SG88 Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace Header

Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace (PC)

Developer(s) – Megaware Games

 

Released back in 2002 as a PC exclusive, Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace is an isometric top-down turn-based RPG similar to the original 2 Fallout games following the story of an elite army of soldiers known as the Arcangels sent by the titans of the Earth to protect themselves. It was developed by an independent Dutch company called Megaware Games, which were most active throughout the early 2000s and made promises that they couldn’t effectively deliver. The way it went with Megaware is that they would go from one extreme to the other, by either releasing mediocre versions of other people’s games in an attempt to modernize them, or coming up with a few of their own cohesive video game concepts, but never developing them to the best of what could’ve been. 

Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace falls into the second category. It’s a game that attempts to perpetuate new ideas, albeit not without its influences, but fails miserably. It’s a far worse game than what it was billed as by the developers, and very much deserves its place in video game obscurity. 

 

Graphics – 3/10

The thought process behind the visuals was to deliver an experience like the original Fallout games that looked more like a 3D game to fit in with where the market had been going at that time, and what it was still steering towards. But the problem being with that is that although the intentions were there, the developers neglected to focus on the conceptual aspect of the visuals as well as the technical aspect, and as a result, pretty much every level in the game looks like it was recycled from the previous. At least with the original Fallout, whilst being a 2D game, it still had its distinct charm and contemporary setting that did exceptionally well to separate it from other RPGs at that time. But with Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace, that quality is severely lacking.

 

Gameplay – 2/10

Likewise, the gameplay is also as bland as the visuals. It’s turn-based, so it focuses on the player using action points to do things like move around and battle enemies. But it’s a very linear experience with extremely little to play for with the exception of getting from A to B. And again, both Fallout and Fallout 2 offered far more than that 5 years prior to the release of this game. In every aspect, but particularly in terms of gameplay, it needed much more of a push than what it got to make it as great an experience as it could possibly have been, and the developers didn’t deliver. They would’ve clearly been banking on games like this and Alien Logic (another abysmal Megaware game that I will have to tear into another time), to be their breakout hits. But it wasn’t to be, and for good reason.

 

Controls – 3/10

In my review of the original Fallout, I commented how difficult I found the control scheme was to come to terms with, but in this game, it’s even more of a problem. There’s the traditional fog of war effect found in other strategy games such as Civilization of Age of Empires, whereby players must traverse through in order to navigate their way through each level or to find secrets. But again, it’s not implemented properly, and simply serves to create confusion among players. Likewise, even the combat system is not the most well thought out. 

 

Lifespan – 5/10

For those diligent enough to bear with the many, many flaws that this game suffers greatly from, there are actually around 60 hours of gameplay to be had. But given how much is wrong with this game, 60 minutes would be a test of endurance on its own. If there’s anyone who has actually been inclined to spend 60 hours playing this game, I’d to speak with him/her to find out exactly what the appeal is, because I couldn’t see any appeal after 10 minutes.

 

Storyline – 0/10

The story involves the Arcangels, a group of soldiers out to protect a race of titans that rule the Earth. You would have to question exactly how powerful these titans are if they have to have a bunch of regular-sized people with guns protecting them, and why they’re incapable of protecting themselves. If any of the story was perpetuated throughout actual gameplay, I missed it; that’s how difficult it is to become emotionally invested in it. It’s like the developers went back to the NES days whereby you had to read the manual to find out. Unfortunately for them, the times had very much changed by then, which for a gameplay experience that was supposed to be retroactive to an extent, is somewhat understandable, but players wanted the story to be implemented within the game in a meaningful way at this point, and that wasn’t the case here. 

 

Originality – 0/10

Although Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace was one of the more original experiences to have come out of Megaware, there’s still nothing original about it. It’s a mess of a game that is best left forgotten. The developers haphazardly attempted to make this game seem bigger and better than what it actually is, and it turned out to be one of the worst and most humiliating titles of the sixth generation.

 

Furiious

In all, Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace is one of Megaware’s biggest failures. It’s a joke of a game, and nowhere close to topping the titles that it was influenced by. 

Score 

13/60

2/10 (Terrible) 

Blu Cover Art

Blu: First Impressions

Among the many video game projects I’ve scouted out through social media or crowdfunding websites is a very promising Metroidvania title with a great deal of potential. Blu, under development at MyOwnGames based in Paris, France, tells the story of the titular character and takes place in a setting reminiscent of Feudal Japan, but with a more varied range of influences in terms of conceptual design. The ninja apprentice Blu must save the land of Talpa from an entity known as The Corrupted amidst a conspiracy that has gripped the land for centuries. The game is almost funded on Kickstarter after what has been a very popular campaign, and with 11 days left to go, I thought it was about time that I gave my verdict on my first impressions of this title after playing the demo. If you’d like to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, you can do so via the link below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/-myowngames-/blu-vs-the-world

 

You can also download the demo from the Game’s Steam page via this link: 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1339960/Blu/

 

And if you would also like to read my Q&A with the game’s lead programmer, Damian “Dam” Robinett, you can do so via this link:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/04/02/qa-with-damian-robinett-blu/

 

But in the meantime, here’s what I thought of Blu in the beta stages of its development:

Graphics

As I said, the game is set in a world largely based on Feudal Japan, but the Corruption has taken hold of enemies that are very much based on Medieval fantasy, resembling trolls orcs, whilst at the same time, including mechanics enemies similar to those of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s from there that players can understand how Dead Cells became a huge influence on this game, but even in the early stages of development, I can understand how some of these new ideas also come together to form their own cohesive concept. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Lukas Piel, is also extremely catchy and befitting of the settings of the game. 

 

Gameplay

A traditional Metroidvania, players must scour the world in search of collectibles and new abilities in order to advance. It’s also heavy on combat, puzzle-solving, and leveling up preemptively acquired skills, giving it an RPG feel similar to the likes of Dust and Ori 1 and 2. Again, from early on, I could see the potential this game has, with the number of different weapons available to purchase throughout, and the satisfaction to be gained by upgrading abilities and equipment as the game goes on. There is also a fair bit of strategy involved, and different approaches that need to be taken in accordance with what enemies the player faces, similar to Blasphemous, but nowhere near as unforgiving. For as much as I love Blasphemous, the lower difficulty in comparison is welcome.

 

Blu 4

Controls

Since the game is still in the preliminary stages of development, the controls are a little stiff, and the character animations in accordance with them, have not yet been perfected it would seem. But once they have been refined to a greater extent, the controls should be no problem. The demo’s control scheme is far more tailored to the mouse and keyboard, though it can be played with a controller, which in the long-term, will be preferable to most players, so they just need to make sure that controller support is built upon before release, and then there should be no problem with the control scheme whatsoever. 

 

Lifespan

With so many things to do, so many abilities to acquire and upgrade, so many weapons to choose from and so many story elements to it, Blu has the potential to last an exceptionally long time, especially for a Metroidvania game. How long it lasts, to me, depends on the full size of the world, which doesn’t seem to have been revealed yet. My biggest hope for this title is for it to include an open world that, at the bare minimum, is comparable to that of the Ori games, or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or another upcoming Metroidvania that I’m currently keeping tabs on; Anew: The Distant Light. As long as that is the case where Blu is concerned, then I think we will have quite an impressive title on our hands.

 

Storyline

The storyline also has a lot of potential for expanding upon. The basic premise is interesting on its own, but I can’t wait for the introduction of things like support characters, sub-plots, and whatever themes will be perpetuated throughout. Being reminiscent of Feudal Japan, there are a lot of stories told throughout that era that the developers could potentially hearken back to or reference, but as this game clearly is its own fully cohesive concept, there is potential for even more to happen within the story. 

 

Originality

Though clearly not without its influences, Blu certainly has the potential to stand out among the many different Metroidvania titles that have been released throughout both the eighth and ninth generations of gaming so far. It will certainly do well to top a lot of the games in the genre that have lacked in more than enough aspects such as Exodus, The Swapper, and Xeodrifter. The game also seems to do better to perpetuate the culture and behavior of ninjas than what many other games do; not to the same extent that Mark of the Ninja, but to a better extent than the likes of Strider or Ninja Gaiden, which portray ninjas as kill-crazy warriors as opposed to how they really operate. 

