their shows have been notoriously devoid of games and full of gore for the last two years so who knows, they might just break the trend this time around.

Delver Digital’s show is set to kick off Sunday, 9th June at 7 PM PST and will be streaming on their Twitch channel as well as many other places I’m sure. Buckle up though, as things tend to get messy.

Editor

Jon loves the experimental nature of indie games, and has written about them for the likes of Eurogamer, PCGamer and GameReactor. As editor of The Indie Game Website, Jon is responsible for the overall content direction of the website, and enjoys moving things around in our Google Calendar.

Swords and Sandals Classic Collection Released!

“Gladiator … gladiator … gladiator … Swords and Sandals, Gladiatorrrrr!”

If this refrain means anything to you, then you grew up playing the legendary Swords and Sandals turn based combat game series. Millions of kids grew up playing S&S in their schools, late at night on the family computer’s browsers or in their bedroom on a rainy Saturday morning. These games have been played over half a billion times, and for good reason. Swords and Sandals is nostalgia, Swords and Sandals is life.

Now, the world’s favourite gladiator game series has arrived on Steam for the very first time ever.

The Swords and Sandals Classic Collection comes with five of the greatest S&S games ever made:

  • Swords and Sandals I : Gladiator 
  • Swords and Sandals II : Emperor’s Reign
  • Swords and Sandals III : Gladiae Ultratus
  • Swords and Sandals IV : Tavern Quests
  • Swords and Sandals Crusader

OK/NORMAL

How about that Petscop, huh? Well, if you love the aesthetic of PS1-horror games with the masquerade of a cutesy collectathon, do I have a game for you!

OK/NORMAL is a game by 98demake, a developer that is also known for making concept videos of how modern video games would look like if released far earlier. The video creator has since decided to jump to making actual, fully-fledged low-poly video games, starting with this game.

You play as a statue that is constantly tailed by a cloud companion, your charming tutorial character friend. Your goal is to gobble up all the food and medicine strewn about the level until you’re “OK” to head down to the next level.

If it weren’t for the repetitive subdued loop, the unsettling pause screen of the ticking clock and the dark look given by the filters, OK/NORMAL could probably pass as a normal old 3D platformer. It’s got the surreal platforms floating in nothingness, it’s got basic collectathon stuff. Like if the game leaned more toward bright abstract elements, it’d probably be some vaporwave game.

But of course, things start going haywire as OK/NORMAL plunges into becoming a true horror game. The atmosphere grows darker and darker until you’re thrown into a new situation. The food and pills are forgotten as their displays are glitched away. The simple platformer levels expand out into large and disorienting mazes, the vast spaces giving a sense of loneliness and dread.

Movement is done solely with the keys and you can switch to a first-person mode that makes the game feel a bit more like LSD: Dream Emulator than a platformer. I prefer playing in this mode because it lets you get a good look at the ambiguous models and textures that gradually morph. It feels good and makes the most out of being a PSX horror.

There is a sense of mystery in the game with the narrative it starts building up, but as the game can be finished in under an hour, I don’t want to outwardly say it. I will however add my interpretation of what’s going on, translated through ROT13:

Nf gur tnzr cebterffrf lbhe pybhq sevraq fgnegf tyvgpuvat bhg naq lbhe cynlre punenpgre tnvaf gur novyvgl gb fcrnx, erirnyvat n qvfqnva sbe gur zhaqnar. Gurl’er gverq bs gur ercrgvgvir gnfxf, gurl’er gverq bs gur qnl-ol-qnl. Gurer’f vzcyvpngvbaf gung gur punenpgre vf va gur ubfcvgny naq gur pybhq znl or gur ercerfragngvba bs n jvyy gb xrrc ba yvivat, rapbhentvat gurz gb fgnl urnygul, gb or cbfvgvir. Ohg ertneqyrff bs jurgure gurl’er va gur ubfcvgny be abg, gur znva punenpgre jnagf gb qvr.

Gur jnl V frr vg, gur tnzr jbeyq zbecuvat gur jnl vg vf vf obgu orpnhfr bs gur punenpgre’f erwrpgvba bs yvsr naq nf n qrsrafr zrpunavfz. Gur jbeyq ercerfragf gurve cflpur, ohg vg nyfb orpbzrf vagragvbanyyl znmr-yvxr naq sehfgengvat gb cebybat gur znva punenpgre’f yvsr, sbe ng gur irel raq bs gur ynfg znmr, n tnzr bire unccraf naq gur fgnghr pehzoyrf, jvgu gur pybhq nggrzcgvat bar ynfg qvgpu nggrzcg gb erivir gurz sebz gurve fhvpvqr.

I think OK/NORMAL is an enjoyable time. It has an excellent visual style and a great sense of atmosphere that I really got into. Unless you’re one of those gamers that gets fidgety about price-to-playtime ratios, OK/NORMAL is excellent.

Daymare brings back the best of 90s survival horror

It has “1998” in the title, so it’s safe to say it will be good.

Our inbox was greeted today with what looks like eye candy for anyone who enjoyed the pinnacle of survival horror games during the 90s. Daymare: 1998, developed by Invader Studios and published by Destructive Creations, will surely interest you if you’ve been a fan of the glory days of this genre.

