Gamasutra’s got a super nice feature today on the design of Capsule, the Venus Patrol subscriber-exclusive survival horror game from Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman, on the back of his running the Capsule Capsule at GameCity.
Saltsman adds some choice quotes on the Left 4 Dead inspired genesis of not just this latest project, but more on Canabalt‘s aquatic origins, as well (which I’d never before heard!):
Canabalt, for example, was inspired by Super Mario 1 and Sonic the Hedgehog but the game I really wanted to make was a game where you’re a guy running through a city being chased by water. It’s like Escape from New York. There’s a horrible flood, and some particle physics, [you’re] surfing on flotsam and jumping up and parkouring off buildings and rooftops. But it would have been so hard, and especially back then, I had absolutely no patience for projects of that scope. So the slimmed down version of that is Canabalt. I had to take out the water, take out climbing up ledges, and focus on something else.
I always wanted to make a game — that was not even a game. The game would just be: you’re an astronaut on a space walk and your tether breaks. You’re doing an EVA [extravehicular activity] and now you’re floating through space, and that’s it. There’s nothing to do. You would be in first-person view, you would see gloves, and the astronaut control box on your chest, and you can look around. It would just be that until you ran out of oxygen. For like four hours. It would be the worst game, but a little bit of that ended up expressing itself in Capsule. You’re out of fuel, and the consequences of that are not that you die, but that you have to listen to yourself die, which is horrifying and uncomfortable.
Read the full feature over at Gamasutra for more, and, as a reminder, you can purchase a one-year membership to Venus Patrol to play the game for yourself — I’ve even put up a new discount code on the back of the feature going live: use coupon code GAMA5UTRA for 20% off the membership fee.
It’s been somewhere just past two months since Kyle Gabler and Kyle Grey re-launched their old Carnegie Mellon Experimental Gameplay Project, and already it’s re-proving what an invaluable technique rapid prototyping can be.
Case in point: Fathom and Flixel dev Adam ‘Atomic‘ Saltsman goes bare-bones for his brilliant one-button run-for-your-life stunt-man sim Canabalt, and its resulting release goes viral, aided by the terribly smart social-service add-ons Saltsman appends after its original debut.
And then this: already working on a number of additional iPhone projects (including his classic arcade inspired Retro Racer Revival) via his Semi Secret imprint, he rides the word-of-mouth-wave and quickly decides to port Canabalt to the platform, in what will surely be your new favorite buck-or-three time passer.
Saltsman talked to the IndieGames blog and said the initial iPhone version won’t yet contain any of those social aspects that have helped drive its success (though he “doesn’t rule out other crazy new features”), but he does say that contributing to the game now via its Donate button will very likely net you a free promo code for the iPhone version, alongside the desktop wallpapers and soundtrack mp3 you currently receive.
All this from five-days of dev time, tossed out like a diversion-in-a-bottle which, happily, washed up on lucrative shores.
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Ignore for just a few minutes the fact that there’s an already admittedly excellent stripped down Flash version of DICE’s Mirror’s Edge, because Canabalt — the just-released Experimental Gameplay entry from Fathom and Flixel creator Adam ‘Atomic‘ Saltsman and musician DannyB — strips that down even further, and better.
Consider it, maybe, the souped-up Tiger/Game & Watch LCD version of Mirror’s Edge, then: you have one goal, and one button, and the goal is to run, and the button is jump, and the game comes from simply maintaining breakneck momentum as you leap from rooftop to randomly generated rooftop.
Saltsman is an unabashed devotee of the Hollywood action flick, and the fact that his last recommendation was Peter O’Toole film The Stunt Man seemed somehow appropriate the instant you take your first dive through the game’s opening breakaway window. And then he moves on to John Woo, scattering a flock of doves skyward as you leap to the next roof, and then like take your pick from any sci-fi action/disaster as the first crashing alien ship rumbles past the screen, or you first notice the megalithic monsters trampling the far background.
For a five-day start-to-stop development it’s exceedingly confident and exceptionally accomplished: in keeping with the Experimental Gameplay’s ‘bare minimum’ theme, there’s a laundry list of things Saltsman could’ve added (I’m still not sure what my high score is from the 30-40 playthroughs today — I’m too busy compulsively slamming the retry button to take the half second to notice), but nothing he could have taken away, and it’s going to be quite some time before you find something so simple so thrilling again.
Well, now it’s really hotting up: as the Experimental Gameplay Project announces its new ‘friendly competition’ for August, they’ve also noted a number of official newcomers, including 2D Boy’s Ron Carmel, molleindustria‘s Paolo Pedercini (he of McDonalds Videogame and the hot-button Faith Fighter), Toronto indie Michael Todd, original EGP member Matt Kucic, Adam Saltsman (who you’ll remember from Fathom, flixel, and Paper Moon), and Chaim Gingold, the original prototyper and creator of what we now know as Spore‘s Creature Creator.
Their theme this month, which contenders will have seven days to create a game around: Bare Minimum, about which they say “could be anything – graphics, sound, gameplay – some have even been so crass as to suggest clothing!”
To tide you over until the first prototypes come rolling in, they’ve also updated with a number of July’s Unexperimental Shooter games prototyped by EGP readers and cohorts (including Pedercini).
Just released by Adam ‘Atomic‘ Saltsman for the benefit of indie devs everywhere: the Flixel engine, an open-source, fully featured, newly updated version of the Flash AS3 library Saltsman used for both his original web hit Gravity Hook, and the most recent Offworld-featured Fathom.
