A Look at Independent Games that Are My Fancy

Independent video games have tons of soul, but finding ones that truly call to me are difficult.  Finding video games that I want period are difficult, but they do exist.  I generally enjoy point n’ click adventures, third person action games (not shooters) or side scrolling platformers.  As I said, they exist, but the prevalent gaming still is the FPS, the multiplayer insanity and the MMO RPGS and they get the focus.  Here using the entries to the IGF I found a share of games that I enjoyed and I think you might too.

Bollywood Wannabe: I don’t tend to like rhythm games myself, but if they’re your thing this is the one to look into. The graphics are superb, an amazing art style that truly pops. The concepts of adding a bit of platformer style to the game is awesome too. One of the main issue missing is being a keyboard only game from what I can see, but if you actually like games that test your hand eye coordination with high quality graphics and funny script this might be up your alley. Try out the demo in the very least.

JazzPunk: This looks like a really fun first person action/adventurer with fun graphics and lots of humor, since well that is how it’s being advertised, but the current video teaser shows it to be just that. Definfitnetly one I’ll be keeping my eyes on to see how the final product is.

Pavilion: Best described by their own words. Pavilion is a fourth person exploratory experience about guidance, influence and subliminal control. Manipulate the surrounding environment, influence his sense and guide the main character on the path towards truth.

Spoiler Alert: I highly recommend this innovative but simple platformer available for the PC and Mac and being developed for mobile. It’s a two button game with the main mechanic that you have actually ready beaten the game and you are playing in reverse, having to actually recreate the game you played. It’s actually quite hard to properly convey, but it’s a great idea and this little game gets it just right. Best of all the complete game is free.

The Insulines: A traditional point n click adventure with finding a way to make the mundane actually fun. It’s meant to be part rock n roll comedy/part insulin&diabetes PSA. As someone who has more than a few friends with diabetes I can see how as the story goes along it”ll grab me more. I really like the art style, it’s quirky. The song “Sugar Free” which you can hear through the chrome demo and linked through their twitter is also really worth checking out.

Back to Bed: An intriguing and slightly difficult puzzle game in which you must make a man not fall of the path. You control a dream dog or something who must lay the path out on a dreamscape with added difficulty each level. It’s esoteric and challenging and it’s free.

Owlboy: A pixel art platformer with really high quality pixels, an awesome looking main character, awesome conceptual art and based on what they consider an outdated demo from 2011 really quality gameplay mechanics. This definitely one to check out. Grab that old demo, enjoy it and then just wait with baited breath for the final version.

Beat Buddy: A platformer swimmer with music mechanics that looks great and sounds great as well. There’s a pre-alpha demo up on Steam right now which just needs to be played. It’s a full level and really shows off the promise of what can be a very fun game to run around in and experience.

Contrast: An upcoming action platformer with puzzle mechanics and more based in 1920s France under the allure of performing arts and using shadows mechanics to tells it story. No demo available, but the teaser trailer is amazing and it was greenlit on Steam, so the expectation and excitement is high.

OIO: Intriguing well designed puzzle platformer with a cute lead character a great art design. There’s a demo to make you want it which really accomplishes this goal. A well polished indie gem for PC/Mac.

Douse: This simple, but elegant project from students at Digipen is like platforming version of Flower for PSN. There basically no challenge, it’s pretty much an art game, but it is really beautiful experience.

A Cat’s Night: A very classic style point n click that is cute and fun because you play a cat who is trying to save his shelter from being destroyed and thinks he can do it all without leaving the shelter. The art is really cute and it’s another free one.

 

Amnesia Fortnight Follow-Up

With almost a week and a half of work done, over nine days days of streaming footage, six documents of daily work edited by the team at 2 Player Productions and many many Double Fine forum and tumblr posts with concept art, music, programming and development discussion I felt I’d do my own quick personal viewcap on the Double Fine Amnesia Fortnight. This is for myself, the Double Fine team, the people already as invested as much as I am in the progress and those who have not yet joined in and can still do so within the next two days or possibly longer.

The breakdown will be by games and my own insights and reflections.

AUTONOMOUS: Not long into the game I came up with calling the production team of this prototype PETTY CROOK. This being a what I thought a clever combination of Project Lead Lee Petty, and Lead 3D Modeler/Artist Ray Crook. While equally the team could also be called “MOO-AR PETTY CROOK IS SOULLESS” to add some more team members in to the name, that leaves out the awesome music guy Camden Stoddard, programmer Oliver Frankze and all the rest of the excellent team working on this, so…
AUTONOMOUS is A Petty Crook production…

That music by Camden btw is amazing, but is also the only music that can’t be heard outside of the twitch.tv or downloadable 2PP eps as of yet. That’s okay though as added to the Humble Bundle has been a soundtrack and as each prototype has been given it’s own cues and original music this soundtrack itself will be worth being in the bundle grip.

Brad Muir has truly been the star personality wise of this whole deal, between his recording of the Jersey bot for voices and jokingly, but not completely stating the game sucked (as it exists at the time, because the bots were just being dumb, so it became some fun to mess with, but not fun to actually play). Still I understand why so many want to to play. I personally kind of just want to mess around with it, and feel it’ll need to prove itself to me in knowing my final goal.

BLACK LAKE: Levi Ryken’s sketches and concept art are still the most top notch part of this game. Of all the games this is the one I’d want a collected concept art book

(speaking of concept art book… Double Fine actually will finally have one soon. That will be the BRUTAL LEGEND art book. It is in the current PREVIEWS Catalog in a full page spread from UDON, and comes out in February.)

I’m also really enjoying how this game is coming together, the idea of scanning for smells and sounds and then following clues to your next spot in the tracking of an animal while also trying to avoid enemies really sound intriguing for a game that from a gameplay standpoint was the weakest at first and now seems conceptually the best.