 

Overall, Blu’s demo certainly perpetuates the potential that this game has to make waves throughout the indie community. The Kickstarter campaign needs to be funded as soon as possible for this title to see the light of day, and it will have certainly been money well spent by the backers and the developers.

Exodus (PC)

Developer(s) – Gahlmac Game Studio

Publisher(s) – Multi-Form

PEGI – 3

 

Released back in 2013 to a very mixed reception by the Steam community, Exodus is a Metroidvania that was brought out shortly before the influx of games in the genre that would follow from many other indie developers, including Dust: An Elysian Tail, Xeodrifter, Blasphemous, and Hollow Knight. For the most part, the Metroidvania genre has yielded some of the best games of the eighth generation for me with the likes of Axiom Verge, Ori & the Blind Forest, Ori & The Will of the Wisps, and Cathedral, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Exodus.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The one aspect in which I can’t fault the game for, however, is in the graphics. Hand-drawn and set on a mysterious alien planet, the game has been given a very vibrant and colorful atmosphere that has the feel of both tranquility and danger in equal measure. The environmental design is also as wonderfully varied as it should be in any decent Metroidvania title, taking place in forest lands, ancient ruins, and icy mountains. Unlike every other element of this game, the scenery leaves very little to be desired. 

 

Gameplay – 5/10

In terms of gameplay, however, especially compared to most other Metroidvanias, is extremely bland and uninteresting. The combat style is very unoriginal and the range of different abilities that can be acquired throughout for the most part seem to simply conform to the Metroidvania blueprint as opposed to them being a little more diverse than what they do. With games like Alwa’s Awakening and Alwa’s Legacy, both provide something very different in the way of combat and puzzle-solving that make them stand out among many others, but with this game, it doesn’t seem the developers even tried to be perfectly honest. 

 

Controls – 5/10

The controls in Exodus also seem embarrassing even compared to other generic Metroidvanias. The jump mechanics are extremely stiff, and many sequences involve both traditional controller movement and simultaneous point, kind of like in Terraria, but as some sequences require the use of both of these mechanics at the same time, it can cause problems for the player. And a lot of these different kinds of sequences were handled far better in older games in the genre such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so for the developers to have even failed to follow the initial blueprints just make Exodus seem all the more amateurish. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

The game can be made to last there around 3 hours, which again, falls way short of the average lifespan of a Metroidvania. Though given the number of problems there are with every other aspect of this game, I’m amazed that people have even made it through the first hour. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were a few more things to do around the more open spaces than what there are, but it was a further push that this game needed which the developers seemed unwilling to implement. 

 

Storyline – 4/10

The story of Exodus involves either one of two selectable characters, Zoulux or Ly’sax, who have become stranded on an alien planet named Exodus and explore it in order to uncover the mysteries behind it and to save the populous along the way. Again, it simply follows the blueprint of the original Metroid as opposed to perpetuating a new idea for a story in the same way that Metroidvanias like Blasphemous did. Since there seemed to be very little to the personalities of any of the characters involved, it was far too difficult for me to become emotionally invested in the story.

 

Originality – 3/10

The main thing that I’ve touched on many times in this review is that the developers simply seemed to be following the blueprint of bigger and better Metroidvania games that came before it, and this can be said for pretty much every aspect of the game; even the visuals, which were the only redeeming quality in my opinion. But the thing is, it couldn’t even follow the blueprint right in terms of things like gameplay and especially controls. So, therefore, the game does stand out to a small degree, but for very much the wrong reasons. 

 

Angrii

In summation, Exodus is a game not to be taken seriously alongside many of the other greater Metroidvania titles that have since been released. It’s available for less than a pound on Steam, but frankly, with how little effort was put into it, players should really be offered money to play it. 

Score

28/60

4.5/10 (Mediocre)

SG88 Metroid Header

Metroid (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Nintendo R&D1 & Intelligent Systems

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Satoru Okada

Producer(s) – Gunpei Yokoi

PEGI – 7

 

Released at around the midpoint of the third generation on the NES to generally positive reviews, selling best in America, Metroid became a favorite among fans of the original NES, and of course, would go on to become one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises along with the likes of Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong. I was excited before first going into this one some years ago because it wasn’t a game I got to experience at the time of its release, and I was very much looking forward to seeing the beginnings of this franchise after hearing what I had done through word of mouth. But although I do think it is one of the better games released on the NES, and that I can understand why so many people regard it as a beloved classic, to me, the series did get better as it went on; especially as this game suffered from a lot of limitations that the era of gaming in which it occupied presented. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

The best quality this game has, in my opinion, is the visuals. Set across an expansive alien world, it presented something extremely different from what Nintendo was putting out at the time, which mostly involved worlds made up of anthropomorphic animals and contemporary fantasy settings. Although there were plenty of games with sci-fi elements on the NES, such as Abadox, Contra, and Metal Gear, it was indeed interesting to see the makers of the console try their hand at it themselves, and the end result is one of the best-looking games on the system. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Hirokazu Tanaka, also compliments the game’s atmosphere in a way that also goes above and beyond that of which many other NES games attempted.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

Although the original Metroid is generally described as an action-adventure, ostensibly it’s a Metroidvania, although that term at the time had yet to be coined, of course, until Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night were both released many years later. The player must navigate their way through an open world, collect items, upgrades, and new abilities, and defeat bosses in order to unlock new areas, and ultimately face off against the end boss. But as this particular genre of game was yet to be built on, it suffers from limitations such as there being no in-game map, which in the Metroidvania genre, has become a staple element. Being a by-product of its time, players were reliant on either a strategy guide or even drawing up rough maps for themselves to make sure they don’t get lost or explore an area twice needlessly. It’s enjoyable to play with a strategy guide, but a nightmare without one. 

 

Controls – 7/10

Another area where problems exist is also the control scheme. As the game also has a lot of sequences whereby players must jump up vertically elongated areas, this presents issues because the game’s jump mechanics can feel quite inconsistent. Super Metroid had the same problem, as well as a few others, but not to the same extent as the original Metroid does. What’s also sorely lacking is the ability to shoot diagonally, which again, would be something that would be greatly improved on with future Metroidvania titles.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last around an hour and a half, which in all fairness, whilst that seems like nothing compared to games today, was actually a fair bit of time longer than the average game in the late 80s. In this respect, the original Metroid was somewhat ahead of its time, along with the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Again, it may be down to the limitation of what hardware was being used back then that the game couldn’t have been made to last longer than what it does, but the lifespan did manage to break some new ground at least. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Metroid is that the Galactic Federation has sent a bounty named Samus Aran to the planet Zebes, which is infested with mysterious hostile aliens known as Metroids, in order to take out Mother Brain, a biochemical life form controlling the Space Pirates, who were responsible for the Metroid outbreak. Not a lot of that is made clear throughout the game, as in lieu of third-generation tradition, players had to read the manual in order to learn as much about the narrative as possible. But the reveal that Samus is in fact a woman is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in gaming history, as the concept of a female protagonist was pretty much unheard of in video games at the time. 

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s for that same reason, as well as its contemporary sci-fi setting, style of play, and accompanying soundtrack, that Metroid stands out as being one of the most unique titles on the system. Although the series would go on to reach greater heights, and that the character of Samus Aran would go on to become even more admired by gamers everywhere, this is where it all started, and for many gamers, this title broke a lot of new ground in ways that no one could have expected. Satoru Okada would go on to become one of Nintendo’s most iconic figures until his retirement in 2012, and it’s not hard to see why with the legacy he and the late great Gunpei Yokoi have left behind with the release of titles like this.

 

Happii

Overall, Metroid, whilst it indeed has too many flaws for me personally to be able to label it as such, is still considered by many to be a classic and an NES favorite, and for good reason. It was a Metroidvania before the genre was even properly conceived, and no game had played anything like it at the time. 

