It’s a staple mechanic of so many games, a simple metric for measuring advancement, a point of comparison to where you were compared to where you are, and where other people are around you. Levelling up unlocks new skills and powers, grants access to new gear, and ultimately makes the whole process of murder-hoboing through life a far flashier affair.
But here’s the thing… (more…)
My name is Joel Smith, I am a hoarder.
I suppose the worst of it has been my need to build new houses to store my stuff, and to have somewhere nearby where I can drop things off. In my line of work I find myself encountering a lot of valuables, and they’re just there for me to walk away with, it’s a kind of salvage operation in dangerous areas, so I’m ultimately restoring a lot of valuable items to the general public, and I will sell them on, but I guess there’s only so much people can buy from me at any given time, so I end up sitting on a small stockpile of… I dunno, ebony hammers? Spells scrolls? Piles of dragon bones? (more…)
Greetings brothers and sisters and welcome, to our humble little family. Do not be put off by the burning Satanic rings around the place, for we’re merely in the process of redecoration. We’ve got a simple test to see if you’re worthy to join us, or if you might not fit our requirements. Today, we’re going to share with you our list – Our Top 10 Cults. Be prepared, for you’re about to learn about some of the limitations of the human brain.
“Joel,” you say to me in a thinly veiled premise, “why have you never reviewed Grim Dawn?”
I say nothing because there is a hot mug of set-up to my face.
“I mean,” you continue “You’ve spoken about it, ranted about it, shoe-horned it into a Top 10 wherever you could. It’s been a year since the Hack-and-Slash ARPG by Crate Entertainment was released and you’ve clocked seventy hours of game-play, and yet I still haven’t read a review from you.”
“Look over there!” I point. You politely indulge my poor deception and turn in your equally fictitious seat, “Never mind it’s dead now. Hey, look at this!” (more…)
Black Friday celebrates the end of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, an American holiday that – like so much of America’s culture – has made it’s way to the UK because of how staggeringly profitable it is, but I’ll come down from my political high horse before I get the urge to ride into the sunset yelling Viva la Revolucion!
Alongside some pretty huge deals on great titles, Steam are also running their own award ceremony as voted for by the gamers. So while you pick up a stack of games for a fiver, take some time to nominate some of your favourite titles and get another pointless badge for doing so. Why not? It’s nice to give back occasionally. Here’s my picks for the categories: (more…)
The term “Development Hell” has plagued gaming history for decades. Many incredible game-projects have never seen the light of screen because matters of financing and dispute over intellectual properties have bogged them down to the point where it’s no longer an option to release them. The modern method of circumventing this issue is to release a game to the public while it is still incomplete, under the premise of releasing content for free to those who have already paid.
It’s yet another business model that Minecraft popularized, access to the flat-world alpha version started that popularity train and started money feeding into what would become the modern standard sandbox-survival master-crafter and of course genre-spawner. It extended the lifespan of a project that could have died very early in its’ development because of its’ sheer size and complexity.
It also allowed Minecraft to stay in development for many years, in fact it had a convention and a product range to its’ name before boxes even appeared on shelves. Mojang were doing so well before the official release of Minecraft that they had even begun work on their trading card game Scrolls.
A lot of people have justifiable concerns that the method could be exploited to make a great deal of money on a game that may never actually be completed. For example, Grim Dawn when I first purchased it was around £17.99 for a single act of narrative, a dozen or so enemy types and very little by way of original features. Since then two acts have been added, as have a great many aspects of gameplay that are building to a very complex and interesting hack-and-slash, but the game remains in development three full years after its successful Kickstarter Campaign.
Games like these are changing the nature of the industry, and how funding can be found, directly from those people who would be interested in playing them rather than publishers who only speculate on the market’s wants and desires. It’s a good thing, and it’s a bad thing. Publishers have a certain resilience against the financial sink-holes that development hell creates, and often a studio will get another chance, or an idea will be remolded and repurposed into something new and possibly improved. Our money is somewhat less secure, and if a studio fails to deliver on an early access game or Kickstarter, we’ve invested money and have nothing to show for it, or something subpar and not worth what we put up for it.
