February 2016

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Tenebrae Talk: Norse, Dungeons & 3D Metroidvania

Features

November 4, 2015. From sunny southern Italy arrived Troglobytes Games, an eclectic ensemble of Game industry veterans and young talent that debuted on the Higher Eclectic Community with their first joint gaming venture. Marketed as 2.5D, action packed love letter to the Metroidvania genre, said venture — Tenebrae: Twilight Of The Gods — promised to hurl players into the procedurally-generated underworld of Tenebrae, tasking them to rid it of its demonic legions as one of two playable characters amid backtracking, replayability & non-linearity. Fascinating and grand as that may have sounded, the only visual material that supplemented that vision at the time comprised of but humble GIF’s and character concept art.

Ten days later, a teaser arrived — showcasing one of two of the game’s protagonists prancing around procedurally generated dungeons in 2.5D, looting crates & clinging to walls against the epic thump of Denny Schneidemesser’s music. Significantly positive as response towards it was, said teaser was in fact a prelude to the game’s Square Enix Collective Campaign; a Steam Greenlight-ish program wherein select independent games are showcased amidst Enix’s gaming audience for a little below than a month. As the audience then votes ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on whether they’d like to see each of those make it to their screens, developers tend to feedback, queries and attempt to market their creations in the most creative of ways.

 

 

At the end of this 28 day Feedback phase, Square Enix moves to support up to 10 different, community approved game projects through a phase of crowdfunding — before offering its distribution services to developers at the end of a successful Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaign. As one would expect then, response to Tenebrae was predominantly positive — with up to 89% of the campaign’s visitor up voting the game. Throughout the course of their Feedback phase, Troglobytes were seen sharing a multitude of snippets from their Metroidvania epic’s development & lore, attempting to muster support towards their campaign from both within the Higher Eclectic community and in indie game circles outside it.

With the end of the campaign by December 14th however, the activity & noise that Troglobytes brought along with it subsided just as quickly as it had arrived. The obvious train of thought led one to assume that this was simply the team lying in wait for the Collective’s results; Troglobytes were notified that Square Enix would reach out with a decision within a fortnight, but that strangely is yet to transpire.

Interpersonal communication with the team’s Lead programmer & Tech. Artist Luciano Iurino at the time, indicated that the team were already moving on– hinting at the possible issuance of an Xbox One release announcement over Christmas, ongoing development of the same and an invitation to the 2016 Game Developers Conference that they couldn’t accept due totime constraints.

On the 29th of January this year, said Xbox One release announcement arrived — with the team revealing to the public that despite the uncertainty of the Collective campaign, Tenebrae: Twilight of the Gods would indeed be making its debut on the Xbox One later this year. A few days later, the team were back making all the right noises on the Community– showing off an all new campaign area while teasing ‘radical’ changes to the game that would bring about game play aspects uncommon to the Metroidvania genre.

 

 

 

With the confirmation of Tenebrae: Twilight Of The Gods’ Xbox One release now in the bag, developers Troglobytes Games…

Posted by Higher Eclectic Ground on Thursday, February 11, 2016


 

In full anticipation of the excitement, mystery & intrigue the Italian developers were to generate over this ensuing year, our staff had put together a forthright, revealing interview of the team post the end of their Square Enix Collective campaign. While the interview in question was meant to released over the holidays however, Troglobytes were keen on taking their time with it; not only were they yet to receive clearance from Microsoft to discuss Tenebrae’s Xbox One release as much as they wanted, but were particularly interested in debuting the game’s ‘radical’ new feature via the interview, when the time was right.

That time finally arrived on the 25th of February earlier this week, with Lead Programmer & Tech. Artist Luciano Iurino finally picking up his pen and disclosing everything Tenebrae.

 

 

  1. 28 days on the Collective Campaign, the majority of which has been overwhelmingly positive. How does the aftermath feel – has it been much of a learning process for the game itself?

It’s been a great experience. We never made a crowdfunding campaign before, so the SE Collective was a perfect testing ground for us all. We had the chance to get some direct feedback from potential players and, needless to say, we are more than happy that the vast majority of them showed interest and appreciated our work so far.

  1. There’s no doubt that all othat positivity comes from the incredible amount of polish the game seems to ooze through its visual material. Which leads us to ask – as this wasn’t really mentioned anywhere – where does the game currently lie in terms of its development status? How far along are you and how far have you left to go?

We are in a crucial phase for the project. We decided to change and rewrite some big portions of the game for different reasons. Mostly, we were not completely satisfied about the Movement Component [a big chunk of code that handles all the playable character’s movements, actions, etc.]. Possibly it’s the most important aspect of the game, since it handles all the player’s inputs; it can make for great controls or totally break how the game “feels” for the player.

We also took another important decision. While testing the demo levels, we felt that we were going in the wrong direction about the game environments. As you may know, we are using our in-house Daedalus technology to create the game levels for Tenebrae. Initially this sounded like a great idea because we would have a big portion of the game already done (e.g., the procedural levels generation).

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While we were porting Daedalus from Unity3D to Unreal Engine 4 and playtesting the generated levels, we felt that kind of generation was not suited for the game we wanted to create. Daedalus is strongly tile-based and is better suited for tile-based games, while we wanted to create visually stunning levels without that tile-based feeling in them.

We Skype’d our friend and co-author of Daedalus, Michele Pirovano, and hired him to write another dungeon generator from scratch. By the end of the month we had the first prototype of the new generator, and I can say it’s working pretty good! We now have dungeons and game levels which resemble classic Metroidvania games’ maps, and that’s really cool. We still have a long road to go but we really love our job, so we are not scared ar all!

  1. And so, to get to where you envision the game to be via crowdfunding – the team opted to have a pitch voted upon by the Square Enix Collective community in the hope of making it to the crowdfunding stage that may or may not come next. Why choose this particular route?

     

    Why not opt for a direct crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo and then jump to say, Steam? Sure, there is the benefit of a lot of exposure if and when the game gets approved but if not, many have often feared that a disapproved game might impact them negatively — was all this factored in?

Exposure is the main reason why we went down the Collective road. We think it’s a great way to get a grasp of crowdfunding campaigns, to test ourselves and our work so far. We don’t know yet how it will turn out, but with the Collective campaign done, we surely have a better understanding of what people think of our game idea and we will use this to better shape Tenebrae and its features.

  1. 11% of voters seemed to have down-voted the game. Has there been any personal communication with said voters and if so, where in their opinion has the game fallen short?

Unfortunately (and surprisingly) NOT! The down-voters didn’t give us any feedback nor reasons why they voted that way, and that’s bad, you know: positive feedback helps for the team morale, but negative (yet constructive) critiques help you keep your feet on the ground and wonder how you can improve your game, artwork, music or whatever your creative work is.

The only true negative comment we got did not come from the Collective campaign page but from a social network user, who expressed his “sincere” doubt that a metroidvania would cope with randomly-generated content.

Our answer was (and still is): just wait and see! Moreover, we are certainly not the first ones doing such a thing; there are a lot of metroidvanias with procedural levels and content out there, and we think they work just fine. In fact, we’re drawing inspiration from some of those titles. Some other guys wrote that animations looked kinda off in the teaser. We totally agree. There’s a lot of room for improvement in that field, and we’re working hard on that, too!

