For the second year, my old stomping grounds Boing Boing has published my Venus Patrol 20 list — the twenty games that sang to me the most throughout 2016, which you can get a load of right over here. (You can also find 2014′s edition over here.)
As usual, the list doesn’t include a number of multi-million-dollar marketed games that are no less deserving of recognition, but which probably didn’t sneak past your radar this year, as well as four games that for one reason or another I just couldn’t get to this year that I’ll be visiting with soon, all of which you can see above.
The list was also part of a live reading at Austin’s Nerd Nite in mid-December, video of which will be online soon — thanks both to Nerd Nite & Boing Boing for supporting the list. Hope you enjoy it, and please look forward to more actual Venus Patrol happenings in 2017!
Missed the livestream of our recent E3-alternative press conference? Look no further than the video above, which will let you watch the 2014 edition of HORIZON in its entirety. Held just a few weeks back at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the latest edition of HORIZON featured debuts and new looks at games by the creators of Windosill, Thirty Flights of Loving, Dear Esther and more.
The breakout hit of the show, certainly, was Mountain, the first true videogame project by animator David OReilly (perhaps best known as the creator of the virtual reality game in Spike Jonze’s latest film, Her, who also recently debuted his Oculus Rift demo here on Venus Patrol).
Below the fold I’ll also include the other notable highlight: Brendon Chung of Blendo Games revealing, for the first time, single-player time-manipulating co-op mechanics of his upcoming 20th-century-cyberpunk game Quadrilateral Cowboy.
Visit the official HORIZON site for screenshots, video and more information on all of the games included in this year’s conference!
Ready to give the world of Ed Key & David Kanaga’s Proteus a second visit in an entirely new way?
Inspired by a tweet by The Floor is Jelly creator Ian Snyder, Devine (best known most recently for Oquonie, the abstract iOS adventure game created in collaboration with illustrator Rekka Bellum) has given Proteus a total aesthetic overhaul with new graphics, sound and an entirely new soundtrack (available for streaming below the fold and for purchase on bandcamp).
As far as I can tell, the chain of events that set off this development were: Proteus creator Ed Key shows a debug screenshot for an OSX patch, which I coined ‘Dark Proteus’ and then doggedly wouldn’t let go of the joke.
In fact, Synder & Devine have kicked off what hopefully might be a wave of new Proteus total-overhauls — you can follow along with other attempts via this thread at makega.me, a recently revived & steadfastly inclusive new forum for aspiring & veteran developers.
To enter the world of Purgateus yourself, visit the new dedicated site for the game here on Venus Patrol and enter your name and email to receive the mod. You’ll need to already own a copy of Proteus (which you can purchase on the Purgateus site), but once you do, installation of the mod is as easy as replacing a folder inside the Proteus directory with Devine’s new files.
[It's no secret that I count Kentucky Route Zero as one of my favorite videogames of all time, and one of my highest recommendations particularly for people who haven't dipped their toes in the videogame waters in a while, and so seeing artist Tamas Kemenczy was a top priority at this year's Game Developers Conference.
His talk (linked below) was a fantastic account of how theater and film staging influenced the game's visuals & transitions, made doubly valuable by loops of those pieces playing independently as Kemenczy talked. I was particularly entranced by Burton's face in Equus, as below, which I didn't recognize, and snapped a quick photo to have him identify it later.
Having then subsequently watched & been blown away by Equus, I asked Kemenczy to ID all the films in his repertoire of influences, which he's written up in full after the jump, and to which I've added streaming/DVD/Blu-ray links, where available. I hope you find it as valuable a resource as I already have!]
I gave a talk this year at GDC about the scenography of Kentucky Route Zero, the theatrical and cinematic influences on the game, and how we go about designing for performance. Some folks asked about the films shown during the talk, so here’s a list of them, but I thought I’d include some that were on the shortlist but didn’t make it onto slides, and some of these were shown in the KRZ talk the year before as well.
(Not included in this list is David Lynch, who we admire and most people are already familiar with.)
