Archives: Flashbang


AUSTIN INDIE SUMMIT: MY SHOW AND TELL OF THE NEW INDIE HOTTNESS


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9.15.2009

Brandon Boyer

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This was the surprisingly large, warm and receptive crowd that turned out for my early-morning session at the opening day of GDC Austin’s debut Indie Game Summit, and the reason they’re all smiling will be clear by the time you reach the end of this post.

My task for the session was to give the attendees here a snapshot of the best of what indie gaming’s currently got to offer: some old and unmissable, some never before seen, and some seen, but never before played live. Here’s the run down — for reference and further research and download — of everything I showed off.

1.) Spelunky

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By far the most widely played and important indie game of the past several years (even in prelude to its upcoming Xbox Live Arcade port), I found out quickly just how hard it is to play live and talk in front of an audience, in a quasi-Game Center CX series of embarrassing failures.

2.) Glum Buster

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Too few people have still taken a trip through Austin-native Justin ‘CosMind’ Leingang’s fantastically surreal world — hopefully playing it live gave everyone an even more compelling reason to.

3.) Alpinist

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Even just the tiny shred of a teaser for Craig ‘SUPERBROTHERS’ Adams’ indie debut was enough to impress, with his inimitable graphic style, and the promise of its simulated grueling mountain ascension.

4.) Time Donkey

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The inherent charm of Flashbang’s latest made it one of the most popular playthroughs of the session, judging by audience reaction. I very regretfully haven’t had the time yet to do it justice here, but will surely do when GDC Austin madness dies back down.

5.) Captain Forever

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As I said before, this will probably end up topping a lot of best-of-2009 lists when word reaches out further, and a round of applause rose as soon as the name was dropped. Creator Farbs was kind enough to drop off a debug build of the game for the session, which meant that I could cheat my way into demonstrating the jaw-dropping muted disco-dance-rain-of-destruction that you’re ultimately fighting to build toward. Expect much more on this game here soon.

6.) Tuning

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The first surprise of the show was the latest game from oft-mentioned Offworld favorite Cactus, with a rare sneak preview of his previously blogged and yet to be released “game about killing everything you love”, now titled Tuning. Even with early warnings from Cactus about playing through it ahead of time to be sure I could do it justice live (which I did, I swear, and I got so far), with its constant, progressively more sadistically perception-warping, it was the second time of the morning that proved how embarrassing public play can be.

7.) Fez

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And the session’s biggest surprise: Polytron’s Phil Fish made a guest appearance to give the first live demonstration of what the studio’s been cooking up for the past few years.

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The game’s grown even more rich and complex than I’d expected since I last saw its 2007 Indie Games Festival debut, and impressed the crowd enough (see: the photo at top) that we cut well into the planned coffee break to hang on main star Gomez’s every dimensional shift.

Thanks to everyone for coming out and putting up with what I can only imagine was a rambling, too-early, caffeine-addled, ranty awkward set of playthroughs!


ABOUT TIME: FLASHBANG REVEAL FIRST TIME DONKEY CONCEPT ART


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7.27.2009

Brandon Boyer

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Back in March we got the first look at a 5-day prototype kicking around the Flashbang offices in the form of Time Donkey, the Minotaur China Shop creator’s self-described “Cursor*10 meets WarioWare meets Raving Rabbids” time-warping platform game.

Though we had — as usual — pretty strong hints that this would be the next official Blurst game via the studio’s changelog twitter feed (and the next that would return Flashbang to their ‘action/machinery + animal’ roots after Blush, Paper Moon and Crane Wars), they’ve just made the news official via an in-depth look at the art direction behind the game.

Specifically, they’ve just showed off the first concept image from new contract artist Justin Messner that illustrates the more cartoonish direction the game is headed, and art director Ben Ruiz lists a number of the aesthetic influences the game’s had, primarily GameCube Zelda entry WindWaker, Capcom’s Wii puzzle game Zack and Wiki, and long-time favorite debut WiiWare game Lost Winds, all examples of limited palettes and blue-sky super-saturated colors.

Flashbang promise more inside-views of the game as it pulls itself together over the coming weeks, but the one-two punch of the video’s mechanics and properly cheery art direction has already got me hooked.

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GIMME INDIE GAME: THE DESTRUCTIVE/CONSTRUCTIVE CALAMITY OF FLASHBANG’S CRANE WARS


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6.16.2009

Brandon Boyer

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One of the most fascinating aspects of Crane Wars — the newly released game from Minotaur China Shop and Blush creators Flashbang — is that, for essentially the first time, we’ve been able to watch the development of the game from its very earliest conception straight through to completion.