Lego Worlds is also in early access, adding one of the worlds biggest manufacturers in entertainment to the list of mainstream publishers making use of the new format of funding. It’s a future that comes with incredible risks to the consumer, but also offers the opportunity of a future without Starcraft Ghost, the proeject we all wanted that never happened; or Duke Nukem Forever, which sadly happened.
A game staying eternally in development comes with its’ own challenges, no piece of art, or any other major project is ever truly finished, as anyone who has ever written a book to completion will tell… anyone who’ll listen. Even when a project successfully makes it from beginning to end it can always be tweaked somewhere in the middle, and again, and again, until it’s something unrecognizable. It’s a difficult skill to master, knowing when to stop, but when your art is your business, then you have a problem.
The short version of what I’m rambling my way around is that I don’ know what to make of the “Early Access” phenomenon and its’ inherent risks and complexities. The industry is changing, but is it for the better, or just for the different? Talk to me in the comments or on Facebook! You can also share your opinion on Twitter, where Tim will tell me what you think…
It’s a padding device as old as games themselves. Throw in a little variety in your creature catalogue by changing the colours, copying the code over and slapping a completely different name on it. Cheap trick it may be, but it’s not without it’s up-sides, and it’s not impossible to do it well.
Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde became very distinct personalities in Ms. Pacman, but in the original Pacman they were just multicoloured clones of one another. Aside from the obvious advantage of giving them cool names, what benefit is there to making them different colours? It would have been simpler to leave them all the same colour, or perhaps change the colours between levels, increasing the sense of progression, but for the player, having unique colours makes it much easier to keep track of each ghost’s movements. It’d be easy for four identical ghosts to fade into your peripheral vision, and thus make them impossible to spot until too late, but changing the colours keeps the player’s attention.
Another early example of identical creature given a variety of colours, the aliens from Space Invaders: the block of sprites has a very singular strategy, one that never changes no matter how many you destroy, no matter their colour. Aside from breaking up the wall of enemies, the changes in alien design help the player track progression, although the colours have no effect on the game, the stripping away of layers is much easier to track mentally by colour than by number.
Now let’s talk about Diablo…. here’s a prime example of palette swapping gone wrong. Of all the hundreds of monstrosities Diablo 2 (for example) has to offer, they boil down to a grand total of 72 sprites for general mobs, maybe another 20 or so for unique bosses. The classic of course that we all know and love: The Fallen
Identical tactics, identical sounds and art, but with different colours! Now I don’t expect miracles from a turn of the millennium game, but I think my real question is why go to such drastic lengths with the naming scheme? I feel like it’s some poor attempt to make us believe that they’re supposed to be different creatures, and I’m not buying it. Great game, but compared to its’ contemporaries like Titan Quest or Grim Dawn (two games I talk about far too much, this is why I promised at the start of the year I was going to try and get through my Steam list) where creatures like the Satyrs are palette swapped, they’re named as different breeds, rather than different creatures.
Done well, this kind of palette swap can build up a kind of ecology, and feel within a world, make it a little more real by keeping some small level of consistency. So it really needn’t be all pointless corner cutting.
In short, I’ve grown accustomed to palette swapping, but I’m old enough now to realize that M&Ms aren’t different flavours because they’re different colours. Recently though, I’ve started observing palette swaps appearing somewhere I didn’t expect.
More and more, Games Workshop are producing twin model kits, swap a few pieces here and there on the spru and the figure counts as a completely different unit on the table, initially I was fine with that, not a big deal when the difference was between one type of tank or another, an assault sphinx or a transport sphinx:
But I find myself drawing a line when one build is an entirely different faction to the other as they have begun to be recently, and the differences are not suitably significant to be drawing that kind of distinction. I suppose my biggest question here is why? Is it to give the builder more options with the kits they buy, rather than being bound to a single model? Or is it just to save some money in plastic and moulds, because apparently the price increases just aren’t helping any more.