I really like the long take of Dysart’s (Richard Burton’s) face, totally stressed out about the chaotic moment that brought about Alan’s personal horse-god. There is a literary connection in KRZ to this play, but also the film by Sidney Lumet has dramatic flourishes that we took to heart.
I just double-checked my inbox and confirmed: it’s been over seven years since I first started talking to indie comics legend James ‘American Elf‘ Kochalka about making a videogame, and took until exactly today for that dream to actually come true.
The funny thing is: even back then, before his involvement with Dino Run creators Pixeljam & their Kickstarter to create the game released today, before there was even an iPhone to launch a game on, Kochalka’s pitch was remarkably similar. Though the game we’d been talking about in those early days was drastically different (and something that I still hold out some hope for actually being created today), there was one key through-line: it’s all about the Glorkians.
Now, years after he’s been a supporter of all my endeavors (with comics for Offworld & a set of collectable Miis for Venus Patrol’s Kickstarter) I can finally return the favor & give that recommendation back to Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork, just launched for iPhone & iPad, a game itself three years in the making.
It’s exactly what you’d want a James Kochalka game to be: exuberant, naïve, completely un-cynical, and — the bit I appreciate the most — a game that even as it dips so heavily into Galaga-ian inspiration still finds room to feel like something new, totally blurring the clean breaks between cut-scenes & levels & play sessions into one self-aware experience that’s a perfect introduction to both the character and Kochalka himself, for the totally uninitiated.
And so, in celebration of the Glorkian birthday, in addition to the painting at the top of this post, Venus Patrol is also proud to present the first several pages of Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, a companion comic also coming in just a few weeks time from First Second Books (which you can pre-order at Amazon here).
What could be more exciting than Broken Age creators Double Fine announcing another round of its Amnesia Fortnight game jam? Here’s the easy answer: another round of Amnesia Fortnight where one team has already been chosen to create a new game led by Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward.
Like last time, the Fortnight — a two-week long jam that’s previously given birth to Double Fine games like Costume Quest, Stacking and Spacebase DF-9 — will be funded by the public via the studio’s just launched Humble Bundle page, and funders will ultimately decide which of the nearly 30 pitches Double Fine will focus on, all of which will be again fully video documented by studio stalwarts 2 Player Productions.
But this year’s twist is that Ward is also pitching four of his own game ideas for the studio to produce, which will also be voted on by the public. Outside his story & design input on the console and mobile Adventure Time games (and Cheque Please, his still forthcoming collaboration with QWOP creator Bennett Foddy), the resulting prototype will be the first original concept he’ll have released in actual game form, and all four pitches are as honestly super hilarious & creatively unbridled as you’d expect.
And so, below he’s given Venus Patrol the extra special horse’s-mouth skinny on (and new doodles for) all four of the concepts — from a stab-happy cupid, to an entire town’s least favorite human-pyramid topper, to the fantastically ambitious zombie thriller he’s wanted to create since high school, which we might as well call right now as totally the one everyone is going to vote for, aren’t they.
A little treat today for game music lovers everywhere: presenting LostHits of LowBits, an hour long mix of underdog classic 16-bit soundtrack selections by Anticon’s Doseone, who you’ll recognize as the theme song artist behind Vlambeer’s Gun Godz, as well as an underground hiphop & freestyle legend from acts like Subtle, 13&God, Themselves & cLOUDDEAD.
Dose put together the mix to debut at our Wild Rumpus/Venus Patrol party at this year’s GDC, where he also performed with Themselves-mate Jel, Gun Godz composer Kozilek & Proteus co-creator David Kanaga, and now the full mix is available to for you for your streaming or downloading pleasure via its Soundcloud page, which also includes the full tracklist.
Says Dose, in his inimitable style:
These Songs and their Creators Inspired me TWICE…
First as a Child with BoredomToBurn..
And again as a Man in the wilds of Music Making…
This is a Blend, Butcher, and Bolster of that Beautiful music,
and a careful 50 minute Thank You, to its sounds.
