Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS! - PHI GOING EXPO...

AT THE CEGC15


Unbelievable but true; I can really show the preproduction prototype of Phi at the Indie Expo for the CEGC15 (Central European Games Conference) 2015 in January in Vienna!

For that reason Phi is about to get even more exposure; For one, yesterday night I finally pulled up my sleeves and submitted the game to IndieDB where it is currently awaiting authorization, while I am awaiting all your friend requests. ;) Secondly I started to sketch out the stand-alone website for the game. That was supposed to come a lot later but alright, I think I can still make it happen and the page can go live in time before the Indie Expo. Yes, and lastly, as you have seen, I also finally finished the new logo for Phi. Maybe there will be minor changes along the way but basically I am happy with it. What do you think?

There are still a lot of open questions I have to ask myself - especially regarding the Indie Expo - but I will do my best to keep you updated during the holidays.


For now let me just express my thanks to the organizers of the conference and wish you all a Merry Christmas! I already got the best present ever and I hope you will also get what you wished for!




Stay tuned for some more posts during the holiday season.

Play more! Hope more!

Monday, December 22, 2014

PHI - DEVLOG 4

BASIC WORK DONE ON THE SEWER/RESERVOIR MAZE


Yep, still following the same plan: Laying out the basic level for the prototype. Since the last devlog I have been working intensively on just one section of the game (well, the preproduction prototype level). The area is sort of a small reservoir or a sewer if you will. For the actual game this will not be only a small area but rather a whole section with lots of rooms and a lot of tricky puzzles. I was not surprised that it took a bit longer to do this area because this time I had pretty high goals as well as a lot of new stuff to get into. In the end it was absolutely worth the effort, judging not only from what I've learned.


 

NEW GEOMETRY AND GROUPING


Since water is supposed to flow in this reservoir and the structure also should resemble a maze, I had to make a whole new set of models for it. All in all I have done more than 20 new assets together with necessary mapping of the UVs. Most importantly: the pieces are connectable in multiple ways and really allowed me to make this area how I wanted it to.

One very important and utterly timesaving thing I have learned while doing this is to do group exports/imports for Unity3D; So far I've been working a lot with the UDK and from a building perspective Unreal was always quite nice giving you assets like walls (essentially cubes) and allowing to put different textures on every side of them. Well, maybe I am just superbly stupid, but one thing I missed in Unity, ever since I started to use it quite a while ago, is that this apparently is not possible there. To me it seems as if Unity is mostly just assuming you have all your assets from another source because building even the simplest structures in Unity can either be extremely painful or even impossible. Also - although the option exists - it is not possible to offset textures for individual - or even general - pieces of geometry. This function exists but I really think that this function is buggy - at least for the Unity version I am running.

Anyway, I found a very neat - and probably even logical - way to avoid all this and not having to import for example six individual sides of a cube and then group them in Unity but to simply export groups of meshes. That way Unity will also just import one single object as group (one big cube with 6 sides), let you place, scale etc. one single object as a group BUT also give you access to separated pieces of geometry and for example let you assign different materials to different "child" pieces (the sides of the cube)! - The scales fell from my eyes...


THE MAGIC OF DECALS


This time I really wanted to go a bit more into the optics, mainly just to try out if decals, in the way I plan on massively using them for the real game, will do the trick. - Luckily, they passed! Although not really representative for the final game, I am highly pleased with the results so far. All the moss in this area are different types of decals... they really give it a bit of the je ne sais quoi, right?

If I now already had the shaders I wanted and some real and working depth sorting, instead of the "built-in" one, I could really go crazy with that.

Unfortunately for now, transparent plus normal remains an issue, especially when there is a render task of for example: geometry - transparent texture - transparent particles - transparent texture and five different shaders are involved.


WE ALL NEED WATER, RIGHT?


Since this area is kind of a sewer, water was quite essential to it. So I've been playing a lot with the free and the pro version of Unity's built-in water systems. Although they both seem quite nice neither produced a result I could live with in terms of visual as well as performance. - Unfortunately both seemed to made just for one purpose or rather scenario: Outside, for either terrain based lakes, rivers or a vast sea, for ship games and so on. I see a lot of potential in the pro water, but unfortunately I can't tell too much about its settings and options since most of them - naturally - are not available in the basic version of Unity. - If you're wondering, yes, you can use the pro water also in the basic version, BUT you can't change or edit 80% of its properties. Unfortunately I am yet again left with the impression that nobody produces or thinks about games that play INSIDE anymore. Today it's obviously all about the usual open-world, quest-driven, boring, outside games...


ADVANCED SWITCH PUZZLE


Of course this area was also to include a more demanding puzzle, since - naturally - the preproduction prototype has to get more difficult with time as well. - Again, thanks to the new assets I could really play around and create a small maze with the goal to find and activate three switches (this time in form of stone platforms to be stepped on), which will also activate or redirect the water flow, before the player can activate the final switch and by doing so open the door to leave the area. - Let me tell you; I'm having a blast running through this area pressing switches already!


MOBILITY UPGRADES... AGAIN!


Not only the area itself demanded it, but since it is also in the plan for the final game, the famous black stickman got upgraded again and is now starting to become a real adventurer:


1. Sliding down side walls...

so that he won't get hurt from falling and - primarily - to look damn good while doing it. - No, seriously, a game like that would never work without sliding the walls.
While for now this ability is just unlocked by entering this section, but in the final game, Daniel will get this ability by finding Imhotep's Sandals, one of the many relics that can be found in the game.


2. Walljumping up side walls...

to traverse up, when there's no rope or a ladder near. - Another typical mechanic for platformers and always one I enjoyed a lot. Now approaching this topic from a programming/how does it really work - point of view, I have to admit it wasn't that easy to implement. In all honesty, my solution is not working quite like the walljumps I can remember, but... first of all it's OK for now and secondly - since I had to deal with several limitations - I still think that I made it work well and probably even intuitively for the next-gen folks playing more Assassins Creed than old-fashioned Super Metroid. For now walljumping works by holding the A-(jump)-Button and when touching a wall, pushing the left stick (movement) towards the opposite wall within a reaction time limit. I don't know... what do you think? To me it feels a bit strange not to press A every time when you want to jump off the wall too, but somehow it is also quite nice, working good and after traversing one wall segment it becomes second nature. - I guess I will have to wait on real feedback for that.


IN CONCLUSION:


In the past few days, when I had the time to work on the game, I spent it on making several new assets for the basic level foundation and learned a lot by doing that. I completed a whole new section, and this time put a bit more effort on the visuals, which not only proved to myself that my decal plans are quite fruitful but also caused massive experimentation with water and water effects in Unity, leading to some great understanding, knowledge and decent enough results.

Furthermore I made like a handful of new scripts including mobility upgrades, that start to give the real feeling of adventures exploration, as well as multiple switch/event triggers and so on... ah... and also small things - have you noticed the water splashes while the character is walking in the water? Not that hard to do but yeah... it's there now!

All in all I am really happy and I feel like a lot has been progressing again. This will not be the last time I will be writing before - or rather during - the upcoming Christmas time, but it is definitely the last devlog for this year. Of course I will work on the game also during the holidays and I will most certainly put up some posts for other topics, but please expect the next devlog just around Mid-January.

So from a development perspective, let me already wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

- Please enjoy the new video:




Play more! Slide more!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UNCANNY VALLEY

HORROR MEETS STYLE AND VINTAGE

sIPX' 1st placed RIG2014 Indie Title




What a game, ladies and gentleman! I am proud to present to you my first placed indie game from the Reboot Infogamer 2014 in Zagreb! - If this isn't going to blow you out of your chair, I don't know what else would...

