Happening now on GameLuv

A little brainstorm on Castlevania’s future

022515-constructslevania

I’ve had this idea for a Castlevania revival kicking around in my head for a while now but have never committed it to a post. This Kill Screen article about the series impossible architecture has finally motivated me to expand on it so let’s workshop this!

The title is about all I dreamed up, a portmanteau of terrible design: Constructslevania. Part Castlevania, part Mario Maker, you play as some entity summoned forth by Dracula to devise the next incarnation of his cursed castle. How about Death? Death makes sense, he’s already able to float around so he can move anywhere on the screen and keep the UI hidden out of view, probably in ‘Dracula’s Grimoire’ or some other book-like conceit. He’s also Death and it’s funny to picture him doing Dracula’s housework when he isn’t directly ruining another Belmont’s day.

A pop-up menu system would allow you to choose hundreds of room backdrops from the series past with tabs for obstacles, enemies, and decoration. All these would be governed by rules to make it feel more Castlevania appropriate. So no, you can’t fill every room with a framerate-breaking number of red skeletons, even though I think they did that once. Maybe there’s even a “holy intervention” phase where you have to place beneficial items or an algorithm that places the whippable torches. From here the gameplay can go a few different ways.

Similar to Tecmo’s Deception you could be designing the castle to watch AI heroes storm in and do their best to reach Dracula. Maybe he’s not fully revived yet and all they need to do is reach his coffin to show him a pointy end. Alternatively, you’re designing the castle for other live players to run through, possibly in a roguelike, one-shot fashion.

Restricted solely to AI heroes I think the game would lean more towards tower defense and would feel much less like a Castlevania game. Designed for live players it would be possible to lay out a more accurate Castlevania experience, maybe even one with save rooms, mid-bosses and puzzles.

022515-constructslevania2

Maybe the Librarian would work better than Death? And who wouldn’t want to hide their own wall meat or lay Medusa head trap rooms?

Personally, I just want a new 2D Castlevania to explore and this would potentially offer a million clever combinations of famous locales and encounters. Building one would also be fun and I can picture players creating devious labyrinths and artistic masterpieces. Maybe it’s even possible to cram a new Castlevania story around other players creations. Konami could even offer new sprites, gear, and bosses for creators to work with. And the music! Having a jukebox of Castlevania’s classic themes to select and jam to is almost worth the buying price alone.

No doubt, this could easily be a money sucking, microtransaction, DLC onslaught with Konami charging for every individual sprite and sound effect. It could also result in an endless number of boring, broken or cookie cutter castles. I would still take all that potential for tragedy just to poke around in a new 2D Castlevania offering. There ya go Konami, have at it.

Promo Man: Klip Art

mortalkombat3-header

How do you convey the gore and violence of Mortal Kombat 3 without printing just another ad filled with severed limbs and soaked with blood? You raid a clip art archive for images of painful looking torture devices. I think the solution was pretty elegant at the time, making for a much more memorable — even stylish — ad that implies the pain and torment of the game without showing anything.

(more…)

Sega Networks acquires and invests in more Mobile studios

021915-seganetworks

If any hopes were still smoldering that Sega’s new focus on the Western market with PC and mobile games was an elaborate smokescreen to hide a stunning return to form of wild Japanese creation, I’ve got a bucket of water for you.

Sega Networks, the mobile division of the ramshackle organization that is Sega proper, has announced some major acquisitions and investments today. Demiurge Studios, the team that most recently created Marvel Puzzle Quest is now wholly owned by Sega. The division has also established a majority share in San Francisco’s indie startup, Ignited Artists, and made a “strategic investment” in the UK studio, Space Ape Games.

Naturally, all three groups are mobile focused and while that isn’t my favorite platform to play games on, I’m willing to give this new effort from Sega a chance. There’s plenty of talent in the three studios and maybe (just maybe) they can take some old Sega IP and breathe new life into it. Failing that, maybe their Free-to-Play, microtransaction-filled castle defense games will bankroll a Sega product I’d be interested in. Say, a reboot of Doctor Robotnik where you’re capturing cute animals and turning them into Badniks.

We almost know more about SteamWorld Heist

021815-steamworld

After SteamWorld Dig’s surprising debut on the 3DS in 2013 (and its subsequent hop to every other digital platform) fans have been eager to find out what would come next. SteamWorld Heist was first announced last September and since there’s been a terribly slim amount of news to go on.

It’s not a sequel. It’s set far into SteamWorld Dig’s future. Robots have set out into space in search of precious water. Something-something turn-based. Outer space exploration and survival. With music by Steam Powered Giraffe.

