The 2016 iteration of Indonesian independent games festival IN.GAME, concluded with Community members Joyseed Gametribe’s upcoming mobile arcade game, Daydream: The Beginning taking home the award for Best Game Art amid four other competing nominees on the 24th of this month. This was in conjunction with the team also being among the five nominated for Best Audio at the end of the event, which opened its doors to nearly 50 indie game exhibitors as part of the IN.GAME Expo.
Based in the city of Yogyakarta, IN.GAME brings together game development talent from all over the Indonesian island by means of workshops, talks from industry professionals, networking events and even 48 hour game-jams, which culminate in the IN.GAME Expo that sees 5 of 50 exhibitors nominated for the Best Gameplay, Best Game Art, Most Innovative Game, Best Game Narrative, Best Puzzle Game and several other award categories.
Joyseed were seen exhibiting a very playable pre-alpha version of Daydream: The Beginning, offering fans their first look at the game in action by way of the mandatory game-play video needed for their participation in the Expo. The video, seen below, illustrates for the first time not only the game’s minimally designed menus, marketplace and corresponding animations, but also highlights the ‘test of user dexterity’ its game play has been promising to offer since its inception.
What’s more, the game will now be one of only three seen representing Indonesia in competition for the prestigious Indie Prize Awards that are set to transpire at Casual Connect Asia from the 17th to the 19th of May this year. Asia’s largest gaming conference, Casual Connect lets developers come into contact with like-minded international talent, gain exposure, feedback and potentially develop relationships with keen sponsors.
Among those exhibiting their creations will be nearly 80 talented developers, each of which have been selected by the Casual Connect Committee as worthy contenders for over 10 different categories of the Indie Prize. ‘We’re so happy and excited by both the IN.GAME win and the Casual Connect selection,’ states Joyseed’s ‘Chieftain’ Bernardus Boy Dozan.
‘The plan now though is to continue work on the pre-alpha build of the game for the Indie Prize Showcase, fix a few bugs and finally move towards its completion after Casual Connect. We’re still hoping that a Publisher develops interest in us during the course of the event.’
Followers of the game on the Higher Eclectic Community will recall an allusion to Casual Connect during its Editor’s Special on the 25th of February, wherein Dozan had first mentioned the team’s plans of participating in the event before focusing on its final build. The reason, he explains now, is to develop as much of a strong fan base they physically can before the game’s release. ‘If we did win at the Indie Prize Awards, it would be a fantastic addition to the game’s portfolio; Appreciation for Daydream: The Beginning automatically increases, causing more to actually look forward to the game’s launch,’ he confides.
Set within the fictitious world of Ream, Daydream is intended to be a long-running saga of a young shepherd, Mondo’s quest for Knighthood. Flanked by his friends, Mondo is seen contending at a series of Soldier Recruitment Trials at the Kingdom of Verdante in Daydream: The Beginning for the same purpose; the game will focus on the trials alone, having players race against the timer in commanding the right characters in attack against their correspondingly colored ‘dummies’.
Despite being well into development of their pre-alpha version when stepping onto the Ground on the 22nd of February this year, Joyseed have managed to draw its members and followers into the mobile game’s creative process by progressively documenting its growth from character concept art to as of recently, character animations. This documentation will of course continue as the team gear up for Casual Connect, the progress of which along with everything else Daydream can be found on the game’s Higher Eclectic Space. Be sure to leave the team a word of encouragement for the month of May therein!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
Released on the 25th of this month, Sim Racer Magazine‘s first issue of the year now features an elaborate, never-seen-before biography of the British Sim Racers & their increasingly popular, BSRTC PRO Series Touring Car Championship on IRacing — as written by us at Higher Eclectic Ground back in October, 2015.
This biography of course, arrives exactly a week after BSR made one of its grandest announcements in the midst of its on-going Winter Series’ race at Silverstone last week — IRacing has picked up the official title sponsorship of the upcoming, tenth season of the BSRTC PRO Series scheduled to launch later in March this year. This is in addition the the Series’ being granted 45 episodes on Motors TV International, with 2 repeats each, garnering it 130 hours of International Television time for the upcoming season.
