Indie POWER MAGazINe March 2015 - IsS ue #3
Review 路 1
Editor’s Note Welcome back to Indie Power Magazine! This month we have some pretty exciting games to show, and a variety of topics that I’ve put together over the last month. Indie Power Magazine had been absent for too long, and it was crucial we bring it back as indie(Function); moves forward. A lot has happened inside indie(Function); since the last issue; we launched a brand new website, started back up our tutorial series, have had some amazing interviews on indie(Radio);, and have a couple of projects in the works that we’ll be unveiling later this year. We appreciate all the work that went into this issue from the indie community, with Myriame PIlgrim and Izzy Gramp contributing fantastic pictures for our articles, and a handful of the Train Jam entrants sending in their games for the spread we put together. This issue brought the magazine one step closer to my original vision, a community oriented magazine that showcases the amazing things that happen in the world of independent game development. We hope you enjoy this issue of Indie Power Magazine, and spread the world about it. The next issue will be coming out in May, so keep it on your radar!
2 · Editor’s Note
TABLE OF CONTENTS News 4 March Madness
Articles 6 Train Jam 2015 10 Adam Saltsman Interview 13 Developing Games Remotely
Reviews 20 26 32 34
Race The Sun Oblitus Coin Crypt Push
ABOUT INDIE POWER MAG First and foremost: if you aren’t already, we highly recommend enabling two page mode for your PDF reader, with cover mode on. This magazine was designed to be viewed as if it were an actual printed magazine. Adobe Reader, our recommendation, is easy to set up: 1. Enable View->Page Display->Two Page View 2. Also enable View->Page Display->Show Cover Page During Two-Up We’re only covering the way to do so in the most common PDF reader, however, if you prefer another PDF reader, Google search should be able to help you find out if the reader has two page capabilities. Where did you guys go? The magazine had been a solo effort up until the last issue before this one, with Brittany joining the team to write a couple articles. Bret went off to college, and was in for a surprise when there was absolutely no free time outside of school. Thus, the magazine came to a hault and never produced another issue until now, since Bret’s out of school. How was it making this issue? This issue was a pleasure. It’s always a lot of work to put together a magazine, and I somehow always end up working into release day no matter how much time I give myself beforehand. The last few days were a rush to get in some final assets for the Train Jam article, which was one of the most fun pieces to put together yet. What’s the future of the magazine look like? Chances are the next issue won’t hit until May. We’re trying a two month release period for the rest of the year, and depending on how it goes, we’ll shift back to our original monthly release schedule this fall or early next year.
Table of Contents · 3
INDIE GAMES NEWS
With industry events like GDC and PAX East showcasing the latest games and serving as the perfect setting for announcements in the world of games, the last few weeks have been a blur for many game developers. The development environment is changing rapidly, and we’ve tried our best to wrap up some of the biggest announcements from the last month here for you.
M A R C H GDC/PAX Craziness Planning a game event? Better hope it doesn’t overlap another! This year GDC and PAX East were the same week, with GDC wrapping up on Friday and PAX East beginning the same day. Developers crazy enough to attend both tweeted about the excitements and insane tiredness felt throughout the long seven day marathon that was GDC/PAX. Even those not at either this year got a great taste of what was going on at the events. The excitement, the joy, and the wonders were captured and shared through the rise of services like Vine and the ever expanding use of social media, engaging those around the globe with fascinating games and parties taking place on both coasts of the US.
Picture by Myriame Pilgrim
M A D N E S S
software to make the experience even more immersive than it already is, the battle between the major VR headsets continues to heat up. The HTC Vive is planning on supporting two softwares out of the box, the first being the Steam VR software. Secondly, HTC is developing its own software for its own VR experiences. Content partners HBO, Lion’s Gate, and Google could be featured in this software.
unlike anything that’s been seen before. The developer kit features the headset, two single-handed controllers, and the tracking system. HTC’s Vive will beat Oculus to market, with the headset being released Holiday 2015. Oculus will not be finished until 2016.
The Steam VR software will serve as a storefront for Valve’s future VR games and experiences. Steam VR amps up the experience, allowing for users to have access to their entire room, enabling for 360°, movement free VR that’s
HTC Vive + Steam VR The two giants seized the day before GDC started, March 1st, to announce their collaboration on a new virtual reality experience. With HTC working on a new headset, called the Vive, and Steam releasing new 4 · News
Picture by Myriame Pilgrim
Unity 5, Tutorials, and More The latest iteration of the popular game engine brings bundles of new features, reinvented pricing schemes, enhancements, and inspiration for anyone wanting to get into game development. Official tutorials for the new version are already available for those interested in upgrading.
Greg, Tyler, Savannah, and Will
Nerds Across America Greg Lobanov was sitting in his apartment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, last summer when he came up with the idea to pedal down the East coast of the United States on his bike, make it across the southern states, and finish in San Francisco. In October, he took the first step, and left with game developer William Stallford, dancer Savannah Carr, and animator Tyler Myers. After making their way through Florida (where they met up with indie(Function);’s Bret Hudson), the four of them had split up, with everyone but Greg heading back to Philly to resume normal life. However, Greg was determined to finish what he had started. In an amazing four and a half months, Greg finished his journey, landing in him San Francisco a week before the craziness of GDC. Greg’s most recent
release, Coin Crypt, which he released while on the road, is reviewed later in this issue.
