Archive for the 'indie games' Category

Lone Survivor

Hello blog readers – sorry I haven’t been posting much about what I’m working on recently. I’ll do something about that soon. In the meantime, I wanted to draw your attention to a very cool game that came out today – Lone Survivor, by fellow Cambridge indie Jasper Byrne.

Jasper’s been working on this for far, far longer than I’ve known him (the very first version was a point and click adventure game he made about eight years ago). It’s changed a lot since its initial inception, and been called many different things through the years – but the core ideas have been there, driving it since the start.

You can’t talk about this game without talking about Jasper, because it’s impossible to play this game and not be overwhelmed by the personality of the person who made it. It seeps though every detail, every flaw and moment of brilliance – it’s a personal labour of love by its creator. It’s incredible to see something with this kind of singular vision actually come together, and be as good as it is. It’s something I aspire to with my own work.

This is a really amazing game, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you have any interest at all in the idea of games as personal expression, then be sure to check it out.


The Book of Living Magic

Just thought I’d mention that Jonas released a new game a couple of days ago, The Book of Living Magic. It’s a very short game, set in the same universe as The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge. It’s funny and personal and surprising and beautiful, and I think you guys will like it a lot.

Unlike some of his other flash games, this is a game that really demands your full attention, right from the start – but don’t be put off by that! Grab a cup of tea and get comfortable – I think it’s his best flash game to date.

The Book of Living Magic


Go play Soul Brother

Soul Brother is a new game by fellow Cambridge game designer Jasper Byrne, who just went full time indie today! Congratulations, dude!

I’ve played several iterations of this game over last couple of years, and it’s fantastic to finally see it finished. It’s an amazingly beautiful and personal game, and a hell of a lot of fun, too.

Guys, play this game right now. You’ll like it, I promise.


The Infinite Ocean Awaits

I first played The Infinite Ocean in college, and loved it for its moody atmosphere and clever writing. Jonas Kyratzes originally released it way back in 2003 as a downloadable game – but just yesterday, he re-released it as a browser game, significantly reworked.

I’m collaborating with Jonas on Nexus City. If you’re not familiar with his games and wanna get a feel for his style, this is a good place to start!


Demakes Results

The results of the Bootleg Demakes contest are out: Squish managed a very respectable 7th place (out of 68 games), which is far higher than it probably deserves given its glitchy last minute nature and the high standards of the other games in the contest 🙂 Thanks very much to all 48 of you out there who voted for it – I really appreciate the support!

I’m delighted to see Soundless Mountain II take first place (I embedded a video above if you haven’t seen it yet) – I was worried that it mightn’t do as well as it deserved to, considering how faithful to the original it was and given that Silent Hill 2 was such a marmitey (?) type of game. Thankfully, it looks like Silent Hill 2 was more popular than I realised, at least among TIGSourcers! 🙂 Congrats Superflat!

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Procedural Generation Competition: My Picks

My VGNG writeup was hopelessly overdue, so I made a big effort to get this one out before the results are announced. That’s tomorrow or the day after, I think 😛

The Procedural Generation Competition, I think to everybody’s surprise turned out to be one hell of a contest – with 60 entries, it’s by far the biggest one the site’s ever had, dwarfing the B-Games contest and Text the Halls. I can’t begin to imagine just how big the upcoming demakes contest is going to be…

If it wasn’t for this contest I’d never have made Self Destruct, which I’m really, really happy with – especially considering the time stress it was made under 🙂 Even more significant, I’ve got this contest to thank for Ciellus, which is shaping up wonderfully – so for me, this contest has been a really big deal. It came out of nowhere and completely changed my direction.

This time round, we were allowed to pick our six favorites instead of just three! Even still, I found it really tough to narrow down my choices. Eventually, I voted for these six:

Artificial Nature – jph wacheski

Artificial Nature is the ONLY game in the contest built with the Z Game editor, which is pretty surprising, really, given that this was the perfect contest for that tool. And I know the engine is designed that way and everything, but I’m still bloody impressed that this game fits into 64Kb thanks to how it procedurally stores its textures.

