Tag Archives: Adventure

SG88 Braid Header

Braid (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Number None

Publisher(s) – Number None & Microsoft Game Studios

Director(s) – Jonathan Blow

PEGI – 12

 

Released back in 2009, Braid was one of the games that truly Kickstarted the influx of independently developed games, which would be seen throughout the eighth generation and beyond, along with the likes of Minecraft, Fez, and Castle Crashers. It was received with universal acclaim upon release proving to be one of the most influential games of the 21st century, with many critics even citing it as one of the very games of all time. Although I found it to be game brimming with artistic merit and certainly having well earned its place within gaming history, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it one of the best of all time, but nevertheless, there was a lot to be enjoyed with this one

 

Graphics – 10/10

The first thing to notice and to truly be awe-inspired by is the visuals. Hand-drawn and taking place within environments are equally vibrant and colorful as well as dark and ominous, visually, the game was expertly put together to the extent that it makes players feel that this wasn’t programmed on a computer by a developer, but rather painted onto a blank canvas by a master artist. The game’s soundtrack is also expertly composed by three classically trained musicians, further perpetuating the contrasting feeling of calmness and ambiance with that of danger and dark portent. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is a 2D side-scroller with puzzle-solving elements to it, similar to a lot of indie experiences to have seemingly been influenced by it, such as Chronology and The Swapper, but also featuring a lot of gameplay elements similar to that of the Super Mario series. The puzzle-solving element is not quite as intricate or subtle as what it is in Jonathan Blow’s future game, The Witness, but nevertheless, players will have to have their thinking caps on in order to progress through this game, as the puzzles can be particularly challenging at times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Aside from the jumping controls feeling somewhat stiff, the game’s control scheme poses no problems at all. All I would suggest is to get either the console or Steam version, since all these versions offer controller support, unlike the PC version on CD-ROM which forces players to use the keyboard, which is exactly how a game like this should never play out. At least with the Steam version, keyboard mapping becomes available. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

Braid can only be made to last around 2 hours, which for a game that came out in the middle of the seventh generation, is nothing; especially when since its release, there have been plenty of other games made in the same ilk that have been made to last considerably longer than this. This is the main reason why I’ve not been so hasty as to label it one of the best of all time, since whilst having as much artistic credibility as this game does, it should only be secondary to things like gameplay, and in this day and age, lifespan, and I didn’t find that it was in this case. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Braid tells of a man named Tim who is searching for his princess that has been taken by an evil monster. Like Super Mario Bros, the game’s story sounds extremely simplistic in scope, and again, for a game that was released when it was, you may think that wouldn’t be enough since games were becoming more geared towards telling stories. But what makes this game hold up in that respect is in the details. Plot threads and backstory are accessible throughout the game, and it gives it more substance than players may think at first glance. There are also a few twists and turns before the end that players will not see coming at all. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Whilst this game was by no means the first game to do the majority of things that it does do, the fact of the matter is that it went on to inspire a new generation of developers to come up with their own ideas and share them with the world, and props need to be given to both Jonathan Blow and the team of developers behind it. This game, along with many other released around at the same time, taught the new generation that they don’t need to be part of the mainstream to realize that they can become successful developers, and that with the know-how and the effort, that a great game can be developed on a budget. 

 

Happii

Overall, Braid, whilst I can’t bring myself to consider it one of the best, is certainly one of the most influential, and still quite a lot of fun for the short time it lasts. Jonathan Blow went through an arduous process to bring this game to life, and in the end, he deserved his success. 

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)

Lucy Dreaming Header

Q&A With Tall Story Games

Whilst once again scouring Kickstarter for more new video game prospects. I came across a couple of games in a genre that generally speaking, I don’t spend enough time covering, but this game captured my attention in a way that few that others do. Lucy Dreaming is a point-and-click adventure game made as a love letter to the works of LucasArts, including Day of the Tentacle, the Monkey Island series, and Full Throttle. Developed by Tall Story Games based in the English West Midlands, it centers around a young girl named Lucy, who must travel between dreams and reality to discover a disturbing truth about Lucy’s sub-conscience. Eager to know more, I contacted the game’s lead developer Ton Hardwidge to pose some questions in regards to not only the game but also in regards to the point-and-click adventure genre itself, as I was curious to get an indie developer’s perspective in regards to how well the genre is represented compared to the likes of the 2D Sidescroller, Metroidvania or 3D platforming genres. So that being said, here’s what Tom Hardwidge of Tall Story games had to say about Lucy Dreaming:

 

Lucy Dreaming 1

What were the influences behind your game?

