Gadget Show Live 2014 Indie Games
The Gadget Show Live was a fantastic opportunity to experience and play some really interesting and inventive games currently in development within the Indie games scene, as well as a fewer bigger titles that have recently been released.
All of the games, bar one, I played had been made or were still currently being made using the free Unity development kit. This free software is incredibly versatile and offers access to and compatibility with the Unity store which is chock full of pre-made assets available for purchase. This can greatly improve the development time for games, especially amongst these small Indie development teams. Unity is even being championed by famous indie developer Mike Bithell who used Unity to make the extremely popular Thomas Was Alone.
Ether, however, was the only game that had been made using Epic’s Unreal Engine. This has recently been making the news as it has also become more accessible to Indie developers with the introduction of a monthly payment subscription model. This makes it an actual viable purchase for small development teams.
This, of course, is very exciting for us gamers as Ether certainly stood out from the crowd, being the only game to use Unreal. I can’t wait to see more of them in the future.
Let’s get on to the games that were playable at the Gadget Show Live 2014.
Terra Tech sees you building and designing your own unique space faring vehicles to do battle across a variety of alien worlds. You can improve your own mean machine by defeating opponents and turning their wrecks into precious resources to improve your own. The game is being made by a group of industry veterans at Terra Tech Studios.
I spoke with both Terra Tech’s lead designer and Artist. The main inspiration for Terra Tech was, surprisingly, a Flash game released in 2009 called Captain Forever. The team were looking to achieve a friendly style of sci – fi aesthetically, more Star Wars than Dead Space. As you can see from the concept art and screen shots, they’ve certainly done a good job in doing so.
The game was simple and fun, but also hinted at a much deeper crafting level of game play through the building block game mechanic used to craft and customise your own vehicle. Although it’s still pre-release I felt more work was needed to make the control method more accessible.
With plans to release on Steam initially, then move to console and mobile, Terra Tech is certainly a promising game.
Space farmers is a game of simple mechanics with one intention: to give you an enjoyable co – op experience that will see you performing all manner of tasks as you both puzzle and shoot your way through alien space craft.
The game being developed by BumpkinBrothers is mostly styled around colourful blocks and is, of course, comparable to Minecraft. However speaking with one of the ‘Bumpkin Brothers’ Andy, they took a lot of their inspiration from early Nintendo titles like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers, when developing the art for Space Brothers, which was certainly evident from what I played.
In game, as you make your way through the top down levels, you can collect turnips which are used to unlock additional items and skins for your sprite (during the show build, at least one of these skins was The Gadget Show’s own Jason Bradbury).
The story revolves around two farmers being abducted by aliens. Although a little generic, it offered an enjoyable setting for all the puzzle solving and alien blasting set to take place. The gameplay certainly worked well and was most enjoyable throughout. Two player co-op and puzzles were rather creative and clever, which certainly made up for the rather weak shooting elements. The game will release on April 17th at $10 for two copies because co-op is where this game should be played.
MagNets is a classic ‘collect em-up’ where you play a robotic park ranger going about cleaning up the malfunctioning ‘Bloxbots’ in the game. You’ll play across 20 plus levels in both single player and multiplayer modes.
Being made by Total Monkery, who are an entirely family run outfit, Mag Nets implements some really unique game play mechanics. From my first play impressions, I can certainly say that the ideas are there, if the content is somewhat lacking.
The idea behind the game is to use a magnetic net to stun and then dismantle the blox bots, turning them into scraps. The use of magnets comes from the games Lead Designer and programmer, Richard Weeks, who felt that it was a mechanic that was rarely used in video games.
The game play threatened to become dull quickly and the art style offered little to look at, so I hope more game play elements are introduced before release. There was some really innovative game play on show and I would love to see it used to its full extent.
The team are looking for a September release at around £10, with future DLC planned.
Salvaged currently under development with Opposable Games was certainly the most innovative Indie game I got the opportunity to play, as it uses either a tablet or smartphone combined with your PC in order to play. Taking the role of a spaceship commander, you issue commands via smartphone to your crew and see them performed on your PC screen. The universe is randomly generated and will throw a variety of different enemies your way in order to test your commanding skills. It reminded me of the recently updated FTL which has also just come onto iPad.