In terms of music we know that Dax Tran-Caffee has recorded accordion parts for a mechanism of gameplay which I can only assume shall also come into the actual soundtrack as well and that makes me assume that the Doublefine employee who brought him in Brent Andrew Shinn is also recording some original guitar pieces.

HACK N SLASH: While the concept art for Black Lake blows me over, especially the early sketches, it’s the final look of Hack n Slash that is really calling me. Mark Hammer’s final version of the protagonist is awesome, but even better is the work Razmig Mavlian has put in. While inspired by Zelda he’s created his own awesome background that would work well as prints, wallpapers, or whatever. Raz also did the utterly awesome logo.

I’m still unsure completely n what the game playing will be like. I’m intrigued by the ideas originally presented and seeing how they finally find their way into the prototype and how easy or difficult they’ll be to understand.

On the music end, Paul O’Rourke has outdone himself creating as of now three amazing sketches that invoke an old school feel yet at the same time being completely modern. They really should be heard and along with Camden’s tracks will make a seriously awesome soundtrack.

SPACEBASE DF-9: This actually coming together in a way that I’m actually interested in seeing the final product. While many were excited by the concept alone it has taken seeing how much work has gone into it to make me want this as much as everyone. From the choosing jobs for your individuals to the fact that Bagel is doing sitting and eating animations to the Facebook style status updates it all looks really nice.

I get a vibe of them really trying to find a way to make this gameplay that for a sim that allows even the biggest sim hater to appreciate. I really hope they pull it off, because I always had issues keeping my excitement with things of the ilk.

In terms of music, I’m really impressed by what Chris Remo has put together. It’s very atmospheric, it has the most feel of being something you’d hear in a TV show instead of a game actually.

THE WHITE BIRCH: The platformer is coming together really nicely. We’ve seen her leaps on ledges, run across a bridge, climb ropes, and all in an almost finished 3d character. Over these last two days they should be able to accomplish a lot and make something that feels like a really complete minigame that if expanded could be even crazier and wild.

The only thing I don’t think we’ve seen yet is how the original idea of different prizes from climbing the tree and different pathways causing multiple playthrough has been implemented or if possibly scrapped for this prototype, only trying to prove Double Fine could make a working 3D platformer that was fun and innovative.

In terms of music, long time adventure game video game design Brian Min is really outdoing himself. On stream we saw/heard him recording live. Of all the music folks at Double Fine he’s the one I’d want to interview most. His sound career goes back to the days of Sierra at its limelight till today at Double Fine and I’m sure he has great stories. Even if he told them in instrumental musical pieces. Btw, listen to some White Birch suite.

In conclusion, as I finished writing this the Monday Standups have begun on the Stream, which is fun stuff to listen to if you’re fascinated with production like I am.

We’re heading to the end of the Fortnight here, but these next two days will be long and exciting, so hop on board while you can!

A Fortnight of Amnesia in 2012 gives us more Doublefine Sausage AND 5 new game prototypes

Double Fine Games came into super extra megaton popularity earlier this year with their monumental Kickstarter that launched the  excellent Double Fine Adventure game now codenamed REDS along with the so far six episode documentary Doublefine Adventure from 2 Player Productions.  If you aren’t already a backer on that and getting to enjoy the awesoment development, art, production and stories on this future old school inspired modern adventure point n click adventure game from the mind of Tim Schaefer and as of now featuring the art design of Peter Chan, Scott Campbell and most specifically Nathan “Bagel” Stapely, there’s still time with their Slacker Backer program.  That isn’t what this is about though. In the continued interests of opening of their doors to all, Double Fine decided to take their annual two week new idea/prototype development session a public event.  Titled Amnesia Fortnight, previous years have brought forth prototypes that gave us games such as Costume Quest, Stacking, Trenched and Once Upon A Monster.   Now this year we’ll be seeing five new prototypes, but for the first time these prototypes will be shared with the public.  Well that is if they buy into the Humble Bundle for the program.   Not only will one get these 5 new prototypes though, they’ll also get three old prototypes if they give at least the minimum top price suggested on the bundle.  Humble Bundle gives to charity as much as it does itself and the developers, you get to choose how much you give for how much you get and how it gets allocated.  The three prototypes available are Happy Song (which became Once Upon A Monster), the original Costume Quest and a game called Brazen which was made in last years Fortnight and is now being prepared for further development.  Along with the prototypes you’ll also get documentary episodes of the daily progress on the development produced by 2 Player.  On top of all that there is also a live stream from twitch, running from 10 AM-6 PM PST.  It has been running since last week and shall continue along till the games are ready to be shared in the two week process. Each of the five games being developed were actually whittled down from 23 pitches from various Double Fine employees which were voted upon by fans who discovered the Humble Bundle project on day one and wanted to be right on the ground floor.  It could be said the five best choices were selected, but some of the games not being worked on this Fortnight definitely deserve exploring at some point and I believe this is honest being considered.  Of the five games I personally am excited for the two artistically envisioned games, but from the work shown on all them they should all be awesome.  Here’s a list of the five, short descriptions based on my personal understanding, and a cool progress image that shows what I think is exciting.  More images can be seen on the Doublefine Tumblr and the Doublefine forums. The White Birch: A plat-former with exploration, there won’t be foes, but the protagonist must continue climbing and exploring to reach the top of a strange tower where an actual White Birch tree sits with a prize and I assume the only way home.  I believe the prizes and exploration will change in repeated playthroughs as there will be multiple paths to the top, but not ways to actually go back and explore the other paths once you choose one.  Here’s some early concept art from Derek Brand.

