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Sean Hollister Oculus Rift STOCK

We just gave the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, our Best of CES award. Guess who else is experimenting with virtual reality? Valve Software. At the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, the same renowned video game publisher that's hard at work on the Steambox will also share its thoughts on VR, after spending a full year prototyping ways to create virtual reality hardware and software. Valve will host two 25-minute lectures entitled "Why Virtual Reality is Hard (And Where it Might be Going)" and "What We Learned Porting Team Fortress 2 to Virtual Reality" at the conference.

The former is hosted by Michael Abrash, the man behind Valve's mystery wearable computing hardware project... and the latter...

Continue reading…

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follow.png
Short and sweet, /follow was actually an entry in the previous Ludum Dare. Nonetheless, it was a little too awesome not to share.An interesting take on Ludum Dare 22's theme, /follow, well, follows a young woman's attempt to elude her deeply frustrated bodyguard. The game itself is rather simple point & click affair. In order to proceed from one screen to another, you're going to have to figure how to work with the environment in order to form a proper diversion. /follow will probably take you all of five minutes or so to finish but it's definitely worth that brief interlude.

Play the game here.

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[Guest reviewer Colin Brown from Backlog Journey profiles the games in Indie Royale's Spring Bundle. In this final profile, he looks at a trio of arcade-style hits from Radiangames.]

Ballistic
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Desura, DRM Free

Last in the Spring Bundle is a trio of titles from shoot-em-up indie superstar Radiangames. If that name rings a bell, Radiangames is the developer of Super Crossfire, previously featured in the New Years Indie Royale (and my personal highlight from that bundle). All three games included in this go around are former entries in their Quadtastic Launch Collection that brought many of their games to PC, and they've all got that same sort of glowing digital art style, but the games are quite a bit different from each other and from Super Crossfire.

First up is Ballistic, which is essentially the most distilled version of a twin stick shooter imaginable. Control a circle, shoot every other circle, and try your best to survive. There's very little effort to change up the formula or add in gimmicks, so you're left with the purest arcade shooter imaginable. In terms of how it looks and sounds, the presentation fairly amazing. It has the cool neon Radiangames look about it, with stylized explosions and sharp, simplified graphics, while the soundtrack is appropriately thumping and sounds pretty awesome.



I said the gameplay is basic, but there are a few twists. One is the upgrade system, which lets you add a new perk to your ship every ten waves. Then there are other quirks like the ballistic mode, which slows down your speed and pumps up your bullet output, but can overheat and leave you defenceless. But the best aspect of the gameplay is the utter feeling of being overwhelmed. While Super Crossfire was more of a puzzle game, and you were always in control, Ballistic is sheer insanity the whole way through. There are always far more enemies than you can handle, and the game is not about clearing the waves, but simply killing enough baddies so that the madness ends and you get a breather. It's a high energy hyperactive shooter, and probably not for the faint of heart. But if you like twin stick arcade games then this is essentially required reading.

Slydris
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Desura, DRM Free

I don't think people realize just how hard it is to create a puzzle game with original mechanics these days. We live in a world where every variation on Bejeweled and Tetris have been done to death, and it's rare to find something that breaks out of the mold beyond a few simple tweaks. This brings us to Radiangames' second entry in the bundle, a puzzle game that's quite a move away from their shooter offerings. While Slydris owes part of its structure to Tetris, it's also quite unlike any other Tetris variation I've ever tried.

Slydris is exactly what it says: sliding plus Tetris. But besides a few usual elements--falling blocks, make lines to remove blocks, music choices of A, B and C--the gameplay and pacing are about as far from Tetris as could be. Blocks only fall after you've made your move, which gives the game a slower and more thoughtful pace. It's quite a change from Ballistic up there.



