Oxy’s Top 10 Of 2015

It’s that time of year again for me to put together an arbitrary list of my favorite games from this year. Please remember these are the games I most enjoyed playing and I’ve not played everything that came out this year and as such this is a very personal list that probably won’t have everything you’d expect on it (for example Undertale as I’ve not played it yet).

Splatoon

Genuinely the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer game in some time. It was the reason I bought a Wii U and I don’t regret it at all. I love the way the ink looks too – whoever programmed that shader needs a medal.

Bloodborne

I suck at this game, but I adore everything about it. I love the enviroments, lore and the fact that it has done survival horror with Lovecraftian elements so damn well.

Party Hard

Who’d have thought a game about murdering obnoxious people at a party would be so cathartic? I went into this game not knowing much about it, but I had a lot of fun with it and still haven’t unlocked everything.

Mushroom 11

I first played Mushroom 11 last year at Eurogamer, I was instantly captured by its unique control system. It is a beautiful little game that you should totally check out if you have the chance.

Until Dawn

This game takes all the wonderfully cheesy tropes of teen horror films and turns them into a grand adventure where each choice can lead to a horrific death. I am very happy that I had the chance to play through this with friends.

The Magic Circle

I’ve sang praise after praise for The Magic Circle. I loved it. You can check out my thoughts here.

Fallout 4 & Fallout Shelter

I’m a massive fan of the entire Fallout series and Fallout 4 did not disappoint. The ruins of Boston are really cool to explore and it develops so much lore that I’ve been theorizing about ever since Fallout 3. I’ve lumped in Fallout Shelter here too because it was potentially the only free to play game I’ve not felt conned into spending money on.

Downwell

Simple and elegant. Cheap and cheerful. Thoroughly enjoyable! This little rogue-like should be on your phone or computer immediately.

Cities: Skylines

This game is everything that SimCity should have been. It’s perfect. I have sank many an evening into building grand cities on this wonderful game. I’m so glad it exists.

Nuclear Throne

I FINALLY BEAT THIS DAMN GAME. YOU SHOULD ALL GO BUY IT. #BuyNuclearThrone

 

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My Thoughts On: Euclidean

Rudimentary creature of blood and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding.

Euclidean is a wonderfully macabre little game that I came across on Steam recently that does something that a lot of other games attempt (but fail) to do. This game presents the otherworldly existential terror of Lovecraftian horror in a rather excellent set of ways:

  1. You are not a hero: You don’t win this game, really. You’re pretty much doomed from the very start and you’re barely clinging onto life in a ridiculously hostile environment.
  2. You don’t know where you are: The environments you find yourself in are strange, alien and unnerving. There is a constant haze surrounding everything, which you occasionally glimpse through pulses of energy that ripple through the landscape you’re floating through.
  3. You can die easily: Every nasty sounding creature swimming and writhing through the games levels are out to get you. You’re essentially a tiny little snack that doesn’t really matter at all.
  4. Everything is Alien: You have no idea what things are or whether or not they are something that will hurt you. All the monsters in the game look strange and otherworldly, and you’ll only ever get occasional glimpses of them as they phase in and out of your perception of reality. These creatures and objects hum and pulse with monstrous energy – they’re all weird and impossible to explain.

If you’re into existential terror and dread, I’d give this one a try. It’s a bit short though, so you’ll have to weigh up if you can spare the money for about half an hour of gameplay with weird and wonderful alien terrors.

 

The Current Plan for Hashtag Dungeon

I’ve been getting periodic tweets and messages from people asking me what is going on with Hashtag Dungeon and when we’re going to be releasing on Steam. So I thought I’d give you some important information on it now to put your minds at ease.

So as you might know I was studying a postgraduate certificate of education before the summer. It was a really heavy workload and I didn’t have much time for game development myself – turns out having to plan five lessons every day in depth leaves you with very little time for anything other than sleep. I was also going through a bunch of awful personal stuff which left me questioning if I even wanted to continue making games altogether; all of that is sorted now but it really put a halt on development for a good few months. I’m now teaching computer science at Lincoln UTC and it’s great – I feel a lot less stressed and have much more time at the weekend and nights to work on game-related stuff.