First off, I want to say that this is the first time I’ve seen a game with a reference to the 90s in its name. It makes me feel very, very old. But I’ll take it with pride, because that era gave us so much regarding survival horror experiences, especially through Sony’s Playstation. Secondly, I’ll say it now: I will play this game.

Daymare: 1998 is a third-person survival horror game set in a quiet town turned into a deadly zone thanks to an outbreak originated in a research facility. Sound familiar? We’ll play as three different characters: a member of H.A.D.E.S. task force (Hexacore Advanced Division for Extraction and Search), a helicopter pilot and a forest ranger as they try to understand what’s happened in this little town. There seems to be a deep lore behind the facts and we’ll be able to study it as soon as we get rid of the murderous “zombies” roaming the place.

I insist: sounds familiar? I honestly don’t think it’s a coincidence that 1998 is the same year in which Resident Evil 2 was released, and just one year prior to Silent Hill’s debut. 1996? Original Resident Evil. 1999? Dino Crisis. I could go on, but you get the point.

The horror genre has a niche fan base that won’t ever fade away because they -we- just crave for the chills, especially with fixed camera angles on the side. For what we can see in today’s story trailer, this will be a faithful recreation of those feelings these titles provided us with. Tension, resource management, limited ammo, dark narratives and a closed environment are some of the elements evidenced in Daymare: 1998.

Let’s see where this takes us, shall we? Daymare: 1998 has been in development for nearly three years and is scheduled to be released during this summer for PC.

Associate Editor

Our boy from Buenos Aires, Juan has been a gamer for as long as he can remember (and possibly even longer than that). He loves a good story, and believes every indie game has a compelling one to tell.

Beyond Blue is the perfect game for nature documentary lovers

First impressions from EGX Rezzed.

For me, nature documentaries are a fantastic way to chill out. Taking you out of the rush of modern life, they serve as a reminder that there is something else at work in the world, some other system beavering away that’s beyond making and spending money. Beyond Blue is an educational exploration game that plonks the player directly into one of these unfathomably large systems, that of the ocean. I had the pleasure of playing the demo while at EGX Rezzed, and boy did it chill me the hell out.

In Beyond Blue you are cast as the research scientist Mirai, who is leading a team of scientists using exciting new technologies to discover more about the deep blue sea. In full release the game will likely have three of ocean environments to explore, but for the demo, I played through a world of coral reef, whales and dolphins. And, yes, it really is as breathtaking as it looks in the screenshots.

Swimming around whilst in communication with my team on the surface, I directed Mirai’s graceful movement as she made excited observations on the species she encountered. Using buoys dotted around the map, players lock onto the noises of various animals to find their location, and then swim off to scan them. This simple mechanic is more engaging than it may initially sound, as each haunting vibration of a possible whale or dolphin sent me flippering off in a rush to see where the noise might have come from.

Made by E-line Media, the team behind the similarly detailed and educational-in-skew Never Alone, partnered with the team behind BBC’s Blue Planet for this venture, and the level of detail and knowledge is apparent in even just the demo playthrough. In full release the team intends to use snippets from interviews with researchers from Blue Planet and marine scientists to further enrich the gameplay. I honestly can’t wait.

While the topic of the environment is likely to bring more doom than hope these days, Beyond Blue is a joyful experience, highlighting the beauty we can still experience, if we’re passionate enough to go out, find it, and look after it.

To find out more about Beyond Blue, visit their Steam page. The title is due for release sometime in 2019.

Associate Editor

Kate has been gaming since she could control a mouse. In addition to having a penchant for indie games, Kate had a World of Warcraft account when she was far too young, and has a weakness for any game with ‘RPG’ in the description.

Floating on the Lotus Pond – Go Forth And Game reviews

We have reviews of four games this time – three from Concrete Canoe Games F.L.O.A.T. series and Adam’s Apple Games Thrive. Concrete Canoe Games sent us each copies of their newest 18 card, hook-box games – Ludus Senatus, Sengoku, and Istanbul or Constantinople?. F.L.O.A.T. stands for Fun, Lively, Original, Approachable, Tiny and the goal of the series is to create games that embody those qualities. Then I take a look at  Thrive, a new game from Adam’s Apple Games. All these games are currently on Kickstarter. Concrete Canoe Games is here. Sengoku, Ludus Senatus, Istanbul or Constantinople? Kickstarter Adam’s Apple Games is here. Thrive Kickstarter http://traffic.libsyn.com/goforthandgame/2019_03_07_19_reviews_Thrive_and_Concrete_Canoe_Wave2_final.mp3   We hope you will give each of these games a look. If you enjoyed the reviews consider leaving us an honest review on either iTunes or Spotify. You can leave us a comment at [email protected] or on Twitter (@tomgurg or @inquiry_meeple). You can find lots more interesting gaming content at The Inquisitive Meeple, our brother site.
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E.V.A.L Developer preview

Hello Indie Gamers! My name is Ali Husain, and I’m the founder of stoptoplay, a small indie studio based out of Austin, TX. stoptoplay started back in 2016 when a friend and I decided to pursue our passion for making games. We could probably have picked a better time, since we both worked at a fast growing start-up. Time was a very scarce resource. 