That’s not all Unity had to announce at GDC: a secondary educational program is also in the works over at Unity. This program aims to help bring Unity and game dev education opportunities to secondary institutions. Special thanks to Myriame Pilgrim (@MllePilgrim)
Unreal 4 Epic Games announced the first day of GDC that Unreal Engine 4 and future updates are now completely free to build games with. Until a game grosses $3,000, developers don’t have to pay Epic a penny, breaking down one of the biggest barriers of indies trying to get started with making games with Unreal Engine. The free edition includes all export platforms as well as the C++ source code. Outer Wilds (Team Outer Wilds) was the recipient of this year’s Seumas McNally Grand Prize. The exploration game also managed to win the Excellence in Design award, through its creative playthrough scheme. Players have 20 minutes to traverse and learn the secrets of a solar system trapped in a time loop. In order to get the full story, players are required to play through multiple runs of the game. The 17th annual Independent Games Festival received just short of 650 entries by the submission deadline in late November, and had a month and a half to select this year’s best games in each category. Narrowing it down to under 40 games, developers patiently waited for the festival in March.
Overland by Finji Studios Picture provided by Adam Saltsman
On March 4th, developers celebrated in San Fransisco as they made their way to the stage. The IGF sent awards home with Metamorphabet (Patrick Smith of Vectorpark), Tetrageddon Games (Nathalie Lawhead), Ephemerid: A Musical Adventure (SuperChop Games), 80 Days (inkle), Close Your (Goodbye World Games - University of Southern California), and This War of Mine (11 bit studios).
To learn more about the IGF, as well as look at the full list of entrants and awards, visit the official website at igf.com
News · 5
52 hours without internet,
chugging along to San Francisco, making games and uniting developers
The second annual Train Jam, a game jam taking place on the California Zephyr, left Chicago on February 26th and landed developers in San Francisco on the 28th, just in time for GDC. Organizer and founder Adriel Wallick was joined this year by John Lindvay, who brought on Train Jam’s new Student Ambassador program to help students from around the world attend the event.
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Solar Runner Brenden Gibbons and Kevin Bradshaw The first game in this spread is Solar Runner, a sound only endless runner. The aim is to reach the star, with high pitches showing you’re on the correct path and low pitches indicating you’re heading towards a nasty death.
Adriel is Late Brenden Gibbons and Kevin Bradshaw Brenden and Kevin thought Adriel had missed the train, so they based their game around that theme after finding out she didn’t miss the train. A simple jam game with a lot of lovely animation polish!
Train Braining Alan Hazelden Train Braining is one of those games that seems simple, but quickly turns out to be extremely difficult. Create tracks for a train that can hold two passengers and get them to their destination without overlapping tracks.
Bottom Line Thomas Hobbes Edition Ilya Zarembsky An innovative game about moving around as a red ball connected to a line. “Figure it out yourself!”
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Snow Thy Enemy Johan Spielmann, George Abitbol, and William Dyce Inspired by the snowstorm in Chicago when Train Jam departed, Snow Thy Enemy is a simple physics based local multiplayer deathmatch in which players try to crush each other’s snowballs.
The Little Engine That Killed EVERY DAMN THING IN ITS WAY! John Kane A super fast game where you pilot a train through small rooms, crashing through enemies and keys to make your way through the world.
It’s all good Jakub Koziol A game about frustration. After spending 24 hours of the jam without an idea, Jakub got frustrated and wanted to share that frustration with others, by making sure every failure in the game feels like the player’s fault.
Gaze Juan Rubio An experimental VR game that uses gazed based controls. Look where you want to move, shoot, and slide over boosts to speed through the game. No gamepads required.
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Train Theremin Robin Baumgarten and Maurizio Scuiar An original game created with an Arduino, some sensors, a speaker, and a bottle of water. Players wave their hand above the device and move their hands up and down according to audible and visual responses from the device.
NO LINK - HARDWARE GAME
Everybody Wins Andrew Shouldice, Sos Sosowski A 3D mochi sphincter sorting game, where everyone wins! Rotate blocks and collect mochi. The game ends when one player gets to 10 points.
To view the full list of games, visit trainjam.com/games Keep up with founder Adriel Wallick - @MsMinotaur / msminotaur.com Special Thanks to Izzy Gramp (@Shrubbette / shrubber.com.au) for scenery images
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M A D A
T L SA
N A SM
ie n ind A . r he . Fat i j n i l. F Flixe
s s bu y a w l
We got to steal Adam Saltsman for a bit this past October at IndieCade for an interview. Bret Hudson: You did a talk regarding Flixel earlier today, so obviously the community is still large and growing. Where have you felt the engine has been going lately? Adam Saltsman: I don’t know if I have, honestly- the idea with Flixel was a thing that I built for myself and then I wanted to give it to others so they could do something with it. It’s MIT licensed, obviously, so you can take any part of it and do anything you want with it. Sometimes I get emails like “Are you ever going to update Flixel again, or is it just dead?”. My response to that is: “No, I’m probably not going to do any more major updates, but I don’t know why that automatically means it’s dead. I still use it constantly to make weird projects, and people still use it to ship weird, beautiful, experimental projects. Somebody took it and put it on Haxe. [Flixel] is going off and having its own life. I’m so happy that it’s useful to other people. It’s funny because Haxe is built on the stuff that helped me learn flash in the first place. It was an open source ActionScript 2 compiler that was way better than Adobe’s official compiler. It was great because you could make games by just writing text files of code. It’d compile things instantly, had great performance, and everybody was switching over. That’s what turned into Haxeand is why I have such a soft spot in my heart for it. Bret Hudson: Have you seen flixel-gdx, the android port of Flixel? Adam Saltsman: There’s a bunch of platform-specific ports; I’m not familiar with all of them. I know there was an XNA port of it, even a Unity port, oddly enough... maybe not the right application of Flixel. There are a bunch of versions of it now, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for. Nobody’s doing what I think should be done with it, though, so maybe someday I’ll make another set of tools that are fun to make games with. 10 · Interview