Founded in 2013 by IRacing enthusiasts Kip Stephens and Steve Richardson, the BSRTC PRO Series became the simulation racing service’s first user-created, professional-grade Touring Car championship to grace the households of real-world motorsport fans via Motors TV last year. The television broadcasts arrived halfway through the Series’ ninth season — one that for the first time, featured 50 talent sim-racers & 11 teams compete for a slice from a $10,000 prize pot.
Higher Eclectic Ground’s affiliation with the Series began in October of the same year via a mutual acquaintance — long time BSR member Tristan Boddice Ratsnacker — with us constructing an inside look at the BSRTC PRO Series’ rise from a falling out with Pitlanes.com‘s founders within IRacing’s UK & Ireland community, to what is now clearly a true-to-life Video Game experience vouched by the likes of real world racers such as BTCC Team BMR’s 2015 Clio Cup UK Champion Ash Sutton and Simpit legend Shaun Cole.
This affiliation quickly grew into a partnership, with us not only delivering exclusive weekly race reports to the sim-racing community but also for the first time in independent video game history — offering our member independent game developers & talent the opportunity to uniquely advertise their creations during the races’ Apex Racing TV live streams & television broadcasts.
Now as the Series gears up for its largest, most eventful Season yet — Higher Eclectic Ground continues to work with the Series, as it has been for last few months, to help turn it into a more widely recognized, mainstream Video Game event that transcends sim-racing barriers. All of this of course, in recognition of the Series’ potential as a platform for independent Video Game talent.
Stay tuned for announcements & more on the same as we head into February. Till then, if you’ve picked up an issue of Sim Racer Magazine’s latest issue via their portal and read our biography of the Series — be sure to let us know how you enjoyed it. To learn more of the BSRTC PRO Series, catch last season’s races & our coverage on the same, feel free to drop by their Partners’ page.
22nd January, 2016. Exactly a year has passed since Imagos Softworks, the extraordinarily retro-obssessed pizza-eating ensemble led by movie writer & director Don Thacker, took to Kickstarter to pitch what they called Starr Mazer; a point & click, shoot ’em up classic of their own, replete with the art, music, action, fun and a storyline reminiscent of the retro games they seemed to have grown up on and yet infused with modern-day gameplay standards. ‘Nostalgia in HD’, as they called it.
Retro-obsessed would be an understatement, given that a quick look at their Kickstarter page today would light up a dark room like a bonfire — with all its glorious, flashing pixelated art; The campaign was a success, amassing nearly $194,000 on its $160,000 goal at its end, leading the team to retreat into a brief period of founding development, before pulling the cloth off an intriguing little pre-alpha build at PAX Prime while announcing a Spring 2016 release.
By the end of September — they were here on the Ground, marking the first time us or anyone on the Community on the matter had had their tops blown off by the pompadour wielding Brick M.(Metal) Stonewood; an ancient mercenary who, after having been found drifting aimlessly in sleep-lock as a direct consequence of his participation in THE GREAT WAR as a DSP Mk.II pilot, is revived with absolutely no memory or recollection of his past. The very same Stonewood who, equipped with nothing but his trusty ceramic-steel Starr Wolf airship, a blaster and a few packets of cigarettes, sets out on a brutal 1980’s shoot ’em up outing blended seamlessly into a point n’ click world, to uncover his past.
The weeks after saw the team bring us more — insight into the game’s Open-Middled game-play that brings unpredictability to the various story modules resulting in multiple endings, insight into innovative new software being created for the game’s development, competitions, music & a barrage of weekly Twitch streams. Out of nowhere, a prequel named Starr Mazer: DSP was announced — developed by PixelJam Games in association with Imagos and scheduled for a pre-Starr Mazer release. As concept art continued to take shape away from the limelight and the wikis fleshed, the team momentarily broke from the usual hubbub to push out the offbeat interactive media experience, ‘Melissa: A Game of Choice’ for Ludum Dare 34.
A few more snippets from events, a bit more art and as of yesterday, a Synthwave infected game-play preview that stood to depict vast difference from the original pre-alpha prototype from 4 months ago. Soon after though, Imagos Community Manager Kazuo Mayeda got in touch with more; not only was a preview of DSP ready to go live, but also Starr Mazer’s release had been pushed back to Q3/Q4 of this year.
