This is the first part of The Shooting Gallery trilogy.
Cinema and literature have shown they can weather the storm of time: The African Queen can make contemporary audiences laugh, Nosferatu is still disturbing and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice remains a favourite. But videogames are cursed. The cutting edge corrodes with frightening speed and the once-pioneering designs of yesteryear give way to frustration when compared to leaner, smarter modern work.
But sometimes this zeal for the new bites off more than it chew. The text adventure reportedly died a long time ago – but there’s still a thriving interactive fiction community. The industry also tried calling time on the point-and-click adventure – but take one look at Wadjet Eye Games, for example, and we’ll see it’s still possible to build a viable business with the point-and-click. Just because a particular form has dropped out of the mainstream favour, it doesn’t mean it is dead, antiquated or has nothing more to offer.
The 2D shooter experienced a similar fall from grace and yet, like the point-and-click, continues to enjoy a commercial life. However, unlike adventures which are story-driven, the 2D shooter has earned less critical attention. A shooter is a shooter, it seems, end of story. This seems ridiculous when faced with successes such as Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Everyday Shooter, or even efforts to sketch out new territory like Leave Home. Vlambeer made a big splash with the intensive Super Crate Box and their aerial combat shooter Luftrausers is on the horizon.
Before I began writing about videogames, I had dismissed the 2D shooter as “passé”. Today, I am a passionate advocate for the shoot 'em up. But what is so fascinating about the 2D shooter? Let’s ask some shmup developers like Rob Fearon, Kenta Cho, Matt James, Charlie Knight, Jonathan Mak and Stephen Cakebread that question.
Welcome to the first edition of Marginalia, an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Clara Fernández-Vara, Amanda Lange, Miguel Sicart and Doug Wilson.
Yes it's that time once again - open comment time. I know Matt W is itching to talk about "bundle fatigue" but other than that, it's all up for grabs.
There are now 200 comment slots waiting to be filled below. Don't worry if you use them all, I'll keep topping up as required.
In this episode of Counterweight, Eric Brasure and Joel "HM" Goodwin discuss the rise of personality and celebrity in indie game culture. Developers are finally being recognised as individuals - but not everyone can be Notch.
01:20 "How many times do they say the word Mario in this movie?"
08:40 "You just don't eat for about three years and you'll be a millionaire at the end of it."
10:20 "I think it would be really instructive to follow the failures... to see what happens to people who don't make it."
14:40 "[Twitter] really has exploded the concept of the personality as opposed to the art the person is making."
18:20 "I don't think that the mass market cares so much about what they're making to really buy into the cult of personality."
24:50 "Well, what did you expect?"
33:40 "How much more interesting would Indie Game: The Movie had been if Anna Anthropy had been a subject?"
37:40 "It's a bit strange to feel that solidifying around you."
43:50 "Richard [Hofmeier] doesn't really like having all the attention but that act he did will actually increase his reputation."
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
- Indie Game: The Movie
- Liz Ryerson on Indie Game: The Movie (Midnight Resistance)
- The Atlantic on Jonathan Blow
- Leigh Alexander "A letter from your 11,721st Twitter follower" (Thought Catalog)
- Leveson Inquiry (Wikipedia)
- The Ethics of Selling Children
- Project Zomboid Twitter incident (Rock Paper Shotgun)
- Richard Hofmeier defaces own IGF booth (Gamasutra)
- Image taken from teaser trailer for Why I Want To Fuck Barack Obama
This is it, people, this is enormo-spoilers. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
It's another Fight Club game, like At A Distance. A game you can't talk about. A game it's even dangerous to acknowledge the existence of. Don't go spoiling it y'hear. Don't go causing no bother, now.
“Hey, have you played–”
“FECKING SPOILED NOW INNIT WHY DONCHA JUST TELL ME WHO KILLED LAURA PALMER AND THROW KEYSER SOZE INTO THE FECKING BUNDLE”
No one wants to spoil a good half of Starseed Pilgrim, which is about learning and discovery. Just half, mind you. The other half, which is just as important, is mastery.
Those reviewers brave enough to take on the task of communicating something about the game without, well, communicating something about the game become linguistic contortionists. Adam Smith tries on “Starseed Pilgrim throws its abstractions into the player’s face like a glass of cold water,” and Chris Priestman offers “a game that parallels the act of scribing, but replaces the words with symphonic gardening,” Phill Cameron suggests the “revelations cascade with the speed of a glacier” while the game “smirks and inverts”. John Teti hopes to motivate you with “Dirt is only boring until you plant some seeds. Then it becomes an experience.”
Don't worry, I'm going to end up performing the same kind of trick as these fine fellows. I'm going to share my experience of Starseed Pilgrim without explaining anything whatsoever.
Let me tell you about the five stages of Starseed Pilgrim.
Richard Perrin's first-person exploration/puzzle game Kairo (available on Steam tomorrow) is a great example of environmental narrative taken to the extreme, because it tells a story eschewing words almost completely.
Yet after browsing reviews and impressions pieces, I discovered some players had trouble figuring out the story.
At The Border House, Michelle Ealey wrote: “After my first playthrough of Kairo, I was frustrated. I didn’t get it; I really didn’t know what had happened and why.”
John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun wrote that "your purpose in Kairo is never explained" and "quite what Kairo is about entirely eludes me".
And Andrew Plotkin: “If I were to level a charge, it would be that the game world never really coheres, beyond the visual level. An adventure can set up its narrative drive through discovered texts and journals (old gag though that is). Or it can build a narrative out of its artistic details, the discovered connections and implications hidden in the visual world. Or this structure can come from the gameplay itself -- the connections you discover between the puzzles and mechanisms that make up the game. By solving, you learn what it's for.”
I'm going to let you decide. In this image-heavy post, I'm going to take you through my deconstruction of Kairo's story, start to finish. This means spoilers, of course. Massive spoilers the size of the Death Star.
In this episode of Dialogue Tree, Eric Brasure talks to Konstantinos Dimopoulos, aka Gnome. They discuss the Bundle in a Box, the diminishing economic returns of indie development and a possible way forward for indie developers.
04:20 “I’m not really comfortable with the category of ‘gamer.’”
08:25 “We’re not living in a world where competence and hard work and artistic vision are a priori appreciated.”
12:45 “It was too easy to game the poll, the voting, if everyone could vote.”
16:55 “The first two bundles were obvious losses. We lost quite a bit of money.”
20:15 “People obviously do not know what goes into a game.”
22:25 “Even the indie developers are playing it as safe as they can.”
29:25 “There was a period where you could build your audience, and I believe that this period is mostly over.”
32:45 “The fact that you can play with literature, they find it amazing.”
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
Addendum: Gnome comments that RPS did write about the fourth Bundle in a Box after this interview had been recorded, on the bundle's final day.
- Featured music: Woody Guthrie, “All You Fascists Bound to Lose”
- Gnome's Lair
- Bundle in a Box
- Kyttaro Games
- Indie Dev Grant
Electron Dance will write something about each of these games in the near future.
Starseed Pilgrim | obsession
suteF | I put this off for two years
Euro Truck Simulator 2 | no one knows where this journey will take you
Spheres of Chaos 2012 | my visual cortex is drowning
Teleglitch | what Doom 3 should have been
Red Faction: Guerrilla | I'm not the same person any more
Please stand by.