Bret Hudson: What games are you working on as of late? Adam Saltsman: We just finished doing the vast majority of the work on a 9-12 month educational puzzle game contract that is “under the hood” about binary math, order of operations, etc. It’s especially helpful to learn sequencing and that sort of stuff for computer programming- specifically with regards to a college-level application. We’re hoping people can play and enjoy the game, but also be internalizing the idea of order of operations. Bret Hudson: When are you expecting for that game to be released? Adam Saltsman: Around a month from now, I believe. We’re in the last stages of QA on that project. We’ve also worked for a year internally on “Overland”, which has had no public release dates yet, but is coming along very well. We’re also working on some other educational work which we can’t talk about yet- and finally are helping to distribute some independent games, such as Night in the Woods, Panoramical, Eliss Infinity (Android). Bret Hudson: When you say ‘we’, you’re talking about [Finji Games]? Adam Saltsman: Yeah. Technically, Finji is myself and my wife Rebekah. We’ve been working together for around 10-11 years and are still working together on that. We have three full-time collaborators outside the company, and a handful of part-time collaborates. We’re growing at a comfortable pace. Bret Hudson: You’ve mentioned not having a physical office space; you talked a bit about how that was important. When do you think you’ll end up getting a physical space to work in? Adam Saltsman: Yeah, that’s an important question. A physical space costs essentially the same as bringing on another part-
time person, so the question becomes do we bring on another person into our team or purchase this creative space which will also make the games we make better but in more indirect ways? An office has only recently become a realistic option, so we haven’t decided yet. Bret Hudson: What would be the big pros/cons of having an office space for your team? Adam Saltsman: For us, the big con is, for lots of financially sustainable reasons, we live on the outskirts of Austin. The people we collaborate with in Austin live on the other side- and that means if we got an office we’d both be commuting a lot. All that is significant overhead cost. We’re thinking about it, though. Bret Hudson: Finji is working with Night in the Woods. What exactly is your role? Adam Saltsman: There’s a mix. In the aforementioned games (Eliss, Night in the Woods, etc). We’ve even been helping Polytron out with some stuff lately. Our responsibilities are essentially “office management for people who don’t have offices”. If you’re selling your game on about 13 different platforms, you have to calculate all of these different payouts to different contracts- so bookkeeping, planning, etc is all stuff we do. We [at Finji] had been doing it for years, so it seemed like a good choice. It’s really helpful for people running a very small ship, such as a team of two.
Finji is the child of two of Adam’s previous indie game development companies, Last Chance Media, and the iTunes-focused Semi Secret Software, all of which have been run by Adam and his wife Rebecca. With Finji, the pair is working not only on new titles, but giving a helping hand to other developers by providing them with a partnership, allowing them to publish their titles under Finji. Finji is currently working on Overland, which debuted its first gameplay video at PAX East 2015.
Bret Hudson: If there’s a developer that wants to work with Finji, what would you tell to them? Adam Saltsman: Just send us an email! We’re looking to add another game or two in the next year or two. We don’t have any guidelines per se, but we won’t take on projects we aren’t excited about- because we don’t feel we could do them justice. It’s best for everybody if we’re excited about the project. There Interview · 11
Night In The Woods, by Infinite Fall (Alec Holowka and Scott Benson), is one of the titles partnered with Finji, and is a perfect example of the level of excellence Finji aims to pursue.
are lots of other options available, though. Bret Hudson: Who’s your favorite archer? Adam Saltsman: #TeamGreenArcher all the way. I was a redhead as a kid, so I have to be #TeamGreenArcher. Bret Hudson: Any little tidbits you want to add? Adam Saltsman: Not really, but thanks for having me on the show. I feel really good about video games lately. It’s interesting to explore projects (such as in survival) and then have that type of game become popular. I’m glad that’s happened. Bret Hudson: It’s been a pleasure having you, Adam. //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Since the interview, Adam has released the educational software mentioned in the interview under the name Phoenix Protocol. At GDC, Finji showed the first gameplay of their new game Overland. Adam and his wife are still working hard in Texas. Adam’s site: www.adamatomic.com Phoenix Protocol: www.finji.co/phoenix Overland: www.overland-game.com
The game, which seems to be looking at a 2016 release, takes place in the hometown of Mae, who recently dropped out of college and returned home to find the town itself is the same, but everything within it is changing. By exploring and interacting with the variety of places and people around the town Possum Springs, players will experience the challenges of growing up and moving on through Mae’s eyes. We definitely recommend reserving a spot on your “must buy” list for this title.
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DEVELOPING GAMES REMOTELY
Challenges, syndromes, humble practices,
and how to get back on track
Either because it’s a choice you have decided to pursue, or it’s the only viable option for your team, remote development is a way of development that offers both many rewards and a handful of headaches. I’m here to share my experience adopting the practice. What I’ve learned so far in the midst of its challenges is how to fight its downfalls and got back on track, as it is the only way we can
Guest article by
The best way to read this piece is to not follow my examples step by step, but to compare it to your team’s current flow and make adaptions in order to better the team’s flow. Every team has unique characteristics, and it’s important to take those into consideration.
