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‘Deff’ Hurtles Through Stages Filled With Errant Grim Reapers

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 09:00

Cleaving his way through each stage with dashing scythe slashes, Deff doesn’t let his wheelchair get in the way of carving up the other reapers who’ve given up on their duties.

This grim action game follows Deff, one of the few grim reapers who still seems interested in doing their job. Most of the other reapers have all flaked off, leaving Eternus (the world of the Reapers) without the influx of human souls that powers it. Not that Deff cared all that much until one of these rebel reapers attacked him, leaving him a paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair. Now, he’s in a bit of a lousy mood.

Deff’s new existence has not slowed his reaping abilities down one bit, as the reaper can dash with a scythe attack, flying across its stage through the force of its swing. These attacks can be used to cleave through enemies, grasp targets to skirt over dangerous pitfalls, or move out of the way of incoming attacks. You’ll be using Deff’s speed to outmaneuver his bony enemies, always staying on the move and striking foes too quickly for them to react.

Once you get the hang of movement, you’ll be cutting down the 80’s-themed rebel reapers (why do rebel reapers dig 80’s fashion?) and big bosses with little trouble. Hopefully, it won’t take you too long to teach these upstarts that they need to stop laying about and get back to the honest work of killing people for their souls.



Deff is currently in development, but in the meantime, you can grab a demo from itch.io.

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‘I’m a Vet’ Helps Fantastic Creatures in Need

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 03:00

Just because you’re dealing with a magical, otherworldly creature doesn’t mean it won’t eat garbage and upset its tummy. That’s where you and your veterinary skills come in.

I’m a Vet has you acting as an animal doctor for some strange creatures, having you assess the poor babies to see what’s ailing them. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you’ll have to do some prep to carry out their care, which is all done through lighthearted minigames that you play with the mouse and arrow keys. If you can play them well, these cosmic creatures should be back to their old selves in no time.

The game is quite short, yet does a great job of instantly connecting you with its ailing animals (although part of that may be the animal lover in me, as I basically die inside the second I think a dog or cat is in pain or even UPSET), making you want to help these poor creatures. And considering the sheer amount of junk a certain one has eaten, they’ll need all the help you can offer them.

I’m a Vet is a delightful take on caring for animals. Won’t you help this poor critter get better?

I’m a Vet is available now on itch.io.

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IGP First Look – ‘MISTOVER’

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 15:00

This IGP First Look has us trying to help cute heroes survive a decidedly uncute fate at the hands of ruthless ghouls and worms in ruthless roguelike RPG MISTOVER.

A nasty vortex seems to have brought some trouble with it, bringing humanity to the brink of extinction. Except, then it kind of just…stopped? The creatures up and left. So, what do the survivors do next? They start poking around the hazy dimensions inside the vortex to see what’s all going on inside. Great plan. Let’s send the remaining people to die INSIDE the vortex rather than outside it.

And die you shall, judging from our experience with the first dungeon. Enemies hit exceedingly hard right from the start, causing outlandish extra damage with status ailments and buffs. MISTOVER has zero intention of holding your hand (although it always carefully explains your abilities, if you’re willing to listen), throwing you right into hard fights. You’ll have access to an array of different heroes you can recruit, offering you various powers that can help keep you going. A Paladin’s defensive skills can be a big help, as can those of your excitable Healer. You’ll have to make the most of them to live.

Not that the game is without some kindness. Lethal blows put you in a near-death state that a heal can bring you out of, but one more knock when you’re like that means your character is dead. Permanently. Hope you didn’t invest too much into them.

It has a similar feel to Darkest Dungeon, but offers a free-roam map to wander, making exploration feel a bit more hands-on, and movement is also an important factor in combat. Those looking for a hard RPG with a mixture of cute/dark visuals will definitely get what they’re looking for from this one.



MISTOVER is available now on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Steam.

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‘A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP’ Plays Pachinko With Demons on a Lovely Vacation

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 09:00

A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP follows a creature born of a little boys’ nightmares as they take a quiet Summer vacation for themself.

Adrien is a being of nightmares made manifest, but when they’re not stirring up fears in a young man, they need to do a little something to take care of themself. A little trip to the city is just the right thing to clear the mind of a spirit born of foul dreams, especially when you meet all kinds of wild, wacky beasts and visions along the way. Surely they’re game for a little pachinko or something else fun.

Adrien will find themselves up to all manner of goofy activities and “gay crimes” as they explore the city, and you’ll be there to help them make decisions on what they want to get up to and how they want to react to their new friends and the people they meet. Hopefully you don’t cause too much trouble (or at least don’t get CAUGHT causing too much trouble). And if you play things out right, you just might turn those past nightmares into a pleasant dream made real.