I know there are great indie titles coming out all the time. Some of them don't get enough attention, which is totally unjustified, others get too much attention although they might not be as good, some sell for thousands of copies and others for millions,... let me tell you: This game is doomed to hit big!

Uncanny Valley, developed by Cowardly Creations, classifies itself as a Survival-Horror game, but believe me, it's actually quite more than that: First of all, aside to great music and a perfectly fitting sound experience, which naturally plays quite a big role in any game, it's a 2D-pixelart masterpiece! Seriously, the graphical presentation is unique, simple, harmonious and above all shows a level of talent in vast dimensions. - Especially considering the age of the game's graphic designer, who I was honored to meet in person together with the whole team.


When it comes to horror games - especially the modern type, which is mostly done in a First-Person fashion - many developers already miss the aspect of horror by creating ridiculous monsters... C'mon, isn't all the spook gone as soon as go got a closer look at some kind of dinosaur or a grotesque man with a naked butt? In my opinion stuff like that has a 10% chance to be frightening versus a 15% chance to be at least cool and a tremendous 75% chance of being simply laughable, which ultimately destroys the whole horror experience.

It doesn't matter if it's a horror game or a movie, in most cases the real spook is destroyed by overambitious monsters or creatures and above all by always wanting to show and explain everything. Sorry to burst your bubble, but even zombies aren't frightening anymore nowadays. At best they also fall under the label "cool". I am really happy that Uncanny Valley understands that and makes perfect use of truly scary stuff! - Let me tell you how this game got me hooked after maybe a minute of playing the demo:


RUN!


So,... you are this guy,... just some guy walking down the streets and minding his own business. After a while there comes this other person from the left. You can't make much of this stranger, he's just a dark dressed man. But there is something really spooky about him: His face seems pale and his eyes are glowing white. Well, with your pants full you most certainly are not going to turn around, walk towards him and ask him for a cigarette, right? You need to gather all your courage and stop walking for a second, just to see the reaction of the other fellow... of course, he stops as well. Hmm,... so you guessed right: The guy is following you! Your pants get a bit heavier and you continue to walk away from him. Unfortunately he is walking a bit faster and gets closer to you and when finally the message pops up that you can also run, it's almost too late; a terrifying scream finally breaks the last upright bit of spine in your back and as the stranger starts to run towards you, you only have a second to react and start running yourself... panic, anxiety... fear! Soon you are followed by a whole crowd of these really terrifying beings and they are constantly getting closer... where is the end? Where can you hide?


This is what happened to me during the first minute of playing this game! - Isn't this awesome? This is how you do it! This is how you scare the crap out of people!

You don't need blood or mutated reptile monsters, you don't need grotesque and sadistic torture scenes or rooms where for x amount of time an infinite amount of zombies holding dynamite in their hands crawls through the windows while you are playing Rambo behind a stationary machine gun!

Secondly (yep, I am pretty sure there was a "first of all" somewhere up there) this game's designer and programmer - a big fan of classic games and a connoisseur of quality in that regard - really knows what he is doing. By combining essential, proven and classic video game elements with innovative ideas Uncanny Valley will not only be something unique but also something very enjoyable in terms of game mechanics. For example: We all know that death (as in "game over") can be a frustrating thing - especially in a survival game. How is the game dealing with that? Well, of course you can die in the game... BUT it's not supposed to be a game where you have to watch your life bar and basically just prevent it from reaching zero. Uncanny Valley is built on the foundation of an action-reaction-consequence system. If the strangers at the beginning catches you for example, the game will not be over and you just have to try again. The game will continue instead... in a different way maybe, but it will go on. First of all you will be directly punished in terms of your maximum sprint speed being reduced slightly - making further encounters and running from the creepy stuff more difficult in the future. And secondly the game might take you to a different place/position in the story compared to where you would have ended up, if you had successfully mastered the task.

The more I think about this, the more ingenious it gets! Why? - Because already during the game it offers multiple scenarios and challenges, directly depending on your knowledge of the game as well as your skill in general, which ultimately lead to a very high replay value, multiple endings and probably unexpectedly long playtime! At least at the moment there's no game - sandbox games excluded - coming to my mind that did that... certainly not on the level Uncanny Valley promises.


TWISTED, DARK AND CONFUSING


So yeah, besides great retro pixelart looks, atmospheric sound and awesome game basics, what else is there? What can we expect from the story?

To be honest, I can't answer the question regarding the story. Even if I could I wouldn't cause it would most likely spoil a core component of the game. Let's just say that similar to Silent Hill, it plays in a realistic setting but at the same time in a crazy world; somewhere between reality and a nightmarish dream.


It seems that as a security guard you will be investigating a strange facility but at the same time you will be exploring a desolate city (with a different guy?),... always waking up and falling asleep to the point where everything melts and you completely lose track of what is real and what is not. I guess we will just see what it's about when we play the final game.


GAMES WITH A SOUL TO RULE THEM ALL


I honestly like this game a lot. As I said, it took about one minute to draw me in completely and it didn't stop after that. It is one of these magic games that have the power to amaze constantly. By now - at least we 30+ gamers (probably rightfully) - think we've seen everything. We are all trained to look closely, to question everything and to find this one thing that doesn't fit, that smells like rip-off and that doesn't look or play as it should.


But there are some games where all this bigotry just stops and dissolves in nothing more than a great experience. Games that really create emotions beyond intense particle effects, 4k normal maps and massive synaptic overloads. Games where you feel that there's somebody real behind it, creating and thinking about every detail. Games that don't take themselves too seriously and make you laugh although they might actually be scary as hell horror games for example. Games that don't give a damn what can be done and what not and that in the end show the industry how it should be done... Uncanny Valley - to be released early 2015 - is one of these games and if you call yourself a true gamer, you shouldn't miss it on Steam for anything!

Play more! Rule more!

I strongly suggest following and supporting the development of the game as well as the creators under the following links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/uncannyvalleygame
Twitter: @CowardCreations, @TadejKupcic, @DaniloKapel
IndieDB: http://www.indiedb.com/games/uncanny-valley
Tumblr: http://uncannyvalleygame.tumblr.com/
Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/UncannyValleyGame/

Monday, December 8, 2014

PHI - DEVLOG 3

THINGS STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE


What a week, folks! So much progress again... Sorry for being a bit late with this log. - I really try to be on time, especially for the #screenshotsaturday (yep, following me on twitter is really worth it), but since I work the whole day on Friday and Saturday that is often a bit hard. Besides, this weekend I had to post about Courier of the Crypts, which REALLY needs YOUR support during its last days of the indiegogo campaign!

Anyway, as planned, I spent most of the time I had during the busy last week on building out the level - or rather area - of my prototype. In its current state I’d say about 18% of the basic building process is done and I think that’s pretty good progress. As explained several times before, what I am doing now is just the very basic foundation of rooms and tied together sections, also still with a high degree of experimentation regarding preliminary looks. Just after all the rooms and sections are completed I will start to work on details like placing objects, refine lighting, making tons of decals and stuff that really increases the atmosphere.


Next to a very basic introduction to jumping, as seen in the screenshot (above) - along with one of the rooms described in my last devlog - I am already playing with rooms with depth beyond the area the actual game takes place. This might still not look like too much, but we're getting there (can you guess what happens when you miss a jump on those pillars?).


THE STATUE ROOM



This next room - also tastelessly called the statue room - is what was keeping me busy the most during the last week. It's supposed to be one of the early “wow effect”-rooms, showing gigantic statue hidden in the mists of the background together with lots of sand falling from the ceiling. Wow? - I know... but we're getting there... the texture of the statue is pretty lame for now, but since I need to remodel it anyway (because it doesn't have toes yet!), that will come later.

