Over my years writing about video games, I’ve become burnt out on the big AAA games. “Oh boy, another shooter.” “Look at all the gray.” “Are there any new ideas left or just more sequels that are guaranteed to sell somehow?” Turns out that there ARE new ideas, and those ideas are in games made by small 1-10 person development teams doing this because they still love it. How creative can you be when you’re making the latest Madden? Indies are where the big ideas are born. If that’s not cool enough, the people that made the game are standing right there next to it 8/10 times at these conventions. You can get the full picture of what actually goes into a game besides thousands upon thousands of lines of coding. There’s also a ton of love and enthusiasm. It’s almost enough to inspire one to make games themselves…
*Ahem* Well now, let’s take a look at the little guys with big ideas over at E3’s IndieCade section.
Think back to the NES days. Or even think about now. Do you still have an original NES? No, not the top loader, you fancy rich jerk. That old gray box shaped like how people thought the future would look like back in the 80s. How many times would you have to blow into the cartridge to get it to boot up? Remember when it just kinda turned on, but it was all glitched out? Did you try to play it anyway? Add bass drops to that and throw it into a browser and you’ve got yourself Skrillex Quest. What the crap?
Skrillex is known as “the Prince of Dubstep,” a genre of music that, for all intents and purposes, is already dead, less than two years after it burst onto the scene all across the world, burning far too brightly to even outlast a single elephant’s gestation period. But now he has a game. It’s kind of like The Legend of Zelda, or maybe 3D Dot Game Heroes. There are hidden collectibles and secrets to discover all over this world that happens to be constantly on the verge of glitching out, taking you and everything you’re trying to save with it. And it’s all because a little hair got in the cart.
The art style is very reminiscent of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, but on acid. The gameplay is simple: just move and slash. It’s a little graphic-intensive for my 5-year-old Dell laptop on wi-fi (there is always SO MUCH going on!), but all the slowdown kind of added to the intensity of the glitch battles. There’s a lot of glitching.
I dunno, I guess I don’t really have a lot of exciting things to actually say about this game; I just reeeeeally wanted to make you aware of its existence. Mostly because it’s so weird. It’s important to play some weird games in your life. It’s short, and the gameplay is simple, but there’s a replay value here that’ll keep you coming back again and again. My first playthrough, I got a whopping 15% final score. And I’m pretty sure that’s only because I know the Konami code. There’s so much I haven’t seen in the world yet.
On second thought: you might not like Skrillex Quest if you hate dubstep. Every sound effect in this game is dubstep, every backing track in this game is dubstep, and every glitched out world feels like you’re in a dubstep. The beats match up with the action in meaningful ways, putting those old movies you watch while playing your favorite Yes album to shame. There might even be a Skrillx in the game, doin’ Skrillex stuff like smoking and cooking. But you knew what this was.
It’s Skrillex Quest– the best game to ever feature Skrillex. Also probably the last game. Good job staying relevant, dubstep.
You remember the edutainment games from when you were growing up in the 90s; Number Munchers, Mario Is Missing, and Treasure Mountain were staples of my youth, back when every school computer lab had Apple IIs, or – if you were lucky – iMacs. Frog Fractions starts off like one of those games. You move around the bottom of the screen, protecting your fruits from being eaten by bugs with your long tongue a la Missile Command. For every bug you eat, you are awarded points in fractions instead of full integers. That’s when things get weird.
That’s when Frog Fractions becomes one of the most interesting, self-aware video games I’ve ever played. Continue reading →
When I first heard about Steam’s “Big Picture” mode, I was intrigued. I might have even been excited, and, as a fairly console-exclusive gamer, that’s no easy task for me when talking about PC games. Sure, the rock-bottom Steam sale prices have encouraged me to buy my share of low-cost digital entertainment every summer, but I grew up with my games on my TV. The PC was just for homework, stealing music, and porn. Could Big Picture finally change that?
It promises a lot: controller-based menu navigation and chat, Steam friends, and a huge screen enabling you to finally see what The Binding of Isaac looks like when he’s 42″ wide. After spending an afternoon with the beta, however, I’ve been left wanting. If anything, it’s proven to me that the stumbling blocks and hurdles that the average PC gamer has to endure just to get your game to work simply aren’t worth the hassle when the ready-to-go console gaming experience is just sitting there on the shelf, licking its lips and eye-humping me as it awaits my silky caress. Continue reading →
Just this last week, Steam launched a service called Greenlight. This enables smaller indie developers to submit their game to a community review process. Get enough positive votes from your fans and peers, and your game will be sold on Steam! A potential audience of 40 million players? Yes please. Don’t get enough votes, and you’ll have to just…. keep not making money, I guess. Seriously, how many typical PC gamers use ANYTHING besides Steam to download games, excluding the five die-hard EA fans that like Origin? Yeah, not a lot. But there’s a catch, something holding a lot of small developers back from even trying to submit, a catch with the potential to unravel the democracy of this entire idea. Continue reading →
Just this last week, it was announced that the long-awaited PlayStation 3 port of the once-Xbox-360-exclusive DLC Skyrim: Dawnguard might, due to technical issues, not be coming to the PS3 at all. The funniest part of this whole story is that Microsoft paid a boatload of money to ensure that the 360 had the first month of Dawnguard‘s release all to itself, which only served to keep it out of PC gamers’ (and modders’) hands for a few weeks. Bethesda argues that, with extra content as huge as Dawnguard, it’s just… hard to make it work. Never mind the fact that in the past they’ve added PS3 DLC for Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Fallout: New Vegas just fine, and those games are nearly as expansive as Skyrim. It sounds like if it won’t live up to internal expectations, Dawnguard won’t hit the final platform at all.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. The PC port of last year’s PS3/360 masterpiece finally landed on August 24, and it had some issues. A framerate locked at 30 FPS and 1024×720 resolution aren’t technically bad (they’re the same as the console versions, after all), but PC gamers can – and should – expect more. First of all, modern-day PCs are a lot more powerful than 7-year-old home consoles. Second of all, 1024×720 resolution for a PC is laughably bad. Like, worse than feline AIDS. It’s just terrible. So yeah, Blighttown doesn’t lag as badly (playing on PS3, I would have LOVED a solid 30 frames per second), but the game underperforms in so many ways (it also uses the horrid Games for Windows – LIVE architecture) and has been referred to as “one of the worst ports we’ve ever seen.” And these things could have been fixed/improved with a longer development time – the worst part is that From Software skipped that so they could release the game this year, as a gift for the 100,000+ fans that signed the petition to bring Dark Souls to the PC in the first place. Continue reading →