Score

45/60

7/10 (Good)

Chuhou Joutai 2 Header

Q&A With Drillmation Systems

Looking out for more indie game prospects on social media, I recently got in touch with another indie developer to discuss their upcoming project. Drillmation Systems, operating out of the United States, is a games developer and animation studio heavily inspired by Japanese culture, as well as games such as Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda currently working on 2 gaming franchises; Touhou and Chuhou Jotai. Currently in development is the sequel, Chuhou Jotai 2: Paraided, a bullet hell game based on multiple facets of the Japanese way of life accompanied with a strong sense of humor. Slated for release within the next few months, it boasts significant improvement over the previous game including greater visuals and enhanced and more intense gameplay. Wanting to know more, I got in touch with the game’s lead developer, known only as The Prophet, to ask about the game, what improvements players can expect to see, and to learn more about Drillmation systems in general. Here’s what The Prophet had to say about Chuhou Jotai 2:

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

The main game that influenced the whole look of the game had to be Konami’s 1991 game The Legend of the Mystical Ninja on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, the entire Ganbare Goemon series influenced the game as a whole, as many songs in Chuhou Joutai 2’s soundtrack took influence from that franchise. The Mario & Luigi series, alongside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, were major inspirations for the game’s humor.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I had a strict time deadline to get the game done, and as of this writing, the game is 80% done. Development on Chuhou Joutai 2 began before the first game had even released. After Chuhou Joutai 1 released on Steam last year, development on Chuhou Joutai 2 began almost immediately. To test the engine for this new game, a complete NES-styled remake of the second Touhou Project game, Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland, was created to demonstrate the new engine. Despite this, I actually reused the same engine as the first game, although the only changes I made were the graphical design and color palette.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

As I mentioned before, the game is almost done. The endings and achievements are all I have left. After I get the endings programmed, I might as well release the beta. The game is scheduled for release on July 2, 2021.

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Drawing the cutscenes is something I generally did on the weekdays. On some days I even drew up to four assets in a single day. Of course, to keep in line with my academics, I dedicated programming only on the weekends, as programming takes a lot of time and effort.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Programming the bullet patterns takes a lot of time. All playtests are done on Lunatic difficulty to ensure the attack patterns are working. Perhaps the most difficult part of programming these patterns is difficulty balancing. If I can’t beat that pattern without getting hit once, I will have to tune the attack patterns to ensure the game is balanced.

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

Early reception when the demo came out has been overwhelmingly positive.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Chuhou Joutai 2 will be a PC-exclusive. I really want to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch, but I can’t because I don’t have the money yet and there are a number of legal issues that I have to work out. In order to publish games for the platform, you have to have a contract with Nintendo.

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 3

What do you think will be the most significant improvements that the sequel will perpetuate compared to the original game?

The new art direction was the most significant improvement. After players were divided on the art direction for the first game, this change had to be made. Interestingly, the Chuhou Joutai 2 was originally going to use the cartoony art direction of the first game before the realistic switch.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?

Risu Yokumaru, the stage 6 boss, was originally going to have blonde hair, but I changed it to magenta because there were too many blonde-haired characters in the game (being Maika Ohtake and Naoko Shigematsu).

 

I saw on your Twitter page not long ago that you recently applied for a composer role for another game. Will you be composing the music for Chuhou Joutai 2, and what approach have you taken towards doing that?

I have been the sole composer for Chuhou Joutai 1 and 2, and back in September of 2020, I tried to apply for the composer role for David Murray’s (aka The 8-Bit Guy) Attack of the PETSCII Robots. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it in as during my request, he told me there were dozens of people who want to compose for his projects. I understand he can do it himself. The only job he had open was programming the music into the game, and I don’t code for the C64, so I was pretty much out of luck.

Anyway, I took a mostly oriental approach to the game’s soundtrack. I’ve always wanted to make a game in the style of a PC-98 game, and I used the YM-2608 chip to compose the game’s soundtrack. I largely used the same instruments as the PC-98 Touhou Project games, though I included two original instruments, being a shamisen (FM instrument) and a taiko drum (SSG instrument). I also incorporated one thing that ZUN never used, being the ADPCM channel for a few mod tracker samples such as an orchestral hit and gong.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

After the second trailer for Chuhou Joutai 2 released on YouTube, I received praise for the improved art direction, and it ended up sticking as a result.

 

Do you think the bullet hell genre is adequately represented throughout the indie community?

The Touhou Project was responsible for popularizing the danmaku genre within the indie game community. Since it started on PC-98 and as I mentioned before, one of my goals was to make a game in the style of a PC-98 game, and I did that with Chuhou Joutai 2. In fact, both Chuhou Joutai games were featured on the Japanese gaming blog 4gamer.net. I even translated the articles on my website at drillimation.com.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

To continue the Drillimation Danmaku Universe, I might start making the franchise Nintendo-exclusive, and that Nintendo would be acting as publisher. One of my philosophies with the Chuhou Joutai series is incorporating elements from its inspiration franchise being Touhou Project. One of the things I want to do is remake the original Touhou games in between so that players could get the opportunity to play the original games. My goal is to remake all of the PC-98 Touhou Project games on Windows. When I begin making the games for Nintendo, I can always resort to Bandai Namco for outside help. However, Nintendo has seldomly published games from independent developers, and after I saw the success with games such as Cadence of Hyrule, I realized it was possible to create a game and have Nintendo publish it.

 

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

I learned that developing games is a great way to start a career, but running a successful franchise is a lot of hard work. This is why Super Indie Games exists, to help you with running campaigns. Another great way to get the word out is through the website Discord Me, which allows users to advertise within their space. Chuhou Joutai (including the second game) has been running as an ad there for over the past month.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

Anybody can search either “Drillimation” or “Chuhou Joutai” to easily find Drillimation. When Drillimation started out, the name was nowhere to be found within the search results, but nowadays, it is searchable thanks to Drillimation being a burgeoning brand.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I don’t have anything else to say, but it was nice speaking with you.

 

I’d like to thank The Prophet for taking the time out to discuss Chuou Jotai 2 and what players can come to expect from this exciting game. Bullet hell is a genre that seems to be neglected within the indie community compared to 3D platformers, RPGs, and Metroidvanias, so discovering Drillmation and this game was like a breath of fresh air to me, and I’m sure the final game will deliver something new and special. If you like the look of the game, you can download the demo via Drillmation’s itch.io page:

https://drillimation.itch.io/chuhou-joutai-2-paraidedhttps://drillimation.itch.io/chuhou-joutai-2-paraided

But the full game will be coming very soon. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed what The Prophet had to tell us and that you’re looking forward to Chuhou Jotai 2.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Down Ward Header

Q&A With Fisholith

After once again scouting Kickstarter for new video game developers looking for crowdfunding, I came across a stunning-looking 8-BIT title already available on Steam, but in the process of undergoing major changes. Down Ward is an 8-BIT 2D platformer telling the story of an owl named Gable, who sets out on a journey to rekindle dormant relics of a land long forgotten and abandoned, similar in concept to games like RiME and Journey. Not only does the game make use of 8-BIT visuals, but it also makes use of a monochromatic visual style very reminiscent of Game Boy classics such as Super Mario Land and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

Wanting to know about what changes this project is currently undergoing and the challenges that came with implementing such drastic improvements, I got in touch with the game’s lead designer, simply known as Fisholith operating out of Costa Mesa in California. It turned out that the influences and thought process behind this game was even more intricate than I’d realized at first glance, and Fi’s answers certainly provided a lot of clarity on where he hopes to go with this game following its successful backing on Kickstarter. So, here’s what Fisholith had to say about Down Ward:

 

Down Ward 1

What were the influences behind Down Ward?

This might not be too surprising but … birds. I got into photographing birds quite a while ago, and I gradually became more and more interested in learning about them. I think that has definitely carried over into a lot of the creative stuff I’m working on.
In terms of gameplay there are probably a lot of subtle influences, but certainly among them is Descent (1995) with its zero-gravity flight, exploration, and intrinsic verticality. Likewise, another influence has been some of the design philosophy that Shigeru Miyamoto described as how he approaches making games fun.

 

What led to the decision to implement the numerous monochromatic visuals styles in Down Ward?

I’m the kind of idiot that will find the color customization options for a text editor and make a “water level” for it, and then start working on lava and ice.

I’d say there are two reasons for the multitude of palettes. Firstly, the visuals in Down Ward only ever use four colors on-screen at a time. I decided early on that I wanted to try giving the game a sort of painterly look, and so I wouldn’t be using any outlines to visually separate the foreground objects from the background. Instead, I was going to try to rely on techniques found in traditional painting, like lighting and shadows, brightness, contrast, and texture.