A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP offers a short, but lighthearted (and often touching) story of the good times even our worst nightmares can have. Plus, doesn’t it make our haunting visions just a bit less frightening when you think of them going out and hanging with their best nightmare buddies? Suddenly, my dreams of being mauled to death by  ghosts while trying to use the bathroom in a graveyard seem slightly less terrifying.



A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP is available now on itch.io and Steam.

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‘Nothing to Say’ Grows More Comfortable as You Get to Know Someone

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 03:00

You like Zoe, but it’s so hard to express what you want to say to her. Luckily, that will get easier as you get to know her and spend time with her.

Nothing to Say leaves you with very little to talk about when you go out with Zoe. You have things that you want to tell her or talk about, but you can only use the letters N, O, T, H, I, N, and G to start with. You can only select the dialogue options that you have all of the letters for, leaving you with little to reply with on your first outing with Zoe. Fortunately, she’s a kind, understanding soul, and is still willing to go out with you again another time.

Even if you spend most of your date in silence, you’ll still learn little bits about her. These hints at her personality and small, heartfelt moments which will give you a heart point. These heart points can be used after your date to unlock letters that can be selected next time, giving you more dialogue options to choose from on future dates, which gives you the ability to earn more hearts and unlock even more letters. You should be having a lovely chat with her in no time.

Nothing to Say tells a lovely story in its seeming simplicity, showing the steady comfort that grows as people get to know one another, and the natural conversation that can flow out of a quiet soul when they finally make that personal connection with someone. The introvert in me couldn’t stop grinning at this one.

Nothing to Say is playable for free on itch.io.

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Developer Insight: Why I Made A Game That Isn’t Fun

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 15:00

The following is a guest post from developer David Stark (reposted with permission from their site) on exploring common monetizing delay mechanics to make the purposely-unfun Sandstorm.

We’ve all played mobile games that get steadily more hostile towards the player as time goes on. The kind of game that wants so desperately for you to become a paying customer that it puts increasing roadblocks in front of you. Pay to skip the wait. Pay to remove the limit. Pay to get a boost, skip the ads, make the numbers go up faster.

Sandstorm is a game that was sparked by a conversation about the intentionality of these kind of mechanics, and the idea that a game could be purposefully unfun.

Background

Some background – in the early days following the Cookie Clicker craze, I wrote a game called CivClicker – one of the seminal games in the genre (though now long forgotten), it blended the clicker mechanics of incremental games with worker management and tech-tree progress inspired by god games. Not a mobile developer myself, and happy to get the game in front of more people, I licensed the game to a company so that they could make a mobile port.

The port was, to no-one’s surprise, awful.

The company had taken the core game and tried to bake in mechanics to monetize it. In their case, they chose delay mechanics. Want to research a new tech? You need to spend the resources, and you need to wait a day. Pay to buy in-game currency. Spend in-game currency to skip the wait and get it instantly. Not uncommon, and at the beginning of the game basically just an inconvenience.

But it steadily got worse. Mechanics that in the original game were carefully balanced to provide a sense of progress were gated off behind increasingly long delays. Active play became impossible – it ended up more like something to check in on once a day and press some more buttons so I could check in tomorrow. I eventually quit playing after a while, deeply frustrated with the experience and lamenting that my name had been connected with it.

The experience, originally created to provide a sense of steady and fun progression, had been ruined by a lack of intentionality in design – or rather, a perversion of that intention, designed to manipulate and coerce. The game wasn’t designed to be fun. It was designed to suck you in, and then hurt you until you paid up or left.

On a roll after finishing this year’s js13k, I wanted a quick project that would tide me over until the judging. A conversation with a friend about the experiences above sparked an interesting idea: what if a game was designed with those kind of anti-fun delay mechanics as the core experience? Would it be fun at all? What would it tell us about game design, about play, and about players?

Games As Art

I’ve always been a proponent of the creation and analysis of games as art pieces. As interactive media, games are in a unique position to communicate certain ideas, feelings, and messages from creator to audience, or even from audience to audience.

What does it mean to say that delay mechanics are unfun? Well, to start with, we are making a bunch of assumptions about what “fun” means. There’s a sense, and I think it’s common, that games should be interesting, stimulating and above all, responsive.

A game that feels unpredictable, or has floaty controls, or doesn’t give you a sense of control is hard to stick with. Elements of polish like sound and visual effects, screen shake and controller rumble are all designed to give direct sensory feedback to the player. An unresponsive game is almost synonymous with bad design – or perhaps more accurately, responsiveness is seen as a mark of well-executed design. Game feel is a nebulous term but everyone knows it when they encounter it, and it seems to me that responsiveness is core to good game feel.

