Indie Arcade Cabinet: RASHLANDER

We were quite impressed with Griffin Aerotech’s Airframe arcade hardware which allows independently created games to run, just like SKYCURSER. So when Ryan Davis got in touch with us to tell us about his new arcade title RASHLANDER, we were quite excited. Ryan told us that his RASHLANDER game had been made from the ground up so that it could run on modern arcade machines, just like Griffin Aerotech’s Airframe.

The game is a lander-roguelike game that feels like sliding slowly across an icy parking lot while dodging every SUV and Smart Car before settling miraculously into a perfect parallel park. Except in space. And everything is exploding!

RASHLANDER is available in four different kits: Software, Pro, Deluxe, and Dedicated Cabinet packages ranging in price from USD$599.99 (Software kit) all the way to $3,499.99 for the dedicated arcade cabinet. More deets here.

image source: Griffin Aerotech – Rashlander

 

Ultra Space Battle Brawl: It’s Bang Bead For Your Switch!

If you are craving for some PongWindjammers or Bang Bead action for your Nintendo Switch, then keep reading! Hang on, Bang what? Ahhhh, if you don’t know, that’s fine, this game plays it a similar way…

So what do you get when you sprinkle some Pong on steroids, a dose of fighting elements, Japanese 80s aesthetic, some cool Indonesian urban house music and a hefty pinch of Windjammers and Bang Bead for good measure? You get Ultra Space Battle Brawl, that’s what!

For those of you that haven’t played Atari’s Pong or Bang Bead and Windjammers on the Neo Geo, Ultra Space Battle Brawl is a fun competitive game fit for settling disputes, be it with your friends and family or rivals, this couch party game has the essence of a flying fighting game melded onto a single screen that is easy to pick up and play but hard to master.

The game provides a choice of ten protagonists, each with their own unique “Ultra” and quirky skills that can easily turn the tide in the heat of battle. Story mode sees you battling through a number of rivals that will determine your fate in the Intergalactic Society, that is if you manage to beat them all. For those that prefer a party game (of up to 4 players), the ‘Versus’ mode is for you. Versus provides the freedom to set the number of rounds and battle modes, be it 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 1 vs 2 or 2 vs 1. Once your character is chosen you are thrown into a battle where the premise sees you smacking the puck towards your opponents end attempting to smash their glass gem while also defending your end. If you manage to win the necessary rounds, you move onto the next (even tougher) opponent.

Sounds simple enough? Um not really, as this game will see your rage meter go through the roof when you battle tougher opponents that require lightning fast reflexes and dexterity to have a chance at beating them. This game does shine when played against other humans, where you rib each other or give high fives when battling on the same side.

The background story to how this game came about is quite cool too – Ultra Space Battle Brawl was first born out of a Mojiken Camp, an internal team building program. During this program the whole Mojiken Studio crew had to build a prototype based on proven products and fresh concepts. From all the prototypes they came up with, it was Mojiken Studio’s co-founder Eka Pramudita’s Ultra Space Battle Brawl that came out on top.

If you also want to come out on top and can’t wait for Windjammers, then you should grab this game for your Nintendo Switch, stat!

Title: Ultra Space Battle Brawl
Developer: Mojiken Studio
Publisher: Toge Productions
Price: USD$14.99

image source: Toge Productions

 

Review – Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles opens up like a mix of Sea of Thieves and Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild; both excelled in creating a beautiful world with a sense of wonder and adventure, which is also Yonder’s greatest strength.

After creating a character with some very basic options (although you can customise him or her throughout the game with a wealth of cosmetic options such as clothes, hair dyes and other accessories to keep things interesting) you are thrown onto the island of Gemea where the game is set and free to explore the open world at your leisure. The game world is beautifully realised; whist it doesn’t surpass Breath of the Wild (but to be fair not many have), it does an admirable job in creating a large, interesting and vibrant world with lush forests, sunny beaches and snowy mountains. Graphically, it is one of the best on the Switch.

How it looks is where the similarities end between Yonder and the aforementioned games. With no enemies to kill or levels to grind, Yonder presents itself as a slow-paced exploration game filled with rather mundane tasks. The game’s myriad of largely lifeless NPCs dish out most of the side quests, usually involving collecting various resources around the world such as fodder, wood, stones, seeds etc using a set of contextual tools introduced early on in the game. For example, using sickles to cut grass, axe to chop trees, pickaxe to mine ore and so on. There is also the ability to run your own farm by building simple structures and rearing the exotic animals found in the game to store and generate resources.

The main story quest is painstakingly simple and the only real sense of progression comes from unlocking previously inaccessible areas of the map by dispersing the ‘murk’ (a mysterious dark shroud covering certain areas) by finding enough pet fairy ‘sprites’. There is no real sense of urgency to this though, as the Murk is not at all dangerous and there is no time limit or any order in which part of the map needs to be uncovered first.