Meanwhile Kieran was working on academic stuff over at The University of Lincoln as a research assistant so he’s been super busy too. But in about a week or so he’ll be finishing preparations for a big conference and can finally work full-time on the game for a while.

This isn’t to say that the game is in the same state as it was when we released the magic update last year, because it’s definitely different now. We’ve overhauled all the UIs, added lighting into the game and implemented a bunch of new enemies, backgrounds and traps. Originally we planned to release all these different things as little updates a la Minecraft, but we thought why not pool them all together for a massive Steam-release update so that new players get an awesome experience and old players have a tonne of new things to mess around with. We didn’t want to release on Steam half-finished because that just seemed like a bad idea in general.

How it used to look:

Screenie3

How it looks now:

Lighting Update

We’ve also put in a class system that lets you run through dungeons as a bunch of different characters including:

  • The Exotic Blood Mage
  • The Boastful Paladin
  • The Ancient Robot
  • The Mysterious Ninja

Each of these classes brings a different strategy to the game, and some classes will be able to tackle different dungeons easier than others. It’s going to be interesting to see which classes people prefer to play as!

So what’s the Plan?

So yeah this is the most important part of this post, the current plan for the game and what we’re looking to do:

  • We are looking to release the full 1.0 Hashtag Dungeon update onto itch.io on the 30 of September, roughly three weeks from now. We will be sending a message out to all current players to let them know it’s out so they can play it.
  • We will then attempt to fix all the bugs the community finds and prepare the Steam version of the game once we are happy that the game is as stable as possible.
  • We release on Steam as soon as that build is ready. and then give out Steam keys to everyone who needs one.

I’m really happy with how things look and I’m really looking forward to getting player feedback. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get the game onto Steam considering we got greenlit in December, but life is full of little distractions and road-bumps that make it hard to work on something like this full-time.

My Thoughts On: The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle that may have topped my list of “The Most Meta and Self-Aware Games of All Time” (If I had such a list… which I don’t…) You may have seen me gushing about it on Twitter to the developers and getting ridiculously excited as I played it.

Needless to say expect spoilers as I talk about this game. If you’ve not played it yet, please go play it right now. You’ll enjoy it. You can get it on Steam right now in Early Access – but it’s pretty much feature complete right now other than language localisation.

The Magic Circle is the story of a game that has been so long in development that the creators have lost sight of the original idea, piss-poor planning has lead to an ever evolving piece of vapourware that will never be released. The player is trapped within the game, guided by an angry AI who is also trapped within the game.

The game itself is ridiculously self-aware and owns it. It looks at a tonne of different aspects of game development, even including a trip to a fictional parody of E3. The player can edit the games code to their advantage in order to cause chaos and bend the software to their whims.

Needless to say the game was absolutely beautiful and made excellent use of the black and white world with splashes of colour to bring out life. There was lots of places to explore (I’m not sure if I’ve collected and see everything as of yet – but I’m definitely close…) and the game really challenges you to think creatively to get access to the more difficult to reach items and locations.

The games voice acting is absolutely spot-on and really brings the characters to life. Its all excellent and the use of environmental storytelling, hidden files and audio-logs allows the player to piece together the history of The Magic Circle through exploration.

The story of the obsessive and somewhat egotistical game developer Ishmael really got to me on a whole bunch of different levels. His downfall towards the end of the game made me feel that suddenly I was the bad guy, destroying something that was his. Then again I completely understand how angry his fans were getting, I was the same with Molyneux and GODUS. Ish puts his whole soul into the game because it’s all he has, I tend to put all my spare time into my games because they’re part of me too – you’ll always notice that I’ll do a lot more game development when I’m upset or lonely because they’re how I cope with a bunch of different negative emotions. For me, game development has always filled the gaps that other things leave (for everything else, there’s bees…).

The game asked some pretty hard questions: at what point does a game become more the fans than the designers? Do the fans of a game deserve to control the future of a project they’re interested in, what gives them the right to get mad at a designers choices? Is it okay to tell the person who created something that it is no longer theirs to control? If a Kickstarter fails to pull off what it promises does that mean that the developers didn’t care enough, or did they care too much? How far can feature creep go before it becomes a major issue?

As a game developer I feel that my games are my own to work on, and although I’m a big fan of getting the public involved in decision making I like to think I’m the one who makes the final decision on anything – I’d be heartbroken if a project was suddenly commandeered by someone else because it wasn’t necessarily going the way they wanted it to. If suddenly tomorrow someone told me they were taking over Hashtag Dungeon because it was taking too long to come out I would probably have a mental breakdown.

There aren’t many games nowadays that really capture my attention as much as The Magic Circle. It was a humorous but thought provoking romp into the world of game development gone haywire. My only wish is that it had lasted longer, I would love to see a larger world with more puzzles, elements and plot-points to listen to and enjoy. Kudos to the developers for making a game that I can say I truly loved.

Go play it. Go and play it RIGHT NOW.

My Top Ten Games Of 2014 (Cross-Media)

Here are my top ten games for 2014 for your perusal, enjoy:

Luftrausers


This glorious dog-fighting game was a heck of a lot of fun. Extra juicy with all the gratuitous explosions you’d expect from a game with the Vlambeer logo attributed to it. The soundtrack is brilliant as well – go listen to it.

Shovel Knight


This game is a beautiful love-letter to the glory of old school NES games. It feels good to play and gets me feeling very nostalgic. What makes it awesome though is that despite it’s heavy inspiration by old games it has it’s own distinct personality, it looks and plays like something unique. It looks gorgeous, plays beautifully and has a soundtrack that is easy on the ears.

Alien Isolation


As a fan of the Alien series I was hyped for this game – and it really didn’t disappoint. The game is nightmarish and unforgiving, the xenomorph is not playing around and there are no stealth-game patterns to avoid it. Nowhere is safe and you’ve got to keep your wits about you to survive – which is a very difficult thing to do.

Push Me, Pull You


It’s fucking weird but really fucking fun. Technically I suppose it’s not actually out yet… but I played it in 2014 so that’s what counts!

Pandemic: Contagion


I’ve always wanted to play as the infections in Pandemic and this year they have given me the chance in Pandemic Contagion. In this version of the game you play as the infections trying to wipe out mankind. I played this in the LiSC office on top of a coffin and it was bloody brilliant. If you like Pandemic then there’s a good chance you’ll like this one too.

Desert Golfing


A minimalist mini-golfing game that is great for playing every once in a while for a few seconds… I’m on hole 2304 right now. I would highly recommend you get it just for when you’re really bored.

Goat Simulator


This game is completely stupid and I love it. It shows that games aren’t all serious nowadays, sometimes they are just for the fun and the madness.

The only thing that makes me sad about Goat Simulator is the plethora of crappy clone attempts afterwards such as Rock Simulator and Grass Simulator – they don’t capture the craziness of Goat Simulator, the thing that actually makes the game fun.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted


I adored this game. I’m sad that it doesn’t seem to be on many people’s top 10 lists this year. Sir, You Are Being Hunted did a wonderful job of procedurally generating the drab and dreary British countryside, right down to the silly town names!

Sir, You Are Being Hunted does a wonderful job of reminding me of my childhood (bear with me, this will make sense). When I was a young lad I spent a lot of time playing man hunt with my friends in the woods near my house – pretty much exactly the same environment as you get in Sir, You Are Being Hunted – it gives me feelings of nostalgia: remembering hiding behind a dry-stone wall as my friends were trying to find me. That adrenaline-fueled feeling of anxious waiting as they walked past was awesome and I miss it.

Like Alien Isolation, there isn’t anywhere in this game that is 100% safe, really. The robots patrolling the islands are actively looking for you and do not sleep or eat until you are full of lead, laying dead on the floor.

If you’ve not played it before I’d highly recommend it if you like your stealth survival games quintessentially British.

P.T.


Yes this is technically just a demo/teaser thing, but I felt like I had to include it on this list. It was in itself a great and incredibly terrifying ARG game. It got people talking, it got people hyped, it was clever and made people think. It did what most horror games can’t do with a SINGLE CORRIDOR.

South Park: The Stick Of Truth


This game is perhaps the best adaptation of a TV/Movie series that I have ever had the pleasure to play. It feels like you’re actually playing an episode of South Park. All the jokes are there, all the characters that make the series amusing, and most importantly the unapologetic satire that I love from Trey Parker and Matt Stone.


This isn’t part of the Top 10 but it’s the one game that defined my 2014:

Hashtag Dungeon


This was the first game that I’ve properly released. It’ll be something that will be important to me for the rest of my life and I will treasure it. It’s a bit buggy here and there, but it’s sound for the most part and we’re continuing to work on it. Kieran and I are really proud of how much we’ve achieved in 2014 – and no matter how much I moan and how upset I might appear to be, I am genuinely happy that Hashtag Dungeon has done as well as it has. In the new year we shall be releasing on Steam, let’s see what the future holds, I guess!

GameCity 9 – Spooky Text Adventures

So two weeks ago I had the pleasure of showing Hashtag Dungeon at the GameCity Open Arcade. It was a really cool event, with a lot of really cool people. I got some really great feedback for the game and we sold a bunch of new copies, and that’s awesome.

I also got to hang out with the creator of Depression Quest, Zoe Quinn. It was really interesting to meet her and see how she was getting on after all the stuff that’s been going on recently. I had the pleasure of watching her destroy Christos most easily in a game of Nidhogg:

Wednesday night had the unveiling of the grand plan for GameCity next year: the opening of the new National Video Game Arcade – a place where I am really hoping to exhibit some of our more wacky projects in the future!

I was also in charge of designing and running a ‘spooky text adventure’ on the Thursday night. Using a piece of software programmed for the event by GameCity staff, I was able to assume the role of a paranormal entity that was communicating through a computer. The game itself was held on the third floor of Nottingham Library – we turned all the lights off, played spooky videos and music through the TVs and speakers and hid clues in a variety of different places. The objective of the game was to talk to the ghost and then solve its riddles whilst avoiding the hooded figures walking around the library.

Library Picture

The event was a big success! Thanks to the help of people like Jake TuckerSam Smith, Christos Reid, Jenni Goodchild, Jason Alan Dewey and a bunch of others, we managed to get a good few scares out of people and create a really creepy atmosphere.

Friday night was fun, video game karaoke at a pub in Nottingham. It was weird to be surrounded by a load of industry people I look up to all getting drunk and singing their hearts out. I also played a rather heated game of boop with C418… I’m not sure which one of us actually won the game in the end, but now we’re having a poke war on Facebook and I don’t think it’s ever gonna end.

Whilst the week was somewhat spoiled for me due to a really distressing and stressful situation in my personal life, I really enjoyed the events that I did end up going to. I’d like to thank all my friends who kept me from having a mental breakdown, you’re all awesome and I look forward to seeing you next year.

Hashtag Dungeon Launch Week!

So it’s been a week since we launched Hashtag Dungeon so I thought i’d do a little post about how it’s gone so far and the problems we’ve encountered over the week.

Launch day was incredibly hectic for me and Kieran. We were finding and fixing bugs till about 11:00 that night. Unfortunately it was also the day that Sky Broadband in Lincolnshire decided to stop working – completely. Kieran had to upload the final build of the game at about 2:30 in the morning via is phone. I was up till 3:30am getting the itch.io store front set up properly.

Oh… and Kieran had to go and get the banner from the printers halfway through the day because they’d managed to mess up printing in twice and it was almost not ready for when we needed it…

London Anime Gaming Convention

This late launch would all have been fine if we didn’t have to be up at around 5-6am in order to get to London for the London Anime and Gaming Convention 2014… so there was absolutely no time for a lie in! Luckily we were in good spirits and managed to (with the aid of coffee) make it to London in time for set up. Many thanks to Tom, one of our most excellent musicians, for driving us down in the car.

Myself, Tom and Kieran sitting proudly behind our booth at LAC!

LAC was very exciting for all of us! It was our first experience of running a booth at an actual convention. I’d like to thank Pia for helping us arrange getting a table for the convention – we couldn’t have done it without you!

You might be thinking, “Surely going to a convention the day after release might be a bad idea? Surely you won’t have access to your builds if there’s a problem with the version online?” – Yes, yes it was a bad idea. It was only a matter of time before my phone started going crazy with tweets from people who weren’t able to download the game. It turns out that because i’d included a ‘#’ in the uploaded file name people weren’t able to download it from the itch.io servers. Whoops…

Some Bad Stuff Happened

Whilst I was at the convention the booth opposite us (manned by Ubisoft and GAME) decided they were going to do a free giveaway. I was manning the booth alone because it was too expensive for the other guys to come back for a second day, so I was naturally a little on edge about looking after all the equipment around me. Crowds gathered to get free swag and the guys on the other booth decided that they’d throw out PHYSICAL COPIES of random games into the crowd. One of them landed on the Hashtag Dungeon table… people turned and piled towards me in order to grab the game, knocking our banner and almost pushing my laptops off the table onto the floor. I wasn’t happy at all.

Oh yeah and then I also got assaulted on the underground and had a bunch of other personal problems occurred over the week that left me feeling awful. I became pretty unproductive because I was really upset. I think karma was balancing itself out again because of the buzz I got from the launch! I’m okay now though – much more stable. Thanks to Louise, Alex, Richard, Byron and Christos for being there for me. I don’t often have particularly emotional weeks but occasionally everything becomes too much for my brain to compute.

Soft Launch

We decided we’d go for a soft launch and not actively contact sites like Polygon yet because we want to make sure the servers are able to handle the load over time. We were worried that if we got a massive surge of people playing in the first week we might end up having problems we wouldn’t be able to deal with quickly. We wanted to avoid a situation like other online-based games have on launch.

Having a soft launch has been excellent because we’ve been able to deal with bug reports on a one-on-one basis. If we’d had loads more people playing we’d probably get spammed with the same bug report over and over again. It’s nice to have a small community at this point as we can talk to them all directly.

Kieran has been amazing at responding to and fixing bugs. He’s worked tirelessly every day fixing things and communicating with players who are having issues. He’s even finished the first version of the Hashtag Dungeon launcher that allows us to push updates out to our players quickly and easily. I want to thank him for being the best co-developer ever, he’s been amazing. He’s been really on the ball whilst I’ve been feeling pretty down.

Coming Soon

I’m going to be at the Loading Bar on Monday showing the game off at a big event! Thanks to Failnaut for inviting me along to show the game off! I’m really excited for it – hopefully we’ll get some interest in the game and maybe sell a few more copies!

I’m also working on making the bosses in the game harder. One of the new bosses I’ve just added is The Infernal Soul Organ. Good luck trying to take him on… it’s not a boss that shows much mercy:

SoulOrgan

We also have a tutorial video coming soon with wonderful voice over work by my good friend Greg. I’m looking forward to hearing it! It should give non-players a better idea of how people make dungeons.

If you’ve not played the game and are interested then you can buy it from our website! The current build is Alpha 1.3.2 and once you’ve purchased the game you’ll get access to all updates afterwards for free! Supporting us now means that we’ll be able to continue to make the game bigger and better.