Tagged: Indie Games

How I find my Top Twenty of the Independent Games Festival every year

People often ask me, “Shawn, how do you decide on only twenty picks out of the hundreds of stellar, inventive games entered into the Independent Games Festival each year?

Wonder no more — people who never actually asked me that — because here’s a video detailing the highly scientific process! I took some time last week to record and talk through my decisions on what I like, what I don’t and what to add to my short list of potential top picks.

2014 IGF entrant, Shiftlings, coming soon to Xbox One

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Since it’s turned into IGF week here at GameLuv I thought this would make for a fitting post. Shiftlings, one of my short listed picks from the 2014 IGF, is coming soon to Xbox One. The game page exists but there’s no release date or price info just yet.

Surprisingly similar in theme to a few of my 2015 picks, Shiftlings ties two alien astronauts together by an umbilical air hose that’s always over-inflated. The puzzling, platforming gameplay centers on shifting the air between the two which enables new abilities. Naturally, it’s also important to avoid space spikes and other pointy, poppy obstacles when your inflated with life-saving air.

Until there’s more to report I’ll just say congrats to Rock Pocket Games. It’s always good to see an IGF entrant come to release, especially the ones I haven’t been able to keep up with.

Where are they now? Catching up with my Top 20 from IGF 2014

Going through all the entrants for the 17th annual Independent Games Festival this year got me thinking: This is the fourth year I’ve done this and some of these games I’ve seen every year while others I’ve lost track of. So I went back to my bookmarks archive and quickly checked in with some of my top picks. You can check out my recap from 2012 and 2013 that I posted earlier this week but for today we’re moving on to last year’s list: IGF 2014.

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Elegy for a Dead World – I like writing… *glances at past 9 years of GameLuv posts* … yeah, I’m pretty sure I like writing. So when a game promises to plunk me down all alone on a dead alien world and tells me I’ll be documenting it for posterity, I take notice. Elegy has gone on to see official release but now that part of the experience is reading other peoples writings I feel like I’d have a pretty boring story to tell. Stage fright? That’s an interesting concept in itself. I really should buy this some day.

Moon Intern – This one had a pretty high, high concept in 2013 as a “serialized side-scrolling action RPG […] with each day acting like a single episode”. An episodic, pixelart platformer sounds enticing but work has been hampered since Day One according to the devs. With a new emphasis on “random and procedural elements” it’s starting to sound like most other indie games of the day. That is to say, a lot less interesting to me.

Perfect Stride – I rediscovered Perfect Stride amongst the L.A. Game Space demos in 2014 and was finally able to make sense of its stunning lo-fi visuals. It also has a really chill soundtrack. As for the future, who knows. The creedo remains: Perfect Stride is coming to $team whenever we finish it. It continues to pop up at events but I haven’t heard much more on its progress.

PixelJunk Inc. – Now known as Nom Nom Galaxy, this “2D Minecraft” has seen several updates since I uncharacteristically bought into its Early Access build. The biggest news, though, is that Q-Games is once again working with Sony to bring the game to PlayStation 4 and Vita. How this impacts the PC version that I bought has yet to be seen but the game continues moving forward at a decent pace.

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The White Cane – The White Cane is literally a black void until you start bumping into stuff. Your characters thoughts — visualized as words — create the world around you as you come to grips with where you are and what’s following you. As a student project from 2013 the team has obviously broken up and only one of them is continuing to work on the game. It’s a long ways off and may never happen but I’m here, still holding on for another update. It’s that striking to play!

THUMPER – 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. Public demos are already happening in 2015 but so far I’ve not been close enough to attend.

Where are they now? Catching up with my Top 20 from IGF 2013

Going through all the entrants for the 17th annual Independent Games Festival this year got me thinking: This is the fourth year I’ve done this and some of these games I’ve seen every year while others I’ve lost track of. So I went back to my bookmarks archive and quickly checked in with some of my top picks. You can check out my recap from 2012 that I posted earlier this week but for today we’re moving on to IGF 2013.

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Against the Wall – A game about scaling a sheer wall and slowly discovering mysterious stuff by pulling out odd-sized blocks to make a path. It’s so simple and pure, I’ve pined for it since 2012 and it’s still not done. Work continues but it seems to be overshadowed by newer games from developer Michael Consoli. I can wait, I just hope it isn’t retired.

Chroma – In a year when every other entry had something to do with manipulating light and shadows, Chroma was the one that looked most appealing. Mark Foster has since found more success with Titan Souls but Chroma remains at the top of his site’s projects list. I hope one day it happens.

Cradle – I’ve had just as many concerns over this game making it out as I’ve had dreams about playing it. Development has always seemed shaky and coming from Russia some of the updates have been hard to follow. Thankfully there’s been news already in 2015 and the script and voice acting have been completed. Paying actors to record dialog is a pretty good sign a game is moving along so I’m hoping to play it sometime this year.