I must confess that I usually like my games with a mature and engaging storyline, deep combat mechanics and RPG-like progression systems. However, I recently played through Yonder during a month long overseas holiday and found it to be the perfect companion game for such an occasion. It is something I could pick up and enjoy for a few minutes to half an hour at a time without the stress of levelling up or acquiring better gear to take on bigger bosses. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is all about discovering its world at your own pace and having the most relaxed time doing so, and like what my 3-year-old daughter said when she watched me play, “it’s beautiful”.

 

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House
House plays pretty much anything and everything but has almost time for nothing. A devout beat’em up fan, House enjoys a round of captain commando every now and then and can never forget spending hours in dark arcades playing warriors of fate after school. Oh yeah, his favourite console of all time is the original Famicom!

 

 

 

Lessons A Huge AAA Success Like GTA 5 Can Teach Indie Developers

Grand Theft Auto 5, Rockstar Games’ colossal juggernaut of a title, was developed on a budget of $265 million. The end product was a detailed open-world game with cutting edge graphics and AI programming of unparalleled complexity (for the time).

All that is just about as distant as you can get from indie game development.

Rockstar has decades of industry experience, GTA is one of the most popular mainstream AAA franchises around and the company spent more than half of its hundreds-of-millions budget on marketing. It also just cracked over 95 million copies sold.

Anyone with an inkling of what indie development looks like will know that these things are worlds apart.

And yet, in the underlying fabric of the game itself – not the product – are lessons that small teams working remotely and one-man devs can learn from, if only conceptually. Development of a title like GTA 5 is a unique beast in terms of project management, and unlike anything most AAA developers have to deal with let alone indies, so we’ll be focusing on just the game itself.

It’s also a tough example because, due to its high budget, there was very little the developers couldn’t allow themselves. Even so, interviews and other sources have revealed that over the course of the game’s development a number of features and mechanics were cut either due to time or monetary constraints.

This brings us to our first lesson, and one that can be applied to gaming universally – scope. You need to know the scope of what you want to do, what you can get done, and sync the two together. Game development can be arduous work even when the crunch hasn’t set in, and indie developers are certainly hit harder than AAA in this regard.

In the case of indie devs, when they’re working from a much smaller budget or are developing for free, the stress of getting your title out into the open can be confounded with making that title the best it can be. Feature-creep must be avoided, cut what needs to be cut and stay focused on your scope.

Too many indie developers give up their daily lives to create their first game, release it, then patch it profusely only to end up with health issues, broken relationships and a financially unsuccessful game because they lost sight of what could be feasibly achieved.

Big productions like GTA 5 have specific committees to keep an eye out for this, reining in the project if too many features are planned, pushing the limits of deadlines and budgets.

On the other hand, indie developers have more control over their work and need to be their own supervisors. If GTA 5 had stretched itself too thin because adding additional feature X and Y would be “cool”, it wouldn’t be the critically acclaimed success it is today.

Another thing GTA 5 gets right is the ratio of content to scale. AAA titles these days pride themselves on how expansive their maps are and how much sheer content there is – you’d think that more is universally better. Thing is, even though the settings of Los Santos and Blaine County are large, together, they’re hardly the largest open world in gaming.

Instead, Rockstar knew to limit the physical size of the map to the amount of content they’d produce. Thus, GTA 5 has a large amount of unique content distributed evenly and organically throughout the action-space. Things aren’t too cramped nor are they too far between.

Relating gameplay content with map size is very specific to open-world sandboxes, but the principle can be applied to any game. The pacing, amount and length of content needs to be in balance.

There is no golden ratio and that “balance” varies depending on the project. Maybe a sombre exploration game is well balanced when quiet moments are predominant, where an action-packed FPS is well balanced when you keep the adrenaline pumping.

Generally, as an indie developer, realistic goals are essential, and no-one should be gunning for a spectacle the scope and size of GTA 5 right off the bat. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the game and how it implements basic game design principles, because these principles are universal and GTA 5 implements them masterfully.

image source: Rockstar Games

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Logan Smith
Logan has been obsessed with Rockstar Games ever since the Grand Theft Auto series went 3D with GTA III. He spends his time wandering Los Santos while eagerly waiting for Red Dead Redemption 2 to finally land.

 

 

 

Open Fodder: An Open Source Port Of Cannon Fodder

Surely you all know (or at least) heard of Sensible Software’s brilliant military-themed action strategy shooter, Cannon Fodder. If you had an Amiga back in the day, we bet the house that you would’ve played Cannon Fodder.