Why was this room taking so much time, you might ask... Well, first of all since this room is gigantic, building it with my smaller prefabs took a bit longer and secondly there is much more going on in this room than you might think (video - as always - at the very end of the post): Yeah,... again spend some time on the sandfalls, still not cool enough,... but one thing you surely didn't notice is the sand on the floor! This time I actually did it directly in Unity as terrain. What, a terrain inside! - Is he crazy? - Why not? Nobody tells you that you can't resize it and use it inside of your levels! And real terrain is very important for my sandy passages because I think that it is much easier to handle heightmaps with infused particles to get a sand surface than anything else... coming way later though! - Althouhg making the simple terrain was pretty fast and there are a ton of other benefits with actual terrain compared to an imported mesh, there also came along a few problems; the major problem was that I wanted the sand texture to have a nice and natural decay at the end/corners of the terrain "mesh". To achieve that it took me quite some research and a bit of shader coding to make the terrain texture transparent, where I wanted it to... like I said... doesn't sound like much, but trust me, it was a very time-consuming yet still necessary step! Also, I am afraid, it will still take a bit more work later on, since it's not 100% working as I want it to.

Ok, so besides being "pretty" the room also introduces the player to a certain important knowledge in this game: Sand is your friend. - Well, for the most part. But the general rule is that it can be used to descent safely without taking damage. - There will be a roll animation on the sand dunes later on to visualize that.


MOBILITY UPGRADES - NO PLATFORMING WITHOUT THESE


By again confronting the player with a closed door and therefore refreshing his memory and cementing the fact that he has to search and activate a switch, the very same room is also supposed to teach the player other even more important mechanics which I also had to script during this week:

 1. GRABBING AND CLIMBING UP LEDGES (or was it edges… sorry, that’s where my English stops)


Yeah… what’s there to explain about? For the super critical eyes out there I should probably mention that I am not planning to make a super quality script for that feature at the moment and that I am quite happy with how it is now.

Why? - Because at some point the hideous black stickman is going to get replaced by an actual 3D model and therefore climbing will be a completely different animation/script/process… whatever you want to call it.


2. GRABBING, CLIMBING AS WELL AS SWINGING ON ROPES

Ropes are actually more interesting and at first I was really amazed how easy it was to create them in Unity just by sequentially putting together some joints and adjusting their behavior a bit. Unfortunately programming the script that takes care of how the player can interact with the rope was pretty hard and I think it took my about 20 hours just to get it almost right and at least avoid physics going crazy... seriously... those damn ropes! I was never able to climb them in school when I was young and to be honest, I think I could do it even less in my current state of physical decay. At least my videogame character can. :) I am sure my gym teacher is proud now!


Alright, that's it for this devlog. Hope you had a great time reading and I wish you also a very productive week. Whatever you're doing (university, working, making games,...), hang in there just a bit longer. Soon the Christmas vacations are here and you can get some well deserved rest! Enjoy the short video:




Take care, cu in about a week.

Play more! Climb more!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

COURIER OF THE CRYPTS

A STRUGGLE FOR LIGHT AND FUNDING...


As well as a struggle for finding the right words… at least to me.
I have been writing on this post for quite some time now and somehow I can’t write a “normal” or rather objective review about it anymore. Honestly, I simply got too involved. - A classic journalistic mistake on my part… I am sorry for that.

On the other hand, this game already saw some great reviews (for example: gamerssphere, indieretronews or IGM), especially since its indiegogo campaign launched about three weeks ago. Why would I want to repeat the good work others already did and probably bore you to death by once again analyzing this game completely? You know me, you know I am honest… so, as always, be prepared for some honest words about this game or rather about another crucial aspect that comes along with it: The funding.


Hint: Please go and just play the demo of this game, available on indiegogo or the main page of Courier of the Crypts. It is really not the rule that all the games running a crowdfunding campaign already have a working demo - especially on such an advanced level! Use this chance, play it and experience it yourself instead of just reading about it.


THE INDIE SPIRIT


Rarely have I seen such an indiegame treasure, let alone got to know the incredible and passionate person creating it completely from scratch without the help of modern, “making your life easier” game engines. You might not be a fan of this genre and style but I know there are thousands of gamers out there that are. I know it’s not fair to say one game deserves it more than another, but looking at a developer who put in already four years of work, sacrificing a lot in a country where that really means something and then putting all his energy into a campaign for - pardon my French - “cheesy” 10.000 Euro, just to go fulltime and finish the game within the next year…

I don’t know, when on the other hand games are funded with a goal of half a million Euro, just to be “overfunded” immediately afterwards by another half million, mostly because of their name, that doesn’t sound too fair to me either. And it really makes me think whether crowdfunding is still a realistic option for small and independent ideas or if it's not mostly in favor of the big names like everything else by now. It’s not like this 10.000 Euro is his own pay for a year… even if it was - shaking my head - no,… they include paying several different production-related services he needs to pay for as well as providing the funders with their promised stuff like posters, soundtracks, copies, art books and so on. I am sorry it seems I am talking too much about money but the point is that I just can’t believe what’s going on here. If I were to put a production cost on that game - measured from my “humble” location and social background meaning; regarding the things I’d have to pay - it would easily be five times as much.


A TRUE CONTRIBUTION TO VIDEOGAMING


When you brows all those games on kickstarter or indiegogo or wherever, games up to this price range usually are some mediocre games for mobile platforms that most likely get boring after an hour of playing and in my opinion not really enrich the important videogame legacy.

But here you get a full game comparable to Super Nintendo standards - or true game standards, if you will! Not a game with five minute long, procedurally created, identical but re-colored levels and the annoying advertisement screen after each one.

Here you will play a full adventure from A to Z, explore, find secrets, fight a lot of classical and creepy monsters, solve puzzles, immerse in great gameplay, atmosphere and an actual, but imaginative story. You will see beautifully created and animated pixelart down to the last detail, you will feel that every pixel is there for a reason and you will also have a challenge for a change… seriously, what more can I say? - What more can any review say?

I know this game would have probably been one of my favorite games when I was young and played in some ways similar games like for example Zelda - A Link to the Past. You know, I already backed this game but personally I also seriously regret getting the new Assassin’s Creed. I feel like I should have supported this game even more and instead put the 60 Euro I spent on yet another super polished “collect the chests”-game also on Courier of the Crypts.

Ok, enough whining… it’s just sad that this game somehow struggles to reach its audience, because that’s all it needs. I can’t believe there aren’t at least 1.000 reasonable gamers out there that really appreciate true, classic and entertaining games like this! Well, obviously there are a lot of gamers out there that like this game cause believe it or not: This game was already greenlit on Steam weeks ago! Then again, currently only the funding matters and although Emberheart Games will never give up on this project and there are some backup strategies already under consideration, whatever they might be it will most likely lead to the fact that it will take way longer for this game to finally come out.

The clock is ticking and if you can, please support at least by spreading the word, cause - hesitatingly speaking it out: “This game really deserves it.” In the end it is up to you not only to say “Yes, I would buy it when it comes out”, but to help it getting out in the first place! How about being part of a real miraculous Christmas story?

Play more! Support more!

Monday, December 1, 2014

CLOUDFALL: NIGHT'S TALE

CUTE, COLORFUL AND RELAXING

sIPX' 2nd placed RIG2014 Indie Title



Ever dreamed of being a cloud? Just floating around, curiously observing with nothing to worry about? Well, in Cloudfall: Night's Tale, being currently developed for Steam by MoodOven, there actually is something worry about: Finding a way home! Nevertheless that doesn’t keep the small, nameless concentration of water from remaining optimistic.

