Wednesday, November 30, 2011

List of indie games at Minecon

I've been searching the internet for a list to links of the indie games that were on display at Minecon, but I'm coming up empty-handed. So to make things easier for the world, I'll make my own list (I'll work off the indie theater schedule from the agenda, but I'm not sure if all the games were in it? And not all the games showing at the indie theater had displays, so, confusing). So, here's a buncha blurbs about indie games featured at Minecon.

The ones I saw/played:
Code Hero: A game that teaches you how to code. I love the idea; the game is still in development.
3D VVVVVV: Still difficult as heck.

At A Distance: I didn't get a chance to play it, and I couldn't really figure out what was going on by watching. Lots of abstract shapes and two players having to work together to do... something.
No Time to Explain: Kind of a silly, cartoony platformer. I admit, I was kind of put off by the art style.
Catapult for Hire: Looked like a pretty straightforward 3D physics puzzler (but maybe everyone was playing tutorial levels?). I think it gets cooler later on with story and adventure elements.
Dragon Fantasy: JRPG in a retro style for iOS, kinda like Cthulu Saves the World.
A Valley Without Wind: A metroid-like with procedurally generated levels.
Retro/Grade: A rhythm shooter compatible with guitar hero guitars where you can go back in time.

All the others:
Snapshot by RetroAffect: upcoming game about taking photos which looks cute.
Octodad: 3rd-person adventure about being a dad? I'm downloading it now.
Here Comes Launchman: retro-styled platformer with things you can stick to and throw, maybe?
Airmech by Carbon games: some kind of 3rd person shoot 'em up
Influence: another one of these zen games where you build up your little sphere to consume all other things.
Incredibots: A machine building game.
Retro City Rampage: retro-styled action parody game.
Frozen Synapse: A tactical game that has been pretty popular and was featured in the last indie bundle.
Zombie Grinder: I think the title sums it up.
Jesus vs. Dinosaurs: Make cars with tetris pieces, then run them together to see who wins. Oh and the playable characters are Darwin and God. I can't tell if I should be offended or not.

If you had a game at Minecon, leave a comment and I can add it to the list. Also, if you'd like me to review your game, feel free to e-mail me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Utah Indie Game Night

Indie game night tonight was at Wahoo's studio. Lee Baker from Sandman Studios gave a presentation. Sandman studios started out as a special effects company (they did the effects in Pushing Daisies), but it looks like now they've branched out into flash mini-games, children's picture books, and maybe animated movies. They do good stuff. He talked a lot about what they do and how they do it.

One of the interesting things about a visual effects studio is that they make a lot of bids on jobs, so they really have to know how much it costs to do certain things. To get backers for other projects, they have to prove they can do it and that their investors can get their money back somehow. I think with games you can see effective and ineffective pitches over at Kickstarter (I think the general concepts would apply to non-kickstarter pitches as well). I'd like to help make a game someday so I'm kind of fascinated by how you really have to have a good-looking prototype before you can get any money.

There were a couple of games there, including McKay's ongoing Flexitris project (super-customizable tetris), Siphon Spirit (an action game kind of like Osmos), and some other games. The guys who are working on Me and My Zombies were there and it was kind of fun to have already played the game and use the time to give/hear feedback.

I'm still trying to figure out how I want to cover indie game nights. I'd like to mention games as I find out about them and then review them when they're fairly complete, and I think Greg does a pretty good job archiving indie game night (which games appear when). Oh, and I've added photos to the Minecon posts.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Minecon! It was exhausting and fun. There were tons of kids and their families, as well as lots of nerdtastic people like me. Here are some highlights:

-Getting C418's CD and autograph and hearing him and some other game composers talk about their work was pretty awesome. C4 takes kind of a coy position to things, but the other guys were very open about their work. Basically, they got started asking around to compose video game music and most people making games need music, so it works out.

-Another panel from game artists provided some insights into how their process works. For Scrolls, they cut apart their dudes and move around files in Flash to make running animations quickly. Cool.

