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Archive For December, 2010

Choice Of Games Releases Interactive Fiction Apps For Kindle

December 23, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Independent developer Choice of Games announced the release of two text adventure games, Choice of the Dragon and Choice of Broadsides, on Amazon's Kindle platform.

Though the Kindle platform is mostly regarded as a service for purchasing digital books, both indie developers and major publishers have started releasing games there in recent months. Three of the top ten bestsellers in the Kindle Store are currently games ported by Electronic Arts: Scrabble, Monopoly, and EA Solitaire.

Choice of Games is taking a different approach from EA, releasing interactive fiction titles instead of board/card game adaptations. Choice of the Dragon is a Choose Your Own Adventure-style release in which players take on the role of a dragon, looting and pillaging, dominating their local kingdom, finding a mate, and fighting wizards.

The second title, Choice of Broadsides, is "a swashbuckling naval adventure" in which players guide a British officer fighting in the Napoleonic wars and commanding a Royal Navy frigate. It was recently selected as an Honorable Mention for the Independent Games Festival's Nuovo award, which recognizes "abstract, short-form, and unconventional game development".

Choice of Games says it has more games on the way for the Kindle Store. Along with Dragon and Broadsides, the company currently has two other titles available to play for free online: Choice of Romance and Choice of the Vampire.

"Our games are perfectly suited for Kindle," says Choice of Games co-founder Dan Fabulich. "Building our games entirely with text gives us the freedom to tell sophisticated stories that put you and your choices at the center of the action. Our games are like 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, but bigger, deeper, and richer."

Game Time With Mr. Raroo: Poppy Culture - Spotlight on a Small But Mighty Developer

December 23, 2010 12:00 PM | Mister Raroo

Poppy Logo[GameSetWatch columnist Mister Raroo takes some time to highlight the work of one of his favorite iOS developers, Poppy. With so many iOS games in Apple’s App Store, it can be tough for many developers and publishers to have their work get any attention. Mister Raroo loves the cute, simple style of Poppy’s games, and he thinks you just might, too!

NOTE: Because Poppy’s art is so charming, Mister Raroo decided to eschew his usual drawings and let the screenshots stand on their own.]

Off the Charts

A year ago at Christmas my dad surprised me with a gift I didn’t think I wanted: an iPod Touch. Since that day, my iPod Touch and I have been inseparable. I didn’t think I’d have any interest in iOS games, but as it turns out, the iPod Touch was my most-played platform for video games this past year. There may be an overabundance of games and applications available to consumers, but many of the best releases seem to have a tendency to float to the top.

However, not all the good stuff winds up receiving the attention it deserves. With admittedly fun games like Doodle Jump, Angry Birds, and Cut the Rope sitting atop the App Store sales charts for what seems to be an indefinite period of time, it can seem almost impossible for lesser-known developers to have their releases enjoy any attention.

I doubt I’m alone in my continual search for off-the-radar iOS releases, the type that surprise you and make you wonder why the majority of App Store shoppers haven’t taken note of them. I regularly scour each day’s new releases in hopes of stumbling across some unnoticed gem. This is how I first came across Poppy.

We Are Poppy!!Poppy is a wonderful little developer from Japan composed of two individuals who refer to themselves as TomTom and Jerry. The team’s main output has been working in Flash, creating many advertising websites for companies in Japan. Two years ago they created the Poppy website in order to focus on their private works. Currently Poppy focuses on iOS releases, though they plan to eventually move into other areas, such as games for Facebook.

Poppy’s output is essentially divided into two categories depending on which member of the team created the software. TomTom’s releases tend to be simple games with adorable pixel-art that bring to mind Nintendo’s Game & Watch series, whereas Jerry’s works are more akin to interactive toys or experiments.

I recently got in touch with Poppy and was delighted to find the response was just as I would have expected judging by their works. That is, the message was friendly, to the point, and contained all the information I needed. It made me smile.

All of Poppy’s iOS releases are well worth checking out, and you can purchase their entire catalog for less than the price of one Nintendo DS game. And, should you be a total cheapskate, some of Poppy’s releases are even free, so you have no excuse not to give them a chance. Below are some thoughts on my five favorite Poppy releases.