It’s fairly obvious to anyone looking at the pixel-artwork or user interface of Lucy Dreaming that the LucasArts adventure classics from the 1990s are a huge inspiration for the game. I’ve made no effort to hide this fact, and I am proud to call it a love letter to all of the titles that gave me so much joy growing up. Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle made a huge impression on me and I never, even in my wildest dreams, thought it would be possible to create my own point & click adventure games.

The initial concept for the game came from the fact that our house is littered with children’s books. We have a six-year-old son who loves reading and often dreams about characters and scenarios in his books. I was already trying to think of a concept that would provide flexibility in terms of scenes, characters, and artwork, and dreams were the perfect candidate. I won’t divulge too much about the mechanics of the full game, but books play an important part.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

This is our first full-length title, so we knew it was going to need a bit more planning than some of our previous, shorter games. That said, a lot of the puzzle development in the game is organic. I have a narrative plan mapped out which contains all of the important milestones and plot points along the way, but in terms of the puzzles themselves, a lot of them are created in situ. I will design a scene and start cramming it with random objects. I hate large areas of empty space, so I always want to put a picture on the wall, or stuff the shelves to help add interest to the scene and support the wider story of the game. Once I have filled up a scene with bits of random crap, I then look at the task in hand and think to myself “If I were in this scene, what would I do next?” or “I wonder what’s in that cupboard over there.” As I oversee the story, artwork, and development I can change anything on a whim if I think I can make it work better, or there’s an opportunity for a gag.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We’re aiming to have a finished game within 12 months of the Kickstarter campaign ends. I have a tendency to get carried away and over-deliver, so although we have proposed 8-10 hours of playtime, it may well be a bit over that. The version of the demo available to play on Steam and Itch.io is actually the second one that we’ve produced. The first one was finished at the end of 2020 but, when tested, had an average playtime of over two hours. We felt this gave away a bit too much of the full game’s mechanics and story, so made the decision to “bank” it as the first two hours of the full game instead and create an entirely new demo prequel that had unique puzzles not found in the full game.

For anyone backing the game on Kickstarter, we will be involving them in discussions about the game on our VIP Discord channel too, so they can help to shape the game they have supported.

 

Lucy Dreaming 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

As I’m doing the whole lot, it’s very hard to separate them into different aspects. It’s all a single, intertwined process. If I had to pick one element, it would probably be the puzzle design itself as it involves a little bit of everything. Sometimes a puzzle will be purely visual,

sometimes it relies heavily on the dialogue and other little clues. Honing a puzzle so that it’s just the right level of difficulty is so much fun, I’ll watch testers and streamers play through a puzzle and try to spot where they get frustrated, bored, or delighted – I can then tweak the whole experience to make it as smooth as possible without handing them the answer on a plate.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Without a doubt, it’s been the publishing of the game to the various app platforms (namely Steam and the Google Play Store). As a first-timer to the process, I can honestly say that it’s been one of the most confusing and frustrating things I’ve had to deal with. It’s like a badly designed adventure game puzzle in itself. The clues poorly signposted and the dialogue is unhelpful but, as an adventure game puzzle, there is immense satisfaction in finally figuring it out on your own.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

So far it’s been received really well, and anything that has been picked up in terms of bugs or potential improvements to the puzzles has been sorted in subsequent releases. I’ve watched a lot of gamers playing the demo since it launched, and so far it seems to have been universally enjoyed. A few people apparently find a northern British accent inherently annoying, but they are vastly outweighed by the number of players who love Lucy and the voice actor’s sassy northern lilt (which is just as well, because it’s my wife and business partner, Emma!)