Black Lake: From the mind of Levi Ryken, this looks like it’ll be a 3rd person top down perspective.  You’ll be playing a mythical animal hunter who doesn’t actually hunt, but uses some type of dream control mechanic to capture these supernatural beasts in a combination of action/adventure and another mechanic not fully explored.  Levi’s art concepts are what really attracted me on this one.  Here’s a final version of the lead protagonist he designed.


Autonomous: The brainchild of Lee Petty, the same man who gave us the ingenious STACKING, this is set to be a first person game (the first 1st person game from Double Fine they keep saying, although I thought that the cancelled SPECS was first person).  In it your character programs, but does not control Automotons… also known as robots.  Through basic input these bots will help the character explore and survive the world he has found himself in.  The team is hard at work on robots and especially making really awesome looking arms that would be the main inputting.  Here’s Lee’s early arms design that 3d modeller Ray Crook has been building furiously.

Spacebase DF-9:  A simesque game that being pitched/promoted as Dwarf Fortress in Space with graphics (and I assume simpler mechanics).  You’ll be building a spacebase, hiring employees, setting up shop, and placing characters in situations and then watch what happens, with each playthrough creating a virtual fiction/story that I assume can be easily shared.  I have to admit I am still not sold completely on where the fun is here.  I understand some people find this fun and once upon a time I actually thought the idea of games like this sounded like the most fun ever, but I’ve changed.  What I feel shall be one of the saving graces of this game is the creative minds of DF  instilling their humorous creative juices and also that Nathan Stapely is working on the character designs that will if anything make the game fun to look at.  I know I keep using the word game, instead of demo and/or prototype… as none of these will be full games, but a game is still something someone can play and hopefully have fun with, so… game.  Spacebase doesn’t really have any mockup graphics to show off that make me go “Oooh…” but the twitch.tv stream showed Bagel working on the characters and they look great.

Hack n Slash:  A NES/SNES Zelda-esque game in which instead of slashing away at stuff, you actually try to hack the game using codes, glitches and various secrets to find your way around monsters, walls, and more.  Team leader, head programmer Brandon Dillon really seems to have most of the game figured out mentally, so it all comes down to the programming itself.   Mark Hamer has come up with a great character design and Raz has conceptualized an awesome background, so visually this game is looking awesome.  I actually at first really couldn’t even see how this game would work, but I really do look forward to it.

So get in on the ground floor now for what could be the next best great Double Fine game to come after the upcoming The Cave from the mind of Ron Gilbert, the iOS superhero management sim Middle Manager of Justice, the sequel to Double Fine Action Theater known as Kinect Party, Double Fine Adventure and who knows what else they have up their sleeves.  If the 2012  Amnesia Fortnight is any hint to some of the ideas running around, expect awesomeness.

New York Comic Con 2012: Day 3

I made sure to be at Con super early to ensure myself a ticket from Mattel for the Dolph Ziggler signing. I ended up handing my ticket off to someone else in the end, but that’s another story for later on in this adventure of paragraphs.

After taking advantage of the show floor opening at 9:30 I walked around a bit to see what new if any freebies or swag was on the floor different from Friday and there was some, but it wasn’t long before I found myself heading down to the “basement” level for a special Disney Interactive session.

It was quite exciting to hear Warren Spector talk about Epic Mickey 2, as well as the Epic Mickey 3DS game. He showed off lots of screens, details and video footage not shown at San Diego, although most of it was shown at PAX probably. I’m going to take advantage of assets and memory to write up some details on the game from memory as my camera seems to have eaten the footage. This was the only thing my camera ate actually, but I remember most of what was discussed so I should be okay. I got a little hands on too, and that’s cemented in my brain.

After Epic Mickey 2 I rushed over to the Press Room for Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano. Those videos will be up within the week, but bigger and more exciting than hearing them discuss Batman: Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2 was the announcement of SUPERMAN: Unbound, based on the Braniac story by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank and JUSTICE LEAGUE: FLASHPOINT based on… well Flashpoint. I don’t know how they can even tackle Flashpoint in any fashion, but based on how well they handled the equally deft The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke I am actually excited by this prospect.

Next up was my scheduled interview with professional wrestling’s Booker T in celebration/promotion of his book From Prison to Promise. I asked him a few what I felt were hard-hitting questions although they didn’t really get hard-hitting answers exactly. Informative answers though and great material for my forthcoming review. Got a photo with the man as well so very chill indeed.

At this point I went to get online for Dolph Ziggler even with the signing an hour away. I felt even though it was ticketed, an hour was enough. It seriously was not enough. Not even remotely enough. Fans had started their OWN line unguided by security or Mattel and they’d started it around 11 or 12. Who knows, but it was long and many folks in it didn’t have tickets. Many did, but still… it was a huge clusterfuck in the power of Mattel not knowing what to do and having to wing it, staff being understaffed and security being completely useless. There were other moments I noticed like this on the floor for lines I didn’t plan to be on, but could still see a lack of control or logic. The con has had lines like this happen in the past, but this year they were just completely unprepared to deal with them.

As I said earlier I ended up giving up my ticket for Dolph, but I did get a good shot of him from the line. It wasn’t like they were giving something away and this wasn’t like the Booker interview where he MIGHT remember me, so once my Facebook photo upload finished to get the exclusive He-Man shirt, after waiting maybe 45 minutes if not more I left the line and headed down to the panel room.

Once down there I had to make a choice and I ended up going to the Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus panel where they discussed and detailed their upcoming book House of Secrets. That was really fun and I knew I had to go to their autographing session to grab the sampler.

The other panel I wanted to go to at the same time was King of the Nerds with Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong. Since I didn’t get to, I at least got to meet them, shake their hands and get a signed photo print, a photo, fake glasses and an iPhone case. The Columbus/Vizzini signing was in the same line right after so I procured my sneak peek and then got on line for Brad “Cheeks” Bell, Sean Hemon and Jane Espenson of HUSBANDS. In my preview of NYCC I showed off again my photo from last year when Cheeks and Sean gave me a kiss. They both remembered and loved how much weight I lost and my new short hair, but Brad said that I had no expression in last year’s photo and he was right. So I over compensated this year.