So instead of having the four colors represent abstract things, like outlines, dominant color, secondary color, and accent color, I arranged the four colors to simply represent a range of brightnesses: dark, dim, light, bright. I had essentially a grayscale game, with a palette based only on lighting, and this is what opened up the possibility to have so many palette variations. An interesting concept from traditional painting is that the dominant readability of a scene comes from light and shadow first. So if a scene reads well in grayscale, then you can colorize those light and dark areas with whatever colors you want, and the scene will pretty much always read well.

This meant that I could dream up as many color palette variations as I wanted, and as long as they roughly followed that relative dark-to-light brightness scale, the scene would always be just as readable as the grayscale version. Secondly, I like colors… Specifically, I really like designing with colors, and in particular, how changing just the colors of a scene can dramatically change the mood and atmosphere.

 

Down Ward 2

What has the developmental process been like?

The most heartening part of it all has been creating something that I love and seeing others fall in love with it too. Over the last year, I’ve gotten several messages from people, telling me that they appreciate the game, or the art of Gable, or some bit of respite they’ve found in my project, amid the unusual circumstances we’re all in. I think some of that may just be due to the pretty stressful year 2020 has been. Nonetheless, I’ve tried to be a positive source of creativity in the maelstrom of this year’s strangeness. It’s such a different place to have ended up than I expected going in.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Close in some aspects, and semi-distant in others. There’s quite a bit I want to do to expand on Down Ward visually. There are gameplay mechanics I would like to add. I don’t want to get too ambitious though, as it’s my first major game, and it’s easy to get mired in feature creep. As with any creative project, when you’re the creator, your vision of cool things you’d love to do will always extend beyond whatever you create. Whatever interesting hill you reach the top of, you’re always rewarded with a sprawling vista of more intriguing distant hills.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing Down Ward?

I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, and I’ve gotten to meet and talk with some incredible people who created some of my favorite games that I grew up with. At the same time, getting to see the little world I’ve created for Down Ward grow and take shape has been a joy.

 

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What has been the most challenging aspect of developing Down Ward?

Trying to learn the outreach and social media side of game development, and build up everything needed to make a Kickstarter work, while also trying to keep momentum working on the game itself. I love learning it all, and I love talking with people, but I don’t feel like I’m especially good at the outreach side of things yet. I’m trying to learn though. I have a lot of respect for the amount of work that publicists must do.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Early on, I was worried that not many people would be interested in a four-color monochrome game, but it has been received very well, much better than I’d have expected. Even outside of the game, people seem to really like Gable. It’s also nice that all of the constructive critiques I’ve gotten on the game have been very helpful.

 

In what ways are you looking to expand on the current game?

I have a lot of ideas, and I’m sure as I go I’ll gradually realize which I want to focus on. Outside of the things I’ve specifically promised in the Kickstarter, nothing is set in stone yet. Broadly speaking, I’d like to expand on the mechanics, hazards, enemies, and puzzles. I would like to expand on the graphics and style of the game a bit, with distinct environments, as well as music composed to fit each. In fact, at the moment, I’m working on a piece of music based on an in-world folklore song.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, Mac, and Linux. A lot of people have asked me about Switch, and while I’d love to try that, there’s a whole world of feature and design compliance requirements totally separate from just porting the code. I’ve researched it but I’ve never done it, and I want to limit my promises to things I’ve done before and know I can do since it’s my first game.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?

While touch screen controls have never been a planned feature, I have done some work on creating a flexible touch interface. It allows you to unlock the touch UI, move the buttons wherever you want, create unlimited copies of any buttons, and scale the buttons for larger devices. Though not scrapped, it has been put on a distant back burner for the time being.

 

Given how passionate you clearly are about art, did you find working with monochromatic visuals among one of your biggest challenges?

Not necessarily one of the biggest, but there are a lot of interesting and unintuitive challenges that emerge from 4 color graphics that I wasn’t expecting, going in. Some of that challenge came from the no-outlines style I decided to go with. For instance, still, screenshots can look nice, but the game has much more visual clarity when you see it in motion. Early on, I started making seamless looping gif animations of gameplay, as an alternative to screenshots, as I think the gifs do a much better job of presenting Down Ward’s look and feel. They definitely take longer to create than a screenshot, and evolving the workflow for creating them has certainly been a challenge.

Another tricky aspect is how to represent objects that are darker colors. For instance, a snowy white owl on a black background is not too hard, but if I wanted to add a crow, it would be a bit of a design challenge to figure out how exactly to make that work.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

In terms of refining the difficulty, solving level design ambiguities, and improving the introduction of mechanics, player feedback has definitely been instrumental. Even just watching gameplay videos from players is very enlightening.

I’m constantly trying to think through what I design from the perspective of a first-time player, but as the developer, my familiarity with what I’ve created works against me. I know what’s around every corner, and what’s just off-screen. So it’s easy to accidentally create something that makes sense to me, without realizing that a new player will encounter it with a different expectation that makes a lot more sense if you’ve never seen it before. Player feedback is like a kind of x-ray vision. You get to see the holes in your own perception. You get to “look” at your own blind spot. It’s pretty cool.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

This is an interesting question. On the one hand, there are quite a few companies that I think would be really interesting to work with, and on the other hand, I actually really like the creative freedom that comes from being a solo developer. Two companies come to mind though, Revival Productions and Stonemaier Games.

Revival Productions is the company behind Overload, the recent spiritual successor to Descent. It was founded by Mike Kulas and Matt Toschlog, creators of the original Descent franchise. They, and the Revival team, seem like a really cool group of people, who genuinely care about the player community that came together around the genre that they established. If I was going to work with a company on a six-degrees-of-freedom FPS game, that would be the company to work with.

The other is Stonemaier Games, created by Jamey Stegmaier, a tabletop game designer. I love tabletop games, I’ve created a few for fun, and for a long time I’ve been fascinated by the similarities and differences between tabletop games and digital games. I also really just love the design puzzle of making rules elegant enough to create interesting gameplay, while running on the notoriously slow and unstable People-at-a-Table operating system. Jamey of Stonemaier has spent a lot of time creating articles and videos sharing his thoughts, and what he’s learned in the course of designing and publishing tabletop games. He seems like a really creative and really nice guy, who grants a lot of creative freedom to the designers that work with him. So I think that would also be a pretty fun company to develop a game with.

 

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

I’m certainly not an expert, but I can share what has helped me. I think there are two different goals I could give advice about. Game development, and game crowdfunding.

The most concise bit of advice I can give that benefits both of those is, “Do game jams.”

To get better at game development you need to experiment quickly, release publicly, and plan around simple deadlines, and it helps if it’s a relaxed environment. To improve your prospects in crowdfunding, you need to begin building an audience and get comfortable interacting with people about your work.

Game jams will gift-wrap much of what you need to learn in both domains and present it to you in a fun, short, and bite-sized package. Even better is that there are lots of jams with all sorts of different creative limitations, timeframes, and skill ranges. So you can almost adventure your way through them, like different little island worlds, gaining experience as you go.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

Twitter @Fisholith

In the not too distant future, I’ll also be creating a website. There are a lot of subjects I’m interested in, and while I wouldn’t call myself an expert in them, I’d love to start creating tutorials and articles to share some of the stuff I’ve learned so far.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I began my prior Kickstarter for Down Ward, a little over a year ago, and without any advanced press coverage, and a much smaller audience, it didn’t make it to the funding goal. Rather than cancel it, I ran it to the end and thanked everyone. I explained in my thank you message, that I planned to relaunch in the future, and should my future campaign succeed, I would like to let this campaign stand as one more example, for anyone discouraged by a campaign that fell short, that you can always take what you’ve learned and try again. Perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned from games. 🙂

 

As always. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Fi for taking the time out of development to talk more about what players can come to expect of the final version of Down Ward compared to how the game currently plays out now. If you’d like to check out the game as it is, you can do so by visiting the Steam Page where it can be currently downloaded for free:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/904700/Down_Ward/

But if you think you’d like to back the project in addition, you can do that by visiting the game’s Kickstarter page in addition:

Down Ward Kickstarter Page

But in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this title as much as I certainly did. As soon as I laid eyes on Down Ward, I had to learn more, and it turns out I got even more than what I bargained for with this one, and I was pleasantly surprised. I hope you guys were too.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Journey To Ecrya Header

Q&A With Ecrya Games

Some time ago, I was approached on Twitter by a pair of aspiring developers working on a game very different from anything I’ve ever covered on this blog. Journey to Ecrya is an upcoming fantasy board game influenced by several examples of high fantasy such as The Lord of the Rings and the Munchkin card games by Fighting Fantasy novelist Steve Jackson. Allowing from 2 to 4 players, p[articipants are given a choice between 8 heroes to choose from and thus traverse the land of Ecrya, making use of different types of cards such as Hero Cards, Boss Cards, and Encounter cards encompassing all the corresponding aspects of a traditional RPG. The priority among the developers is currently to release this as a traditional board game, but they have also ported a preliminary version of it on Steam with the team having prospects of bringing players a full PC port in the future.

