Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


Shooting Spirit

This is the first part of The Shooting Gallery trilogy.

Shooting Gallery: DRM in game

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.   

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Expo Man 2012

Last week I attended Eurogamer Expo 2012. This week I hand in my podcast report which contains top secret interviews with Alan Hazelden, half of The Cat That Got The Milk team, an Arcane Kid, George Buckenham, Rami Ismail, David Hayward, Jesper Rudberg, Anders Pistol and Sam Read. I also faked interviews with Rob Fearon and Ed Key. Gregg B of Tap-Repeatedly makes a guest appearance.

Download the podcast MP3 (70MB) or play it right here in your browser:

Further details for each game can be found below.


Sokobond is a puzzle game where the player must compose molecules from atoms within a confined space. Developed by Alan Hazelden (@draknek) and Harry Lee (@leehsl). Watch video to see game in action.

Referenced in the podcast:


Dirac is, well, I'm not sure yet. Stay tuned. Some sort of slow exploration game with striking visuals. Jon Mann (of The Cat that Got the Milk) told me he finished it and thought it was brilliant. Developed by @orihaus. Watch game teaser video to see more.


Tower of the Gorillion

Tower of the Gorillion is a retro-themed platformer which superposes two levels together and playable characters in each must work together to progress. Developed by Steven Circuiton (@circuiton) and Colin Majoram (@colinmajoram).

You can play the game in your browser at Circuiton World Design.

Where is my Heart?

Where is my Heart? is a puzzle-platformer developed by Die Gute Fabrik (@gutefabrik). Now coming to PC, it was first released last year for PSP.

Watch trailer to see game in action.

The Button Affair

The Button Affair is the second game from the quartet that developed The Cat That Got The Milk (RPS coverage). It offers a similar fusion of reflex gameplay with a unique theme. Ollie Clarke (@ollieclarke) and Helana Santos (@helana_s) speak on the podcast.

Referenced in the podcast:

Don't Starve

Don't Starve is a survival sandbox game set in a wilderness, developed by Klei Entertainment (@klei). Klei Entertainment is known for Shank and Mark of the Ninja.


Zineth is a free-roaming game that evokes Jet Set Radio, a student game developed by a team called Arcane Kids (@arcanekids).


A Bastard

A Bastard is a competitive game for two players who share a keyboard, developed by George Buckenham (@v21). A version older than the Expo build can be played in your browser.

Referenced in the podcast:


Luftrausers is a 2D aerial combat game by Vlambeer (@vlambeer) to be released through Devolver Digital. A teaser trailer is available on YouTube.

Links of interest:


Kairo is an exploration game with puzzles by Richard Perrin (@perrinashcroft).



Isochronous is a competitive two-player game with a time twist, developed by team-iso (@team_iso). A prototype gameplay trailer is available.


Prison Architect

Prison Architect is a prison sim by Introversion Software (@ivsoftware). Paid alpha access is now available.


DRM (Death Ray Manta)

Death Ray Manta is an arena shooter from Rob Fearon (@retroremakes), designed to make players happy. Gameplay trailer available on YouTube.



Proteus is an exploration game based on a procedurally-generated island by Ed Key (@edclef) and David Kanaga (@dkanaga). Official beta trailer available on YouTube.



Sentinel is a tower defence game by Matthew Brown.

Gear Up

Gear Up is a futuristic tank deathmatch developed by Doctor Entertainment (@deagames).

Referenced in the podcast:

David Hayward

David Hayward (@nachimir) is one of the curators of the Indie Games Arcade and manages the section when the Expo is running. He also runs the game design event Bit of Alright.


Dream is an exploration game by HyperSloth Games (@HyperSlothGames) that evokes Dear Esther and Myst. Trailer can be viewed on Steam Greenlight page. The project has already been greenlit.

Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami is a top-down shooter laced with ultra-violence, developed by Dennaton Games (Jonatan "Cactus" Söderström and Dennis Wedin). It will be published through Devolver Digital. Watch video to see game in action.



Chekhov’s Collectible

GTA 3 hidden package

“One of the weirdest / saddest design exp I had: [Bioshock 2] playtesters carefully loot every container for hours, then report hating every moment.”