Ninja Senki: Good Old Fashioned Ninja Revenge Platformer

December 23, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Jonathan "Pixeltao" Lavigne, one of several talented artists who worked on Ubisoft's splendid XBLA/PSN game Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, has released a new game independently for free: Ninja Senki, an action platformer for Windows PC but with a retro game aesthetic.

Inspired by the NES's Ninja JaJaMaru-kun and Retro Game Challenge's Robot Ninja Haggle Man, the game has players leading shuriken-throwing Hayate against "a band of evil ninjas and various mythological Japanese creatures in his quest to avenge the death of his beloved."

Ninja Senki promises 16 stages, multiple endings, gamepad support (it's preferred, actually!), and more. It also features a cameo from the mascot of a certain Nintendo DS site! You can download it right now at the game's official site.

A.J. Trahan's Epic Mickey Concept Scenes

December 23, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Junction Point Studios' concept artist A.J. Trahan, whose work we last featured in our round-up of Epic Mickey concept images, has posted more early and beautiful paintings from the Wii's recently released platformer/action-adventure game.

After the break, you'll see more scenes of Mickey Mouse running around and admiring the stunning environments around him. You can see more of Trahan's artwork for other video game and non-game related projects at his personal site.

Sturmwind: First Trailer For New Dreamcast Euroshmup

December 23, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Munich-based publisher Redspotgames released the first trailer for Sturmwind, its new horizontal-scrolling (though there are some vertical portions!) shoot'em up headed to the Sega Dreamcast next spring.

I hadn't seen much from the game's developer, Duranik (Native), prior to Sturmwind's announcement, but what it's put together here looks amazing! The bosses, giant enemies, and backgrounds the studio's pulled off with its hybrid 2D/3D game engine would look great even on a current generation console, in my opinion.

Sturmwind is expected to feature three difficulty modes, 16 stages, more than 20 bosses, "hundreds of different enemies", an award trophy system, and more. You can preorder a copy of the Dreamcast game from Redspotgames now for €34.95 (US$ 46.00 / 29.50 GBP), with no payment required before its release.

The Best Of 2010: Top 5 PC Games

December 23, 2010 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Continuing big sister site Gamasutra's 2010 roundup, here are our top 5 PC game selections, as picked by our own Kris Graft, including the terrifying Amnesia, the refreshed Civilization V and a certain sci-fi RTS.

Previously in our end-of-year round-up: Top 10 Indie Games, Top 5 Developers, Top 5 Trends, Top 5 Major Industry Events, Top 5 Surprises, Top 5 Disappointments, Top 5 Controversies, and Most Anticipated Games Of 2011.]

The definition of a "PC game" continued to become cloudier in 2010. Is it a "triple-A" PC-exclusive? Are indie games included? Is it browser-based games? Cloud-based games? Social network gaming? Free-to-play?

The beautiful thing about PC gaming is that the answer to everything is a resounding "yes." Just about anything can happen on the ubiquitous and open PC. The only limit is developers' ingenuity and imagination.

There's no certification with the platform holder as there is with a console -- the power is solely in the hands of the developer, and that remains PC gaming's biggest advantage.

While technically PC gaming does include any game that is played on a PC, Gamasutra is breaking out in separate lists social network games and indie games, which are often played on PC (although there will still be a small amount of overlap with indies).

Absent from this list are two of the biggest phenomena on PC this year -- Blizzard's World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, which is an expansion and not a wholly new game, and Markus Persson's Minecraft, which while utterly brilliant and recognized on our indie list, is still technically in beta.

Even without those entries, 2010 once again brought the kind of variety that PC is known for, whether its the improved FPS/RPG hybrid Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the terrifying Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the cross-platform sci-fi epic RPG Mass Effect 2, the rebooted and refined Civilization V or the incomparable StarCraft II.

Notably, there's only one game on our 2010 list that isn't PC-exclusive, one less than last year. That wasn't a conscious decision -- it really just worked out that way:

NOM: Billion Year Timequest Rotates To iPhone

December 22, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

South Korean developer Gamevil has brought its popular one-button mobile game series NOM to the iPhone with a new rotating action release that takes players through "six eras covering billions of years" while trying to save the hero's girlfriend.