Wanting to bring this game to my attention, the two lead designers of the game, Jessica Schüssler and Kira Bodrova hailing from Leipzig in Germany asked me about the possibility of reviewing the game, and I suggested the idea of conducting a Q&A for the opportunity to bring the game to the attention of new potential players and about the prospects of where this game could possibly go following its physical release. Here’s what Kira Bodrova and Jessica Schüssler had to say about Journey to Ecrya:

 

What were the influences behind Journey to Ecrya? 

Jessica: I think we had a LOT of them, some maybe even without realizing it. The biggest one for me was Magic, as it was the first fantasy-themed card game I got introduced to wayyy back when. I love the storytelling and cards in epic fantasy worlds combo. That aside, the Munchkin card games, for the “reveal and see what happens” part, because that’s great fun to me. For the travel portion of the game, the basic idea comes from the LotR card game, where you follow the story of the movies and travel through parts of the story. Then there are the classic Catan tiles we used as inspiration for the board rework because that’s just a smart way to create a “path” while leaving the option of customizing as wanted. I’d say it’s a little sprinkle of a ton of games I played over the years since I was around 16 to 25. I’ll be damned if I can remember them all. Mix in some fantasy elements from PC-RPGs I played and enjoyed, stir for around 3 years, and you get Ecrya somewhere along the line. 

 

What has the developmental process been like? 

Jessica: A wild ride. It is the first game I designed, so there was a LOT to learn and consider and a lot of trial and error. Also tons of feedback from all kinds of awesome people. A big thing was the “make something cool, but remember, it has to be do-able and not cost two fortunes” part. Like, we had so many cool ideas along the way, and a lot of different opinions on what could be added and such, but can we actually make that into a game? A game that can be produced for an affordable price? Creativity is one thing, and if it was up to just that, we’d probably have a monstrosity of a game by now. Reality checks from good friends now and then and feedback from awesome people in the industry helped a ton there. 

 

Journey to Ecrya 2

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

Kira: It’s hard to put it in terms of an actual time frame since we both have to find ways of paying our rent. Sometimes this means taking up a lot of freelance work and not being able to work as much on the game as we would like to. That being said, we have the hardest part of the development figured out and set: That’s the mechanics and the whole concept. The game is balanced, all items, heroes, and so on are thought through. We are ready with the designs, layouts, etc. 

Jessica: As ready as we can be, I guess! We’ll have to wait and see how well received the game is once played by a wider audience, of course. Small changes here and there are to be expected, before the final print. Thinking of some wording here and there, updating pictures, a big ol’ spell check by more people for the rule book, and so on. 

Kira: What we need to finish now is the artwork for the cards, we are finished with about half of them. We don’t want to just slap the artworks on, we want them to let you dive deeper into this fantastical world we created. Even though the artwork is a small part of a board game, it’s still a part and we want to put the effort in to make it great and not just functioning. The second task is fine-tuning each and every card effect. Especially the Encounters and Event Cards are still missing that fine cut in the wording and we want to add more fun options for more replay-ability. But this is just a small task compared to what we have already created. 

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Kira: For me, the most exciting aspect was and is to try out every major change we made in the game to see if it’s actually improving the game the way we anticipated. And in general, seeing our game coming to life: with each finished artwork, with each final design, with the handmade prototype we spend hours in making – and then holding the components in our hand. It’s a joyride for sure! 

Jessica: Finding out while playing how well the things I put together in my mind actually work out in action, I think. We made some pretty hilarious mistakes along the way, and during play, I sometimes sat there like: “Did I… did I write this? Oh F…”. And of course, seeing what others do when handed the game and the rules. Like, players come up with the greatest ideas sometimes. I didn’t even think of some of the stuff that play-testers wanted to try or just did because the rules didn’t say to. Certainly opened my eyes to what a crazy range of things a dev has to consider sometimes. 

 

Journey to Ecrya 4

What has been the most challenging aspect of developming Journey to Ecrya? 

Kira: Sadly that has been marketing for us. We really love our game, we believe in it! But since we’re both the opposite of outgoing people we really struggle to share that enthusiasm that we’re actually feeling. 

Jessica: That, and play-testing. We had to abandon the live tests at the start of 2020, so everything after that was online testing thanks to the whole pandemic situation. It’s certainly harder to read people’s reactions to something just over a mic and screen. And it’s a totally different atmosphere over the internet, too. Nothing compared to the game night where we sit around a table sharing snacks. 

 

How well has Journey to Ecrya been received so far? 

Kira: Of course reviews are mixed when you scrape at the role-playing genre but don’t really dive into it. Nevertheless, most feedback was really positive, people had great ideas and inputs on how to make it even more fun. People, who played the game, for the most part really had fun with it, or they found very constructive ways of telling us what they were missing. 

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to? 

Kira: Since it is a physical card game we’re focused on bringing it to life in print first. We have a free Tabletop Simulator demo version of the game. And we’re working on setting up Tabletopia. If the demand will be big enough, we want to create a standalone digital version of the game on Steam. But that’s a matter for the far future!

 

On the game’s Twitter page, I can see there has been quite a lot of interaction between you and other developers. Have there been any other developers in particular that have offered feedback in regards to Ecrya? 

Jessica: Over time we had the luck to meet some very awesome people with very awesome projects! It’s certainly exciting to get to share ideas and look into other games and their development. We are part of some very awesome discord communities and groups all over the internet. At the start, it was hard to get noticed at all. It still is, honestly. I think we really did get lucky to meet so many cool people and we hope it will be many more in the future! I don’t want to call any dev team out in particular, but we got some very good and honest feedback over in our own discord server, as well as in designated Facebook groups. We also made it a point to join many webinars during development to expand our horizons and get outside views of the whole industry. BackerKit had some amazing people in their free webinars this year, for example, with great Q&As at the end.

 

Journey to Ecrya 5

From one cat lover to two others, has Merlin inspired any aspect of Journey to Ecrya’s conceptual design? 

Jessica: He’s not the only cat involved in the development and they all were very amazing help. Especially when they roll around on your prototype, shoot dice through your room or try to catch the pen you try to draw with on the tablet. I don’t know where I’d be without their help and friendly input, honestly! I didn’t give them the honor of being part of a card just yet, but I think I will sneak them in there somewhere for sure! 

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked? 

Kira: A lot of them! We reworked quite a lot from the first Kickstarter to this one. Starting with the game board, which now consists of tiles that you can place to create your journey instead of a fixed board. We reworked the Encounters, or rather the options that you have countless times and aren’t done yet refining them. To name a few of the countless ideas that we scrapped due to many reasons in the process: A wandering shopkeeper that has some special equipment that you can buy with coins, collected from killing monsters. Fist fighting with other heroes whenever you both are in a camp. Traps that you can find at different locations and place them on the map to hinder others (or yourself). 

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of Journey to Ecrya been? 

Kira: It’s been very important to us. With the first Kickstarter launch, our game was looking completely different from how it looks now and we were pretty satisfied. It‘s all the feedback we got then, and further from many many playtest rounds that made us decide to change that much. We’ve been listening to what the players want and if a majority agreed we worked out how to make that change fit into our concept. We haven’t regretted a single change yet. 