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching people laugh out loud at the jokes, and there are hundreds in there if you like exploring. The demo alone contains over 1,100 unique responses and dialogue, if you really want to suffer an onslaught of bad puns and “dad jokes” try talking to all the objects in each scene, you might discover a few hidden references and Easter eggs too.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

The game engine that I’m using is called Visionaire Studio, it’s purpose-built for point & click adventure games and supports a huge number of platforms. For the basic level of funding on Kickstarter, I am promising releases for Windows, macOS, and Linux, but there’s also a stretch goal for iOS and Android (the demo is already available to download from the Google Play Store). Point & click games with a traditional SCUMM-style interface really lend themselves to touchscreens. I would absolutely love to release Lucy Dreaming on Nintendo Switch too, but publishing a game for Nintendo is a bit of an unknown for me, even though the game engine supports it from a technical point of view.

 

Can you tell us anything about the pending stretch goals planned for the Kickstarter campaign?

Since the campaign launched, a lot of people have reached out to me to ask about support for different platforms and languages, so in the name of transparency, I have actually taken the decision to publish the initial plan for stretch goals. At the time of writing we haven’t fully funded, although we did manage to reach 50% of our goal in the first 11 hours of the campaign, and were handpicked as a Kickstarter “Project We Love”, so we’re hopeful!

 

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

Probably more than I think! If I got back and check my original notes there will undoubtedly be things that I’ve forgotten or moved away from since I started this project 12 months ago. The main thing that has changed is the name of the game itself. We originally called the game “Lucid Adventure”, which we subsequently had to scrap a couple of months into the project. I had failed to do my research properly and completely missed the fact that there was already a game with the same name. After a quick brainstorming session with other indie developers and game industry professionals, we settled on “Lucy Dreaming” which is a play on “Lucid Dreaming”, the key concept behind the full game.

 

Do you believe the point-and-click adventure genre has been adequately represented throughout the indie community?

Absolutely, the indie game community is keeping the genre alive, and there are some spectacular new titles being produced all the time.

I am relatively new to the whole indie game dev scene. I started by making a browser-based point-and-click adventure for The Roman Baths in 2019, programming the whole thing from scratch in HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Then, a year later I used the same “engine” to build another game to raise money for charity Women’s Aid during the first UK lockdown. After this was well-received by adventure game fans online, I looked into game development in more detail and discovered a whole world of professional game engines, and the most welcoming, creative, and supportive community it’s ever been my pleasure to be a part of. A year later, here I am, constantly rubbing my eyes in disbelief and immensely proud to call them my friends.

 

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

Feedback from players, other devs, publishers, friends, and everyone around me is a huge factor when producing a game like this. There’s no room for arrogance, if players falter and don’t have a smooth, enjoyable experience, it’s my fault.

At the beginning of the project I went back and forth for a long time just working out which verbs to include in my SCUMM UI, there are strong opinions in both the “I want all of Ron Gilbert’s original verbs” and “No verbs, just a left, and right-click!” camps and I wanted to strike a balance between the two. It seemed like a huge deal in the early stages of the development, but not that the demo has been honed and polished, no one playing the game has had any cause to complain or even mention the UI. That for me is the greatest compliment, as it means it is doing its job perfectly. I still welcome feedback on all platforms and on all subjects. I am new to this industry, and if I don’t listen to my peers and my audience, I’m going to fall at the first hurdle.

 

Do you find that taking such a self-reflective approach to make this game through your own blog posts has improved your personal developmental skills?

I think it’s helped me retain my humility. I don’t plan my blog posts, I just open up a blank screen and let my brain spew out all over it. It’s hugely cathartic and the blogging process has helped me to understand how I feel at each stage in the process. If I’m happy, frustrated, or confused, I let it all out and it somehow solidifies into something I can reflect on. I’ll read them back and think “Oh, so THAT’s why I’m so annoyed.” Or “Tom, you’re being a nob, just listen to your critics.” It’s also great to have a record of all my transient thoughts and feelings throughout the project. I’m sure if I read some of my early posts now I would have forgotten nearly everything I wrote at the time.

 

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

Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I’ve been running my own design agency for over a decade, and I’m not used to being told what to do. I’m also not very good at managing other people, so if I was going to develop something for another company, it would probably have to be a client/agency relationship as opposed to working within a larger games studio. Under these circumstances, I think I’d probably like to work on a point & click adventure for a book like Luke Pearson’s Hilda. The characters and settings are an absolute wonder, and if I had similar freedom to expand and build on the world he’s created – as Netflix has done – then that would be truly magical. Of course, it would need to be a pixel-art interpretation, which is probably sacrilege but, hey, this is my fantasy!