Call it a sideways move on the topic, but this feels like a palette swap! A cheap rehashing of old material sold as something different, and they’re not the only ones. Fans of Ashens, the action figure/cheap tat reviewer of YouTube will know how full the industry is with repainted figures resold under a different title, even as a different intellectual property. One of my favourite tabletop games is packed to the brim with palette swaps:
Resources are limited everywhere, that’s a fact, be that resource plastic, money or time. Unfortunately this means corners will be cut here and there, but at times clever design can make this kind of cheat to great advantage. This is one major incident where we can look to the past for lessons to apply today. At one time the limited resource was colour, but it was used to greater effect than perhaps it’s used today.
For once we decided we’d actually talk about the games themselves, not an element within gaming. So this time around, we thought we’d do the Top 10 indie horror games.
Be it a horrific story courtesy of a story from Creepypasta, or a unique experience delivered to the world by a small team, the indie horror scene has become one of the most innovative areas on the market.
Sadly though it is filled with imitators to the originals, clones if you will. Today though, we revel not in the clones but in our Top 10 indie horror games. Oh we also have some would be contenders as well, but the top 10 are 2spooky4me.
Now I’m spooked… But this is horror, my friends. We move on – To be horrified.
10. 5 Days a Stranger
Created by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, 5 Nights a Stranger is a point and click horror adventure game where you uncover what is happening in the house that you are all stuck inside.
You play as Trilby, a cat burglar who wears… A trilby. He’s a pretty damn good cat burglar and he doesn’t actually mean ill-will on anyone, he’s pretty much a perfect gentleman in all honesty. He investigates the strange happenings of the house, the guests he’s staying with and how to escape the house. Undead, machetes, manacles – this game is thrilling yet simple. A nice combination to play through. Quite soft on the horror but it’s intriguing and worth a look.
9. The Binding of Isaac
Roguelikes are not exactly known for their tension-building atmosphere and gut-wrenching terrors, but what the Binding of Isaac brings to the table is an altogether different type of horror. Driven into the basement of his house by his delusional mother, Isaac discovers quickly that he was not the first to have been cast into the darkness in obeisance to the divine voices in her head.
Demons, spectres, and too many of Isaac’s undead brothers and sisters to count have been lurking beneath his feet, and the only weapons at his disposal are his anguished tears. Headup Games helped see this independent game see the light of day, but a bigger better remake is on the horizon.
A psychological horror mystery of sorts, where you walk through a house, some dark and dank places, the outside and more. But why are you doing this? You’re walking so you can find out what happened last night, as you just can’t remember.
Then you finally arrive Home. The realisation of everything dawns over you and you’re clear in your head what you need to do. But what do you do? This game changes depending on what you click on and see. Your character comes to different conclusions with different possible ways of ending the game. It’s short and sweet – just how I like my horror games!
7. Don’t Starve
A horror survival game, where the goal is literally to not starve. Taking a dark theme, within a dark randomly generated world, the goal is basically to survive as long as you can, or find the story when you’re in the game and play through the story that way.
From spiders and Beefalos, to pigmen who are pretty damn useless and men with names like Wilson and Maxwell, this is the game that we hoped Tim Burton would produce. Instead he didn’t produce this game, but we got it anyway!
6. SCP Containment Breach
All you need to know about SCP Containment Breach can be found in the SCP Containment Breach wiki. Seriously, this is a free indie horror survival game… That has a damned wiki.
You play as a test subject who’s there during… Well a containment breach! There are many SCPs around the facilities, some are friendly and some are hostile. The goal is to be able to guide your test subject through the facilities and basically not to be killed by SCP-173. This game has a concept similar to Doctor Who’s Weeping Angels – SCP-173 is deterred by being looked directly at. Throughout the game, your character blinks. Whenever line of sight is broken, the SCP can move towards you. Good luck, as this game punishes you for irresponsible blinking!
5. Penumbra Trilogy
If you expected to see Amnesia in this line-up you are going to be disappointed. Frictional Games first series was just as terrifying as its’ most famous work. You investigate an abandoned facility in Greenland, that naturally turns out to be less than unoccupied. Hungry dogs guard the doors, and they are lethal in their own right, slabs of meat and scavenged pickaxes are little help, and the dogs are only the beginning.
If Amnesia got you by the innards and twisted, Penumbra is absolutely worth your time. You may not be quite so helpless, but you’ll still spend more of the game running and hiding than trying to fight.