It’s an arena shooter, basically, and a very well implemented one. The goal of the game is to bring 100 stars to the center, which you collect one at a time as they’re dropped by enemies. It’s really quite simple, but flawlessly executed with smooth and stylish graphics and fitting atmospheric sounds.

Last Colonists – Paul Morel

It can’t have been easy to get this right – Last Colonists is one of the only games in the contest to use procedurally generated music, and it does so in a way that really impressed me. Enemies just “appear” every four beats or so making a line towards the colonists you’re trying to protect, playing a short sample as they do. As the screen starts filling up with enemies the music gets more complex, backed up by the quick cymbal taps from your gun. New enemies and waves bring new sounds, so the overall music it creates doesn’t get stale.

The actual gameplay isn’t bad either – hardcore mode was too hardcore for me, but normal mode was fairly enjoyable, though maybe a bit easy at the start. Definitely one of my favorites from the contest, overall.

Dyson – Alex May, Rudolf Kremers, Brian Grainger

Aside from possibly MMORPG Tycoon, Dyson is probably the most complex game in the contest. Despite this, it’s very well implemented and balanced, and feels really polished. The game starts fairly sedately, but quickly gets very difficult and intense – but even in the slow, early stages of the game it manages to be really interesting. You start out gently exploring your surroundings, capturing nearby asteroids and building up your strength. Early highlights include sending a seed to an asteroid to discover that it’s swarming with enemies. Apparently the developers are going to continue work on it, which is great, because I think it’s got a lot of potential. I expect it would make a fantastic multiplayer strategy game.

sin(Surfing) – twohalf and Sifu Peng

This made the maths geek in me so very, very happy 🙂 And again, it’s one of those wonderful, simple ideas that tend to impress me so much. In sin(Surfing) you control a little surfer on an oscilloscope wave, trying to outperform your own records. What really sold me was the attention to detail, like the score notation and trick names. Also sports the best soundtrack in the contest!

Rescue: The Beagles – Nenad

Rescue: The Beagles is a very simple, and very well designed game about rescuing puppys from cruel scientists who want to experiment on them. It’s fantastic. All the game elements are perfect – it’s loads of fun, incredibly addictive, features great procedurally generated levels, stylish artwork, and two fantastic soundtracks – I’ll be shocked if this doesn’t win first place in the voting by a clear margin.

The central mechanic of the game is really quite clever – there are three parallax layers moving at different speeds, and the game is about navigating between them to intercept the beagle puppies making their way from right to left, all the while avoiding or dispatching enemies and collecting items. You get score bonuses if you take out all the enemies, collect all the items, or manage to navigate the level without using ropes and parachutes.

For me the game really only has one major flaw. The point of the game is navigating the three moving planes, which is great, but dropping too far to a lower plane frequently causes death – there’s a limit to how far you can fall – go a pixel beyond it and you’re dead. This can even happen if you simply jump down a hill. For me, this almost kills the fast paced flow of the gameplay, and though you eventually get used to it, that hardly excuses the problem. It would be pretty easy to fix, too – simply have the parachute open automatically if you have and need one – as a result, you’d never die from a fall unless you’d run out of parachutes, and it that case it wouldn’t feel unfair. To be honest, you could probably go even further – the real issue in the game is time, so a more appropriate penalty for falling without a parachute might be to temporarily stun the player, leaving them vulnerable to roaming enemies and to the threat of losing a beagle.

The other thing I might change is how the soundtrack works – there are two separate and excellent soundtracks to the game by Aesque and Disasterpiece, but the player is given the choice between them. Since I liked both soundtracks, I probably would have preferred if the game handled that for me – perhaps by, I dunno, alternating the music every three levels or every other time you visited the title screen. I would have liked if the levels were shorter too – by the time you get to level 8 you have to collect about 40 puppies, which just throws up a wall which it’s difficult to progress beyond. It might be better if the levels got faster and more intense without just getting longer.

These are just little niggles for me, though – it’s only that I enjoyed the game so much that I care about any of these things. The fact is, this is the best game in the contest by a long shot. I can’t recommend it highly enough. If we only had one vote instead of six, I wouldn’t even have debated giving this one my vote.