-- Zak McClendon, Lead Designer on Bioshock 2

The car smashes through the glass front of Easy Credit Autos and I brake to a halt. I hop out of the car, run to the back of the showroom and grab the package. Nothing happens. No one wants this package. No one even gets upset at the damage, which will be repaired without fuss while I am away.

I was a moth to the dull flame of the hidden packages of GTA III (Rockstar, 2001), pieces of virtual tat that simply add one to a meaningless counter. I continued to burn rubber for hour after hour until I had found every last package.

They’re just one example of the now ubiquitous collectible. Today I’d like to introduce the collective noun for the collectible: a fucking plague.

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The Best Electron Dance Posts of All-Time EVER

This month we're celebrating FIVE YEARS of Electron Dance!

such applause

Welcome, welcome all. Today I present the most definitive of lists, the one you’ve waited five years for.

This is the nine most popular posts on Electron Dance.

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Links: Kardashian Assassin Trigger Puzzle

  • What can we make of the historical accuracy of Assassin's Creed?
  • Does everyone have to love Elite?
  • Did you hear about the efforts made to save Peter Kassig's life that ultimately failed?
  • Are trigger warnings causing more harm than good?
  • How do you make a good puzzle game?
  • What, have you really put in a link about that Kim Kardashian game?

Find your six click escapes below.

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This Link Drag is a Hipster

Here Be Links

“Pricing: the key to not destroying everyone’s career” - Steven Bonner

If you’re young and a recent graduate, it’s pretty likely that you might still live at home and don’t really have a good grasp of what it takes to pay bills and probably don’t have too many regular outgoings that need to be met, so there’s a temptation to accept any offer of work without negotiating so you can get a foot in the door, build a client list, gain credibility and whatever else you think might push you to the top. This is probably ok for a while and most of us did it at some point, but sooner or later you will become frustrated when you can’t seem to raise your prices while your friends are out living it up, or worse, you’ll believe that this is what all illustrators should be getting paid and accept it.

“Emergent gameplay vs whatever the other kind is” - Andrew Plotkin

The work of solving these puzzles -- the play experience -- is of experimentation, discovery, and then synthesis of the results in a way which was not immediately obvious. That's creative thought. Dismissing this as "square key in square hole" is ignoring the point.

“Indie Advice: why you probably shouldn’t make a multiplayer game” - Dan Marshall

I don’t want to be completely negative, I just think as indies we need to be aware that the numbers TitanFall sells in order to be a constantly-playable online game eclipses anything we could possibly hope to achieve. It’s a case of being very very boringly realistic.

LONG “A Tale of Two Hipsters” - Dale Beran

The same thing is happening in Baltimore, where I currently live, and probably in many other cities all over the world. About ten or fifteen years ago, my generation moved into a crumbling warehouse district in another blighted area of Baltimore City. The DIY artist warehouse district is now labelled “The Arts & Entertainment District”, housing prices are on the rise and everywhere there are signs advertising “elegant urban living” and “artists luxury lofts” to people who are obviously not artists but rather middle class professionals.

“The Deleted Scenes of Outcast and Outcast 2...” - Joe Martin

For the team, Infogrames’ self-sabotage immediately impacted plans for the future. A previously announced Dreamcast version was cancelled and, while Infogrames’ claimed it was due to porting difficulties; the reality was that poor sales had crushed publisher confidence.

FAV LONG “Dude, Where's My Game - The Truth and Lies of Delays and Cancellations” - Odious Repeater

The Dead End (or DE for short) is one of the biggest issues plaguing game development to this day. For various bad reasons, it’s also one of the least understood and least discussed problems. One reason is that there are different types of Dead End that need to be avoided in different ways, by different members of the development staff.

“Pop Goes The Weasel” - Rob Fearon

It’s never really the end of a golden age. It’s just progress and as we progress, new people come along and get their chance to shine. It’s not harder, it’s not tougher. The market does not fill with videogames and we are not all doomed. It’s different. Because it has to be or we stagnate and if we stagnate, what’s the fucking point? You don’t get to keep the crown forever, no-one does. Move over, old man.

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This Link Drag is Pointless

Last time there were twelve links. This time, merely a dozen. In this episode: thoughts on the first-person screamer, the blurring of casual and hardcore, Facebook makes a play for the next big space, and does art need to have a point?      