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OUR APPROACH TO REMOTE DEVELOPMENT Our team consists of two other members: our producer, Jirakorn Tisdeeruk, and Kumpol Saeeow, the lead artist. I’m the team’s tech lead. However, as with many creative projects, it’s not just the 3 of us that work together. We also have some collaborators (or you could say we “outsource” work, but I personally don’t like the word much) to help us on sound effects and music, stage and UI stuff, as well as miscellaneous things like video editing. We communicate mainly via email. As of this writing, our statistics show that we’ve sent 2,860 emails back and forth within the team since October 2012. We also utilize Trello, Google Docs, and Skype to communicate and organize work between our physical meetings every 2 months. For our team, email and Trello are the perfect combo; we can easily have multiple, interconnected conversations over email and then organize it all into a whole with Trello. While I did mention other services earlier, I mainly use them for myself, to keep track of things and act as a temporary buffer to the team’s channel. With this being said, choosing the right tool that matches with the team’s characteristics is vital. If each member of your team is always online, you may benefit from using a Facebook group chat, or tweeting back and forth on Twitter (if you take an open approach on development), or could even look into a private social network like Yammer. Find the soul of your team and use the right tools to reflect and leverage it. Through my own experience, a Facebook group would serve more harm than good for my team. Facebook is full of distractions and other items that can easily pull a team member away from the chat, indulging them with the endless entertainment available on the web showcased on their news feed. I decided that we’re better stay off that particular channel, although I did create a group at one point with an intention to increase an interaction rate within the team, but with strong belief and consideration, the team and I stay away from it. All in all, choose what’s right for you! We’re all spread out far apart in the Bangkok area. Below is my working desk at home.
Below is our lead artist’s working desk.
Our producer is mainly active on his mobile. He’s always fast with responding to emails to resolve questions, concerns, or issues that pop up during the development cycle. We’re not always checking for new emails, but we’ve developed a rhythm of periodically checking, and replying immediately an email lands in our inbox. Typically we send an email to the entire team (through a Google group we’ve up) when we’ve finished our tasks. The Google group helps tremendously, as it’s one email handle to remember that auto-sends to the entire team. While we were first adopting this approach, I often captured gameplay of new features added to the game and uploaded it to YouTube. This allowed me to send it to the rest of the team so they could see it in action. This benefits the team at a better reaction rate with obvious issues and things that need to be improved immediately. I use an app called Reflector which streams video from my mobile device to my computer over WiFi. It’s extremely convenient and much easier than uploading a new build to TestFlight. The videos are short and simple, highlighting exactly what I want, and take less time to upload and distribute than an entire build. However, for major milestones, it’s always good to gradually shift over to uploading fresh builds so all members can test the game. We also ran some small play tests during these times before we started towards our next milestone.
CHALLENGES AND SYNDROMES Isolation When a member isn’t frequently online, communicating with the team, he or she could be feel isolated from the team. Same goes to people joining the team; it’s important to make sure everyone on the team feels they belong so their experience working on the game is a good one. 14 · Article
Miscommunication An especially dangerous one in remote development. Communicating via text only allows people to express so much of their thoughts, and a lot of what they’re saying can be lost or misread. It’s an infuriating problem, too, because it can go on for a long time without being caught, possibly after reaching a milestone and realizing two team members were working in opposite directions. Frequently check in with each other and make sure your vision for the game is aligned, and be wary of the possibility of misinterpreting someone’s message. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure!
Depression In indie game development, we’re on our own, chugging our way towards our goal. It often takes longer to finish the product than everyone hoped, and working on something for so long without seeing the end in sight is an easy way to get put in a depressed state. Remote development only encourages this, by taking out that crucial human interaction and leaving us to work apart. When this happens, it’s hard to get back up when working remotely. The best way to get back up is to look at how far you’ve come, remind yourself of why you’re doing this, and to take a little time away from the project to give you a fresh take when you’re ready to work again. Sometimes doing something you’ve been dreading helps too, as the feeling of success of a large/hard task can wash away any bad feelings.
Fog of War As indie developers working on this without hourly pay, you never quite know what your teammates are doing at any point in time. Are they putting in twice as much work as me? Do I need to catch up? Are they slacking and only putting in an hour a day? Doubt can set in, that you’re not keeping up or that they’re falling behind. Nonetheless, as game developers we rely on each other, so just keep on doing your tasks and hope that your teammates are pulling their weight. If not, maybe they’re experiencing one of the problems listed here, and need some help overcoming the issue.
The Spinning Down Moment Too much time spent on a project can consume your life, and as the project goes on, development might seem to take longer, and bring you to what I call the spinning down moment. It can happen from burning your out, the project taking the wrong turn, disagreements between the team, and doubting your own chance of success. When I hit this, my productivity dropped, and I often pursued alternate activities to give me energy and take me back up to where I was. For me, it was never enough to bring me back, until a critical event forced and triggered my mind to get back to development.
HUMBLE PRACTICES & HOW TO GET BACK ON TRACK Many times while working on projects, the team will come to a point in development where members or the team as a whole will experience the syndromes above. You can try your best to prevent and fix it when it occurs. I usually forward the team interesting articles that are related to or might affect the game we’re currently making either, whether it’s in terms of business, technical, design, or most importantly case studies. By forwarding articles to the team, we generate discussion which in turn brings attention to the central communication channel we’re focusing on. If your teammate actively uses Twitter or any social channel that you’re also a member of, use it. It’s hardly any effort to mention them and include the article link. Letting the discussion flow on that channel is also a good idea, especially if you’re on Twitter, as it not only is a quick way to get information between team members, but can also spread like wildfire among the large amount of indie developers on the platform. Anyone who sees it can generate interest in your project, share more interesting content, or even become a new friend. Articles shouldn’t be the only thing shared between the team. Webinars, game resources, events, conferences, real world gatherings, and anything that could inspire each other or be of interest to the team should be shared. Connecting with other developers and people is just as important as keeping in touch with each other. You could even show your game at one of the events you find! It’s crucial to make sure you joke around sometimes, even if it doesn’t necessary relates directly to work. Not only can it bring up their spirits, it can also show that you’re listening to your team mates, and reviewing their work thoroughly. Sharing a laugh has never torn people apart, but only brought them closer. I faced a hard month during development of our current game. Low productivity on the game, low engagement, and minimal involvement with the team added up to an unsatisfying experience and my own spinning down moment. It was 4 or 5 months into development, and I pursued alternatives to try to refresh myself. The entirety of July was gone with no major features implemented. During my time away, I tried my best to do productive tasks and things that would energize me. That month, I performed in a band for a wedding, organized an indie game developers meet-up, went out a lot to socialize with others, and learned new tools and experimented with new game ideas. When the Tokyo Game Show came around, I had to force myself back into development mode. Our team had signed up to exhibit our game there. With my rejuvenated energy and motivation, I was able to continue once again. To keep myself from slipping, however, I had to change my old behaviors.
