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Ben Foddy

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This week Mojang, Oxeye, and Wolfire worked on 3 separate games during the Humble Bundle Mojam. Teams spent 60 hours on their creations, and all the proceeds earned during the event go to charity. The Internet voted on Mojang's game themes, and the team combined the highest and lowest voted choices to create the steampunk, Egyptian-themed, RTS, shoot 'em up Catacomb Snatch.

As players traverse the unexplored territory, the map and catacomb itself are filled in. Defeated enemies drop coins to purchase strategic items such as turrets from the home base. Players also can purchase bombs to break down walls and train tracks to connect the base to the catacomb's valuable chalice.

C418 and anosou created the energetic Catacomb Snatch soundtrack. The entire package seems pretty solid for a weekend's worth of work. What do you think?

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Remember TowerClimb? It was a lovely procedurally-generated 2D platformer from Davioware - if you never played it, you should really give it a try. Back when it first launched, the dev told me he was planning to release a souped up, super duper version - and now he's finally gone and done it. The beta version for the paid TowerClimb is now here, and ready for your monies.

While the original concept remains, there is plenty of new content to deal with. New gameplay elements, new visuals, new soundtrack, and an overall atmosphere that really puts the emphasis on your inevitable demise. If you die in TowerClimb, that's it really - you're dead, and you'll need to start again with a different character. You also need to balance your usage of items, as if you use all the good stuff at the start, you'll no doubt need them later on, and end up dead as a result.

I'm yet to give this new version a go - however, you can go ahead and grab the beta for $5 if you're up for taking a dip.

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Inspired by Bullfrog's 1994 title Magic Carpet, Ranmantaru Games' dreamy, watercolour Arcane Worlds looks like it might become something rather nifty when it is finally finished. Much like its spiritual predecessor, Arcane Worlds will have you taking on the persona of a sorcerer. You'll also apparently get to spend some time 'exploring mysterious worlds, changing them, discovering ancient secrets, creating new spells, fighting creatures and other mages, building and destroying as you please'. That's we all we know so far. The developer hasn't said much else.

You can find the official IndieDB site. For those curious about poking around the nascent world, there's also a tech demo that you can download.

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BotaniculaIGF.jpgHailing from the Czech Republic, Amanita Design has made a distinct impression on the indie game scene with its visually striking, imaginative adventure games such as Machinarium and Samorost 1 and 2.

Now, the studio is working on Botanicula, a new point and click adventure game that continues the team's legacy of lovingly-crafted visuals and minimalistic storytelling techniques. The game's unique aesthetic has earned it a nomination for an Excellence in Visual Art award at this year's IGF.

As part of our ongoing series of Road to the IGF interviews, Gamasutra spoke with animator Jara Plachy and Amanita Design co-founder Jakub Dvorsky to learn more about Botanicula, and how the studio's previous titles have informed the team's approach to adventure game design.

How did you get your start making games?

Jara Plachy: I started to work on games when I was hired by friends from Amanita Design to create some animations for Machinarium, and I really enjoyed working on the project. It was Amanita that actually showed me how to create a game. Until this collaboration, I worked mostly on animated movies, and I realized it's possible to create original and unique computer games that have narrative and expression equal to animated movies or graphic novels.

How long have you worked on Botanicula?

JP: Botanicula has been in development for two and a half years already. It has gone from preliminary sketches and visual style experiments to now, when the game is nearly finished.

How did you come up with the concept for the game?

JP: At the beginning, I just had an indefinite plan to create a game and follow my previous experiments, such as the small game Shy Dwarf. In the beginning, Botanicula was like an interactive animated movie -- like a huge maze, where the viewer -- or rather, the player -- can determine the future turn of events, just by choosing between A or B. This plan came about because I thought about the project mainly as a designer or an animator. Finally, after some close cooperation with Amanita and Jakub, Botanicula began to evolve into a point-and-click adventure game with gameplay similar to previous Amanita's games.

As for the thematic inspiration, I was fascinated with an old garden full of aged trees in South Bohemia, where I was on holiday and I immediately started to think about making a game based on similar setting. Soon, I came up with a simple story about a little seed and plant-like characters and started to design all the small details inspired by this real garden.

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What drives Amanita Design to the adventure game genre? What about it do you find most appealing?

Jakub Dvorsky: Adventure games are perfect genre if you are looking for a slow paced game where the narrative and atmosphere are essential. We also love animated films, and adventure games are somewhere between films and games; they are like interactive animated movies, which is perfect -- there's something from both.