Roll on to present day and we now have a nod to this awesome game with the brilliant open source port for modern operating systems (Windows / Linux / Unix), Open Fodder. This project (source code can be found on GitHub) is the brainchild of one Robert Crossfield (aka: segrax) and the mysteriously named, Dr Novice.

While Open Fodder is packaged with two demos, the full game requires the retail release available from GOG or the data extracted from the Amiga version using the WHDLoad installer.


source: Robert Crossfield

 

Bear Beware!

We don’t have to convince you that interest in retro games has never been higher. Take John Darnell’s Bear Beware! (previously known as Sleepwalker) for instance – it was released on the Commodore 64 in April 2017 which quickly became a fan favourite amongst retro  gamers.

Fast forward to 2018 and John Darnell (Another Fine Mess) is about to release Bear Beware! on Android, iOS, PC and Mac so it can be enjoyed on modern systems, not just on the old trusty C64. There is even a hint that Bear Beware! will be coming out later for the Nintendo Switch – which is absolutely awesome news!

So what’s this Bear Beware! game all about you may ask? Well, it’s origins date back to 1984! Yes, 1984! Back then John Darnell (working for Software Projects in Liverpool developing Kane 1 & 2, Dragon’s Lair, Escape From Singes Castle, Star Paws and Jet Set Willy 2) had conceived Bear Beware! but the game was lost to the mists of time. Luckily for us John hadn’t forgotten about the game he came up with all those years ago, re-coding his original idea from scratch, delivering a fantastic arcade adventure that fans of classic retro games like Jet-Set Willy will love!

Bear Beware! revolves around the heroic efforts of the protagonist Security Guard Hero rescuing his little sleepwalking Funfair Buddy and getting him back to bed before he wakes up. Sounds easy aye? Welllllll, you must traverse 25 levels infested with all kinds of nasty peeps that are hellbent on stopping your Buddy getting back to bed.

Bear Beware! will be available free to play in the comings weeks (March/April 2018). You can follow the exploits of Bear Beware! on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

image source: Bear Beware! by AFM

 

Review: Pan-Dimensional Conga Combat

By: Kevin Tilley (Unkle K)

Being an old timer harking from the days of the Atari VCS and Commodore 64, the complexities of modern gaming sometimes get the better of me. Not only that, but with a large family and demanding job, spending hours gaming each day is an impossibility. Short, sharp bursts of gaming not only fit into the small amount of free time I actually have, it also suits my rather limited attention span as well. Cue RGCD, who have been bringing us pick up and play Commodore 64 games for years now, and in 2016 released Pan-Dimensional Conga Combat on the Windows platform via the RGCD itch.io store.

After nearly two years since the original itch.io release, and a rather quiet Greenlight campaign, Pan was released on Steam on February 16.

Self-described as “a rhythm-synchronised, old-school, score-chasing arcade game that plays like some alien coin-op from another dimension”, Pan is a mash of the old and new. I can only describe it as the love child of Volfied and Robotron, with a hint of Geometry Wars thrown in – an impressive pedigree indeed, and fortunately for us, it all gels together perfectly.

Set in a rather confined arena, Pan has you navigating the screen and obliterating everything that moves with your bullet tail. The tail follows you around at a distance that is proportional to your speed – the faster you move the longer your tail gets. You can also charge your on board laser cannon whenever the free roaming purploids drift into your tail. Once charged, you have a short burst mega destructive cannon at your disposal, which is essential when the action hits a certain level of franticness. To complete each level you must make a predetermined set of kills. There are also various score chains you can achieve and an assortment of enemy types to get your head around – with most of them homing straight in on you Robotron style, in various speeds and patterns. Enemy portals are destroyed by looping your tail around them, and levels are completed by entering the warp which opens up as soon as you reach the kill quota.

Pan is a frantic and compulsive score chaser that will have you pulling your hair out in disgust and immediately pressing the button for another go. Controls are simple and the game is immediately accessible. There are enough game modes present to keep you more than interested for a good while (include arcade and a survival mode) and the Steam release introduces online leader boards and achievements. For a game like Pan, these simple additions really add to the games longevity.

Graphics are solid without being outstanding, with the limited palette of colours supported by attractive pixel art and various visual effects, that don’t reach ‘Minter’ levels of trippyness but do their job regardless. The soundtrack is perfectly suitable, with various beats and breaks complimenting the gameplay and adding to the overall experience.

Pan-Dimensional Conga Combat deserves to be played. It’s an honest and fun score chaser that will test your (probably aging) reflexes and reward persistence. Old school gamers looking for a quick blast will love it, and younger gamers should give it a go and prove their superiority on the online leader boards – c’mon, I dare you! Highly recommended.


source: James Monkman

Footnote: A special package is still available on itch.io which contains the game (the itch.io download and a Steam key) as well as a set of two matte-finish A2 RGCD posters.