A delay mechanic, by its nature, disconnects the player’s action from the outcome. It cuts the feedback loop, the Skinner Box lever-reward connection that drives so many game interactions. Just one more turn. Just one more level. The core loop, the 30 seconds of button-reward-button-reward gameplay that’s designed to be addictive, to hook you. It’s all cut short by the delay.

This is, of course, why the delay ramps up. They don’t start you out waiting for an entire day. They start you out with 30 seconds. You can wait half a minute, can’t you? Then the next one is a minute. Then two. Then five. And so on – until you’re checking in once a day to see if your countdowns have finished and you can keep playing the game, or else you get frustrated and pay to play now.

But what does a game look like when it deliberately eschews the conventional wisdom of action and immediate reward? Could such a game even be fun to play at all? Honestly – I think the answer is no. But the experience, and working out why, is illuminating.

Designing An Unfun Experience

Indie dev means a lot of interation and a lot of playtesting your own game. The very first work I did on Sandstorm was to implement the input delay that I wanted to overshadow the entire experience.

The idea was to have the user operate a Mars rover, with realistic delay between input and action (the end result was a bit more complicated than that, but broadly speaking that’s what ended up happening), so I started out with a delay of 182 seconds – the time required for light to travel the theoretical minimum distance between Earth and Mars of 54,600,000km.

This input delay immediately got in my way. I couldn’t implement movement or other controls while having to wait 3 minutes before even getting a response: that would be madness. And it was! But it showed me something important. Even testing it once I knew it was working was torture. My brain expected instant response. It’s been trained by years of clicking buttons while staring at screens to demand it.

And so I did what anyone would do, if they could. I turned it off.

Not only that, but I kept the delay off most of the way through development. I did turn it on again occasionally to check that it was still working the way I wanted, and that the experience I was building in my head matched the experience I was expecting the player to have. Each time, I turned it off again – I justified that to myself as it getting in the way, slowing me down, and acting as a pointless obstruction to development, all of which are definitely true. There was a nagging feeling at the back of my head that it was unfun and I should get rid of it.

I wondered if anyone would want to play a game like this. I’m not sure I wanted to, and I made the damn thing. But it was important to me that the game exist in that form, unapologetic and with no way to turn it off. I wanted it to exist as an object model of what not to do; to take a cute and simple game and make it almost literally unplayable. And I wondered what it said about me, that I couldn’t play my own game. It was a challenge.

Themes And Rewards

When I originally envisioned the game, I thought about it having a quiet loneliness and isolation to it. “My battery is low and it’s getting dark”, a poetic interpretation of Opportunity’s final communication with earth, perfectly encapsulates the feeling.

These are themes that have been weighing on me personally as someone with PTSD and depression, and I wanted to communicate them through the game. On the surface it was a perfect vehicle for it – a lonely Mars rover isolated from literally everyone, having to survive on its own and with a “connection” to an operator, the physical limits of which stretch the definition of the word.

But as I worked on it and contemplated what the delay actually meant, and what the experience of the player was actually going to be like, I realized that the player wasn’t going to be the lonely one. The player was the operator, experiencing frustration, forced to wait, needing to exercise patience. And so the themes shifted away from the melancholic and towards the phlegmatic. I still connect with the rover on a personal level, but the game is – in the end – about the player.

There are fragments within the game that can be collected, bearing quotations. There’s a Bennett Foddy-esque quality to them, an external reminder of the metanarrative of the game. Unlike Getting Over It, though, I didn’t want to interject myself and my feelings into those quotes. I might be intentionally putting the overall experience in front of the player, but my intent was to keep them disconnected from both the game and the experience of the game – to act as external anchoring points and opportunities for reflection.

There’s no achievement or bonus for collecting all of them, by the way. In fact, the game doesn’t care if you collect any of them. But they’re there, and require no small amount of dedication and patience to collect. The rewards are, much like the reward for finishing the game, largely intrinsic.

Conclusions

Ultimately, this is a game about overcoming the way games have trained you to expect an immediate response. If you want to see the end, you need to be patient. If you can stand to be with your own thoughts, then it might even be a meditative experience. However if, like me, you can’t play it without switching to something else – well, I don’t blame you. It’s deliberately unfun.

Sandstorm is available now on the developer’s site.

The post Developer Insight: Why I Made A Game That Isn’t Fun appeared first on Indie Games Plus.

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‘Probably I forgot something’ Talks its Way Out of Pocket Monster Battles

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 09:00

Everyone is big on pocket monster fights in the world of Probably I forgot something. It’s a shame that you forgot your beasts at home, though.

You’re out for a walk when you realize that you don’t have your pocket monsters on you. That’s not a good thing, considering that everyone is really into monster battles these days, and they aren’t taking no for an answer. So, you’ll need to either produce a monster to fight for you, or else it’s you who’ll be getting hydro pumped and blasted with flames.