 

As two female developers, what are your opinions on the history of women in the video games industry, and are there any particular historical women in games that you look up to? 

Kira: We are highly aware of the history of women in high positions in any industry, not just in video games. While gaming was and still often is considered a male-dominated area, there were always some women working in the industry. Sadly their names were very rarely promoted, which has lots of reasons and I don’t agree with most of them. That said, it was never about gender for us. We don’t have role models in the industry that we want to follow. It’s not about proving anything or fighting some battles. This, Journey to Ecrya, our dream of creating games – it’s about doing what we love. We love gaming, and we want to create games that others will enjoy as much, as we do ourselves! 

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why? 

Kira: I’m more of a computer game nerd myself, so for me, it would be 11 Bit Studios (based on their first game This War of Mine). I really love those story-driven games and it would just be an honor to be working on something like that. 

Jessica: I’m not picky! Working in a great team to make a great game sounds like an awesome idea, no matter who. Honestly, I can’t think of anybody, in particular, there are too many awesome dev teams out there right now. It’s hard to keep track of all the cool projects in the making this year alone. 

 

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

Jessica: We are first-time devs and have yet to see our planned Kickstarter succeed, so I can’t really give any advice on how to make something great that people will love. We’ll talk about that again in a few months! What I can say is that you should take your time in developing your game or project. You’ll have so many great ideas and so many creative opportunities, and it can become a bit overwhelming. You want to include it all and might end up making a jumbled mess accidentally, instead of improvements. So take your time, ask for feedback and listen to it. Some of it can be harsh, especially on the internet, but most of it has something you can draw value from in it. What else? Ah, sometimes I get lost in the details and try to make something perfect, just like it is in my mind (spoiler alert: it never works). That’s not smart or helpful for the project in most cases. As my art teacher told me long ago: “Done is better than perfect”. It’s something I need to remind myself about frequently, so you might need to hear that as well. 

 

Where on the Internet can people find Journey to Ecrya? 

Kira: We have our own website, but are most active on our Discord Server and Facebook. We have a monthly newsletter, where we keep the subscribers up to date on the development process! 

https://www.journeytoecrya.de/ → newsletter 

https://www.journeytoecrya.de/?page_id=158 

https://discord.com/invite/zPJVEFB 

https://www.facebook.com/JourneyToEcrya/ 

Our Kickstarter will go live on the 6th May 2021 and you can follow the pre-launch already to get notified once we’re up:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/journeytoecrya/journey-to-ecrya-a-roleplay-drivenboard-game-0 

We also have a Twitter, YouTube and Instagram account, where we upload images/videos and updates. 

https://twitter.com/EcryaGames

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKmmc5wivRTrjhtm84eBdnQ?view_as=subscriber

https://www.instagram.com/journey_to_ecrya/ 

 

 

Do you have anything else to add? 

Jessica: Nothing I can think of right now. Maybe we can use this to sneak in a little shameless self-advertisement and ask you guys for a share here and there? Maybe you have just the kind of board game friends that would love our game? Who knows! In any case, thanks a lot for reading and also for the interview. We’d love to see you guys during the Kickstarter campaign. Cheers!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank both Jessica and Kira for appearing on the blog and telling us more about Journey to Ecrya. This was a very new experience for myself in particular, as I’ve never covered the topic of a board game on the site before, and It certainly made for a wonderfully refreshing experience. It makes me even more excited for when a full PC port is possibly released. A review of this game will be coming to the site as and when that may happen. But in the meantime, I hope you guys check out Ecrya Games for yourself, and I hope you enjoyed learning about this new game as well as experiencing something very different from what is covered on the blog.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Scouse Gamer 88 Assassin's Creed Header

Assassin’s Creed (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft

Director(s) – Patrick Desilets

Producer(s) – Jade Redmond

PEGI – 18

Released in the holiday season of 2007, and originally intended to be released as a Prince of Persia game following the success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Assassin’s Creed marked the start of an even more prolific series of games. Whilst the first game was met with generally favorable reviews at the time, future entries would go on to establish it as one of the definitive IPs of the seventh generation of gaming, and going on to provide a basis of sorts for several games made throughout both the seventh and eighth generations, including Batman: Arkham Asylum and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. As for my own personal opinion on the original game, it is admittedly quite typical. I feel that whilst it was a very decent game overall, the best of the series would be yet to come.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

Set primarily in the Holy Land during the third crusade, the vast open world is lovingly crafted to represent the structure and architecture of three primary cities; Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalem. The attention to detail of what these locations would have looked like during this era is staggering (something the developers of the series would become renowned for as it would go on), and though the visuals on the technical level perhaps haven’t aged quite as well as other entries in the series, they were nevertheless cutting-edge for the time, and the game is still a joy to look at on the conceptual level. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The object of the game, as the name suggests, is primarily to carry out assassination missions. Players gather information by pickpocketing, eavesdropping on intriguing conversations, and can take advantage of several different weapons and methods of combat to carry out each kill. But apart from that, there are also various sidequests to be completed throughout each of the cities, which improve the player character’s abilities. The player is also given access to new weapons and abilities after each main assassination throughout the story, such as throwing knives and additional armor. Again, more features would inevitably be added with later installments of the Assassin’s Creed series, but as far as this game goes, this provided more than just a blueprint for that. It provided players with an immensely addictive experience, going further than what Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time did. I always thought personally that The Prince of Persia revamp of the early 2000s could’ve done with a game being set in an open world, and this was Ubisoft’s answer to that concern. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The control scheme was almost perfect, which was relatively impressive, given that truly nothing like this game existed beforehand. But the biggest issue I had with it, was the one-on-one combat system. It works loosely similar to what it does in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with players locking onto one target at a time to attack them, whilst also being able to counter-attack other surrounding enemies in the process. Whilst it would be refined in later Assassin’s Creed games, I found it to be somewhat flimsy at times in the first, and it was at these points that I could tell that it was a new idea that needed tweaking if the series was ever to progress past this game. Luckily, however, the rest of the game’s mechanics were handled brilliantly; movement across buildings, streets, and rooftops is extremely fluent, which again, was impressive given that the idea was a relatively new thing at the time.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The biggest disappointment that comes with the first Assassin’s Creed game, however, is the amount of time that it lasts. Whilst not being criminally short, like a lot of other games of the seventh generation, it clocks in at around a total of 30 hours, which is good, but nowhere near the time it could’ve been made to last with the inclusion of a few more sidequests, as again, later games in the series would demonstrate; especially given how the size of the team expanded throughout the game’s development.

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of Assassin’s Creed is something that would become disjointed over time, but the first lay the foundations for something special. It begins with the main character Desmond Miles, having been imprisoned by an organization named Abstergo. Their intentions are to uncover ancient secrets hidden in Desmond’s ancestral past through a VR machine known as the Animus, which allows the user to experience the lives and events of their descendants. The experiment’s overseer, Warren Vidic uses Desmond and the Animus to tap into the ancestral memories of Desmond’s predecessor, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, who was a senior member of an organization known as the Assassin Brotherhood. Following a failed attempt on the life of Robert de-Sable, Altair is stripped of his rank, and ordered to carry out various other assassination missions in order to restore his status and reputation among the brotherhood. 

The events of the story, from the perspectives of both Desmond and Altair, unfold into something that will be completely unexpected by players, and truly helped massively to make this game stand out as a hallmark in telling an effective story in gaming throughout the seventh generation. Although fans of the series have had mixed reactions to the directions in which the story was taken, later on, there can be no doubt that the story in the original game was expertly presented. It’s exciting, tense, suspenseful, and without spoiling anything specific, ends on a masterfully executed cliffhanger that you will not believe.

 

Originality – 8.5/10

Despite Assassin’s Creed having its many influences, such as Ubisoft’s own Prince of Persia and Grand Theft Auto, the fact of the matter is that this series has always delivered something unlike any other before it, and it was all very effectively perpetuated with the original game. Since I first played through it, which was many years ago, I’ve come to have a newfound respect for the original game and everything that is accomplished at the time. During the series’ early years, especially after the release of Assassin’s Creed II, (which remains my favorite installment), I used to look at the original game as being simply the inferior blueprint. But after having played it again recently, I’ve since discovered a new appreciation for it.