Minus – Melly

Another game that falls into the simple-but-very-well-executed category that tends to win me over 🙂 There’s not much to it, really – you’re trying to get back to your home in the sky by jumping through levels composed of clouds, thunder storms, gusts of wind and floating enemies. While I did feel that there could have been more variation to the random elements, I liked what was present. In a contest largely populated by technical experiments, Minus really stood out for me as something different.

Of course, there were loads of other games in the contest I considered voting for: (this isn’t even a complete list, but I had to draw the line somewhere…)

Space Shot – Pacian

The only joke game in the contest, believe it or not. The procedurally generated aspect of the game primarily comes from the random insult generator, which basically just strings together lots of vaguely naughty words to create insults like “Ear Hugger”. Every so often though, it hits gold and comes up with a classic like “Motherwad” or “Fuck Fucker”.

Despite the gameplay clearly being an afterthought, it’s actually quite a bit of fun to play – there’s a bit of skill involved in positioning yourself safely and dispatching the enemy spaceships, and the first time the fast shooting ones appear it’s genuinely nerve wracking. The upgrade system works really well too, giving the game a feeling of progression – something key that’s sadly missing in many of the entries to this contest. Things taper off a bit once you’ve completely leveled up – at that point, the game doesn’t really get any harder, and the only thing left to do really is start again.

Biocosm – Toastie

This is gorgeous, but unfortunately it’s so buggy that it’s practically unplayable. My very first turn involved gently driving into a specimen, which sent it hurtling into space and flipped my buggy onto it’s back! That experience aside, though, I really loved the atmosphere of the game and the beautiful landscapes it generates. With a bit more work on the actual gameplay there could be something really cool here.

Loboton – grickmin

I almost voted for this. It’s so simple, but really quite addictive. It’s another shooter, this time nothing but bosses. (there’s a word for that, isn’t there? A “Treasure”, maybe? Anyway.) The basic gameplay is spot on, but the problem is that there’s very little variation in it. It’s fun to see the expressive procedurally generated faces appearing, but they’re all basically the same, except that the later ones fire more disgusting skinflakes and the occasional practically invisible missile at you. I feel like there’s so much the creator could have done with this game – I don’t even know where to start. More variations in the enemy firing patterns definitely – perhaps different elements could correspond to different attacks – the ability to shoot off elements separately would have been cool too, as would the ability to wear away at the enemy by shooting off the skinflakes bit by bit – some graphical variation would have been nice, someone suggested colour changes as you go on which would have been cool – maybe some kinda goal too – right now it’s just survive as long as you can, but for me it would be more interesting if there was a cap, a goal of say 20 enemies which got more and more complex to reach. I could go on, but I don’t want to seem critical – I really liked this, I just kinda wish there was more to it.

Night Raveler and the Heartbroken Uruguayans – Daniel Benmergui

All I’ll say here is that I really like this one – it’s charming, it works as a game first, and the author had a clear idea of his message. Be sure to check it out.

MMORPG Tycoon – mewse

This is a game that’s badly in need of a blow by blow tutorial to get players started. It’s possibly excellent maybe, judging by the many favorable comments by players who were able to figure it out, but I wouldn’t know because I didn’t really have a clue what I was supposed to be doing (or to be honest, how a MMORPG actually works – my online gaming experience is about an hour of Final Fantasy XI that I played before I uninstalled it for good).

Everyone Loves Active 2 – Kyle Pulver

I’m afraid this one goes in the same category as MMORPG Tycoon for me 🙁 I feel like there’s something I’m missing here. Either my computer doesn’t run it properly, or it’s just a very slow game. I thought I’d mention it because a lot of what it’s doing is pretty interesting (I really like the curve shot thing) and it’s very aesthetically pleasing, so if you’re playing through the entries make sure and check it out.

dropTD – Nurykabe

One of the most experimental games in the contest, featuring the most interesting procedural mechanic of the lot. You pick a file and drag and drop it onto the window: this creates a tower defense level. Adding more files creates towers with surrounding blocks that you have to position as best you can around the path. In my case, I just found one good one and continuously dropped it, so I didn’t really find it that difficult. A really interesting idea, but the gameplay wasn’t really my sorta thing.

