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Independent video game development

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GameBoy Jam 2 just ended, and 6-hour entry Just Silence from Lucas Molina is short, but thought-provoking.

The game is styled like a silent film. It's not a thing I've seen in a real GameBoy game, but when you consider the monochrome nature of the system's graphics, it seems like such a shame that it hasn't been tried before. You play the judge, whose job is to sentence defendants. The mechanics for doing so are so simple and the game so short that rather than explain further, I urge you to just try the game. Even with the defendants walking a bit too slowly, the game still only takes a few minutes to complete.

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Join Quince the Cat on a treasure-hunting adventure in Plant Cat: First Blossom, an entry into GameBoy Jam 2. This five level puzzle platformer was created by a five person team over the course of ten days, and features some truly stellar happy chiptunes.

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It was about time, if you ask me... Brilliantly nasty imperialism simulator Neocolonialism has been released for Windows, Mac and Linux, complete with its upside-down map and deep understanding of Earth's going-ons. Just pay your $10 and enjoy alternating between manipulating and wrecking the whole world.

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In Continue?9876543210, Game Over is the backstory.

Some games can really only be classified as digital experiences. Continue?9876543210 is such, being a high-concept game by Jason Oda. On the game's web site, it's written that it "was inspired by existential road trips into nowhere, Peruvian jungle drugs, and a brush with death while hopelessly lost in the mountains of New Mexico. It's one developer's attempt to translate his own quest for wonder, contemplation, and peace into the language of his craft." It sounds like Oda has had some unique experiences, and they've definitely contributed to a unique game.

In Continue?9876543210, you play as a player avatar who has just been killed in game and is now stuck in the computer's memory waiting to be deleted. Deletion is, in essence, a true death in this setting, and you flee the company of those peacefully waiting for their turns to be deleted in the hopes of finding a way out.

The gameplay is a bit difficult to explain in words. There are only so many levels in the game, and you'll never see them all in one playthrough. Once you leave the starting area, you go through two levels chosen at random before entering a town that is being buffeted by a lightning storm. During the regular levels, you have a limited amount of time in which to build up sheltering buildings against the lightning storm in the 3rd stage's town and/or try to unblock an exit so you can get out of the level without losing any of the buildings you've built up. Throughout a level, your efforts are occasionally interrupted by mini-stages. Doing well in those mini-stages by avoiding damage and defeating enemies can get you keys to unlock doors in the level that will (usually) help you out.

If that sounds a bit confusing, well, good. I think. The game takes some getting used to, but the need to get used to it is really one of its strong points. This is a game designed to make you think, and having to work out the mechanics and the meaning and how they tie together is really what makes the game work so well. When you add to that the graphics being as good and as bad as they need to be and a soundtrack which is a mixture of lovely music and sounds which can be appropriately jarring at times, the whole comes out to be something much more interesting than the sum of its parts.

Continue?9876543210 has been available on iOS since early December, but only hit the Humble Store and Steam about a week ago for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Its normal price on PCs is $9.99, but right now it's on sale on Steam for $7.99. You can pick it up on the iOS App Store for $3.99.

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ftl-small.jpgDevelopers who set out to create a game without a design document or template still must have a clear focus to test their ideas against. This was the advice of Matthew Davis and Justin Ma, co-founders of Subset Games and creators of FTL: Faster Than Light, the Kickstarter-funded space strategy game released to widespread critical and commercial success in 2012.

The pair began work on the game with only a target atmosphere - no genre, pacing or scope planned, thinking the development would be a three-month side-project for them.

"We started with a very vague idea for a concept and used that as a guiding light for the entire project," said Davis. "By having one singular focus we were able to abandon everything else that didn't fit in line with that vision."

The pair admitted that many features were dropped from the game that they had initially hoped to include. "We wanted multiplayer features that didn't fit the template," said Ma. "We kept ditching things to keep moving towards the goal."

Davis said that this focus can be various things to various different developers. "Technically that focus can be anything: a certain type of visual aesthetic a piece of audio; a story," he said. "By having one focus and letting that direct your entire experience you can approach your builds from a distance and find out what to keep in order to make that game into the experience you want it to be."

"Very often you get bogged down in a certain system and it just doesn't work out," said Ma. "We just had this one idea and it steered out path, allowing us to follow the fun and find what was interesting."

Finding this focus was especially useful for the team when their Kickstarter exceeded its goal twenty times over, generating $200,000 instead of the requested $10,000 from 10,000 backers. "You can't just throw money at a game and it gets better," said Davis. "It's a difficult balancing act - how to take advantage of clump of new resources, but also stick to release date and keep everyone happy. The focus helped us know where to expend energy and expand the game."

[Simon Parkin wrote this article originally for sister site Gamasutra]

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While Western indie devs get fancy functions like GDC, IGF and Gamescom to show off their wares (and crowd-funded movies telling the story of their struggles), the indie scene in Japan is scattered at best. It's not that there aren't any small studios or one-man teams making exciting games - there are loads, as fans of La-Mulana, Cave Story or Tokyo Jungle will attest. But unified and strong the scene is not.

That's starting to change. BitSummit, an event held earlier this month in Kyoto and organised by James "Milky" Mielke of PixelJunk studio Q-Games, was the first of its kind, a forum for like-minded bedroom developers to meet each other and swap battle stories, show their games to the Western media and take in presentations from the likes of Valve, Epic Games and Unity.

"I don't think we have something you can call a 'scene' as such. I feel like everyone is fighting alone," explained Yohei Kataoka of Crispy's, the creative mind behind 2012's battiest PlayStation game, animal survival brawler Tokyo Jungle. Published by Sony for PS3, his game was released in Japan on disc and went straight to No.1, riding on the back of a clever series of YouTube videos featuring playthroughs by famous game developers.

Read more…

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triad.pngSleepovers are really just elaborate, animated Tetris puzzles, suggests Anna Anthropy's and Leon Arnott's free game TRIAD for Windows and Mac. Players must learn the sleeping habits of three humans and one cat to make sure they all fit comfortably on the bed without bumping into each other. Once the terti-humans are in place, players can click off the lamp and watch how they toss and turn. I found that when I took too long to make some moves, I wore out Liz Ryerson's music that otherwise fit the late-night mood.

Here's to hoping TRIAD becomes a live-action, physical game in future indie events, maybe with more tertri-humans. Each player also must communicate and then role-play their sleeping habits until they arrive at a solution. Or something.

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24 Caret Games' reverse rhythm-shooter Retro/Grade is coming to Steam on March 20th, offering up exclusive support for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii guitar controllers.

The port otherwise boasts all of the features that made the original PS3 release such a standout, including a broad selection of challenge levels and difficulty settings that range from "doable" to "ridiculously challenging." Seriously, don't underestimate the hardest difficulty setting. It will humble you.

It's worth noting that the PS3 version of Retro/Grade is currently on sale for $3.49, or $2.44 if you're a PlayStation Plus member. It's definitely worth the cash -- I really enjoyed the time I spent with the game, and it easily ranked among my favorite PlayStation Network releases of last year.

[via Joystiq]

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Something is happening. I’ve noticed it, you may have noticed it, and it’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s ever bought an “indie” record. The corporations with a finger in this delicious pie we call the games industry have been watching what’s happened, too. They’ve been watching the achievements of the likes of Jonathan Blow, 2Dboy, Notch/Mojang and other countless successful indie developers. Now, they’re changing the way the operate. And that is in turn changing how indies operate. Indie gaming will never be the same again. Is this a bad thing?

We talked to Double Fine, Positech, Klei and others to find out. (more…)

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