In Slydris, you can slide blocks of varying width either left or right. That's it. Each move you make causes two or three more blocks to fall, so it becomes a struggle to arrange your blocks into lines and manoeuvre the proper sized blocks into the ideal spot. Oddly enough, this change of pace manages to make the game slower, but makes you feel even less in control. Sure, the blocks wait patiently for your move before you fall, but your inability to move more than one block without four more getting added means that simply sliding blocks around without a plan will cause a pile-up very quickly. You need to be strategic about how to arrange your lines, as there's no way to be a perfectionist in this game. It's one of the most interesting takes on a Tetris-like formula since Tetris itself, and the entirely different pace gives Slydris a whole new feeling. It feels like a solid new idea for a puzzle game fan.

Inferno+
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Desura, DRM Free

Inferno+ is a twin stick shooter, and it controls almost exactly like Ballistic. It has the same cool blue Radian aesthetic, a similar thumping soundtrack and there are a slew of customizable upgrades. The similarities almost entirely end there, and Inferno+ is almost essentially a roguelike. And you thought you were getting out of here without a new roguelike to play. Ha! In your dreams.

Inferno+ has you choose a class of ship to begin the game, which gets you to fly through corridors, blow up bad ships and collect the money, drones and keys that are left behind. The levels are made up of corridors and rooms, with locked doors and secret passages hidden all over the place, and the beginning of each level brings you to a ship in which your hard earned money goes towards more upgrades and consumables.



The shades of Ballistic are everywhere, as you'll often find yourself confronted by a huge crowd of ships, and occasionally some very tricky manoeuvres will be required to keep from being damaged in the tight corridors. But Inferno+ generally limits the amount of enemies in each level which allows you to keep in control of the situation, and by doing so it ultimately makes the game more of a slow paced roguelike than a fast paced shooter. If you like the twin stick action in games like Ballistic, but you prefer games to be a little more fair and relaxed, or you just really like dungeoneering, Inferno+ is a good alternative to the more hectic Ballistic. And luckily the Indie Royale is including both, which is a pretty great offer for those of you who missed the Quadtastic Launch Collection.

[The three Radiangames titles, Depths of Peril, Unstoppable Gorg, and Tobe's Vertical Adventure are available now in the Spring Bundle, on the IndieGames co-created site Indie Royale.]

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Sometimes failed Kickstarter projects just need a little more Steam. Clearly Valve saw something in Eden Industries' action-puzzler, Waveform, releasing it on Steam today for Windows users. The mouse-controlled wave-manipulation gameplay is actually quite intriguing and intense. Though the playable area spans most of the stage, I often frantically reacted to adjusting my wave to line up with points while looking at the leftmost part of the screen.

Obviously, as I get better at manipulating the amplitude and wavelength of my wave, I will be able to rack up mega points, avoid combo breaking objects, and use wormholes and particle accelerators like a pro. The acid-tripping level at around 0:48 is an experience in itself, let alone the 99+ other levels packed into this product.

Eden Industries' Ryan Vandendyck told me last month that Waveform should have an in-game level editor, which the team hopes to release as free DLC after launch. In the meantime, the New Game+ mode with re-mastered versions of each level and a Deep Space mode with 11 different randomly-generated endless scenarios should keep players busy.

Waveform is on sale until March 27 for $5.95; the price will be $6.99 thereafter. There's also a free demo on the Steam page for those curious. Mac, iOS, Linux, and Android owners can speak up, too. The developer is listening, but he needs initial sales to finance these ports.

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Your guess is as good as mine to how that's supposed to be pronounced. This was announced a little while back, but I didn't notice it until today. Sloppy, I know, but I did managed to secure a pair of exclusive screenshots, so I'm not a total amateur.

Qrth-phyl comes from Hermitgames, purveyor of wierdo neon procedurally driven arcade games, like the brilliant Leave Home. It looks like snake in 3D, but I suspect there's plenty more to it than that.

It's coming to the Xbox 360 and PC, and due out "in a month or so". More details and screens over here.