Next up I went to the Remember Me panel and stayed up until they started showing footage I’d already seen. Actually the new footage to me was the combat and combos system, and of course discussing the development of the game and seeing all the great assets and concept art. I ducked out though once I felt like I was sufficiently educated and luckily they did the T-shirt giveaway at the beginning instead of the end. I went from there to the panel with the heads behind Mondo Media, Simon’s Cat, Shut Up Cartoons and Cartoon Hangover. The Cartoon Hangover stuff were shorter clips of what I saw on Friday night, but the Mondo Media sizzle reel was awesome as was Shut Up Cartoons. Three of these four channels are part of the new Youtube Animation network and they’re all awesome.

From there I went to the the special party sponsored by Samsung, Legendary Pictures, Nerdist and Comixology at SLATE. It wasn’t exactly my scene, even though the DJ was awesome. I only saw two people I knew even and one of them works at Legendary. There was free food though so that was awesome. It was just sliders and chicken fingers, but it was a good spread and a good end to my most eventful and busiest day of NYCC 2012.

Super Big Kickstarter Roundup (April 18th, 2012)

The following are projects I would love to pledge to for rewards and to see the projects happen. In some cases the projects are at 100% and that just means I wish I had hundreds of thousands of dollars just to be on board, in others they’re struggling or at the half way point and so they need your help as much as mine. All of them are stuff I really think is awesome and wish I was full of disposable income.

Cooking In Heel-A Memoir Cookbook: I absolutely love cook books which are more than just a collection of recipes and this one seems to be just that. Combining some Southern style seafood with pulling up the memories of being black, transgendered and I believe a lesbian in New York City and the troubles of that and that is one amazing read or at least it sounds like one.

Fairy Quest-Outlaws: Paul Jenkins isn’t one of my favorite writers, but he has written lots of stuff I’ve enjoyed. Mostly his Werewolf by Night, his issues of the Tecknophage series with Al Davidson and some of his issues of Spider-Man. In terms of Humberto Ramos, I actually never really loved the guy. He can be awesome of some stuff, the vampire series he created himself was awesome. So you’d be wondering why I’m into this book… well it looks awesome and sounds awesome. It reminds of TELLOS in ways and that book is one of my favorite things ever.

A WALL: I checked out Lila Roo’s prevoious art projects and I was really impressed. She has a great visual eye and this project could be awesome. She’s also beautiful and makes beautiful stuff.

NEKRO: This strategy adventure game has some amazing graphics and a conceptually good story. I don’t tend to get attracted to RTS or warfare games, but the premise behind this one with the artistic design really has my eyes open.

Dr. McNinja’s Radical Adventures: I love simple reflex platforming games, combining that mechanic with an original story featuring Christopher Hasting’s Dr.McNinja for mobile platforms is just awesomness and Chris agrees and he’s only marginally part of the project other than giving permission.

Mystery Pets Art Book by Diana X. Sprinkle: I’ve loved Diana’s comics for a long time. True Hue has been a steadfast favorite forever. I of course never got to see the first book she did here cause the internet is too huge, but this larger follow-up looks awesome as all let out.

Wish Pictures: I don’t talk online anymore, least at all webcam… but this could totally make me get back into it. Every conversation to be in a different room? Also this type of technology getting going could lead to it’s inspiration, Star Trek: TNG’s holodeck to becoming a reality.

Rob Schamberger paints professional wrestling’s Heavyweight Champions of the world: I’m curious to see how much he can really tackle here if he succeeds. He’s got Punk, Harley Race, Ric Flair… but will he really go all the way with this? He’s going to have to a Great Khali, and as comments noted, a David Arquette, not to mention a Tyler Black, a Sid Vicious, a Yokozuna, a Vader and when it comes to guys like Big Show and Kevin Nash… will he do Diesel and The Giant or consider those as one painting reflecting them as a whole?

Jane Jensen’s Pinkerton Road: The first official gamne has now been announced for Jane Jensen’s production company, that would be Moebius, but they’re still far from getting the financial backing to making that dream a reality. Jane Jensen is an incredible writer and I believe with no one and nothing holding her back in the publishing area she can do something amazing in this influx of the rebirth of old school gaming as a main stream concept with periphery engines instead of everyone using Wintermute and AGS (even though those games are awesome including everything by Wadjeteye) and having games be American made instead of ports and localizations from Spain and Germany. I want this to happen and so do you. Telltale Games are awesome, but there needs to be more big guys are the market!

Super Powered Revenge Christmas: An original graphic novel with Santa Claus and others as superheroes and villains written by Bill Corbett of MST3K and Rifftrax fame and drawn by Len Peralta. I don’t think there’s much more to say.

 

Xombie-Death Warmed Over: After sitting in development hell, James Farr has finally got XOMBIE back to do with as he pleases. Unfortunately that means the big movie isn’t happening, but he can now focus on getting a second season of the cartoon finally out there to the adoring public with your help. I was much more into the comic series that was birthed from the Xombie cartoon, but this fact remains… awesome.

Giant Donuts-NYC shop: I’ll never be able to eat a donut shop, unless they go for Gluten free or something. Or if I just have one donut a year, but the charm of their pitch video and the idea behind the shop just makes me excited. Worth checking out.

The Great Chicken Wing Hunt: This documentary looks amazing… it deserves a final cut and the ability to go out to markets to be seen in festivals and picked up for distribution on HBO or Showtime or something like that…maybe Bravo? Anyways, watch the full official trailer too. Also New Yorkers, come see it in downtown Manhattan on April 28th.