Triagulon – BobFM

This is sadly unfinished, but interesting enough in its current state to be worth checking out. I spent ages looking for those pterodactyls 🙁

ZICZAC – 0rel

I’ve never really understood why games like this (and tetris, and lumines, and match 3 games) are referred to as “puzzle” games – for some reason it seems that any game where you control blocks instead of a more traditional character gets called a puzzle even when there’s nothing to solve. Well, who cares really! 🙂 ZICZAC is a clever twist on the whole tetris thing, which works quite well and is fairly fun to play. Though it’s not exactly my sorta thing, if you like these type of games, you might really enjoy this.

K2 – Bezzy

This was an absolute nightmare to get running, but worth the effort when I persevered! It’s an interesting 3D shooter that really only got to a prototype state, but is already quite fun to play and has some cool elements to it. My favorite is the way the missiles work – the whole game is controlled by the mouse, so as you move, you follow the cursor to look around – if you “circle” the enemies while looking around like this you target the lot of them and can shoot powerful missiles at them.

My only major complaint about the game is the way movement works – you’re always going forward a little, and you can hold right click to thrust forward even faster, but I don’t think this gives you enough control. The biggest problem the game has right now is that you frequently end up in the fray among a group of enemies, having to spin frantically to fight them off. This means you have to desperately thrust away and turn around completely to fight them properly. What I’d probably do here if this was my game would be to have right click reverse you, and speed up your general forward motion. This way you can back away from enemies while still aiming and shooting at them, which feels like it might work a lot better.

Also, I had some trouble dodging and even knowing when enemies were shooting at me, but that might just be me being rubbish at it 😛

KrebsWelte – Cactus

I’m a big fan of Cactus’ games, but this one didn’t really work for me. There’s lots about it that I love, but on the whole it just feels too slow, the player feels too underpowered, and it’s too hard to make progress. That last one especially. When you do eventually progress the game offers more enemies and variety (and some satisfying new weapons!), but this seems to hit a ceiling fairly quickly. I did quite like it though – aside from Rescue: The Beagles, this is probably the game I’ve come back to the most out of all the entries, getting a little bit further each time.

Space Game : Mujakwi – Fifth

I had trouble getting my head around the controls (it uses absolute movement instead of steering), so I didn’t really get very far with it – but I’m very impressed with the level design and general feel of the game! I really loved the exploration aspect – it generates a level based on absolutely any string you type in, so there’s this whole element of finding nice planets to loot that really appeals to me.

Space Cat on Mutant Planet – shrimp and RayRayTea

A short, simple shoot em up exploration game with some really good procedurally generated levels and interesting bitmap brother inspired graphics. I found it a bit easy to finish and a bit unbalanced when fighting enemies (it’s too difficult to shoot enemies and avoid bullets at the same time, as your gun and jetpack use the same power source – but this doesn’t matter because you’ve got loads of health), but it’s generally really well done and feels very complete!

Because it’s fun, Fay – Oxeye Game Studio

A procedurally generated platformer with lock and key obstacles. It has a number of things going for it – excellent production values, very well designed levels, and a clever character switching mechanic where one character rotates the level 90 degrees and flies around. In fact, it has the feel the of a game that’s maybe one or two gameplay twists away from being absolutely brilliant, but as it stands, I didn’t really feel like there was enough to the central mechanic. Most of the game basically involves switching to Corn to fly ahead and clear out the enemies for Fay, who picks up the keys and opens doors so that Corn can continue to fly ahead and clear out the enemies and so on until you get to the top. The creators recommend playing this as two players cooperatively, which I didn’t do – chances are that dynamic works a lot better than the single player mode.

The Adventures of Charles Dumbbell – Snake

A beautiful game that’s really well designed and has some excellent ideas; unfortunately it’s rather incomplete, so there’s not a lot to say about it yet. I really hope the author continues to work on it.