I got to sit down with the Creative Director, James, to learn more about Salvaged. There were certainly similarities to be drawn with FTL and James said that gameplay elements, such as the games ‘perma-death’ was influenced by the likes of FTL and X-Com. The reason behind the games innovative use of touch screen devices was to go beyond the popular two screen mechanic being introduced in many current releases.
This use of a second screen was certainly intriguing, although when I actually sat down to play, I found myself spending a little too much time looking at the RTS style map screen on the Ipad rather than the action taking place on screen. Apparently, the team are using eye tracking software in the studio to look further into this issue, prior to release.
Opposable games will soon be launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise a potential £125 thousand before releasing the game on Steam, Mac and Linux. There are also further plans to see Salvaged on next-gen consoles using either Microsoft Smart Glass or Sony’s PS Vita as the second screen.
I rounded out my trip to the Indie Games Zone with a quick play through of the first release from White Paper Games Ether. This interesting first person narrative puzzler was released through Steam on March 25th and has been receiving high praise since. The story can be played in two different ways, which I believe set it apart from similar games in the genre.
Depending on your own particular skill level, you can either decide to play through the story essentially puzzle free and just experience the narrative as it unfolds. Or you can choose to test yourself a little and delve into the games wealth of complex puzzles in order to advance the story. The two different approaches were introduced because Pete, the Lead Game Designer at White Paper Games (the man I spoke with) believed that the story and narrative was the most important aspect of the game and didn’t want players to be excluded due to their skill level.
Sitting down with game, I quickly became immersed in its extremely pretty harbour town. The game uses a variety of different voices through voiceover to dole out the story and I eagerly wandered about the town, hoping to trigger more voice overs to learn more about the world.
In development, the team took much of their inspiration from games like Myst whilst looking to games such as Gone Home and Portal as far as the actual game play mechanics are concerned.
Oculus Rift support was also introduced a year into development, and although adding to the immersion, it doesn’t alter the games mechanics in any way. White Paper Games have also recently signed a deal in partnership with Sony and Pete was rather coy as to whether we could see Ether featured on Sony’s project Morpheus in future.
This is the first game White Paper Games have released and I certainly enjoyed my time with it. I cannot wait to see what else this creative team can produce. I’d certainly suggest following them @WhitePaperGames to keep up to date with what they do!
Unfortunately, the technological hurricane that was The Gadget Show Live inevitably swept me up and there were a few titles I was unable to play, although they certainly looked very interesting. So here’s a couple of details on the other games on show.
Tiki Taka Soccer:
Developed by Panic Barn, Tiki Taka Soccer is an interesting combination of football manager and football simulation style game play, presented in a fantastically creative pixel-art style. The game is being developed for both Iphone and Ipad and will also be appearing on Android devices.
This combination of both football manager and football simulation isn’t a relatively new concept as the AAA titles such as FIFA continue to add more management elements of their own, yet It’s certainly a genre that’s yet to be exploited amongst the portable and indie market and with Football Manager coming to the PS Vita, there certainly is a demand for it. It will be interesting to see how Tiki Taka Soccer will shape up.
Follow @PanicBarn to learn more.
Mighty Tactical Shooter:
Mighty Tactical Shooter from Brighton based developers Sock Thuggery , takes the typical 80’s style side scrolling tactical shooter that you know and love and adds another layer of tactical depth to this tried and tested game type.
The game is heavily influenced by the early side scrolling ‘Shoot em ups’ made for systems like the Amiga and Commodore 64 during the 80’s. Having already been in development for 7- 8 months now, Sock Thuggery are planning to release their game within the next three months on PC, Android and even the PS Vita.
There’s little more I can say about the games that I got the chance to play, except that it’s really exciting to see the Indie development scene continuing to boom and produce interesting games looking to experiment and twist the formula of well-worn game mechanics.
I’ll definitely be keeping both eyes open for when these games are released in full, but in the meantime, make sure you keep both your eyes on expansivedlc.com for further updates on these games as they come out!