Author Archives: scousegamer88

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Kenta Motokura

Producer(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi & Koichi Hayashida

Released in the holiday season of 2017 for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey presents players with a return to the open-ended 3D style of play of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, and invigorates the series with new abilities and environments, as well as incorporating elements of classic Super Mario gameplay, such as side scrolling. From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this title, and whilst it didn’t become my favourite Super Mario game of all time, certainly goes above and beyond many other games in the series in recent years.

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing to say about the visuals is that on a technical level, this is the best that Super Mario has ever looked. Each character and level found throughout the game is wonderfully detailed, and the blending of 3D and 2D make for something particularly special in terms of graphics. Conceptually, the game does fairly well to stand out from the rest of series in addition, which is quite remarkable given the astounding amount of transition the series has gone through over the 32 years it’s been around. After having watched the trailers for the game before it’s release, I was sceptical as to how some of the environments that were shown would fit with a series like Super Mario Bros, but after playing, I was posthumously proven wrong. Each level especially the Metro Kingdom, which I was most sceptical about, adds a new dimension to the series that I hadn’t thought possible beforehand.

Gameplay – 9/10

Much like Super Mario Galaxy 2, the objective of the game is for the player to find power moons, instead of stars, to power up Mario’s newfound ship named The Odyssey to advance from one level to the other in order to reach Bowser and rescue Peach from him. The most standout feature in terms of gameplay is Mario using his new anthropomorphic hat named Cappy to possess certain enemies throughout the game, and thus use their abilities to the player’s advantage. Much like the new settings, it adds another unique twist to the series’ tableau, as well as a new approach to gameplay, which has scarcely been seen in games before. And in lieu of 3D Super Mario tradition, the game simply doesn’t end with Peach being saved from Bowser. After the main game has been completed, there is a plethora of additional power moons to find, as well as additional objectives given to players for completion on a scale never seen before in a Super Mario game.

Controls – 10/10

Since the 3D Mario formula has existed for over 20 years, it would be more than reasonable to think there would be no issues with the controls; and so there aren’t. Super Mario Odyssey plays out as seamlessly as any other 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64, and the way in which new combat abilities and enemy abilities that Mario can adopt are also seamlessly integrated into the rest of the formula.

Lifespan – 9/10

The base game will take players there around 10 hours to complete, but after which, that hardly even counts as scratching the surface. Each level has an amount of collectibles to pick up that is unfathomable compared to every other Super Mario game before it. It will easily make for 60-70 plus hours of gameplay, and an excellent addition to the collection of extremely long games on the Nintendo Switch along with Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Skyrim.

Storyline – 7.5/10

Following the usual Super Mario Bros formula, Super Mario Odyssey follows the story of Mario having to save Princess Peach from Bowser; only this time, Bowser plans to marry Peach after stealing various relics from each kingdom throughout the world. Mario is also joined by the aforementioned anthropomorphic hat named Cappy, who is also out to rescue a female anthropomorphic hat named Tiara, whom Bowser has Peach wear in preparation for the wedding. Though for the most part the story is largely unoriginal, especially for anything seen in a Super Mario game prior, what makes the way in which is story is told in Odyssey stand out fractionally more than other Mario games is the projection of emotion found throughout. Mario is portrayed as slightly less of an unstoppable superhero capable of beating anyone he comes across, and is shown to feel the difficulty and hardship of what it is he is setting out do. On several occasions, Mario comes painfully close to rescuing Peach from Bowser before the final battle, but he is shown to suffer setbacks, which visibly frustrate him, and though these are not things that haven’t been seen in games prior to this by any stretch of the imagination, it is something new to the series, which in terms of story, has needed for quite some time. But in terms of depth in plot, it still leaves players wanting much more in this respect. It’s certainly my biggest criticism that I have to levy against this game.

Originality – 8.5/10

With that one main qualm I have out of the way, the fact of the matter remains that this game is the most unique Mario experience released since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in terms of every other aspect aside from story. The settings are outstanding and the gameplay is even more so. In recent years, the originality of this series has been very much hit and miss in my opinion, with me contrasting the uniqueness of games such as Super Mario 3D World and Paper Mario: Colour Splash, but Odyssey could possibly pave the way for more unique Super Mario experiences in the future, introducing new elements to the series, which could potentially be either expanded upon or could be spun off into even more new elements depending on what direction Nintendo want to take it into.

Happii

Overall, despite lacking in story, Super Mario Odyssey delivers players, which is in my opinion, the best Super Mario game since Galaxy 2. And whilst it may not be anywhere near as good as the former, it certainly spells a bright future for the franchise, as well as giving players what is probably the longest Mario experience ever.

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great)

Q&A With Haywire Studios

During my recent hiatus from writing, I was contact by another independent game development studio I had approached some time ago about bring to the attention of my readers another upcoming indie game, which had successfully met it’s backing goals. Haywire studios, operating out of Adelaide, Australia are currently working on an open-world top-down RPG name A Matter of Time. Employing a classic 8-BIT visual style, and mixing aspects of medieval fantasy and science fiction, the game also incorporates the manipulation of time into it’s core gameplay, with the main character James being armed with a relic known as the Paradox Cape. Not a great deal is known about how exactly the Paradox Cape will affect the game’s mechanics, since it is still quite a ways away from being finished, but the main coder known as CamCog, agreed to answer some questions I sent over to him to get more of an insight into some of the game’s details. Here are their answers:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

The historical side of ‘A Matter of Time’ was very much influenced by my interest in historic battles and how they have shaped the way of warfare. Also, some of the gameplay was inspired by other indie RPG titles such as Hyper Light Drifter and Undertale.

What has the developmental process been like?

The developmental process of the game has definitely been a good experience overall. It has taught (and is still teaching) me much about how to create a great game and what to avoid when doing so. Unfortunately, given that this is my first time developing a big project, it’s been quite a new experience and there have been a lot of unexpected setbacks.  For example, it took way longer than planned to get a graphic designer which led to some of the game’s development being delayed. It’s also very time-consuming and tiring to code a whole game independently, even with the major help of a sound and graphic designer. Despite these setbacks, progress of the game’s development is beginning to go more smoothly and I am hopeful that the final product will be something that I can be proud of.

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much work on the game previous to the Kickstarter so the finished product is still quite a long way away – winter 2019 to be exact. However, if all goes to plan, a demo for the game will be released in early 2018, which will at least be something for people to see.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

The most exciting aspect of development has definitely been the making of the ‘A Matter of Time’ universe along with the locations and characters that are included in it. Apart from that, the thought of seeing players’ immerse themselves in the universe that you created is something that inspires me to complete the game.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The most challenging aspect of development is that the whole game is mainly being coded by me. While it is great to be able to take the wheel and code whatever you want with the only limitation being your skill, it is very difficult for only one person to take this massive workload. I sometimes am finding myself staying up until 2am just trying to figure out how to get a simple issue fixed, which I know could be solved in a matter of minutes by a small team of developers. However, as I stated earlier, the whole developmental process has been somewhat educational and learning to do so much work alone has definitely helped in teaching me so much about game development.


What other kinds of additional abilities will the Paradox Cape have
?

A lot of The Paradox Cape’s details are going to stay a secret until the game’s launch. However, I can give some small details to give you a ‘taste’ of its power. For example, the Paradox Cape will be able to act as a temporary ‘invisibility cloak’ when stealth is key. It will also, when the ability is unlocked, be able to pacify enemies up until a certain strength. Additionally, it can also act as a comfy blanket on a cold day!

 

How well has the game been received so far?

There have been some positive comments on the game’s Kickstarter which indicates that people are somewhat excited for the game’s development. There has also been some small discussion on the game’s Discord server which is good to see as well. Apart from that, however,  not much has been going on in terms of the game’s audience due to there not being much gameplay available for people to witness.

How big a part will time paradoxes play in the outcome of the story?