The Germinator – Superflat

Without a doubt one of the prettiest games in the contest! It features some beautiful cel shaded 3D graphics and an interesting gameplay mechanic that involves changing colours to do damage, but I found it really difficult and didn’t get very far. With a bit of practice I might have done better, but unfortunately, this was one of the games I had problems running, so I was only able to play it for a brief period on a friend’s computer. 🙁

Transport – goldbrick

I really loved the atmosphere of this one, the music and graphics are great, and there’s some very cool little details in it – like that it’s somewhat inexplicably multiplayer, though the only multiplayer element is that you “emote” towards other players wandering around in the game (though unfortunately I never saw any other players when I was playing). The gameplay seems to involve wandering around a big procedurally generated screen by screen level looking for a puzzle, and once you’ve solved that you move onto the next level. I didn’t really get very far, though, as the puzzles didn’t make a lot of sense to me – the first one involved stepping on a series of switches in a particular order to make them rotate, which mostly seemed to come down to trial and error. I think I finally got it by dumb luck, but then I came across a very similar puzzle in the second level and unfortunately couldn’t work it out at all.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Check out the rest here!


VGNG Contest: My Picks

This is a few days overdue, but voting for TIGSource’s VGNG contest is finally over! We Love Mind Control Rocket managed 11th place (out of 48 entries) – which is frankly a hell of lot better than I was expecting to do, so I’m chuffed 😀 I think most people who voted for my game did so on potential rather than implementation – all the more reason for me to do a good job on that update (more on that in a few days).

Seeing as I’d entered this one, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to say much about the other entries until the contest had wrapped up. Now that it has, I’d like to share my favourites from the contest, like I did with the B-Games.

As a disclaimer, I should mention that my little laptop had trouble running some of these games, so I wasn’t able to play everything. These are the games I wasn’t able to check out in the end: Corporate Moped Horde, Narcoleptic Soccer Rush, Russian Landmine Patrol, and Unstoppable Dwarf – Hot Pursuit. I also had to exclude the following due to severe performance issues: Emo Harvest on The Oregon Trail, Enraged Rocket House, and No One Can Stop the Farm Pioneer.

Here are the three games I eventually voted for:

Samurai Railroad Mansion – Lurk

Given the list of games above that I couldn’t get working, this one might come as a bit of a surprise. While the original version the author had uploaded was completely unplayable, the update actually worked perfectly. So although I’d already voted by the time I played this, I liked it so much that I had to change my vote.

Simplicity is hard. I have a lot of respect for any game that can take a simple idea and execute it really well, like Samurai Railroad Mansion does. The big thing it gets right is the difficultly curve – it’s pitched just hard enough that you can’t make a lot of progress at first, but once you get the hang of the timing for each enemy it becomes challenging without being frustrating. While the game is occasionally unfair, dealing you an impossible situation every so often, 95% of the times you take damage it’s your fault, and you could have avoided it if you’d been quicker or more careful. I keep coming back to this game, making a little bit more progress each time.

Hugely addictive and lots of fun, as far as I’m concerned it’s the best game in the contest by a wide margin. That the graphics and animations are breathtaking certainly helped too.

Time Shark II: Medieval Shark Strike Force – I Like Cake

While it’s a decent enough platformer with some nifty ideas, if it wasn’t for the intro sequence, I probably wouldn’t have voted for Time Shark. But it’s so hard to be critical of a game that starts with the line “The last Hitler is in captivity”.

This game just delighted me the whole way through – the excellent storyline, the setting, the Metroid references, the clever level design – everything – I reached the end and knew I had to vote for it. After all, I had more fun with it than I did with practically anything else in the contest.

Morbidly Obese Rugby Nation – Sega

For me, the joke entries in this contest had a special significance. Most people (myself included) took a name from the generator and asked “What kind of game can I make with that title”? The joke entries, on the other hand, asked “What would a game with this title actually be like”? Which straight away makes them pretty interesting! I can only wonder what sorta entries we would have seen if every game had approached the contest like this.

Not only was Morbidly Obese Rugby Nation the funniest game in the contest, for me it was one of the most interesting too. So it got my vote.

