No rite from the stars

This is the hardest game review this site has ever had to write. Negative reviews is just not part of its formula, yet when something has been gifted to us for review it feels only right to recognize the game. Even when so much about the game is poorly designed and implemented despite efforts it seems to make a solid adventure and experience.

The game in this instance is A RITE FROM THE STARS, published but not developed by Phoenix Online Studios. The game was developed by Risin Goat, a small studio in Madrid, Spain. They originally kickstarted the game way in 2014 and from a visual stand point for a tiny studio the many years of build show.

Where the game fails is story and gameplay. Conceived as a point and click with different gameplay methods, the two styles I game more than ample try at were both poorly programmed and lacked much fun. Good reviews on steam even state that they succeeded the game through what seemed like trial and error or constant repetition to notice the puzzle’s less than obvious pattern. This was definitely my experience in the section in which you must control two characters by mouse only and still do perfect timing to complete the section. The coding for this perfect timing is not generous to someone’s skills especially for something promoted as a point n click adventure. The other section I attempted involved switching screen powers and then remembering a pattern while doing perfect timing to avoid enemies that seemed to have a pattern that while exact was hard to maneuver because of the point n’click mechanics which would function much better as a keyboard & mouse or gamepad style.

My frustration with both these sections left me with no interest to even attempt the third. The writing of the characters, the absolute cipher of the lead protagonist and the slightly pressuring role of the co-star all absolute turn offs. The shame of this is my excitement for A RITE was very high. In a time where new and different games inspired by classic point and click in aspiration but in finished product fall short.

A bad review needs some balance, so I must say the music is quite enticing. As is the 3d graphical design. Visually this game is a top notch indie title. The characters, the background, the walk cycles (although faulty for gameplay), there is a lot of talent here. Level design is where the game falters but that’s just a huge thing. Even when frustrated or failing one should feel there could be success if they were just better, yet the case here is being better wouldn’t help. You’ll succeed by luck and just playing over and over and over till finally you beat it. This is not who it should be and takes away from the feeling of achieving a rite. You should feel like you are actually achieving wisdom, strength, etc, but that is not what happens here and because of it I can’t recommend even trying the game out for yourself to try. Although maybe you’ll want to and prove me wrong. Maybe I am just that bad at games. At times one could suggest I am, but I do know when I am having fun versus not and that is where A RITE FROM THE STARS drops out of favor for me. I did not have fun, no matter who pretty it was.

A RITE FROM THE STARS is $14.99 US and available on the official POS Store (https://store.postudios.com/products/a-rite-from-the-stars) as well as Steam, GOG, Humble Store and many more digital retailers.

Selling and Killing and Killing what you Sell (again and again)

Retail work can be hell. Especially when you run your own business shop. There’s ordering, pricing, displaying, selling, keeping customers happy; Keeping track of trends, supply and demand, influx, stock, reorganizing, running the register. To some in Japan that in itself would be a good game. I’m sure that game even exists, but imagine if on top of running the store you also had to go and get your own supplies and products to sell? What if those products could only be procured by fighting monsters and getting strong enough to get more and more product to sell while also helping see your surrounding village and merchants grow and succeed as well? What if you had a dream of escaping the duldrum life of running a strom and just adventuring and discovering mysteries without the worries of that store work life? Yet, the only way to ever reach that dream was to actually make the shop so successful your adventure becomes everything it entails.

 

That is what MOONLIGHTER from developer Digital Sun (published by 11 bit studios) is a fanciful nutshell. Yet, that is a narrative painterly description of the game. While the game is ambitious, and very ice to look at, it definitely doesn’t reach the platitudes I have presented. That is not to say the game isn’t worth your time, as it definitely is.

Before I get to any of the praise let me discuss some of the “downfall” the game suffers IMHO.

