Eoin’s Eurogamer Expo 2013 Indie Highlights

Being able to have gone to every Eurogamer Expo, I have been able to see the show’s evolution from a small time random bits-and-bobs game show to somewhat of a well-oiled machine showcasing the weird world of gaming has been an enjoyable one and for its flaws of still not feeling like it has a definitive direction of what it is in terms of positioning in the British gaming calendar, it is still an experience that I enjoy going to every year to see what the latest games feel like and also what is on the horizon, especially from the ever growing indie section, now named after Eurogamer’s PC and Indie game convention Rezzed.

Let me preface this by saying I did not really get to play what many to be considered the big games like your Call of Dutys and Battlefields and anything. It certainly because I didn’t want to, I have just never liked the idea of queuing when I would rather be just playing games. So others around the wide gaming space have better coverage of that stuff and that’s fine.

Instead I am here to tell you about my highlights from the 6th Eurogamer Expo as well as little dollops of interview goodies.

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Xenolith

Xenolith is a fusion of the double joystick shooter with instead of shooting, you change shapes to attack enemies. And it is tense!

Snowbolt Interactive’s small team have developed something challenging, fun and also really intriguing. Enemies come at you and you switch your ship’s front shape with a simple button press. It becomes less simple as you fly past enemies with the wrong shape and you have to remember which one is which before your ship gets damaged.

As the levels start to go longer, the challenge goes up, making you think about how to go about getting to the shapes and which ones are worth attacking to gain points and which ones aren’t for your own survival. It makes for something really interesting and, with more levels and variations being developed, could be a really intriguing title to look out for in the next few months.

It’s not expected out until next year but until then, I encourage you to give the thumbs up on the game’s Steam Greenlight page.

I also interviewed Matthew Simpler, one of the developers from Snowbolt about the game and how people have taken to it on the Expo floor.

 

Ethan: Meteor Hunter

 

Ethan: Meteor Hunter

Here’s a game that benefited loads from being shown in public.

I first played Ethan Meteor Hunter at Rezzed this year and it was a game that had great intention and looked charming enough and had a cool idea with the main character getting crystals to enhance his telekenisis ability to move blocks for puzzles.

The trouble was, it was sluggish, frustrating and never easy to really get a grip with. Many other people agreed so Seaven Studio went back to work, redeveloping controls, systems and art assets and brought it back to the Eurogamer Expo.

Seeing it again, it almost feels like a whole new game. Everything feels more stable and the moving of blocks is less frustrating and flows a lot better. It is still a simple platformer at its core but it feels adjusted enough to be able to keep a better eye on its progress

The game is on Steam Greenlight  along with it via the game’s website, where they have lined up some pretty cool preorder offers for those who want ot .

Here’s an interview I did with Seaven Studio’s co-founder Olivier Penot about the progression of Ethan and the possibility of a PS4 version of the game.

Fist of Awesome

Fists of Awesome

You don’t see many games in the ‘time travelling bear punching lumberjack’ genre anymore, which is a real disappointment. So the arrival of Fists of Awesome comes as a breath of fresh air to a genre that lacks no love.

To be serious, Fists of Awesome is I Fight Bears’ attempt to take the Streets of Rage/Final Fight etc experience to the iPad in a way that makes sense, rather then just placing buttons on the screen and focusing the effort there.  There is a bit of fine tuning to be needed with how responsive the iPad is to actions you do in certain occasions but overall, it worked rather well and is something that I commend them for at least giving a try.

Also, as mentioned, the development company is called ‘I Fight Bears’. If that isn’t enough to get you to support it, well, there’s really no hope for you.

Here’s Nicoll Hunt with more about the craziness of his game, set to come out later this month on iOS.

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Achtung Arcade

In Christmas Shotgun Defense, one of the games you can play on the Achtung Arcade, you play as newlywed gay couple Josif Stalin and Karel Marx who, for no reason whatsoever, have a baby together. Marx sees this as a miracle and tells Stalin to shoot everything that comes near it, including sheep, lions, princesses, the army and AT-ATs.  You earn money to buy upgrades for bigger weapons that can kill enemies faster and get you money quicker. Oh, and it all ends with the car from Outrun blowing up the manger they are staying in, which was located on a motorway.

If that doesn’t tell you what lies in the mind of McPixel creater Sos Sosowski, then I have no idea what else to tell you.

The machine isn’t exactly a collection of new games, more like a collection of his Gamejam games and then crazier, dumber variations of those games. Sos has taken this from trade event and convention alike from his native Poland just simply to have people play it and stuff like that is kind of great. He calls them ‘shit games’ which I prefer to take in the best way possible.

Listen to the interview which…well, interview might be generous, more like strange conversation with questions thrown in here and there.

