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An Architecture of Love, Obsession & The Crystals of PHERA

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A mythological spin on the often interdependent sentiments of friendship, love and betrayal built on an action-adventure RPG core, LUCID is a platformed, exploratory quest of the last of the remaining Sentinels to hunt down every LUCID Crystal fundamental in the reconstruction of the LUCID Giant’s heart, his eventual resurrection and the restoration of spiritual balance to the planet of PHERA.

Comp 1_00360Currently at a stage that sees the core of its mechanics developed and functional, young architect Eric Manahan’s first solitary voyage into game development is now part of the Higher Eclectic network as of the 19th of April this year, wherefrom it will now be documenting the entirety of its journey to final release.

A letter to Manahan’s childhood, LUCID is set to be your typical fast-paced 2D platformer that necessitates all the mid-adventure management and utilization of stamina, skills and attack strategies amid the vividly pixelated world of PHERA; The plot that surrounds both its own lore and that of its creator’s though, isn’t so ordinary.

The Crystal Energy permeated universe created by Manahan, wherein takes place the events that are to comprise the 2D action-adventure RPG, differs not much from our own in its notions of spirituality, religious beliefs or its lust for science. When the denizens of the planet PHERA disavow meditation and worship under either of the universe’s creators, The Celestial Giants, for the less spiritual means of harnessing Crystal Energy through the use of advanced machinery, each of the Giants face a downward spiral in their embodying energies.

Comp 1_00230As PHERA’s inhabitants proliferate under the successful utilization of Crystal Technology over time, the dwindling of the Creators’ significance is further compounded by a battle centred on love and lust between them — which eventually culminates in the LUCID Giant’s destruction and shattering into Crystal rain over the planet.

Meant to be illustrated via a cryptic narrative with its fair share of twists and turns, this mythological premise of the game is accentuated by the birth of a mysterious crystal permeated boy named OENN many generations later who, one must set out as players of the game in search of the LUCID Crystals that are to finally restore balance to a technology consumed PHERA.

While the adventure that ensues is intended to encompass traditional, quick paced platformed action demanding the use of stamina dependent running, melee and long range attacks — portions of which have been effectively teased by the developer via handheld recorded videos — the heart of LUCID’s gameplay  lie in the mastery of the Crystal Arts. Unlocked via the collection of both LUCID Crystals and LUCID Shards — the latter of which serve as in-game currency — up to three Crystal Art tiers stand to be mastered, each providing players with up to two choices of upgradable skills.

Comp 1_00187The mandate of only one skill being allowed per tier further allows for users to mix and match available skills to create their own running & gunning rendition of OENN. Collectables and artefacts meanwhile adorn the mysterious planet of PHERA which in turn open doors to new areas and secondary skills — all of which come into play in combat against uniquely crafted bosses as well as in the solving of a plethora of in-game puzzles.

What makes all of the above fascinating is that not just the mythological lore, but every aspect both game play or otherwise is the brainchild and eventual construction of one single man’s imagination and skill. Besides coding and designing LUCID’s visuals and pixel art, musically adept Eric Manahan is also composing the original soundtrack that will supplement players’ journey through the Crystal permeated atmosphere of PHERA. Which begs the question, how does a full-time Architect find himself at the helm of a 2D RPG’s mythos?

By being a closet Game Development enthusiast for half his life. A gaming fanatic that grew up harbouring the ambition of making games for a living, Manahan attributes the ‘advice’ of those around him to pursue a more respectable and secure career path, to him riding the train to Architecture. ‘But the call never left me; it was inevitable’, he states. ‘ In the beginning of my Senior Year of Architecture School in 2012, I was working late into the night — around about 3 a.m. which was not really uncommon for us.’

Comp 1_00045But during one of my 15 minute breaks I was perusing the internet and came across a game that was made by one person — I didn’t know that was an option!  I began looking into how to develop games on my own, and found things called Construct, Game Maker, and Unity.  I settled on the Game Maker software because it seemed to be the right medium for for me at the time.’

