IndieSider #21: Dyscourse by Owlchemy Labs

Posted in IndieSider by on Apr 15th, 2015 9:00 AM

Dyscourse is a choose-your-own-adventure game that puts you in control of Rita, the leader of a group of plane crash survivors on a desert island. At every turn, you must choose: who will stay in the group and who must go? Will you look for food, water, or shelter? Do you await rescue, or make your own? Each choice branches the story, determining who will live and die.

In this interview, developer Graeme Borland discusses how Dyscourse evolved from an action game to a narrative-based title as a result of Kickstarter feedback; the custom tools Owlchemy developed to build this game in Unity; why "choice" is such a popular gameplay mechanic; and how even the developers don't know how many different endings Dyscourse has.

Watch the video below, or download the audio edition from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn. Click past the jump for links to the games mentioned in this episode.


IndieSider #20: Sunless Sea by Failbetter Games

Posted in IndieSider by on Apr 1st, 2015 9:00 AM

Sunless Sea by Failbetter Games is the sequel to Fallen London, a browser-based text adventure. In Sunless Sea, you captain a steamship in the subterranean realm of the Underzee, charting unknown waters and exploring distant ports. Bring back news and goods from new lands to London and be rewarded handsomely — by which you can stave off hunger, cannibalism, mutiny, and eldritch waters lurking in dark waters just a bit longer.

In this interview, writer Chris Gardiner and developer Liam Welton, discuss how they built upon the world founded in Fallen London, bringing graphics and real-time combat to the Underzee; how Kickstarter crowdfunding and Steam's Early Access gave them unique opportunities; and the challenges and opportunities unique to building their own world compared to playing in sandbox when developing games for third parties, such as BioWare's Dragon Age or Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.

Watch the video below, or download the audio edition from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn. Click past the jump for links to the games mentioned in this episode.


IndieSider #19: Shelter 2 by Might and Delight

Posted in IndieSider by on Mar 18th, 2015 9:00 AM

Shelter 2 is a survival game in which you play as a wild lynx, feeding and caring for your cubs as they grow in the wilderness into adulthood. Hunt prey without falling prey to wolves or the elements. In this interview, Might and Delight CEO Anders Westin discusses how the game establishes an emotional connection between the players and the cubs, addresses the divide between journalistic reviews and gamer reviews, and answers the question: If you could be any animal, what would you be?

Watch the video below, or download the audio edition from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

Shelter 2 was released on PC, Mac, and Linux via Steam on March 9, 2015 for $14.99. Other resources mentioned in this interview:

IndieSider: BostonFIG with Fiona Cherbak

Posted in IndieSider by on Mar 4th, 2015 9:00 AM

Fiona CherbakThe Boston Festival of Indie Games, or BostonFIG, is an annual celebration of the Northeast's indie gaming scene. Developers from Boston and beyond come to showcase their latest games and works-in-progress, be they for computers, consoles, mobile, or cardboard. Guest speakers from Robin Hunicke and Leigh Alexander to Brian O'Halloran and Jason Scott have headlined the festival, with musical interludes by the Videri String Quartet.

In this interview, Fiona Cherbak, co-founder of the annual Boston Festival of Indie Games (BostonFIG), talks about how and why she started the event, its evolution, and how Boston's indie scene compares to Austin's and Seattle's.

Download the audio edition of this interview below or from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

This interview is excerpted from a larger discussion of hiring and retaining women in the games industry; the full episode is available from the Polygamer podcast.

IndieSider #18: To Be or Not To Be by Tin Man Games

Posted in IndieSider by on Feb 18th, 2015 9:00 AM

To Be or Not To Be is a choose-your-own-path book by Ryan North, adapted from William Shakespeare's Hamlet and further adapted to interactive fiction by Tin Man Games, developer of numerous gamebooks. Choose to play as Hamlet, his father the king, or Ophelia. Make choices never before available to the Prince of Denmark. You may avenge your father's murder — explore outer space — or become the Incredible Hulk!