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First off, I decided to start working in coffee shops and co-working spaces. For the first span of development, I mostly kept to myself at home, which is an easy way to get bored during development. Changing your surroundings and being in a social environment where you can knock ideas back and forth with others provides that extra little push that keeps me going. In these public spaces, you can exchange ideas, get people to test the game, and even help you review your code/algorithms (more for the co-working spaces).
The red line is for development with my team. The middle part is really low, which is the hard part I mentioned earlier. After I tried to turn things around, I got back on track and continued moving forward. I’ve changed the way I manage my time, and have gotten good enough at it to allow me to spend time on events like Ludum Dare. You can see in the graph where Ludum Dare takes place, as the activity on my game lowers for 3-4 days during the event.
Wrapping Up Remote development doesn’t have to bite you at all (or at least not much) if you’re careful and stay aware of what’s coming down the road. It’s up to us to react when things go wrong, and to continue to get better. We can all learn from both our own and other’s mistakes.
I also adopted the practice of stand-up coding to help me wake up. It works pretty well for helping you wake up, and after a while, it becomes pretty normal. I remember one time I ended up standing up for 5 hours straight, coding in front of my iMac! I started a project called Project Tracking 2013 to track hours invested in each various project I have in my hands. 16 · Article
Most importantly, the solutions to issues depend on the nature of the team. Find the soul of the team, and choose the right tools and approaches that fit with your team. Not all solutions will work for everyone. Remember that energy flows within the team. Make it sustainable, and maintain it as long as possible. At least, keep on rolling and enjoy remote development! ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Wasin Thonkaew is an indie developer from Bangkok, Thailand. You can reach him on Twitter (@haxpor). The devlog for his current team project can be found at http://zombie-hero.com/devlog
TEAM OVERREACT Broadcast #56 February 28th
DOMINIK JOHANN Broadcast #57 March 14th
Listen in at
indieFunction.com/radio LIVE EVERY OTHER SATURDAY AT NOON (CST)
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Race The Sun
18 路 Reviews
REVIEWS New Scoring System Our new scoring system is super easy to follow: there isn’t one! Scoring games isn’t fun, is the butt of many jokes, and in the games industry the scale is fairly skewed. A rating of 6.5 (a bit over the halfway mark) is a “bad game” to most people, even though in reality a 6.5 should be a mark and a half over the average. Each reviewer has their own way of deciding how to rate games, and in the end, the number really doesn’t give a concrete expression of the game’s value, fun, or the experience that comes out of it. Instead, we’re taking the stress off and focusing primarily on letting you know if a game is worth your dollars through the review itself. Most of the games we review are games we recommend anyway (they wouldn’t be in the magazine if they weren’t awesome).
Reviews · 19
20 路 Review
Windows - Mac - Linux PS3 - Vita - PS4
Action / Racing
$9.99 / €8.99 / £6.99
August 19th, 2013 October 21st, 2014 (PSN) Review · 21
In the end, darkness consumes all. Thankfully for you, you have a high speed hovercraft that can travel faster the sun can set, keeping the night at bay. Or should we start off talking about how a game where you ride off into the sunset sounds a bit too romantic for our taste? How you approach the game doesn’t matter, because you won’t be leaving it anytime soon. Race The Sun puts you in command of a solar powered ship, travelling just a bit slower than the world beneath it. Players skillful enough to make it through a round or two their first play without crashing will discover the sun is constantly setting, until you grab a speed boost propelling you so fast you see the sun return to its spot in the high sky. Sunlight is crucial, and staying in the shade or allowing the sun to set causes your ship to 22 · Review
power down and stop working. The game’s minimal design makes you feel weightless as you rush through the gray world, and harshly brings you back to earth when you’ve crashed into one of the hundreds of both static and moving obstacles throughout the rounds. Propelled forward, players have the simple choice to shift their ship left, shift it right, or to stay straight and continue onwards. Collecting five blue triangles increases a score multiplier, with score relative to the distance you’ve travelled. The multiplier is broken as soon as you bump into something. As the game advances, and players complete the variety of challenges presented to them, the player’s ship levels up and is able to collect new powerups. Every day brings a new challenge to
players around the world, through the new seed that is generated every 24 hours. Maps are generated off of this seed, and even though the seed stays the same the entire day, two playthroughs will rarely be the same. The world expands infinitely in both directions, and has short breaks between rounds in which players can try to pick extra triangles and a powerup dropped from a bird above. Each round brings the intensity up a bit, introducing windmills, jumping boxes, collapsing towers, and even exploding comets plummeting from the sky, hoping to make your ship as extinct as the dinosaurs. Static objects get larger each stage and require the player to make smooth movements through or around them in order to make it past, while moving objects require the player to have quick reactions and predict
where everything will be while they make their way through. The use of shadows from objects always induces fear, as that object doubles up as an obstacle and a shade from the sun’s lovely rays. As the sun sets, these shadows get bigger, making this brilliant mechanic give the game an extra edge. Race The Sun’s soundtrack never gets old. While flying through the first few rounds, the music is but background music, until the sun starts to set. Once this happens, the music drastically shifts to a dramatic “time is of essense” track, telling you that you need to find a speed boost if you want to keep on going. Once you make it to stage four, the music also shifts to a more serious tune, reflecting the sudden difficulty spike. All sounds from the game are pleasurable, from the “achivement