 

It’s also mentioned on the Kickstarter page that your young son Robin has made unintentional contributions to the game too. Do you see a lot of your own creative side in your son from his early age, and would you like him to possibly follow in your footsteps as a developer?

I will be delighted with whatever he decides to do as long as he’s happy. At the moment I am loving collaborating with him as we walk over a mile to school every morning. We play a game called “puzzles” where we take it in turns to make up a puzzle that needs solving, then look around us and solve it with whatever comes to hand. This has created some incredible ideas that I would have never thought of, and I write them all down. From a penny-farthing skateboard to a woodpecker-on-a-stick for digging holes. The little chap is a veritable goldmine!

He also draws, and writes, a lot! I have a whole stack of Lucy Dreaming “fan-art” on my desk created by Robin, and I hope that his delight in creativity stays with him.

 

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

Get involved in the indie dev community. Anything and everything can be learned from the best, and nicest people in the industry. Don’t be daunted by the prospect either, you’ll assume that everyone knows more than you do, but your thoughts and feelings are valid too. Have confidence in your own ability and don’t forget to have fun. I mean, that’s why you’re doing it, right? Getting involved in a wider community gives you a sounding board for ideas, collaborators for the future, constructive criticism when you don’t think you need it, and tremendous support when you do.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

I’m on Twitter mainly, but we also have spots in all the usual haunts. Facebook, Discord, Instagram, Steam, YouTube, Itch.io, our website … take your pick!

https://twitter.com/tallstorygames

https://www.facebook.com/tallstorygames

https://www.instagram.com/tallstorygames/

https://lucy-dreaming.com/

https://discord.gg/aExm5ZhtdE

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCByVD7k0-JiLw5Cv80mS8kA

https://store.steampowered.com/search/?publisher=Tall%20Story%20Games

https://tallstorygames.itch.io/

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I love what I am doing and am always happy to talk (at length) about it, so if anyone has any questions, or just wants to say “hello” you know where to find me!

Oh, and back Lucy Dreaming on Kickstarter now!

 

I’d just lastly like to thank Tom for taking the time out of development to answer my questions in regards to this exciting title. It was quite interesting to get his take on this game, as well as the point-and-click- adventure game in general. It looks like the genre has a brighter future than what I’d realized and I’m looking forward to this title, as well as any more upcoming games within it that may be coming out soon in addition. If you like the look of Lucy Dreaming and want to see the project brought to life, you can back the Kickstarter campaign via this link:

Kickstarter Page

But in the meantime, I hope you’re looking forward to this game and enjoyed learning more about it from Tom as much as I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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.

 

Down Ward 3

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

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

Scrabdackle SS7

Q&A With Jakefriend

Once again scouring Kickstarter for more upcoming video game projects, I stumbled upon a simplistic-looking, yet potentially addictive title named Scrabdackle. Scrabdackle is a top-down RPG roguelike, heavily influenced by the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening, and incorporating a playstyle similar to that of The Binding Isaac, under development by the developer known as Jakefriend originating from Toronto, Canada.

 

The game incorporates a colorful and wonderfully simplistic hand-drawn visual style but incorporates gameplay centered around intense combat with players able to take advantage of a number of various different spells to take out hordes of enemies, and also features a non-linear open world which players can explore at their leisure. There are also multiple paths to go down and secrets to uncover along the way, facilitating multiple playthroughs. Set in the world of Scrabdackle, it follows an apprentice wizard named Blue, who is ejected from his own academy by a dark wizard and thrust into the harsh environment and its many dangers.

 

Eager to know more about the excellent-looking title, I reached out to Jakefriend to ask a series of questions about the game, and what stages in development it currently resides within following the recently successful Kickstarter campaign. Here’s what Jakefriend had to say about Scrabdackle:

 

Scrabdackle SS1

What were the influences behind your game?