What? Why? ‘Well’, stated he, ‘This turkey needs a little more time to cook before it is perfect.’ As we drafted an announcement on said Turkey, we watched the same go live on the game’s Kickstarter page and elsewhere; safe to say, with so much happening in conjunction with Starr, a few even seemed perplexed on hearing the word ‘prequel’.
Admittedly, the Community here at Higher Eclectic Ground would have shared much of the same perplexity had we put up the announcement of the delay with first-look GIF’s from the prequel DSP. You see much as Community posts raved about the game, much as members or any occasional visitor on either of the Ground’s social media pages liked, shared or ogled at a game-play snippet here or an image there — we could tell a large part of them were largely disconnected from what was really going on with Mazer.
Which we believed was far, far less than it rightfully deserved; hence is why the primary half of this article has served to bring members up to speed with everything Starr Mazer from the dawn of time (Almost. Nearly. Yet sufficient) — before an onslaught of all that is currently happening and in store for Mr. Stonewood over the course of this year was brought on.
And so, the delay. What goes on in the interim? Ardent followers of the game on the Community might recall an uber-cool GIF posted around about the 30th of December (seen above), that put on display the remodelling of one of the game’s prominent bosses — a space-trash eating, asteroid mining…thing called the Scutbot. Readers might also remember the remodelling being attributed to Kirk Barnett, who was in fact the team’s newest addition brought in to assist Art Director Maximo Lorenzo.
Barnett will now be assisting Lorenzo — who himself has spent the latter part of last year developing concept art for various aspects of the Starr Mazer world and populace. Kirk’s current role of course, involves fleshing out several of those pieces of concept art into living, breathing, pixel animations. Furthermore, besides working on the newly iterated UI Design, reactive portraits and enemy turrets that were showcased in yesterday’s gameplay snippet, Lead Developer Auston Montville will be fleshing out the Shoot ‘Em Up tools portion of his very own Mazer Maker.
The Mazer Maker, previewed within the Ground on the 31st of October, is a Mario Maker inspired game creation and publishing tool in development for Starr Mazer’s developers and writers, that allows them to create and modify their own levels within the game via a simple drag and drop interface. While last year saw Montville add elements to the Maker that would simplify the development of the game’s PNC portion, tools for the SHMUP portion are currently being added in at full steam.
In conversation, the team admits that the main reason behind Starr Mazer’s incurred delay is in fact the Mazer Maker’s progressive development; what began as but an idea to aid the team’s progress has now turned into a full-fledged tool crucial to the game’s development. Without the Mazer Maker up and running in full force, development stalls — which is where Starr Mazer: DSP, the prequel comes in.
As illustrated by Don Thacker in December , while the core of Starr Mazer developed over the earlier half of last year — the team’s game-play programmer Miles Tillman of Pixeljam Games had very little to do and loads of spare time, which he put to use by creating a whole new shooter using Starr Mazer’s assets. One thing led to another and before anyone knew it, the team were calling it Starr Mazer’s prequel — DSP.
Set to release earlier than Starr Mazer for the PC, Mac, Linux and mobile devices, the prequel will put players in the shoes of DSP Mk.I pilots — from the generation that preceded the likes of Stonewood — in the midst of THE GREAT WAR. ‘Players will play as many pilots this time around’, explains Mayeda. ‘Each with their own set of skills.’
Said pilots will generate dynamically — each harnessing what is known as DSP Core, a technology that apparently allows mismatched equipment to work together (read custom tuned space-ships) — as they attempt to survive and withstand the enemy long enough for their partners to make it through. While Thacker directs the entire course of the prequel, Imagos musician Alex Mauer will toil to put into effect a heavy Synthwave/Outrun based soundtrack with Lorenzo shelling out Art herein as well.
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DSP Preview – A bullet eating high recoil laser weapon.
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DSP Preview – A more devastating spread and a shot of the temporal slow down
As Starr Mazer now makes its way to PC Gamer’s list of 2016’s upcoming SHMUP’s then, rest assured, a more playable version of the Prequel is to take form soon. As always, to keep track of everything happening with Starr Mazer within and beyond the Community — its Higher Eclectic Space is the place to be.
Update: A week after this article, the team released a ‘January Update’ trailer putting on show for the first time, Starr Mazer’s progress from over 2015 along with a preview of DSP. Catch the trailer & its details down below.