That early prototype video and alpha trial were effective as very base technology: the physics were there, the crane worked well, the destruction was fun, but what they weren’t was a game, and it’s been just as fun watching the bits that made it such being layered on top til now.

What’s come out the other side, is, put plainly, the best game the team have done since Minotaur (we’ll rightfully chalk up Paper Moon‘s success to original creator Infinite Ammo): a game that’s just as beautifully and deliberately balanced between destruction as much as the construction at its core.

What Flashbang have done is take that original crane demo and lattice-build a rigid structure over top: now, your static crane oversees a site with a tic-tac-toe grid of possible foundations and three spawn points of new “floors”. Very much akin to one-button mobile favorite Tower Bloxx, your new goal is to stack those floors in any given arrangement until the spawn point lets loose a ‘roof’ — stack that roof on top and your ramshackle blockwork becomes a nice, beautiful, more invulnerable new skyscraper.

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Why invulnerable? Because at the adjacent lot, a group of ruthless (and vaguely French) scabs are threatening your staunchly union-ized business with both hurled insults and, more often, hurled dumptrucks, barrels, and flaming blocks of skyscraper.

And so here lies in the destructive rewards, and the Wars of the title: for as much as you can gain ever increasingly combo-multiplied high scores from proper stacking, you can take the secondary path of ensuring the scabs never fully manage to keep their buildings intact by hurling your own rubble into their lot, with new combos for bringing down buildings and achievements for covering their spawn points.

Most importantly, Crane Wars is one of the ‘stickiest’ games the studio’s released in some time, as well: the grid system opens up a number of trial and error strategies that beg to be discovered — setting up a wall of defensive completed scrapers seems to be an initial best bet until you discover it also stifles your best throws, etc. — and the usual Blurst timer (here represented by a dwindling budget) is an ever present reminder that there were always precious shortcuts and efficiencies you could have taken this go-round.

With any luck, this’ll become the new web favorite it deserves to be: as I guessed several days ago, it’s the best indie development we’ll see all week (and the latest best instantly-hummable indie background score, courtesy Infinite Ammo’s Alec Holowka), and barring some outrageous upset, the bar’s set very high for game of the month.

Crane Wars [Flashbang]


PICKING ON SCABS: CRANE WARS DUE FOR JUNE 15TH RELEASE


6.11.2009

Brandon Boyer

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What a difference a week and a half makes: Flashbang’s next Blurst web game, Crane Wars, shows its face for the last time before its imminent release on Monday, the 15th, having shaped up considerably since its first direct footage in early June. Expect this to be the best thing you’ll play all next week.

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CRANES ARE FLYING: FIRST DIRECT FOOTAGE OF FLASHBANG’S COMPETITIVE CONSTRUCTION GAME


5.31.2009

Brandon Boyer

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What you might not have expected from all the early footage of Flashbang’s next web-playable Blurst game, Crane Wars (and I certainly didn’t until this latest look): it’s much more a game of con-struction, with de-struction simply the goal of its newly shown-off titular competitive aspect.

And, for a game about, you know, just cranes and buildings, it’s shaping up to be as charming and light-hearted as we’ve all come to expect from the ‘bangs by now. The sudden appearance of a dumptruck tumbling through the air — thrown, it turns out, by the AI opponent to stymie your progress — is your first taste of that, which carries through right to the union/scab banter at the end, all underscored by the cheerful score by Infinite Ammo’s Alec Holowka.

All in all, it’s looking quite fun, and is expected to hit the service on July 1st.

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LABOR STRUGGLE: THE LATEST LOOK AT FLASHBANG’S CRANE WARS


5.21.2009

Brandon Boyer

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Flashbang’s previously posted Crane Wars prototype from Matt and Adam Mechtley is now officially the next game to come to Blurst — the web-game portal that brought you Minotaur China Shop, Blush and Paper Moon — and, from the extensive over-the-shoulder video above, it’s picking up overtones of a union-versus-scab battle as well.

During the 14-ish minute video, you’ll see that union worker concept image I posted a few weeks back come to life, actual gameplay after the 10ish minute mark, and a brief shot of Mary Roach’s science of orgasm Ted talk.