  1. Tracking back to the game’s inception – where did it all begin? With a game so elaborately crafted in its early stages, there’s bound to be an even more detailed history.

The main idea behind Tenebrae came out after we bought a couple of used PS Vita’s around Christmas 2014. We played Rogue Legacy among other games — we really enjoyed it, especially its procedural nature, and since Unity had started its Premium support we decided to give it a shot.

Back in January 2014 we had released Daedalus, our random dungeon generator for the Unity Asset Store; sales were going quite well, so we ended up with a decent amount of cash and a very powerful tool to generate procedural content for games. Why not use it for a project of our own. So we can say that at its birth, Tenebrae was a Rogue Like-ish game, except it featured 3D characters and environments. It was being made with Unity 3D because at that time Daedalus was a Unity 3D-only plugin.

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We started to apply some major changes to the design of Tenebrae, making it quite different from the original idea; we also decided to make the switch from Unity 3D to Unreal Engine 4. We’ve been using Unity 3D for years, both for our projects and every day contract work, but we also had a growing interest for UE4 tech since the day it was launched.

Most of all, we liked the rendering technology behind Epic’s engine and we immediately thought it would be our best bet for what we envisioned as the game’s look and mood. At that stage we already had a prototype for the player character ready along with some environment tiles and props; the main problem was they had been designed for a handheld console game (which means lower poly counts, smaller textures, etc.).

Moving to a render-centric engine like UE4 forced us to redesign everything we had and eventually resulted in better graphics for both characters and environments. Finally, Tenebrae took a more defined shape, drifting away from its original concept and finally becoming a more complex Metroidvania game with procedurally generated content.

  1. There’s no denying that Tenebrae could have made for an interesting third person RPG as well. Why 2.5D side-scrolling action and why the Metroidvania genre?

Well, you know, for a small team like ours making a fully-fledged 3rd Person game is a big deal; you have to create high-quality content that must keep its consistency and quality even in close-ups, and it takes time and money! Using a side camera which is quite distant from the action you can take license with some key aspects of the game, mostly with graphics and animations, but you can keep quality high and things interesting at the same time.

Moreover, we are huge fans of 80’s/90’s platformers and metroidvanias, so we wanted to pay homage to that era’s games with our flagship title.

  1. Moreover, there’s the title itself. Latin for ‘Darkness’, coupling ‘Tenebrae’ with ‘Twilight Of The Gods’ is a creatively unique name no doubt. But is there a particular relation with the course of the game’s narrative and setting itself or was it just something created on a whim? Whose idea was it?

We are from Italy, so we breath Latin. We wanted to have something from our origins in the game’s title, although its setting and background is mostly taken from Norse mythology (another topic we greatly appreciate).

The name choice was not an easy one. We sat down one day after hours of terrible titles and it just came out; we immediately felt it was the right word describing the overall mood of the game. I remember it was Niko (Nicola Loglisci, one of our programmers) who put the name on the table (literally: each one of us wrote down a title on a small piece of paper and then we let Fate decide).

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The gameplay is heavily based on the concept of Natures: the player will use Natures to improve weapons, armors, etc. We did not want to use the abused four elements for the Natures (e.g., Fire, Water, Ice, Earth, etc.), so we came up with something different: Poison, Blood, Lightning. We needed a fourth Nature, so we decided to call it Tenebrae, like the game title itself.

So, to answer your question: yes, there is a strong relation between the title, the game’s narrative/setting and the gameplay itself.

  1. While we are on the subject of narratives — you’ve often steered clear of revealing much about the plot, what players’ journey will entail and what sort of story-telling they’d encounter. In today’s narrative rich gaming era, is there a particular reason for the team’s aversion to talking about a synopsis even — deciding instead to share the prologue’s script?

That’s true, we did not want to spoil anything of the plot because it’s a vital aspect of our game.

We decided to share the prologue’s script with the players to let them have an insight of our creative process and a little taste of what’s to come. We thought the best way to accomplish this was having them read part of the script itself instead of describing it with our words. Soon we will release the intro movie to the public, so people will see how we translated those words into imagery.

  1. Moreover, the fact that you’d left it to the Square Enix community to name one of the game’s primary characters, the Barbarian has us wondering; How intertwined are the Barbarian and the Rogue in the game’s narrative? Do they have backstories — has the script written with them as the primary focal point?

As I already said, often we like letting Fate decide (we do this for the names all the time), so we thought we’d let players pick a name from a list. We are still not convinced, though!

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The Barbarian and the Rogue share a very strange and unique relationship: they are not friends nor lovers. All we can say is already in the prologue’s script: they belong to the same clan, which sent a bunch of their best men to raid and loot in a distant land beyond the sea. Things get bad, and we start the game with the two as the sole survivors.

  1. Would you say that the narrative would be the game’s strong point and would it be worth the experience? What would be its charm — will there be twists, shockers, WTF moments or really, how would it all play out?

I’d say, all of them. There will be twists, shockers and WTF moments, that’s why we are keeping our mouth shut about the narrative part of the game! I can’t really say if narrative will be the game’s strongest point, but we’re surely working hard on it as well to give players an unforgettable experience.

  1. Will this narrative in any way be affected or dependent on the game’s procedural nature?

The narrative won’t be affected nor be dependent on the procedural generation system; we certainly could do that, there are some games out there which do this very thing (and they do it well), but we thought that our story needed to be told in a precise and linear way, while the game could still benefit from procedural generation.

  1. Speaking of which, quite a few have also expressed nervousness with regards to the game feeling too ‘automated’ with use of procedurally generated content. How is the concept of procedural generation being approached to give it that natural, hand-crafted feel? Also, how much of the game really is randomly generated?

As I said earlier, we wrote a new, custom dungeon generator which was made ad hoc for Tenebrae; this choice was made mostly to give players a less “automated” feeling when wandering the game levels. We think we did a pretty good job: now the dungeons feel more like continuous and consistent levels and you will hardly notice or spot any automated stuff.

Also, some days ago we announced a big change in Tenebrae’s gameplay: taking a twist from the genre’s standards, we now have the playable character moving in depth, not only in 2.5D, but full 3D! This was a natural consequence of the new dungeon generator; we saw what it could achieve and immediately we felt it was the right thing to do.

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I know it’s quite a big change (after all, the game was announced as a “2.5D Metroidvania”), but we’re sure gamers will appreciate this aspect of the game. This means a lot more work for us (for example, we need to change a lot of stuff in the combat system, the AI management, etc.), but we really feel it was somehow necessary after we made a ride into the new dungeons with the character freely moving in all directions.

Coming back to your question: except for the outdoor levels (“Safe Zones”) and the boss areas, ALL of the game levels are procedurally generated!

  1. What would you say are the art and musical style’s primary inspirations? How are the team’s art and music creators approaching each aspect of the game’s design?

The art style is derived from classic European fantasy culture, but there are also other influences (games, books, comics, etc.). The music is composed by Denny Schneidemesser and it kind of resembles epic soundtracks like the one from “Conan the Barbarian” movies (which by the way is one of our favourites!). The first time we listened to the work of Denny we immediately thought “OK, that’s him! We found our composer”.

About the creative process, it’s pretty simple: we play a lot of games (both old and modern ones), watch a lot of movies, read different comic books, and try to gain inspiration from all of them. We then communicate our ideas to our writer and concept artist and follow from there.