Deciding that the game he wanted to play and conjure would be a cross breed of childhood favourites such as The Legend of Zelda,  Megaman X, Super Metroid and Dark Souls, Manahan set about brainstorming mechanics, researching design and earning his first lesson in Game Design from an episode of YouTuber Egoraptor’s Sequelitis series, that discussed with humour the intricacies of Mega Man Classic and its sequel Mega Man X.

By 2013, while Manahan was still learning to put Game Design and Game Maker theory to use, OENN was being born in an erratic character sketch by the student of Architecture. Therefrom began LUCID’s true journey, which would face up to three iterations in the year between 2014 and 2015;

Comp 2_00330The first iteration in 2013 being entirely too ambitious,‘ Manahan recalls. ‘Sprites were at 256×256, HD graphics, the works —  So I scaled it down to 128×128.  At this point I was still a novice so I stuck with this sprite size and continued developing LUCID — I even managed to get several of LUCID’s mechanics working, not efficiently, but working. About a year into it though life happened — I finished school, I moved into the city, I got a job.  LUCID unfortunately was put on hold.’

The obsession he portrayed during the game’s initial iteration however remained imbibed in his girlfriend’s memory, who consequently proceeded to usher him towards picking up the project and continuing on the track he’d set out on in 2014. ‘So I started again — from scratch,’ he continues. ‘I scaled the sprites down to about 16×16, I had already done many of the mechanics so I knew what problems I would face and how to fix them. I changed the architecture of the game engine; It was cleaner and more efficient.  I was astounded that within 4 weeks I had surpassed what had taken me a year the last time around.’ 

This continued all the way through the summer of 2015, around about which Manahan finally decided to feature more frames, animations and 32×32 sprite sizes in what is set to be the final build of LUCID. ‘From there I’ve just kept pushing, learning and working hard.  I am now more conscious of not diving into a hole of obsession and regulate my time a bit more — It is a much healthier development cycle.’

Comp 1_00041Now, amid the full-time job of its creator, LUCID continues to work its way towards the light. ‘Progress is good. Core mechanics are done and so are basic movements, upgrades, skills, progress saving, dialogue systems, cut scene systems, and menu systems,’ evaluates Manahan who since last month, operates under the alias of Matte Black Studio.

Besides progressively building on animations, aesthetics and variables to improve overall game play, the Architect mentions that the game’s Prologue Level which in many ways functions as a Tutorial, is now nearing completion. Following this, he hopes to dive into a full-fledged crusade to flesh out the rest of PHERA’s world, levels, narrative display and populace.

‘All while I continue to build my internet presence by going to gaming conventions and the like over the ensuing year’, he reveals. ‘Once I have enough varied enemies and environments I hope to develop a more elaborate trailer, create official promo art and start to look into crowd-funding the game’s finishing and Steam Greenlight debut. Members and followers of Higher Eclectic Ground meanwhile, can expect to witness all of it come to life via conceptual artwork, animations, gameplay footage and more.’

Note that while Manahan finds himself confident in furnishing LUCID’s journey by himself, he stands open to collaboration requests from other artists in the development of promotional artwork down the game’s life-cycle. Till then, while we brace for our first look at the game’s prologue that is soon to come, be sure you visit the Higher Eclectic Space wherein LUCID’s forthcoming journey can now be monitored.

Playing RAM BOE

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‘His soul broke free from the cage and wandered off in search of his former body. After a while, his search proved in vain and the only haven he found was a lost Ram grazing on a piece of grass under the melted snow. Taking refuge in the being, Boe quickly realised that he wasn’t the only one there. All around him were ice prisons; Adventurers, children, lost animals with souls weaker than his own that needed his help to be free once more — a task that soon became Boe’s duty. And so our adventure begins, Boe becoming Ram Boe in his quest to be the mountain hero.’

ss_12fe8055e7455051ed1903ddec6de0274033e4a5.1920x1080RAM BOE’s premise is one that has been articulated plenty of times in a multitude of wordplay variations amid the Community’s member base herein; advertised as an indie casual puzzle by developers PointFive Team and now available both on Steam & the Google Play Store, RAM BOE follows the tale of one adventurer Beauregard Pete deep within the fictitious mountains of Helvegen. In constant search of adrenaline, Pete’s rock climbing exploits lead him to ‘bigger game’ at the top of the mountains where as one would expect, things go horribly wrong.