There is no outright direct influence, but the biggest of them would be the Game Boy Zelda games: Link’s Awakening foremost, then Oracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages. I loved the idea that the world maps of these games were these finite things that you could explore one square at a time, yet still felt endless and always with something new to discover crisscrossing them. A lot of modern games inspired by LA can fall into the trap of having a world be very linear despite the presentation of openness; I’m actively pursuing the feeling of going exploring and getting a bit lost, and the reward of gaining a better understanding of the overall space once you find your bearings.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

So far, it’s been like continually delaying dessert until I’ve eaten all my greens, haha! I’m extremely excited to work on more content, especially bosses, but I’ve tried to be more responsible than that and get the fundamental systems in place first so that the demo represents an effective vertical slice of gameplay. For a long time, it was “I’ll finish the events system, then I’ll tackle the Ducklands content,” then “Okay, I should actually prioritize the GUI updates and lore system, but after that, it’s content time,” to “I don’t really have any time for anything but bugfixes and some polish before the Kickstarter!” Though I’m quite proud of the demo, content is the main thing it’s lacking, and both my longtime players and I are looking forward to having more to see and do in the world than just the ‘same experience, but increasingly polished! I’m adding some new gameplay content as a mid-campaign event right now for the first time since honestly maybe October, and it’s been sooooo enjoyable.

 

Scrabdackle SS2

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Quite far! I did a rough map of the world at one point, not counting any content additions that backers have now funded, and Junk Heap (the tutorial area) was only about 3-4% of the rough full-scope. While the game is approaching systems-complete, it’s very much content-light at the moment, and expanding new areas and enemies is a big priority of full development.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

I love doing everything. I mean it! Handling the art, music, design, coding, AND writing means whenever I start to feel burned out on one branch of development, I can skip to another, let that part of my brain rest and refresh, while still making forward progress. Being able to take a step back at something like the Peanut Village hub area – a congruence of all of those branches – and see a thriving place that matches my mental picture of vibrance and goofiness is one of the most rewarding things, barring seeing Let’s Plays of others having their first reaction to it.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

I’m not very back-end technical. I find figuring out things like multithreading for performance and faster loading quite challenging to wrap my head around; I’m a confident coder otherwise but it’s territory when even the “explain like I’m 5” explanations of how to handle it sound unintelligible. There’s plenty of performance improvements yet to be made as I’m still getting an understanding of that kind of thing.

 

Scrabdackle SS3

How well has the game been received so far?

Extremely well! At around 8,200 downloads presently since September, we’re still trending a 4.85 score in itch out of 5 with 90 ratings, as well as 4.83 on my private Google Form results

with 93 ratings where I ask for players to be critical about their experience. And the community around the game is extremely passionate – I really only pursued a Kickstarter because the demo seemed to be striking a lasting chord with so many people. It’s been really affecting.

 

Although you’ve cited various Game boy games as influences for the music, I got the impression that the soundtrack sounded quite reminiscent of the world of Rare composers such as Grant Kirkhope and David Wise. Would you say they are fair comparisons?

Yes, Grant Kirkhope is a pretty strong influence! Particularly his work on Rare’s Nintendo 64 titles like DK64 and the Banjo-Kazooie games. My soundtrack is still a little more geared towards the instrumentation found in Game Boy era music and is much sparser for exploration themes, but he’s been hugely influential to me in a way that I think is pretty recognizable in the Scrabdackle soundtrack! I don’t know David Wise’s work all that well, but I’d also call out Kozue Ishikawa, the composer of Wario Land II and one of the two composers of Link’s Awakening; her work in those games ranges from quirky and comic to empowering and driving to melancholic and reflective in ways that are very impressive for the limitations of the technology she was working with.

 

Scrabdackle SS4

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Scrabdackle is coming to all PC platforms presently. I’d like to bring it to consoles someday, but am waiting to do that alongside a publisher rather than go it alone. I recognize it’s a gray area of unexplored, back-end-technical space to me, and I can’t sufficiently budget or estimate the time it would take me to do it myself. In a perfect world, if I could only get one console port, it would be Nintendo Switch – I think it’s the perfect market for the game.

 

How fundamental has the Scrabdackle community been in shaping the course of development?

In terms of actually creating a path from a demo to full game development, very! I’ve been pushed forward on a sea of steady encouragement and support. In terms of my development plans, I would say my original vision has largely not been externally shaped – I find it very effective to clarify your own vision then stick to it and to consciously not pursue most suggestions thrown your way unless you’re changing the core vision or it fits within it.