  1. With all of this forming it behind the scenes, it would be great to have Tenebrae as a PS Plus or Xbox Marketplace digital download that we could jump into on a lazy Sunday afternoon but that’s just us. What is the team’s general vision with regards to a console release?

As you may already know by now, we announced the Xbox One version last month thanks to Microsoft’s indie-friendly ID@Xbox program. We are already working to port what we have on Xbox One and started doing some tests. We’ll try and port Tenebrae for other consoles too, but it’s too early to talk about that. We’ll see in the future!

  1. We do dearly hope Tenebrae continues towards where it’s heading, team. Tell us, regardless of the outcome of the Square Enix Collective campaign — what do you have on the books for next year? What can fans expect both on the community and outside it?

As of now we have not heard back from Square Enix, but we’ll keep working hard and see what future brings. We do really believe in our project and we think gamers will enjoy it once it’s out. People can expect some new material soon (screenshots, videos, GIFs) showing the new game levels and gameplay features, and who knows, maybe a playable demo!

 

Learn all you must about Tenebrae: Twilight of The Gods, its progress & keep track of its future via the game’s Higher Eclectic Space on the Community here. Also feel free to leave the team your feedback therein or in the comments below.

 

RAM BOE Giveaway Winners, Member Coverage Roundup

News

Members PointFive Team’s 21 day giveaway of upto three android copies of their indie puzzler, RAM BOE, concluded earlier this week on the 23rd of February. After subjecting the Steam user ID’s of all participants to a draw, the names picked up by a randomizer were as follows —

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Parkchaung

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Congratulations to the winners, each of whom are already in the process of availing their copy of RAM BOE from the Google Play Store.

Developed by PointFive Team as an entry into the Indie Game Maker Contest last year, RAM BOE follows the tale of one mountain climbing daredevil Beauregard Pete, who takes it upon himself to rid the adorable icy mountain tops of an Ice Demon. One thing leads to another and ‘Boe’ finds his soul trapped in a Jotun stone until what seems like the end of time; before a passing ram inspires the rock climber to possess its being. With four hooves and lots of fur, what ensues is up to 40 levels of mind boggling, Sokoban inspired casual puzzles as Boe heads out on a quest for vengeance — rescuing souls that may have suffered a similar fate as his along the way.

While the game itself might have not won laurels at the IGMC, the developers have not relented — having expanded the Contest build to a fully playable PC version in only a few months. With this PC version submitted to Steam’s Greenlight process in the month of November last year, the developers quickly moved to release an Android version of the game in January to rather positive user response.

In the hope of inviting feedback towards the PC version of the game then, PointFive organized a 21 day long giveaway from the 2nd of this month — inviting puzzle enthusiasts from within the Community & beyond to provide them with honest yet constructive criticism of the game on its Steam page. At the end of the three week period, the names of all those that provided said feedback were subjected to a draw — with the first three participants picked up by a randomizing algorithm being offered a copy of RAM BOE’s Android version each.

Feedback again was predominantly positive, with Steam users praising the game’s ‘cute’ art style and progressive difficulty. Furthermore, the team have also been reaching out to writers & YouTubers from within the Community over the past month,  requesting unbiased, creative coverage of the game’s PC demo which resulted in —

A hilarious, Stallone cameo’d recount of YouTuber Toby Burn’s experience with the game despite him being utterly useless with puzzles.

Video Games writer Mike Blundell providing his YouTube following with a quick overview of what RAM BOE is all about.

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Aspiring Video Games scriptwriter and storyteller, Kevin Andrews, donning the role of a fairy tale writer to conjure a lighthearted recount of Boe’s woes.

PointFive of course are nothing less than elated with the exposure the month has brought them. Now though, it’s time for our staff to pick up RAM BOE from the Play Store and determine if indeed, it is the cute yet strenuous puzzler it is fabled to be. The progress of that as well as RAM BOE’s tenure on Steam will continue to be documented at its Higher Eclectic Space — which also comprises of an exclusive, episodic view of the game’s coming to fruition.

Showcasing A Tribe & Its Daydream

News

With the saga of a young shepherd’s silent battles & dreams to narrate along with those of their own, Indonesian developers Joyseed Gametribe made their debut amid Higher Eclectic Ground’s independent gaming fraternity to considerable response earlier this week. The saga in question of course being Daydream — their episodic medieval themed, current age fantasy drama of a boy’s quest to see himself turn into one among the very legends he’s grown to revere.

Joyseed are commencing this saga by means of Daydream: The Beginning, an endless arcade game that has been in development for much less than a year and which they hope to launch on iOS & Android devices by Summer, this. With a large part of the game’s asset & character development completed ahead of its pre-alpha version release, Joyseed hopes to not only involve the Community here in the progress of it’s coming to fruition but also muster support for what they believe is truly the start of an epic adventure for both themselves and their saga’s leading character, Mondo.

 

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But just how much of an ‘epic’ can it actually conjure via the endless arcade genre? Set in the world of Ream, inhabited by creatures that exist during the day and those of the night, Daydream will see players participate in Mondo’s seemingly bizarre belief that he’s meant to be a warrior of the DayKnights’ calibre; legendary knights who once put to rest a raging civil war between the day & night creatures of Ream. It is only when the Kingdom of Verdante opens its doors on account of a local soldier recruitment drive will players witness the poverty-stricken Shepherd actually act on that belief, by signing up for them with his best friends in tow.

As one would imagine then, this sets into motion a riveting narrative that will follow Mondo’s rise through the ranks and his subsequent adventures through the innards of Ream. Grand as that might sound, Joyseed reveal that Daydream: The Beginning will focus on only a fragment of that tale i.e. the Verdante trials. As Mondo, players will be tasked with commanding the Shepherd’s friends in attacking a multitude of multi-colored dummies — each designated to a particular character — as quickly as they can before the given timer runs out. Doing so extends the timer which aids players in establishing their highest scores.

Combine this with achievements, leader-boards and a market-place for a variety of costumes to deck Mondo and his characters in  — and one has with them a pocket escapade perfect for those mid-office breaks and bus rides. Fun, no doubt, but begging the question of why such an imposing idea of a tale would be granted such a humble start; as Joyseed Gametribe Founder Bernadus ‘Boy’ Dozan admits, its the team’s first joint attempt at creating a top-quality game with the highest degree of perfection possible. 

Having founded Joyseed Gametribe with a friend in January last year, Boy started off designing several small-scale endless racing and idle games — the majority of which were abandoned soon after his partner opted to quit the company in the months that followed. Disheartened before he’d barely begun, hope would finally arrive in the form of programmer Michael Sudjono, a programmer whose vision & passion Boy found aligned with his. Opting to start off small in scale while preserving quality of concept & art, the duo were quick to draw inspiration from casual action games such as Tower Boxing & Bishi-Bashi — devising Daydream’s universe & narrative within a few weeks of its inception, before establishing The Beginning’s game play mechanic, primary assets, character designs and even an early build.