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Redshirt

To set this up, Redshirt was my last game at Rezzed this year. It got me so long, I had to be dragged off. I had said to myself again and again and again I wouldn’t play it. I even told its creator, Mitu Khandaker, I wouldn’t because I would get addicted.

So I played it again.

Redshirt is basically Star Trek adapted to the social media generation. You start as a minnow on a space station in the middle of nowhere and use your Spacebook friends and connections to write statuses, organise events and form relationships so you can climb to the top and get the hell out of there before you get deployed potentially deadly circumstances.

The scariest thing is how accurate Mitu achieved the underlining aspect of why social media is addictive. It has become so integrated into our lives that everything has to be determined through Facebook. People’s relationships aren’t official until they are on there, you don’t want to risk annoying one friend because you think it’ll be a trickle effect towards others. All she needs to do is accurately reflect how awkward it is when you add your parents and it’ll be the most accurate social media simulator ever produced.

As a result, it grabs you from the start, setting you various challenges to accomplish and ways of growing your character’s job and social skills

The iPad beta for Redshirt was what impressed me the most. It does not sacrifice the quality of what is already on the PC version and makes selecting options and going about your business seamless and easy. When I do manage to get the real thing, that’ll be the more likely format even if it fills the ‘One More Turn’ aspect I get from PC games like Football Manager and Civilisation.

You can preorder the game on the official website, which will get you into the beta. Good luck for getting out of the beta, though.

I spoke with Mitu herself talking about her recent Breakthrough BAFTA nomination and about the entire concept of the game itself. (And yes, I did say I was at Rezzed. I have no clue how that happened but hey!)

Volume

Volume

Thomas Was Alone was one of the big indie successes of last year, earning Mike Bithell not just critical and award success (a Writer’s Guild nomination being the latest) but gave him the opportunity to support himself for his next project rather than rely on a publisher. It was always a curiosity to find out what Bithell and his self-named studio were going to go for next.

Volume is about as different from rectangles and shadows as you can get. An overhead stealth game, modeled intentionally around games like Metal Gear Solid, you collect gems, avoiding killer robots by using various distraction tools, lockers to hide in and sneaking past walls. Unlike games like Metal Gear Solid and others in the genre, you cannot destroy or kill. You have to use the tools you have, your whistle you can use and a sound distraction, which you can fling and attract robots towards.

The ambition is there and the lack of violence makes things more interesting, making you look around and see what you can pick up or hide in rather than sneak behind for the stealth kill or shoving someone in a locker. It’ll be more interesting to see what is added before the game’s release in the next year and what capabilities the presently unnamed protagonist will have in his arsenal to sneak past the robots who want to flood him with bullets.

Of course, nothing was included about the character and story in the demo, saving all that info for GamesCity later this month. It’ll be interesting to see what all that is because the foundations are there for a very interesting game. If you’ve followed Mike Bithell on Twitter, you know that one thing he is good at in relation to the game is being a complete tease about it.

I did an interview with Mike, talking about the game, the success of Thomas Was Alone and his relationship with Sony, with the game will come out for PS3, PS4 and Vita next year.

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Three Monkeys:

A game that relies on sound alone is an intriguing one. It’s also a game that would be difficult to pull off unless you really have put work into making it work.

Incus Games’ attempt at least has a good pedigree of potential behind it, working together with charity Special Effect and gaming headphone company Turtle Beach to in essence, make a game that relies on your sense of hearing. Sure, you can see whether it’s night or day in the gaming world but the most important part is hearing the world and hearing what actions to take and when to press the keys to defend and attack.

Since the game is still in development, it is still unknown how the story will form and the world will be built from this first game, but it’s something I will certainly keep an eye on and I encourage others to do the same.

More info about the game and the newly formed studio of Incus Games can be found here.

I had a word with the game’s composer Stephen Willey about the project as well as how important adapting the soundtrack around the core components was.

 

War for the Overworld

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

War for the Overworld

I have a good amount of love for the Dungeon Keeper duo of games, mostly for their simplicity and easy to grasp concept and controls. They were an easy gateway into the Real Time Strategy genre for those of us who weren’t ready to take on the grand armies of Rome or take on a Zerg rush just yet.

So a group of fans across 22 timeframes decided they weren’t going to wait for Dungeon Keeper 3 to come out and decided to get on Kickstarter and did their own. The result is War for the Overworld and in the nicest way possible, it’s pretty much Dungeon Keeper, something I have zero problem with.

The levels that were shown at Eurogamer were a basic tutorial level and a level where you take down your first rival overlord. These levels were easy to get into and not a problem whether you are familiar with the series the developers love or whether this is your first time into the simulation experience.

This is a game I want to see become a success partially for my own nostalgia but also because it is great to have this style of game being made again. I love Civilization and Starcraft as much as the next guy but there has never been something more satisfying then taking down the core of a fellow overlord and making his territory yours by throwing waves and waves of creatures at it.

You can preorder the game now on their website.