Cold and Loud-An Alaskan Rock Anthology: I’m completely unfamiliar with the rock scene of Alaska, but there seems to be a lot of Metalcore going on. Good metalcore at that, well, if you like Metalcore, I do sometimes. It’s not just Metalcore though, there’s some Electronica, Ska, Folk and Poppy stuff happening. Here’s some of the bands on this anthology so you can get a feel of what they’re all about.
Anchors Alive, City In Ashes, Bolt Action Beaver, Kallahanak, Pretty Birds That Kill, The Rocket Surgeons, T.I.A..
It’s important to note that all the tracks on this anthology were recorded new in a session at one studio with each band, they are all unreleased which makes it extra special.

Altruistic Complex-Book 1: This manga-esque anthromorphic comic by Zilford is really cool looking and reads well too. See for yourself right here.

Ace Kilroy: I can’t believe I’m just discovering this awesome webcomic now. You can see the thing yourself at Acekilroy.com, but this collected edition sounds awesome. A little hefty in price but that has to be because of the Kickstarter feeds and just making it available in the format they want with having their full colors being printed in color and such, which has to be expensive at a lower print run. Good stuff. 

 

Road Trip with Bibi the African Grey Parrot: Hilarious pitch video. This could turn into an awesome webseries. I’d be curious to see where the bird ends up and how it reacts to new things and if she can really learn new phrases and words. Bibi hates New Jersey, it stink. Bibi want La Brea, tar…tar… don’t belong. I don’t know.

The Car: This almost finished short looks pretty cool. I’m curious to just follow it.

Franklin, The Ladies Cat: Now this is some serious fun right here. This cat looks great and the voice is hilarious. I could see Franklin easily on Comedy Central or Adult Swim.

PuppeTyranny!’s Beans, Beans, Beans: This is one of those weird things where the pitch video really caught my eye that I just had to include it in this list.

Plastic Galaxy-A Documentary About Star War Toys: I still have a ton of my Kenner’s. The pitch video on this is actually weak, but the premise is really good. I hope they speak more to the actually Kenner folks on this then the collectors, because I really don’t need to hear from more collector’s and fans, but stories from the folks at Kenner who basically created toys from production sketches for a live action that hadn’t even been cast yet like Bobba Fett would be amazing.

2D6, geek rap group’s second album, Hey Fartface: Do not go by their pitch video. It shows a badly filmed live performance. Go to their Last.FM page and download the free mp3s. These dudes are really good and really funny. They deserve to expand their act, especially their live act which needs work.

Eryn Woods West Coast Summer Tour 2012: This Kickstarter is more a case of discovering a musical talent in Eryn Woods that I was not privy to before this. The tour is all west coast and I can’t see myself getting out to Cali anytime soon without a bigger deal involved, but for those out in Cali and the West coat, worth checking out and those not, just check out her music. She’s also absolutely stunning which is just a bonus.

 

 

The Many Worlds of Mr.Diddlewit: There many good children’s series up on Kickstarter, but this one in particular caught my eye so here I offer it for your information to check out.

A look at Da New Guys-Day of the Jackass: A Super Fun Indie Action Title

In the world of pop-culture there are many things I enjoy, but two certain interests developed around the same time. My love point n’ click adventure games and my almost addictive enjoyment of sports entertainment/professional wrestling. Both these interests have evolved over the years even if the actual subjects haven’t. The best of point n click games are still interesting, but not heavy intensive art work with quirky dialogue, cool characters, a wacky plot and interesting puzzles. Wrestling has generally been the same since my childhood, quick paced action with some slow down, colorful larger than life characters, story lines that are a mix of reality and the completely unrealistic.

In the recently released game “Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass”, programmer, artist and designer Chris Burton has found a way to merge the two. Although one would say it’s much more Hulk Hogan’s Rock n Wrestling cartoon as classic adventure game, it still makes for a funny, ridiculous and crazy game.

That isn’t to say it’s without flaws. The art isn’t completely polished (but definitely has charm and is a big advance from the 8bit graphics of the first non-commercial gae), some of the later puzzles fall into the trap of being mini-games, but all together it is worth your time along with the original game which is available for free.

I had the pleasure/privilige to shoot Chris Burton a few questions via e-mail before the game officially came out and I’ve been sitting on his excellent answers for awhile. I can only hope that if my short review didn’t make you have interest, the following with links and various screenshots will.

1.) What was the deal with the bear head in the arena in Da New Guys?

That goofy-looking bear is based on my baby brother’s old teddy, who we used to make all kinds of dumb stories about when we were kids. It’s kind of an in-joke that nobody but us would get, which is why it’s not very prominent, but good old Bear’s present and correct in Day of the Jackass too!

2.) What was the original inspiration for Da New Guys? Was it always wrestling based or did the characters come first?

The characters always come first. Wrestling obviously plays a big part, but I think the heart of any Da New Guys story always has to be about the characters – I don’t think it would work if the story was ever just “they have to win the match so they can become champions”.

That said, the trio came about through playing a “true” wrestling game – Smackdown 2 on the good old PSOne. It had a really great create-a-wrestler mode, and then play with them through auto-generated storylines. I made the three heroes, then the game would make up rivalries for them to get involved in. Brain had a stick-on goofy smile, Simon was always grumpy, and so the characters just grew from there.

3.) Defender looks a lot like Cobra Commander, what’s the story there?

Google tells me that’s from G.I. Joe, so it isn’t intentional – though the comic-book influence definitely is. He’s a bit of a comic-book geek, and has a bit of a “hero complex”, so his costume tries to reflect that. His first appearance had more of a “samurai warrior” vibe, but it got refined and smoothed out over time to make it more original. Also, for as-yet unexplained reasons he wears a helmet to stay anonymous!

