Latest Publications

New release: The Wizard’s Lair

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You may recall me posting about The Wizard’s Lair, a graphical roguelike, back in October. Developer David Williams writes in to announce that the game is now complete.

The premise:

Dare you challenge The Wizard’s Lair? in this adventure, you find yourself facing against your greatest challenge yet – To enter the Wizard’s Lair and slay the Wizard of Anarkhis! Face off against fearful creatures and dodge devastating traps as you descend into the depths!

Use powerful spell scrolls, drink mysterious potions and find legendary weapons to aid you in your quest to defeat the Wizard!

Stupid wizards! Always researching magic, and wearing robes, and…uh…wait. Why do we want to slay this guy, again?

…okay, I went back and read my first post about this game. Apparently the wizard “has stolen a powerful Staff and threatens to destroy everything in his wake.” It could be a roguelike allegory for rogue nations acquiring nuclear weapons. (But it probably isn’t.)

Here’s a trailer!

You can buy The Wizard’s Lair direct from the developer for Windows, Mac and Linux for £7 (i.e. $10.52 USD as of the time of writing). The Wizard’s Lair will soon be available on Desura as well.

Dungeon Plunder announced

Dungeon Plunder, an isometric graphical roguelike for iOS, is complete. Done. Finito. It’s been submitted to Apple for approval (app-proval?), and now developer Dominic Duchesne must wait.

Like most roguelikes, Dungeon Plunder randomly generates the world whenever you start a new game. Unlike many roguelikes, however, that procedural generation extends to both an overworld and an underworld consisting of random tombs and caves. The game also randomizes the selection of enemies you’ll face; or at least, that’s what DungeonPlunder.com tells me. The premise:

The goal of the game is to smash an orb freezing the world controlled by an evil wizard. You’ll see the world progressively getting affected as you play the game…

Pretty basic stuff from a narrative perspective, but I love that the game world actually starts to freeze over time. Here’s a trailer:

Like Tower of Fortune before it, Dungeon Plunder takes the whole “randomized results” thing to its natural conclusion and simply has combat occur via a slot machine. I can’t say I’m a fan of that choice from an “actually enjoying the game” perspective, but the potential satirical value is sky-high.

Dungeon Plunder will be out for iOS just as soon as Apple gets around to concluding that it has no nudity or anything even remotely political to say.

Days of Dawn announced

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After an improbable, impressive last-minute rally in its Kickstarter campaign, Days of Dawn has at last been successfully funded–which, in turn, means that this game is now actually happening. In development by Bumblebee Games, Days of Dawn is reportedly influenced by Final Fantasy and The Secret of Mana; its combat system seems pretty firmly set in the former camp, while open world exploration and nonlinear storylines seem to draw influence from the latter.

Bumblebee sums up the premise of Days of Dawn as follows:

Your up to four companions encounter the most vivid and original creatures in a blazingly fast sequential round-based combat system while researching the mystery of marvelous powers recently felt and seen in the lands of Kalea. Learn to use these forces by channeling your feelings – use emotions instead of spells to evoke powerful magic with a surprise. Choose your path and your companions to enter a vast network of nonlinear storylines in a world whose magic just came alive.

Days of Dawn Cave
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So, what does the phrase “a world whose magic just came alive” mean? What is the difference between emotions and spells in their magic system? I hadn’t the faintest clue about this stuff, so I wrote to Bumblebee developer Tassilo Rau asking for clarification. He responded with a very detailed (and in my view, pretty compelling) explanation of how magic works in the game:

A world whose magic just came alive means, there has been none before. All of a sudden, some few people realise they’ve got strange powers. Magic is experienced as an alien force of unknown nature, evoked by emotional outbursts. Without scientific research of these mysterious forces, there’s no spells to chose from or tomes to study.

Those gifted with these powers can unleash them in times of danger or need, yet unable to control the exact nature of the effects they evoke; instead, the character’s nature and the current situation influence the effect called. Only as they advance on their quest, will they start to learn to handle these forces and gain the ability to choose an emotion to channel into magic and, later on, a specific effect to cause.
With two additional traits – emotional control and emotional strength – and seven feelings of differing intensity, not only do your characters’ personalities influence the outcome of magic usage, but also the experiences and encounters they make during their journey.