The only solution you have is to appeal to the various natures of the three trainers you stumble across on the way home. If you can just say the right things to these people, they’ll eventually leave you alone. The difficult part is that they’ll still be roasting you with fire attacks whenever you open your mouth, so you have to find the right thing to say before you’re cooked alive due to everyone’s favorite hobby.

Probably I forgot something is a short, silly browser game made for Ludum Dare 45 (where the theme was “Start with nothing”) that offers a handful of different endings depending on how you talk to everyone. Mind you, most of those endings will involve your smoldering body lying on the lush grass, but if you’re lucky, you just might make it home. And if you don’t, maybe don’t tell your buddies that you were clobbered by a fire-breathing body pillow.

Probably I forgot something is playable for free on itch.io.

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‘Sunset Kingdom’ Strives to Build Settlements from Scratch

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 03:00

Sunset Kingdom challenges players to balance taxes, rations, and job assignments while conquering this new world.

Starting from the humble beginnings of a small settlement, you will have the ultimate goal to become the monarch of a prosperous land.

In this strategic management simulation, you will have to decide on a lot of factors to ensure your success. Firstly, taxes – what’s a wealthy monarchy without them? Taxing your citizens will gain you more money, sure, but they probably won’t be too happy about it. You can try to negate this bloating tax by increasing their food rations – full belly, happy citizen.

Once you’ve established your first colony and have amassed a modest sum, you’ll want to start thinking of expansion. Enlist those happy citizens by assigning them to one of seven different jobs. You’ll want a diverse crowd to make sure you can construct new buildings with builders and lumberjacks while maintaining and gathering for your food stores with fishers and farmers. You may also want to check into your defenses since Viking ships are always a threat, and only a strong set of knights will protect your throne.

This adorable simulation of creating a thriving population for the glory of the King/Queen is a great way to exercise your inner tactician – and monarch.

Sunset Kingdom is available now on itch.io. You can also check out the Patreon.

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IGP First Look – ‘WHAT THE GOLF?’

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 15:00

WHAT THE GOLF? brings an unpredictable silliness to the sport in this week’s IGP First Look. Picture Warioware, but with more clubs.

I rarely knew what to expect when I started any given level of WHAT THE GOLF?. Would I be golfing with a soccer net? Would I be using an office chair? An entire house? It’s not just a use of weird objects, but the game itself would morph into just about anything the developers felt like. Sometimes you’re Spider Man (in golf ball form), using sticky lines to pull yourself to the hole. Maybe you become a kind of Super Mario ball and have to hop over enemies and cliffs to make it to that stage goal. Or perhaps you become the embodiment of a ridiculous pun.

This creativity in what was going to happen made seeing how a stage worked just as much of a delight as playing the game. It was always a treat just to see what surprises lay in each level, or how the developers took flinging an object and made it something new. The control scheme was always straightforward (use the mouse to gauge your strength and choose the direction to move), but there was always some new way to use that simple control scheme in some outlandish way. It’s constantly absurd, resulting in a game of near endless delights as you see just what odd new things have been created for you to work through. It’s easy to control, filled with delightfully silly tunes, and offers endless surprises. WHAT THE GOLF? is easily the best golf game for folks who hate golf.



WHAT THE GOLF? is available now on Apple Arcade and the Epic Games Store.

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A Butterfly Brings Life to the Dull Existence of ‘Mosaic’

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 09:00

A lot of games are full of color, life and hope. Many games take us into worlds so much better than our own, while others show us worlds that might be a bit worse.

Mosaic is a game that takes you into a dark and sad world, until something happens that changes it all.

Playing as a normal human with a dull and boring job, you’re just looking to get to work. It’s a pretty simple idea – make your way out of your house and get to your job. You live in a large city, filled with so much garbage and too many people. Your phone has notifications you don’t care too much about, and games that can take your mind off of things. Nothing means anything in your life.

Then, you see a butterfly on your wait to work. Full of color and life, it’s fun to watch. Weaving and making its way through all of the construction and heat of the city – unsure of where it’s going. Until it can no longer go forward. Mosaic is a surreal game – the graphics are beautiful, the sound is ominous, but ultimately, I really didn’t know what I was doing.

I got to play a demo of Mosaic at Gamescom, where I was intrigued. I did want to know more about this adult’s lonely life – the isolation of being a dull person working at a job they hate. I wanted to know what big thing was going to happen to change it all, but in the demo, that big event didn’t happen yet. Everything seemed boring and normal, moving through a mundane life. However, that butterfly brought interest and stark contrast. Now, I am waiting for the game to release.



Mosaic is currently in development, but in the meantime, you can add it to your Steam Wishlist

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