Time paradoxes aren’t too huge in terms of the game’s storyline, but they will definitely have a big part to play in the game’s mechanics. Unfortunately, due to this being a feature of the Paradox Cape, I am not willing to share the exact details of what will happen.

Was real-life history part of the influences behind this game?

It certainly was, with an obvious example being the place where James is first found, the Battle of Hattin. Groups that are famous in history are also influences for the game. In fact, they are a big part of the game. Some examples are the Templar Knights and the Ayyubid forces.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

The demo will be available for free on itch.io, and the finished game will be available on Steam for an estimated $5 (USD).

Will time travel be implemented into the gameplay?

Definitely. You will even see time travel in the game’s demo when James is transported from the Battle of Hattin to the future.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Given that I am a new developer, there is not much amazing feedback I can give. I suppose that the biggest piece of advice I can give based on my experience with this game is to PLAN AHEAD. You do not want to be going into a big project with a ‘just wing it’ attitude. This is one flaw in the way I’ve developed this game that even I have to admit. Not planning ahead caused me to run into a lot of obstacles that I am even now still having to overcome. I will say it again – before you start any big project, it is VITAL that you plan your storyline, mechanics, approach to marketing, budget, etc.

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

Website: http://haywiregamestudios.weebly.com/

Discord: https://discord.gg/pbjyb5B

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/haywiregamestudios/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameHaywire

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEcnPRw3knE2OzBtfycc6jg

PayPal donation pool: https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/7Z7UNggAQc

 

Do you have anything else to add?

To everyone that has shown support to me throughout the creation of this game. You guys have been a massive inspiration for me. I would certainly not be creating this game if it wasn’t for you. Thanks 🙂

 

Though we may be a long way from experiencing this unique take on the action RPG genre, I have every confidence that this game will be worth the wait. I would like to take this opportunity to thank CamCog and for answering my questions, and to wish him and the rest of Haywire Studios the best of luck with A Matter of Time.

I hope you guys enjoyed my first article back, And there will be many more to come soon.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The 2017 Play Manchester Special

Last week marked yet another eventful and successful Play Expo at the EventCity venue in Manchester. Back for it’s sixth year, the UK’s biggest retro gaming convention was pack with arcade games, retro consoles, up and coming indie developers, video game education academy booths and guest speakers from the world of gaming. Eager to see what the event had in store, I stayed over at Manchester to experience this year’s proceedings, and to see what more new and old games were being showcased, and once again, I was not left disappointed. Here is what was on at Play Manchester 2017.

Raging Justice

Having been in the works for over two years now, Makin Games, operating within the Midlands, were there to once again showcase their 2D beat ‘em up Raging Justice. Inspired by arcade classics such as Streets of Rage and Double Dragon, Raging Justice provides an updated take on the 2D-style fighting genre, following the exploits of maverick cops Nikki Rage and Rick Justice as they sweep the streets clean of crime and administer their own brand of vigilante justice. The last time I saw this game was at Play Manchester 2015, and it took me pleasantly by surprise when I first saw it, with it’s unique-looking visuals and unique take on gameplay, utilizing a morality mechanic whereby players can either kill criminals or arrest them, keeping bloodshed to a minimum. Since 2015, the developers have added more levels, and a heightened sense of challenge more akin to classic games that served as the inspiration. I was extremely impressed with the improvements made to this title and I can’t wait for it’s upcoming release.

 

All Contact Lost

Another one of many developers returning to Play Expo on the back of many previous shows were 1st Impact Games, as they once again showcased their sci-fi survival first-person shooter All Contact Lost. All Contact Lost relies on the player’s ability to stay alive and stand their ground for as long as possible against horde after horde of oncoming aliens. The player must learn to adapt to environments whilst conserving ammo and knowing when to flee and replenish supplies. The biggest improvement from when I first saw the play showcased at Play Blackpool this year was undoubtedly the visuals. The last time I saw the game, it looked like something that could easily have been made to run on a PlayStation 2. But after seeing it again, it looked like a game on par with many AAA PlayStation 4 games. Running on Unreal Engine 4, it was undoubtedly the best looking game at the expo on a technical level, and it baffled me how the developers were able to make such a significant leap in graphical quality in such a small span of time.

Nippon Marathon

Another great looking game at the show, especially from a conceptual standpoint, was Nippon Marathon; an on-foot racing game developed by Onion Soup Interactive heavily inspired by Japanese culture. Primarily a multiplayer games, players must race against each other whilst also avoiding obstacles in their path, and finding the best way navigate round each course in order to build and maintain an advantage over other players. Weapons and power-ups are also available through each for players to take advantage of. I would best describe it as Mario Kart Meets Sonic R and Takeshi’s Castle; except that even in the early stages of development, the controls in this game are nowhere near as infuriating as in Sonic R. But alluding to my other two comparisons, the game is particularly fun, as well as downright hilarious.

 

Sigma Theory

As at EGX Rezzed last April, there was also a large amount of PC games on display at Play Manchester, old and new. One indie game at the show was a strategy game on PC called Sigma Theory developed by mi-clos Studio operating out of France. Though in essence it could possibly be describe as a 4X game, it plays out drastically different to traditional 4X games, such as Civilization or Stellaris. Players must pursue world domination, and to gather as many resources and recruit the best personnel possible in order to complete their objective. Negotiation skills play a massive part in the game with players having to use correct dialogue options in order to recruit people to their side and carry diplomatic missions. I found there to be intriguing level of depth to this game compared to many other PC strategy games I’ve played, and for someone who has played a great of games in the genre, that’s saying a lot. The game is available for pre-order via their website, and I can’t wait to try this one and explore the full game’s additional features. As with many 4X games like it, it could also theoretically be extremely open to modding in my opinion, which makes me even more excited for it.

 

Bee Bee Q

VR games also maintained a very strong presence at this year’s proceedings; a case in point being the game Bee Bee Q created by local developed from Manchester, Popup Asylum. Bee Bee Q was one of a few games I regrettably didn’t get to try out when I was at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, and so when I heard it was making an appearing at Play Manchester, I relished the opportunity to try it, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a 2-player game whereby the wearer of the VR headset takes on the role of a barbeque chef in his garden who must swat bees as many times as possible to rack up as many points as possible. The second player controls the bee, which must sting the barbeque chef as many times as possible, and to avoid getting swatted. In the long term, this game has helped significantly to realize my newfound perception of VR gaming. It’s shown me that not only can the peripheral itself be a viable idea in terms of video game development, but that new and outlandish ideas can be experimented with whilst developing for it, which lines up with some of the best ideas ever conceived for individual video game franchises. My biggest regret is not being able to try this game sooner; I had a great of fun playing it.

Fragmental

Fragmental is the type of game that I’ve seen at almost every single video games conference I’ve attended; it’s a top-down local multiplayer shooter for up to 4 players, but what sets this one apart from the other in a very positive way is its conceptual design and it’s variety in weapons choice. Players can either melee attack one another, or pick up various guns scattered across each arena. I also found it to be much more accessible than many other titles I’ve played at expos made in the same vein, such as Towerfall Ascension and Porcunpine, but with all the uniqueness as the two aforementioned examples.

Tanglewood

However, in terms of uniqueness, there was one indie title that caught my attention in this respect more than any other; a game called Tanglewood, developed by a studio named Big Evil Corporation. Being developed for the Sega Mega Drive following a successful Kickstarter campaign, it is a 2D side scroller with gameplay elements vaguely reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog, which follows the adventures of a fox named Nymm, who has been separated from his family and must find a way to survive. The game features day-to-night transitions similar to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, which plays a massive part in gameplay, as it triggers the coming of enemies, which players must then defeat before the sun rises again. Despite the developer’s choice of platform, or perhaps because of it, Tanglewood is one of the most unique indie titles I’ve seen in a long time, and the prospects seem very good for an extremely enjoyable title in terms of gameplay despite the fact that it is only in an alpha build at the moment. It’s unclear whether the developers will bring it to other platforms in the future, but if demand is high enough, I don’t see any reason why people wouldn’t want it to happen.