Moonlighter is a grind if you’re not a seasoned and never fail gamer. I have seen speedruns and videos showing folks getting through this game easily, I am not one of those people, nor will I ever be. There is a lot to keep track of as you attempt to make money by selling your wares, yet keeping aware of what you have as items you procure are equally needed to upgrade your armor, weapons, and spells. The combat isn’t inspiring, there are no combos. You dodge and you hit, you remember patterns and you hope your fingers are fast enough to follow those patterns as you press buttons. Yes, that is like much combat but it offers no variety or ingenuity, but it does look good.

The store management is not as exciting as one would hope. The reactions from customers, knowing if an item needs to go up or down in price or kept the same, placing the items in a four grid, how many of an item, not accidentally selling an item you need to get the better word so you can survive longer in dungeons to get better items. None of it as actually fun. It can even be aggravating at times. I found myself yelling out loud at the customers, but they can’t hear me cause it’s actually just me yelling at my computer screen. Yet somehow it’s still fun. There’s something inherently fun about it.

That’s the big thing. Even when frustrated the game is a lot of fun. Helping that happen is the excellent pixel art along with an incredible soundtrack and sound design. These two things and the concept propel the world of Moonlighter into being a game you don’t mind having to go back to dungeons and to the store and to the dungeons over and over and over. If life in retail had a soundtrack and visual appeal like Moonlighter even more people would love it. It’s that feeling that makes me recommend the game to pretty much anyone who seeks a gaming experience both familiar and like nothing they have never had. Give it a spin… you’ll get sucked in even as you want to quit, which is a strange but great feeling.

MOONLIGHTER is available now on Windows, PS4, Mac, Xbox One, and Switch.

You can also get the OST on Bandcamp.

 

 

The Incident is Unforeseen but Completely Worth it

Traditional point and click 2D third person adventure games at high levels with excellent voice acting are a rarity. Especially in 2018. Unless of course the publisher is Application Systems Heidelberg, who this year are also publishing an HD remake of the first Nelly Cootalot game and the new detective story from Grundislav Games where failure is an option to completion.

In Backwoods Entertainments story, Unforeseen Incidents, things seem pretty innocent at first. You step into the life of a likable, charismatic layabout named Harper who is living in an alternative universe. You quickly learn that things aren’t as simple as they seem though and soon you’re propelled into a conspiracy and mystery of possibly mythic proportions. There’s a group of colorful characters you meet along the way, fully voice acted with a performance showing care and concern for each line and even stupid joke. Visually, it’s really great, especially the backgrounds. The character designs are definitely an aesthetic that will be hit or miss with each person. Art is subjective after all, but the details in each location are impossible to be amazed by.

 An important part about a quality point and click game outside story is game play. How are the puzzles? Do they make sense? Are they too easy? Too difficult? Too illogical? Does lateral thinking apply or out of the box. A combination of obvious and trying to actually have just try things is such a difficult balance, yet the writers and programmers of this game definitely found it. While some thought processes definitely get lost in translating the games native language of German to English, nothing in my playthrough ever felt impossible. Did I get stuck? Of course I did… did it ever frustrate me? Not once, and there were many reasons for that; As stated the art, which I personally find to be extremely enjoyable; The subtle music and sound design are also superlative.

What really kept me going was the plot and the characters going through this intense adventure that keeps getting bigger and bigger. Harper is just a perfect protagonist. In a film he’d be Val Kilmer, Matt Damon, Jake Gylenhaal, Paul Newman, Mel Gibson, Gérard Depardieu or any number of everyman actors. Someone who is good looking but not too good looking, intimidating without being fearsome, someone you can relate to in a variety of situations and want to see succeed no matter the odds. He has great co-stars as well in an older best friend and genius, a no nonsense journalist, a former boss, a tough as nails park ranger, and a cadre of individuals along the way that just add something to the entire environment, each created with as much care and consideration as our protagonist so none feel one dimensional even in their simple roles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suffice to say I highly recommend Unforeseen Incidents and consider it worth your time, brain process and appreciation.

The game is available now (released May 24th, 2018) and can be purchased on Steam, GOG, Humble, or direct from the publisher at a cost of $20 usually.