In terms of gameplay mechanics, this is woven all throughout the game. Dialogue with PCs or NPCs can influence your emotions, but your surroundings do so as well. Creepy scenery makes you frightened, bright, sunny woods recover your courage. Getting hit increases rage and, as things get worse, fear. Finding someone you really like may increase your “love”. While you’re inexperienced in using magic, the result will be depending on your strongest emotions. As you progress, you learn to control your emotions and select specific spells. You can try to influence emotions by gameplay. Talking to the girl your hero loves will help him recover. Relaxing in the woods can also help. Some in-game events will have a deep impact on your emotions, so take care.

This actually reminds me a bit of how certain emotional states could affect the stats of your characters in The Spirit Engine 2, but it seems like they’re going for a more complex and robust implementation of that idea. I especially like the idea of using dialog to manipulate your characters’ emotional state, and I’m legitimately looking forward to seeing how Bumblebee implements this stuff.

On a more superficial level, the game has a really nice “painted” art style going for it. Just check out these screenshots:

You can currently pre-order Days of Dawn through Paypal for $20. Interestingly, although their Kickstarter campaign is done, they’re still counting pre-orders toward their stretch goals. (Note: the developers are German, and use a comma rather than a decimal point. Despite how it first appeared to me, they have not already raised $721,000.00 through Paypal.)

Days of Dawn is planned for release sometime in 2013 for Windows, Mac and Linux; the developers contemplate possible future ports to Android, iOS, WiiU, XBox 260, PS3 and Pandora as well.

New release: Driftmoon

Word has reached my ear that top-down wRPG Driftmoon is finally out! Developers Instant Kingdom describe Driftmoon as “a fully grown, well behaved adventure-rpg with a charming personality.” The premise:

The beautiful, enchanted world of Driftmoon trembles in the shadow of a forgotten evil, for the dark King Ixal is again gathering his forces.

Hope lies in an unlikely alliance: A young man joins forces with a little firefly dreaming of stardom, a panther queen with the ego of a moon whale, and a very determined fellow who’s lost everything but his bones, and still hasn’t given up. Knowing nothing of the amazing adventures and the fearsome foes that await them, the party embarks on a journey like no other.

The devs say that Driftmoon has 10-30 hours of playtime, with an included level editor and some slick mod support with one-click installation.

And look–they even made a new release trailer just for you!

Driftmoon is a Windows game, but the devs say it works in WINE as well if you’re a Linux gamer. Driftmoon can be yours for €14.99 (i.e. $19.96 USD as of the time of writing)–grab it direct from the developers via Paypal! If you want to give the game a try before you buy, however, there’s a free demo available for you to check out.

UPDATE: “To celebrate the launch, up until March 5th, Driftmoon is available for only €/$ 11,99. 15% of all direct sales from the developer’s website go to the Red Cross.”

Lords of Xulima announced

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I’ve received word of a new isometric, turn-based, single-player 2D wRPG by the name of Lords of Xulima. Spanish indie developers Numantian Games have engineered an interesting hybrid that appears to be a wRPG in spirit, but takes an approach to presentation that actually reminds me more of the old Phantasy Star series than to anything seen among modern wRPGs (specifically, its combination of overhead exploration and turn-based, first-person combat).

Per the devs, LoX will feature the following things:

  • Create your party with up to six characters, choosing between 10 classes and more than 100 unique skills.
  • Strategic turn-based combat in first person view.
  • A vast continent to explore, with different environments and climates. You are free to go everywhere from the beginning (but be carefull where you go because the lands of Xulima are extremely dangerous).
  • Castles, towers and temples awaits you to discover their secrets.
  • Inspired by the old-school classics, featuring a challenging gameplay, with riddles and lethal encounters.

This trailer should give you the basic gist:

Numantian Games states that they intend to release LoX by the end of 2013 for Windows, “then for MAC and Linux and then for consoles and perhaps in the future for tablets.” The game will be available in both English and Spanish.

Avadon 2: The Corruption announced

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So! Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software emailed me yesterday to announce that Avadon 2: The Corruption is in development, part of what is now the planned “Avadon Trilogy.”

The premise:

You are an agent of Avadon. The Black Fortress. Your job is to protect your homeland from the limitless threats that surround it. Titans and monsters. Pirates and barbarians. Avadon must keep them weak and divided. Your resources are unlimited, and all must obey you.

But then Avadon was attacked. A sneak raid shattered the fortress, and, with it unable to keep order, madness resulted. Civil war, barbarian raids, even conspiracies to destroy your people. Avadon’s power has faded, but your people need it more than ever.

Everything is falling apart, and a shadowy power has risen to destroy your homeland. What will you do? Will you fight your enemies? Or will you join them and end Avadon’s power once and for all? The choice is yours!