Confronted and defeated by the Ice Jotun, a giant based in Norse mythology, called Thrym, Pete’s soul is condemned to eternal entrapment with the beast’s many ice prisons. Strong as his soul is regarded to be however, the adventurer soon manages to free his spirit which he then enforces upon a passing Ram — setting into motion a quest to free similar souls who have fallen victim to the monster over the years. Strangely though, the introductory cut-scene is only the second-to-last time one hears about the Jotun, Pete or the remainder of the plot.

The reason for this sadly being that there exists no plot or narrative whatsoever. Inspired in game play by the retro puzzle Sokoban, a basic yet challenging mind bender that tasked players with moving crates to predetermined spots within a warehouse back in the 1980’s, RAM BOE has players moving blocks/ice prisons on a platform floating high up in the Mountains into a singular spot known as the mystical ‘Well of Revival’. This not only serves to usher Beauregard to the next level of gameplay, but also leads players to believe that it helps release the souls confined to those blocks.

Through each of the 40 levels on offer, the layout of the iced platform cleverly changes along with the number, arrangement and positions of the blocks. Each block is identified by a minimally designed pattern of a specific color, with blocks of the same coloured patterns unitable into one.  Once only a single block exists for each pattern, these individual blocks need to be moved into the Well while navigating around missing tiles and edges of the platform — that cause the player to fail the level should Boe or a patterned cube fall into the abyss below — along with useless ‘Broken’ blocks that can be thrown over to clear the way.

Players do this against a myriad of clever block arrangements, a reasonable timer and the occasional randomizing bolt of lightning that drops random cubes on the platform as the timer runs — summoning players to work faster in the process. Make a move that could potentially be irreversible and the game warns you against it, providing even the option to undo a limited number of moves as one goes along.

It’s safe to say, that it is in its puzzles where the game eloquently shines. The lack of a definite difficulty graph allows for strings of difficult levels to be interspersed with easier ones and vice versa, which in turn makes for very entertaining-cum-challenging puzzle solving; the arduousness of puzzles of course, being subjective to a player’s proficiency with puzzles to begin with. The timer adjusts itself with regards to the complexity of the level and time allotted never feels too little or too much.

Screenshot_2016-04-02-19-21-01On the Android version of the game, Boe is navigated on the battlefield via on-screen buttons; A single tap on the directional arrows is meant to move the adventurer turned bighorn a single step in either direction. This rudimentary character navigation however did not sit well with me; each on-screen arrow on the mobile screen does’t exactly correspond to a direction relative to the Ram’s position, but rather to a direction relative to that of the camera.

For instance, tapping left doesn’t move Beauregard to his immediate left but to what is the camera’s left instead. As a result, the ability to move this camera around a full 360 degrees to attain a better view over level obstacles made for some rather annoying instances wherein I’d tap right expecting the Ram to turn to his right — only to have him turn in a completely different direction and fall from the platform altogether. Not exactly a welcome scenario at the final few of a mind-boggling 20 minute level.

Thankfully, the issue is less prominent in the PC version — which is  a lot more comfortable and lot less frustrating to play on — particularly because one doesn’t need to move the camera around all that much thanks to a wider field of view. On checking with the team if the issue had been brought up before, I was told that although majority of the beta-testers attested to having no issue, there were a minor few who did find the controls uncomfortable on mobile devices.

