Latest Publications

Ten Aces announced

Ten Aces
I’ve received an email from Greek developer Traptics about a new fantasy strategy title they’re developing called Ten Aces.

The premise:

“Ten Aces” is about 10 siblings that happen to be demigods. Each of them is unique in many ways but all of them are extremely agile, intelligent and powerfull. Initially they were all friends, and loved and respected each other, but destiny had other plans for them. Inside the game you get play any of them, discover their story and choose who will prevail.

You can choose any one of the ten “aces” in the single player story mode; each has its own campaign, and according to the developers, each “represents a playing style, is which he is expert (magic, ambush, traps).”

Ten Aces uses deterministic mechanics (no missing or critical hits), and focuses around customizing characters with different abilities. As characters level, they get access to more abilities and can equip more of them.

Here’s a trailer:

Ten Aces is planned for release sometime this year on Windows, Mac and Linux. The price has not yet been determined, but the developers are considering free multiplayer with campaigns / champions sold a la carte.

New release: Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy
As was foretold, the sidescrolling genealogical action roguelike-like Rogue Legacy has now been released into the world.

There’s a special release trailer up, quoting John Walker’s preview of the game from RockPaperShotgun (though there’s also a full review from the ever-eloquent Adam Smith up):

You can buy Rogue Legacy for $15 direct from the developer (which I encourage), or else via, Desura, GamersGate or Steam. The free demo remains available right here. Windows-only for now.

Cosmic Star Heroine announced

Cosmic Star Heroine
Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games has written to me to announce a new sci-fi jRPG by the name of Cosmic Star Heroine. (If “Zeboyd Games” sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the two-man team that brought us the quite successful  indie jRPGs Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World.)

The premise of this latest title:

Alyssa L’Salle is one of the galactic government’s top agents and always manages to save the day! But when she accidentally uncovers a dark conspiracy, her own government outs her as a legendary spy and the people’s champion! Sure, now she has hordes of adoring fans but every villainous organization she’s ever crossed in her career knows who she is and is out for her blood! Can she save the day once more while she faces her greatest challenge… Everyone!?

Cosmic Star Heroine is being created in Unity, with 2D pixel art visuals, visible enemy patrols, battles that take place on the exploration screen, and multi-character combo abilities. Zeboyd is clearly drawing some inspiration from Chrono Trigger here in terms of the mechanics, but Robert Boyd assures me that there won’t be any time travel–they don’t want to draw too close a comparison, after all.

Another intriguing detail: “Players will be able to customize their own spy headquarters by recruiting more agents (think the Suikoden series).”

There isn’t too much to show yet beyond the main character concept art in the top-right, but Zeboyd have a good track record and I expect this one will be worth keeping an eye on.

According to Boyd, they’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign later this year to help float development costs (which include building a new engine as they transition from XNA to Unity, as well as producing larger, higher quality sprites than they used in prior titles). Boyd informs me that their titles generally take 8-10 months to develop; Cosmic Star Heroine is tentatively planned for release in the second half of 2014.

Auro announced

Following up on yesterday’s interview with developer Keith Burgun of Dinofarm Games, here’s my official announcement post about Auro, a turn-based single-character dungeon crawler with permadeath and randomly generated dungeons. (You might be tempted to say that Auro ticks all the boxes to qualify as a roguelike, but Burgun insists that this isn’t one.)

Putting aside the question of its genre designation, here’s the premise:

The story of our game starts with a spoiled young prince named Auro. He’s tasked with a simple quest: go down into the sewers and unclog one of the drainage pipes that he clogged earlier in one of his childish pranks. On his journey, Auro carelessly unleashes an ancient evil on the kingdom, and now he’s the only one who can save the world…which is bad, because Auro’s a real jerk and has no idea what he’s doing!

Auro strips out a lot of the elements commonly found in roguelikes (items and most character stats don’t make the cut), replaces the grid with hexes, and focuses obsessively on spatial positioning and tactics. In lieu of conventional character leveling or class selection, you’ll advance through a skill tree with abilities from three schools: ice (specializing in terrain transformation), wind (specializing in mobility and traps) and fire (specializing in blowing stuff the hell up).