get” satisfaction of the triangle pickups to the sharp swoosh as you nearly take out your wing on an obstacle. The only feeling of disappointment from Race The Sun experienced is from head on collisions, or from watching the sun escape your sight. Losing is inevitable no matter how much of a master you become in Race The Sun, however, the game gives players the option to send a friend that owns the game a chance to continue from where they died, which can be used up to three times, to create a four player collaborative score to show off on the online leaderboards. If somehow you get sick of the main game (or complete it) there’s still tons more content to ingest. The original game features Apocalypse mode, an
insane challenge mode designed to leave you with your heart pounding and clothes sweaty. The red skyline and amount of meteors showering down is enough to tell anyone that they’re getting into a bad situation. A single hesitation in this mode is fatal. Apocalypse mode has its own leaderboard, which is something to brag about if you manage to place on it. The PlayStation Network release of Race The Sun once again brought Flippfly’s ingenuity to light. Flippfly decided to explore the opposite side of the spectrum and create a slower mode they named Labyrinth. Instead of using quick reaction times to dodge obstacles shown only a second prior to colliding with your ship, Labyrinth requires players to look ahead and plan their route through the maze-like levels. Review · 23
Labyrinth is not only slower, but has a camera angle that shows more of the world at a time, which is hardly enough for players to figure out which passageways are ready to end their adventure. Labyrinth consists of many twisting hallways, and even small puzzles to make you all the more anxious as you float through the rounds. Flipping a switch might require you to trace the wire with your eyes all the way to the door, as it won’t open until you’re there. Even as a slow, “easy” mode, it’s equally as challenging as Apocalypse, if not more in its own unique way. Still not entertained? Take your chances trying to run through the more colorful worlds created by the community. Race The Sun includes an advanced world editing system, a custom-coded level editor named the Simplex World Creator. Inside the editor, players can create custom objects with unique actions. With the ability to change the layout of the world, the colors the sky goes through as the sun sets, speed and
24 · Review
timing variables, and many more options that will leave you drooling, the editor a powerful tool to keep the game fresh and interesting. Player created worlds can be accessed via the menu, or through randomly generated portals found through the main game. These portals are awesome, giving you the chance to go to an extra world and rack up more points, or be put in a hell beyond your wildest dreams, ruining your perfect run. While some player levels are all for looks, others topple Apocaylpse mode in difficulty. The Simplex World Creator allows players to fulfill their “What if?” questions, by creating scenarios even Flippfly had never thought of. There are levels with a million moving parts, levels with ramps everywhere making the majority of the level consist of air time, and bizarre worlds that look as if they could be their own game. Every day is a new day in Race The Sun. Players worldwide accumulating points to top the leaderboards. There’s no reason to ever get sick of
the game, and it even makes for a fun party game. Don’t want to take turns on a computer? The game’s available on PlayStation platforms, and the PC version has a service called Brass Monkey implemented. Brass Monkey is a mobile app that communicates with your computer via bluetooth, with custom controls for each game using the service. In the end, Race The Sun is not only a game, but a collection of game modes that far exceed what any player could want from the game. Since our preview in Issue #0, Flippfly has proven with Race The Sun that they’re not just another indie game studio, but a duo with the creative edge and relentless ambition to polish their title required to make games worth coming back to time and time again.
Review · 25
26 路 Review
DEVELOPER Connor Ullmann
$14.99 / €14.99 / £10.99
February 27th, 2015
ARTWORK BY GABRIEL VERDON - GABRIELVERDON.COM
Review · 27
music lored. As the ing to be exp g eg b orld sends n’t sure was dark, open w e as w th I s, e in am eg g b n voking that Oblitus was a your spine, in Connor Ullman . up ut o s e er m iv co sh ed booting ever going to e journey just yone experienc th er d ev te g ar in st el fe ry e in their and Noel Ber for the first tim since then e d an am , g o a ag up s l begins. over two year t direction rom there, it al F ar . e d o th , ho ct ild je ro ch Noel left the p ame, e game kept exploration g an anged, and th ly ch st ly d fir te re is o le p st us m re co ring new Oblit its release was eliver. Discove in d it th ai es F a o . d g ith y in w o lv b d ch evo and forwar secrets of ea wim stepped d finding the 15, an 20 f. s y el ea ar when Adult S its ar ru in eb e F be a gam l, and late to ea h d ug o ng hi en lis is into pub land of work went ly came out. ense amounts ith m the game final w Im d an t, ps nmen g each enviro ired game dro tin sp in ea scr ul o S k The Dar a world the middle of players off in
28 · Review
e the rapid pac le ab is the player h ug ro to move th is ea ar areas, each an s ha d massive an t un o am g astonishin . rk o tw ar of unique loring, Between exp the player is equipped with a spear, both abbing capable of st being enemies and thrown across at ledges and up nts stationary pla ls perked on wal and ceilings, ngues r monstrous to projecting thei all warrior sm you. The at ls al b it sp and ecting shield, for defl also carries a ng your vi sa tacks and devestating at around s rk lu Danger . th al he us o lead you preci d not all paths an , er rn co y ever s are just oal. Some area g ur yo s d ar n at the tow nothing to gai ith w , le rc ci nt as cruel a gia orld that’s just w a g in ak m , do bring end . Some paths g in d ar w re is as it contains a scroll, which a to r ye la p the ups range player. Power e th r fo up er pow