Almost another year later the steam powered news cycle is finally about to kick off. Members of Image & Form Games will be demoing SteamWorld Heist for the press and public throughout March. First at the Game Developers Conference (March 2-4), then at PAX East (March 6-8), then at EGX Rezzed in London (March 12-14). Finally they’ll take the game to New Jersey for the not-game-specific Steampunk World’s Fair on May 14-15.

So, come mid-March we should finally know a lot more about what SteamWorld Heist is and hopefully when to expect it on which platforms.

Promo Man: The Plot Thickens when Castlevania comes to Genesis

castlevaniabloodlines-header

One of the sore points as a Sega fan was missing out on Castlevania. Seeing Simon Belmont brandish his floppy whip and jump across huge swinging sprites in Super Castlevania IV always made me jealous.

But finally, in 1994, the series came to the Genesis and it was — oh, what is this!? It’s not even a Belmont? Some French guy? This… doesn’t look as fabulous as Castlevania IV or Dracula X.

(more…)

Asteroids is back and it’s definitely a modern PC game

021115-asteroids

Asteroids is coming back in 2015 but not at all like you’d expect. Actually, take a look at the current PC game landscape and you could probably guess exactly what Asteroids: Outpost is going to be. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before:

  • Open world
  • Resource gathering
  • Crafting
  • Survival
  • Base building
  • Massively Multiplayer
  • Early Access

I was fine with it up to those last two points. Like Rust, you’ll constantly be under threat from other players. Sure, you can probably forge alliances and work together with friends but all I picture is another non-stop grief-fest. And Early Access means it’ll be broken, unreliable and ever-changing for the first year. I’ve had my fill of this stuff.

021115-asteroids2

There’s at least one cool bit that isn’t quite like any other game of this kind: frequent asteroid showers will pepper the landscape with new resources to gather and threaten to destroy your base. Judging by the few images we’ve got it looks like those bases may be hard to miss; that thing looks massive with solar panels, entry ramps and towers.

Atari, you almost had me! For now I’ll just sit back and hope some of the podcasters I follow get into it and relay their exploits.

Promo Man: Paper Mario Sticker Star?

dkheader

Potentially gillions of images featuring Mario and his cohorts have been mechanically pressed to sheets of sticky goo over the decades. But no matter how they may glisten or sniff they’ll never top these Donkey Kong stickers from 1982. I only remember the stickers but according to The Gaming Historian they came in packs of Topps Donkey Kong trading cards. The stickers and gum were obviously my favorite part as I don’t remember what a single one of the cards looked like.

(more…)

Introducing a new series: Promo Man

020915-promoman

I guess you could call me a recovering packrat. I’ve gotten much better since moving five times over the last decade but I’ve never been able to resist stockpiling free video game junk. As a kid I would load up on pamphlets at stores and write letters to publishers who would reply with promotional goods. Back then I had aspirations towards marketing so I needed extra copies of the Sega Seal of Quality to paste onto all my fake ads. I had a folder dedicated to each platform that was part inspiration board and part historical archive.

So you shouldn’t be surprised that I still have duplicate copies of the Summer ‘93 issue of Sega Visions from when I raided CES. Naturally, I packed empty luggage to bring back maximum swag when I finally made it to E3. That’s how I wound up with a few plastic crates that I couldn’t lift on my own. Paper, it gets so heavy so fast.

In 2008 I began to work on a project I dreamed up to capitalize on this obsession. I started scanning and canning all the one-sheets, press releases, torn out magazine articles and hand typed letters. I wanted to start a subscription based website where people could peruse a vast catalog of this stuff… but web development is really hard. I wound up dumping a bunch of it on flickr and making a few posts on GameLuv before giving up on the endeavor.

Just some of the upcoming stuff

Just some of the upcoming stuff

Today I’ve still got plenty of unscanned material and a 750gb hard drive that’s half full of files I’ve never put online. If I start sharing it again I’ll eventually run out of material and have to get back to work. The internet wins more airbrushed ads from the 90’s and I win more free space to collect actual games. That’s Promo Man. That, and Proto Man turned into an ad man.

I’ll be queuing up at least one new post a week featuring high res scans presented in WordPress’ slick new lightbox where you can pop up full size versions, comment and navigate with arrow keys (my favorite). Of course, I’ll ramble a little with each post, maybe tell a story or relate it to something from my past. Feel free to do the same in the comments and I hope you all enjoy the nostalgia soaked offerings to come!

Learn about fonts, play as a colon for less than $3

013015-bundle

Do you like fonts? I realize that’s a somewhat odd thing to ask in regards to a video game but if you do it’s worth checking out IndieRoyale’s new bundle this week. Type:Rider takes you on a pleasant walking tour of typographic history by way of a 2D platformer. You play as an animated colon → : ← so the momentum of movement sometimes sends you in directions you didn’t expect but it’s forgiving and interesting. It was a game I discovered in last year’s IGF and finally got to play through in 2014.

