Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

11May/179

Side by Side: Crawl

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 7 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly are the real monsters in the unique multiplayer dungeon crawl, Crawl!

  • We recorded this two years ago when it was topical and on early access, so well done Joel for the fast turnaround
  • Crawl is fun, albeit a little complicated - party game for the right crowd
  • Although can be played with 2 human players, we suspect it is better with at least 3

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

7May/1713

Discussion: Ham on the Holodeck

data-holodeck

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the late April edition of the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

5May/176

Status Report: May 2017

This is an update for my YouTube subscribers and includes footage for the in-development Endlight. Watch on YouTube or embedded below:

Links

Music

28Apr/1718

The Farfield: Found Footage

The Farfield is an occasional series where I write about something other than gaming.

The Dyaltov Pass Incident

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

I’ve been increasingly focused on junk television, likely because both work and play - in the form of Electron Dance writing - tend to be mentally taxing. Firing the trigger on a new, engaging series with multiple storylines is tough. If you want to know how bad it is, I’m still watching the execrable Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Confession time: I watch a lot of horror, a lot of rubbish horror. I also have particular dislikes, such as when people are being victimised just for someone’s kicks - I feel exhausted and abused after an experience like Ils, in which a French couple are terrorized in their new country home, or F where school staff and children on detention are terrorized and brutally killed by hoodies. While I like the sense of dread that hangs over the first half of In Fear in which a new couple are lost in the Irish countryside, it eventually degrades into a game of unexplained sadism. In these type of films, the antagonist or antagonists often appear to have superhuman powers to be in the right place at the right time to maximise impact.

The horror film is much more of an audience game that many other film genres; the art of the thrill is the art of designing an intricate roller coaster. Good horror is intensely aware of context and audience expectations with films like Scream and The Cabin in the Woods deliberately exposing the game with a knowing wink to the audience.

I could easily write a whole essay on how I feel about horror but, look, I don’t do much critical pontification about what horror means or why it works. See, I disliked The Bababook which got critics applauding. That shows you my credentials. Even worse, I remain fatally attracted to the “found footage” subgenre, where the film is based on “real footage” recovered amidst mysterious events like a documentary crew gone missing or a spate of murders.

As an accidental connoisseur of this derided subgenre, I've decided to list every found footage film I’ve seen with a little bit of commentary. I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum. Here we go.

Read More »

27Apr/172

Credits Provide Closure

I didn't hire Matt W to write off-topic comments for Electron Dance, but he does it anyway and they're usually worth the pixels they're displayed on. I decided to rescue one particular neglected rant-in-the-comments from Matt and give it its own post. Actually I decided to rescue it last year, but we all know Electron Dance time is the slowest possible time. Anyway, before we get into the rant, Matt would like everyone to know Closure is good and you should play it (if you like platform puzzlers). Happy reading.

closure-1

Here’s how Closure works. For most of the game, there’s three separate sets of levels that you proceed through linearly. When you start up, there’s an in-engine level select where you walk through a door to one of those sets of levels, then walk to a set of doors to the last level you unlocked, and then a little animation plays as your character turns into the PC for this level. This is kind of annoying to go through every time you boot up especially the “turning into the PC animation” is redundant after the fifth time. But once you’re in the levels, when you finish one you just go on to the next.

When you finish all three sets of levels, another door in the level select screen unlocks, taking you to a new set of harder levels. And when you finish those a giant door in that level select screen unlocks. Therein lies the problem.

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21Apr/173

The Stalker From Tölva

tolva-ship

The crack of distant gunfire catches my ear and I turn, looking for the source but there’s nothing there but rocks, metal wreckage and mountains. Someone is definitely shooting at someone and if I want to find out what's going on I’m going to have to stop what I’m doing. Perhaps one of my bunkers is under fire and it would be better to shore up defences personally. Perhaps some wandering bandits and Zealots have engaged in battle. Perhaps an enemy site is under attack and it would be too good an opportunity to pass up.

But I was on my way to somewhere new on Tölva, do I really want to change course?

I’ve now written a lot of words explaining my reaction to hearing gunfire in The Signal From Tölva (Big Robot, 2017) but it’s a total fabrication because there is no decision. Instinct spins me around every single time. I head towards the sound of laser weapons punching the air.

Read More »

19Apr/176

Discussion: The Annual Harvest

igf-un-pas-fragile-award

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the incredibly just so late so called March edition of the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

13Apr/170

Dabbling with… Octahedron

The final episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

octohedron_rezzed_2

I spotted the platformer Octahedron (Demimonde Studios) in the Indie Room and, like other countless victims, was drawn to its discotheque visuals. But because so many other victims were snared in its glistening web, I had to go away and come back later. I kept coming back later. I kept finding the seats occupied.

Eventually my final minutes at Rezzed had arrived and I wanted to go home. I wandered over to the Octahedron stand once again and chatted to the developer, Marco Guardia, about how I had kept coming over and kept finding the seats occupied. He was also surprised at how busy his stand had been, but encouraged me to wait for one of the current players to give up their seat.