 

The Otterman Empire

Another multiplayer indie title I particularly enjoyed playing at Play Manchester was a Splatoon-inspired shooter named The Otterman Empire. Featuring wonderfully unusual conceptual design, as well as similar gameplay to the former title, it’s an arena-based shooter whereby the objective is to attain as many kills as possible before the timer runs out. Similar to Splatoon, players recharge their ammo by submerging themselves into water. This tactic can also be used to hide from enemies. Whilst talking to the developer from Tri-Heart Interactive, he remarked that the shooter game genre is dominated by the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, whereas none of these games fall under the category of being child-appropriate, and that Splatoon seems to him as being the only one. Having had time to ponder what he said, I realized that he was more or less right; at least in terms of mainstream gaming. The Otterman Empire certainly looks like a game that could possibly start a series of games made in the same vein that are indeed appropriate for children, along with Splatoon.

 

Balance of Kingdoms

Balance of Kingdoms was yet another multiplayer experience at the show that did extremely well to stand out among most other games on display. The concept of the game is to build a tower made from various medieval architectural buildings and structures, and to then ensure that it all stays in place without toppling. After which, the player must then buy various artillery weapons, such as cannons and trebuchets in order to destroy the opposing player’s tower, and vice versa. The best way I could possibly describe it is if Tricky Towers was infinitely more combat-orientated. It took me a while to adapt to the unique gameplay and to play it effectively, but one I got the hang of it, I ended up having a lot of fun with it. It had been well received by players throughout this year’s proceeding, and having sampled it myself, it was little wonder to me why that was.

Boom Boom Barbarian

A particular type of game that I saw when I was there, which I hadn’t ever seen among indie developers before, was a rhythm action RPG hybrid name Boom Boom Barbarian. Developed by Silo Black Games, players must choose from a selection of character classes and abilities, and use them to battle oncoming enemies to the rhythm of the background music. That I hadn’t seen a game like this before since I started going to these conferences, it made me think that in the absence of many other previously big name rhythm game series such as Rock Band, like with the Otterman Empire, there is most definitely a market to be had with games that can provide a unique twist on an otherwise largely dormant genre of games.

Bullion

Whilst a vast majority of the multiplayer games at the expo seems to be in later stages of development, one game that was in a much earlier stage was Bullion, a 4-player game whereby players must kill as many enemies as possible and collect as much treasure as possible before the timer runs out. Similar to many of the mini games in the Mario Party franchise, and developed by Plasma Beam Games based in Oxford, they remarked that before release, they plan to include more stages than what were present in the current build, and they are aiming for release relatively soon. Though that would of course help to enhance the overall gameplay experience, I myself found it to be delightfully challenging nonetheless. I’ve always liked playing the Mario Party games, especially when I was growing up laying with my friends from school, and this game, to my satisfaction, did extremely well to hearken bac k to those days for me, as well as provide it’s own unique twist on things.

Ersatz

A game that I enjoyed more than any of the others that were at Manchester this year, however, was a title called Ersatz. A game, which was not made by a studio, but rather by a single Manchester-born programmer named Paris Stalker, it is a 2D side scrolling rhythm game, which presents players with much more of a challenge than many games made in the same vein. I would best describe it as Titan Souls meets Mega Man. The player must rely on the rhythm of the soundtrack in order to best navigate their way through each level, as well as take on bosses at the end. The boss fight in particular were extremely well designed, as well as intensely challenging; but not to the point where like games made in the same vein, Castlevania for example, that they have can be considered to be inaccessible by some players. I’ve always been a sucker for great looking games with 8-BIT graphics, especially since the boom of indie games, and Ersatz certainly did not fail to impress in this respect either.

Glo

Another game that also did not fail to impress was yet another unique 2D side scroller called Glo. Glo is a game recently released on Steam by developers Chronik Spartan, and is a 2D platformer whereby players control a single square throughout a series of pitch-black stages; all the while using various different light sources through each stage to navigate through them. Players can take advantage of power-ups to either find their way to the end of each stage, or to deal with enemies hidden around them that players can inadvertently encounter, greatly adding to the game’s wonderful sense of tension. Whilst I was playing, however, the developer showing to me remarked that there were various areas of the game which he felt he would have to make more accessible in order for it to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, However, in the state I witnessed it in, I told him tat it didn’t seem too inaccessible at all, and with that perseverance, players would get the hang of it soon enough while playing. And I stand by my opinion; Glo did not make me feel that the challenge was either too big or too small.

Hyper Sentinel

For the second year running, Robert Hewson, son of Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultant, was back at Play Manchester showing off his heavily publicised and heavily anticipated arcade shooter Hyper Sentinel. Made in the same vein as arcade classics such as Defender and Bosconian, Hewson was mainly there to demonstrate the games newly added survival mode before it’s impending release in early 2018. Every time I’ve seen this game showcased, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing through it, and the new survival mode adds an even greater layer of depth to the gameplay, and is a major improvement on an already outstanding arcade gaming experience made for a modern audience. The Hewson family have an illustrious history in the world of gaming, and with the release of Hyper Sentinel, I’m confident that this can only add to that history in an extremely positive way.

Razed

One of the last indie games at the show to have caught my attention was an excellent-looking game called Razed. Developed by Warpfish Games, Razed is a platforming racing game whereby players must race to the end of each stage in as little time as possible, and find unique ways to navigate around then in order the get the fastest times. There is also a surprisingly strong RPG element to it, as players in time gain more abilities for their character, thereby being able to interact with their surroundings in different ways, such as opening gates and lowering platforms. Finding my way through each level made me marvel at this game, as well as intermittently laugh whenever I died. It was another one of these games that provided a delightfully accessible challenge, and I can’t wait to try out the final product when it is released.

RetroStar

Following a successful Play Blackpool showcasing this year, Sinister Sot were back to promote their dungeon crawler entitled Dungeons, as well a new smartphone game named RetroStar. Having begun to code the game after the first day at Play Blackpool, RetroStar has since been released on Android, and has proved to be a very solid effort on the part of the developer. The objective of the game is to simply shoot down as many oncoming enemy spaceships as possible whilst using the speed of the player character’s ship to gain a tactical combat advantage. I would best describe it as Asteroids meets Defender in 3D. I was given a reviewer code to try it out, and I am very much looking forward to composing a review for it in the future.

Space Toads Mayhem

Yet another game returning to Play Expo on the back of a successful showcasing at Play Blackpool 2017 was Space Toads Mayhem, developed by programmer Lukasz Snopkiewicz. The game takes the form of a classic arcade style top-down rail shooter, which relies heavily on player skill, as well as perception, as items picked up throughout can either have invaluable benefits or disastrous consequences. The main difference I found whilst playing this game now, in comparison to how it played out when I was in Blackpool, is that it seemed a lot more accessible than it had been before, which to me is a massive improvement. Though I enjoyed playing the game the first time I did play it anyway, toning down the difficulty has certainly helped it to eel that much more enjoyable. But I can’t wait to see how Lukasz further develops the game before it’s release; if he does again decide to bring it to Play Expo in 2018.

The Tension

The last indie game I tried out when I was at play Manchester was a stealth sci-fi game called The Tension. Developed by Hope for Hopeless Studios on the back of a success Steam Greenlight campaign, the game plays out very much like classic Metal Gear Solid games, with players having to avoid enemies and find ways around their field of vision in order to solve puzzles and to advance to each new area in turn. Over the years, my feelings towards stealth games have been mixed. On one and, where the likes of classic Metal Gear games have been concerned, I have been impressed for the most part. But with first person stealth games, though they have been solid experiences, they do tend to drag on with how many times is required to start again at certain stages of the games in order to advance without being detected. With this game, however, it doesn’t come with such issues, and it made for a very enjoyable game. It had great conceptual design, especially for a game at relatively early stages of development, and I can’t wait to play the finished product when it is released.