Either way, it was particularly joyous to witness the game cast the illusion of me winning over it when I seemed to breeze through 4-5 levels with relative ease, before it would hurl at me a stage so challenging that I’d spend nearly half an hour scratching my head amid the constantly ticking clock, an abnormal number of ‘Broken’ blocks that I had to first figure how to get rid of and my favourite bolt of lightning that constantly added to my plate as the timer ran. That being said, the joy that I drew from passing an enormously challenging level was celebrated only by myself. as the game provided no reward or indication of where I was truly headed by combating each puzzle.

This was of course, the absence of the RAM BOE’S promised narrative coming into play. While the introductory cut-scene might have one believe that their puzzle solving eventually builds up to a major plot point, transpiration of narrative events or the like — there happens to be no such thing. The only cut scene that does crop up after the introduction is after level 20, which merely serves to announce that levels 21-40 are to take place at Night in-game, and that the Spirits rescued by Boe are to light the way therefrom. Disappointingly there’s no return, conclusion or mention of the plot even after coursing through all of the game’s 40 levels.

As discussed with the team after my play-through of the game, RAM BOE unfortunately lacks any sense of player motivation or direction. Besides an urge to challenge one’s immediate mental capacity via a few smart puzzles, there seemed to be no apparent reason to return to the game or even see it through. I’d have liked for the plot to unravel itself or even progress in the most basic of fashions after each set of 10 levels via cutscenes, that would at least have lent purpose to my advancement through the game.

Screenshot_2016-03-21-11-11-44This absence of direction is further accentuated by RAM BOE not wanting to explain fundamental aspects of its game play, causing me to doubt their significance; Points are accumulated for each block pushed into the Well and deducted at the end of a round for any retries, while beating a level by a certain margin on the timer grants one a bonus or so it is assumed.

However, how large this margin must be to attain a bonus, where this bonus is added or whether it even is a bonus are questions left unanswered even by the game’s first few stages, that educate new users on RAM BOE’s basic puzzle solving concept alone. Thankfully there exists leader boards and achievements for both the Steam and Android version of the game, providing perspective on player progress and laurels so far.

Artistically though, RAM BOE does a lot more right; smooth gameplay, sunlight, snowfall, the vivid use of colors and casually designed foliage are but some of its visuals that draw players in right from its Main Menu that features clouds retreating to make way for the sun, to stages of night game play. Each icy blue platformed level stands populated with tiny mushrooms, half-cut tree stumps, snow boulders and pillars of fire for the night stages, that remain consistently sharp and attractive even while pinch-zooming in on a mobile device.

Also noteworthy is the symbolic blooming of lush foliage every time a block is successfully dropped within a well, as if poetically symbolising a spirit’s newfound freedom, and the minimal artwork used in the two cut-scenes as well; all of which undoubtedly make for a very pretty experience throughout.

Which alone is a testimony of why it would have been worthwhile to have the Art team employ greater effort in showing off more of their artistic prowess than what was on display. While all of the above visual elements held their appeal, the game’s scenery and landscape of plastic mountains, the lake that fills their centre and wooden houses along its banks stays constant through all of its 40 levels. This hence, contributes to an absolute lack of visual variety which is further accentuated by RAM BOE’s OST of only a small handful of Kevin MacLeod composed tracks.

As a casual, pick-up-and-play puzzle game that one would like to have focus on the puzzles on offer and puzzles alone then, RAM BOE performs fairly well. Its soothing use of icy colors, an overall feeling of repose, fantastic assortment of challenges that stem from its unpatterned placement of puzzles and the inherent pride that comes from overcoming them, all arrive together to conjure a rather enjoyable casual conundrum.

However at the same time, its often overwhelming sense of repetition and monotony, useless plot, inconsistency in controls and a lack of player motivation leaves it lacking in terms of a complete gaming experience while also undermining the team’s apparent potential. Much of this arises from the fact that the only major additions made to the original game’s 2015 Indie Game Making Contest Build of 20 levels — for which it was originally conceived — was its stagnant scenery and 20 additional levels, which leads one to ponder upon RAM BOE’s potential had more time, energy and creativity been dedicated to its final build.