-Right before the exhibit floor closed for the night the lines for things were actually manageable. I got to play the "dig through square blocks that look like Minecraft to find previous stones" game and buy loot from Jinx (Minecraft magnets! Fridge art!). 

won this keychain at the IGN booth
-I finished getting diamond stickers for my scavenger hunt entry form thing. Some of the diamonds were for doing cool things, but at least two of them were for signing up for a service online (blaah). The longest line after Jinx was probably the Curse booth, which took your photo with green screen and then gave you your diamond sticker. So, somewhere on the Internet is a photo with me, a Minecraft sword, and a creeper. I didn't win anything, but I had the full experience!

a completely random person with a Minecraft chicken
-I went to a panel where people talked about how Minecraft helped bring their family together. All anecdotal data of course, but interesting nonetheless. I might post about it more later, but Minecraft is nice for strengthening bonds because it lets people problem-solve and create together, in a shared space, and chat at the same time. There was also some comments about how Minecraft's lack of a tutorial forces kids to look things up online and promotes Internet literacy.

-I played Cobalt! It's a 2D platformer/shooter. It has some interesting mechanics. You can slow down time in a small radius around you and punch back bullets. You roll everywhere and depending on where in the roll you release the bomb or whatever, it goes further. I like the quirky/cute art style. That said... it is really hard. Hopefully in the final version they will have more tutorial things or something.

platform with switch for turning on Minecraft
-We decided to walk to the club from our hotel which was maybe a bad idea, but we got to see the strip at night. I wasn't dressed right for the club (apparently strapless miniskirt dresses are the way to go? I think they look terrible), and it was super crowded. I'm glad we went though. I guess I thought clubs were only in movies but it turns out they actually exist.

I'm not a super social person in line but I met some people and generally everyone was very nice. I'll put up photos to go along with everything later (there were some awesome decorations, including a nether dragon). I would have liked to hear more from Notch on a panel or something (he didn't participate in any of the developer panels), but it was pretty good to hear from all the other devs. Have a good Thanksgiving, and check out all the cool new stuff in Minecraft 1.0!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Minecon swag!

Me and my husband made it to Las Vegas and registered for Minecon! You know, the convention about Minecraft. All of the restaurants are ridiculously expensive but at least our hotel room is nice. We registered and got our official swag.

Anyway, here's what we got:
-creeper drawstring bag. Bright green and kind of iconic.

-Razor mousepad that looks like a dirt block with grass on it (I will totes use it).

-Minecraft paper crafts sponsored by Thinkgeek--which I think is genius of them as there are plenty of kids here who will like it (and me).

-Jones soda! 

-Exclusive in-game cape, but only if you register with XBLA through an xbox, which I don't own (sad face).
-Normal convention things like name badge, schedule, ads, etc.

There's an official afterparty at a nightclub this Saturday. And it says that the dress code is enforced, but nothing about what that dress code is. I've never been to a night club before, but it sounds like there's dancing and stuff, which could be cool, but my husband was like "it's just a glorified bar." Anyway, I might try it out if I can get in with my cardigan and skinny jeans.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bastion as tragedy

Bastion is one of those little games that you kind of have to play to know what it's about, but I'll try to explain anyway. Gameplay-wise, it's an isometric action-rpg where you can change weapons, etc., and seems pretty normal to me. It's the story that makes this game worth playing.
Warning: spoilers for Bastion ahead.

The cool thing about Bastion is that your narrator reacts to what you do--it really feels like he's watching. And he's... kind of unreliable. Not the first time there's been an unreliable narrator in video games, but I think it makes for a more exciting story. In addition, there's a gradually unfolding post-apocalyptic story where you find out the Calamity (apocalypse catalyst) was intended as a genocide of the Uras, a tribe of people your people didn't like, and that your narrator, Rucks, helped cause the Calamity.

You as the player must make two moral decisions at the end: the first is whether or not you save the Uran who betrayed you, the second is whether to restore the world to how it was (before the Calamity, where your life was kinda crappy), or do you try to make a better civilization with the friends you have?