 

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As luck would have it though, real life would throw itself in Sudjono’s way by August 2015, causing the programmer to leave Boy with continuing what the duo had started alone, until friends Joseph Putra Wibawa, Yediya Juan and Tommy Prayogo eventually found themselves on the team by September. Interestingly, Sudjono would indeed make it back months later but only as a freelance musician. ‘As a team, we have a lot to learn which is the primary reason for keeping Daydream’s start small’, admits Boy. ‘With The Beginning, our primary concern lies in delivering the most perfect, highest quality game possible by us  in all aspects regardless of size.  We’re hoping that its success and what we achieve via it sets the tone for the remainder of what we have planned for the Daydream IP.’ 

A quick look at the game’s concept art & other visual material on its social media profiles thus far, will reveal that this claim of pursuing quality seems to be in no way far-fetched. Citing Vanillaware‘s flawless art style as their primary inspiration, Daydream: The Beginning features fully hand-painted 2D art whose subsequent asset form is being programmed using Unity. The art alone in all fairness, only seems to amplify the appeal of Ream’s human dominated, medieval-themed world that has all the makings of modern-era civilization; Cars, Trains, Traffic Lights, Gyms, Barber Shops & the like.

Furthermore, while its no surprise that only a limited portion of it will be making an appearance within The Beginning, Joyseed’s description of Ream’s lore exudes intrigue. With the dominant population of humans serving as its Day creatures, Ream will comprise of up to four large territories namely Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, each with their own legends & history that stem from the planet’s light sources — the sun & the moon.

Now, with 70% of The Beginning’s pre-alpha version fleshed out — the team hopes to complete the game by May before entering it into this year’s Casual Connect Asia’s indie game talent showcase.‘We then hope to release the final game to the public by June — here’s hoping that date isn’t pushed back’, states Boy when asked about the game’s public release. As for its sequel? ‘We still haven’t thought the sequel through yet. One thing is certain though, The Beginning’s sequels will be much larger in scale and will at its core, continue to build on rhythm arcade. We are definitely going to be needing all the luck in the world for that!’

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While one can readily accept the usual onslaught of snippets from their journey on the community here, Joyseed also intend to be walking you through the game’s creative process from the very beginning as it has been doing on social media for a while — beginning with early character art, assets & more to ensure you are fully up to date with its progress regardless of current state. To be certain you don’t miss out on any of that then or should you wish to leave them your thoughts on their game for that matter, be sure to have yourself tuned in to their newly founded Higher Eclectic Space.

Footie Journo Hibberd Brings Mature Game Musings & Indie Support

News

From Sheffield, United Kingdom earlier this week, arrived the Community’s latest addition to its circle of independent Video Game writers in the form of Terry Hibberd. A Sports journalist and Video Game enthusiast who’s long learnt to merge his passion for the two by bringing about creative Video Game journalism, Hibberd debuted with with an interesting take on Ubisoft’s upcoming post-apocalyptic opus, The Division — one that evaluated it’s worth while taking into consideration prior delays &  the ongoing Beta hubbub.

Contrary to what one might assume though, the term ‘interesting’ emerges not out of the fact that Hibberd offered a never-seen-before evaluation of the game’s graphics, engine or any other pivotal aspect — but rather approached the subject from the less-hardcore perspective of a forty-something man (naturally, since he is one), praising it purely for but the Beta’s ability’s to draw players in for an indefinite amount of time before delivering an absolute blast of multiplayer action with friends. ‘As good as this title looks, it’s about getting stuck in and I don’t think you can ever do a Video Game title like this justice if you don’t do just that’, he wrote.

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READ: The Division…Worth The Wait?

It is this very sort of casual, ‘mature’ perspective that Hibberd hopes to maintain as he gets back into the saddle of Video Game writing via his blog, ‘The Musings of a Fortysomething’ — after having spent a large part of last year helping professional footballer, Jose Semedo of the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, promote his auto-biography ‘Win The Day’. By showcasing forthcoming written features that will focus on various popular Gaming trends & industry happenings on a regular basis, Hibberd hopes to not only inspire creative discussion within the Community, but also use 12 years of his experience with writing and PR in providing support to member indie game developers & other gaming artists that need it.

‘I just need to get back into it first’, he explains when asked about his plans on the same. ‘I enjoy gaming — it’s a distraction from ‘normality’. Writing helps me focus on things and now maybe even focus on gaming. I like to talk about games and I want to bring my conversational style to people who want to read about it! As for collaborating with the Game Developers & other gaming talent here, I’ll happily do so with anyone who needs some words to go with their pictures — be it interviews, features, reports, reviews, PR, and more; Just get in touch with me and we can work something out.’

Despite having harboured a strong passion for observing & writing about the things he observed for years, Terry Hibberd would commit to the art rather late in his life — after quite a few prods from the wife had eventually led him to Owls Online in 2004. A portal to England’s oldest football club, Sheffield Wednesday’s news & happenings, Owl Online would have Hibberd deliver periodic reports and more as a Staff Writer before eventually having him rise up to the post of an Editor in 2005. Subsequent years would see him not only earn an Honours degree in Journalism & Media from the University of Huddersfield, but also write for the official match-day magazines of popular English clubs such as Scunthorpe United, Doncaster Rovers, Birmingham City and AFC Halifax Town.

By 2012, his love for writing would finally lead him to articulate his views on his favourite Games. ‘My love of writing, my love of video games.. It seemed silly not to merge the two. When you’re passionate about something I think it was only fair to try and pass on that passion to others’, he states in retrospect. The years between 2012 & 2014 would then see Hibberd write for and moderate OldGamerz — a community for gamers middle-aged & aged — review Xbox360 games on TotallyGN, before eventually landing a role as Staff Writer & subsequent Xbox Department Head at console gaming website, Throwing Digital Sheep.

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READ: Hibberd’s review of PES 2015 as a writer at Throwing Digital Sheep.

The relationships forged by him therein with Gaming industry specialists, Developers & Publishers continue to be crucial to the functioning of the website, which he’d only end up leaving by mid-2015 due to personal commitments. ‘Gaming for me, began in 1982; when my Grandad bought a ZX Spectrum with 16k ram and that was it. Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, Match Day, and numerous other titles I could spend all day listing, were just amazing,’ recounts Hibberd with regards to his affection for gaming. ‘With their chip tunes and brash colours I looked forward even more to visiting my grandparents house and starting it up.’

‘I moved onto almost every available thing over the years after that, Sega Master System, Mega Drive (I was the first person in our town to own one!), Saturn, Dreamcast, Commodore 64, Amiga 600 & 1200, Atari ST & Lynx, a few PC’s starting with a very expensive DX266, Nintendo 64 and then every iteration of the Playstation and Xbox, onto — Xbox Live. And that was the thing that has kept me going since; Giving me a chance to return to gaming with my mates like we used to in my room as a teenager. We can still mess about like we are teenagers at times! ‘

Interestingly, as Hibberd explains, The Musings of a Fortysomething was already in existence by 2012 more out of need than a personal desire at the time. ‘I started it as a place to just put a bit of my work that I did for local businesses for the London 2012 Olympics. The website where they were first put was to be closed down within six months of the games’ finishing and I didn’t want the people who I had worked with to just be ‘dropped’.’Work’ here referring to articles he wrote on behalf of the Newham Barnsley Partnership — covering the Olympics from the perspective of businesses in Barnsley and their connection with the games. The Digital Media Bursary award was later bestowed on him for his work on the same.