 

Psygnosis

Finally, there were three guest talks at Play Manchester that I had the distinct pleasure of attending and listening on. It was also conducted in a far superior way this time, as they were held in a separate room as opposed to it being on the main floor, which made it much easier to hear over reduced background crowd noise, as well as it being a lot more atmospheric with the lighting. One of the talk I attended was with former Psygnosis developers Mike Clarke, Martin Linklater and Mike Kaisar were present to talk about the history of the Liverpool-based development company, their gaming library, and how they went from being a fairly successful local developer to enjoying global critical acclaim with gaming franchises such as Wipeout and Lemmings. The three outlined how the company started out operating from the South Harrington building in Brunswick to then going on to set up shop at Wavertree Technology Park, where they continued to develop for Sony later on as Studio Liverpool, and then being disbanded in 2012 after the release of Wipeout 2048 on the PlayStation Vita.

Watching this talk made me particularly proud as a gamer, to have seen the history of this studio outlined in such a way, and to listen in-depth about how a development company from my own neck of the woods were instrumental in popularising one of the highest selling video game consoles of all time, and later playing a pivotal role in establishing Sony’s dominance over the gaming market during the sixth generation of gaming in addition. Since I started going to these expos, I’ve met and listened to many people from Liverpool associated with gaming who have had their own unique stories to tell, but for me, this talk has so far been the most significant, as these guy were instrumental in hving the greatest impact on the industry overall.

 

Karl Hilton & Graeme Norgate

Early on during the first day of the expo, another talk was held with two of the nine core developers at Rare who worked on the critical and commercial marvel Goldeneye, released on the Nintendo 64 20 years ago. The developers there were Karl Hilton, who worked on the game’s level design, and Graeme Norgate, who supervised the game’s sound effects; the due worked on Goldeneye, as well as its spiritual successor, Perfect Dark. They both talked about their own respective experiences of working on the hugely successful game, along with their experiences of working with the rest of the team such as the soundtrack compose Grant Kirkhope, and the game’s principal programmer Martin Hollis. There was also a competition held after the talk, whereby two gamers were invited to compete against the two developers for a signed copy of the game; the main stipulation being that anyone who chose Oddjob as their character would be instantly disqualified. A gamer named Chris, who in the end recorded 30 kills against the other players, won the competition.

Where Play Manchester in general has been concerned, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the calibre of the guests that have attended the show to give various talks, such as the original development team for Tomb Raider, and Q*Bert creator Warren Davies. This year, given this impressive line-up, was no exception. Goldeneye was one of the most commercially successful games on the Nintendo 64, and it was incredible to gain an insight into the developmental process from the two gaming veterans.

Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict

The final talk that I attended at the show was a grand collective of faces synonymous with the popularity and the continued popularity of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum console of the 80s. They were Liverpool-born developer Jim Bagley, Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants, Jon Hare of Sensible Software, Spectrum developers Steve Turner and Rich Stevenson, Vivid Image’s Mev Dinc and Mark R Jones of Ocean Software. Also joining them on the stage was Andy Remic and Simon Butler, who together had created a shot film entitled Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict; a dramatization and collection of developers interviews detailing the popularity of the ZX Spectrum throughout the 80s, and the various different memories that each respective developer had of the era of which the console was most popular, and how it has continued to remain so to this day.

Again, much like the Psygnosis talk, in respect of the many guest talk I have attended detailing how the ZX Spectrum has continued to remain popular following the console official discontinuity, this one was by far the most significant, since it clarified in the furthest detail of how instrumental the home computer console was in maintaining the popularity of video games following the video game crash of 1983 until Nintendo began to dominate the market, and of how much of an impact the console had on the lives of both gamers and developer alike. It makes me regret not having tried the console earlier than I did because I’ve always been intrigued by the history of gaming, especially since I started writing, and it’s always a pleasure to experience the origins of gaming and the history of development out of the UK. I sincerely hope that more of the types of talk will be held at future Play Expos throughout the country, and after attending this in particular talk, I can positively say that there doesn’t seem to be any sign of them ending any time soon.

Once again, I had a fantastic time attending Play Manchester, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers for allowing me to attend the event, and to thank the staff for their continuous efforts of making Replay Events the best expos that they can possibly be. I would also like to give a massive shout-out to each and every indie developer at the event, and to wish you all best of luck with your respective gaming endeavours.

But I would also like to take this opportunity to make quite a huge announcement in respect of the blog. As of this article, I will be going on hiatus until the start of 2018. Personally, I have not been happy with myself in terms of the amount and variety in content that I have provided throughout 2017, and quite frankly, I believe my audience deserve more. So over the course of the next few months, I will be planning ahead for 2018, and thinking up new ideas for content not only on the blog, but on other platforms, as well as my social media links. But I would also like to emphasize that this does not mean I have enjoyed that which I have experienced this year and have broadcast to my readers.

2017 has been a fantastic year for video gaming in general with the release of the Nintendo Switch, as well as games released on many other consoles and platforms, and I have had the distinct pleasure of attending a great number of expos and conferences in the process; EGX Rezzed in particular was a huge moment in my writing career. But I feel the time is right to take this amount of time to re-think what kind of content I would to deliver to my readers, and to better engage them. So although I’m somewhat upset to have to deliver this news to you all, I promise that it will serve a greater purpose, and I promise that I will be back in 2018 with more content than ever before, as well as a few surprises in store along the way.

In the meantime, I hope you all look forward to seeing what I’m going to be bringing to the table soon, and of course, all previous content will remain on the site for people to read at their own leisure. I’d also like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time out of your day to read my previous content, and I will be back to continue bringing you more.

Thank you all, and game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

 

VR Here: A Virtual Reality Gaming Arcade

Around the time I first started writing, and after having allowed myself the time to research video gaming further than I had ever done previously before 2014, I had maintained a certain level of scepticism about the concept of Virtual Reality gaming, and how exactly it could be made to work. It all began when I learnt about Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, created by company pioneer Gunpei Yokoi, and released to the Japanese and American regions between 1995 and 1996. Using a monochromatic display, similar to Yokoi’s prior commercial success, the Game Boy, The Virtual Boy became the second worst selling Nintendo console to date behind the Nintendo 64DD, due to factors such as it’s astronomical retail price of $500, causing players discomfort while playing and extremely limited third party developmental support. As a result, Nintendo have been waiting for VR gaming to become more popular among the gaming mainstream for them to attempt to create a system in the same vein again, as outlined by the president of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-aime

However, as of 2015, from the time of which I had begun to be invited to numerous video games expos throughout the country such as Replay Expos, Comic Cons and EGX, I have witness firsthand the resurgence of Virtual Reality gaming, and the drastic improvements undertaken in the development of such peripherals as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. Overtime, the scepticisms about how the concept of VR gaming could be made to work in a practical sense have been periodically quashed, as I have been given the opportunity to try these fantastic gaming platforms, and to indulge in some really exciting gaming experiences, such as Battle Zone, Superhot and Nerve. However, the market for VR gaming has been going beyond exhibition at expos in recent years.