Screenshot_2016-03-21-13-49-32Ponderings which haven’t fallen on deaf ears, for with an iOS release still on the agenda, PointFive has indeed taken a large portion of the afore stated flaws into consideration alluding that several, if not all of its lacking aspects will be amended over time via progressive updates. ‘That’s a definite yes’, states PointFive’s storyteller and PR in-charge Jane Arvine. ‘We wouldn’t want RAM BOE to stay incomplete this way. Updates on at least some of the aspects will come i.e the plot and visual variety; it’s only a matter of time before it happens.’

 

The above article serves to provide Community members PointFive team with constructive feedback towards the overall improvement of RAM BOE, while also illustrating to other Community residents the game’s functioning and nuances. To follow up the game’s journey while also learning more of its inception and Steam release, visit its Higher Eclectic Space.

New To The Community: Textures, Models, Character Art & Weekly Twitch

News

The past week and a half since February’s demise has seen up to four independent Video Game artists, each with their own varied set of skills on show and offer, step onto Higher Eclectic Ground. From 2D & 3D art to weekly Twitch streaming, the following is a quick overview of the Community’s latest additions and what each hope to be bringing to the table shortly.

 

1. Paul Evans – Texture Artist

 

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READ: Evans writes how he created the Alley scene.

 

A 2D asset designer at Evlox Studios, whose third-person, open world RPG Children of Acacia‘s development is actively being showcased on the Community, conversations with Paul Evans began soon after the game’s debut on Higher Eclectic back in February; with a few good years of experience in Texture and Graphic design, the young artist had come in looking for a creative medium to showcase his 2D work.

Picking up on our suggestion of using 3D models to his benefit, the owner of CraftyTextures was soon seen putting together his first 3D scene on social media,’The Alley’, before effectively making use of his created Textures to add color to the same. Deciding then that showcasing his 2D work on 3D models was the best way forward, Evans set foot on the Community on the 28th of February as a member of its circle of 2D artists

Open to Texture design requests and commissions while also offering his services in photo manipulation & texture repair, the weeks since have already seen him put together a second 3D scene showing off more of his work on textures with him currently working on his next. Furthermore, he’s also on the constant lookout for other 3D modelers to share notes with and improve his art form; to get in touch, have a gander at his work or even learn of how his craft has its roots in a lifelong battle with Epilepsy and Dyslexia, be sure to visit his Higher Eclectic Space.

 

2. Indigo Doyle – 3D Modeler

 

With an Honors in Game Design & Animation and several years of experience as a 3D environment and prop artist at independent studios such as Liquid Melon and Pointless Button, Modeler Indigo Doyle debuted on the Community on the 7th of March with a demo reel embodying her recent portfolio of work.

Offering her services as a 3D Modeler by stating availability to commissions and requests from the Community, the Canadian artist is also preparing to showcase forthcoming 3D art projects here — much of which involves her dabbling in personalized, stylized art and eventually, the Allegorithmic Substance/Designer software. With her currently aiming to develop a stylized, fantasy-themed environmental scene this month, feel free to give her Spot a visit to make a request or keep an eye on her progress.

 

3. Jesse Staples – Character/Concept Art among several other things

 

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Visit: Jesterdog23’s Character Design Emporium.

 

Game Designer, musician, writer, Graphic, character and concept artist; multi-faceted Jesse Staples debuted JesterDog23’s Character Design Emporium on the 8th of March; a character design banner under which he aims to showcase all ongoing & future character art on Higher Eclectic Ground.

Furthermore, with extensive experience in Graphic and OHRPGC Game Design, Staples is also offering his talent as a traditional/digital artist for 2D characters, weapons, concept art, environmental art, logos and more in a multitude of themes and styles. This is of course, via a set structure of semi-flexible rates that are currently viewable at his Higher Eclectic Space. 

In description of his forthcoming artwork on the Community, Staples adds, ‘An original character is to be posted soon, as well as a new band logo, a business logo for a photography/film company, and a random commission of a drunk man laying down in a giant bottle of Old Crow.’ As he doles out more of his independent and commissioned work for others to relish on a weekly-monthly basis, Staples also eventually aims to launch a Character Design Tutorial Series based on popular response.