In a world painted by the colors of imagination it will be your task as player to control this cloud and to depart on a journey of exploration and puzzle solving. Though you might encounter dangerous situations, according to the developers, accompanied by the appropriate, sort of "-scaping" music, this game will focus on relaxation and having a good time instead of quick reactions and frustrating constant death: “We don’t need more 'who can shoot' or 'drive faster' games. We want to create something that makes you smile after you come home from work, something you can just enjoy without being stressed.”.

Structured similar to classic games like Super Metroid, Cloudfall will consist of one big world, separated into different areas featuring different looks and challenges. Learning new abilities (such as letting it rain, getting charged with electricity) in combination with the power of deduction is not only the key to solving certain puzzles but also what periodically opens up new areas and progresses the game.

Although the developers didn't want to give away too much about the story yet, judging from the first cover artworks it seems that the small cloud is up against an evil entity of nothingness that threatens to consume the world.
I presume that the story will go hand in hand with the simplistic but already utmost artistic (and still not nearly finished) looks of the game. The little cloud will be the protagonist of a similar simple yet fantastic story and surely master its ambitious tasks.


I for one can't wait to play this colorful and imaginative adventure on my computer sometime next year. - Although somehow predestined to be a game especially for mobile platforms, MoodOven first want to focus on the personal computer segment and then consider bringing this game to iPhones, iPads & Co afterwards.


Play more! Relax more!

I strongly suggest following and supporting the development of the game as well as the creators under the following links:

Twitter: @MoodOven, @MrVatigo, @bitserum

(a website is currently in development and I will post the link as soon as it's available)

Friday, November 28, 2014

ZOTRIX

CLASSIC ARCADE GAMING WITH SOME SPICE

sIPX’ 3rd placed RIG2014 Indie Title


Have you ever been to a real arcade? Ever put a coin in one of those wooden cabinets with a monitor, some buttons and joysticks? No? - Well you definitely missed something there. But don't worry! First, you can always travel to Tokyo and enjoy (almost) the same "arcadian" atmosphere like in the 80s and secondly: True arcade games still exist, they are still developed and can also be played on several of your home systems!

So can Zotrix, my personal third place pick of the best indie games displayed at Reboot Infogamer 2014. The game, developed by Zerobit Games, stays very true to mostly cherished but nowadays also often misunderstood arcade values. A lot of gamers even think arcade should be a core factor of any true videogame, and they are probably right.

But arcade back and forth, believe it or not Zotrix is actually much more than just the generic space shooter I was expecting myself, when I saw first images on twitter some time ago. Of course simplicity, colorful graphics, Atari-esque sound effects, fast pace shooting, patterns, memorizing, dodging, highscores, and so on can be found in Zotrix, but that's not all; similar to most indie developers, also the visionaries behind this game really know how to cook. From years of experience in the videogame industry, they know that a good game doesn't have to be completely original. It is rather the well-balanced mixture of the best ingredients together with a love for certain details that makes the perfect stew. So in that sense, additionally to what you might expect, Zotrix not only features an in-game trading and resource harvesting system, but also adds an RPG-like improvement model by giving you the option of customizing your ship and therefore changing your style of gameplay to your likes.

Naturally, the right sound is very important for any game. And what could fit better to stylish menus, intensive color palettes and a futuristic space environment than Trance? Although not my personal alley of music, I am happy to see a game that not only puts a great deal into what music fits, but above all does this by acknowledging the inspiring work of a lot of other talented people. Zerobit Games invites Djs and talented musicians from all over the world to submit tracks for this game until release. So far the list of signed up contributors includes names like Michael Featherstone and Fat Benjamin (UK), Alain Jacob (FR), Davor Stosic (Croatia).

The game's release is supposed to be in 2015 for PC and Mac and already available to greenlight on Steam. What is keeping you from checking out the trailers or even playing a demo of the game to see how fluent the controls are and how much fun it actually is? If you grew up in the 80s and games like Asteroids or Centipede still put that certain spark in your eyes, you have to. - If you grew up later, well... you have to even more. And if you plan on visiting Tokyo in some years, who knows, maybe by then this kind of Geometry Wars meets FTL game also found its rightful spot in one of those noisy and colorful places that barely exist anywhere else anymore. - Seriously, it could happen!

Play more! Laser more!

I strongly suggest following and supporting the development of the game as well as the creators under the following links:

http://www.zerobitgames.com/
http://www.zerobitgames.com/zotrix/
http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=329398457
Twitter: @ZotrixGame

Monday, November 24, 2014

THIMBLEWEED PARK

“THIS COULD BE DANGEROUS. IF ANYONE WANTS OUT…”





Can this really be happening?

The moment I’ve been waiting for such a long time… could it finally come true? When I was about a meter and a half height, it was the time of the Nintendo Entertainment System; almost everybody had one. We exchanged games, talked about them during the breaks between classes, we played a lot.

There was this one game only one guy in my class had. It was called Maniac Mansion. Already the cover art had me, and one day it was finally my turn to borrow and play it... Forever I will remember one of the best intro scenes, the music (especially Dave's theme) making me jump around like crazy in my room, puzzles, mystery, great characters and sheer endless fun.

I really was into this game! And after blowing the house up countless times because I ran out of time to turn back on the cooling to the nuclear reactor in the basement, one day I finished it, just to be blown away by the possibility of beating the game in so many different ways. To this day I still feel sad of  Ed’s hamster… but it was fun though, like the rest of the game. I wished I still had my drawings of those days… Similar to Zelda, I spent hours of drawing an almost exact map of the house so I could watch it at boring family visits and think about what to try next.

Great memories! But anyway… now (just about a week ago) Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, the creators of Maniac Mansion - way back in 1987, went public with a kickstarter campaign for a “true successor” to Maniac Mansion. Well, if it really is a sequel, somewhat of a sequel like Day of the Tentacle, we will see. - The words were spoken through their pixilated selves and with all the sarcasm displayed in the trailer I somehow hesitate on trusting them too much. Then again…


Believe it or not, the campaign with $375.000 is already funded and - whatever we will get - we will get a really, really classic Point&Click adventure looking and feeling just like in the 80s and early 90s! - Can you imagine that? Oh, how I would love to see the faces of those so called “game specialists” that already many years ago declared Point&Click as a “dead” genre - as something nobody is ever going to play again. In your face! Point&Click games never were just a genre. They were and still are an art form by themselves, never to die and never to lose appeal! Maniac Mansion will forever reign amongst others like The Secret of Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Leisure Suit Larry, Brokensword, Sam and Max, Discworld and many more. Without getting the hopes up too much, I think Thimbleweed Park has all it takes to get to Point&Click heaven as well… but let’s just wait and see.

If anything this is a clear statement to great games and a strong life sign of a genre that the modern industry wanted to keep locked away in some dusty coffins. That alone deserves applause and attention!

Play more! Anticipate more!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

PHI - DEVLOG 2

AND MY WISHLIST IS JUST GETTING LONGER



Motivation is peeking at the moment, so a lot has been going on with Phi in the last week!




First of all, I rebooted the projected. Meaning: I started a whole new scene/setup in Unity. I got rid of all the scripts and stuff like assets I made for experimentation, improved and for now finished the ones I actually want use, organized my hierarchy, settled on important conventions and structured as much as I could regarding efficiency and reusability in terms of game development. Thanks to that important step I can now work much faster and a lot of open questions have been answered, leading to a more efficient workflow.