Here is the most recent trailer, showing bits and pieces of the game in its beta state:

In addition to single player story mode, the game will feature a multiplayer mode where folks can compete to beat a level with the highest score.

Burgun mentioned in our interview that he plans on an August 2013 release. “Initially it will be iOS and Android, and soon after, PC, OSX, Linux, OUYA, and more.”

Interview with Keith Burgun

I hadn’t posted about Auro yet, in part because I wasn’t entirely clear what the deal was with the game. At first, I simply thought it wasn’t coming out, as it had a failed Kickstarter–but then it came back again and succeeded not long afterwards. But I still wasn’t totally clear on what Auro was. It looked to me like a roguelike, but it used hexes, and nowhere did the developers themselves ever actually refer to it with the word “roguelike.”

What is this thing, anyway? I wondered. After a bit of digging, I took it upon myself to get in touch with Dinofarm Games developer Keith Burgun and find out.  The interview follows.

For those who don’t know you, please introduce yourself and tell me how you got into game development.

My name is Keith Burgun, I’m a game developer from Westchester, NY.  I’ve been working on games ever since I can remember, really, but I got really serious about doing it as a career when I got the opportunity to do 100 Rogues.  I’d say that the iOS App Store really is one of the things that spurred me to get into game development.  The other thing is that since about 2006 I’ve been writing for various blogs on the topic of game design, and I feel like I really have something special to contribute in this arena.  This is in contrast to say, music composition, which despite the fact that I feel very competent at it (I studied composition in college, it’s what I’m actually trained in), I don’t feel like I have as much to contribute, probably because there has already been such a rich and developed history of music.  Games are new, and I feel like I can make a much bigger impact.

You put out 100 Rogues not that long ago. Are you satisfied with that game (creatively, commercially, etc.)?

Yes, I’d say so.  Creatively, I’m quite proud of 100 Rogues.  Of course if I could do it again today I would do many things differently, which certainly any creative person would say about anything they made 5 years ago.  But, I really think the spirit of 100 Rogues is really charming and attractive, despite a lot of flaws.  Commercially, I’m also quite satisfied with how it went.  That’s not to say that I personally made much money from it, but simply that it really did for me what it was supposed to, which is show the world that my lead artist, Blake Reynolds and I know how to make a fun and attractive game.  Because we made 100 Rogues, we were able to make AURO, so that’s a success in and of itself.

AURO’s original working title was actually “The Roguelike” – this was sometime in 2011.  At that time, I originally wanted the game to be the “most pure” expression of the Roguelike genre.  Unfortunately, what I discovered is that Roguelike games are actually such a convoluted mess of a number of conflicting “core mechanisms”, and you can’t simply boil them down.  What I

Auro Foxy Mama
realized is that I’d have to take just one of these large core mechanisms and focus hard on that, if I wanted to create an elegant design.

I chose “tactics” as the core mechanism:  positioning yourself against arrangements of monsters in a favorable way.  Once I decided that, though, a cascade of other issues started to pop up.  What do “items” have to do with tactics, really?  What about stats?  I was also making some really huge realizations about game design during this process too, particularly due to my exposure to designer European boardgames, much of which is documented in my book.  For instance, I’ve realized that if you have a skill-based game, having your tool (your avatar) grow in power during the game is actually quite often a bad idea.  The player is getting better at the game, so why does his tool also become better?  It makes balancing vastly harder and I can’t see why — it seems to me to be one of the vestigial elements from D&D that has just sort of stuck with us. AURO is now almost finished, and I’m happy to say that it really is just a pure tactics game, and I’m really excited to get it out there.


Elliot Quest announced

Elliot Quest
Luis Zuno writes in to tell me about his up and coming side-scrolling action RPG Elliot Quest.