4.)I believe I noticed Kurt Angle in the first game in the Gym, is that correct?

It is! All thanks to a lack of texturing ability and easy-access to online images. I loved that Kurt was so over-the-top and in love with himself, but unlike Brain he’s actually a decent wrestler.

5.)Who are some of your favorite wrestlers? Also what are some of your favorite wrestling stories/angles?

I’ve been out of tune with wrestling lately – most of my memories are from the late 90s. Macho Man’s up there at the top – who can’t laugh every time he shouts? I loved any moment William Regal would try to “educate” the fans by showing them proper table manners – wrestling’s known for its stereotyping but I think that’s all part of the fun. The family issues between Vince and Shane McMahon were also great – I think that was the main dramatic angle I was genuinely swept up in. Also: Doink the Clown!

6.)Who/What inspires your brand of comedy? Films/TV/Comedians

I like humour that’s got the right mix of being wacky but also based in reality. In the same way that the game’s art style has caricatured people in a perspective-correct world, I try to push things over-the-top but still have clear “rules” that ground it all (the characters can get hurt, for example). I used to watch a lot of British sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses, which was very character-based and had a simple but charming humour to it. Unfortunately though, my cynicism’s growing and these days I’m more into comedians like Doug Stanhope.

Wallace & Gromit‘s more of a direct influence, I’d say, because of how well they manage to blend action and comedy together. The chase scene in A Close Shave is a perfect example of that: it’s wholly entertaining, and it’s got a very good mix of genuine jokes with geniune thrills.

7.)What are your full aspirations for Da New Guys? You’ve developed an animation and now finally have the second game, is there a next step or did the process of over 9 years betwen games drain that dream?

My ambitions grow with each project, and each one takes more and more effort, so I think any potential “next step” for Da New Guys would really be huge. I’ll never say no to anything else DNG-related, but I think another game would be so ambitious I’d have to really think hard about how to go about it properly. If people respond well to their first sequel, I’d certainly be very enthused to do another one!

8.)In terms of construction, how much of the game is all you(not counting the music) and what did Wadjeteye bring to the table?

Wadjet Eye got involved very late in development, so up until the middle of last year it was all me. That said, I think having Wadjet Eye on board massively improved the game. The story and pacing was final, but in an adventure game it’s the small moments and details that matter, and I got a ton of feedback. Not just from the excellent testers, but Dave and Emily were both very open about what they liked and didn’t like, which really helped me bash the game into shape. There were a couple of moments in the game where, looking back, the puzzles really weren’t so intuitive, and they were great to bounce new ides off of.

Wadjet Eye also gave me a whole bunch of voice actors! The first Da New Guys game was all voiced by myself, and it’s pretty obvious. While there are a lot of new characters in the sequel, there are some returning as well, but Dave was able to get some great replacements who I really wish I was able to get at the time I made the first one.

9.)I noticed in the art gallery that the characters started out as 3D models which you then drew over for Day of The Jackass, what was the thinking process for this decision?

The main reason the game took so long to make was because for a long time it really lacked the polish I wanted it to have, and the low-budget was painfully obvious when it came to animation. I can’t animate 2D at all, so when – after having learnt 3D animation – I discovered a way to animate in 3D space and rotoscope the frames into the game, the answer was obvious. It was a very elaborate and time-consuming job to convert the 3D to 2D, but I think it paid off really well, and let me come up with new puzzles that took advantage of it. Whereas before it was difficult enough to make a character hold their hand out, now I could make them kick, climb ladders, and do whatever I wanted. That freedom really meant I didn’t have to cut a puzzle or be less ambitious in a cutscene, just because I wouldn’t be able to portray it.

I’m really glad you’re enjoying it so far, and thanks for the interest!

I finally finished the game various times since that interview and slowly but surely getting this article up for print since the game became officially available at the end of February/almost beginning of March.  It is currently on sale from Wadgeteye Games and for $10 is worth it for anyone who enjoys funny point n click adventures with full stories and enjoyable characters.  There are arguments that can be made that NO ONE would want to help The Brain and that’s true, but I can think of many popular comedies full of annoying, stupid characters that we enjoy following… Mr. Bean, Peter Griffin, etc. and luckily for most of the game one plays the more enjoyable courageous, interesting guy that you wonder why he even hangs with these guys and the tough, grumpy, gruff guy that makes you wonder why he hangs with these guys.  It’s that awesome triumverite we’ve seen before and done well in an animated indie cartoon adventure.

Kickstarter Projects you should check out (March 22, 2012)

SPIKE-A Love Story Too: A one man video game production of a sequel to an excellent flash game with humor, cool graphics and ingenious ideas about gaming. The sequel promises to be bigger and better with an Atari mode, a Bob Ross mode and a Visual novel mode.

Cavegirl Fudge: A big part of my weight loss is finding new products that would allow me to enjoy the pleasure and still keep my weight down. These girls are making fudge I can eat. No sugar, fat free dairy… all that good stuff. New York is full of companies making healthy chocolate, but none of them are making FUDGE.

BEYOND-The Adventure Short: This could be one really interesting little film and the director’s previous effort Paradox is great.

The Gills – Motor Running EP Release: Some good music and tons of charisma from a rock band of four brothers, well, two brothers and two brothers.

The Last Of McGuinness: A documentary of professional wrestling’s Nigel McGuiness (Desmond Wolfe in TNA) final wrestling tour before retirement, he visited tons of wrestlers who like him had the talent, know how and skill, but was never given the ball in the big leagues. Stories, road trip, history, looks like a good one.

The Little Red Bird : A Multi lingual children’s storybook designedd to be offered for free as an e-book, but also making limited edition traditional style book.

I Was A Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator: Keith “Keef” Knight wants to do his first original graphic novel and like all his work it’s autobiographical.