In this interview, Ben Kosmina and Kamina Vincent of Tin Man Games explore whether the book is aimed at Shakespeare enthusiasts or critics; the challenges in adapting a dead tree book into a digital interactive work; what assets from the book's Kickstarter project were able to be repurposed for the game; the challenge of pricing a game at what it's actually worth; and how mobile gaming and crowdfunding have created a viable market for once-dead genres.

Watch the video below, or download the audio edition from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

(Hat tip to Jenna Hoffstein)

Ken Gagne at the Moth: Accidents

Posted in News by on Feb 14th, 2015 9:00 AM

Each month I attend The Moth, a live storyslam. It's a nationwide event, NPR radio show, and podcast that invites audience members to tell a five-minute true story from their own lives on a given theme. For November 2014, the theme was "Accidents". I submitted my name and was called upon to tell a story. That story was how I accidentally launched a YouTube channel that now has over seven million views and fifty thousand subscribers.

How does one launch a YouTube channel by accident? The video of that story is below; click past the jump for a transcript.


IndieSider #17: Fight the Dragon with Seon Rozenblum

Posted in IndieSider by on Feb 4th, 2015 12:15 PM

Fight the Dragon is a hack 'n slash RPG for Steam from Melbourne-based developer 3 Sprockets. Its titular red dragon has a million hit points and takes persistent damage, allowing players to slowly whittle away at him as they level up. But more significant, Fight the Dragon features a complete Adventure Construction Kit (ACK), encouraging user-generated content. Already hundreds of custom levels, each taking 10–15 minutes to complete, can be explored.

In this interview, director and lead developer Seon Rozenblum addresses how the game has evolved from its Early Access release in March 2014 to its v1.0 release in December of that year. How did he know players would provide enough custom content to support the game? How has 3 Sprockets incentivized or gamified this process? And with so many great games coming from overseas, are Americans losing the indie arms race?

IndieSider host Ken Gagne is joined in this episode by Lorien Green, whom Ken previously interviewed on the Polygamer podcast. A hardcore gamer and experienced documentarian, Lorien's insights prove invaluable when discussing the nature and context of Fight the Dragon.

Watch the video below, or download the audio edition from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

Top 10 video game remix soundtracks

Posted in News by on Jan 30th, 2015 11:00 AM

I love video game music. Decades ago, the term was used derisively to refer to something low-fi and low-tech. Today, the majestic arrangements of sweeping epics such as The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy are respected by symphonic orchestras worldwide.

Many game soundtracks stand on their own while inviting fans and musicians to offer their own renditions. In celebration of that remix culture, I offer my top ten video game rearranged/remixed soundtrack albums.

For the purpose of this exercise, I excluded any album that is a compilation of many games, such as OCRemix's Heroes & Villains or Videri's Portals, choosing instead to focus on albums dedicated to a single game or franchise. I also limited myself to albums that were already in my collection — several dozen over the past 15 years, though likely just a fraction of what's available. I then rated every individual track on each album in iTunes and took the average score to determine the top ten. I was nonetheless surprised to find such landmark titles as Chrono Trigger omitted; it seems, although there are some magnificent single remixes out there, entire albums of Chrono Trigger music on average fall flat.

The above video gives one-minute samples of each of the top ten albums, with with complete track listings. All songs are copyright by the original artists, and the excerpt from Taylor Davis's album is used with permission. Three albums are free downloads, and three others can be bought online and downloaded; the other four are available in physical edition only.

Click on any album name in the below list to get more information; click on the timestamp to skip to that segment of the video.

  1. Harmony of a Hunter (0:12)
  2. Wild Arms: ARMed and DANGerous (1:13)
  3. Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin (2:12)
  4. Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest VIII Journey Of The Cursed King (3:12)
  5. 20020220: Music from Final Fantasy (4:12)
  6. Strike the Earth! Shovel Knight Arranged (Jake Kaufman) (5:13)
  7. Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale (6:12)
  8. Melodies of Hyrule: Music from The Legend of Zelda (Taylor Davis) (7:13)
  9. Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary (8:13)
  10. Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest IV — Orchestra Version (9:14)

PAX East 2015 panels on indie gaming

Posted in News by on Jan 29th, 2015 11:00 AM

At PAX East 2013, I was recruited to moderate a panel someone else assembled.