VR Here is a specialized Virtual Reality gaming arcade based in Liverpool (the first in the country, in fact), which has since branched out to other regions in the UK in both Manchester and London. Opening in 2016, the Liverpool branch has VR booths in-house, and also offers a hiring service for players wishing to bring VR gaming to their birthday parties, or for companies for corporate events. This week, I had the pleasure of trying some the games VR Here had to offer, and learning of what the future holds for the arcade. Always looking to continue to branch out, not only will they provide VR experiences, but they will also be using motion trackers to enhance the VR experience with the pending arrival of the game Final Goalie VR. But for the moment, the arcade has a wide range of games for adamant players to try either at the arcade or for party hire, including:

. Superhot VR

. Brookhaven Experiment

. Portal Stories

. The Lab

. The Blu

. Raw Data

. Quiver

. Job Simulator

. Katana X

. Space Pirate Trainer

For anyone looking to book and try VR Here, the prices are £20 for half an hour and £30 for a full hour. VR Here are also open Tuesday to Friday from 17:00 to 22:00. Bu any further information can be found on the company’s website:

 

http://vr-here.co.uk/

 

I had a great time at VR Here and I would recommend gamers at any skill level to try it. For beginners, there will be staff there to help you get started and to make it the best experience possible.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The 2017 Play Blackpool Special

This month marked the seventh anniversary of Replay Event’s Play Expo at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool. Eager to see what Replay Events had in store, I made my way to Blackpool for the third time to see what indie games, guest talks and throwbacks to classic gaming were being showcased at the expo; and I wasn’t disappointed. Following on from last year’s proceedings, a lot of classic games were back, as well as one of last year’s guest speakers, and a few more gaming veterans, along with some more new up and coming developers showing off their latest video game projects; and here’s what Play Blackpool 2017 had to offer.

Bloody Zombies

The first indie game I encountered was a Streets of Rage style beat up set in a post-apocalyptic world entitled Bloody Zombies. Aside from up to four players having to hash it out with zombies along 2D side scrolling environments, one player also wears a VR headset in order to uncover secrets that may be hidden within each stage, and to help the accompanying three players to seek out hidden items for additional points and stronger weapons. A combo system is also incorporated similar to classic fighting games in order for players to compete among one another to see who can earn the highest score at the end of each stage.

The hand-drawn 2D visuals of the game mixed with cel-shaded graphics gives the game diversity in technical design, and although it is generally speaking quite difficult to make a story centred around zombies stand out from a conceptual point of view, the developers of Bloody Zombies, nDreams, have so far done a pretty decent job of it, with things like character and boss designs doing pretty well to stand out. The VR aspect of the game also makes it stand out further, giving it a level of diversity in gameplay never before seen in a 2D beat ‘em up.

 

Mao Mao Castle

Having first laid eyes on this game at Play Manchester last year, Asobi Tech were back to showcase further adjustments made to their on-rail 8-BIT obstacle game Mao Mao Castle. In it, the player controls a ginger cat, be that with a mouse or touchscreen, (or as was showcased at the expo, a motion sensor), the player must guide the cat through obstacles that come towards the player at increasingly high speeds and to survive the constant onslaught for as long as possible. Since the game was showed off in Manchester, new game mechanics have been added; most notably, the inclusion of a power-up that makes the cat temporarily increase in size and bypass ever obstacle effortlessly.

In my opinion, the new mechanics added to the game add a great deal of depth to it, and it also makes it a lot more accessible for entry-level players too, which is needed since it whilst it’s easy to get competitive playing it, speaking from experience, it could be seen as somewhat inaccessible before. But this issue has been fixed with the introduction of the newly implemented gaming features, and I can’t wait to see what the final product has to offer.

All Contact Lost

 

Speaking of challenging games, the next game I tried out at the event was an FPS called All Contact Lost. The object of the game is not too dissimilar to the Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot add-on for the original Borderlands game, whereby players must defend themselves against hoards of oncoming enemies in order to survive for as long as possible and attain the highest score possible. Players have limited time between each round to organise and heal themselves before the next wave is introduced, which get exponentially bigger and harder to deal with in turn.

Amidst a massive influx of FPS games to have hit the gaming industry within the last 20 years, it’s interesting to see how new developers are coming up with new ways to modify the formula and to make playing first-person shooters as enjoyable and as challenging as it ever has been. Where All Contact Lost is concerned, it’s developers, 1st Impact Games, have done a decent job showcasing what could be a potentially insanely addicting game. They told me that their next objective is to add more enemies into the game, which can potentially give it more cause for players to have to adapt to different situations within the game, but it will be interesting to see how 1st Impact implement that.

Medieval Steve

Next, I tried A 2.5D side scrolling game called Medieval Steve developed by jForth Designs. The game was in the early stages of development, but it centred around having to complete various different tasks throughout each level, including collecting hidden items throughout, and even time trials; similar to many features found in modern Super Mario games.

As the game is only in a very early stage of development, there is much more to be added in. But from what I played of the game, I really enjoyed. The time aspect of it was extremely unique compared to many other games to implement similar mechanics like New Super Mario Bros U and Super Smash Bros Melee’s story mode, and with the right amount of attention and further development, it could become a really enjoyable game when its released. If a decent story concept is also added, it could make for a very interesting franchise in years to come too in my opinion.

Space Toads Mayhem        

Space Toads Mayhem was the next game I tried, developed by programmer Lukasz Snopkiewicz. It’s an arcade style bullet hell top-down rail shooter that it insanely addictive, yet gruellingly challenging at the same time. Whilst progressing, players are periodically given a choice between to power-ups, which can either help or hinder the player accordingly dependent on choice the player makes.

In my opinion, this aspect gives the game Roguelike quality to it, which I’ve struggled to find in an arcade game amidst the influx of indie games out there. I’ve seen in other genres with the like of Rogue Legacy and Tower of Guns, but the only other arcade Roguelike I’ve played recently is Don’t Die, Mr Robot. Lukasz was quite surprised to me hear use the word Roguelike to describe his game, but he was intrigued at the same time. It could possibly provide him scope to develop the game later on dependent on when he plans to release it by.

Hyper Sentinel

The last indie game I tried at Play Blackpool this year was a game I’ve grown particularly fond of since I first saw it; Hyper Sentinel created by Huey games under the supervision of Robert Hewson. Combining elements of arcade classics such as Uridium and Bosconian, it involves the player carrying out an assault on different spaceships and taking out it’s weapons and subsidiary ships before having to take on a boss fight at the end.

The game I tried in Blackpool was exactly as how I remember it from the first time I saw it; it was addicting without it being too inaccessible, and it provides a welcome combination of old 8-BIT style visuals with a few modern-day graphical effects thrown in for good measure, such as dynamic lighting. After an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign, the game is edging closer to release, and I personally cant wait to try out the finished product. To read my Q&A with Robert Hewson published during the Kickstarter campaign, follow the link below:

http://scousegamer88.com/2017/03/09/qa-with-huey-games/

David Pleasance

Guest speakers were also present at the event with stories of their time in industry, and what impact it had on them personally, and how their actions and successes changed gaming forever. One such speaker was the former marketing director of Commodore, David Pleasance, (Accompanied by Mark Cale of System 3 Software and Gary Bracey of Ocean Software), whose influence went on to make the Commodore 64 one of the highest selling home computer consoles of the 80s in Europe and beyond following the video game crash of 1983. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, David will be releasing a new book towards the end of the year detailing in greater depth his time with Commodore and the great highs and great lows of his career. Throughout the talk, he discussed his role in the overwhelming sales of the Batman pack for the Amiga 500, and the events that led to the success and downfall of Commodore through the company’s long and storied existence.

With most Play Expos I go to, most often at least one talk given by legends of the industry, and how their influence and actions helped the industry become what it is today, and I always found them to be fascinating as a gamer myself; and David’s talk was no exception. Though I was born towards the end of the third generation of gaming, it’s always enthralling to hear from industry veterans their inside stories and how they shaped the industry into what it is today.

Jim Bagley

As well as home computer consoles having a great impact on gamers during the earlier games of gaming, their influence still continues to impact the current market in a similar way; the subject of the next talk was a case in point. Jim Bagley, a Liverpudlian developer who was at Play Blackpool 2016 detailing his long career developing games for a wide variety of consoles from the ZX80 to the PlayStation 4, was back again this year to discuss another console he has had the pleasure of developing for over the last year; the new ZX Spectrum Next. Announced exclusively last year by the console’s creators at Play Blackpool 2016, Jim Bagley was at the same talk, and immediately asked the team where he could pick up a dev kit. Ever since, he has been programming a number of games intended for released on the system for when the console sees its full release. He also announced his plans to create a series of YouTube videos whereby he will educate viewers how to program video games, whether they have experience or not.

