Friday, November 28, 2014



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:
Twitter: @ZotrixGame

Monday, November 24, 2014



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



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.



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



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!


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?


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.



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.


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



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



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!