For PAX East 2014, I assembled, proposed, and moderated my own panel.

For PAX East 2015, I submitted five panels, of which three were accepted. I'm excited to announce I'll be moderating two that capitalize on my passion for indie games.

All the Feels: Empathy in Indie Game Narrative

Saturday, March 7th at 10:00am in Dragonfly Theatre

Indie games are creative not just in mechanics but in narrative, telling stories and creating safe spaces for dealing with real-life issues. Empathy games have helped us understand and address the struggle for survival by a war-torn country's civilians, bullying, and physical and mental health. Hear from the developers who are exploring the boundaries of interactive storytelling and transcending gameplay.

Karol Zajaczkowski (Marketing Manager, 11 bit studios), Anna Megill (Creative Director, Project Untold) Logan Harrington (Creator, Gone), Nicole Stark (Director, Disparity Games), Justin Amirkhani (Creative Director, Vagabond Dog), Ken Gagne (Host, IndieSider)

All the Feels

Image courtesy Nicole Stark

Reboot Our Roots: Bringing Our Favorite Genres Back to Life

Sunday, March 8th at 1:30pm in Bumblebee Theatre
Many of today's indie games are spiritual successors of yesteryear's hits, from King's Quest to Gabriel Knight to Quest for Glory — with some even being developed by the same teams that brought us the originals. What's it like to reboot a franchise or genre after 30 years? How do you update a classic while staying true to the original? Industry veterans share their stories of revisiting their roots, taking up their heroes' mantles, and what they've learned in the intervening years.

Katie Hallahan (PR Director & Designer, Phoenix Online Studios), Steve Alexander (Co-Founder, Infamous Quests), Dave Gilbert (Founder, Wadjet Eye Games), Ken Gagne (Editor, Juiced.GS)

"All the Feels" is scheduled for the same time as another panel I submitted, on which I will not be appearing: "Achievement Unlocked: Parenthood. Now What?", inspired by a Women in Games Boston panel I moderated. Its PAX East counterpart will be moderated by my friend Nicole Tompkins-Hughes.

"Reboot Your Roots" plays to my continuing passion for the gaming platforms I grew up with — specifically the Apple II. I'm the editor of Juiced.GS, the computer's last remaining print publication, and in 2014, we featured both Leisure Suit Larry and Shadowgate on our covers. To be on the same panel as the developers keeping such franchises as King's Quest and Quest for Glory alive is an honor.

If you're in the audience for either of these panels, please hang around afterward to say hello!

IndieSider #16: Cubot by Nicolas Pierre-Loti-Viaud

Posted in IndieSider by on Jan 21st, 2015 9:00 AM

Cubot is a puzzle game with a calming, minimalist aesthetic and a difficulty level that quickly ramps up. Released originally for Android, then for iOS, and finally for Mac, PC, and Linux via Steam, it has earned consistently positive reviews across all platforms.

Cubot is the work of one developer, Nicolas Pierre-Loti-Viaud. In this interview, he describes how he chose the presentation style, the challenges he's faced in porting the game to multiple systems, and how the game has evolved over time and what we can look forward to in his future games.

Watch the video below, or download the audio edition from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

This interview is conducted through Antoine Vignau of Brutal Deluxe. Transcripts of the interview in both English and French can be found below the video.


IndieSider #15: Never Alone with Grant Roberts

Posted in IndieSider by on Jan 7th, 2015 9:30 AM

Never Alone is a puzzle-platformer for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. It is a collaboration between E-Line Media and Upper One Games to adapt the culture and oral history of the Iñupiaq community. Up to two players play as a young girl named Nuna and an arctic fox to overcome numerous arctic obstacles while exploring the stories of Robert Cleveland and unlocking videos that share this people's traditions.

Lead game designer Grant Roberts shares the access his team had to the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, what other entries in the "world game" genre were an inspiration, how else the cultural insight videos could've been integrated into the gameplay, and what other heritages might be adapted into future games.

Watch the video below, or download the audio edition from iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

Links mentioned in this episode: