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.
Writer Tevis Thompson’s “Saving Zelda” essay — published earlier in the year, shortly after the release of the Wii’s latest Zelda installment, Skyward Sword — seemed to solidify that everyone else was also thinking the same thing: with rare exception, there’s been something missing in the franchise, a sense of diminishing returns, a growing and distinctive lack of the mystery and magic that made the series beloved in the first place.
And so, partnering with David Hellman, most notably the artist behind Jon Blow’s Braid, the two took to Kickstarter to help restore that sense of wonder as best they could with Second Quest, an upcoming, hard-bound graphic novella “for those who love videogames but want more compelling worlds and a sense of real discovery” and “anyone who’s felt the pull of distant landscapes and longed to explore a world full of mystery.”
While the project has already exceeded its Kickstarter goal, with just two days remaining, the pair have prepared a new bonus for backers with ‘Side Quest’, a six-page digital mini-comic companion story to the main Second Quest that they’ll be sending to everyone who’s supported the campaign.
And so, presented below is the first two pages of Side Quest — which you can dive further into by supporting their Kickstarter campaign at any level here — and a short note from Hellman as the project draws to a close.
One of the core tenets of Venus Patrol, and Offworld before it, and really basically all my work over the past several years is that bringing in artists of all stripes not traditionally immersed in the world of games can (and has) only ever resulted in some of the most sublime work videogames can offer.
That’s only one sliver of why I think Honeyslug‘s Vita minigame collection Frobisher Says is so brilliant — there’s also its self-awareness, and its irreverence, and its holistic approach to wringing out basically every absurd interaction you can manage with Sony’s hardware — but it’s a very non-trivial sliver.
For as much as I’ve been a fan of the art Honeyslug and cohort Dick Hogg have produced — going back to their 2010 Gamma IV contribution Poto & Cabenga (and going back even further to some of Hogg’s work for UK design house Airside), and their gorgeous and still in-progress adventure game Hohokum — Honeyslug themselves have as voracious appetite for amazing art, something that shines through blindingly with the dream team of illustrators they assembled for each minigame in Frobisher Says.
And so, to get a better sense of how they hand-picked their lineup, I asked designer and programmer Ricky Haggett (above, right) and Hogg (above, left) to go game-by-minigame to give us the whos and hows and whys behind every artist chosen for what’s become, hands-down, one of Sony’s “coolest” games — in that old, original PlayStation Designers-Republic-doing-art-for-Wipeout sense of “cool”.
If you’ve seen White Whale’s iPhone adventure game God of Blades mentioned anywhere — including here — over the past several weeks since its debut, you’ve no doubt seen it mentioned in the same breath as the pulp fantasy that inspired it, and to which it pays deep, reverent respect.
Names like Roger Dean & Michael Moorcock frequently bubble up to the surface in any discussion of the game, and, not having been immersed as deeply in the fantasy world as the White Whales clearly were, I thought I’d give the team an opportunity to go into greater detail about the place God of Blades was born, as much for my education as anyone’s.
Below the fold, then, artist Jason Rosenstock (above, right) and designer & writer George Royer (above, left) list their five top visual and literary inspirations for the game, which you can learn more about at the White Whales’ site, or find on the App Store here, in advance of its imminent PC/Mac debut.
As if I didn’t have enough latent guilt about impulse-upgrading to an iPhone 5 I didn’t necessarily really need, the first thing I realized on activation was that the extra row of icons had unceremoniously broken my favorite part of the phone: my original Noby Noby Boy wallpaper, which saw BOY playfully looped around each of your icons, and surprises hidden under each which only revealed themselves as you opened an adjacent folder.
And so, I registered my complaint with Katamari Damacy & Noby creator Keita Takahashi, who, even though he hadn’t yet upgraded himself, offered to alleviate the situation by creating an newer, longer version, and even threw in a brand new GIRL version for our troubles.
And so, presented below the fold, both of the wallpapers to adorn your own device, in wistful memory of the game that very shortly will be leaving the mortal coil of the App Store itself. If you’re still working the iPhone 4/4S, you can find the original BOY version here, with the shortened GIRL version promised to appear in the near future.