I'm a gullible person and I was taken into narrator Rucks's story. I wanted to help him undo his mistake, when undoing the Calamity probably just took everyone back to their pre-Calamity states of generational hate. I thought about what my character would do when confronted with his betrayer and I thought that he wouldn't save him, especially if he has to leave behind his weapon in order to carry his body. I ended up abetting genocide without trying to be the "bad guy." Granted, at first, the game doesn't let you choose whether or not to kill the Urans--they will keep attacking you no matter what.

Over at Line Hollis's blog, she's been discussing if it's possible for a video game to be a tragedy--for you to choose the wrong ending without trying to be a "bad guy." And I think Bastion does a pretty good job. I feel like a complete jerk for undoing the Calamity. And even if you do choose to save betrayer-dude and stay where you are, you're still in a post-apocalyptic land where it looks like you're going to have a hard life. But at least you'll be atoning somewhat for the hatred of your people.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Extra Credits" makes me feel like I'm sitting in class instead of having a discussion with other adults

There's a game commentary cast/video thing called Extra Credits that some of my friends like. I watched a few episodes, and while I completely agree with most of the ideas, for some reason it annoys me. It's not aimed at people who are already caught up in video game philosophy, but for people who might not read the Brainy Gamer. If you've read a few books on gaming or have read any of the "brainy gaming" blogs, it's a given that we're tired of games that re-hash the same old ground only with prettier graphics than before (you know the type--you're usually a white male saving some helpless thing with a big sword or something).

I take it for granted that the people I discuss games with agree on a few things, like that women are often oversexed in games and it would be good to have more diversity in race, age, personality and gender in games, and that well-developed characters are superior to ones that are completely predictable and caricatured. We all know that games could use better writing and that it's an emerging art form, many facebook games are practically unethical in their hacking of human reward psychology, etc. It's hard for me to believe that anyone would disagree with these notions or even not think about them.

Still, the existence of a show like Extra Credits shows me that there is a large audience of gamers who doesn't automatically think of these issues and probably doesn't have a background in literary criticism, and don't mind being lectured  about why diversity and character development in games is important (I prefer a discussion format). I'm glad that there is a sort of middleground for them, appropriately pitched through Penny Arcade. I think that with the proper education, most gamers will agree that there is a great potential for games to be more awesome in the ways Extra Credits describes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Top Five Cutest Console Games

One of the things I value in a game is cuteness. Looking lifelike is great, but I want a game with its own style and I prefer that style to have some cute things in it.

Kirby's Epic Yarn

Sure, you might feel like a 5-year-old playing this game, thanks to a cheesy narrator, but the fabric textures and whimsical creatures put this in my top five cutest games. Even the sound effects are cute.

Little Big Planet 1 & 2
Not only is your character basically a knit stuffed animal, but you can make him have expressions and dress him (or her, I guess?) up in more cute clothes. Personally I think there should be more games where you can dress up and then do awesome platforming, or shooting or whatever. 

A boy with a magic notebook conjures up anything he can write down. The cartoony style is consistent throughout the game, and even scary things like witches, dragons, and the devil take on an aura of cuteness. It makes sense that they'd be somewhat helpless, given that you can throw away things you make at any time.

Katamari Damacy franchise
 You know this game... go around rolling small things up into your Katamari (or "clump") so you can roll up even bigger things, even the moon, even the universe! Part of the charm is that every object has a name, and your prince avatar has a bunch of cousins you can trade places with.

Taiko Drummaster
This rhythm game is adorable. I picked up the DS version in Japan and my only regret is not also buying the Wii version (which has multiplayer and mini-games). How did they make a taiko drum so cute? The Japanese voice clips sound like a little drum just dying to play, but somehow it just sounds cheesy in English. 

I don't think Animal Crossing and Nintendogs are all that cute. Certain Pokemon are very cute, but inevitably grow into something ugly (Scraggy, for example, is immensly cute, and the grows into some punk with a mohawk). Other cute games I considered (thanks, Casual Girl Gamer): Costume QuestGlitchGameDevStory, all the Grow gamesLevelUpLittle WheelHome Sheep Home, and Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure, and World of Goo. Mechinarium is definitely artistic, and I think it has some cute points too. I hear that 3d Dot Game Heroes, Cut the Rope, and Obaku are pretty cute, but I haven't played them yet. What game do you think is the cutest?