Flixel, which is meant to forgo the Flash IDE entirely, contains a number of improvements to how Flash handles 2D games, with support for spritesheets, baked in basic physics and particle effects, and the procedural map-generation code he used for the deep fathoms of Fathom.
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Like a number of the “less said, the better” indie games in recent months (see also: Gravity Bone, etc.), the best thing Adam ‘Atomic‘ Saltsman’s just-released web game Fathom has going for it is the one secret that it would be a letdown to reveal before you’d even had a chance to play.
Suffice it to say: there’s considerable serenity packed deep within its outwardly militant core (a core guarded by, as you’ll see, this decade’s best flower-pot-security-bots), and a disquieting ending that its creator assures me shouldn’t sink my heart as much as it does.
If Saltsman’s name rings a bell it’s because — along with collaborators Infinite Ammo and Flashbang — he had a hand in designing recent Blurst release Paper Moon, as well as physics grappler Gravity Hook, the recently mentioned Dr. Dobbs promotional game, and the iPhone’s original word game best-seller Wurdle.
Saltsman’s pixels are effortlessly charming, his underlying concept — once you “get it” — is genuinely quite brilliant (here’s a hint, if you find yourself a little lost in the dark: the things around you? They’re trying to tell you something), and the game’s chiptune-prog score by Danny ‘dB Soundworks‘ Baranowsky (previously featured for his work on Flashbang’s Blush) works perfectly in concert with the rest to make a fantastic, thoughtful short-story of a game.
As a bonus, Saltsman and dB have given Offworld an exclusive track from Fathom‘s soundtrack, “Boss of Doooooom”, which you’ll recognize from the struggle pictured above. Stream it below, or download directly here.
There was always a certain — but gentle — cloud that hung over the announcement that Infinite Ammo and Adam Saltsman‘s multi-planar fruit collecting platformer Paper Moon would be brought to Flashbang’s online portal Blurst.
Not one of quality, mind — as players had already been able to get their hands on the game after its Gamma 3D debut — but one of how properly a platformer would fit into the Blurst framework, which relies on three to five minute quick burst arcade play and generally is targeted toward high score competition and achievements.
The subsequent announcement that the game would come with a timer, I will admit, struck a little pang of fear, as I’m not generally one for having my exploration curbed by arbitrary time limits (it’s a cardinal sin up far in the ranks alongside auto-scrolling levels). But, it turns out, that fear was entirely misplaced, and, freshly released at the tail end of last week, Paper Moon is a fantastic addition to the service.
How do you morph a short platformer into a necessarily replayable experience then? The answer is branches: a few handfuls of varied paths that can be taken at several points in the game and require repeat performances to see, and a combo-meter collection system that amplifies your score as you gain the experience to better judge how best to maximize your time in an unbroken line throughout its world.
And it is a game you’ll want to play again back to back, not least because you likely won’t finish it on your first or second or even third go, and even if you do, the tantalizingly missed paths on your map screen will beckon you immediately back through.
If there are any frustrations with the game, it’s only in losing the original’s stereoscopic hook and having to rely on shading to re-orient your next potential leap with the proper paper plane (a few test-run pops also help), but again, repeat plays acclimate you to the process and reduce that end-level/nearly-out-of-time stress.
But what we gained in losing the red-blue shift and going full monochrome, and what’s underscored by Infinite Ammo co-founder Alec Holowka’s new score, is a game that’s roughly and wonderfully the stylistic equivalent of an early silent movie: an easily consumable little tale of derring-do and intrigue that’s essentially peerless in the indie scene today.
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I suppose adjusted for local time it might be passed already, but it’s never too late to head over to indie studio Nicalis’s blog to leave birthday greetings for Daisuke ‘Pixel’ Amaya — the one man creator of long-time freeware favorite Cave Story.
Nicalis is, of course, the developer tasked with finally making the game commercially viable (after a number of false starts and rumored retail releases for the DS and PSP) by bringing it to Nintendo’s WiiWare service, alongside their own original previously mentioned Night Game.
And the best reason to head over regardless: to see the custom art gift for Pixel (above right) created by Adam Saltsman (who himself is helping put together the WiiWare port) in its wonderful full resolution.
If you haven’t yet exposed yourself to Cave Story, head over to MiraiGamer’s tribute site, where you can find it available for a wide range of platforms (the unofficial PSP port comes highly recommended).
Tasked with rejuvenating the Dr. Dobb’s brand a year ago, my old colleague Simon Carless put together an ace plan to involve the indie games community with the original Dr. Dobb’s Challenge — a remix contest that let developers mod a barebones Windows/Windows Mobile platformer originally created by Professor Fizzwizzle developers Grubby Games and mobile studio b3team.
Saltsman’s new pixel-heavy Silverlight version takes the four characters from the original and gives each unique powers — the mummy gains a hat-tip to Mario 3 with an invulnerable sarcophagus move, the lizard can wall jump, the pirate can super jump off his peg-leg. The game also has some other subtle nods to the hardcore, like Dobb’s ability to use oversize soccer balls as weapons ala Treasure’s Bangai-O Spirits et al.
As the name implies, this is all built on top of a contest, of course, but it’s entirely enjoyable on its own. The in-game level editor and browser lets you page through custom built levels and share them with unique URLs, making it one of the most robust and enjoyable indie web creations in recent memory.
Dr. Dobb’s Challenge Deuce [Dr. Dobb’s]