The premise:

Elliot Quest is an adventure / exploration Zelda style game. Defeat all 4 Elements Guardians and acquire their powers. Explore Urule Island in search for treasures and artifacts, earn money and experience by defeating enemies.

So yeah, there’s not much to talk about on the plot front right now. Luckily, this game has a free early demo that you can play; I gave it a shot and quite enjoyed myself.

I can confirm that the developer is not joking around when he says that you can “expect a lot of Zelda 2 in this game.” Elliot Quest is very much in that vein, although it starts you off with a short-range bow and arrow instead of a sword, which means that combat begins less fiddly and frustrating than it does in The Adventure of Link.

Here is a trailer showing off a bit of the game’s variety of abilities and locales:

You can pre-order Elliot Quest for $4.99 via Paypal or via the new Paypal competitor Gumroad. I mentioned the demo–you can try it out right here if you want to see how you like it before pre-ordering.

Rhythos RPG Builder announced

Rhythos RPG Builder
Rhythos RPG Builder is a free, open source RPG creation program “inspired by RPG Maker” being developed by David Maletz.

Indeed, Rhythos seems aimed right at the RPG Maker demographic, with an accessible interface and built-in support for both visual event scripting (for those who don’t want to code) and direct code access (for more advanced users). Maletz writes: “New game developers will be able to make their first games in Rhythos and grow, while experienced game developers will find a lot of flexibility and extendability to create what they want!”

It’s not just an open source RPG Maker clone, though. Some of the things that make it stand out:

  • It’s cross-platform: you can make Windows, Mac and Linux builds of your game, or even build a Flash version that will deploy to browser. (Maletz has indicated that building to HTML5, iOS, Android, and Ouya may end up being possible as well.)
  • It supports coding in HaXe, which is sort of a do-everything wonder-language.
  • It’s easy to extend; the program supports plug-ins to extend it with “more export targets, battle systems, assets, and much more.”

Rhythos currently uses a real-time combat system with exclusively one-on-one fights; there’s a demo posted showcasing that system, which I gave a few minutes of my time yesterday. It’s not entirely to my taste, to be honest (particularly so because the characters currently lack visual cues that would allow me to easily establish a successful rhythm of attacking and defending). Luckily, however, Maletz confirms that a proper turn-based battle system will be coming to the software in a future version.

Rhythos is still early in development, but there’s already a video up already showing off some rather impressive map editing capabilities:

Now, although it might seem odd for me to be posting about Rhythos two days after its Kickstarter failed, Maletz has confirmed to me that development is going to continue despite it not reaching the funding goal. He writes:

Right now, my plan is to continue expanding the community and keeping the current backers interested, and continue working on Rhythos on the side until I have a runnable demo people can try (hopefully by early next year). Then, my plan is to start another campaign next year, and hope with the expanded community, the demo, and more interesting backer rewards, it’ll have a higher chance of success.

So development is going to take him a while, in other words, but this project strikes me as quite promising. I’ll be keeping an ear to the ground on this one.

Rogue Legacy announced

Rogue Legacy
Teddy Lee of Cellar Door Games writes in to tell me about Rogue Legacy, a side-scrolling “geneological” action roguelike-like with permadeath and an interesting character generation system.

The premise:

You are entering a castle for reasons unknown (to the player).  When you die, your children avenge you. This goes on for a couple hundred years. (couple thousand if you suck).

I say “character generation” rather than “character creation” because you don’t have a say in your characters’ attributes; the game randomizes them for you. This is where the “geneological” part comes in:

When you die, you die for good.  You will be avenged by your children.  Each child is born with different genetic traits.  So one child could be colour-blind, and another might have tourettes.  Or you could be born with dwarfism.  Along with this, each child has a class preference.  So it’s not up to the player, they must accommodate the game instead.  As you progress in the castle, when you die, whatever treasure you found is brought back home which you can spend upgrading your manor.  Giving each child a step up on the others.

