Lachlan's misadventures in games programming

Thursday, 13 November 2014

PAX Part 2 - Games

11/13/2014 02:10:00 pm Posted by Lachlan 1 comment

This is Part 2 of my discussion of PAXAus. Find Part 1 here.

So - in addition to spending time seeing panels at PAX Australia, I spent a fair bit of time playing and watching various newly released and yet to be released games.

I particularly spent a fair bit of time in the extensive indie area getting to try Australian and New Zealand made indie games. It was fantastic to be able to meet indie developers - particularly those from Melbourne. As with last year, I've been struck by just how vow vibrant the indie games development community is in Melbourne.

I also had the opportunity to try a couple of new release AAA titles, and one particularly special (to me) pre-release.

Slightly off-topic - I was also struct by just how strong the Unity engine is in indie development. I knew it was strong - but I thought that the new pricing model for the Unreal Engine would have lead to more indies using it. In hindsight, I suspect that there hasn't been enough time since the pricing change, and that the Unreal engine might have a bigger showing next year.

So - following is a very brief (generally coinciding with my play time) impression of some of the things that I've played. Not everything here is by indies - but the list is heavily skewed that way

Just as a forewarning - this isn't going to critically examine and review the games I list. This is going to be a brief selection of some of the things I thought were cool, and that I think that you should check out.

Note: Release statuses are as of 12/11/2014.

Defect: the Spaceship Destruction Kit


Developer: Three Phase Interactive
Status: Unreleased

Defect: Starship Destruction Kit (DefectSDK) is one of those games that just seems really cool. The essence of the game is you design a starship from pieces, and then run off fighting bad guys. But then (inevitably) your crew turns on you - hence requiring you to create yourself a shiny new starship to fight your very well designed previous command - which was hopefully the subject of a well designed flaw for you to exploit. And so on, and so forth.

The guys who made it were kind of inspired by Gratuitous Space Battles (GSB) by Positech Games, and it shows. I vaguely remember Cliffski of Positech talking about the requests for a 'direct control' mode in GSB to allow you to control the ships directly rather then setting the stage for the titular gratuitous space battle. This is that game. DefectSDK shares GSB's fluid zoom and fantastic prerendered/drawn 2D artwork.

If you're a fan of Star Trek, Star Wars or the like, you should definitely check this out.

Under the Sun


Developer: Stegabyte
Status: Unreleased

It is fantastic to be able to go to an event like PAX and find a former classmate from High School exhibiting their soon to be released wears. Stegabyte was formed by a two man team of Tim Glew and Alex Tulloh; the latter of whom remains one of my two favourite drummers to play with (despite not having done so for a good 8 years).

Under the Sun is a self-branded '4D Puzzle Game'. The goal is to guide the protagonist to the campfire before the day is out. Each turn, the world changes both independently (such as trees growing) and in reaction to your movements. The world changing can result in being unable to make the campfire in time, and therefore the death (by old age) of the character. Fortunately, Stegabyte have made it simple to move forward and backward in time to resolve past mistakes and observe the changing world.

The artwork is fantastic, slightly dreamlike and very clear (being important in a puzzle game). The puzzles themselves are clever and ran the gamut from easy to more difficult then I could complete in the time I had. My understanding is that is to be released on Windows, iOS and Android.

I'm looking forward to its release.

Screen Cheat


Developer/Publisher: Samurai Punk/Surprise Attack Games
Status: Released on Steam

This has already been released, so you might already know something about it. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of rounds with friends and strangers.

(Cue annoying infomercial voice)
Have you ever been told off for looking at the other players screens when playing Goldeney or Perfect Dark?
Have you been accused of playing unfairly, maybe even cheating?
Have you had your defense that 'everybody can do it!' and potentially your argument over the prisoners dilemma thrown out without a consideration?

If so, Screencheat is for you and your friends!
(Yeah - that's enough of that)

So - the concept of Screencheat is that it's a first person shooter where all of the players are invisible. You must look at the other players screens to be able to discern their location, in order to pulverize them with projectiles. It's a fantastic concept, and very well executed.

The levels are really well designed for this specific game. They are divided with very clear coloured sections so even an amateur can get a rough idea of where another player is looking, or at the very least whether they are in the same room. I see this becoming a really competitive game when you know the layouts of the level.

Coming from a traditional FPS paradigm, it is fairly difficult to be able to hit other players. It is still difficult to figure out exactly where somebody is as opposed to where they are looking. However, the hit-boxes seem wide enough to accommodate the gameplay.

This is a good concept, well executed. I really hope that they'll be selling cosmetic DLC for the characters.

Rogue Singularity


Developer: Considerable Content
Status: Not yet released

I didn't get around to actually playing Rogue Singularity but I spoke for some time to the developer and watched a bit of it being played. So I can't really comment on the gameplay beyond the obvious (that it's a 3rd person platforming game). The platforming looks clean and fluid with a double jump mechanic.

The reason I'm interested is because (like most games bearing the name 'Rogue') it is procedurally generated. Each level you play will be created by the computer - much like in Atlas Warriors. Unlike Atlas Warriors, this looks fantastic and generates really interesting 3D levels.

It also looks really, really good. The Skyboxes are a very high quality and look fantastic. The levels themselves look clean and good.

I'm interested to see how this ones turns out.




Developer: Powerhoof
Status: Released (Early Access) on Steam and Humble Store

I didn't get a chance to play Crawl at PAX (although it was there) but I heard lots of people talking about it - including one friend who has purchased himself a copy. It has been described by the developer as a dungeon crawler where your friends become the monsters,

At any time, one of the players is controlling a hero, whilst the other players try to kill them. When they do, that player become the hero. The other players control ghosts that can effect the world, either directly (by producing weird ectoplasm blob balls), by inhabiting deadly traps or by incarnating as monsters. At the end of each level, the players get to u

pgrade their monsters. The hero can use the gold they gain by killing to purchase new weapons and spells to attack the monsters.