Looking Ahead to 2018 Part 2 (Video Games)

GAMES
Telltale Games The Wolf Among Us-Season 2 & The Walking Dead Final Season: Telltale does a lot. Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Game of Thrones, even original stories based in Minecraft, but their FABLES prequel and their Walking Dead sidestory are definitely the two that have truly made fans excited. Knowing there are new stories from both those universes coming in 2018 is fab.

Knights and Bikes: A Double Fine Presents publication. I wish I had gotten on the Kickstarter at the time but couldn’t. Hand painted, bikes, islands, action, adventure… what more could you want?

Ooblets: Pokemon, Animal Crossing, but in an all new bundle of cuteness and specialness. Glopters is making something that looks super cute.

TUNIC: Top down cartoony action that looks super fun and adorable.

Unavowed: The newest from Wadgeteye and Dave Gilbert. An RPG point & click with multiple characters, multiple endings and more.

A Way Out: 2 player only (Local and Online), but the team up concept of breaking out of prison looks really exciting. Hopefully I’ll find a steam gamer with a rig powerful enough whose up for playing this with me when time

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine:
Discover stories, talk to interesting characters. I love art games and this is super artistic and lovely.

VAMPYR: Third person action-adventure with vampire powers and it looks beautiful.

TRAVIS STRIKES AGAIN-No More Heroes 3: A Nintendo Switch exclusive but it’s still super exciting to have another Suda 51/Grasshopper Manufacture leap into the sword slashing, mini game, manical world of Touchdown.

The Gardens Between: This beautiful little game seems to be a simple puzzle games using a time travel mechanic to tell a sweet story, another art piece as interactive game. I love them when doing it right.

Lamplight City: The latest from Grundislav Games, an old school style point and click period piece detective tale with some supernatural elements.

The Adventure Pals: Co-Op Local platformer of insanity which seems you can also play single player. It looks absolutely bonkers.

Left Alive: Third person action survival shooter developed by folks behind Armored Core, MGS and Gundam. What little that has been shown looks wildly brilliant.

Psychonauts 2: Possibly/probably pushed back to 2019, there’s still the chance Double Fine can finish this epic sequel to action adventure platformer classic that put them on the map so long ago. No matter when it comes out I’ll care.

These last three are PS4 exclusives, but are definitely games I seriously want to one day play or just watch people play.
DETROIT-Become Human: The newest David Cage/Quantric Dream masterpiece. The future of AI, androids, multple decisions, multiple characters, multiple replys and playthroughs and their most ambitious title to date.
GOD of WAR: The latest incarnation of the long running PS tale of Kratos continues and this time has his son with him. My favorite genre too in third person action-adventure .
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Insomniac‘s attempt at Spider-Man screams Arkham in it’s feel but with Spidey instead of Bats. Although I feel it’ll also be a lot like Beenox’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions which was excellent what despite game reviewers said and who I generally disagree with.
There’s plenty more games coming but those alone could keep someone properly busy I feel.

Population 81 (strike that) 80

In 1987 at the tender age of 10 I had owned a Commodore 64 for a few years, falling in love with Infocom, Sierra, Tellarium and other individual games in the adventure genre. It was in October of that year that like many others my mind became warped, disturbed and happily pushed on a path of no return with the release of Maniac Mansion. The SCUMM system developed Ron Gilbert, Garry Winnick, David Fox and the rest of the team at Lucasarts changed gaming as we know it so many ways. My love for adventure games and point and click grew from that day, getting my hands of everything from LucasArts as it came out, but I’d actually follow Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick as closely as I could as they moved onto other works. Humongous Games was for kids, but dang it if you couldn’t find enjoyment in Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam and Spry Fox you didn’t like fun. Especially fun, while less a Ron Gilbert game and more Dave Grossman, was Moop & Dreadly. The Cave was definitely something new, different and unexpected, but Ron’s concepts were still clear. His out there thinking for puzzles and his abstract writing. Yet still nothing he had done ever felt like it captured the spirit of his early work.