A quick glance at the blog might reveal that besides covering a large plethora of subjects that go beyond games, Hibberd is yet to make the transition to his own web domain.‘It’s been a little bit of a side track, as most of what I do has been football or sport based, not so much about me… Or my thoughts.’, he confesses. I’ve written for others for a long time, not so much for myself — I do hope to be getting back into the thick of writing about Games now more than ever.’

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READ: Hibberd reviews Spec Ops: The Line as a writer at TotallyGN.

Coupling that with his willingness to providing the indie gaming community here with written & PR experience gathered from both the Gaming & Sports domain then, it will be rather interesting to see what his perspective and tenure on the Community brings. In between now owning & running Owls Online, sport blogging for iTV, feature interviewing for the Sheffield Wednesday match-day magazine, riding & tweeting about his motorbike and tending to Jose Semedo’s Public Relations — Hibberd has already been approached by members Alien Pixel and PointFive for written reviews of their games, Polandball: Can Into Space and RAM BOE respectively.

As he warns though, his writing style and/or opinions on games might take some getting used to. ‘My inspirations are what I see, who I see it with and how I can explain it to you; as close to how I’d describe it to you in a conversation. The downfall to this — My style may not be for all people, but I can accept that. We’re all different, life would be boring otherwise.’ As with all of our members, Terry Hibberd’s gaming articles & musings on the Community can now be tracked via his Higher Eclectic Space. For written coverage requests of your games & more, Xbox live hookups, PR tips or a simple chat, feel free to drop him a line down at the member forums or the comments below.

Grab Your Own Music to Die Alone In Space To Now

News

In a rather humble announcement earlier last month, long time Community member Bill Boulden alias DJ Spruke updated his Kickstarter following with news that his Space themed electronic musical, Music To Die Alone In Space To was now available for purchase via the iTunes, CD Baby and Spotify online marketplaces as three separate mixes. Although the musician only shared links to the US counterparts of those stores, he did later confirm availability in their international versions.

In news that might of greater interest to our members though, Boulden now expresses that while he’s more than willing to share rights on the purchased albums with you for use in your own independent Games, Blogs, YouTube channels & other Video Game creations, it would have to be done by approaching him personally for permission and then going through the required channels. Alternatively, as Boulden  continues to toil away at the personalized versions of the album that have been exclusive to his Kickstarter backers, he states that he is now open to a limited number of personalized album requests from the Higher Eclectic community.

While the price of these personalized albums would naturally differ from the $10 of the albums available on the online marketplace, members should take particular interest in them as they arrive with a Creative Commons license that provides the owner with complete & all rights over their usage — allowing free usage in games & other projects as stated by Boulden himself via an Anti-Copyright statement on his campaign’s page. Furthermore, while no two personalized albums sound the same — their owners are given complete freedom of choice over the cover art and voice artists they’d like featured on their exclusive albums.

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The news arrives over a month after the 22nd of December last year, when Spruke declared that he’d completed and QA’d to his satisfaction, the mixing, mastering and arrangement of the now publicly available Cepheus, Andromeda, & Tsuki No Usagi mixes of Music To Die Alone In Space To.  Each of these mixes also differ in voice artists & cover art based on the results of a two week poll that Spruke had subjected his campaign backers to — to help decide which three of the eleven voice artists & cover arts involved in the album’s creation would make it to the online marketplace.

This led to the Andromeda mix featuring Laura Bailey — whose body of work spans games such as the BloodRayne series, Persona 4, The Elder Scrolls V, Final Fantasy XIII & Halo 5 — as its lead voice artist, the Tsuki No Usagi mix featuring Laura Shigihara — sound designer & composer for Plants vs Zombies — and the Cepheus mix featuring Christopher Sabat of the Dragon Ball series. Artwork by independent digital artists Ashley Lange, Liz Nugent and Martyn Knapton meanwhile clad their respective covers.

‘Nearly all feedback has been critically excellent’, states Boulden when asked about the response the album’s public release has been garnering. ‘I think that largely as a reward for spelling out my target so clearly, and enumerating so precisely what this album was meant to do, there was very little room to deny that I hit the target quite accurately. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a genius album or musically incredible, but it is one way of doing things– Call your shots, tell people “This album is meant to sound exactly like A, B, C with restrictions D and E”, and then they know exactly what yardstick by which to measure your self-stated aims. And I do think I nailed those. It’s exactly what everyone wanted to be, I think because I prepared them very well for what it is.’

Music To Die Alone In Space To narrates — through first person speech and an emotional, introspective, psychedelic play of electronic music — the tale of an Astronaut lost out in Space after a rogue speck of dust disconnects them from their spaceship. Our tryst with the Buffalo based DJ came in the midst of the album’s Kickstarter campaign last September, which led to us showcasing its development here in the hope that our members would one day make use of it in their own Video Game work.

 

Adrift, the album’s first track with Chris Sabat on vocals.

The campaign’s biggest USP at the time, was that those who contributed above a certain amount would avail of personalized versions of Music To Die Alone In Space To that would be unique to them and them alone. ‘The personalized copies are licensed under a variant of the Creative Commons because when somebody buys an individual album, they deserve to own it in that legal sense too,’ states Boulden in explanation of that particular ingenuity. ‘They’re free to stream with it, make it the soundtrack to their game, use it in a college VR project and so on. All of these things are happening and I can’t wait to see the outsize impact these individual copies will have.’

The album’s tenure on the Community for the past five months then, has been filled with exclusive renders of tracks provided by Spruke himself, an exclusive hearing of the album in its pre-release entirety & even a revealing interview with the man himself where he discussed inspirations & more. It’s worth noting that now with the online marketplace releases behind him, Boulden nears 2,000 of the 3,700 tracks needed to compile the final set of personalized albums which he hopes to send out by April.

That and that he’s now looking to put together a music video for the album — solicitations for which have already begun via his Kickstarter page. ‘Am I losing my mind? Yes. As I typed this, Distant’s 186th render is sounding off right next to me… the hundred-and-eighty-sixth variation of this “I’m losing my mind out here, I’m dying” that I’ve heard,’ he adds, in reference to one of the many tracks from the album, Distant. ‘It’s getting so hard to hear the forest for the trees. And yet the tracks keep having surprises for me. I scramble the RNG again, I try putting a new effects plugin on a pad that didn’t have one before – saying, oh, for 15 renders let’s try that pad Flanged instead of Distorted – and suddenly it’s a new beast. This is the 1,865th variant of any MTDAIST track I’ve exported so far. And this is the halfway point! Right now I want to get out of this with my musical sanity intact and make sure everyone is satisfied.’

Naturally, it is to be a while before we hear of Boulden exploring anything of this scale and size again. When not lurking around our member forums from time to time, he can also be caught going Bump In The Night — a weekly podcast that sees him decorate the Internet with electro & house mixes every Monday. As always, any forthcoming announcements and major developments in relation Spruke and Music To Die Alone In Space To can be found on his Higher Eclectic Space. Do take a walk down there to celebrate how far he’s come.

 

 

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READ: In Conversation With DJ Spruke, 15 October, 2015.

 

Requests or queries regarding personalized albums can be left by contacting Spruke personally or via the aforementioned Bulletin. Not a member of Higher Eclectic Ground? Drop us a line and we’ll sort you out. Bought & listened to the album already? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.