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Léon Loves Tetris

This is the concluding part of The Shooting Gallery trilogy. In part one, developers of 2D shooters spoke about their interest in the form, and part two explored the evolution of the 2D shooter.

Cards on the table time, folks. Here’s the question for the big prize. What is the 2D shooter about?

Well done! It is indeed about the shooting of stuff but let's peel back the outer layer of this onion. I also want to discard some of the games where the primary mechanic is navigating obstacles rather than shooting, such as Scramble (Konami, 1981) and Zaxxon (Sega, 1982). When we take the genre as a whole, we notice that shooters usually require players to destroy as much as possible.

leon loves tetris

Space Invaders (Taito, 1978) lays out five ranks of aliens which march across the screen and taking the occasional decisive step towards the ground. If a single alien makes it to the bottom, the game is over. Aside from the distracting saucers, the player must blast everything.

Something more recent? In arena shooter Death Ray Manta (Rob Fearon, 2012) the player must dispatch every green bunny and pink robot to proceed to the next Manta stage. Even something like Everyday Shooter (Queasy Games, 2007), where each level only lasts as long as the background track, encourages the player to wipe out as much as possible for the purpose of acquiring extra lives and creating safe space.

I'm reminded of this short exchange from Léon: The Professional (Luc Besson, 1994):

Mathilda: Léon, what exactly do you do for a living?

Léon: Cleaner.

Mathilda: You mean you're a hit man?

What is the 2D shooter about? It’s about cleaning.   

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Pause: Recharging

A purple and blue swirl, into it your soul pours

Illness has taken a toll and I just don't have the energy to write a proper post this week. You were supposed to be reading about the narrative wonder of Kairo but, er, sorry. Dog ate my homework.

So as not to leave you forlorn, here are a few notes. Link Drag back from the dead, I suppose.

  • Michael "Angelina" Cook has started a new series covering game-related academic research. The first is on auto-generated RPG classes. I put up my hand to review this before posting as I'd love to see good academic work getting more attention, gaining traction in the wild. (Further reference: The Academics Are Coming series last year.)
  • Out of the ashes of Culture Ramp is Upstreamist: "Don’t come here looking for tech enthusiast news or “life hacks.” There are already a number of sites that report on the industry or attack the subject of information technology from the angle of productivity. Upstreamist is about more than coping with, or succeeding on the strength of, those technologies. The goal is not to weather the tide or go with the flow, but rather to find ways of navigating those streams that let us to travel toward a culture worth having." It's early days for the site, but this might be one to watch.
  • I asked @bfod and @Jonathan_Blow if they had finished Starseed Pilgrim, because I am finding the end blisteringly hard. Literally, I am screaming no no fuck no at the screen.
  • Chris Priestman writes about the struggle for quality in videogame writing. To be honest, there's nothing here I hadn't heard before except... indiegames.com had stopped paying its staff. Then again I unsubscribed from the site a couple of months ago because it had largely become an indie press release feed.
  • I've started listening to Joe Martin's short interview podcasts again (I started and totally forgot to subscribe until he retweeted Ethics last week) and you can listen to an entire series in less than an hour. The latest batch has this mournful quality. It's either Joe's voice, the subject matter or the music that does it.
  • Shaun Green reviewed Killing is Harmless, Brendan Keogh's book on Spec Ops: The Line. Spoiler! He didn't like it so much.
  • I made a joke on Twitter.
  • Worth a read if you have the time, suggested by Ben Schroder in the open comments thread: Renata Adler takes down film critic Pauline Kael (Aug 1980). When critics turn columnist.
  • In "Psytron", Rob Fearon writes about his childhood memories of Margaret Thatcher... which reminded me a lot of my own.

The open comments thread is still open for business, of course.


Electron Dance: The 2012 Review


Welcome to this year's bloated annual round-up! It's another chance for me to rub your nose in all those Electron Dance articles you so deftly avoided reading, thus depriving yourself of important educational supplements required for daily life choices. You know who you are. Yes, you. You who didn't read the Chaim Gingold interview. You who thought qrth-phyl was just Snake in 3D. I GOT YOUR NUMBER PAL.

Look, if you don't click open this bad boy, you won't discover your secret Electron Dance Christmas bonus.

I dare you not to click. Think of this as a Twine game with one possible move. What could go wrong?  

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