After seeing the ZX Spectrum Next unveiled at last year’s Play Blackpool, I was intrigued to see how after all years, people are still dedicated to developing new games for retro consoles, and how the legacy of the ZX Spectrum has carried on to the current generation of gaming. This year, I found out that many more big-name developers than I first realized have signed up to develop games for the ZX Spectrum next for when it releases, and at the moment, I’m extremely tempted to buy one when it comes out. I never got to play the Spectrum during the console’s heyday, but after having sampled it and other consoles of the same era at many Play expos over the last three years, I’m seriously thinking about starting once the Spectrum Next is released, and I was also very interested in the prospect of learning from Jim Bagley of how to create games at entry level.

Big Boy Barry

The final talk of the expo was with Alex Verrey, AKA Big Boy Barry of the Games World TV program that aired throughout the 90s. Alex gave an extensive account of his time within the gaming industry, his experiences as a presenter, and his thoughts of how the gaming industry has evolved since the fifth generation, as well as his plans for the future. As well as that, he was also hosting tournaments at the expo, as well as taking part in other activities on the main stage.

As a kid, I used to watch Games World a lot of the time, and to meet Big Boy Barry in person was an amazing experience. As an aspiring journalist myself, I took home a great deal of inspiration and advice from Alex’s own experiences of reviewing and discussing video games on a professional level, and that it also reaffirmed my opinion that it’s always about keeping ideas fresh, and to not focus on one thing for too long a time to the point where it becomes stale. The success of the industry and people like Alex has always revolved around introducing new things and keeping a great sense of originality. It’s the same with every successful video game franchise, and it’s also the same with every other success within the industry, just like Alex himself.

 

In summation, Play Blackpool was a fantastic experience as always, and I’m very much looking forward to next year’s proceedings in light of it. The indie games I got to try and critique were outstanding this year, and as I said before, it’s always a pleasure to meet and mingle with so many industry veterans, and to expand my own knowledge of the history of the industry that I love. I will also be attending Play Manchester this year too, but in the meantime, there will be more articles and reviews to come in the preceding weeks.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Tryconic Studios

Having surfaced in Kickstarter last month, Rail Theory is a science-fiction survival horror made in very much the same vein as modern survival horror classics as Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space; only with its own unique twist on things. What makes rail theory stands out is it’s intuitive combat system and RPG elements, such as the facility to improve the character with increased stats, health and weapons, answering gripes that I have personally had with many survival horror games that they primarily focus on storytelling and over-emphasis on the horror aspect rather than providing players with fulfilling gameplay in addition to all the scares. Eager to find out more about this title, I sent a few questions to Tryconic Studio’s Kurt Gantz to be answered for yet another Q&A interview. Here were his responses:

What were the influences behind your game?

I would definitely say Resident Evil 4 is a strong influence for Rail Theory. The combat and gameplay of Resident Evil 4 was very satisfying and memorable. We also drew inspiration from the level design of Dark Souls. The sort of branching linear segments that reconnect make for very satisfying exploration.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

The development process has been entirely a learning process. We created the demo for Rail Theory as hobbyists to get as much practice as we could as game developers. We went through about five different iterations of the demo, each representing a major improvement in quality. A lot of this was redoing systems and mechanics once we found better ways to implement them.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

The demo was made so we could get as much development experience as possible while also showing a proof of concept. We would begin developing Rail Theory from scratch if the funding goal is met, so we are a bit far from the finished product.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Definitely seeing the demo come together with just my brother and I working on it. We each had a lot of responsibilities for the demo, so seeing everything come together for the 5th and final build was very exciting.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

This also comes back to having just two people working on the game. We each have a lot of responsibilities and skills that we needed to practice to get to a level we were comfortable with, but it also felt very rewarding.       

 

How well has the game been received so far?

After watching several playthroughs on YouTube, we’re happy to say that the game is being received very well. People are enjoying the combat reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, as well as the other mechanics we’ve implemented. We’ve also received great feedback on what needs to be improved in the game in the future.

Rail theory also seems to have a strong survival horror feel to it. What were the influences behind the enemy designs?

Rail Theory definitely has a lot of survival horror elements, especially the demo. The enemy designs didn’t actually have any specific influences. We played around with several different concepts and implemented them into the demo to see how they felt in the game world. These include the crystalline enemies, the toxic and fire enemies, and larger boss enemy.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We would definitely want to bring the game to steam. We would also like to work towards releasing the game on consoles.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Choosing a project and sticking to it is the best way to learn in my experience. Watch tutorials and learn about your game engine of choice, then apply that knowledge to your project. Just watching a tutorial for something won’t cement it in your head like actually applying it to your project and seeing it work will.

Also be persistent. Try to work on the project a few days a week, even if only for half an hour or so. And don’t be afraid to redo something in your project if find a better way to do it. It will improve your skills and help when you are developing new systems for your project.

Us starting out making a 3rd person shooter with no development experience had a very steep learning curve, but the amount of practice and learning we got by making the demo made it well worth the effort. Just be persistent and always keep improving your skill sets.

 

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

We can be found at www.railtheory.com

Also at www.twitter.com/railtheory

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Thanks for having us, and thank you for reading!

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kurt for taking part in my Q&A about this unique looking game, and to wish him and everyone else at Tryconic Studios best of luck with the project. If anyone reading would like to back Rail Theory on Kickstarter, you can o so via the link below:

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Questions for Veronica Nizama

Sol Bound is an open-world science fiction RPG currently being developed by Crowquetica Games headed by indie developers Veronica Nizama, and her husband Sergio and operating out of New York. The game blends RPG combat with puzzle solving mechanics and intense combat, and will feature a massive open world insired heavily by Latin culture. Eager to know more about this intriguing-looking game, I recently got in touch with Vernonica Nizama to ask a few questions about the game, and get more of an insight of what players can expect with this title. Here are her answers:

 

What were the influences behind your game? 

Growing up I played a ton of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and other games with strong narratives, strategy and beautiful visuals. It was no surprise to me that when I first came up with a loose story idea for Sol Bound over a decade ago, I’d somehow find myself revisiting Tierrania when I decided to become a game developer and make my own action adventure game. I knew I’d be doing a disservice to my otaku teenage self if I hadn’t! 

As far as our style goes, we were definitely influenced by classic Super Nintendo games. However, our culture probably had the biggest visual impact on the game. We’ve infused our rich Latin-American culture into our game in a way that may be relatable to Latinos living in America, as well as provide a fresh new experience for those not familiar with our customs, foods, and culture. Some of these are subtle, like our NPC’s names, diverse racial cast, building architecture, plant life and tropical, bright colours. It not only influenced the look of the game, but the universe as well. A more prominent way we’ve infused our culture is by making our in game food power-ups based off actual Latin dishes – like Cuban Vaca Frita, Peruvian Lucuma Ice Cream and Puerto Rican Mofongo! I think it’ll be a fresh, unforgettable new experience for any gamer. 

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It’s been pretty hectic, but I guess that’s the case when you don’t have any funding. I’ve been in a studio environment for most of my professional career, so working from home, balancing a passion project while working enough on the side to pay bills has been very challenging in comparison to what I’ve been used to. I enjoy working as a team with my husband though – we’re best friends, and this is our baby. It’s definitely a labour of love!