Secondly, I went shopping for textures as well as assets while also editing a lot of my assets. Since, similar to basic conventions, I will soon also have to settle for a coherent art style for my game, this was not just a random step. In a game everything is tied together strongly and I like to avoid lose ends as much as possible. How big is what? How many polygons per? How to optimize reusability? How does which texture work? How big of how many exchangeable tiles will there be? How do different sections fit together? How does the lighting work? How high/far can you jump?… and so on. Those are not just questions for the technical and programming aspect but also build the foundation for the level design, which in turn basically points back to the general game design elements and after all should round up the whole concept to a smooth and pleasing experience.


SPICING UP THE LIFE!

 

As much as I am happy with the results so far, I know there’s still an awful lot of work to do and the screenshots by no means resemble some sort of final picture. Among other, mostly script related things, the apparent upgrades are: Basic textures for walls, floors, ceilings, doors, special dynamic sand textures, some assets, new particles for the torch. The torch can now also be thrown (which will later also be used to dispose of some enemies), there's a door connected to a switch, and for now a simple particle fog is used to create darker sections.


I am hoping to soon meet with a programmer who wants to help me in this field of work, which means that for now I will not spend too much time at the technical foundation of the game anymore but instead focus on building the simple level or rather area of the preproduction prototype. Of course I will continue to do some basic scripting for reusable objects like for example a prefab (package) composed of a door, a switch and a trigger, but mostly I want to build, make more preliminary model assets, advance the textures and get the basics of the whole level done as soon as possible, so i can spend even more time on details, decals and so on.


I have outlined the level already (see above), but the actual building process is much more time consuming and every single room can be another challenge regarding what was mentioned before. Depending on how the meeting with the programmer goes and how fast he can/wants to do what, I have to keep in mind that it may soon be necessary to create an actual 3D-placeholder-model for the main character instead of my painfully - yet funny - animated 2D stickman. Although that means the work on the level has to wait a bit, it is important to give the guy a basic but completely rigged and animated model (I like to call them “sausagemans”) so that he can work out all the real physics, transformations, parenting stuff and so on, while I can then return to work on the level.

Alright, that’s it for now. I hope on keeping the motivation high and you will enjoy the short video of me “solving” my first puzzle or rather introducing a combination of some of the most basic mechanics: Use light, find switch and open door.





Have a nice weekend and keep up the good work too!

Play more! Work more!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

REBOOT INFOGAMER 2014

YES,... SOUTH-EAST EUROPE IS PLAYING TOO



First of all: I really had a great time and in the name of all visitors and exhibitors, let me express my sincere thanks to the people who organized this "rebooted" videogame convention in Zagreb. I am sure after seeing thousands of people attending this event there will be no more discussion about constantly making it the biggest annual event for videogames in South-East Europe!





ONLY GAMES AND MUSIC CAN DO THAT


So, the show is over. I am certain the halls of Zagreb Fair are empty or probably already being prepared for another event. However, I am also sure if you close your eyes and concentrate you can still hear the sounds of explosions, laser guns and tires. If you focus you can hear zombies moaning, monkeys laughing and feel the sparks of excitement in the electrified air. It's really not that hard... you know the sounds and the feeling, because you are a gamer too, right?


Of course the Infogamer is no Gamescom or a PAX, same as the Gamescom is no Tokyo Game Show, but from my local perspective I have to admit that the Infogamer stands nowhere short next to Vienna's annual Gamecity - in fact it even felt bigger to me. And besides that, there were also a lot of big names represented on the event: Ubisoft, Oculus Rift, PS4, Advanced Warfare, Blizzard showing their newest World of Warcraft addon and many more. There was also a descent part dedicated to retro gaming as well as to tabletop games and... they even had a truly e-sport - by the way a word that in Austria almost nobody knows - worthy stage where for example Heartstone was played. Personally I missed Microsoft... Has nobody told them about this event, or is there no market for the Xbox One in Eastern Europe? - I mean, Sony was there with a lot of PS4s... Well, I don't know to be perfectly honest I could have also just missed it since my schedule did not work out quite as planned: My actual mission was not to play the new Call of Duty or the new Assassin's Creed but to check out the indie section of the show. I planned to be done with all the indie games by the middle of the second day, but to my surprise two hours before I had to leave on the third (and last day for me) I still hadn't checked out all the booths. - Talking about size... how many indie games were displayed on the last Gamecity?






VIRTUAL REALITY - JUST LIKE IN THE LATE 80s


Yes, I did try the Oculus Rift (finally) and on a short note: It was great! Admittedly the roller coaster ride was almost a bit too much for me - I also can’t stand roller coasters in real life - but the technology and the immersion, although only low resolution, is absolutely remarkable! I can’t wait to get this stuff in my living room. Are they still selling developer editions? ... I have to check that.

 

INDIE FOR PRESIDENT


Ah.. yes, the indie section… well, somehow as expected, I have met only nice, smart, open-minded and passionate people! Between the age of 16 and 40, with a background in the industry, a bit of a background, or none at all, either single developers or teams presented their current projects, ranging from simpler mobile games up to more complex 3D, cross-platform releases not short on ambition. I put a great deal of time into getting the most out of every game and afterwards talking with the developers about it in detail. I seriously can’t remember when I have enjoyed myself socializing that much for the last time. Be it the talks about the industry, the actual games, tech stuff, programming and design approaches or even private matters, I really felt a connection and judging from the nice compliments, comments and tweets I have received so far, friendship seems to actually describe it best.


While I was sitting and talking with the developers I witnessed countless kids passing the booths only focused on the screens with the big games. I still feel kind of sad that they didn’t seem to be interested in indie games, yet having their dreams probably all about making games for themselves when they are older. The saddest thing is that at such an event they actually have a chance to ask real developers about what it means to create games; what they’d need to do and to learn, how much of a struggle it is to be independent. At the beginning indie is all about dreaming and keeping up with a reality that unfortunately doesn’t allow for fantasy anymore. But the more you let this extraordinary philosophy of creation take a hold in your life, the more you realize that despite all the drawbacks, the things you need to pay with your own hard earned money and all the time you need to put into, you might actually already be part of the dream! There can be nothing but admiration for those pioneers of the true contemporary, cultural form of entertainment called videogames. And as I am sure that this is the case for the most part, support and awareness still has a lot of room to grow. For indie is already changing the face of videogames and there’s no end in sight, just remember: Indie is more than just chasing dreams, if you are indie, you’re living the dream! - Speaking in figures of my own project: After even the mightiest rivers lost ground and the sand has carved away also those faces of empires made for eternity, there will be nothing left but the realization that it is just one single corn of sand that makes the difference.

During my three days - mostly spent - at the indie corner of the show (btw. generously sponsored by Little Green Men Games), I've played about 14 indie games and had long talks with the developers. I am deeply sorry that I have still missed a few but given my time constraints it is anyway not possible to go into detail about each and every game anyway.


COMING UP NEXT:


Within the next couple of days I will put up (p)reviews about my personal Top 3 indie games of the show. Afterwards I will write one post dedicated and summarizing (hopefully) all the games showcased and give you all the available links and a short information about each. That way you can simply track the individual games and check them out for yourself, because trust me, it's really worth it. Since almost all of those games are scheduled to be released in 2015 anyway, I will naturally also keep track of them myself and certainly write something about one or the other at a later point.

For now let me end this post with some pictures of the show and by again thanking all of the people involved at this event and especially all the nice Eastern European indie developers. Thank you for being a great inspiration and motivation to all of us!

Play more! Host more!