Many lunches, and crumbled pieces of (digital) paper later, we had an idea for a game that would be called E.V.A.L – The Existence vs. Annihilation Logic. E.V.A.L would be the name of the artificial intelligence, the antagonist. The game itself would be based on the following premise.

With the ever accelerating pace of life, the existence of mankind is exceedingly dependent on how fast we push buttons. Corporate, a gigantic company, has created the future fitness test, to evaluate the future fitness of human specimens that take this test. E.V.A.L was created to monitor and evaluate the specimens’ performance.

The introduction: 

The story we had decided on helped us figure out some key gameplay elements. The game would be fast paced. There would be buttons that would need pressing, frequently! An action runner would be the perfect genre.

An action runner wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for the first game I would be making. I’ve always been more of an RPG/RTS person myself. This was a welcome challenge. How would I take a genre, that was clearly not my favorite, and turn it into something fun? 

The core gameplay would be based around having a creature that could change shape and color getting through obstacles with different shapes and colors! To add some flavor to the game we started coming up with ideas for power ups and hazards that would change some game mechanics for a short time, keeping the game from getting monotonous. 

There was still something missing, and that’s when we got the idea for a new control scheme. Instead of having just the button based controls, we could have an alternate way for players to play the game. This was going to become the key differentiator. 

Since the character could take only one of three shapes, a circle, square, or triangle, and one of three colors, red, blue or yellow. We decided to split the screen in three equal parts. The players would be able to draw the shape they wanted on the part of the screen corresponding to the color they needed. 

This control scheme worked quite well and made it so that playing the game with buttons vs. drawing felt like a completely different experience! Here’s a short video that shows the control schemes.

We ended up having three game modes. Story mode, a short campaign where you learn about the game mechanics and play through the story. Evaluation mode, 20 uniquely designed levels to challenge players. Lastly, the endless mode, where players can play E.V.A.L as an infinite runner, competing with others around the world for the highest score in the future fitness test!

E.V.A.L is free to play and is exclusively for iOS . It releases on 12.20! Preorder and give it a try!

 

 

 

 


About E.V.A.L: 
https://www.stoptoplay.com/eval

How we made E.V.A.L: https://www.stoptoplay.com/blog

Follow us on twitter: https://twitter.com/stop2play

Why Indie Games?

This article might start off a little bit… differently, but please! Bare with me here!

Do you remember the last time you felt awe playing a game? Campaigns that make you feel alive and refreshed are far and few these days. Half the time I play games I can predict exactly what’s going to happen. For the life of me, I can’t remember the last time I played a Call of Duty game that stimulated my narrative needs. Back in 2015, my gaming life consisted of multiplayer first-person shooters on an endless loop. From COD to Battlefield to Halo, over and over and over again. My whole gaming diet was lacking that sustenance. The slice of cake rich with plot twists, character designs, and emotional attachments. And then I found what I was looking for (which I’m going to assume you know from the title): Indie games.

Games that weren’t there to pander to massive demographics and had more to show than cleaner graphics compared to the previous year’s edition. Indie games envelop you. The titles, although sometimes unheard of, are unique and crafted by small teams, many times starting from nothing. I’ve just been going on and on about how indie games give a whole new life to gaming, but let me give you a more personal example.

For those who’ve played OneShot by Little Cat Feet, you know exactly where this is going. For those who haven’t enjoyed the game themselves, I implore you to go check out our review, here, and possibly pick up a copy, then continue reading. There will be spoilers ahead!

product_oneshot_poster_designview_1024x1024.png

OneShot gave me something I haven’t felt from a game in a very long time. It gave me a connection. From the moment I entered the dimly lit, pixelated world, I knew something was going to be different about this game. The soundtrack from the moment I entered this game made my chest swell with excitement. If that wasn’t good enough, something refreshing happened that I was definitely not expecting. We were NOT the main character. In OneShot, the beautiful minds behind the game decided to have you play “God”. You were the influencer. While you did walk around and control Niko, all your interactions with him were between you and Niko. Two completely different entities.

We went the whole game watching and bonding with Niko. We explored the world with Niko. We met every individual we could spot with Niko. Helped countless people with Niko. And in the end, what does the game do? It presents you with a choice of two wrong answers. You can sacrifice Niko to save the world or you could sacrifice the world to save Niko. Reading this without playing the game might not do you much good, being that you didn’t grow that connection that felt eternal with Niko. Me myself, I didn’t know what to do. I won’t lie, it brought tears to my eyes. This poor innocent boy who’s done no wrong is faced with an ethical dilemma and turns to you, his God, for help. I couldn’t take it. I shut off the game then and there.

Too many thoughts clouded my mind, I returned the next day, ready to make a decision. The only choice that would be right was saving the world at Niko’s expense. But, when I finally hit clarity, the game threw a curve-ball that hit me in the gut as hard as a truck. I opened the game and saw this:

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Indie games are your favorite stories mixed with your best friends. So, why indie games? Because they’re the closest thing to true, real games.