 

Happii

Overall, Assassin’s Creed, whilst not being the best game in the series, still remains one of the defining gaming experiences of its time. It’s a game that still holds up, despite its few flaws, and I recommend it to anyone looking to revisit a seventh-generation classic. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Monster Tribe Header

Q&A With Reece Geofroy

Whilst once again scouting for more indie gaming prospects on crowdfunding and social media platforms, I came across a turn-based RPG with an already exceedingly elaborate development cycle behind it. Monster Tribe, once named Monster Tower following several changes on the project, is a turn-based RPG reminiscent of Satoshi Tajiri’s Pokemon series, but with very different gameplay elements to it. The turn-based combat system is something very unique compared to those found in classic games in the genre, such as the Final Fantasy games, Grandia, and Chrono Trigger, and takes place in a world inspired by other classic gaming sagas, such as The Legend of Zelda. Developed by Boundless games based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the game has been in development for some time, and has been chronicled extensively ever since development started. Desperate to know more about this game, I contacted the lead developer; programmer, vlogger, and freelance artist Reece Geofroy. I asked him a series of questions regarding the development of the game, the long and arduous development process, and the upcoming Kickstarter project, as well as how his past developmental experiences and feedback from others have helped shape the project into what it is today, and what it will eventually become. Here’s what Reece Geofroy had to say about Monster Tribe:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

As a kid, I grew up on Nintendo games, so I have been heavily influenced to create products that invent something new. Take a genre and turn it on its head in any small way possible! Zelda and Pokemon were specific games that inspired this project, but I feel we are influenced by everything that happens over the course of our lives. Everyone will be exposed to slightly different experiences and perceive things a little bit differently. I also loved the atmosphere of Hyper Light Drifter, and I loved the gameplay mechanics of Slay the Spire. Small ideas from each of these games can be found in Monster Tribe, but we are doing our best to create a unique experience for players to get immersed in.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Monster Tribe has definitely been the biggest, most complex project I have worked on as an indie developer, so the ride has definitely had a lot of ups and downs. I started a series on YouTube for the game and people fell in love with the game’s initial idea. It sparked new ideas and so a lot of revision was necessary to get the project to where it is now. The art style of the game changed more times than I can count on 1 hand and the project’s scope has adapted a number of times to stay up to date with my lifestyle and the team’s vision. We are very set in what we plan to create now though, so development has been busy and a little hectic, but manageable and overall a successful experience!

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We are expecting to finish Monster Tribe for Q4 2021, but the scope could slightly change depending on how well our Kickstarter Campaign does, so Q1 2021 – Q1 2022 would be the expected release!

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing Monster Tribe?

Growing an audience on YouTube and becoming a full-time entrepreneur/freelance artist! I have always envisioned myself working on something I am passionate about and owning my own company, so even though technically the game itself hasn’t paid me for my hard work yet, I have grown an incredibly supportive community and have upgraded my skills as a project manager, game programmer, and pixel artist immensely over the course of the project to be able to play like a professional and make money off of what I love to do—make videos for fans, create art, and design video games!

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing Monster Tribe?

Working with feature creep and over-scoping the project. As creators we often find ourselves designing with endless possibilities of ideas. It’s easy to create a concept and expand it, but the challenge comes with actually creating the finished product and not losing purpose halfway through. Working in a team can also be difficult to include everyone’s ideas and make everyone feel heard, but at the same time, the project needs to have limits and has to be kept grounded for it to be feasible and made into a finished product.

 

How well has Monster Tribe been received so far?

Between the fans on YouTube and Twitter, the sites that have covered our game, the interviews I have been invited onto, and the continual growth of the community, I would say the game has been received well with small constructive feedback helping shape the game into what it is today.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Steam/PC is our top priority with a keen eye on the Nintendo Switch. This ultimately just comes down to how much the project gets funded for us to port the game and if Nintendo will accept our project onto their platform. We have high hopes for the console release, but we can’t be certain until further on in development.

 

Will the Kickstarter campaign have any stretch goals? If so, what can you tell us about them?

Our goal is to raise CAD$15,000 for our game, but we have stretch goals going into the six-figure values. We will have small stretch goals to keep the raised amount exciting with big goals every $25,000! A few stretch goals you can expect would be in raising the total number of monsters, items, and fusions you will find in the game, hand-made HD wallpaper art cutscenes, an expansion to the overall island map size with new areas to explore, and quite a lot more to be held back until the Kickstarter’s launch!

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

MANY! To name a few; changing the art style a handful of times to different styles of pixel art and sprite stacking methods, reworking the battlefield design on 3 separate occasions, scrapping the idea of a rogue-like gameplay loop as it didn’t fit the real purpose of the goal of what the game is trying to achieve, and more as the devlog series has developed over the last 9 months.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

Player/viewer feedback has been very important to us. We want to make a game for gamers…not game makers. The people who watch the development unfold have been giving me feedback and suggestions since the initial idea concept and I have kept strong with replying to all of their comments, researching new ideas from suggestions, and even getting inspired by viewer’s fan art monsters to open up my mind a little more creatively.

 

Have there been any aspiring developers who have watched your coding instruction videos that have reached out to you for advice?
I get a lot of starting developers asking me for help through my live streams, discord server, and direct messages. At the end of the day, I love what I do for a living, so inspiring others to start a similar journey and give them my honest advice is something that gives me purpose and makes me feel like I am contributing to something bigger than just myself and my company. Helping others is something I have always wanted to achieve, so I do my best to get back to people and give them my honest feedback in the best way I can.

 

You mention in one of your YouTube videos that making music proved to be an obstacle for yourself. Who is composing the music for Monster Tribe and how has it been coming along?
I brought on a composer “Lennart” who has been doing a fantastic job of bringing our ideas to life through sound and music. I initially wanted to create the music and sound design myself, but as the project idea expanded in my mind, I knew it was necessary to get someone with a more fine-tuned skill set on the project. Lennart was keen on following the Monster Tribe development devlogs and so when he reached out to me with his previous experience and tracks I knew this would be a long-term addition that would be absolutely necessary. His skills have grown a lot since the beginning of the project and he consistently proves himself to be beyond what I thought was a possibility for our game. Every new track is a rush of dopamine for my creative vision.

 


I’ve noticed myself over the last few months that there seems to have been somewhat of an influx of developers originating from Canada. Have there been any other indie Canadian developers who have reached out to you with advice, or you’ve reached out to yourself for advice?

I have quite a few development friends from YouTube, some of which are from Canada. I personally don’t know why an influx would occur, but I have gotten useful connections to people in my province from these friends. Making new connections is a large part of my job, so meeting people that are in your location is quite interesting and can definitely open up more opportunities!

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

Personally, I would still choose to work for my own company, making my own games, as I feel very lucky to be able to take on all of the different jobs that being a developer entails, but if I had to work with a company I would love to develop or publish a game under Devolver Digital or Chucklefish! I love their games and believe in the work they do.

 

What have been the most important lessons learned from prior developmental experiences?

Think small in concept, think big in execution! What makes an indie developer profitable is thinking small in scale, but making the best, most polished version of that idea imaginable. As indie developers, time is our largest restriction to what we can create and how profitable we can be in our careers. We don’t have the time to create a game with endless endings or a photo-realistic art style. We need to work with the limitations we are given and create something that will blow people away through the purity of how well thought out the initial idea and concept are and how far it can be exploited. That is how successful indie developers are created.

 

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

Create today, stress tomorrow. Becoming a developer—or any kind of entrepreneur really—is something that takes a large amount of time, learning from past mistakes, and doing better with every attempt. You can soak up as much knowledge from books, videos, and games as you possibly can, but actually creating is something that can only be experienced in one way. Actually creating something. Don’t let the stress of failure or what comes next define you or prolong your start. Learn from every failure you face, there is never a wrong time to start something new.
For the developers that have already started but are striving for real success, first define to YOURSELF what success really is. Once you understand that success is subjective you can begin to understand that making a finished game means you are a game developer. Take on the small wins, as they will fuel you to push past the tough times when you don’t receive the praise or funding you one day want to achieve. Set realistic expectations, but get ruthless with the work you put in and the results you work towards.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

People can find me on my YouTube Channel, Twitter, or Join My Discord Server to find out more information about me and my company Boundless Games. I am currently working on reworking my company’s website, so for now Discord is the best way to connect with me and the game directly!