Now I get suspicious when I see a game with the visual flair of Octahedron, unsure whether it is an aesthetic-first design or a mechanics-first design. There's no real right or wrong of this, really, because sometimes aesthetic births wonderful ideas that a simple brainstorming of mechanics would not deliver. However, while aesthetic-first games can hook you with sensual presentation they can sometimes fail to build on that and feel hollow; Tengami (Nyamyam, 2014) has a beautiful Japanese pop-up book look, but it is padded with sections of tedious, slow walking.

Guardia showed me a picture of the Octahedron prototype (the following picture is taken from Twitter) proving it was mechanics-first:

octahedron original

All the sparkly colour and visual pizazz was added gradually over time, so that it eventually became this:

octohedron_rezzed

My turn arrived. Octahedron's central gimmick is that Mr. Octahedron can spawn little temporary platforms. Initially you use these to gain height but they can also be used as a kind of surfboard to swish across the screen. But you can only make two platforms at any one time which limits how far you can go... and also creates a lot of timing-based tension. New ideas emerge on later levels which make it a bit puzzley instead of just testing your reflexes and muscle memory.

Now even though Guardia has done a lot of work to make Octahedron more forgiving, I still felt it was a beast in the challenge department. Aside from the button-pressing anxiety of platform/jump or platform/swish at the right times, there were incidents where one mistake falling down the screen undid a chunk of progress. I can see some finding this frustrating and it's clear Octahedron is currently pitched as a more hardcore title.

Still, I have no problem summing up Octahedron with this one word: compelling. If you're into platformers, this is definitely one to look out for.

Octahedron is still in development although planned for release this year for PC and Mac.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

12Apr/171

Dabbling with… State Machine

The penultimate episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

state_machine_rezzed

 

State Machine, I'm sure I've heard of this. But the memory lingers just out of reach. The game looks a little lonely and the hotseat is empty. The slightly washed-out pixel graphics just don't have a big draw, I guess. Maybe we're now post-pixel. Hang on, this is more like post-post-pixel we've been post-pixel since, what, the late 90s? I'm getting distracted.

Looks like a JRPGlike to me. I'm on a tiny boat, can talk to a robot, there's a small conversational tree.

We land on an island, I begin to wander around, yeah it's definitely looking like some sort of JRPGish thing. It's not serious, some jokes. I encounter a robot who has been built for cutting down trees and surprised to laugh out loud at the conversation.

I board the robot, start cutting down trees. I see I am aquiring wood. Agh! This isn't a JRPG, is it? This is some sort of Minecrafty thing in 2D! A Stardewvalleylike. But, Jesus H. Christmasburgers, it's really painful getting the robot to do someting, so indirect and slow. I wish the game had a better way of---

Ah.

state-machine-from-website

It's a Zachlike! I can program the robots to do things so I don't have to micromanage their behaviour. Well, okay.

I eventually get stuck as to what I'm supposed to do next. Start up three turbines to get access to the other part of the island, it says, and I get one done but can't quite figure it out how to do the others. It's a pressured situation in this hot seat. The alpha build already broke once and I had to start again. Maybe it's broken again. That's it. I'm not at fault. It must've broken.

I take my leave. Only after leaving Rezzed I remember why I should've remembered State Machine - it's a game from Terry Cavanagh and Ruari O'Sullivan.

So that's State Machine, a JRPG-Stardewvalley-Zachlike.

State Machine is still in development although planned for release in 2017.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

11Apr/172

Dabbling with… A Light in Chorus

The eleventh episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

a_light_in_chorus_rezzed

Take one look at A Light in Chorus from Broken Fence Games and you’d be forgiven for confusing it with Scanner Sombre (Introversion). But this was another game I knew nothing about other than seeing the odd RPS headline pop up on Feedly. I went in proper dead cold.

A Light in Chorus, like Future Unfolding, tries to offer something unfamiliar with minimal instructions, although whether this minimalism survives the game’s evolution to release, I can’t say. So here’s the thing. Similarly to Everything I struggled a bit to understand what I was supposed to be doing but, unlike Everything, it didn’t seem to matter a damn. I found the experience - in a word - awesome.

a-light-in-chorus-presskit-005

I gleaned this was about the discovery of the Golden Record from one of the NASA Voyager probes and, I assume, an attempt to reverse-engineer the origin of each sound. Playing a sound conjures an environment to life, constructed from tiny pellets of light; stop playing the sound and the pellets return to whence they came. And these literal soundscapes can be explored...

I unravelled a little of what Chorus seemed to be asking of me but never gained complete confidence. It didn’t matter. It was enough to just explore the dotted soundscapes which ranged from the inviting to the eerie. And the way the environment can switch abruptly between these states makes it a little unsettling. Absolutely marvellous.

Again, with something that feels fresh and different, how long the ideas can be sustained for is anybody's guess. But, ya know, I’m pretty excited for this one.

A Light in Chorus is still in development.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!