Don’t Starve – Back at the dawn of the neo-roguelike age I fell in love with Don’t Starve. Like most I enjoyed the terror of coming to grips with the game’s mysteries and fighting hunger like it was a tangible enemy. It was the first Early Access game I bought into and the last I’ll ever play with that much dedication. By the time the game was released I’d burnt out on it and everything I understood about how it worked had changed. Still a fantastic game, I just came at it the wrong way and I’ve learned a gaming life lesson from it.

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Leaper★ – Leaper is as old as 2010 but I didn’t dig deep enough on Sophie Houlden’s website until writing this post to find the playable demo of it. I want it even more now despite not owning an iPad anymore which is where the star-enhanced edition would debut… if it ever happens. It’s a great one-button platforming concept that feels wonderful. I hope it happens some day, in some form that I can actually get ahold of.

NEO Scavenger – Constantly tempting me to repeat the same mistake I made with Don’t Starve was NEO Scavenger. It was in playable Alpha form and then on Early Access for the better part of 2 years and I always wanted to jump in. Finally, I bought the full game when it was released proper and it has continued to kill me in more and more inventive ways every time.

StarForge – At the start all I needed was the confirmation that you could build a tower of dirt right out of the atmosphere and into space. Then there was the reveal of the crazy gun generation system and the momentum-based physics of movement. Then the fort-building, wave-based Horde mode. It all seemed to be careening wildly right up my alley. I never bought in but going by Steam the final, release version of the game is a messy shell of all that potential. I’d still like to give it a shot some day but wow, what a letdown.

Where are they now? Catching up with my Top 20 from IGF 2012

Going through all the entrants for the 17th annual Independent Games Festival this year got me thinking: This is the fourth year I’ve done this and some of these games I’ve seen every year while others I’ve lost track of. So I went back to my bookmarks archive and quickly checked in with some of my top picks. I’ll do a separate post this week for each year I’ve been at this so let’s start at the start, IGF 2012.

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Causality Flux – Their homepage has never expanded beyond some placeholder imagery surrounding the same trailer they submitted to the IGF. It’s one of those games that looked promising but probably isn’t going to resurface. This happens a lot and it’s the No.1 pitfall of going through all these IGF games.

Crabiton – After launching on iOS in 2011 and being one of the last iPad games I was interested in, Two Lives Left are now bringing the space munching game to Kinect for Xbox One. With Kinect able to track fingers in a very crab-like manner it seems a perfect fit.

Crystalides – One of the games I was most excited about started out in 2011 as a Java-powered cellphone game. Since then the project has been retired with the universe and some of the gameplay I loved retooled into C-Wars. It’s been Greenlit for Steam and continues development after a Kickstarter fully funded it in 2013.

Fader – One of the first “controlling different stuff on two halves of a screen” games I ever saw and it’s still not out. The combination of art style and music are why I’m still holding out for Fader. The latest from developer Chris Makris’ twitter is “I move like molasses”. Glad to know it’s still in the works.

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Leshy – I’ve played a lot of “rolling ball puzzle/platformers” over the years so if you see one in these lists you know it’s something special. While an expanding and contracting ball doesn’t sound like much the developers nailed the sense of scale even in this short demo and it blew my mind. I’ve followed up with some of the team because I think about Leshy a lot but unfortunately the project never went any farther. Shame, but at least we can still play the demo and dream!

Nitronic Rush – That other DigiPen game I just mentioned, it’s as close to San Francisco Rush as we’re going to get. Much of the team has gone on to make Distance which looks similar but, to me, feels even more about survival than the classic Rush vibe Nitronic held to. Both are fabulous in my book though.

Nous – Another DigiPen team game like Leshy and Nitronic Rush, Nous was a great 4th-wall-breaking twin-stick “shooter” with some great moments. Brett Cutler, Nous’ designer, is now at 17-BIT working on Galak-Z which makes perfect sense from what I’ve seen of it and Nous.

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Project Zomboid – The game has come on by huge leaps since 2011 but it continues to be an Early Access affair. Once it’s content is certified “Released” I’ll jump back in but since my first blush with the game I’ve put it anxiously on hold.

Proteus – The visual wonderland of Proteus wowed a lot of us in 2013. It’s continued making the indie hop from platform to platform. Ed Key, one half of the game’s creators, continues to blow up my twitter while simultaneously exploring the U.K.’s outback. The lucky bastard.

Red Rogue – Possibly the web-based game I’ve spent the most time with. At a moment when all I wanted were roguelikes, here comes an adorable, side-scroller with mysterious loot, adorable (but gory) animations and a fantastic, muted color palette.

Treasure Adventure Game – This was one of the first times I’d heard a 2D game referred to as featuring an open world and it captivated me. Turns out what they meant to say was it’s ‘just like Metroid’. The soundtrack has persisted much longer as a personal favorite though. And much like Spelunky, the pixelart original has been redrawn “as originally envisioned” and is working its way towards a full, expanded release as Treasure Adventure World.