What lessons are you taking from Amanita Design's previous adventure games, like Machinarium or Samorost?

JP: Both Samorost and Machinarium were huge source of inspiration for me. From these games I learned how to actively connect a viewer with the picture, how to create a puzzle, and more. I like the visual aspect and playfulness of both games, but I always wanted Samorost to be longer game and Machinarium to be less difficult, so I can continue to the next location quickly. With Botanicula, I wanted to create a game that will be faster and have more locations to explore.

What can players expect to see in Botanicula that they haven't seen in the team's other games?

JP: Botanicula is more casual and not as challenging as Machinarium, but on the other hand, it plays faster and more fluidly. There's plenty of funny animations, places to explore, weird characters to meet, and hidden Easter eggs to find. There's also a collectible cards feature -- every time the player meets a character, solves a puzzle or finds a little hidden surprise, he gets a card with a small animation, and it's stored in an inventory so he can watch all his cards anytime he wants.

JD: Botanicula is also much brighter, more cheerful and full of Jara's typical humor. The same is true for the sounds and music, which fit perfectly with the overall tone.

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Can you take a moment to describe how you designed and created the puzzles in the game?

JP: The process of creating the puzzles was fairly complicated. In fact, at the beginning there weren't any puzzles in the game. At first, the game was based only on going through the environment and watching interesting animations and scenes. But then Jakub came and said it would be a shame just to run through the game in a hurry without any challenge, and there should be some places to stop the player for a moment and let him work on the solution. It was also problematic to determine the level of skills of each player and make it well balanced. In any case, lots of trial and error was involved in puzzle creation.

What would you say was the most difficult part of developing Botanicula?

JP: I would say the most difficult thing is to finish such a big project. I'm working fast, so it's exhausting to go back to rework or adjust some parts, and we are doing that a lot. The whole game feels like living creature, that's changing all the time; nothing is definite.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

JP: Unfortunately I haven't played any of this year IGF finalists games yet. Wonderputt looks very creative, also Fez, Mirage, The Floor is Jelly and The Bridge look cool, and I'm looking forward to playing them all.

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene? What is it like in the Czech Republic, specifically?

JD: I think the indie scene is the most interesting segment of the game industry in general, and it's thriving obviously. Among the many smaller games created every year are always a few really innovative, clever, beautiful or just pretty weird examples, and that's good!

On the other hand, it could be better; indies should experiment much more, and especially young developers should be more bold. Maybe I'm naive, but I believe the game medium is still waiting for it's golden era that will show us a wider range of possibilities of what a "game" could be.

As for the Czech Republic, the scene here is small but quite healthy and quickly growing, as our country is full of creative people.

[This interview was written by Tom Curtis and originally appeared on Gamasutra.]

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If you're a fan of indie point & click adventure games, chances are you've probably heard of XII Games' Resonance already. However, if you haven't, now's a great time to start getting hyped. The upcoming title revolves around the death of a particle scientist and the ensuing attempt to recover the fruits of his discoveries. To accomplish this, you're going to have take control of four separate and swappable characters, work with the ability to rewind time in order to cheat death, a long-term and short-term memory system. There's more, of course. There's always more. In an interview with HowCast, Logan Cunningham (yes, the Narrator from Bastion) confirmed that he would be doing voiceover work for the upcoming game. As you might have guessed from the title, it will also be published by Wadjet Eye Games.

Want to learn more? Check out the website here. We'll keep you updated as more data surfaces.

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Talk about belated Valentine's Day presents. Carbon Games decided to sweeten the aftermath of the saccharine-sweet by releasing AirMech on the Chrome Web Store on February 15th. In case you missed out on our initial mention of the game, AirMech is, in a word, Herzog Zwei reborn. It's a fast-paced number that allows for both co-operative and competitive play, one that will have you right in the middle of the action. While you could, in theory, play the lofty general and steer clear of the action, it's a lot more fun to transform your AirMech into a stomp-happy robot and blast things alongside your units. There is a fairly comprehensive variety of units, a score of AirMechs (Transformers fans are going to adore AirMech), and a price tag that amounts to all of nothing. That's right. AirMech is free to play and it's currently available on the Chrome Web Store.

If you enjoy mechas, tower defense and blowing up things with your friends, you should play this. I can't recommend it enough. Check out the game here.