If that’s too lame the bundle also includes Raiden Legacy: The Return, a compilation of the top-down shooter’s early entries. And then there’s also eight more games, most of which I’m not very familiar with. All for $2.23, all redeemable on Steam and, heck, five of them even have trading cards to sell off.

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2015 (Part 2)

Here we are again. It’s early in another new year and I’ve gone through all of the entrants in the Independent Games Festival. There were 639 games entered for 2015 and I wound up with a “short” list of 93. From there I hemmed and hawed for a while and ultimately decided on just 20 that I think are the specialest. Today is Part 2, the final ten of twenty (in alphabetical order). Check out yesterday’s post if you’re a fan of indie games that start with the letters A through H!

Megaton Rainfall by Alfonso del Cerro Aguilar
“Don’t you think that superhero games [should] transmit the sense of power and freedom of movement, that these characters apparently have in other media?” This is the premise for the most impressive first-person gameplay I’ve seen in years. It’s still very early but the scale of environments it’s able to push around is astounding and the movement already seems so smooth. I hope this makes it out as a finished product!

igf2015-nubarron

Nubarron: The Adventure of an Unlucky Gnome by Nastycloud
Another one with ‘gameplay mechanics that help as well as hurt’, Nubarron is a hatless gnome, constantly followed by a vicious storm cloud. Stop for too long and you’re toast, but you also need to use that lightning to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. It’s a clever and wicked spin on 2D platforming and the art style is lush. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit its Kickstarter goal and the team is working on a smaller project to help fund Nubarron. It’ll be a ways off but I’d love to see more.

igf2015-painters

Painters Guild by Lucas Molina
I wasn’t sure how to handle this game when I first played the alpha. I was gingerly moving Leonardo Da Vinci from tiny, simple paintings to studying… and then I got overwhelmed by angry customers and a pope died in there somewhere and then I lost. There’s much more to be added in the final version but I think it’s succinct to say this feels like Diner Dash with art, and it’s great. I can’t wait to see and play more of it. Also, here’s Katy and I playing the demo.

Poncho by Delve Interactive
May I introduce you to ‘The Next Fez’? Ok, maybe it’s more Mutant Mudds than Fez but you can’t deny Poncho has a gob-smackingly gorgeous 2D aesthetic of its own, especially when you see it in motion. It also rings just a little of the mystery of Fez but that might be because the trailer is so vague. Either way it gets my vote for the love of parallax.

igf2015-road

Road Redemption by DarkSea Interactive
Look, I know the IGF is the place for innovation, invention and even enlightenment. But I also know that I love Road Rash and Road Redemption is the closest thing to it we’ve had in nearly 20 years. It looks like the biggest, dumbest mess of physics and motorcycles and flying bodies and somehow roguelikes. It’s just too bad it’s still Early Access.

igf2015-smallradios

Small Radios Big Televisions by FIRE FACE
Absolutely stunning to look at even in the early demo version! It’s simple and gorgeous and mysterious without being pretentious or talky. In fact, it may be the silence and lack of characters I love the most. You can watch me play through the demo for more ineloquent ramblings about how I love it.

igf2015-submerged

Submerged by Uppercut Games
I was already intrigued by the characters floating ominously in a boat. When I realized it was the rooftops of a flooded modern metropolis they wash up to, I was instantly sold. It feels every bit like a Team ICO game but with zero combat and an open world to explore. It is, in concept, my dream game. We’ll see how much is there in the final product but I couldn’t not include it here.

igf2015-sumoman

Sumoman by Tequillabyte Studios
There’s something oddly pleasing about the way Sumoman balances, jiggles and moves that makes me want to play this game. Basically it’s another physics-based, side-scrolling puzzle/platformer but it’s got a spirit I really appreciate. Plus if Sumoman topples over you die and that’s hilarious.

igf2015-thumper

THUMPER by Drool
As I said in my follow up post last week: Is it an endless runner? Is it sort of like Rock Band but without the emphasis on instruments? I don’t know but it looks splendid and incredible and I will hold on as long as needed in order to play a release version.

igf2015-white

White Night by Osome Studios
White Night is absolutely THE most visually stunning game that I’ll probably never play. I appreciate the admitted inspirations of the original Alone in the Dark and I love the gameplay of keeping the lights on. But when you add things that chase me into the darkness, I cash out. Still, it is so unbelievably gorgeous. The thinnest edges on the things just barely in sight; the perfect whites and blacks in starkest of contrast to one another. The gritty 1930’s setting with matchbooks and gas lamps. I want to see more and hopefully give it a shot myself but I’m probably going to run away.