Thursday, November 6, 2014

STAR TREK: TREXELS

WHERE NO APP-GAME HAS GONE BEFORE



As you know I am not too much a fan of mobile games. Simply because at home I prefer to play on my PC or a console and on the road I usually tend to listen to music instead of playing something... BUT since this game is free and I am one hell of a Trekkie, I gave it a shot and I was very positively surprised!


Trexels - avaible here - is primarily a building simulation and surely not the only of its kind on mobile platforms. You get the Enterprise (which one depends on either how long you play or if you are willing to invest some real cash) full of empty rooms and your job as admiral is to constantly improve the ship by building new and emtpy rooms into Secondary Fusion Reactors, Crew Quarters, Long Range Sensors, Torpedo Bays and so on. While some rooms improve your crew's or ship's abilities, others serve the purpose of gathering the three main types of resources (Command, Research and Energy), which are necessary for building, missions and to train your crew. The game features the OS and TNG Enterprise, their crews as well as a lot of other known characters. The TNG-package and the characters from the franchise can be purchased for in-game resources or real currency.

Aside from the constant expansion of your starship - which admittedly could be a bit cheaper and therefore faster - you have to explore the universe and complete missions. The bigger part of the missions falls on your reserve crew and you only have to decide who to send, according to the crewman's abilities. Still, a good third of the missions you have to (really) play with your main crew. Those - mostly - away missions are a ton of fun and although a bit repetitive regarding mechanics made with a lot of references to Star Trek. With cute behavior, funny dialogues, familiar music and sounds as well as authentic design of the pixelated characters, the heart of every fan is guaranteed to melt!

This advanced form of a tamagochi game is the perfect filler and constantly brings a smile to my face. I think all in all I have easily put around 10 hours into that game, which is great given the facts that I enjoyed every minute of it and that it is for free! A lot of people complain that this game is a waste of time. - Of course it's a waste of time! And that can be said about every game - since it is the nature of playing to "waste" - or rather - to "enjoy" time outside of conventional paradigms like work or time itself. I only agree in the point that the game is really stretched a bit too long. Seriously, it's pissing me off putting 100+ hours into a game like Assassins Creed Black Flag and likewise it slightly pisses me off putting 10+ hours in a simple game on my phone! The resource costs of everything in this game reaches dimensions that are hard to come by after a short time. - Well, you could always buy stuff with real money ;) but seriously... no thank you. I enjoyed the time I played the game so far, but I think after completing the second galactic map (out of five), I think I will most certainly stop playing because everything takes too long and costs too much - even with the available production upgrades.

It's a shame this game - although somehow expected - shows you the real face of free2play or rather pay2win after all. I would have actually liked to finish Star Trek Trexels because the game itself is really good and a lot of fun, but unfortunately I neither have the time nor the intention of spending real money just to do so. My way to repay the developers (YesGnome) is to watch them and back other projects of them or donate directly, whatever... I don't need the game forcing me and if I pay for it in any form, the money should reach the developers first and not the publishing mechanisms.

Play more! Beam more!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

PHI - DEVLOG 1

THE PRIMARY GADGETS OF AN ADVENTURER


I think it's about time to talk a bit and show - yes, you heard right - some of the basic tools that Daniel has at his disposal on his lonely journey into the depths beneath the sand. Please keep in mind that everything here is at a pretty early stage and serves more the purpose of experimenting in Unity3D than comming close to a final version.


1. The Flashlight


Since it is mostly dark down in the corridors of the pyramid, Daniel will find this tool very useful. For better atmosphere and immersion the player will be able to move the flashlight seperately and investigate his surroundings like any good hobby archeologist should!




2. The Revolver


At some point Daniel will find a revolver down in the catacombs. - From whom... well, let's keep that a secret for now, shall we? So far this is the only classic projectile-based weapon that I plan on putting into the game. And as I have also stated in the Design Philosophy / Categorization post a few weeks before, don't worry, this game will not only be a shooter; ammo is rare and well hidden and the enemies are not only few in numbers, but also supposed to be avoided or disposable by other clever tactics. - The green laser is just for making sure 3D transformations are working properly and later on something can actually be shot with the revolver.




3. Scanner


This gadget is Daniel's latest invention, which he was actually suppossed to demonstrate to financiers at a meeting after his short stop in Egypt. The device - yet to be named - is designed like a ball that can be rolled on the ground and that will "shoot" out laser beams together with electromagnetic waves and measure or rather chart its surroundings, while sending the data in real time to Daniel's phone. On the phone - naturally - an app that Daniel wrote allows for 3D visualization and manipulation. According to Daniel, the lasers can detect details down to 10 nm, are utmost precise and the software is also highly intelligent as it can automatically detect and analyse mathematical structures as well as apply complex calculations and algorithms.
- With this device, that will be upgradable during the game, no secret of the pyramid will be missed and no mystery left unsolved!




Play more! Share more!

Friday, October 31, 2014

EVIL WITHIN

TRULY COULDN'T DESCRIBE IT BETTER...



Alright, where should I start?

...Probably with the hardest and most fundamental statement about this game: It is bad! It's not just bad, it's worse. It's a joke, an insult to all who really hoped for something good. - If you feel offended already, please leave now and don't continue on reading. It's most likely not going to get better...

I didn't like it - even beyond admitting the possibility of deeply misguided expectations and their natural and utterly painful strokes of disappointment, there's is nothing - absolutely nothing - that makes this game only a bit acceptable to me.

Phew! - Sorry, but that had to get out!

 ... and HAPPY HALLOWEEN, before I forget.


Why? How can this be the result everybody was praising and glorifying as "The Resident Evil that we have all been waiting for"? What is the difference to the late abominations of the Resident Evil franchise? - Nothing! Let me tell you now already and with all distinctness: Evil Within has everything we (reasonable Resident Evil fans) HATED on the last parts of the franchise and in some points does it even worse! Don't expect something different, please don't! We have action above all, although the game seems to want you believe it is some sort of stealth game, don't fall for it... It's a trap! Sneaking is completely impossible in this game, because the engine - and yes, of course we are talking about the new age Resident Evil engine (first introduced in Resident Evil 4) that btw. brought the franchise to its knees - is not made for stealth gameplay: With a 3rd-Person-Behind-Shoulders camera and a player character mostly filling half of the screen or more, sneaking or rather watching the environment becomes an impossible task. This game is meant for action and shooting... which already leads to the next thing we got, although hated in late Resident Evil games: There are hordes of enemies! - Remember those rooms in Resident Evil 4-6 where you had to hold the position and seemingly endless zombies attacked you... such rooms also exist in Evil Within! Next up: We have zombies with - hold your horses - machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, dynamite that they throw at you and so on! - Who does this?

Seriously, I ask you: Who, where and when in videogames did first have this glorious idea of giving weapons to zombies?

Do you see cops in pink leather costumes with magic wands running in the streets? Or cats walking around in boots? It's not supposed to be that way! Please don't give weapons to zombies... or cats for that matter? - Remember a good Survival-Horror game, like the original Resident Evil from 1996! Did the zombies there have fucking guns, or the hunters... did you encounter sharks with rocket launchers?