Planting The Jungles of Acacia

Features

Indie developers, Evlox Studio’s debut on the Community earlier this week was met by significant intrigue — brought about in fullness, by its mammoth vision of an open-world, post-apocalyptic narrative in the form of Children of Acacia.

Promising a narrative set in the technologically dependent world of the not too distant future, Children of Acacia will have players commence on a journey as two of several of the children that reside in the unaffected, fictional jungles of Acacia — after a supposedly fail-proof, terra-forming AI program designed to remodel the Earth in the event that nation-wide hell breaks loose, goes rogue. Citing Shadow of Colossus & Sony Computer Entertainment’s open world outings as primary inspirations, the third-person epic aims to infuse the survival genre with an emotionally-fuelled narrative that will have fans trot across the world, facing beasts, hunting & crafting items in their quest to restore balance to humanity.

Glorious as that might sound, Creator & Level Designer at Evlox Studios, Ryan Tucker admits its inception was anything but. ‘It started out as any other game — an idea’, he explains, in retrospect. ‘An idea that at the time, involved much of the same plot but simply required the player to travel the world and destroy the AI program., Cyrus. But as we progressed, we began to realise that things were too simplistic — the plot and its narrative, lacked thrill. And so we began adding to things, that subsequently led us to redo all our designed maps before finally finding what we wanted.’ Interestingly, this realization came shortly around New Year — with the team opting to put together the game’s core mechanics soon after.

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One of the screenshots put out by the team as core design progressed earlier this year.

As made apparent by Tucker, there were two primary additions brought about by the rest of the team within the period that will add to the uniqueness set by the narrative. The first of these, is a Companion game play system. ‘While the plot itself is an embodiment of the concept of a lone ranger against the world, it will focus largely on two characters; Teen and child, as they are forced out of their home to face a world so mysterious and vast’, states Tucker in explanation of the Companion System. ‘While the player will be in control of one of these characters, the eldest, the presence of a sibling will impact players by forcing them to focus on the survival of their accompanying relative. Which of course, adheres to the narrative’s emphasis on relationships.’

The Companion System will also play a vital role during encounters with creatures mutated as a result of Cyrus’ failure, that populate the game’s universe via the game’s second major addition to its concept — a Global Monster System. Serving to task players with utilising their immediate environment & crafted tools to their advantage, the Global Monster System will see them rely heavily on the Companion system to strategize and take down beasts  — by having the two protagonists interact with one another to bring about a combined variety of fighting styles.

‘For instance, taking on ‘Rock Giants requires both. One could be climbing the back while the other distracts’, mentions Tucker. Would this interaction between the two protagonists during combat be facilitated via co-op, single-player switching or derive from The Last of Us where the two protagonists would sometime come together in combat scenarios despite the player being in control of one? ‘ It would be similar yes, but at the same time a lot more different that what other games have tried doing. There’s certain details to how the mechanics and such will play out — which we’re still actively looking into before disclosing much.’

Without disclosing much about what the plot itself will entail meanwhile, Tucker alludes to the fact that besides it being emotionally dense — Acacia’s tale will entail its share of twists and will be playable both in Linear style wherein players head from one plot point to another without deviation, or open world where players can explore the world, hunt, craft & more. Details on the hunting & crafting however, are yet to be revealed.

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More from the game’s core design stage.

The team had announced during their debut on the Community that Children of Acacia would arrive on the PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Not altogether of course, as Tucker clarifies, ‘ Our first focus is to implement our game on PC through Steam to see how well the game settles into the marketplace. When the game is a success, we will push out onto the Xbox, PS4, and PS3 for a physical release into the marketplace. We’ve had experience with the ID@Xbox program and are hoping this helps us in getting validated by Microsoft, although a PlayStation release will have to wait for much later given Sony’s rather stringent criteria on games published on PSN.’

As one would imagine then, a lot of work awaits the team on what is clearly an ambitious outing. Only a month into the game’s development that has been spread out by what the team state is a 15 stage development plan — the team are just past stage one that entailed them constructing the base design of the game’s maps along with character control schemes to blend into them. As Tucker states, Stage Two is to be the longest most gruelling period of the game’s life cycle given that it primarily involves fleshing out the game’s various assets, art, models and mechanics, completion of the character control system & devising scripts to ensure its smooth interaction with the game world — prior to its first playable demo.

Those who caught the team’s debut earlier this week on the Community, have already caught a glimpse of how this second stage has been coming along — by way of Children of Acacia’s first ever concept artwork put together by Robin Eyre. A welcome deviation from the bland screenshots of the game’s core design as seen earlier, the concept art in question had not only served to depict the game’s introductory sequence but also set the tone for the rest of Acacia’s art style.

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Children of Acacia’s first concept art, illustrating its introductory sequence.

Naturally, I was more than curious to learn of the inspiration & direction behind a concept that had seemingly taken form out of nowhere. ‘I think my inspirations with regards to the game’s art style lies in pondering on the Native Americans, Indians and what they would look like in a future world where Nature took over technology’, he elaborated. ‘I  wasn’t given that much art direction when I started, so I took it upon myself to prove to Ryan (Tucker) that this world is ‘real’. What would I find in this world? Survival is a long way from thriving, survival boils down to simplicity and durability. There is no room for comfort. I want the world to feel dangerous yet intriguing enough to make you WANT to give it a shot to survive there and explore. ‘

Soon after, the team took to debut Children of Acacia’s first character concept art as seen in the titular image of this article. Named ‘Kya Feng’, the team also proceeded to reveal that the character shown therein was the Female protagonist from a choice of male/female protagonists that the player will be able to choose from at the start of the game. Both characters will have their own brother or sister. ‘I had actually asked Ryan (Tucker) to let me have a go at the designs first before he enforced his ideas. My idea behind Kya Feng was to go with earthy colors but to also add a strong colour code for identifying her, mainly the blue/turquoise markings in her face’, describes Eyre in relation to his work on Feng. ‘I was thinking a lot of Pocahontas as I started to paint her — always thinking what she would look like in that day and age. Since its about survival as well, I had to make her thinner than I normally paint my female characters.’

As for his vision of Acacia’s final art style? ‘I think its hard to tell at this stage what its final art will look like, since I’m new with Evlox Studio and helping Ryan(Tucker) find his vision. But I want to mix beauty and danger, a sense of wonder and horror. This is a brutal but beautiful world — just like our own, we need to push the boundaries. Realism has to be the anchor, both art wise and with respect to how the world works — and yet our imaginations must bring in new creatures and unforgettable environments. I think that is where I can help Evlox Studio alot. My style is realism/styalized, I love doing Sci-Fi and fantasy, I love details and the lack there of.’

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Say hello to Kya Feng.

A question some within the indie community here might harbour is if & how the game is being funded. It isn’t at the moment and as Tucker agrees, a significant amount will be needed to put into effect the game’s desired quality — all in due time. A Kickstarter campaign very much falls within the 15 stage development plan, with the team hoping to take their game onto the crowd-funding platform post 75% of its completion. This they believe, will also provide them with a true idea of how their game will eventually be received.