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Uncy Gabe
Penny Arcade’s new games journalism site (note the lack of capitalisation), the PA Report, has kicked off with an interview with Uncy Gabe of Valve’s new beard. Most interviews with the newly hirsute Newell have some form of forward looking speculation about the industry, because that’s the way his mind works, and Newell’s take on hardware shows that the Valve hivemeind are contemplating how best to serve customers hardware as well as software. Though Newell observes that “It’s definitely not the first thought that crosses our mind”, Valve’s biofeedback experiments have been so successful that they are, if no-one else does it adequately, prepared to sell the hardware themselves.

“It’s not a question of whether or not this is going to be useful for customers, whether or not it’s going to be useful for content developers, you know, it’s figuring out the best way we can get these into people’s hands.”

But how could that happen?

(more…)

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There's lots to share about Philadelphia based Cipher Prime today! Auditorium will soon be downloadable for PC and Mac, a sequel to one of the team's IPs was teased, and gameplay of their IGF 2012 entry, Splice, was revealed. A local journalist stopped by Cipher Prme's HQ and captured the above footage of Splice.

The interviewer sheds some light on the gameplay of the new puzzler:
"Splice challenges gamers to rip apart and piece together pill-like structures into their corresponding outlines, forming bacteria-like shapes, lining up and snapping together with satisfying clicks, gorgeous color palettes and smooth animations. Players are rewarded if a completion takes less than or the exact amount of required 'splices' per puzzle, the solved configuration disappearing in the background, floating like the prokaryotic micro-organisms that inspired the game's design."

In the interview, developer Dain Saint expressed his idea behind Splice was to try and capture "this feeling of macro and micro... this feeling of not knowing whether or not you were working with something really small or something really big. And this played out naturally with our ambient style game-play."

Splice has no set release date, but it will be out for both Mac and PC. Another Mac and PC title is set to arrive soon from Cipher Prime, discussed after the jump.

After a successful launch in late November with Fractal on Steam, the team has shared that Auditorium is also heading to Steam and the team's store in the next few weeks. Auditorium (the base-game is playable here) is a musical puzzler of sorts, where you bend streams of light particles with various mechanisms to fill audio containers and make music.

The good news is if you paid to unlock the full web-based Auditorium already, you get the downloadable version free. The bad news is that there's no new content. The web version will still exist, but it is moving to the team's main website so they can cut down on server fees.

Lastly, Cipher Prime says that they will be launching a KickStarter campaign soon for a sequel... "a bigger, better, multiplayer one!" I've a pretty good guess that it's either Auditorium 2 or Fractal 2. Which would you prefer to see?

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The four-person Brisbane, Australian based Hitbox Team has released its combo-filled clean-em-up plaformer, Dustforce, on Steam for Windows. As an acrobatic janitor, players will leap and dash off walls and ceilings and traverse 50 precarious environments varying in difficulty. Dustforce has online leaderboards, online replays, and four-player local multiplayer modes like King Of The Hill and Survival for "loads of dust-cleaning fun."

Dustforce has already won the hearts of judges, earning an Honorable Mention for art at this years' Independent Games Festival and the Grand Prize at indiePub's Independent Developer Competition in 2010. The coming weeks will tell if it wins the hearts of consumers, too.

While Dustforce is now available via Steam for $9.99 (with 10% off) for Windows only, an update for Mac and Linux is planned to come soon. Right now the team has no plans for a stand-alone version, but Desura publishing is a possibility.

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Nyu Media and Capcom's previously-announced plan to localize and publish a series of Japanese doujin games in western territories kicked off this week with the Steam release of Astro Port's shoot-'em-up Satazius. A free demo version is also available.

Satazius is a solid horizontally scrolling shooter in the vein of Konami's Gradius series, featuring an array of upgradable weaponry and a number of tough boss battles. However, opponents of restrictive digital rights management balked at the release on Steam's official forums when Satazius apparently launched with SecuROM DRM that limits users to five activations across different machines -- a surprising restriction for an indie release, particularly one in a niche genre.

Nyu Media confirmed that the SecuROM listing was a mistake, however, and Satazius' Steam information no longer lists any kind of DRM for the $5.99 title.

[via @werezompire]

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