That’s it! It really was tough choosing only three to vote for – I hope the 3-game limit is something that’s re-evaluated for whatever contest TIGSource holds next. It kinda sucks that over half the entries got less than five votes each. If I’d had a few more choices, there were a few other games that I would have liked to root for:

Planet of the Forklift Kid – shaktool

Before I got Samurai Railroad Mansion to work, I’d originally given Planet of the Forklift Kid my third vote. It’s a clever little physics-based platform puzzler that really stood out for me – partly because it was the only puzzle game entered out of nearly 50 games in the contest.

Brain-Damaged Toon Underworld – Cactus

My first reaction when I saw the trailer was “right, that’s it, contest’s over” 😮 . The visual and audio style is spectacular, even by Cactus’ standards. However, while there’s clearly potential for a hell of a game here, the short demo Cactus posted at the deadline wasn’t substantial enough for me to vote for. I can’t wait to see the finished product, though.

No One Can Stop the Sloth of the Blood God – Pencerkoff

While flawed in a lot of ways, the game hinted at some original and clever ideas that could have worked with a bit of balancing and development time. I hope to see more from “Pencerkoff”, whoever he is.


A nifty little game that went on to take first place in the contest. Compared to some of the other entries it didn’t really have much of an impact on me, but I had a lot of fun playing it! In particular, the ending was excellent! (In fact, the whole “glitch” effect thing was handled perfectly.)

My First Skydiving Academy – Farmergnome

I really love this game’s silhouette style and the game is heaps of fun, but I felt it was a bit one note compared to some of the other stuff in the contest. The idea behind the game was brilliant, though 😀

Post-Apocalyptic Unicorn Uprising – Montoli

Another game that really stood out for me – the rainbow shield thing was really clever and whole style and setting was brilliant. I didn’t get very far though – it starts out way too easy (which kinda discourages restarts) and then gets hard far too quickly.

Enough rambling from me. Congratulations to everyone who entered! And to everyone else, if you haven’t already, check out the rest of the games here!

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All Hail Mind Control Rocket

It’s out! Download We Love Mind Control Rocket (2.8Mb, Windows) here!

I found an artist eventually – the very talented Derek Yu volunteered to create all of the art for the game, making it look better than it has any right to.

I’m sorry that I didn’t have time to make a tutorial – I’m going to work on a text one to post later on. I’m a little drained after working some crazy hours to get this finished for the deadline, but when I’ve recovered, expect a long post-mortem on the project 🙂 I’m also hoping to release a final version in a few weeks which fixes some of the balance problems in the game and adds some of the features that I didn’t have time for, so I’d really appreciate any constructive feedback that you can offer!

Here’s a link to the game’s thread on TIGSource, which will probably get updated more often than this post. 🙂


Alex’s Adventure: Video

I recorded this ages ago when I was still messing about with Camtasia, but forgot to post it. It’s a video of the excellent Alex’s Adventure, which I posted about last year. An absolutely wonderful little game. There weren’t any other videos of it up on YouTube, so I thought it would be a nice one to record.

The section in this video is from the east side of world one.

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Money for old rope

The Gnomes’ lair has a really good interview with Jet Set Willy Online co-creator and Retro Remakes administrator Bob “Oddbob” Fearon. Well worth reading.

I guess more than anything I want to prove to myself that there doesn’t have to be a divide between the alleged hardcore and the alleged casual crowd – I think Bit Blots Aquaria certainly goes a heck of a way to proving that Indies don’t have to cater to one or the other and that a good game will float (no pun intended) regardless. I’d hate to be the kind of person who sits there as some commercial indie devs do and tailor their product to a demographic, clipboard in one hand ticking off features, calculator in the other totting up their monthly earnings from a swathe of lacklustre products.

Games creation should be about love and care and writing the game you want to write, and sure, you can argue that where we’re heading with MFOR might not pay the bills so as to speak, but at least I’ll be able to sit back and say “well, I bloody tried” regardless of how the cookie crumbles and I can’t do any worse than some tat that’s already gracing the market with a pricetag attached.

Suddenly I’m really looking forward to project MFOR 🙂

Somewhat related: whatever happened the Arsecast? Man, that was great. I’ve been relistening to the original episodes on the train lately.

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