That said, in the original demo I almost didn’t add dialogue at all, and eventually put in a few conversations just before making it public. The feedback on the dialogue was really, really positive, and made it clear that talking to people in the world was a highlight – so that’s been heavily emphasized in the game by that community feedback. The standout “lore book” feature recently implemented also comes from a community suggestion.

 

Scrabdackle SS5

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

Well, the idea of the game being a boss battle game with just a little bit of empty world traversal has definitely been done away with, but that happened well before the public demo was released. The level design has changed a lot to be less completely hands-off since the first demo. Initially, you could go anywhere and wander around potentially nearly all of the game’s map without coming across (or requiring) the wand, or coming across any save points or focal goals. I’ve made small but important adjustments in my approach to guide players through one of two routes towards the wand (the game’s immediate first goal), both of which directly pass save points, and to limit the initial exploration space until the wand is found. Players were feeling frustrated that they could explore too broadly without a critical tool; having a soft gate to ensure they collect that tool first has actually really improved the rest of the non-linear exploration experience.

 

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

I don’t think I’d want that – the larger the company, the more you have to fill a tight niche, and what I really enjoy about the work as a small fish is the breadth of exposure and jack-of-all-trades nature. I really love all of the things I get to do, and giving any of them up to mainline just AI coding or just art or something would be a sacrifice of my continued development of those skills, and of my ability to “refresh” by mixing up my creative focus, and of my ability to influence the game in a more meaningful way. If I was offered a game designer role or a sub-director role where I did still get to work closely with the entire development team, that’d be something I’d really love to try but isn’t necessarily company-dependant or franchise-dependant.

 

Scrabdackle SS6

Have there been any ideas incorporated into Scrabdackle that you’ve carried over from games you used to develop as a hobby?

From my own previous projects, honestly, not really! Pretty much everything I’ve worked on has been a different genre – puzzle platformer, arcade shooter, etcetera. I have some strong feelings about what makes for good game design in a holistic way, but nothing game-specific has really traveled between projects. The closest I can say is that the Skrine character, presented as some sort of omniscient entity, is a character brought over from my long-running homebrew D&D campaign, where they played a similar role as an archfey trickster.

 

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

If you want to start as an indie dev… just start! Join a 2-day jam, grab an asset pack, forget about quality, and just try slapping something together as fast as you can. The time restrictions of jams are freeing because you can’t endlessly get lost in perfectionism or uncertainty.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

I’m active on the very wholesome and welcoming Scrabdackle Discord regularly, post neat gamedev updates and gifs to Twitter, and am currently flying past 100% towards stretch goals on Kickstarter (campaign ending April 15th!).

 

Do you have anything else to add?

A huge thanks to the Scrabdackle community for the long road of support over the last 7 months towards the successful Kickstarter funding milestone! It’s genuinely been life-changing, and I’m so excited for what giving Scrabdackle my full-time attention will bring.

 

Scrabdackle SS7

I want to take this opportunity to thank Jake for taking the time out to answer my questions and to wish him the best of luck with the game’s launch. You can check out the game and its progress via the links below:

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jakefriend/scrabdackle?ref=discovery_category

Official Website: https://scrabdackle.com/

Twitter: @jakefriend_dev

Discord: Scrabdackle

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE1rInyJzMREQTUFjFV-i0w

You can also download the demo of the game via Jake’s itch.io page:

https://jakefriend.itch.io/scrabdackle

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoy the demo, and that you enjoyed learning more about Scrabdackle as much as I did.

 

Gaem on,

ScouseGamer 88

SG88 Super Metroid header

Super Metroid (Super NES)

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

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yoshio Sakamoto

Producer(s) – Makoto Kano

PEGI – 7

 

Released in 1994 coming up to the twilight years of the Super NES, and finding critical acclaim worldwide and commercial acclaim mainly in North America, Super Metroid is considered to be one of the most influential games of all time, as along with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, it helped to pioneer the so-called Metroidvania genre of games; the 2D side-scrolling open-world experience focused on combat, epic story, and exploration. I decided that as I’ve now reviewed a great number of games in the genre, that I’d examine the game where the groundwork was laid, and find out whether or not the experience still holds up to this day, and for me, it did not disappoint. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

