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.

 

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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 Launch Event Rundown

Last Thursday was the launch event for this years GameCity festival where the nominees and judges for this years prizes were announced. Myself and Kieran had the opportunity to show off the current build of Hashtag Dungeon at the event!

It was really cool to see people playing and talking about the game. It’s definitely shown us what things we need to improve upon over the next few weeks and what is good about it right now.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 01.13.44

Unfortunately we edited our server’s code just before we left to show the game off; this meant that all the tweets being grabbed by the server were missing a bunch of important data which poor Kieran had to input manually! (We should know better than to edit the games code a few hours before we show it off… but nevermind!)

We also had chance to take part in the Spaceteam Admirals Challenge which was really fun but we didn’t do particularly well at it (3rd from last… could have been worse I suppose…) Congratulations to the winners of that by the way – those medallions you got looked really sweet.

I very much enjoyed myself and I’m really looking forward to my first trip to the GameCity festival this year. I’m also excited to show our game off again – hopefully we’ll have worked out the bugs by that point! I’d like to thank Dr. Patrick Dickinson for coming along to the event to support us, Alex for helping get me in contact with the people running GameCity and Iain and Chloe for making me feel super welcome! It was also really cool to see Sam from Boxface Games again – he’s seriously the coolest kid I’ve ever met – ever.

My Thoughts On: E3 2014 Microsoft Conference

Okay so I’m a little late to the party here as I’ve been in France since Monday. I have no idea why I picked such a dumb time to go on holiday but it’s done now so I can’t change that. I’m going to watch each of the press conferences and type up my thoughts as we go along. This might get pretty messy and I might ramble a bit.

INTRODUCTION

Okay – they’re focusing on games. That’s good. Definitely makes a change based on last years conference.

CALL OF DUTY

The new Call Of Duty is looking pretty damn gorgeous. Holy crap that’s pretty. Look at all those particle effects! I like the futuristic feel they’ve gone for. It’s still as horrifically scripted as per usual though… but I guess thats what Call Of Duty’s single player campaign is all about.

The guy playing is walking around REALLY slowly – I hope that’s not the players normal walking speed.

Oh god that was a freakin’ mech… I kind of want to play this game now.

Oh wow… those swarms of drones move really nicely. I wonder if they’re actually using flocking AI or they’re just animated to look like that.

(Can’t help but see the last two Crysis games in that though.)

FORZA MOTORSPORT

I have no passion for cars and racing. I have no idea what this guy is talking about. Do people really spend this much time recreating real-life tracks for games…? (Did they really get it down the millimetre accuracy? I doubt it… why would you bother?) Ech, I don’t see the appeal to be frank.

Dynamic weather and day-night cycles? IT’S LIKE A WHOLE NEW RACING GAME.

Granted the textures look quite nice.

EVOLVE

Okay I’ve been looking forward to this one actually. I’m really excited for the asymmetric gameplay between the hunters and the monster. The monster looks amazing – like something straight out go HP Lovecraft. I can’t wait to play it.

ASSASSINS CREED: UNITY

I was in Paris this week and it wasn’t all that great.

Cooperative multiplayer – not bad at all, sounds like it could be pretty fun!

So much Les Miserables going on round here. I approve.

As a fan of crowd simulations I’m very happy that the crowd reacted and charged into the building once the guards were dead.

These people don’t sound very French to me…

(I’m noting that none of the playable characters are female. Poor form Ubisoft. Poor form.)

DRAGONAGE INQUISITION

There’s some damn cool looking monsters in this game. I wish I also had the power of green.

SUNSET OVERDRIVE

Lawl, cover mechanic joke.

Well this game looks pretty zany. I think I’m gonna enjoy playing this game! Very tongue in cheek, self aware and highly amusing. It’s like Tony Hawk crossed with Dead Rising crossed with Borderlands.

This game has a heck of a lot of juice in it.

DEAD RISING 3 ARCADE THINGY

…is it really cosplay when it’s a character in a game?

…I still feel very confused by Dead Rising 3. I still think that they were very confused about what they were going for with that game.

DISNEY FANTASIA MUSIC EVOLVED & DANCE CENTRAL

FABLE LEGENDS

Ecch. This series should have died many years ago.

Oh… wait, hello, what is this? You can be the villain? That’s kinda cool. I like the idea of having an over world villain – I’ve seen it done a few times – it’s kinda similar to what we are trying to do with Hashtag Dungeon. I suppose they’re actually trying to be innovative for once! Good luck to them, hopefully the villain will have more up their sleeves than very easy to kill mobs and trolls.

PROJECT SPARK

Project spark looks pretty awesome. It’s like a far more complex Little Big Planet. I feel as if there’s gonna be a heck of a lot of crap uploaded by people though.

OH SHIT CONKER WHAT…

Wait. No. He’s only making a cameo?!

What have you done Rare… what have you done…?

ORI AND THE BLIND TEMPEST

Oh that gorgeous animation! I WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME NOW!

HALO: THE MASTER CHIEF COLLECTION

I really love the Halo universe… so this is pretty cool for me. Having all the games on one thing is mind-blowing though – that’s surely a lot of data to store on one thing… unless it’s several discs.

Oh god Halo 2 multiplayer… that was the majority of my teenage years…

Holy shit that’s gonna be a lot of multiplayer. I might have to start doing Halo nights again.

INSIDE

Gotta love Limbo 2.

Seriously though that looks pretty intriguing!

INDIE GAME SHOWCASE

As per usual they pretty much all look amazing.

RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER

Completely understandable that she’d be in therapy after the events of the first game. I loved the reboot of Tomb Raider and I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment.

THE WITCHER 3

Woo! Hunting! Looks good to me!

I have a strange feeling that the griffon was scripted to go through that village though. I seriously doubt that the player just happened to walk through there and the NPC just happened to have a griffon speech choice.

I’m very disappointed that they didn’t actually let the player kill the griffon and instead just had a cutscene.

PHANTOM DUST

Pre-rendered cutscenes just don’t do it for me. Show me gameplay damn it!

THE DIVISION

This game is still looking as cool as it did last year. I really like the post-apocalyptic world they’ve created. I’m loving the augmented reality overlays they’ve put in the game. I still have no idea how it’s supposed to play though.

SCALEBOUND

Another pre-rendered cutscene so I can’t really make any good comments on it.

CRACKDOWN 3

Crackdown’s narrator voice makes me shiver with enjoyment every time I hear it. I love how unforgivingly over the top the Crackdown series is. I’m also very glad they’ve gotten rid of the zombies – that was a waste of the games IP.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Definite focus on the games this year from Microsoft – specifically exclusives. I’m glad they’ve learnt their lessons from last years atrocious press conferences. I hope that the rest of the conferences are just as good. (Of course I have my doubts as per usual…)

My Thoughts On: Jazzpunk

Jazzpunk Is Weird

Sean knocks back a glass of his new favourite cocktail Vodkacetamol as he attempts to recollect exactly what he just played for the last few hours. His brain throbs will a dull ache. He can recall colours and sounds but very little else. He remembers pigeons and spray cheese and liberal use of floating text. His hands shake violently as he attempts to glean meaning from the intangible nothingness around him. He has just played Jazzpunk.

That may well be the most hilariously surreal three hours of my life. I cannot remember ever having played a game that strange before (except maybe The Wonderful End Of The World). Whatever the designers are on at Necrophone Games please can I have some? I’d love to make something like this!

Jazzpunk is an exploration of the surreal side of cyberpunk – exploring the craziness of matrix-esque worlds and virtual reality. You play as a secret agent called Polyblank who is tasked with a bunch of random espionage missions including:

  • Shooting pigeons with some kind of degaussing ray gun.
  • Stealing important data and documents from Russians.
  • Poisoning a guy with fugu-fish.
  • Saving the day from a guy who has an accent similar to mine.
  • Playing a ‘Marriage’ version of Quake.

It’s weird. Really, really weird. But its also really, really funny and quite engrossing considering how strange it is. There’s a tonne of little side missions and hidden bonuses that you might miss if you don’t explore the whole world – I know for a fact I’ve not seen everything based on the lack of achievements I managed to grab on my first play through (apparently I need to go talk to some cardboard boxes or something?). One thing that really made me laugh were the small mini games which pepper the world that parody other games: pizza zombies, car beat-em-up games and wedding-based FPSs which all made me laugh out loud.

I also really want to point out how much I liked the art style of the game. The simple models coupled with cartoonish textures and that tell-tale Unity stock cartoon outline shader looked awesome. The music was also pretty good – whacky and over the top at almost every point. I loved it!

One thing I will say though is that the price counts against it – I’ve bought things for far less that have had much longer shelf life. It isn’t worth it if you’re looking for a long-burning game, but if you’re just up for a surreal romp into a world that will constantly surprise you… then go for it – just make sure to medicate properly first.

My Thoughts On: Continue?9876543210

Continue?9876543210 is a game that attempts to answer the question of what happens to a character in a game when they are deleted from memory.

I remember myself and Alex talking about making a game where you play as a pointer that has wandered off into memory somewhere so I was very interested to see what this game would be like. I was hoping for a Zelda-esque hack and slash game… instead it was a very artsy philosophical game filled with oodles of despair.

The game opens as another game finishes – one of several random characters is seen dying. Then a ‘Continue’ screen flashes up on the screen, it ticks slowly down to zero and then everything goes black. It appears though that the character you are controlling doesn’t want to die… at least not yet.

Continue? Screenshot

The character has to spend its last remaining moments in the memory of the system exploring strange artistic set pieces and hiding from the garbage collector. Each time you play the game there are six random levels for you to explore out of a total of eleven. These range from a wartime trench scene to a small haunted village filled with medieval NPCs. When inside a level you have to talk to NPCs and answer their questions in order to gain ‘prayer’ and ‘lightning’ which help you to stay alive.

Lightning helps the player move to another level by destroying obstacles. Prayer lets the player build houses in a town in order to hide from the garbage collector when it comes along to delete stuff. Both are vital to the players survival but no matter how much you get you will eventually die.

Continue? Enemy

The enemies in the game remind me of Stephen King’s langoliers. They’re vicious and hunt you down without remorse – after all you are just memory locations waiting to be cleaned up. The game ends when the player is finally deleted. The players score is defined by how ‘ready’ the character is to die when they finally meet their maker.

The game was apparently inspired by a drug-trip gone bad that left the designer in the middle of the Mexican desert. It seems to me to be all about survival, life and the inevitability of death. It made me think about my life so far and brought up a lot of emotions about death and how I feel about it.

My only issues with the game are the amount of flickering and loud noises that gave me a headache. I expected the game to have a pretentious air around it and it does – however the designer has attempted to combat against this by adding in some fun gameplay here and there. I’m also going to point out that the game is very confusing towards the start: a lot of things happen without much warning and they can really put you off playing.

If you want to try it out and see what you think it’s available on Steam right now.