onal stats to additi from increase abilities. ures a semiThe game feat rld. The generated wo procedurally mains f the world re base layout o ut the ween runs, b the same bet ch area enemies of ea contents and hroughs creating playt shift around, w to familiar and ne that are both are first few runs the player. The throws as the game super exciting ies ions of enem new combinat d rie va e th ross in your way ac u learn yo as ff o ut dies landscape, b f each le behaviors o the predictab regained excitement is enemy. That t to gress and star once you pro the game, ther areas of explore the o new dangers. each holding Oblitus e actual that’s where variation in th ck la d ul ut Unfortunately, b co s, u tie yo ili ab own. While folds. lets players d observe d battle that un an in g in o g re o ef b t wai ey are super e that of bosses, th h like the gam ng uc ki m ea alk into s p S ie to em sy en h too ea st time you w fir uc m he s T . it’ g , in us at intimid inspired Oblit u with great y repeatedly tle, it takes yo h at the enem at b as sl on ss o d b an a in ld n ru n shie what’s going not knowing over dead. Eve e, ll ris fa rp es ey g su t th er ea til un to def inous beast em ies are simple until a mounta d an bearing enem ad egins to let its he d se ur eyes and b eir expo th yo es g re in o ef ck b ta d at by aroun or body. Boss upon your po dlessly rolling in ut m m o o e le fr ly g hi e w ra w o av , sl cr et fe mbat allenge you This makes co provide that ch een w their attacks. et b t y little mistake en nt e filler co e, where ever lik am el ur g fe e d ul th to t co ar d st s, an you watch yo d boss battle you cringe as an re es n u’ ak tio yo m ra e s lo ie nc p o ex em And proved. The en ique rastically fall. im d e th b al ly he te ni efi d ve un g, and each ha are interestin
r. Yes, , it’s game ove dead in Oblitus permadeath. we’re talking reading ings I enjoyed One of the th e was that am g log in the ev d e th in ut abo the ability n’t take away es o d e am g the at any w your spear ro th r o ck ta ck when to at as free to atta st ju re u’ o Y time. ladder as or climbing a g in p m ju re you’ gameplay round. In the g e th n o e ar you a few times, I did use this , ed nc ie er p I ex an the great, other th er p su lt fe it and ladders. d controls for ar o yb ke y nk wo ntrol oard/mouse co While the keyb
Review · 29
30 路 Review
unds is finding the bo ing you from ep ke r accuracy g death. s much bette your impendin le hi w scheme offer a pping r, it does take ures an overla at fe so d al an s us with your spea der Oblit eity that moving on lad g up with a d tin ee m y f. b o , ll to get used to is fu story a quest ng the game warrior off on tle lit ill ur w yo s up vines, somethi ing send e land. vine and hold s that roam th st ea b e th as ay Jumping on a , but to sl gs, which ve up the vine multiple endin s ha e d am ea g make you mo st in size The ith the sheer ress up again, p ds daunting w m soon as you p ju un e u so th yo to ne g vi in cord up the to e world, but ac of continuing th ht can be f ig o e /r ft am le g e ss u pre ents, th em ev hi le ac hi W off. Instead, yo am . Ste ill reward der down the lad an hour and w er d un le hi in w n te move up and ns tio bea ho can have more op t to anyone w en em . ev ff o hi it lets players el ac fe an world, it does e feat. es feel traversing the o d accomplish th s er d d la ng o view, al ng vi itical in our re ke extra While mo cr ta n es ee o b d it ve e’ s, epad While w adventure g better on gam ing the analo still a fantastic us is m t. us ai lit ly b O er p entertainmen skill to pro ouse. des hours of vi m e ro p th f s at o th d ho ea ec e stick inst into this gam here spot The soul put sp providing o m e, at nc ie its er s p re ut the ex ugh ho ro ug th Oblitus captu ro ld th to is perienced ’s wonder at can’t be ex ith th w m ed al on. Each area lifi re p a am flat in a few visuals and . Oblitus falls re e he ar w the stunning lling re se el he T for it by exce undtrack. ut makes up ith b w s, d the amazing so le ea f fil o ar h, rld rt o s to unea uilding. The w so many place telling a story in its world b t, again and t as si p vi a f n o ca ns u one yo is n o us et relics and sig lit el b O sk is ro th ugh the What did th make your way ific rr to ho n, of their own. e ai es ag th ho carved ore time. come from? W journey one m rld so big, o w a ith w n statues? Eve u feel ever make yo t n’ es o d us lit Ob entire world nificant. The g si in r o l al sm only thing plore, and the ex to ’s ur yo is
Steam lable today on Oblitus is avai devlog at and read the Find out more www.oblit.us
Review · 31
Explore the remains of a lost civilization
Price $9.99/€6.99/£9.99 Platforms PC Genre Roguelike Developer Dumb and Fat Games Release Date Oct 28, 2014 Coin Crypt is one of those gems that sounds ridiculous on paper but turns out to be a title you can’t put down. In this roguelike coin battling game, players find chests with coins and use each coin’s unique abilities to fight other Lootmancers to the death in turn based battles on an island full of secrets and more lore than you could ever imagine. Coin Crypt’s battle system is the core of the game, and is brilliantly executed. Making sure it’s easy to pick up and hard to master, players pick three coins from their coin pouch and pick between them to execute a variety of actions. If the player gets lucky enough to pick two or three of the same coin, those coins stack and can be used together, resulting in double the effect. Basic coins deal damage, cast shields, heal health, and steal enemy coins. This hardly begins to cover the range of abilities across the game’s 200 coins, which each add a new element of strategy as you randomly 32 · Review
pick the coins you’ve collected from your pouch. The overworld is a grid based maze, with the map filling itself as the player unveils the land. Enemies wander around, and quickly decide to chase you if you get too close. Evading enemies with base speed is super difficult, so expect many encounters to end with a battle. Chests are littered across the map, and strange totums stand tall beside the trees. Interacting with these totums prompts the player to sacrifice their valuable coins to the god the totum belongs to, rewarding them later in the run by enhancing the loot contained inside a chest. Each chest holds a handful of a few different types of coins, but only lets the player pick Key coins are far and few between, but allow the player to get behind locked areas, giving access to chests with better coins and ladders to the crypts underneath the