PULP BOY film: Great movie project with an awesome star lined up (Allen Enlow who you might recognize from commercials and web series) and to be made from a script by crime writers Victor Gischler and Anthony Neil Smith.

Professor Cat’s ‘Mazing Machine : I’m not sold on the puzzle game the developer is making cause it’s not my kind of thing, but the design of Professor Cat by artist Caldwell Tanner is awesome.

Borthaniel : Comic book about a genetically engineered teddy bear like thing. Maybe a little much Boris The Bear looking, but still cool.

Manga Animated Music Video for original song by Cristina Vee, pretty self explanatory. Here’s Cristina’s Youtube.

Album for Johnny BHive called Jaggar Jones-Poetry in Motion. I listened to some of his stuff at ReverbNation and it’s pretty good.

I’ve started looking at IndieGoGo as well for possibly interesting projects and here are two:

The Bret Braddock Adventures: An awesome web comic collection from Australia about the production of a ridiculous TV show. Great art work and really funny.

What is it Katy?: Another collection of a fascinating web comic that was done as an experiment and turned out excellent.


Nerd Notes for March 21, 2012 (Mostly Video Games Edition)

The Act: An upcoming iPhone and Mac game which is basically an interactive 2D cartoon.  Sort of like I’d say Dragon’s Lair but at a much higher level of gaming and style of humor.  Having better animation than Don Bluth would be asking too much, but The Act still looks like some high quality fun.

Katawa Shoujo: A Free Interactive Visual Novel based in bishojo, it had it’s birth in 4Chan of all places.  It’s for a really niche market, but that a joke became a real project with good art and music after 5 years is amazing and, it’s free, so don’t complain.

YESTERDAY from Pendulo Studios: Most known for entertaining, funny and highly adventurous modern point n click games with awesome cartoon graphics, Pendulo goes a new route of horror and suspense.  It’s still a point n click and uses their usual art style, but it should be an interesting twist.  Pendulo, Daedelic and Click Shake are the three best companies doing the point n click except for of course Double Fine who will be making hopefully the next big adventure game.

Drew Wise – Pixel Artist:  An excellent artist who also makes greatly designed shirts based mostly in video games but with some pop-culture too.  His Beetlejuice shirt design it awesome.  I’m done with shirts after my Remus and Liam shirt and my eventual DFA shirt (and any shirts I might get as promos at a Comic-Con), but you should get it.

Jón Kristinsson-PointnClicking: Inspired by Double Fine’s return to adventure game making, this artist started doing quality pieces based on his favorite classics.

High Vaultage:  Simple controls, but awesome cute pixel graphics, cute music and addictive.

Jason Boyer: Great artist who dabbles in design, illustration, animation, pixel art and games.

Nerd Notes 3/12/2012

While it’s nice that Microsoft still offers Movie Maker 2.6 for folks who don’t like or need a more refined software than the dumbed down Windows Live Movie Maker, it’s not the same thing as Vista Movie Maker a free program only available through Vista.  That software will work on a Windows 7 machine and luckily Techbliss is offering it.

When “Clerks 2″ came out William Garvey, composer and writer of the Q Lazzarus hit track “Goodbye Horses” made famous in “Silence of the Lambs” did a remix for the film, this more uppy, happy, transcendant version was never released, but again in a turn of luck, William Garvey put it on his website for the world.

Edward Pun, an artist at Sucker Punch Productions, makers/creators of the video games Sly Fox &  inFAMOUS edits a collection of comics by other Sucker Punch artists called ATOMIC LEAD , they include work by Dev Madan, former DC artist and co-creator of Young Heroes in Love and artist on the Sly Fox comic produced in 2004.

In The Darkness II video game there is a short film featured on a TV, they show the entire flick, but you can’t zoom into it, something about the movie felt like it was something they borrowed from elsewhere and I was correct.  It’s called The Other Gods, a short silent film desigbed and sold as if it’s from the 20′s, except it was made in the aughties. (The Other Gods)

There’s quite a few OZ films coming out in 2012 including the animated Dorothy of OZ and a prequel starring James Franco, but another is a Sequel/Reimaging from BBC Films called Dorothy and The Witches of OZ which borrows from the concepts of other modern retellings such as the Wonderland miniseries and Once Upon A Time.

The live action trailer for video game SLEEPING DOGS the formerly titled True Crime-Hong Kong,  is really a quality production,  I’m as excited about this game as I have been since day one of its existence and through it’s troubled turmoil life cycle.

Here’s a video of Paul Williams in full “Planet of The Apes” make-up and costume from a Tonight Show with Johnny Carson episode (via Rock* games)

No trailer or website exists from Billy Bob Thorton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car, but between the cast, plot and it being a Thorton flick, I’m quite excited as it’s been 11 years since Billy Bob wrote/directed.

Something Else by Dried Brains is an example of simple Flash cartoons that can be high quality and hilarious are alive and well.

If you like indie musicians, ukulele and The Beatles, I have the website/project for you.  Some of my favorite indie folks and friends have been involved in this one including Bree Sharp, Alyson Greenfield, Andrew Vladeck and many more.

I’m not sold on HTML 5 but this scrollable comic called SOUL REAPER is a good example of what can be done.

Law & Order’s Legacy Continues in Interactive Format

I was twelve years old when Law & Order began its long run on NBC. The show didn’t really hit its stride till the late great Jerry Orbach joined the cast in the second season along with S. Epatha Merkeson in my personal opinion and truly didn’t reach excellence till Sam Waterson joined as Jack McCoy. All that can be easily argued, but suffice it to say I’ve been a fan since day one. Criminal Intent was quickly my favorite show because of the awesomeness of D’Onofrio’s Goren and Kathryn Erbe’s Eames, but SVU always held my interest through and might actually top CI as a favorite with Meloni’s Stabler, Hartigay’s Benson and Wong’s Dr. Huang. Through the new shows though I still always loved the original and it’s various pairings. Logan was the original guy, but once teamed with Brisco he just reached levels of awesomeness and anyone who teamed with Lennie was automatically awesome, especially Rey Curtis. The way they wrote Benjamin Bratt’s character out was tragic, but the return to who he was in 2009 was just as tragic and never had any followup.