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

Unfortunately, not very close. Pretty much everything you’ve seen so far was created in the past four months, mostly by two people – my husband and I. Because we were running dangerously low on personal funds, we reached out to a few talented friends to help prep our Kickstarter campaign a month and a half before launch. Unfortunately, game development can take quite some time – especially when it comes to a game like ours which will be vast in size and populated by hundreds of NPCs. We’re hoping we can reach our stretch goal of 160k-200k so we can hire our entire team and get the game done sooner. 

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Just seeing everything come together! If you’ve never had the opportunity of working on a big project with multiple people before, it’s an extremely satisfying feeling. You’re able to accomplish amazing things that you wouldn’t have been able to do so on your own. It’s pretty empowering!

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

 
Time management. But isn’t that the case for most developers? As with any passion project, it’s hard to tell yourself that you’ve already invested enough time into a certain asset, shader, animation, etc and to move along to the next task. Being the president of a company though has forced me to really work on this. Aside from the importance of time being money, we now have our backers to consider! We certainly don’t want to let them down with a late release.

 

How exactly does combat work?

Players will encounter monsters, which we call Desvario throughout Tierrania. Desvario will range in size, behaviour and have unique abilities. For example, some Desvario travel in packs and can swarm the player. Other Desvario may have special attack and defence patterns, which the player needs to memorize in order to defeat it. As sol binded Danny, you’re able to use a short-ranged physical attack, a longer-ranged and more powerful electrical, a jump ability to land on or escape from Desvario, and of course our special Sol binding ability. Sol binding allows the player to possess any organic creature, allowing the player to access unique Desvario or Animal specific abilities. Some of these may be helpful for puzzle solving, some may also be helpful in combat by fighting larger Desvario with an equally large sol bound Desvario. 

Throughout the game, players may use food items to temporarily boost stats. They can also collect corrupted sol cores from defeated Desvario to trade in for weapon upgrades.  

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

So far we’ve had REALLY positive feedback from people! It’s been really rewarding hearing such encouraging words from total strangers! While we’ve been getting a lot of excitement over having a Latin-inspired game, a POC lead, etc, we haven’t been reaching a lot of people though. Our biggest hurdle is that our marketing budget is non-existent. Heck, our development budget is non-existent! We’d love to hear from a broader audience, so thanks for putting Sol Bound out there!

 

In the last 7 years of your developmental experiences, what projects had you previously worked on, in were there any in particular that influenced the development of Sol Bound?

Yes! While I’ve been very fortunate to work at smaller studios and pick up the skills to create pixel art, tiled games, etc, the last major project my husband and I worked on, Hiveswap, is what really set us on our course. Originally we had planned on creating our game on Game Maker after one of our co-workers, Toby Fox created his game Undertale using the same engine. It seemed like the fastest way to get a game done, and we were only two people. Unfortunately, after a few months of light production, we realized Unity would be a much better option. Not only where we using Unity at work, and becoming more and more familiar with it everyday, being that it was a small team, many of us had multiple hats to wear. I had to learn how to do lightning, set dressing, and much more on Unity, while Sergio was promoted to work specifically on making Unity tools. Through What Pumpkin Studios we were also able to connect with tons of local Unity developers and find out about Unity events making the engine the most attractive and safe choice for our game, and possibly future projects at our studio. 

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Currently we only have a planned PC/Mac/Linux release, but we’ve built the game on Unity, allowing us to more easily release the game on other platforms if the opportunity arises.

 

Sol Bound seems to have quite an in-depth story but what are the core themes of which?

The core themes in the game is teamwork and survival! Whether it be Sri Sol binding with other animals to solve a puzzle, or a fellow Radioactive creating tools you need to continue on your journey, Danny will need to rely heavily on his team. Survival is also one of the biggest motivations for our Sol Bound cast, as players will come to see how unforgivable Tierrania is. Like many action-adventure games, Sol Bound will have an expansive world with a similarly deep storyline touching upon many themes, so players can expect to laugh, cry and fall in love with our cast too.  

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this? 

If you love making games, don’t ever give up on your dream! I’ve been working in games for about 7 years, I’ve been laid off along with entire teams at least 3 times, have had to always work a second job to pay the bills, and don’t even get me started on crunch time! I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’d be at the office until 3-4AM with no paid overtime. I know I’ve been underpaid and taken advantage of in the past. Unless you know someone, that’s the path of pretty much any developer starting out. Still, with all that heartache, I don’t think I’d be happy doing anything else.   

For my fellow lady-devs, stay strong girls! On more than one occasion I’ve been the only woman on an entire male team, and in the past this has led to me being harassed and bullied. It was certainly disheartening, but not surprising being a long term MMO player – I received this sort of hateful attention all the time without warrant. Even though there are some bad apples, most male developers are really supportive, so focus on creating strong bonds with respectful teammates, and luckily if you have a HR person you can report and help prevent situations like the ones I experienced. Game development is definitely still a male dominated industry, but we all know that diversity makes for better games – so if you love games, follow your dreams!

 

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

www.sol-bound.com

 

I would like to thank Veronica for speaking to me about the game, and wish all the best with Sol Bound. If anyone would like to back this game on Kickstarter, it can be done via the link below:

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

 

Q&A With Ayrtom Vorobyov

Eon Break is a 2D Metoidvania game that appeared on Kickstarter having been greenlit by the Steam community in merely 6 days. Relying on traditional Metroidvania elements such as combat and puzzle-solving, as well as an emphasis on intense platforming, the game tells a fictional account of electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla, and his exploits across an alternative take on World War II.

Eager to learn more, I approached the developers Gladrock Games based in Minsk, Belarus, and asked programmer Ayrton Vorobyov a few questions about this outlandish-looking title. These were his answers:

What were the influences behind your game?

It’s hard to name all of them. Obviously, Super Metroid is one of the main inspirations for the structure of the game. We played all kind of Metroidvanias and platformers, some of them influenced more, some – less. In the end, we want to create a game that feels familiar, but plays differently – old-school action adventure with modern and unique mechanics.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

We’re small team and everyone can talk to everyone. But still we have some processes and fields of responsibilities. For core game aspects (overall art direction, mechanics design, the plot, level editor, etc.) we have an agreement on who makes the final decision in case of disagreement. Global questions are discussed by the entire team and we’re voting. As a rule, we’re coordinating our plans on regular Skype calls. Thus we share work status, present ideas, define priorities, assign tasks and discuss deadlines.

Regarding ideas – we discuss potential positive outcome and measure the cost. If the outcome isn’t clear, then we create a small prototype to try it out. If the team agrees that the outcome worth the efforts, we convert the idea into tasks and implement it.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Right now the game is half ready. We plan early access in Steam in the end of the 2017 and full release sometime next year. Though timelines strongly depend on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. If we’ll have enough funds to hire missing team members, then we’ll hit the deadline.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Working with totally new game mechanics was really exciting. In the beginning we prototyped a lot of crazy ideas, but all of them were variations of some existing features. The real fun begun when we decided to do something bigger – that resulted in features like an ability to consume locations or possibility to create and switch alternative timelines.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Most parts of the game come along nicely pretty fast, but art style was a different case. We’ve spent quite a time searching for the art style that will look awesome, fit the game style and together with that be easy to create (there’s only one artist in the team and we thus we can’t afford to create very complex assets). In the very beginning we defined a range of requirements for the art including slicing principles, that allowed us to build complex locations without creating a huge amount of assets. Then Alex (our artist) spent several months creating sketches that fitted all the requirements – that was the hardest part. Every sketch feeled like not quite what we expected. Untill one day he did what we called PolyVector – a 2D location scetch in a vector style, that looked like it consists of 3D polygons.

 

Which science fiction franchises inspired the creation of Eon Break?

Books, movies, comics – we were inspired by a lot of things! Many things came from the works of Ridley Scott and George Orwell. You can also find some parallels with such works as Jin-Roh, The Last of Us and even The Butterfly Effect.

Which Metroidvania games did you and the developers play that served as inspiration for the game?

