IndieSider #23: Catlateral Damage by Chris Chung

Posted in IndieSider by on Jun 3rd, 2015 9:00 AM

Catlateral Damage is a first-person cat simulator in which players exercise a cat's most prized skill: knocking stuff onto the floor. Procedurally generated houses, log cabins, grocery stores, and museums give you the opportunity to break dishes, televisions, fruit stands, dinosaur skeletons, and more.

In this interview with developer Chris Chung, we discuss the game's origin in the 7DFPS game jam; getting funded on Kickstarter; collaborating with Fire Hose Games through their indie accelerator program; what it was like to be featured by YouTube gamer PewDiePie; and future support for OUYA and Oculus Rift.

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 #22: Luna's Wandering Stars by Serenity Forge

Posted in IndieSider by on May 20th, 2015 9:00 AM

Luna's Wandering Stars is a physics-based planetary puzzler from developer Serenity Forge. Players are challenged to manipulate trajectories, gravity wells, orbital thrusters, and more to collect golden asteroids while avoiding collisions with our solar system's nine eight planets. This game is available for PC and Mac via Steam.

In this interview, Serenity Forge founder Zhenghua Yang (Z) discusses how Luna's Wandering Stars fulfills his company's mission to change players' lives by challenging how they think; the obstacles to porting the game to mobile or Wii U, and how the company's future games will overcome those barriers; how contracting for outside firms has given Serenity Forge unique opportunities to change the world; and what the indie gaming scene in Boulder, Colorado, is like.

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.


Memories of the Nintendo World Championships

Posted in News by on Apr 22nd, 2015 2:41 PM

Twenty-five years ago today, I entered the Nintendo World Championships. A lanky, bespectacled 10-year-old, I sought affirmation that these video games I'd already dedicated my short life to would not make me a social pariah — that my skill and dedication to this new digital pastime could earn me some measure of respect.

I may not have walked out of that arena a winner, but it was the first time I had ever been surrounded by so many people who shared my passion for games. I realized I was not alone, that it could be awesome to be a geek. When I walked out of that arena, I left the competition behind: games were no longer about being better, but about being together. Despite what some may think, the health of the art form is encouraged with each new gamer we bring into the fold. Games are for everyone — and when everyone realizes that, we've won.

I've already lengthily shared my memories of that April day in 1990, and I have little more insight to offer today. Instead, I'd like to share some of the physical artifacts of that moment when we were all striving to be The Wizard. For the first time, here are high-resolution scans of what I went home with that weekend — click any thumbnail to get the PDF.

This "Insider's Guide to the NWC" program was distributed to attendees of the Nintendo World Championships in the spring of 1990. It featured previews of upcoming games and tips for titles such as Castlevania III, Lolo 2, Wrath of the Black Manta, Bases Loaded II, Xexyz, and more.

An admission ticket to the first round

A letter of acceptance to the semi-finals

A VIP badge to enter the semi-finals

A certificate signed by Howard Phillips and Mario

A gift certificate — part of my prize package (or a photocopy)

I also found some wearable mementos while digging through my parents' basement:

Gaming competitions, having evolved into e-sports, have come a long way — whereas the gaming community still has a ways to go. Let's try to remember those days when we all knew how to get along.

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)