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.

 

#LincJam 24 Hour Game Jam

Hey everyone! Just a little post to let you know I’m running a game jam soon!

LincJam

Ever wanted to try your hand making a game in 24 hours? Find out by joining us for #LincJam at the University of Lincoln! Game jams are an excellent way of quickly prototyping games in a friendly and enthusastic enviroment. You’ll learn so much about game development in a ridiculously short space of time!

How does it work? You (or a team of up to five of you) come along to the jam in Complab B(3rd Floor, MHT Building) and at 10:00am you get given the jam’s theme – at this point you’ve got 24 hours to make something cool! These games will then get judged at 12:00 on Sunday by a panel of experts, they’ll then hand out awards for:

  • Best Use of Theme
  • Most Innovative Game
  • Juiciest Game
  • Best Overall Game
  • Best use of The Wildcard

There’s also the chance to be the first winners of the Hitpoint Trophy – which will be decided by Kieran Hicks and Sean Oxspring, developers at Hitpoint Games Ltd.

You can vote on potential themes via this link: http://poll.fm/5gxvn

LincJam is graciously hosted by The University of Lincoln School of Computer Science

You should be a university student over the age of 18+ to participate in this game jam! If you are a developer and want to come along then please contact the event organiser (Sean Oxspring) as soon as possible to ensure you are allowed to participate!

The main jam is at the University of Lincoln, but if you want to develop a game for the jam and upload it to the itch.io jam page from somewhere else in the world, feel free! Making games is fun afterall, and this jam is all about making games for the sake of making games.

If you’re a university student and you want to come along to the Lincoln site for #LincJam then please sign up for a ticket on this Eventbrite Page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lincjam-24-game-jam-tickets-19636258578

You can vote on the themes for this jam here:

Hitpoint Games – Progress Update

I thought it might be a good idea to write a little blog post to talk about what is going on at Hitpoint Games; what our current plans are, what we are doing at the moment and what you have to look forward to this year.

Let’s start with Hashtag Dungeon: myself and Kieran have been doing postgraduate degrees so unfortunately development has stalled since last December. We had plans to bring out a bunch of different updates but decided against it so that we have one massive update before we release on Steam that’s jam packed with new stuff for both old and new players to try out. We’re returning to full time development in August when I move up to Lincoln, we’re looking at a late September release on Steam.

As part of the new update we have overhauled all of the user interfaces to make them easier to use. We’ve added a bunch of new traps and enemies and fixed a lot of renderings bugs. We’re also putting in different classes to play as: The Ninja, The Blood Mage, The Hunter, The Paladin and The Robot, to name a few – these will shake up the way you play the game and how you tackle certain enemies and situations.

So yeah: Hashtag Dungeon, on Steam by hopefully the end of September. We are definitely going to need some beta testers so I suppose we’ll release the update early on itch.io and ask people to help test it for us.

Secondly: Utopian – now called Utopia-N (based on the nth term of something…) has had a few changes. We’ve decided (for the moment) to remove the Wikipedia ties – the reason for this is that Wikipedia’s edits aren’t reliable enough to generate exciting and interesting gameplay: a lot of the time you’ll end up flying around a space without any enemies spawning because no one is vandalising Wikipedia at the time.

We’ve also made the decision to try and make it into a mobile game. We think it would be really cool to get something out on mobile which is exciting to play and also graphically impressive. We spent this weekend getting the controls nailed down and now we’re getting in the core gameplay. It should prove to be a really fun mobile game without any of the general awfulness of traditional mobile games.

Moving swiftly on, let’s discuss LUST: we’re currently working on the design document for this and I’ve drawn a lot of concept art for it. It’s not really safe for work though, so I’m not going to post it up on here until I finish teaching for the year. The game is going to be a procedurally generated FPS with a old-school aesthetic: nice low-poly enemies with pixelly textures. I’m really digging the way it’s looking and I’m excited to show you some screenshots of the level generation system when I get back from holiday!

Finally we’re still working on Nectar Collector alongside Andrew Deathridge. He’s just taking a break after having finished his course and should be back on the development in the next few weeks. It’s a game about bees, so I am happy about it no matter what happens.

The rest of this year will be a super exciting one for Hitpoint Games, we’re going to be releasing our first game on Steam and we’ve got a bunch of other projects simmering away. We are also accepting client work for the first time since opening our doors, which is a great way to keep us afloat whilst we continue doing this crazy little thing called game development. I’m really pleased to be spearheading things alongside Kieran and I’m sure you’ll all be pleased with what we’re working on.

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.

JumpJam!

I thought I’d write a quick post to let everyone know about the game jam I’m running over at The National Videogame Arcade in a few weeks time. It’s called JumpJam! and it’s going to be all about the miraculous form of movement – jumping.

jumplogo

The game jam is being ran on the weekend that The National Videogame Arcade opens, it’s going to be tied in with the main Jump! exhibition that will be on show for the first few months there. The best games made at the jam have the chance of being shown alongside the exhibition… which is pretty awesome!

I’m also looking for people to help run sites across the globe for the jam, if you’re interested in running a site then please send me a message on Twitter or through the sign-up form on the link below.

You can find out more about the jam and sign up for it here.

#GGJ15 Post-Mortem

BigGodLogo

So last weekend I had the pleasure of helping run the Lincoln site for Global Game Jam 2015. I worked with Kieran and we made a really odd game called “Big God, What Do?” which is about a tribal god and his little villagers. Here’s the little blurb taken directly from our submission on the GGJ website:

“Big God, What Do?” cry the tribes-people of a small, jungle village. The idol in the center of town stirs to life and an ethereal voice echoes around the near vicinity: “Okay, guys, you need to bring me some pigs and throw them in the fire.”

BGWD? is an experimental multiplayer game where one player assumes the role of an ever-present deity whose belief is slowly dwindling. This player has to yell orders to his followers in game through the shrine in the middle of the map, then the other players must go forth and collect the items he needs. There is a catch, however: the villagers can only hear their god when they are very close to the shrine, and the things that the god needs are constantly changing.

The game was really fun to make, it was quite a challenge to get audio streaming across a network clearly – the final result was still rather choppy which was a shame. Unfortunately we could only get the game working on local area networks, so the game only really worked in the computer labs.

FinalScreenBGWD

I learnt how to 3D model using a free package called Wings3D, I’ve never done 3D modelling before so I was very interested in trying it out. I don’t think I did an awful job either; apparently I went against a tonne of 3D modelling conventions, but I was bound to make some mistakes on the first attempt!

I think that after a few hours I had a reasonably good-looking low-poly art style going. I actually really love how the game looks, and I definitely want to use this kind of style again in the near future!

Oh… and I also managed to get a photo of me and Kieran where he’s not pulling a silly face:

KieranAndMe

It was very refreshing to work with Kieran on something other than Hashtag Dungeon. Working on a project for too long without a break can get kind of stale; I think this jam was exactly what I needed to remind myself that I love making games and that I can work on whatever I want, whenever I want.

It was definitely a great jam and I had a tonne of fun! Roll on the next game jam I’m hosting in March!