We’ve tried all the Metroids and Castlevania titles and almost every other Metroidvania out there, not only to understand what’s working in these games and what’s not, but mostly because we’re the huge fans of the genre.

The main inspiration for us is Super Metroid, but mostly in terms of world structure. Regarding core mechanics, we tried to do them differently. We wanted to make a familiar gameplay with a new modern twist, like Guacamelee did by adding fighting mechanics to the formula.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

We’ve received a lot of really positive feedback. In fact, we’ve received almost no negative comments at all! Community support was pretty strong and we’ve passed Steam Greenlight in just 6 days. So, we’re pretty confident that a lot of players are waiting for Eon Break. Also we have a large community in Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Everybody can join us there to receive the latest news and share feedback.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Initially we’ll launch for PC, Mac and Linux. If everything goes well, then we’re going to port the game to all major consoles. Also we consider an option to make an Android TV port. The game is being developed with Unity, so porting is totally possible.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

If you have an idea for a game, then start from answering one question: why players will play my game? And the answer shouldn’t just tell WHAT players will do in the game. Neither should it say HOW they will play your game. It should be clear for you WHY your project should be picked from the thousands of others.

 

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

Our website: http://gladrock.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/eonbreak

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eonbreakgame

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EonBreak

Do you have anything else to add?

Take a look at Eon Break – the game really worth a minute of your time – and let us know what do you think anbout it and what you would like to see in the game.

Thank you!

I’d also like to thank Ayrtom from answering my question, and to wish him and Gladrock Games best of luck with Eon Break. I’ve come across many Metroidvania games whilst scouting for new indie prospects, but this game certainly stands out as one of the most original-looking title I’ve seen in a long time.

If you’re interested in packing this game, you can do so at the developer’s Kickstarter page via the link below:

Game On,

Scouse Gamer 88

Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast (PC)

Developer(s) – Vile Monarch

Publisher(s) – Gambitious Digital Entertainment

Following on from Vile Monarch’s previous indie title, Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator, The Holly Roast, takes the franchise into the Hollywood movie industry, and delivers the same level of quirky humour, and the same interesting twist on both turn-based and traditional fighting game combat, and builds on what the first game perpetuated to deliver a greater experience. I first saw this game at EGX Rezzed 2017, and was immediately smitten with it; it drove me to play the original game, but by comparison, the second is even better in my opinion,

Graphics – 7.5/10

The graphics in the series have undergone a significant overhaul compared to the original game, and the characters and setting look even better. There are more varied character and level designs than in The Insult Simulator, deviating away from the Monty Python themes of the first game, and it features a much greater level of detail. It also opens up possibilities in terms of future games in the series, and how they could be based on a wide variety of different subjects.

Gameplay – 7/10

The gameplay of the Hollywood Roast is almost identical to that of The Insult Simulator, but this time round, the developers have added a few new mechanics to the combat system; most notably the comeback ability. Player now have the options to add a comeback onto the end of their insults for bonus points. New comeback can also be unlocked for each character as the game progresses. But the biggest and best new addition to the series is the modding system. Players now have the ability to create new characters and stages within the game, which definitely gives the game an even greater level of variety what I personally thought to be possible after having played the demo.

Controls – 10/10

Just like the original game, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever, with it being a simple point and click game typical of most games that run best on PC.

Originality – 9/10

The Insult Simulator was an original game on it’s own, but The Hollywood Roast still maintains that same level of uniqueness; the difference being between the two of them is that there is far more to play for in the second game. The original demonstrated an entirely new way to play a fighting game, but this title has perfected this new style of play.

Happii

Overall, Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast is a more than welcome addition to one of the most unique indie gaming series I’ve ever come across. It’s fun to play, can last even longer than the original with modding possibilities, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score

33.5/40

8/10 (Good)

Curses N’ Chaos (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & PC)

Developer(s) Tribute Games

Released back in 2015, Curses N’ Chaos is an independently developed love letter to NES classics of the late 80s, featuring simplistic, yet addicting gameplay, as well as an expertly crafted 8-BIT style of graphics. Over the years, indie games have continued to impress me, and Curses N’ Chaos is no exception.

Graphics – 8/10

Although the game looks as great as any 8-BIT classic, the aspect in which this game’s visuals truly stand out is its diversity in conceptual design. The game is set across several different stages representing different parts of the game’s universe, including forests, castles, graveyards, docks, villages and even a ninja’s dojo. And the variety in level design also appropriates variety in enemy and boss design in turn. There are enemies exclusive to most of every stage in the game, which keeps it interesting to look at throughout, as well as keeping players on their toes and strategize accordingly. The game’s soundtrack is also exceptionally gripping as well as extremely catchy; especially where the first stage is concerned.

Gameplay – 8/10

Curses N’ Chaos is a 2D beat ‘em up set across timed stages, whereby the objective is to clear all enemies on the screen until the timer runs out, with each stage yielding 10 waves of enemies before the player is then pit against the stage’s boss. The reason why the variety in enemy design keeps players on their toes is that certain enemy types each take different amounts of damage before they are killed, and many require different strategies to take down, which provides the game with a very stern level of challenge reminiscent of many NES classics, such as Castlevania and Mega Man. The boss fights for the most also demand the same level of adaptability in order to take down, and some are among the best boss fights I’ve seen for a long time, such as the chimera in stage 2 and the robot in stage 6.

Controls – 9.5/10

For the most part, the controls are pretty much perfect in this game, which is needed in a game like this, as it relies heavily on player skill in order to finish, and is quite demanding in this respect. But players must be careful when they are pressing down in order to make the player dance while idle in order to gain more points with no enemies on-screen, as sometimes, the player can start walking after some time, even with the down button held. At first, I thought this might have been a problem with my PS4 controller, but the same thing happened to me when I played the PS Vita version as well.

Lifespan – 8/10

For a stage-based game, this title can be made to last for an exceptionally long time; at least 15-20 hours depending on player’s ability to adapt to each challenge. It goes to show to me that the lifespan of an indie game cannot necessarily be down to budget, but down to the developer’s imagination. Aside from the stages, the player can also mix together items and weapons found during battle to create better weapons or items, which also adds to the game’s longevity to an extent.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Again, reminiscent of the NES days, the game’s story is quite simplistic, with gamers having to consult other sources for further details; back then, we relied on instruction manuals, but more details can actually be found the game’s website. The story follows two fighters named Leo and Lea, who are daring to fight back against the monsters commanded by Algarr, the Wizard King. Disdained by the duo’s efforts, Algarr places upon them a curse, whereby the Grim Reaper follows them everywhere they go, and with the possibility of death constantly looming over them with swarm of monsters also stalking them. The pair then consult a rogue alchemist named Allison, who explains that the curse can only be lifted by creating the Elixir of Life, which Leo and Lea must get the ingredients for by killing monsters. Though it may not bet the most intriguing story in gaming history, it’s the game’s mythology that helps it to stand out to at least a certain extent, and although it may be simplistic, it’s much less preferable to me personally to have the focus taken way from story and put into gameplay, which is most certainly the case with this title.

Originality – 8/10

Though the conceptual design of the game is for the most part based on pre-existing mythologies and cultures, where this game truly stands out is in its simple, yet addictive style of play, as well as everything that can be done in between stages to create better weapons and items. It gives the game a lot of variety in terms of gameplay, and because of that, it is one of the most invigorating indie experiences I’ve played all year. It’s an ideal springboard for people looking to experience the days of gaming simplicity, as well as older gamers who may be looking for a strong sense of nostalgia, but at the same time wanting to try something new.

Happii

Overall, Curses N’ Chaos is a solid throwback to the NES era, as well as one of the most invigorating and challenging indie experiences on current PlayStation platforms. Those who can brave the challenges will feel and overwhelming sense of satisfaction afterwards, and after experiencing it for myself, I cant recommend it enough.

Score

48/60

7.5/10 (Good)