 

Do you have anything else to add?

If you are lost in what you want to achieve in life, just remember that you are not bound to what you think you are capable of. Years went by where I only dreamt of making games and starting a company. I convinced myself I was “just another kid” and that only “special people” were capable of achieving amazing results. It took me a long time to get me to where I am today, but I made my dream a reality, even as “just another kid”. You can control your destiny as hard as it might seem, so don’t blame how you grew up or being unlucky that life didn’t fall into your hands naturally, the most successful people will choose to be successful even when it doesn’t seem possible.

 

I’d lastly like to thank Reece for providing such a wonderful and extensive insight into what kind of game players can come to expect from Monster Tribe, and how so many variants have affected the course of development. The Kickstarter will be launching later this month, so if you’re interested in seeing this game come to life, then make sure to back it once the campaign launches. Be sure to also check out Reece’s social media feeds and YouTube channel for the latest news on the course of the game’s development In the meantime, I hope you guys had fun learning more about this promising title as I did to bring this game to your attention and reading what Reece had to say for myself.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Blu Cover Art

Q&A With Damien Robinett

At the time as when I scouted Astral Ascent on Kickstarter, I also came across yet another French indie title made in a somewhat similar vein, but with a completely different, yet just as exciting, premise. Blu, under development at MyOwnGames based in Paris, is a Metroidvania centering around the titular ninja character set in a world reminiscent of Feudal Japan, but with a lot of twists in terms of conceptual design. Influenced by the likes of Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and the modern indie classic Dead Cells, it perpetuates many of the same awesome qualities associated with any classic Metroidvania game; exploration, intense combat, and epic boss fights. It also features a particularly catchy soundtrack composed by award-winning German composer Lukas Piel. Again, wanting to know even more about this compelling-looking Metroidvania, I contacted the game’s lead programmer Damian Robinett to see where the project is in it#s current state, when players can expect to see the finished product, and to learn more about the game’s upcoming Kickstarter campaign, due to begin on April 6th:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/-myowngames-/blu-vs-the-world

Here’s what Damian Robinett had to say about Blu:

 

Blu 1

What were the influences behind Blu?
Several indie games that have come out in recent years, Dead Cells and Hollow Knight in the lead. But also a lot the manga universe. Naruto for example for certain attacks and designs, or to a lesser extent One Piece where I draw on the richness and diversity of its environments.

 

What has the developmental process been like?
Although working alone, I try to manage the development of Blu like any midsize organization. It begins with a reflection phase that lasts several months. Followed by a design phase where I design my game (which often looks like a AAA production on paper). An analysis phase where, depending on the resources available, I extract the fundamental concepts from my game design document in order to reduce them and strengthen the consistency. And it is only then that I start the production phase. At this point, I am moving forward a little on all aspects at the same time, on the one hand, to keep the motivation, on the other hand, because it allows keeping the game balanced and to anticipate the problems in advance. I also devote a couple of hours a day to promoting the game and to discussing with my community.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?
The vast majority of the game mechanics have been implemented. Most of the Level design remains to be done, and as in all Metroidvanias, it will take a lot of time, in the end, to balance the game so that all players can enjoy a nice progression curve.

 

Blu 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Discover and test new things. I love to experiment, and being alone on a project means you have to diversify your activities and gain a lot of experience. Both at a practical level and in the organization of the work. Creating new relationships has also been extraordinary, the support in the game developer community is truly amazing, with great empathy and support.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Combat mechanics. Starting from nothing, it’s very quick to get something playable, and you progress quickly. But when you have to streamline the gameplay in order to get something really satisfying for the player, it quickly becomes hundreds of hours of testing and tuning to get the character to behave perfectly as the player expects. A good feeling of combat results from the meeting of all the components of a game: animations, visuals/sound effects, physics, code … It’s very hard to obtain.

 

How well has the game been received so far?
Very good. The community of players is extremely benevolent and knows how to judge a game according to its maturity. When I see the enthusiasm that Blu causes I am often afraid to disappoint the players, but although often bugged, the different releases always more or less look like what players expect.

 

Blu 3

How instrumental has fan feedback been across platforms like Discord and Twitter been in shaping the development of the game?
A lot! My community shapes the game in its own way. I take into account all user feedback. I can count on talented game devs, as well as seasoned users who see the game with a fresher eye than mine. All the people who come to give feedback do so in a constructive way. And as is often done in public chats, it allows you to quickly gauge the interest in a new feature. When the change is quick, I often try to make it within the hour rather than writing it down.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
My goal is to make a simultaneous release on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4 before the end of 2022. The console version may be postponed to the first semester of 2023 depending on the scope of the work to be done to port the game. An Alpha, Beta, and several test builds will be released before that.

 

How has having Lukas Piel on board with the project helped to bring the game to life so far?

Lukas brings poetry to the game that I hadn’t envisioned when I first started developing Blu. He weaves a musical universe over the levels that turns a fighting game into a heroic adventure. If there’s one thing I’m sure it’s that the soundtrack will be magnificent. Working with him is a pleasure, I hope I can count on him for all my productions in the future.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?
Verry much! I write down all the ideas that come to mind. Half go by the wayside after a second reading. The second phase is longer, I let it ripen for a while to determine if these ideas really bring something coherent to my game. When you’re a developer, you often tend to program certain features because you CAN do it. But most of the time, the player doesn’t even notice it’s details. You have to know how to bring a little magic, but time is our enemy and you have to know how to do it with relevance.
Then the third phase will come, the one where I will no longer have time to do everything that I have stacked in my to-do list and that it will be necessary to reorganize in order of priority what it is imperative to include in the game and what is optional. We always keep them in a corner for later but even after the release the list of tasks often grows longer.

 

Will there be many stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign when it’s launched?
Yes, it will mainly be stretch goals aimed at lengthening the playing time with new modes and offering exclusive in-game content to my backers. At each level, the game will also be translated into new languages. I decided to focus my stretch goals and rewards on the game itself and not to diversify into derivative products.

 

Since Blu is heavily influenced by Smash, how exhilarating would it be to see Blu join the roster? What would her final smash move be?
I will quickly imagine that this is not reality and would definitely go crazy if it really was. But I guess it would be like having a part of myself fighting in the arena. I have spent more time with Blu than with any human being for the past two years and I regard her as my own daughter. I don’t think she would match the big names of Nintendo, but for her final attack, I would say a heavy diving attack, Ganondorf-like. She’s a ninja, but she’s not in the delicacy.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
We have some really cool development studios in France so I will probably stay here. I would say Motion Twin for its cooperative legal form, which encourages developers to believe in and get involved in the projects they develop.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Don’t go for it with your head down. You could miss beautiful things. If you are working on a title that is close to your heart, take your time to lay your project down, learn about best practices. Don’t take the easy road, experiment with new things, learn XP before finishing your quests, make friends on Twitter, make a Game Jam with them and meet them in real life if you can. Promotion is hard at first until the day you don’t call it “Promo” anymore, but just a productive break you enjoy. And persevere. Over time, it always pays off.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
Mainly on Twitter and Discord. I work alone at home so I often go there to chat a little:

Twitter – @blu_vs

Discord – https://discord.com/channels/722365912354652231/730153875901775903

 

Do you have anything else to add?
Yes, there are some friends of mine from Angouleme who are currently live on Kickstarter with their project Astral Ascent, and you should also take a look at it!

 

Indeed, if anyone is interested in checking out Astral Ascent, you can do so via their own Kickstarter page; a link to which can be found in my recent Q&A with the lead programmer at Hibernian Workshop Louis Denizet:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/03/31/astral-ascent-hibernian-workshop

But for now, I’d like to thank Damian for sharing what information he could about Blu and to wish him the best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign launching April 6th. Blu, like most Metroidvanias released throughout the eighth generation, looks like a particularly engrossing and addictive game, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it’s finally released. In the meantime, I hope you guys check out Damian’s Kickstarter, and that I hope you enjoyed learning more about this awesome-looking game.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88