 

4. Jack Davison – The Potshotpete Twitch Channel

 

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Comfortable; the Potshotpete HQ.

Deviating from the usual stream of YouTube gamers, the Community’s collection of Video Artists saw its first, full-blown Twitch streamer join the fray in the form of Jack Davison. Having first streamed via his channel, Potshotpete back in 2014 — Davison was subjected to a long lasting hiatus from his passion after real life commitments to family and work stepped in.

Fast forward to 2016 and Potshotpete is back on its feet with greater vigor than ever before; following a strict schedule, Davison streams thrice a week on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays — keeping his style, unnecessary banter and time wastage at a bare minimum in abidance of his High Quality, no-nonsense streaming rule of thumb. A frequent streaming partner of member writer/YouTuber Mike BlundellDavison has already begun partnering up with other Video Artists from the Community — jumping into a early evening to late night stream of The Division on the 11th of March with Blundell and Craig Evans in tow.

Furthermore, he intends to provide much of his streaming expertise to the benefit of the other Game Developers resident here, offering to cover their games from unbiased yet fun standpoints. To get in touch with him for any particular coverage requests or simply tune in to his streams every week, be sure to hop in to his Space.

Planting The Jungles of Acacia

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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.

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.

 

RAM BOE: The Giveaway | Complete

News
Giveaway Complete.

Starting today till the 23rd of February, 2015 — community members & indie game developers, Poinfive Team, will be making available three copies of the Android version of their indie puzzle game, RAM BOE.

 

Originally conceived as an entry into the 2015 Indie Game Maker Contest by Pointfive Team, RAM BOE is the retro puzzle, Sokoban, inspired narrative of one Beauregard Pete — a rock climbing, tree hugging adventurer who decided to spend one weekend attempting to slay the Ice Demon that terrorized the very mountain tops he so loved. Unfortunately, neither his wit nor strength were any match for Mr. Icey — leading to his soul being trapped in a rune stone for the rest of his life.

Or so he thought; managing to free his soul and possess a passing Ram. With four hooves, two horns, plenty of fur and lots of cuddly — what ensues is 40 levels of brain-squashing puzzles that will involve him moving blocks around and into a ‘well of revival’,  in order to free himself and save others that might fall victim to the same fate. While the Android version of the game was released earlier this month at the break of New Year, the PC version of the game has been sitting for quite a while in its completed state on Steam Greenlight.

This is where you come in. For the next 21 days, Pointfive team is inviting Community members & puzzle game enthusiasts alike — to head down to RAM BOE’s Steam Greenlight page linked at the end of this announcement and simply provide Feedback on the game via the Greenlight page’s comments.

On the 24th of February, Pointfive will then enter the names of all those who commented into a draw — before randomly picking three winners, each of whom will win a copy of RAM BOE for their Android devices.  The winners will be announced by the team on both theirs and Higher Eclectic Ground’s Facebook pages.

In the months since their membership within the Community, Pointfive have been it the Community exclusive insight into RAM BOE’s inception and growth. To catch all that and learn more about the game before opting to vote or provide feedback, be sure to drop by its Higher Eclectic Space. 

 

 
 

 

RAM BOE follows a rock-climbing, tree-hugging adventurer turned RAM on his quest to liberate lost souls over 40 levels…

Posted by Pointfive Team on Tuesday, January 12, 2016

IRacing’s BSRTC PRO Series: Accepting Video Game Team Sponsors Via Higher Eclectic Ground

BSRTC PRO Series, News

After over two months since the finale of their grand Ninth season last year, Community partners British Sim Racers are now set to return with the 2016 season of their increasingly popular IRacing based touring car championship — the BSRTC PRO Series. Scheduled to span more than three quarters of the year from the 17th of March to the 8th of December, while the forthcoming touring-car based season is already looking to be the most spectacular one yet — we have been working harder than ever to help develop the Series into a platform for our members to gain greater exposure for their independent game creations.