One of the most standout features of the game is undoubtedly its beautifully crafter 16-BIT visuals with the game taking place across a number of locations that have since become iconic and synonymous with the Super NES era, including Brinstar, Norfair, and Maridia. This game’s visuals have gone on to inspire a number of retroactive indie titles over the last decade such as Blasphemous and Axiom Verge, and not just Metroidvania titles. For the time, these graphics were revolutionary, and the accompanying soundtrack, composed by Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano, perfectly compliments the wonderfully horrific atmosphere this game perpetuates throughout, which in and of itself, was very much out of character for a Nintendo game at the time, as most Super NES titles, for the most part, focused on happy-sounding music and brightly colored environments.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Super Metroid followed the basic model of the original Metroid, but with drastic improvements. Players could now combine different types of weapons to create more powerful ones, and the boss fights littered throughout are far better throughout. There’s even more cause for exploration that in the original game or Metroid 2: Return of Samus, and it also comes with the synonymous Metroidvania map system; something which was sorely lacking from the previous two games, and something which every other Metroidvania title would adopt in increasingly innovative forms from then on. Few side scrollers at the time encouraged exploration to the extent that this game did, and it was a welcome breath of fresh air for those who got the chance to play it back in the day. 

 

Controls – 8/10

The game’s control scheme, however, isn’t perfect. Whilst most Super NES games used the Y and B buttons for attack for primary movement and combat controls, this game uses the X and A buttons for that purpose, and among Super NES fans, this will have caused some confusion for players back when it was released, and can still potentially cause confusion for modern-day players looking to play it for the first time, as indeed I found, since I wasn’t introduced to this game back when it was released. Kind of like Metroid Prime, it can take a bit of time for players to get used to initially. What the developers did add in terms of controls, however, was the facility to shoot diagonally, which again, was sorely lacking from the original games, and furthermore included in the re-release of the first; Metroid: Zero Mission for the Game Buy Advance.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

A thorough playthrough of the game can take an average of around 4 hours, which is about an exceptionally long amount of time for a game to have lasted back in the days of the Super NES. Although the game can be completed within half an hour (indeed, as this title has become particularly popular among speedrunners), it’s not a game that’s designed to be rushed through, and whilst it may sound like a paltry amount of time for a game to last compared to what gamers are used to these days, it was relatively unheard of at the time and most fans of the game have ended up playing it multiple times throughout the years anyway. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

Taking place in the latter stages of the Metroid timeline, the alien lifeform (the Metroid) that bounty hunter Samus Aran had recovered from planet SR388 at the end of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, had been delivered to a research facility by her for further study. But shortly thereafter, the space station is attacked by the leader of the Space Pirates, Ridley, who then captures the Metroid specimen and takes it to the nearby planet Zebes, and Samus is in pursuit of him. The game is also a lot more cinematic than games of the previous generation; the game’s opening cutscene, in particular, has become an iconic moment in Super NES history. It’s also among one of the earliest examples of how gameplay sequences can be used to build up tension within the confines of the story, as there are sequences whereby Samus must escape from certain places within a designated time limit before it explodes. 

 

Originality – 10/10

There is no understating how unique and influential this game was back in the day. Any game from which an entire genre is created stands out as being among the most influential of all time. Doom gave birth to the first-person shooting genre, Rogue paved the way for the Roguelike genre and Super Metroid was the primary pioneer of the Metroidvania genre; even Castlevania: Symphony of the Night adopted several gameplay elements that this game had first. 

 

Happii

In summation, as well as being one of the most influential video games of all time, Super Metroid also stands out as one of the best titles on the Super NES and is an experience that still holds up and one that I would highly recommend. Regardless of the issues, I may have had with the controls, the immersive gameplay, wonderfully rendered graphics, and engrossing story more than make up for it. 

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Salt 2 Header

Q&A With LavaBoots Studio

Once again looking out for upcoming Kickstarter projects, I came across a title clearly not without its influences, but one which looks like a great deal of fun, and definitely not one to be missed. Salt 2: Shores of Gold, under development at LavaBoots Studios based in Huntsville, Alabama, is the sequel to the original Salt released back in 2014 to commercial and critical acclaim by many reviewers. An open-world pirate game, drawing many similarities with Rare’s Sea of Thieves, featuring an infinite procedurally generated open world, heavy RPG elements such as combat, crafting and leveling up, and a vast amount of exploration to experiences with landscapes ranging from expansive oceans to quaint islands top mysterious caves. Wanting to know more about titles, I got in touch with LavaBoots Studio’s Will sterling to learn about what the final game will offer to players compared to games made of the same ilk and get a better idea of what the developers want to achieve with this project upon its Kickstarter release scheduled for March 23rd. Here’s what Will sterling had to say about Salt 2: Shores of Gold:

 

Salt 2 1

Of course, Sea of Thieves is cited as the primary Influence behind the Salt series, but were there any other games that inspired its development?