As in any roguelike (or roguelike-like), the world is procedurally generated anew every time you start a new character. You can see how this all fits together in the game’s trailer:

Rogue Legacy will be released on June 27th. If you can’t bear to wait the whole week until release, you can wet your beak with the game’s free demo. You can also pre-order the game for $10 via the Humble Store. (The price will rise to $15 tomorrow, so pre-ordering now will save you about 33%.)

Rogue Legacy is currently for Windows. Per the developer, “Mac and Linux builds will arrive a little later.”

Back to Back: indie RPGs to fund

Looking back on the campaigns that ended since we ran our last Back to Back, Tinykeep made its goal, as did Stonehearth and Ghost of a Tale. Sadly, Reobirth: Magic’s Awakening did not, nor did Remnants of Twilight. Going down to an especially disastrous defeat was TBT: The Black Tower, with less than 1% of the game’s funding goal met by the close of the campaign.

There’s a lot of newcomers to the crowdfunding field this month–let’s give them a looksie, shall we?

  • Combat Cats — with a bare minimum of actual RPG elements on display, this sci-fi, cat-themed Puzzle Quest clone nonetheless just barely manages to hang onto the lip of RPG-dom by the tips of its kitty claws. Look and judge for yourself if you’d like to contribute the roughly $114 Combat Cats needs to hit its goal.
  • Frontiers — an Elder Scrolls-style first person survival game / action RPG explicitly patterned after Daggerfall. It’s doing well, too–Frontiers is just over halfway funded with 27 days to go.
  • Frozen State — a top-down, real-time survival horror RPG set in post-apocalyptic Siberia. (Smartly, the devs have made footage of the alpha prototype available so we can see roughly what they’re aiming for.) Frankly, it looks a little shooter-y.
  • King Voxel — I know what you’re thinking: “the campaign for this is still going on?” Yes, folks; 19 days remain to fund this 3D voxel-based Zelda-alike (previously covered here).
  • Old Legend — this 3D first-person dungeon delver has 7 days to go and just shy of $15,000 left to raise.
  • Our Darker Purpose — an overhead action RPG roguelike-like that reminds me more than a little of the Binding of Isaac. It has 8 days to raise another $21,000 if it is to hit its $40,000 funding goal.
  • Rising Evil — a horror-themed action RPG being created in RPG Maker. It has surpassed its £750 funding goal.
  • Soul Saga — you may recall this as the 3D jRPG I covered under the suspicion that development had stopped, only to recant when I learned that it had merely transformed into a 3D roguelike. Well! Now it has reverted to a 3D jRPG once more, and is doing rather well on Kickstarter.
  • Unrest —an RPG in development by Pyrodactyl Games (whom you might remember as the developers behind A.Typical RPG, an ambitious title that I found wanting in its execution). Unrest is set in ancient India, and is funded many times over with two days left on the clock.

Unfortunately, I’ve missed my window to talk about Rhythos RPG Builder, an open source RPG creation tool intended to rival the likes of RPG Maker. It has now finished its campaign with only 14% funding. It’s a shame: the tool sounds impressive, although I question the wisdom of choosing to have it ship with a niche rhythm-based combat system rather than something more mainstream.

Sharpened Steel announced

Sharpened Steel
Rhys Furlow of Eclectic Gaming writes in to announce Sharpened Steel, a single player open world RPG currently in development.

I was given a plot summary with what I can only assume are massive spoilers, so here’s a redacted version:

You wake up in a store with no memory whatsoever, so you head out to find an apothecary who can help, completing side-quests along the way if you wish.

(There’s a lot more after that, but again: spoilers.) Setting-wise, Furlow states that Sharpened Steel is “set in the world of Stratom, where you can do as you see fit from the word go, you can change the world around you, and go on many quests with hundreds of different characters.”

Sharpened Steel features real-time combat. The graphics are a bit rough, but it looks decent enough in motion:

Sharpened Steel is in beta for Windows, though Furlow plans to port the game to iPhone as well. The game is free; you can download the current beta for Windows right here.