The ultimate goal is for a player to get above level 10 (as a hero) and go through a portal to fight a boss monster (again, controlled by the other players). At the moment, there is only one boss monster - but this will be improved soon.

All this wrapped up with some procedural generation of levels and really cool pixel art and retro styled graphics.

It is currently $9.99 on Steam, and a lot of fun for some local multiplayer action. I recommend you give it a look.

Appointment with Fear


Developer: Tin Man Games
Status: Released on Steam, Google Play and iTunes

Again, I didn't get the chance to play this at PAX, but I was fortunate enough to get steam code for it (and have subsequently purchased the Android version).

I really wish that I knew how to define Appointment with FEAR as it seems to defy genre. It is somewhat like interactive fiction with a fantastic silver-age of comics theme (with the fantastic spinny Batman style animation between some dialogues!).

You follow the hero from a second person point of view ('You ... ') being told what's happening. You then get given a list of options you can take. You work Titan City as a hero, collecting clues and stopping crimes whilst trying to hold a day job as a reporter.

The combat works well and consistently for the style of game. The artwork is charming and exceedingly well drawn (as you can see from the screenshots). The writing is excellent.

It's not a huge investments ($5.99 on Steam, $2.99 on Android/iOS). I've already recommended it to one superhero loving friend, and I'll probably recommend it to some more. I will note that it feels better on the tablet with touch screen controls then on the Desktop - so I particularly recommend the Android version.

Sentinel Tactics: The Flame of Freedom

Developer: Greater Than Games
Status: Released

This is the only board game to make this list. I spent more time checking out new video games then board games (although I played a couple of other board games with friends while there). I was keen to try this, as I am already a fan of the Sentinels of the Multiverse. For clarity, I'll refer to the two games as Tactics and Multiverse.

I played Multiverse at PAXAus last year, and promptly went out and ordered myself a copy, and now have all the expansions so far released. Multiverse is a cooperative silver-age of comic books themed card game where you play the Sentinels against a variety of villains in a variety of settings. The heroes, villains and settings all belong to a fictional comic Multiverse inspired very closely by DC and Marvel heroes, villains and settings. The cards have fantastic drawn art and quotations from the fictional comic books. One of the few characteristics that makes it feel different to most superhero games is that you always feel like you're on the back foot, and every fight could be won or lost right until the end.

Sentinels Tactics manages to take a similar feel and turn it into a tactical board game. There are fairly simple rules (like Multiverse) and cards and heroes that allow you to tactically and strategically bend those rules (again, like Multiverse). Unlike Multiverse, the PvP elements reward knowing the actions that your enemy may take a lot more. The PvP elements also mean that you must consider the actions of the other players rather then merely the chance of a horrific villain card coming up. The board game elements also add an element of location that distinguishes it from the card games and means that some heroes (particularly the Flash analogue - Tachyon) actually feel like their powers feel different to the other heroes.

If you're a board gamey or superhero fan, this is worth giving a look - particularly if you're a fan of the original card game.

Mortal Kombat


Developer/Publisher: Netherrealm/Warner Bros Interactive
Status: Unreleased

So - more disklosures: I've loved Mortal Kombat for a really long time (as can be evidenced by my kopy of Mortal Kombat II for the SNES, piktured on this years PAX scarf below).
My own beloved kopy of Mortal Kombat II for SNES
So - the chance to play a brand new Mortal Kombat game, 6 or so months before release was absolutely fantastik for me.

I'd like to take a brief moment to talk about how major Mortal Kombat been shown at PAXAus, before release is. The last Mortal Kombat game (which, for the record had fantastic kombat, and awful plot) was only released in Australia last year due to having been blocked from the Australian market entirely due to Australia lacking an R rating. That has all changed, and that is fantastik.

Mortal Kombat is an interesting beast. It has always distinguished itself to the publik from its kounterparts (most notably Street Fighter) by being a lot gorier and bloodier. To me, it distinguishes itself from its kounterparts (again, most notably Street Fighter) by the fluidness and ease of its kombat. Where games like Street Fighter make the very act of performing a highler level move diffikult, Mortal Kombat makes it easy to do the moves but still requires timing and strategy as to when, and how to block them.

I only had one fight (Sub-zero -v- Raiden) but learnt enough to say that the kombat looks and feels fantastic. The combat with sword type attacks feel a little more visceral then they did in 9. I'm glad to see the returns of 9's fantastic x-ray moves. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see any Fatalities, but they're already on YouTube.

I wish I had a bit longer to get more impressions and more detailed information, but what I had leaves me really excited for X.

Sunset Overdrive


Developer/Publisher: Insomniac Games/Microsoft Publishing
Status: Released on Xbox One

Unfortunately, I only had a single game of Sunset Overdrive but it was a lot of fun. It's essentially a third person coop arena shooter against waves (kinda like Mann v Machine in Team Fortress 2). It's got very cool Bioshock Infinitesque movement along sky cables/power cabled. It's got good fluid combat with a wide variety of guns with very different effects.

It looks good, and feels good. But honestly - it won't (by itself) sell me on getting an Xbox One.

So - that's it for Part 2 on my series on PAX. Part 3 will be coming soon, and will have a conversation about what else I managed to do at PAX and why I think that PAX is so important, and why I was so sad for it to be finished.

Feel welcome to share any views on anything you played or the games I've discussed in the comments below.

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