If you like your pixels big, Darkside Detective is the game for you. Developed by the incredibly talented Paul Conway, is a dark (yet charming) point and click adventure. By cleverly mixing pixelated characters, fake shadows and soft lights, it manages to create a very modern atmosphere which still blinks at the best retro games. To make this game even better, Ben Prunty is working on its music; yes, THAT Ben Prunty who composed the OST for FTL. The game also features some guest writing from Brenda Romero. Compared to how traditional games are released, Darkside Detective will come out in seasons, much like a TV series. The first one, “Deadbeats in Downtown“, is planned for later this year and it will feature five different cases.
This week I had the pleasure to attend Develop:Brighton; if you missed it, these are the most anticipated games showcased in the Expo floor.
Fragments of Him | SassyBot Studio | website
Some games are not about puzzles or mechanics: they’re about emotions. This is surely the case of Fragments of Him, which explores how the loss of a loved person affects the life of four different characters. Since when I saw its first trailer, I’ve been very excited about this game. It’s interesting, for once, to play a game which has something to say. Even more interesting is the choice of SassyBot Studio to feature a relationship between two men. In a gaming culture where women are still under-represented, LGBT characters are even rarer. During Develop:Brighton I had the chance to talk with Mata Haggis (lead designer) and Elwin Verploegen (lead programmer) about this aspect of the game. Fragments of Him is a game featuring a relationship, which happens to be between two men. As Mata told me, is “a game about love, made with love“.
I can safely say that the undoing of many indies has been compromising on their games in order to make them more commercially appealing. Attempting to standardise games has created a wave of products which cannot compete with the bigger titles, and lack of innovation. Cloning Flappy Bird and Crossy Road can only take you so far. Luckily enough, there are few indies which are not afraid of pushing the boundaries of what a game should be and should look like.
MYRIAD | Erlend Grefsrud | website
MYRIAD is the abstract game for antonomasia. The first time I’ve seen it, I’ve been completely captured by the total randomness of its gameplay. Then, after carefully looking someone playing for few minutes, a pattern emerged. The world of MYRIAD is full of rules; you just have to discover them. Is not hard to understand the basics of the game, but mastering it requires more then just good reflexes. Most of the pleasure from playing MYRIAD derives from the constant discovery of a new rule or trick; “Oh, I didn’t know I could do that too!” should be the subtitle of the game. In MYRIAD I really can make the world and destroy the world. The only thing I still can’t do, is pronouncing the name of it’s developer…
Little Devil Inside | Neostream | twitter | kickstarter
“Little devil inside is a story about 5126 Kickstarter backers who wants to survive in a surreal world.“. No: Little Devil Inside is the story of an incredibly polished game which raised $234,315.39 in thirty days. And you shouldn’t be surprised; the first trailer showed a huge variety of scenarios, each one with its unique mechanics and gameplay. Every scene is beautifully crafted and you can clearly see how much work Neostream has been putting to script every aspect to perfection. Little Devil Inside should be the manifesto of what Unity5 can actually do, when used at its full potential.
Despite the fact that the style of “Still Time” is absolutely minimalistic, a huge effort has been put into its visual effects. In this post I will show how some frames are post-processed.
- [Step 1: dark overlay] A dark mask is superimposed to the original image. To speed up the process, there are four separate images for each edge (top, bottom, left, right). The central part of the frame is multiplied with a grey Perlin noise mask. This will result in a nice vintage effect.
- [Step 2: screen curvature] To better simulate the style of an old CRT monitor, the frame is curved. This effect is achieved with a displacement mask that is generated directly in the game. This allows a more fine control over the amount of curvature and enables smooth animations and transitions.
- [Step 3: RGB lines] Monitors use a grid of red, green and blue lights to produce an image. In some cheap CRT models, this grid can be perceived looking closely to the image. To simulate this effect, thick RGB lines are drawn on top of the image.
Step 0: original image
Step 1: black overlay
Step 2: screen curvature
Step 3: RGB lines
In the next development blog about “Still Time” I will show how in-game frames are actually processed.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime | Asteroid Base | website
I don’t deny I’m a Sci-Fi Nazi. As a result, I tend to like games which are scientifically accurate. Or at least, as scientifically accurate as possible. One of the very few exceptions is Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime. Not only it’s the games with the longest name ever, but is the less accurate depiction of space battles ever made. And I absolutely love it! The game gives its best with two players, each one running up and down the ship to control different devices. LinaDS requires a great effort in verbal communication between the players, which is one of the best aspects of local multiplayer games. I’ve also been very pleased by the choice of its developers to keep the game as gender neutral as possible. There is no “He” and “She”, no blue and pink, no short hair and skirt: they’re both “Lovers” and that’s it. LinaDS has been in development for few years; I promise when you’ll see how polish it is you’ll understand why is taking Asteroid Base so long to craft this funky, little gem.
Sea of Solitude | Cornelia Geppert | website
It is common for indie games to be announced where they are at a very early stage. Sea of Solitude, instead, appeared out of nowhere showing some extremely polished content. From Kill Screen Daily to Rock Paper Shotgun, all the major indie gaming websites covered Sea of Solitude. What makes this incredible is that the game has achieved this level of popularity just with a bunch of screenshots and few GIFs. From its initial announcement, no other content has been released, but the hype is still high. Despite all my attempts, I didn’t manage to meet the developer, Cornelia, during GDC. But that’s understandable knowing how many meeting she was attending. It’s a shame I didn’t manage to play an early build, but I’m sure the final game won’t disappoint me.
When a game is on TIGsource, there’s a good heuristic for its future success: the number of pages its devlog has. The original post about FEZ, for example, counted 127 pages. Rain World, on the other hand, is getting dangerously close to 200. When a game is able to generate so much discussion, is hard to imagine anything but success in its future. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Rain World asks you to accomplish a simple task: to survive. The eerie world is surrounded by glowing lizards and skeleton vultures. The developers or Rain World have been open about the different techniques they’re using in the game, including the secrets behind the super smooth movements of the main protagonists: the slugcats. Yes slugcats: agile creatures with bodies as flexible as slugs, simulated with real physics and rendered as meshes. A very early demo of the game has been made available to the backers who helped Rain World being funded on Kickstarter.
Shape of the World | Stu Maxwell | twitter | website | kickstarter
Some games are insta-buy from the very moment you see the first frame of their trailers. Shape of the World is one of those games. The game doesn’t really have a clear purpose. As described by its developer, is a “world that grows around you”. Compared to similar games such as PROTEUS and Journey, Shape of the World has a stronger focus on interactivity. Everything reacts to you, as if your only presence brings life to the world. The trailer showed a huge variety of biomes and events, which will hopefully keep players entertained in their wander.
Relativity | Willy Chyr | tigsource | twitter | website
When an artist reaches the level of mastery necessary to make a game, we can only expect great things to happen. And this is exactly what Relativity is all about. Developed solely by Willy Chyr, this is probably the one and only game which could be labelled as the successor of Antichamber. While the mind bending aspect of Antichamber was in its logic-defying puzzles, Relativity keeps its own mechanic as clean as possible. From the very beginning of the game you know what you can and what you can’t do, and the game never tricks you into believing otherwise. The game is not only amazing for its clever puzzles, but also for the incredible architectural structures that Willy has built. There is no up, down, left or right: the notion of direction itself in Relativity is, indeed, relative…