Work in Progress: Crane Wars [Flashbang]

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HARD HAT ARENA: FIRST CONCEPT ART FROM FLASHBANG’S CRANE WARS


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4.30.2009

Brandon Boyer

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One last Flashbang update before the big touchdown tomorrow: the last time we saw their Crane Wars it was in very early prototype form, but the studio tells me that the half that wasn’t working on bringing Paper Moon up to date has been nose down on Crane.

To prove it, they’ve sent along this first teaser concept image, which, alongside the original (and still playable) prototype, is giving me even greater hopes for a more personified and arcade like Blast Corps than I’d had initially.

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FLASHBANG’S TIME DONKEY PROTO MASHES CURSOR*10, WARIOWARE, RAVING RABBIDS


3.18.2009

Brandon Boyer

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And Flashbang’s other five day prototype: Flashbang’er Steve returns to the studio’s action/animal roots with Time Donkey, a game pitched as “Cursor*10 meets WarioWare meets Raving Rabbids” (the first point at which my ears pricked up).

As illustrated above, the game follows a donkey unstuck from linear time working with former warped versions of himself to accomplish real-world/Blurst-world goals, like, for example, saving neanderthalish ur-donkeys from a horde of velociraptors, or “picking up dynamite for Guy Fawkes” (that was the second point).

Basically, big yes to all of that.

Blurst home [Flashbang]

Previously:
Gimme indie game: Yoshio Ishi's Cursor*10 2nd session – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: Minotaur China Shop, happiness in shattery …
Gimme Indie Game: the flails and flagellations of Flashbang's …

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SWINGERS ONLY: FLASHBANG’S WRECKING BALL PROTOTYPE CRANE WARS


3.18.2009

Brandon Boyer

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Speaking of Flashbang, I’ve been remiss in mentioning their latest prototyped game they’re showing off via their Blurst Blog: Crane Wars. While the game was only a few days into development (and the video above shows a more intimate look at internal meetings pitching additional gameplay ideas and direction), it’s already being driven down a road very pleasingly reminiscent of Rare’s Nintendo 64 underdog hit Blast Corps meets more tangible physics.

In the spirit of even further openness, Flashbang have also already uploaded one stage of that prototype to the web, which you can play here and send feedback to the studio. Flashbang’s Matt suggests the trials below:

Re-stack the buildings. Try to make a giant tower!

Pick up buildings and chuck them at other buildings.

Ram through buildings and watch them gib!

Try to carry a building carefully through the town.

Game Prototype: Crane Wars [Blurst, game trial]

Previously:
Gimme Indie Game: Minotaur China Shop, happiness in shattery …
Gimme Indie Game: the flails and flagellations of Flashbang's …
Riding the iPhone's Raptor Copter – Offworld

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GIMME INDIE GAME: THE FLAILS AND FLAGELLATIONS OF FLASHBANG’S BLUSH


2.26.2009

Brandon Boyer

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You might be forgiven at first glance to draw quick comparisons between Minotaur China Shop developer Flashbang’s just-released Blush and thatgamecompany’s PS3/PSP indie bedrock fl0w, but the two have little in common past their deep sea struggle.

Instead, Blush is another game in what is emerging as a Flashbang studio-signature as reliable as the Animal/Heavy Machinery meme they’ve seemingly just now deposed: as also evidenced in their original Raptor Safari and the later iPhone Raptor Copter, Flashbang have a passion for flagellation, be it by industrial mace [this kind] or, now, with literal flagella.

Because unlike fl0w or its later twice-removed cousin in the first stage of Spore, Blush is less about eat or be eaten — less about the head and more about the tail. It’s more about tracing graceful but deadly arcs through the water, and quickboosts to waypoints to deposit eggs collected through your kills, which grow your tentacles and further increase your speed.

As with nearly all of its web and iPhone ilk, it’s an arcade-style race against the clock for high scores and achievements — almost more of a sport than a natural sim, with a steady ramp of earned skill and subsequent challenge, and that ever present one-more-go urge when you see how pathetically you’ve stacked up to the rest on, even your best runs.

It’s also aggressively beautiful, everything softly and semi-translucently neon lit, and while it may not have the mathematical complexity or the slapstick charm of something like China Shop (in fact, it might be their most ‘serious’ game to date), it’s every bit as confidently constructed and polished as anything they’ve done.

Blush [Blurst]

Previously:
Gimme Indie Game: Minotaur China Shop, happiness in shattery …
Riding the iPhone's Raptor Copter – Offworld
Flashbang Relentless-ly tease new game – Offworld