In NOM: Billion Year Timequest, players turn their iOS devices and time their taps/jumps in 37 levels (including six boss stages) scattered across "the Big Bang, Primitive Times, Ice and Bronze Ages, Future Tribal Warfare to the Mechanized Civilization of Future."

While travelling through time and enjoying's the game's bizarre storyline/presentation, gamers will be able to equip relics to improve NOM's health/luck/"miracle status" and eat snacks that initiate special effects.

You can grab NOM: Billion Year Timequest on the App Store right now for just $1.99. Make sure to also check out Gamevil's postmortem on Nom 2 at our sister site Gamasutra to learn more about the series and what makes it so special!

George & Jonathan, Cheap Dinosaurs Headlines MAGFest Chiptunes

December 22, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Washington D.C's annual four-day Music And Gaming Festival (MAGFest) will return next month with a chiptune showcase featuring Cheap Dinosaurs and "rising star dance party duo" George & Jonathan, with Don "No Carrier" Miller and Alex "Enso" Bond providing live visuals.

Other notable micromusic acts slated to perform at the festival include Noisewaves, Wizwars, Zen Albatross, Note!, Danimal Cannon (of Metroid Metal/Armcannon), and Inverse Phase. Zen Albatross will also lead a panel on chip music history and culture at the event.

MAGFest will run from January 13 to 16, while the chiptune showcase will take place on the 15th. The festival will feature a ton of other music and video game highlights, including 24-hour console/ arcade/PC game rooms, video game cover bands, a vendors area, and guest speakers from the video game industry and fan scene.

In case you've never heard George & Jonathan or Cheap Dinosaurs, I've embedded a couple of their songs after the break for you to enjoy!:

The 'GDC 25' Chronicles: We Have (IGF) Video

December 22, 2010 12:00 PM | Jason Scott

igf1999.jpg[Continuing his 'GDC 25' archival research ahead of the 25th Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next February, official GDC historian Jason Scott puts his first digitized video online -- a showreel of the first-ever Independent Games Festival finalists.]

As part of my contract as GDC's archivist and historian, I am tasked with digitizing audio and video from GDC's multi-faceted and multi-decade past. Audio has been getting all my attention, as it's pretty simple to do, and so dozens of talks will show up in the Vault. But video was always going to be the most difficult part... I just knew it would be, and I wasn't wrong.

First, the video is primarily on VHS tapes. Remember VHS tapes? They're nowhere near as popular anymore, and especially not for the kind of thing you connect to a computer and have it "just work".

There's also issues with getting the right video framing, the best method of recording, and also the whole "turning it into a digitized file" thing. It was, in other words, an excellent way to spend an entire Sunday.

(For the techs at home, I am using a LG DVD/VHS Combo I got at Best Buy (Model #RC897T) going through a Hauppauge! USB-Live2 video ingesting connection, to a Hauppauge! program called WinTV which has 4:2:2 sampling, into TS streams. Then I deinterlace and render out in Sony Vegas.)

So if I'm going to go through all this effort, the first video should probably be something reasonably fascinating, and so here's a screengrab of what I dug up (click to access it on GDC Vault):

gdctape065-screenshot.jpg

The Flying Hamster Soars To iPhone

December 22, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Parisian indie developer The Game Atelier has announced that The Flying Hamster, its cute'em-up that released for PSP and PS3 just a couple weeks ago, is also headed to the iPhone and iPod Touch soon.

This port will feature the same six levels and 35 strange enemies (e.g. "anti-air cows, exploding foxes, ninja squirrels"), as well as the eight weapon power-ups that have the hamster hero, Newton, inhaling and spitting out sunflower seeds, beer, and and other unlikely projectiles.

The Flying Hamster's iOS release will also add the four control modes demonstrated in the new trailer above, 40 exclusive achievements and online leaderboards (via Game Center or OpenFeint), and high definition graphics for the iPhone 4's retina display.

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