island, where anything can happen. The further down players explore, the more dangerous the enemies get, but the more rewarding the loot becomes. Coin Crypt offers shops to the player to purchase items that offer upgrades. However, the currency is the coins you use in battle, meaning obtaining a powerful item might deplete your pouch of most of your coins. If a player runs out of coins, it’s game over. This mechanic also comes in handy in battles, as it is possible to stall until opposing forces run out of coins. On the flip side, the more coins the enemy has when defeated, the more coins you collect from that enemy. Coin Crypt has lots of small choices like these that allows each player to create unique play styles. Skipping all crypts and tombs, the procedurally generated game can be beaten in under an hour. While this sounds like a terrible downside to the game, it actually benefits players. At the end of each playthrough, the game accumulates all coins collected, played, lost, and dropped by the player that run. With this accumulated value, players can spend it on new characters, each more diverse than the last. Characters don’t just have different stats, but entire rules that completely change the dynamic of the entire game. By keeping the game short, players won’t be discouraged to try playing through again with other characters, which is where things get really interesting. The princess, for example, constantly turns her coins into gold dubloons, which have a high value of $50, but offer no effects in battle, making them useless
when randomly put in the player’s hand, forcing them to re-draw their hand, which spends their turn, allowing the enemy to strike. While it makes battles more challenging, the princess does have a fun time in shops, as most items won’t cost more than $200, which is a mere 4 dubloons. Even playing as the base character that has no modifiers can vary in play styles in each run, not just because of the map that changes every playthrough, but because of the mysterious ghosts that occasionally appear. These ghosts allow you to learn from their pasts by offering players one of four game modifiers, unique to each ghost. Most modifiers have a positive and a negative attribute, such as increased damage, but slower turns. They all can be used to a player’s advantage, but create yet another problem to consider. Balancing your actions in Coin Crypts is difficult, but all the more rewarding when executed correctly.
Coin Crypt excels at giving the player the freedom to succeed greatly or fail terribly by offering a random mix of so many different choices. Players have to think fast and be able to play with any hand they get dealt from their bag. Coin Crypt is one of the most original and fun games of 2014, and we mightly suggest you add it to your collection. ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Greg Lobanov is a game developer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can view more of his work at dumbandfat.com. Greg will also be coming on indie(Radio); April 11th, 2015.
The game’s unique art semi-3D style and fake 3D coins (layered 2D images with an outline) are the perfect mix for the game’s fun atmosphere. The clean HUD is easy to read and non-intrusive of the rest of the experience. Enemies in Coin Crypt are of a delightful varience, with each enemy having a different play style. Theives steal coins from you and uses them against you. WItches cast spells that makes you drop coins. Knights land devistating attacks and aren’t affected by attacks less than 4 in strength. Each play style must be analytized and reacted to properly and promptly.
Review by Bret Hudson
Review · 33
Learn how to push the bounds of time and space
Push is an adventure full of discovery. Through each stage, players learn more about the block based world, how items interact, and what the world itself actually is. Let’s take apart this sokoban inspired game and find out what makes it special. Like any sokoban game, the basis of every interaction is moving on a grid and pushing things around. The first few levels introduce players to the logic required to solve puzzles throughout the game. However, Push slowly reveals that this isn’t the only thing going on. Once moving objects are introduced, it becomes apparent that objects only move when you do, creating a unique world where odd things can happen. Push explores this concept very thoroughly, pushing the player to figure out how things work by themselves. 34 · Review
Developer Team Overreact
Not only do all moving objects hurt the player when you collide with them, but if a player moves in the space adjacent to a moving object, and moves into their space, instead of colliding, they both move at the same instant, not ever coming in contact. Simple interactions like this catch the unsuspecting and show the wonder that’s waiting to be explored across the game. Each area in the game introduces new mechanics that gracefully add to the experience. The area that caught my attention the most is the winter levels. These levels have ice patches, which work in bizarre ways when coupled with the rules of the world of Push. Pushing blocks onto ice allows them to move across an area, but like all other blocks in the world, only moves along the grid when the player does. The slippery surfaces breaks levels free of
Release Date March 5
the grid and offers more opportuntiies for players to screw up and fail as they piece together puzzles. A storybook appears as you start each stage, with rhymes and hand drawn images upon the pages, giving a little introduction for each stage. The book is one extra element Team Overreact put into the game to bring you into the imagination of a child, playing with his blocks. While Push isn’t the most technically advanced game out there, it pushes level design to the max. Players learn their way around the game themselves, and are encouraged to experiment to find out how the world works. Try your hand at Push and watch yourself see the game differently after each stage. Review by Bret Hudson
CLOSING We hope you enjoyed the latest issue of Indie Power Magazine. Visit indiepowermag.com for more issues. The next issue of Indie Power Mag will be out in the middle of May. Check in frequently for the new issue!
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36 路 Review