‘The biggest challenge as of right now are making deadlines which are crucial, but they have not held us back as each and every one of us are working even harder daily to get what we need done and in top quality,’ confides Tucker. ‘With our drive being focused on something entirely new we also know people want to see something that will pull them in, make them want to play the game, and at the end make them say, “This game was awesome. I might play it again.” Hopefully, you won’t have to wait to get a glimpse of that. Our first demo in itself will be an icon of truth, as we display exactly what we are about in a way that rivals AAA gameplay.’

In the meantime, its worth noting that Tucker & his team will be looking for an assortment of talent to take on board from within the Community, having already reached out to member 2D artist Urte alias Zzjkaawhose DotA 2 art has led to ongoing negotiations to have her on board as a concept artist alongside Robin Eyre. More on that as it unfolds; as always, more on the team, the game and its progress will be documented in great detail via its Higher Eclectic Space here on the Community, through the course of which both the team & us will be bringing you insight into the others aspects of the game as they flesh out. Tucker and his crew of course will be seen lurking on our good old member forums so be sure to give them a shout. This is going to be interesting.

 

 

Introducing Sam Oz

News

With 20 years of experience in original music composition — inclusive of which has been work on Valiant Hearts, Child of Light, Assassins Creed & more recently, The Division — French composer Sam Oz is now a part of Higher Eclectic’s indie music fraternity.

Proficient in playing the Drums, Piano, Guitar, Ukulele, Djembe and Xylophone among the more modern Computer-based music software, Oz will now be seen bringing the indie Game community herein his original music work from projects past & forthcoming with exclusive insight into their formation, in an attempt to appeal to its Game Developers, Artists, YouTubers & other game talent present.

It’s been over two years since Oz parted ways with Ubisoft, he states, choosing not to go into his reasons solely in respect of his agreement with the Game Development giant. In the months that ensued, Oz turned indie — working on numerous, as yet unreleased independent games & animated shorts that have spanned genres such as action-adventure, horror, futuristic, retro & even a personal tribute to Studio Ghibli.. His latest project, Gadan Games’ My Last Friday is set to launch a Kickstarter campaign soon.

‘The indie scene offers a lot more freedom and artistic expression — and free expression is what I’m constantly seeking. A large number of quality projects are created by the indie community alone and at this point of my life, I have a deep-rooted desire to be amidst it’, he confides. His relationship with music began by learning the Drums, which soon progressed to the Guitar, Ukulele and eventually, Computer Aided Music. ‘It has been  a whole 20 years playing music in a multitude of styles. Despite being particularly fond of classical music, I also create pop-rock, metal, ethnic & electro music to name a few.’

As is customary of every artist here, Oz will now be seen building a presence within the community — opting to kick things off with a tune that couldn’t be more apt for this time of the year. Unnamed, this little number was composed by the maestro himself for one of The Division’s first trailers to hit the Internet back in 2014 after its E3 2013 debut.

Oz’s thoughts about the piece though, are surprising. ‘It was not my best project because I was leaving shortly after I started working on it. I still wanted to do more, add more to it so that it could match The Division’s universe — but sadly, I never got to finish it to my liking. Moreover, this track music is not in the final OST despite it being in one of Ubisoft’s first trailers for the game.’

Fascinating isn’t it? Expect a lot more insight into his work as he blends into the community here. ‘I’m comfortable with a variety of genres and look forward to collaborating with some of the other exceptional indie game musicians & game developers here’, he admits. Meanwhile, Oz now has his own Higher Eclectic Spacewhich contains an elaborate summary of his work & capabilities while also serving to document his posts on the community henceforth.

Of course, all of this is so that he can contribute to your own creations — Games, YouTube channels, you name it — at rates that he states are more than flexible and that vary on the basis of budget & size of the indie game entity hiring him. Be sure you get down there and give him a shout via the member forums, The Bulletin, now.

Isle of Bass’ February: Deep Dark Beginnings

News

With the month of January well past us, Community music partners Isle of Bass send in yet another artist to bask under February’s spotlight. And just as last month — where they spruced things up by sending the Community its first vocalist in the form of the beautiful, Kathryn MacLean — things are to turn rather eclectic with the arrival of a rather uncommon genre.

Meet Steve-Phillips Durandal, better known by his stage name, Durandal. An American music producer since 2011, while Durandal harbours both affinity & talent within the Bass & Hip-Hop genres, his biggest draw lies in Dubstep, which he infuses with a sound so specific that it transforms itself into a sub-genre not too known amidst causal EDM circles — Deep or Dark Dubstep. And yet still, that hasn’t stopped his work from picking up within a label that is known primarily for its feet-tapping EDM, Drum, Bass & traditional electronic mixes.

‘Deep Dubstep is not a genre we feature often and so naturally, I am surprised by the positive response his music has received’, explains label co-founder & executive Craig MacLeod Evans. ‘He emailed me a few years back asking to promote a remix of Six Underground’s Sneaker Pimps & our relationship grew from there. Not only did he end up bringing a few more of his friends onto the label but also caused our audience to ask for more of his style. That remix ultimately became one of his most popular tracks within the label as well.’

With Durandal’s presence on the Community of course, comes the opportunity to collaborate with him. Every Sunday until the end of February, the Isle of Bass will be bringing you one of his top original compositions to either use for your own projects or enable you to grab an understanding of his capabilities — beginning with an ode to one of classic Horror’s renowned tales, Stephen King’s Carrie.

Titled Deception, Durandal’s first exhibit on the community was part of his 2014 released, 5-track Night Terror EP — wherein every track sampled bits and pieces from the producer’s favourite horror flicks. ‘I wanted to make it deep and dark, while telling the story of Carrie’s friends deceiving her’, explains Durandal in reference to Deception.  ‘I felt like that was the best way to portray the story in her eyes.’

 

Intrigued? Should you wish to use this track or commission him for any Dubstep, Bass or Hip-Hop compositions for your forthcoming projects — Durandal has for himself his own Higher Eclectic Space that brings you the latest from not only his Soundcloud, but also contains all the information one would require to get in touch with him in addition to the original compositions we feature. Be sure to tune back in next week for even more Dark.

Isle of Bass is an independent music label covering genres spanning DnB, dubstep and electro, with an ideology similar to that of ours – to showcase independent talent in need of appreciation. Every month, the label brings the Community one of its most trending artists — providing our independent gaming members with access to unique electronic talent. To learn more & even learn of prior artists features, drop by the label’s Partners’ page.

 

Towers, Personal Strife & TinyWars

Features

Friday, the 5th of February not only brought along with it the Community’s first member independent game of the Tower Defense genre but also one of its most enigmatic yet; promising a journey of personal strife & character growth intertwined with Tower Defence at its core, the vision and passion of Bizurk Software’s TinyWars was described in but words on our Facebook page, while offering only a sample of what the game’s mobile marketplace banner would look like as a visual supplement.

With its prototype put together in mid-2015, TinyWars is described by its creator & CEO of Bizurk, Andrew Taraba as a tale that is both easy to fathom and complex in lore, about people that are tiny, and their wars, which are also relatively tiny. Set within the imaginary kingdom of Tiny that happens to be under relentless attack from as yet unnamed forces, the game narrates the tale of Mary, a Tiny resident who faces a subsequent metamorphosis into a matured being on her quest to liberate herself & those around her from bloodshed.

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The Many Emotions Of Mary.