Sea of Thieves was mostly an inspiration in terms of the art style but not so much for gameplay. We actually released Salt 1 in 2014, years before Sea of Thieves came out. Our main inspirations in terms of gameplay are open-world games like Skyrim and some old-school MMOs like Everquest. We wanted to take an open-world exploration experience, put a pirate spin on it, and see what it played like in an infinite procedural world.

 

What has the developmental process been like for Salt 2?

The development has been fantastic. One of the benefits of having worked on games for almost a decade now is learning how to refine your process and become much more efficient. We took a visual-first approach to develop Salt 2 and put a lot more emphasis on art and visuals than we did in the first game.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We’re still a ways off. We plan on releasing Steam Early Access in the Fall of 2021. We currently have a lot of content in the game and most of the core features implemented, but there’s still a lot we need to add and test before we release.

 

Sal 2 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing Salt 2?

I think one of the most exciting aspects has been making a sequel to a popular game. Because of this, you have a community that’s very excited about a new version. And because we are confident this version is leaps and bounds better than the original, it’s a lot of fun to share the development process with the community and see the excitement build.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing Salt 2?

We are a small development team of only two members. Because of this, anytime you make a big open-world game with lots of moving parts, it can be challenging. I think just trying to make a large-scale game in a small amount of time, with a small team, and with a limited budget is always a challenge.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

So far the reception has been exceptionally positive!

 

Salt 2 3

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

The game will launch on Steam Early Access but we do plan on porting the game to Xbox and Playstation, pending approval of the platforms.

 

Are sea shanties planned for inclusion in Salt 2?

Right now we don’t have any sea shanties recorded. We have recorded about 22 songs for the soundtrack. However, I do think sea shanties is a great idea and might even be a neat way to involve the community in the creation process. So while it’s something that isn’t in the game currently, we aren’t ruling it out.

 

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

I can’t think of anything major that’s been scrapped just yet. This is probably largely because the game is a sequel so we already have a pretty good idea of what went right and what went wrong with the first one.

 

How instrumental has fan feedback for the first game being in terms of the sequel’s development?

Very instrumental. We’ve tried to look at the first game and take note of what was popular and what wasn’t. With Salt 2, we’re focusing on doing more of what was good in Salt 1 and adding new features that we think players will enjoy.

 

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

I think for me it would have to be an Elder Scrolls title. I’m a huge fan of world-building in development and I can’t think of any more fun world to be a part of than the Elder Scrolls franchise.

 

What have been the biggest lessons learned from the development of the original Salt?

I would say mostly general development lessons. We’ve learned how to prioritize and be much more efficient with our time so we can develop games quicker. We’ve also improved tremendously in terms of art and have realized how important it is to have a good cohesive art style for your game.

 

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

My biggest piece of advice would be to limit your development scope and release something. Don’t be afraid to put something out there, even if it isn’t any good. Going through the process of releasing a game, getting feedback, and improving for the next game will teach you so much more than sitting on a game for years, trying to make it perfect.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

You can visit our website at https://www.saltthegame.com/

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Our Kickstarter is launching on March 23rd, 2021. So if anyone is interested in supporting us during development that is a great way to do so. Also, stop by our Discord and ask us questions sometimes! https://discord.com/channels/327559694879293441/327559694879293441

 

Lastly, I’d like to thank Will for taking the time out of developing the game to talk to me as well as to wish him and the rest of LavaBoots Studio the best of luck with its development and the Kickstarter campaign. If anyone is interested in checking this game out or funding the project, the page will be live as of March 23rd via the link below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1392020915/salt-2-shores-of-gold

But in the meantime, I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time out to read our Q&A, and I hope you guys are looking forward to the release of Salt 2: Shores of Gold as I am.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88