Dose (pictured above left, being give-it-up-for’d by Kozilek at the aforementioned party) has quietly been collaborating on some very exciting developments on the indie-game-front that I look forward to telling you about soon — in the meantime you can find more of his music at his site or at his online store.
And the other new development I’ve had in store for this week: introducing Slayers, a new multiplayer (or single-player vs. AI!) game set in the God of Blades universe that creators White Whale Games have released as a free PC/Mac download, in partnership with Venus Patrol.
As you can see on the new Slayers site, White Whale describe the game as the love-child of Robert E. Howard, football, and Bushido Blade, where two players take the role of God of Blades‘ enemy Champions, sending out a stock of foot-soldiers in to do battle “on a desolate bridge for the favor of their blasphemous gods.”
With subtle hints of Nidhogg, Slayers is a deadly tug-of-war to reach your opponent’s side of the bridge — when you do, you can immediately call out your opponent’s Champion (negating any remaining foot-soldier stock), or defeat all of their soldiers to do the same — and face-off, Champion to Champion, for victory.
Even better, when you successfully complete the game, Slayers generates an amazing 70s pulp-fantasty-esque magazine cover, showcasing your victory. We’ve run tournaments of the game both at an earlier meeting of JUEGOS RANCHEROS, and at the most recent Fantastic Arcade, and it’s always gone over amazingly with the crowd, both players and spectators.
The release of Slayers not coincidentally coincides with an update to the original iOS God of Blades, where you’ll find new player-customization features, as well as a new asynchronous multiplayer mode that sees you challenging your friends’ heroes through Game Center. White Whale’s also just set the game at an all-time low 99 cents, so now’s the best time to step into their epic pulp-fantasy-inspired world (as you may have spotted in this earlier Venus Patrol feature).
This is the first, but definitely not the last, partnership of this kind to release games to Venus Patrol’s members and readers — I’ve got a couple more surprises like this lined up through the new year. I look forward to you, as readers, letting us know what you think, and, as developers, if there’s a game you’d like to partner with the site to release like this, drop me a line and we can talk about it more!
Katamari Damacy & Noby Noby Boy creator Keita Takahashi was recently invited to Australia’s Games For Change conference to deliver a speech he called “The Power Of Play: Reasons Why I Like Video Games“.
He used the opportunity to reprise a fantastic speech he gave back in 2006 for GDC’s Game Design Challenge — the theme that year was designing a game that could win the Nobel Peace Prize (which went on to be won by Dishonored designer Harvey Smith, as I covered in this interview with Smith, back in a former life) — but then moved on to cover a wide variety of topics, all revolving around the central idea of spreading peace & love through videogames.
Below the fold you’ll find the entirety of Takahashi’s talk, including musings on the aesthetics of the controller & re-framing the environment around us with play (and with Kokoromi co-founder & designer Heather Kelley‘s glasses), presented here on Venus Patrol with high hopes that it’ll inspire a little more peace and love from designers and players alike.
Back in late January, I was stopped short by a single screenshot that emerged from Toronto’s local hub of the 2012 Global Game Jam, the one you see directly below, for Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, a game self-described as “Jumpman meets Asteroids meets Han saying “Don’t get cocky”:
Though, to be honest, it wasn’t too big a shock, as in addition to illustrator Jamie Tucker and programmer Adam Winkels, the Spacetime team also included Matt Hammill, whose work I’d been consistently floored by going back to his original student game Gesundheit (which later saw commercial release), and who you might also recognize as the ASCII master behind Jim Munroe’s recently-featured (and newly award winning!) adventure Guilded Youth.
The team, now joined by musician Ryan Henwood & officially re-grouped as Asteroid Base, haven’t stopped there: they’ve taken the past year to prepare the game — in which two players frantically ward off waves of enemy attack by manning various battle-stations on their cross-sectioned ship — for commercial release next year.
Most recently, Hammill put together a fantastic look at the various & awesomely unusual visual inspirations for the game, which — in the spirit of recent inspiration posts by the God of Blades team and the artist-lineup behind Honeyslug’s Frobisher Says — he’s given Venus Patrol permission to feature here, included below the fold, with Hammill’s own commentary.