That all changed with Thimbleweed Park; and not just because it literally feels like a lost Lucasfilm game from say 1992 (the game takes place in 1987 but Pixel art was definitely not at this level yet) right after Lechuck’s Revenge but before Day of the Tentacle with Double Fine’s Tim Schafer. Having the team that developed Maniac Mansion come back together to devise a truly new, but old classic point and click adventure born from the new fundraising and therefore self publishing platform of Kickstarter has allowed for something that was probably just like Broken Age was once envisioned into something bigger, prettier, more vast and more impressive then ever imagined when originally conceived. In fact as I played through the game I could not believe how epic it became. While only taking place in a small town, the scope of the story and the way it is told will blow you away and catch you off guard in surprising and wonderful ways.

Thimbleweed Park is beautiful. Every inch of it despite being pixels is dazzling. The characters truly become alive with powerful animation, true detail and grit. Helping this is of course the scripting of Gilbert and David B. Fox. Making these characters truly real is the amazing cast though. Thimbleweed Park is through and through a true puzzle game in which hard mode, your brain will get twisted and twizzled to the point of maybe being fried, but at the same time, you are never truly stuck. The solution is probably staring you in the face. You must remember this a game of five distinct characters and you play them all and can switch between one. Like Maniac Mansion you rely on each other to solve certain puzzles. It’s a fun and exciting thing that can really only be experienced in a video game. Helping yourself out by helping yourself but as two people? In the real world or in most video games that involves another actual human, but in adventure games, you get to be both people. It’s amazing… and as I said while it’s a game through and through, the cast really brings it to life.

Acclaimed voice director Khris Brown put together some amazing folks for this. Nicole Oliver, an anime American adaptation legend, who most recently is known for her work My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and has worked on another Ron Gilbert game in Death Spank plays the tough as nails FBI agent. Ian Garret, the most popular voice of Dragon Ball’s Goku and the voice of multiple characters on Ninjago and a long list of roles brings Ransome the Clown, the game’s most interesting, funniest, and wildest character to life invoking a bit of Norm MacDonald, Gilbert Gottfried, Bobcat Goldwaith and Sam Kinison to create a guy you can’t but love to hate and hate to love. Our wayfaring ghost without a chance, who whines and whimpers but is a joy to play as is given a bit of gravitas and sympathy by Alex Zahara, a longtime character and voice actor of stage, small screen, anime, games and most recently Amazon’s hit series Man in the Highcastle as Diehls. Rounding out our main cast are Javier Lacroix, a Spanish actor with a long list of commercials to his credit as deceptive to his actual age, as he sounds perfect as the young, seemingly mysterious other FBI agent and Elise Kates, a sound designer who has worked on Girls Makes Games The Hole Story as what could be considered our lead protagonist Delores, a game developer who returns home to Thimbleweed Park just as the mystery begins who is right in the middle of it all.

One of the cooler parts about Thimbleweed Park is once it’s said and done there are so many reasons to go back, especially on Steam as there are a few wonderful achievements. Yet, on top of that, unless you plan to sit through them all on a first play-through drastically causing pacing to the story to go to a crawl there tons of books to read as well as phone messages to listen to for the completest in you. They just add another layer to the actually to the game and it’s creation from day 1 to release and should truly not be skipped to feel fully immersed in the town and world created.

Thimbleweed Park is available for $19.99 on Steam, GOG, Xbox Live, and Mac App Store as of Launch, with other platforms coming in the near future.

(This review was built from an advance copy of Thimbleweed Park, which I finished days before launch and has kept my mouth shut about even though I want to talk and hear from everyone about it. Go play it folks, beat it, then talk talk talk talk talk and then talk some more)

 

2017: A Look Ahead

2016 is near its end or it’s over based on when you read this. It was a rough year in many respects, but it gave us a ton of excellent pop-culture. 2017 as of now promises to do the same. There’s SO much to look forward to. To list it ALL would take forever so I thought I’d just focus on a few things here and there.