All this build up brings us to be able to discuss the new Telltale game for iOS and eventually PC, Law & Order: Legacies. Written and developed by Ryan Kaufman with production from Dave Felton, the game attempts to actually create in many a season of Law and Order that could’ve made it to the airwaves, alongside the fantasy of stories never told. It’s definitely a professional approved fan fiction, but it’s a well done one with creativity and an attempt at as much accuracy as possibly allowed by the production’s budget and limits. I found it interesting that Arie Kaplan who worked on the HOUSE M.D. games and is an accomplished journalist worked on Episode 2.

Unlike Telltale’s Back To The Future which featured the talents of original BTTF stars Christopher Lloyd, and Claudia Wells, the Law & Order game were not able to procure talent such as Benjamin Bratt, S. Epatha Merkeson, or Linus Roach among others such as obviously the dearly departed Jerry Orbach. Yet despite this, between quality voice acting and top notch art, the original actors are surely missed, but do not result in causing a distraction. Among the talent are voice over actress Cissy Jones, poet/musician Kid Beyond who has worked for Telltale previously, musician/voice actress Rashida Clendening, and many of the people who have worked with Telltale on other productions. The one voice they were able to retain was Steve Zirnkilton, the Voice of Law & Order, as well as that pretty critical Mike Post composition.

In playing this I had really wanted to replay the Vivendi/Legacy Law & Order games which had the use of the real actors, but as I remembered featured mail it in performances as well as writing and tons of bugs, yet, I wanted to try and do a track record of these type of games, as well as comparing them to Telltale’s CSI games. Yet in terms of style, content and conception, Legacies is its own entity based much more in paying attention to clues and having a good eye, while the previous games were based more in choosing the right random dialogue tree and beating annoying minigames like tile, match and also match and sometimes peck and hunt.

While I’ve only gotten to play the first two episodes, I wanted to reflect on the plot as there was a real attempt here to create something original here. The game in the first episode seems to take place shortly after season 12 and before Season 13. Detective Rey Curtis after a few years since his wife’s passing in 2009 and moving back to NYC is prompted by his daughters to return to the force instead of moping around. He someone gets automatically put back on the 27th Precinct run by Lt. Van Buren where he and Lennie Briscoe partnered. His first case in which he hasn’t been given a partner is a murder which also turns up rape evidence, Detective Benson from the 16th is called up to join the investigation as her partner is “on leave”, which is probably Benson not wanting to accept that Elliot actually quit, that is the only thing that makes sense unless Ryan Kaufman messed up his L&O timelines . That now gives us the Legacy of two major L & O characters becoming temporary partners on a major case, which once the suspect was revealed probably should’ve been turned over to Goren and Eames, but that’s splitting hairs. That case takes a quick left turn during trial and it is up to Michael Cutter and Abby Carmichael to clean up the mess. This must be before Cutter ends up as the new Bureau Chief of ADAs who work on SVU cases. A sidenote in the story reveals a connection between this case and a cold case Briscoe and Curtis worked on years ago.

In chapter two we are sometime between 1995 and 1999, probably closer to 99 based on the statement that the cold case took place 10 years ago from the first episode’s story, although for the time line to work it had to be at least 11-12 years ago, but one can say I’m nitpicking. This is an untold case of Briscoe and Curtis looking into the possible murder of a young father who died steps from his door step. The investigation follows all logical steps and Jack McCoy and Abby Carmichael have to use everything they can to convict in a case that isn’t not exactly as clear cut as one would hope. During the episode we discover a little more information on the Cold Case mentioned in Episode one and that it wasn’t just cold but closed, and that Lennie had been working on it on his own time. I spoil this information here so that fans and potential gameplayers who have yet to try the game out are aware there is an over arching storyline which seems to promise that while each episode is playable on its own, the full purchase will be definitely worth it.

Plot out of the way a very quick discussion of gameplay. So far the game is broken into two sections much like the TV show. We open with an investigation which includes listening to answers, hearing stories and a bit of a “find the item” type of minigame which actually has some thought put into it and allows for some cool looking backgrounds. The questions section will ask at certain points if you believe someone or feel you’ve caught them in a lie or that information provided was accurate and if you answer that correctly, a multiple choice will ask you the why of the answer. These mulptiple choices can be tricky as they can be worded incorrectly. Getting an answer wrong won’t end your game, but it may lead to a different result when it comes to the trial. Once all investigations are done, you go into court room mode. Here when interviewing a witness on the stand it is much like the interview investigations, but the twist comes in the properly placing objections and doubt when the defense is up at bat. There is also a closing arguments segment where you must properly choose what subjects to bring up. There are chances of losing, winning by jury or even offering a plea bargain which allows multiple gameplays just to see those scenes play out.

While I have not yet played the just released episode 3 which introduces Detective Logan to the story as returning to the force after quitting Major Case, trying out the real world and deciding he had to be a homicide detective, I definitely look forward to it and seeing where else the game and story go. Maybe with four episodes to go we might even get appearances from Lupo or Munch. Since this game was supposed to originally be a Law & Order: L.A. game there’s a chance will get a cameo from Connie Rubierosa who has decided that California just wasn’t doing it for her. Either way Telltale has shown that they can handle telling original stories, with gameplay that should be acceptable for all levels of gameplayers from the beginners to the veterans and a plotline that should be satisfying to all levels of fans of Law & Order as well.