4. Killing Floor
Co-Operative Survival Horror game. Yeah Killing Floor is a bit of a silly name, but ignoring the fact that the name implies the floor is on a murderous rampage, this is the ultimate zombie killing experience for all you indie gamers out there. Available on Windows, Mac and Linux – as well as even having a game on the Ouya, Tripwire Interactive were on a winner when they approached the developer of the original Killing Floor mod.
Zombies, blood, gore and guns galore, this game is fun with a capital F. Get your friends together, be prepared to jump occasionally as zeds approach you from all directions and remember to weld the bloody door.
3. Slender: the Eight Pages
Once this game was made and released, that was it. All hell broke loose as just about everyone went ahead and made a Slender clone, much in the same way that everyone made a Flappy Bird clone. There’s no harm in clones, as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
Still Slender: the Eight Pages started it all off. You run around a forest trying to collect… Well… Eight pages. All the while, you’re being chased down by this being with no face. If he catches you, don’t expect him to give you any hugs – He will kill you… But not before giving you a screen of static and his face. Well, at least you get to see the handsome fellow before you die, I guess.
Lost and alone in a dark forest, a small boy awakens. The world he inhabits is filled with vast, silently shifting spiders, mind altering parasites, and sadistic little killers. The game is entirely monochrome, there is no music, very little sound at all, drawing you in deeper to a world that will kill you on a whim. Limbo contains very few jump-scares, but it’s style is chilling, designed to tap into your every childish fear and scrape your nerves raw.
Limbo is the first, and currently only title by Playdead, and was greeted with wide acclaim and several rewards. Their next title, Inside, looks like it’s going to be self-published as well, and looking at the early trailer you should be afraid already….
1. Five Nights at Freddy’s
It’s just a simple security gig, sit in a cushy office in a pizza place with “cute” animatronic bears and ducks and whatnot, keep an eye on the security cameras. Oh, and by the way, those adorable mascots were implanted with some weird AI, and if they catch you at night as they wander around they will assume you’re a mascot out of costume, and try and stuff you into one of the vacated empty bodies.
Scott Cawthon brings us a horrifying game. There is no escape, you can only hope to spread your limited power around to keep yourself protected from the nightmarish teddies that stalk the night, mocking smiles leering at you through the monitor, and through the door.
The next two titles are worthy contenders to be in our Top 10 indie horror games list, but we had to think realistically. For the time we spent playing, to the innovation and the likes these two just missed our list.
However, we thought we’d still go ahead and mention them as we felt they are good candidates and heck, perhaps one or two you won’t know of!
Escape from Lavender Town
Most people steer clear from this game as it’s a freeware game that you can get from websites like GameJolt. It comes as just a standalone .exe file which of course could potentially have been malicious – but when I heard of the game I decided the risk was worth it. Plus, others had played it before and didn’t yet die.
The premise of Escape from Lavender Town is simply to wander around Lavender Town and listen to the various residents of Lavender Town. They explain the weird circumstances and you can listen to the oddly chilling Lavender Town music with the infamous hidden frequencies re-adjusted for the game. Once you finish reading, press escape and it’s all over… Honestly. Go ahead and give it a try today. I promise you, it’s not that bad.
Fair is fair, this isometric hack-and-slash is not a horror game, but Grim Dawn – created by the remains of Iron Law’s Titan Quest team – has a very strong horror theme. An apocalyptic punk-styled world overrun by the undead, demonspawn and worshippers of Elder Things, your hero is possessed and released by an otherworldly horror that leaves you with the power to use their portals against them.
It’s not scary, but it’s a brilliantly dark game with some fantastic Diablo-style gameplay. It’s in ongoing development after a very successful Kickstarter campaign, but you can buy it now and get access to the ever expanding content.
I hope you all get some sleep tonight, as these horror games will leave you either on the edge of your seat or sleeping with one eye open.
But not to fear, we’re going to tone down the scares a bit now…
Oh no, it’s the day of all the blood!
Join us again next time for another Top 10 – and as always, join in the conversation! What are your favourite indie horror games? Did we cover it? Do you agree with our above list and hey – go play some of the free ones. You know you want to!