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Here's a moody looking puzzle game from Avreliy Games, who I think are a Ukrainian developer. Their website domain suffix is .ua, so they probably are. I love the design of the levels, with monochromatic foregrounds, physics interactions all over the shop, and brilliant looking fire and lightning effects.

There's a demo available here, and you can buy what I think is the Russian language version here. Hopefully they are gearing up to give it a widespread English language release too.

If there are any Russian language speakers out there that want to shed any more light on the information displayed on their website, and this store listing, please do so. In the meantime, there's more pretty screenshots to look at over here.

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A new indie documentary challenger has appeared! Whereas Indie Game: The Movie takes viewers on a roller coaster ride of indie game development, Us and the Game Industry aims to explore specifically those indie developers who are "reinventing the medium of game design and challenging the established norms with their finely crafted work."

As further described on the Vimeo page, "Us and the Game Industry is a film about the new thinkers at the new frontier of experimental computer game development." Those new thinkers chosen for the trailer are thatgamecompany (Flower, Journey), Spry Fox (Realm of the Mad God, Steambirds: Survival), and Jason Rohrer (Sleep is Death, Inside a Star-filled Sky). "This film will explore how their motivation, design process, focus and execution are creating unique and new possibilities of connecting people and providing the possibility for uncharted experiences outside the normal realm of commercial games."

As of this writing, the Us and the Game Industry official site is under construction. When more information becomes available, if you all are interested, I'll definitely share it!

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Laboratory based mischievous stealth 'em up Warp is out now. In Warp you take control of Zero, a kidnapped alien trying to escape from an underwater research facility. Using a range of powers like possession, creating echo decoy versions yourself, and indeed warping, you have to escape, and solve a load of puzzles on the way. Looks rather fun, says I.

Warp is available now on the Xbox 360 via XBLA, and will be coming to PSN on the 13th of March, and PC via Origin and Steam on the 16th of March.

[I had originally reported that it was only due for an Origin release, but Trapdoor have confirmed that it will be coming to Steam too]

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demruth IGF.jpg[In the latest in our "Road to the IGF" series of interviews with 2012 IGF finalists, Gamasutra speaks with Alexander Bruce about his 2012 IGF Technical Excellence Award nominee Antichamber.]

Alexander "Demruth" Bruce's Antichamber is a game about discovery, set inside a vibrant, minimal, Escher-like world, where geometry and space follow unfamiliar rules, and obstacles are a matter of perception.

The game was a finalist for the Nuovo Award at the 2011 Independent Games Festival, back when it was still called Hazard: The Journey of Life and "only a couple of months away from release."

Twelve months later and with some work still to be done, Bruce's game is back in the competition, with a new name and new recognition as a finalist in the Technical Excellence category.

What background do you have making games?

Does this work like a resume, where if over a certain amount of time has passed since some of the work that you did, you don't have to list it anymore? I sure would like to forget about those cancelled titles that I mentioned in my Road To the IGF from last year!

On a more serious note, I started making games when I was 20, went through a university degree and worked in the industry for a year. Throughout that entire time, I felt like I didn't have enough experience at anything that I was doing, because I was always surrounded by people who had been doing this stuff for years. So in 2009 I came to the conclusion that if I was going to stand out at all, I'd have to do things differently.

I think I've succeeded at that, because G4TV tried to describe the game at PAX by saying "it's like an Escher painting meets Bastion, then someone did some heroin and threw paint on a wall." That's both one of the best descriptions and one of the most ridiculous descriptions I've ever heard.

This mindset of continuously pushing things to be different was something I addressed when I spoke at the Nuovo Sessions at GDC 2010. I'm sure that a lot of what I said at the time probably sounded naive and idealistic, but that mindset drove me through two years of hell trying to make everything work cohesively. It's also why the game has done a pretty decent job of standing out the further it has progressed. When people responded to earlier versions with "oh this is like Portal. You should make these things like this though, because in Portal...", I didn't want to embrace that. I wanted to get the hell away from that, because Portal already exists and is fantastic.

All of that is a very long winded way of saying that I think the important insights into my background are a relentless desire to explore in new directions, and being completely driven in trying to make what I'm doing work. The trailer for an upcoming documentary titled Ctrl+Alt+Compete had an amazing quote in it related to that kind of determination mindset, where someone said "If I didn't get paid to do this, I'd probably figure out how to get paid to do this. I want to be an entrepreneur."

How long has your team been working on the game?

For a whole year longer than the couple of months I said I had remaining last year! Making games sure is hard.