Followers of the community from last year will recall that towards the final couple of months  of the BSRTC’s 2015 Season — one that witnessed 50 drivers come together over 102 races for a piece of a $10,000 prize fund amidst MOTORS TV television broadcasts — Higher Eclectic Ground’s partnership with the British Sim Racers had resulted in the development of a unique structure of self-promotion for its independent game members. Courtesy of the ingenuity of Apex Racing TV — broadcasters & commentators of the PRO Series — our indie game developers & other game related media creators were given the opportunity to not only sponsor drivers on behalf of their creations for the duration of a race, but were also granted advertisement slots during the races’ live streams on YouTube & IRacing Live along with specially designed pop-ups during the races’.

Watch members debut their creations’ trailers pre-race during last season’s finale.

The result was not one, but nearly ten of our members — majority being indie game developers — opting to debut exclusive teasers & trailers to their games & creations during the widely streamed & telecast final few races (Read the full report here). Coupling that with the general response received by the rest of the community, it was only natural for us to discuss with the British Sim Racers’ administration over the holidays, the possibility of turning the Series into a more mainstream Video Game event for the benefit of our members.

The previous Season, sponsored by Engine Oil Direct, comprised of Teams of drivers — each of which were sponsored by various motorsport and non-motorsport related bodies such as Apex Racing, New Homes Digital, Peter Newman Media, Euro Chip Digital and so forth. What’s more, although the Series was broadcast on MOTORS TV halfway through the year, it was yet to be recognized as an official league by IRacing.

As announced in our quick article on the 30th of January this year though — IRacing has now picked up the official title sponsorship of the Series, making it IRacing’s 2016 BSRTC PRO Series and bringing along with it 130 hours of MOTORS TV International screen time for the Series’ upcoming season. With over 40 drivers having already put down their names for the Season — the BSRTC is also hoping to amp up its prize fund to a whopping $20,000.

While it was envisioned to have this prize fund come from a more solid Team sponsorship structure this year around — wherein third party companies would sponsor a Team/Teams of drivers for the course of the season — we thought a little different, suggesting that mainstream Video Game bodies such as established publishers, news outlets and Hardware companies be involved as full team sponsors. Why? Involving these Video Game companies would not only bring the Series additional coverage and recognition within the more mainstream Gaming community as a thriving Video Game event — but also provide our members with greater incentive and exposure to debut their games on a platform that will have not just sim-racers but other gamers tuning in every week.

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Member Video Games writer Mike Blundell’s blog, ‘Mike’s Pad’ sponsored Team GT Omega at Interlagos last season. Notice his logo on the roof and hood.

And so, a structure regarding the same was devised and has now been put up on the website for our members to read and understand at the bottom of this article. Also accessible via the newly added banner advertising the BSRTC PRO Series on the home page, the BSRTC PRO Series’ 2016 plan goes into the fees required for sponsoring a full team over the course of the Series and how accumulated fees will be split as winnings amongst the drivers. The full team sponsorships are primarily directed towards established Video Game bodies, although our members and indie game developers willing to have their own teams for the series for the stated fees can avail of the same as well.

What’s more, readers will also notice that the package devised for our indie game members over last year — wherein paying a small fee granted them a space for advertising on a single car, live stream ad slots & television pop-ups — makes a return with a few more enhanced packages allowing for per-race team sponsorships as well.

The next couple of weeks will see us reaching out to potential Team sponsors in earnest, while our members will be approached for per-race advertisements closer towards the Season launch. That said, if one would like to express their interest in sponsoring a Full Team or a driver for a Single Race, they can do so by dropping us a line via the Contact Form on our website.

Stay tuned for news as it unfolds. Meanwhile, do share your thoughts on the same in the comments below. To learn more of the BSRTC PRO Series and its partnership with Higher Eclectic Ground, visit the British Sim Racers’ Partner’s page.

THE 2016 BSRTC PRO SERIES’ VIDEO GAME TEAMS SPONSORSHIP PLAN