Features:

  • Epic fantasy role-playing adventure in an enormous and unique world.
  • Five different character classes, with dozens of unique spells and abilities.
  • Uncover the fascinating histories of Avadon and the many lands of Lynaeus.
  • Many different endings. Will you be loyal to Avadon or switch sides and bring it down? The choice is yours!
  • Dozens of side quests, dungeons, and secrets to discover.
  • Hundreds of magical items to find. Use powerful crystals to make your artifacts even more powerful.
  • Huge adventure with lots of replay value. Experience with Avadon: The Black Fortress is entirely unnecessary to enjoy Avadon 2.

Avadon 2 is planned for release on Windows, Mac and iPad platforms this fall.

Banner Saga Factions out of beta: now what?

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Multiplayer tactics battler The Banner Saga: Factions (previously covered here) has been given a soft launch; it will be available to the general public (i.e. not just Kickstarter backers) next Monday, February 25th.

In the wake of this announcement, Alex Thomas of Stoic Studio took to Kickstarter to explain the delay in getting the single player RPG aspect of The Banner Saga finished. (It was originally planned for release in November 2012.) In large part, he chalks it up to getting more money than they expected from their Kickstarter campaign:

When we set a launch date of November, we didn’t know if we’d match our funding or not. If I’m completely honest it was probably too optimistic, even if we had only gotten the minimum funding. We should have known better, and I apologize for that mistake.

Just as importantly, we made 7x the funding we expected. We made the game exponentially bigger. Imagine a tv show that gets picked up for 7 more seasons, or a book that gets made into a 7-part series or a 20-minute indie film being given the funding to turn it into a 2 hour feature film. All of these things take a long time. And hopefully, every one of these examples means a much better end result.

He also addresses various complaints about the multiplayer Factions component, including accusations that microtransactions unbalance the game. Read the full update here.

Legend of Grimrock 2 announcement confirmed

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This just in! Remember that time we thought Almost Human was announcing Legend of Grimrock 2? Shocking twist: it turns out that they were, in fact, announcing Legend of Grimrock 2.

Up until now information and news about our new project have been quite scarce and we apologize for that. The reason for the silence is that we have been uncertain what the new project actually is. Making the ports to other platforms and updating Legend of Grimrock on multiple platforms has taken a lot of time so focusing 100% on the new project has been impossible.

Earlier we have mentioned that we are working on a “Grimrock related project” and internally we have talked about the project being a DLC for Grimrock. But creating a DLC for Grimrock doesn’t really ring true to us…

we are now officially working on… Legend of Grimrock 2!

I’m kind of amazed at these guys’ ability to talk and talk and still say nothing; it’s almost politican-level. Read the full thing if you want to be bored stiff. Thankfully, they’re a good deal better at making games than they are at posting updates, so I remain eager to see what they do with the sequel.

Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar demo released

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Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar is an indie first-person dungeon crawler.

It is also a punchline–according to its author, Cleveland Mark Blakemore, Grimoire has been in development for more than 17 years. Widely regarded as vaporware, Grimoire suddenly burst onto IndieGoGo in October 2012 with a $250,000 goal and a pitch video that I would describe as “just short of batshit insane.” Seriously, you should watch it if you haven’t seen it already:

The crowdfunding campaign came as a shock, but I still didn’t post about Grimoire, as I still wasn’t convinced that this game was ever going to actually be released. Ultimately, Grimoire didn’t even come close to making its $250,000 funding goal. However, it relied on a flexible funding campaign, and developer Cleve Blakemore has vowed to finish things up with the more-than-$10,000 he raised.

Which brings us to today, the day I learned that Mr. Blakemore has actually released a playable demo of Grimoire. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but boy am I ever looking forward to doing so. Don’t wait on my behalf: you can grab the demo here right now–Windows only.

Defender’s Quest: By the numbers

This article by Lars Doucet contains good lessons for how to make a living distributing your games. It breaks down Defender’s Quest’s (significant) sales numbers by source, and is therefore of primary interest to indie game developers–but it contains valuable lessons for the player as well. Among other things, Mr. Doucet makes a compelling argument to embracing browser-based game demos:

This is because of the “EXE barrier.” To install a downloadable demo, a player has to click a link, download a file, navigate to whatever stupid folder their browser saved it to, double click it, be warned that the file will destroy their computer, install it, wait for it to install, and then run the game.

As I’ve said in my article Piracy and the Four Currencies, even if something is free in terms of money, it can still cost people time and pain-in-the-butt. A browser-based demo is one click and you’re playing. No money, minimal time, minimal pain-in-the-butt.

Read the full article here.