So, we have an action shooter... deal with it. - NO! Because the worst thing about this game is that it doesn't even give you the ammo to shoot with! Play it, trust me: "Yes! Finally a pack of revolver bullets!" - WITH ONE SINGLE BULLET IN IT! And there are enemies, enemies and enemies. I completed the game in 16 hours and I died 123 times! - That's a word with 18 letters ("onehundredandthree") and comes down to an average of dying every 8 minutes, which in turn is NOT even slightly entertaining. In this game almost everything kills you with one hit and similar to the ammunition problem, there are also almost no health shots to find. And I didn't even start talking about the bosses in this game: First of all, most bosses you can't just kill by shooting. - The designers are surely laughing their asses of, because some you have to just shoot to death though. So be prepared for multiple reloads just to find out which of the bosses you have to shoot, which are to be disposed by other means and from which you simply have to run. The ones you need to shoot always consume all of your anyway low ammo so that afterwards every single enemy is again a deadly threat. And the ones that you must kill by using the environment for example or simply run from are even more of a joke; imagine a confusing room where a fast and instantly killing boss crawls around. While avoiding and constantly running from this boos, you have to be careful of fire traps, explosive traps and you have to find and shoot well hidden valves to redirect the fire. - Excitement pure, let me tell you.


HEREIN LIES THE EVIL


You know what the major problem with this game is? Not that I am a "bad" gamer, not that the game couldn't be fun and if you accept its nature as action game, and not as "survival horror", could in fact have nice mechanics... the real evil is located within the balancing! Because this game is obviously conceived to be played through multiple times. Every time you start a new game you take over all the experience and upgrades from the last game. So yeah... also similar to Resident Evil 4-6... the first run is the hardest, from then on (after upgrading the weapons and so on) the game is supposed to become a cakewalk and a lot of enemies are appreciated. - Well, I guess it's just bad luck for the game then that I have had it already with the first playthrough. If you could only trade your precious brain-pea soup for ammunition... Some games that are based on that principle realized this and did it well: For example Dead Space 2. But Evil Within has made me come up with so many up-to-date, non-existing combinations of curse words, probably caused me a gastric ulcer and almost made me destroy my precious and new Xbox One controller, that I not even dare to think about playing this game a second time! Damn, I don't even want to see it in my shelf anymore.

If there is one thing that can be seen positive about this game it is the story and the atmosphere, which I would best describe as somewhere between Resident Evil 4 and Silent Hill. Sometimes it is too needlessly detestably but overall it is a nice and coherent setting. But that's it! The characters... sorry, I didn't like one and I didn't think even one of them - except maybe the main character - was believable. Isn't it always funny how only the main character gets a good voice - or in other words an expensive voice actor - and all others seem synchronized by local primary school students. Yeah, btw. synchronization, localization... forget it! Of course in my region there is only one version available and although it features A TOTAL OF FIVE languages and voices, ENGLISH IS NOT ONE OF THEM! But hey, if I wanted to, I could play the game in Spanish, Italian or French aside to German! By the love of all cats enjoying their boots, this localization bullshit that is going on - especially with Xbox One, Microsoft and games of certain publishers (post is pending) - is making me really, really angry!!

In conclusion: You liked Resident Evil 4? You like action / 3rd-Person shooting games? You like disturbing images and a story that is based on brain science, lunatic asylums and lobotomy? You like a game that (on normal) is already so "challenging" that it seems like it's throwing feces at you and makes you want to destroy your TV or your controller? - Please... go, pick this one up and "enjoy" the hell out of it. Just don't expect something much better than Resident Evil 6, except the absence of quick-time events and the fact that Evil Within wants to take itself way more serious. This is no improvement. It's yet again two steps back to a different form of a Resident Evil 4, which was controversially either the best Resident Evil ever made, or the end of an era of good Resident Evil games.

Play more! Bethink more!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

1ST ANNIVERSARY

CELEBRATE AND PLAY, PLAY AND CELEBRATE!


So, in case you haven't noticed, sIPXgames had some branding design changes. Not only that the new flat&simple look is far more eye-catching - to me at least, this didn't happen without another good reason:

It's time to celebrate! - Actually, I missed it for more than a month, but let's pretend that didn't happen and now officially enjoy the first anniversary of sIPXgames together with the new logo and design stuff for g+ and twitter!

A lot has happened and I am really happy for going public, talking about games, rekindling the flame and starting my own project again and above all finding so many great people and friends. A year ago I would have probably bet my own cat that I won't be "sucked" into this social networking mambo-jambo and luckily I didn't. Because I am in now and actually I like it a lot. Google+, Twitter and others have become everyday companions and if I don't post at least I can read a lot of stuff that interests me.

Contrary to my believes (before starting to learn the network-tango) this didn't change my life or my habbits in any negative way. I don't feel forced to read or do anything. I don't see my friends less often than before. I don't spend all the time staring at my monitor or my phone... not particularly more than before, but now I really enjoy it. If anything this whole thing enriched my life.


So, without further delay, let me tell my gratitude to all of you nice, happy, nerdy, game-loving, game-making, posting and hosting, showing and sharing, interesting and great personalities that think I am worthy to be part of your circles, list and feeds!

Thank you soo much for your support, +1s, comments, reshares and epsecially for all the awesome, useful and inspiring stuff you post and do yourself!!


Play more! Celebrate more!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

PHI - ARTWORK

"ALONE IN THE DARK"




Yes, it can get quite lonely in the confusing and dangerous labyrinth beneath the great pyramid.
- Is there a way out? Will Daniel ever see the daylight again?

Play more! Draw more!

Torches inspired by Courier of the Crypts for "Lucky is he, whose flame is on" :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE FOREST

ONLY THE STONGEST LUMBERJACK CAN SURVIVE


Well,… first of all I have been dealing with a game that was still in development but could nevertheless be played already due to modern early-access programs on Steam. The game is already done by now but before I go more into detail about the game, I want to spend a few words on this "get to play games that are still in development" issue. This is not the first game I purchased that way. The advantages are obvious - early access, cheaper than the release version and so on.

But,... there are also a lot of disadvantages that I unfortunately encountered every single time and that can be summarized with just a few words: The games are unfinished! Yes, I know what to expect but I somehow feel like always running into the same trap. In short: It is plain annoying to have a game that is full of bugs, that get’s reset periodically, that feels incomplete and that basically sucks up all the fun way before enjoying the whole picture. - I have never played a single indie game that I had early access to again after it got finally released, because I - or it - simply took out the juice from the unfinished version after some days and no matter what was promised to be available in the final game, it never made the cut. - The same is the case for The Forest, I knew there was a lot more to come, but I already had enough. I think that is very sad for a lot of ambitious games. I understand the need of programs like Early Access & Co. I am on the developer’s side and I fully understand why most of them choose to sell their game already during development, but I just have to say that there are certain downsides for both the creators and the players.

The game itself is based on some good ideas and sound principles and offers a great atmosphere, not lastly because of its good graphics. In this game it’s just you alone; you find yourself in the middle of a forest after surviving an airplane crash. You have no idea where you are and no clue where to go. Just one thing is sure: You can’t sit it out and simply wait for rescue, because that might even take weeks and above all the locals don’t like your presence here at all. Actually they would rather like to eat you for dinner (which is my imagination talking) or at least slaughter you and build a totem out of your body parts because you disturbed their sacred grounds or something like that.


In order to survive (on top of finding food and other useful stuff) you have to build a lot of things by yourself. That includes: Shelters, fireplaces, traps and even big wooden structures that will protect you from the weather as well as the local naked farmboys... and girls. Sounds pretty nice, or not? Well, to be honest after probably three hours of playing it gets a bit boring and the game starts to look more like wood-chopping simulation than a frightening survival game. In addition the chopping simulation part, The Forest lacks of any goal other than exploring the woods and picking up stones, sticks or chopped wood - which are btw. basically all the resources the game offers you . I am not too sure about what the actual goal of the game is, if it will ever be explained and in the end we can speak at least of some sort of story behind everything, because… at least at the time I played it, it was not finished. I know I am usually stating it is better to let the player’s imagination flourish and not to explain everything but you know… please give us something or else there’s really not much room to see this game any different than a simulation for lumberjacks.