While the game itself promises to opt for fewer, meticulously detailed levels over multiple smaller ones, it makes no claims of innovating the Tower Defence genre in anyway. Having mulled over the game’s concept for years on end, when Taraba did put together the game’s prototype it turned out to be nothing more than basic — Red Squares vs Blue Squares, as he fondly recalls. And yet despite that, the fact that it worked was a testament of the sense his vision held, encouraging him and the others to work on it further.

‘Tower defense has been tried many times before, and I guess I could consider myself a tower defense expert’, Taraba explains. ‘I notice a lot of indie gamers tend to create a gameplay engine as their first step into the game, but we seemed to have a bit of a backwards approach. Since Tower Defense is a relatively regular genre, we don’t expect to make any ground breaking gameplay mechanics in the world of tower defense games. Many have tried and there’s a point where it either is no longer even tower defense or it’s just wacky weird one off type of game that couldn’t branch out into its own sub-genre. Our aim is pretty humble in that we just want to make a good, challenging tower defense title. I know tower defense very very well, I know what’s challenging, what’s annoying, having planned the game’s design with all of that in mind.’  

I, on the other hand, was more intrigued by the game’s claim of comprising a narrative that held parallels with life; it it is after all, not often one hears of a Tower Defense game pledging personal growth of its players. ‘We aim to bring the challenge level of TinyWars to a higher degree, requiring users to not mindlessly place towers but to carefully think, budget, and place their units wisely’, states Taraba in response.  ‘Part of growing up means one must learn to manage their finances wisely. One must learn when to speak up and when to be quiet, when the right time to act is and when it’s not the right time to set out your most powerful unit. Careful consideration must be put into all of your “moves” in life. And that it can be at times, impossible to predict what will be in the “next wave” that life throws at you. All these things must be taken into account, when one is playing the game.’

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Sample Level Render.

Interestingly, despite being 6 months into its development stint — that has so far witnessed original character designs, animations, assets & a lovely live orchestral soundtrack take form — the team has managed to garner a reasonably large following on social media without even delving into the finer details of the game’s tale or mechanics. This appreciation from the indie game community, seems to have stemmed out of a rather deep-rooted fascination for the protagonist, Mary’s design.

This of course, in no way means the team intend to keep the veil on for longer. As Taraba clarifies, ‘We want to build our fan base, that is what is most important to us in this early stage. To gather fans on our social media, so we can reveal content to them, get honest feedback, and continue to work towards the eventual release, knowing full well that the game has fans that are waiting for us to complete it and release it. We certainly will release more regarding specific details of the story, some test screen shots, and maybe some more artwork of the game’s characters! ‘

Taraba however does admit that despite the project’s being being funded by Bizurk Software — said funding does have a fast-achievable limit. ‘We may at some point reach out to a sponsor for funding or even crowd funding, it all depends on how much we can accomplish with our own funds. If we do get to a point where money is too tight and we can no longer make progress but we can see the end of the tunnel is near, then we may begin a crowdfunding campaign or work a deal with a potential sponsor. It’s unlikely that the project will be abandoned now that we have put so much effort, time and money into it.’

Additionally, Taraba also hints at the possibility of not only pairing up with other developers to further the game’s progress — but also utilising the talents of YouTubers both in and beyond the Community, especially with the game’s first demo now in the works. This demo, scheduled to arrive sometime in 2016 as soon as character, art & asset design reaches closure, will more than anything serve to put on display the team’s original, creative progress thus far and hopefully appeal to a few potential sponsors.

Either way, it’s already looking to be an illustriously vibrant ride ahead on the PC, Android & iOS. Be sure you keep an eye out for their progress via their Higher Eclectic Space, while also feeling free to leave them your feedback via the member forums, the Bulletin, or the comments below.

AlienPixel & Their Polandball Trip To Space

News

Bucharest, Romania based indie game developers, AlienPixel & their single player expansion of the Polandball universe are the latest in a lineup of new additions to Higher Eclectic Ground’s Indie Game community.

Co-founded by Andrei Jifcovici & Sergiu Craitoiu at a local McDonald’s back in June, 2015 — the team constituent of ex-Electronic Arts Romania employee Andrei Simion, veteran music composer Lex Dumitru and freelancing graphic designer Ingrid Juncanariu, debuted here on the 3rd of February with the trailer that accompanied their game’s Play Store release on the 5th of January from earlier this year.

Based on the Polandball internet meme turned comic series — that constitutes spherical balls representative of the world’s various countries mocking each other’s stereotypes, history & doings in broken English — Polandball: Can Into Space features Poland’s own country ball on its quest to reach the moon, despite the constant mockery of other countries. Players of course, must pilot said quest while in control of a near-defunct rocketship — navigating other countries, mid-air junk, collecting money & parts along the way.

These parts & money come in handy considering that making it to the moon in a single go is impossible; players will run out of fuel, crash & burn several hundreds of times — returning to their little garages to tweak and buy new parts for their rockets each time before trying again. However as Alien Pixel themselves state, not all of the 25, visually intricate country balls are present to harm the player — meaning users will have to learn to use the friendly ones to their advantage. Moreover the customization itself is rather layered, with the rocket comprising of 9 tiers of tech that can be upgraded with several of the available 56 items and ‘attributes.’

Can Into Space was the direct result of an idea to create a Countryball inspired game, as harboured by music composer Dumitru whom Jifcovici had convinced Craitoiu into meeting back in June last year. Before they knew it, a team was being formed — one that went through two different artists until Ingrid Juncanariu came their way and designed the game’s core art style in but a couple of weeks.

It was here however, Craitoiu admits, where the team made their biggest mistake — opting to wait until game completion to market their game, for fear of their Intellectual Property being stolen or criticised before it even came to fruition. This fear carried on well into Ubisoft’s November Game Jam last year, wherein the team kept to themselves to develop on their Can Into Space’s mechanics & art without interacting or marketing it to any of the industry specialists present there.

Craitoiu and the rest of the team’s eyes would open only post stumbling upon a chance article on the internet after the event, one that advised indie developers on marketing their games. It was here that the game started to not only develop for itself a full-fledged website, but merchandise, a social media presence and eventually a video trailer — before debuting on Steam Greenlight along with a Google Play release on the 6th of January this year. Greenlight approval arrived in less than a month. with Craitoui going on to document the team’s experiences with botched marketing for others to learn from via an article on Gamasutra.

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READ: Marketing Ideas For Your Indie Game By Sergiu Craitoiu

Now, post applying for an Apple App Store release last weekend pending approval, the team intend to move into the game’s Steam release phase — in preparation for its Early Access release sometime by the end of February or early March. This Early Access release of course, stems out of the team’s desire to add more to the gameplay in terms of both missions and achievements — the progress of which will be shared by means of screenshots, video snippets and more on the Community here.

Additionally, they will also be on the lookout for both YouTubers & Writers both within and outside the community — in the hopes of them streaming, covering and providing honest feedback on Can Into Space. To follow all of that and learn more about the game’s history, development and features then — be sure to tune in to their newly created Higher Eclectic Space here. Those willing to get in touch with them can do so by dropping them an e-mail or via our member forums, the Bulletin.

Polandball: Can Into Space is now available as a free download on the Android Store. Be sure to give it a whirl and leave the team your thoughts on the game in the comments below.