SF: The great indies are the product of a violent meritocracy. Inferior games simply will not survive – it takes solid execution of a unique or interesting idea to thrive. There is no marketing budget, the game speaks for itself. We love indie games. Thankfully, the last decade was a magical time for indies. New platforms have expanded distribution while lowering the cost of development. A fledgling developer has an arsenal of options: they their game to new platforms like mobile or social, leverage evolving platforms like the web, make use of digital distribution methods like Steam or even explore more traditional venues like consoles via XBLA or PSN. This all means that we’ll have far more opportunities to check out new theories in game design and other intriguing departures from the mainstream. Below are a few games we’ve been keeping an eye on as potentially interesting.
SF: CASTLE STORY
Why I’m Excited: I love Minecraft – it’s an amazingly flexible environment with incredible depth. I often think about what could be built on top of Minecraft. I think you could create an incredible MMO layer on top of it. Castle Story strikes me as the game I would design if I were to imbue Minecraft with the essence of an RTS. I’m super intrigued by the interaction between the floating islands and the process of building up the fortresses. The art looks good and the play has the potential for the type of sophistication I adore.
The Deets: Being developed by Pocketwatch Games, aka Andy Schatz. The platforms and release dates are TBD, but I expect we’re pretty close.
Why I’m Excited: You’ve probably heard of this game, it won the IGF and they had a booth at PAX. But if you haven’t, you really should. It’s basically Pac-Man meets Hitman, as Andy puts it. It’s a co-op stealth game without that offensive 3D realism, but with a cool, caper feel. And it’s got that nice chunky pixel look that’s all hot and Minecrafty. I need this game. Plus Andy is just about the nicest guy in the game industry.
The Deets: Being developed by Toasty Games. Don’t know much about the team. Don’t know development tool. Don’t have an ETA. I’ll update if I learn more. No price released.
Why I’m Excited: Honestly? It just looks really cool. Watching it, I can feel my mind shifting a bit to accommodate the idea of having parallel universes that operate under different rules but are nonetheless intertwined. It’s a bit reminiscent of Portal, but it moves things in a different direction. Definitely a buy. Really like the art as well. I feel like a few screenshots could be used to make an interesting series of prints.
The Deets: Being developed by Trapdoor out of Montreal. They’re a twenty-something studio headed by Ken Schachter, that’s also turning around and publishing another awesome indie game I must have, Fez. Warp is being published by EA Partners, and is scheduled for release on March 7, 2012 on XBLA in Microsoft’s House Party spring promotion. PSN and PC versions will follow. No price released.
Why I’m Excited: I signed and managed the publishing deal for Warp while I was at EA. But the reason I signed it is that it’s a very cool, weird, science fiction game that mashes the super cute with the ultra-violent. It also features a series of game mechanics, such as the ability to warp forward a few feet, that I had never seen before, and I’ve seen a lot. Plus, Ken is a connoisseur of the all best things in life.
The Deets: Looks like the studio is called Pentadact, though that seems more like the dude than a formal company. Team itself looks like it’s about 3 people. Don’t know if they used an engine. ETA is March 2012. Price point unknown, though $9.99 seems strong.
Why I’m Excited: Really like dynamic puzzle solving. This is the type of game the just reeks replay value. I can see myself tooling around with light switches for hours to try and devise inane means of dispatching my enemies. It just looks like a blast. I have a real affection for the 2D 16bit feel to it. Games that look like Gunpoint bring back a lot of fond memories.
JM: GO HOME DINOSAURS
The Deets: Being developed by Fire Hose Games. They’re a twenty-something studio out of Boston headed by Eitan Glinert, responsible for the clever puzzle-brawler Slam Bolt Scrappers. Go Home Dinosaurs is TBD for platforms, release date, and price.
Why I’m Excited: We mammals get to tower defense the crap out of those stupid dinosaurs. We can’t forget that only one animal kingdom can rule this planet, and we can’t be swayed by all that Dinosaur Train propaganda. The Conductor wouldn’t blink his googly eyes twice at the prospect of sticking his toe claw through your skull. Also, I’ve played Go Home Dinosaurs, and it’s a lot of fun. Well-balanced, brings new gameplay to the genre though combination weapons, and genuinely funny. Plus Eitan can charm his way out of a Turkish prison.
SF: I’ve always been deeply suspicious of dinosaurs. Also horses. Something about hooves rub me the wrong way.
The Deets: This piece of simulation savagery is put together by Mattew Davis and Justin Ma. Don’t know if they used an engine. ETA is mid-2012. Price point unknown.
Why I’m Excited: FTL is definitely FTW. I’ve been tracking this game for the last few months and I’m getting pretty excited to take it for a spin. Real time puzzle solving; it just seems a bit too sweet not to try out. I’m impressed by the depth of the problems and the tension the game presents. It sort of reminds me of Firefly — just trying to keep the ship flying on duct tape and love. It also appears to present a pretty novel play style, which I’m a total sucker for.
JM: FTL reminds me of BSG.
SF: So say we all.
JM: TRIPLE TOWN MOBILE
The Deets: Spry Fox, which also makes Steambird: Survival, Panda Poet, and Realm of the Mad God, is bringing their original puzzle facebook game Triple Town to iOS. Headed by David Edery, the company is just a couple of guys and a network of partner developers. The game released today on iOS, and is free to play. Click here to get it.
Why I’m Excited: Triple Town is elemental genius, in that it effortlessly blends puzzle mechanics with city building. It’s a bit like how Puzzle Quest took connect three and ye olde worlde RPGs and mashed them clumsily, yet addictively, together. But this time it’s all-natural and organic. Furthermore, when anyone makes the armchair comment that there isn’t originality and fun gameplay in social games, you can shove Triple Town in their face. This is slightly harder to pull off with a computer, even a MacBook Air, but now you can do it with an iPhone. And while there is a shameless knock-off of Triple Town out there, regrettably, it’s not Nipple Town. And since he’s one of the most decent and genuine people I know, I don’t think David would approve that either.
SF: I love this game so very much. There are ninja bears. NINJA BEARS.