So, to wrap this up: If survival games are your thing, if you like to be frightened, if you like to explore and above all if you like simulations and you want to build something, this game is for you! If there are no radical changes regarding the game’s depth in terms of story and diversity I wouldn't even recommend getting the cheaper, “in-development” version, which is - as above mentioned - anyway not possible anymore. Did you play the full version of the game? Is there some sort of plot or specific goals to it now? I would love to hear something from you because only that way I think I would give the game another try.

Play more! Chop more!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ALIEN ISOLATION

A MONUMENT FOR VIDEOGAME HISTORY



Alright! What have we been waiting for that game? I actually got my hands on it before release but I didn't have the time to get into it until recently. Be warned! - This is probably going to be a rather extensive review,... because - honestly - I really love this game a lot and there is a ton of stuff I don't have a clue yet on how to put it into words! You know I am rather critical when it comes to games and looking back on the past years, Newt from the movie Aliens would probably put it like that: "They mostly come as disappointments... mostly."

For me there were only very few really exceptional AAA-titles including for example the new Tomb Raider, Batman: Arkham Asylum and XCOM, but I am happy that I can now easily count Alien Isolation to those games as well.

Creative Assembly, thank you very much for making this happen!


I think the most important and absolute perfectly executed thing in this game is atmosphere and immersion. Maybe it is because I am a big Alien fan, but even if you are not and you haven't seen a single movie of the franchise, the first thing that has to get to you is the astonishing, highly polished, Alien-realistic and diverse environment of the game. It is not only completely true to the Alien universe and takes the visions of the creators of the original movie to the next level, but it is done with a love for detail I have probably never seen in any videogame so far! What is fascinating me the most is that in this game there is soo much originality. Seriously, ever single location in this game is completely original and more brilliant than the last. The reuse of props and textures is so well done that it actually seems they haven't reused them at all and really made every single section independently.

But the optics aren't everything. If you are playing Alien Isolation you will be enjoying some of the best sounds you have ever heard. The music is very well done. It uses melodies and instrumentation just like in the movie and aside from the known melodic parts it will keep your nerves on the edge all the time. - The same goes for the sound effects! Remember that furious and nerve-racking alarm at the end of the movie, when Ripley activated the self-destruction? Every single sound in this game (for example even just the opening sounds of the doors) is perfect and either comes directly from - or perfectly fits - the Alien universe. And wait until you hear the Alien crawling in the vents above you!

Story and ties to the story of the movie... just one word: Ingenious!


THE HUNT BEGINS


Similar to the aspects of sound, graphics and plot, regarding gameplay the creators also did everything right here. As a survival and sneak game, Alien Isolation doesn't come short on shocks to the bone, playing hide and seek, exploration and a lot of unexpected death. The feeling of isolation is present from the start and almost everything on Sevastopol - the space station the game takes place - is out to kill you. While the game's progress is story driven and for that matter fairly linear it still doesn't miss out on plenty of freedom to explore and offers a variety of different approaches and paths towards your targets combined with the classical technique of backtracking to previous locations and finding more useful upgrades. Like I said, almost everything on this space station isn't too friendly towards you - the alien hunting you, is just one of the hazards. Alien Isolation constantly confronts you with the choice between exploring and finding useful items and/or crafting materials or reaching your goal on the shortest route possible. Naturally the second option will drain your resources very fast but it also doesn't expose you as target all the time. One thing is clear: Exploring too much and too thoroughly, takes time... time, in which a ton of things can go wrong! Ripley has a variety of tools at her disposal: The famous motion tracker, a hacking device and a plasma torch being just a few. Besides those necessary items, Ripley can also craft a lot of useable items like medipacks, smoke grenades and noise makers herself... and given the survival nature of the game this is utmost important.


"IT HAPPENS, MY DEAR, CAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE COMPANY WANTS TO HAPPEN"


What is wrong with the game? Well, if you ask me: Absolutely nothing. However, I am aware of ongoing debates and opinions on the net regarding some "issues". One of those issues being the save feature of the game. If you haven't played it yet, be ready for a really classical approach here as well: There are no checkpoints (or just, very few after missions and some sequences)! There is no saving whenever you feel like it. Alien Isolation allows you to save only at dedicated save terminals in the game. While you can save as often as you want, it can be quite the task to find and/or reach the next save station. The game's regions are for the most part designed with a save station at the begin of an area and at the end. The advantages and disadvantages are obvious: Given large areas, an abundance of rooms to explore and random instant deaths, it can be quite frustrating to play a whole section over and over and lose a lot of precious time. On the other hand restricting saving in that manner makes everything in the game really frightening! Death should feel "real" and players should proceed with caution. And besides... that is soo classic! - I feel like I am playing a game from the 90s, where not everything was a cakewalk. Combined with the unique atmosphere and realism this is hardcore stress to your body and an experience surely not for everyone. Again, I understand frustration and I agree that especially in this case - cause trust me, you are sometimes really nothing more than a victim of sheer randomness - the line between challenge and hard is completely blurred. Then again, there's not really much else the developers could have done. Because let's face it; it's either hard or you get auto checkpoints, auto-health regeneration and HUD-based directional markers that guide you through the game without the requirement of you thinking or taking a risk. Although REALLY frustrating - from time to time - I absolutely prefer the first option and must congratulate the developers once again for showing balls and making a game like in the 90s in 2014!

Another "issue" that is mentioned a lot and pretty much goes along with the previous words is the randomness of the deaths - the alien instantly killing you. Seriously, the alien has no special pattern and although - I think - it gets more intelligent along the way (knowing where you prefer to hide, realizing that fire isn't too deadly for it), it is sometimes pure luck from which vent it comes out and whether it will find and kill you or not. Again, I can see beyond that, and I think it is the better alternative to a game that is supposed to be frightening but in the end lets you walk through without any worries. A few people also think that the alien should be hunting you all the time instead of only during some parts of the game, but honestly I find it perfectly balanced. It would seriously piss me off being a slave to randomness during the whole game. First there are numerous things that are dangerous to you and there is by no means any time where you can rest or celebrate a party, and secondly for this "constant on the edge"-feeling, the game features a real "Survival Mode" where you can be slaughtered by the alien as much as you want.

Lastly there is the "issue" of "bad" voice acting which I don't want to comment in detail. Let's just say that it is not that bad! Really, I've heard much worse. - And I don't believe what I am about to say, but that even goes for the German synchronization! It is good. And having also the original voices from the movie in the game is even more worthy to mention.


"HERE KITTY, KITTY, KITTY. HERE JONESY"


I honestly don't know what else to tell while preventing to spoiler you everything, so let's wrap it up:
This game is awesome! It has something for everyone. Certainly for Alien fans and certainly not for people with heart problems or kids. Usually I am not that strict with age ratings, but I wouldn't let my children play this game... Jesus Christ Circulatory Collapse... if I want to continue playing games like this, I think I really have to quit cigarettes and should probably get another cat instead...

People copy&pasting statements like "There will never be a perfect alien game" obviously don't know what they are talking about or have completely different perspectives, because here you got it: Not only the best Alien game I have ever played and waited for all my life (so far), but an overall masterpiece of a modern, high-class game using classic principles and making you feel like you are really part of something big and nostalgic! Period!

What do you think about the game? I would love to know your opinion and get some discussion going. - Watch out! I expect spoilers in the discussion, so don't read too much if you haven't played the game!

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