Since last IGF, I ended up practically redoing half the game, implemented the entire soundscape, changed the name, and was exploring concrete plans regarding distribution. In my mind, polish is the process of refining or removing all of the reasons that someone who is within your audience would have reason to stop playing, and when you view things that way, even small changes can have a huge difference for the feel of the game. I'd say that things are paying off, looking at the honorable mention I got for the Grand Prize.

At the end of the day, I'm not trying to make a good game. I'm trying to make an exceptional game, because this has my name on it. With that said, though, the risk of changing anything else too radically anymore is outweighing the potential benefits, and I'm reaching that point where I just have to stop and release it into the world. I said at PAX last year that I wanted the finished game at PAX East, and I'm still aiming to do that. Maybe not the release candidate, but it'll be close.

Antichamber's development been extremely iterative, and it has gone through a number of substantial changes (at one point it was even an arena combat game!). How can you afford to change the design so rapidly?

Nothing that led to here has happened rapidly, make no mistake about that. I've been messing around with the ideas that spawned it since 2006. All of the changes that happened were very calculated, and I'd probably been thinking about them in the back of my mind for months before I finally decided to actually execute upon them.

I think the difference between how I work versus how Stephen Lavelle or Terry Cavanagh work, is that I keep all of my focus centered around a single thing. We're all going through the process of throwing ideas at a wall, but I'm just more interested in working out why one particular thing didn't stick before I move onto the next one.

This is the second time that Antichamber has been nominated in the IGF. How do you feel about previous finalists that re-entered their games?

This will be the last time that this is ever an issue, given that the rules are disallowing it next year onwards. But I actually don't think that games that re-enter after being nominated previously have any advantage at all over games that are new to the IGF. If something is good, and it's new, I think it's way easier to respond positively to that than it is to something that is great, but that you've seen before.

None of the games that were renominated (I know of Gish, Miegakure, Fez, Faraway and Antichamber) were nominated in the same categories, which means that they had to stand out even more without relying on what they'd been selected for previously. I'm actually really happy that Fez was nominated again this year, despite the fact that I'm competing directly against it!

I know that there are a lot of people who are vocal about what the IGF is or should be, and I know that Brandon [Boyer, IGF chairman] gives a lot of thought to this issue, but at the same time there are other competitions that exist as well. Sure, they don't all have the reptutation that the IGF has, but if your reasoning for entering the IGF is to try to get your big break and have the world know about your game, I really don't see why you wouldn't take other competitions seriously as well. If you can get through a couple of those, who knows, maybe you'll also work out all of the things that need to be fixed in order to improve your chances of getting into the IGF. That's what I did.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

I've played several, though I think the ones that stuck with me the most were when I played At a Distance and Way at IndieCade with Chris Hecker.

When we were playing At a Distance, we were constantly speaking back and forth about what we were doing and where the other player had to go, and conquering the game was really easy because of that. When we were playing Way, though, our inability to communicate directly like this left us pretty screwed on a particular puzzle.

Way is all about puppetry, and if you're really expressive with your character, you can say quite a lot just by waving your arms around, shaking your head, etc. But I don't think Chris or I solve problems socially like that. When something didn't work, both of us would just sit back and stare off into the distance and think "what is the other person not understanding about what I'm doing, and what is the most effective way that I can purposefully animate my character to express that?" As a result, a lot of the time our characters just stood around on screen doing nothing. Other people found it hilarious and pretty painful to watch.

Chris Bell (the designer) ended up taking over Hecker's computer and started waiving his characters arms all around the place, shaking his characters head furiously whenever I did anything wrong, etc. and I could instantly understand what he wanted to say. Within about 30 seconds, the level was solved, and I felt incredibly stupid. But... that's the beauty of a good puzzle!

This is a game that seems to demand more from the player than most. What should an Antichamber player gain from playing the game?

I wouldn't say that Antichamber is more demanding than other games. Often times the puzzles require you to do a lot less than puzzles in other games. They're just a very different kind of puzzle than what people are used to. People who are naturally really good at thinking outside the box end up blasting through the game relatively quickly, while people who are used to games that more directly tell them how everything works and expect them to just execute upon that knowledge are the ones that end up finding it more difficult. In any case, it's introducing some new concepts into games, and forcing players to think differently.

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?

I don't think there's much point in labeling everything as "the indie scene". Personally, I just have the work that I do, a group of friends who all make stuff that I find interesting, and then a whole lot of other people that I'd really like to meet.

[This article was originally posted on Gamasutra, written by Frank Cifaldi.]

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