NETFLIX is hitting hard with a multitude of shows debuting or returning. Amongst them:
Degrassi: Next Class Season 3 – Available January 6, 2017.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1 – Available Jan. 13
Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1 – Available Feb. 3
Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 1 – Available March 17
Sense8: Season 2 – Available May 17
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later- Date TBA

In terms of Network television I can highly recommend the 12th and final season of BONES on FOX premiering Jan 3rd. I’ve seen the first three episodes and they are very hard to comment on without spoilers, but plot twists, reveals, robots and one of the greatest actors of any generation Hal Holbrook are involved.

The reimaginging of the L. Frank Baum saga by Matthew Arnold finally happens with David Schulner (creator of Do No Harm) and so far poorly reviewed but keeps getting work Tarsem Singh at the helm. If anything NBC’s Emerald City looks like it’ll be definite event TV or fail drastically and get cancelled before all 10 episodes even air. One or the other should be fascinating to watch.

legobatman

In terms of films I’d have to say LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is high on my anticipated list. Sure it’s not by the actual writer/directors of Lego Movie (they’re busy making Lego Movie 2) but it has a good pedigree and every teaser and trailer has me excited.

I’m also intrigued by Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. For his first follow-up to Instellar to be a WWII flick is fascinating. It’s also his first SOLO project since Inception as brother Jonathan was busy creating and developing the excellent Westworld. Equally fascinating is the amount of work put into this film. It’s not a remake of the late 60’s film, so it’ll truly interesting to see what stories Nolan chose to build upon to coney emotion, gravitas, and character even when the lead character is still the operation and Dunkirk itself (the film was actually filmed there).

Also pulled in by the adaptation of Dave Egger’s The Circle with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. James Pontsold makes visually enticing, perfectly paced films and chose the easiest and simplest yet not simple Eggers novels to turn into a film.

There’s a ton of amazing video games coming 2017 too but this site is still without an XBoxOne or PS4 so the focus is on PC games but those that will not require a $5000 rig to run.

First up on the excitement board is Full Throttle Remastered the next rebuild of the classic Lucasart’s games designed by Tim Schaeffer which Double Fine was able to get the IP rights back for. I’m really curious to see how they update some of the worse parts of the game like the combat and the maze puzzles. I’m not completely sold on the art actually but I’ve been happy with DF so far, so I’m in.

Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier (First Chapter out, but the rest hits 2017) is awesome. I already reviewed it and I’m excited for the rest.

thimbleweedAlso excited for platform point & clicker A NIGHT IN THE WOODS.
Third person action adventure co-op player TROLL AND I.
2-D Shooter with old school animation CUPHEAD.

and most especially, Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox and teams’ THIMBLEWEED PARK, the pixel point & click dream of a game I think many thought Broken Age would be. I loved Broken Age, always will, but Thimbleweed Park is looking bigger and better then I ever imagined it could be. I didn’t get to back when I wanted to, but I wouldn’t been able to back what I wanted anyways. This is probably number one on my experiences for 2017 I look forward to.

There’s a share of BOOKS coming out as well.

First up two genius female writers tackling heroes from Marvel and DC.

Shannon Hale (with Dean Hale) does The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Meets World and Gwenda Bond comes forth with a third in her awesome Lois Lane series with Tripleflaminglips Threat.

There’s a really cool STEVEN UNIVERSE ORIGINAL GN coming out called TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL by the show’s co-creator Ian Jones-Quarterly, Jeremy Sorese, Asiey Barbie and Josceline Fenton

Michael Crichton’s never before published posthumous novel DRAGON TEETH comes out May 23rd. It’s a Western during western times but about dinosaurs!

Neil Gaiman ventures into both old and new territory retelling the tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and more in NORSE MYTHOLOGY scheduled for February 17.

George Saunders first ever complete novel, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO comes out February 14In music I’m mainly excited for one album.

The new The Flaming Lips titled Oczy Mlody. AFAIK I believe I’m seeing them live in March as well so that makes 2017 awesome.

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.