Category: Game Scope 2018

Winter(path) is Coming!

Winterpath Games and their game, Atlaga, a narrative-focused, Viking survival game, started as most games start: as a hobby-project. For Valur Zophoníasson and Lukas Gnaur it began over a couple of drinks and the question of, “could we make a game?”

Winterpath (site)

w/ iOS and Windows download options.

[We] were having drinks and one suggested making a video game on the side of our studies (Digital Design). We wanted to put into practice, what we learned in our studies, and making a video game seemed the perfect way of doing this. It began as a discussion of making a tactical Viking game for mobile.

Slowly we assembled a team, but none of us had any experience with any real game development or the mobile platform. We found that learning how to make a video game, from scratch, is an extremely painful process and along the way, a lot of team members jumped off, which, of course, is always difficult (we were initially 6. Now we are 3).

We also found that learning how to make a video game, from scratch, is a thrilling, exciting and enjoyable experience. Having released something that you’ve been working on for more than 2 years and getting such a good reception after working so hard is a feeling worth the struggle.

Let’s talk about the game! The following is from Winterpath’s website, with the headliner reading, “Ready to Start Your Misadventure?” Continuing it explains the premise of its story.

You are stranded and alone. You were a passenger on your father’s vessel that now lies wrecked on the shores of a mysterious land. As a high-borne lady from the north, you must take matters into your own hands and endure the hazards of your new surroundings.

Adding about the game in general:

Atlaga is a story-driven survival game. To survive and grow, you must make challenging decisions in a harsh environment. Journey through hand-painted and atmospheric environments to unravel the mystery and discover the truth behind this unforgiving, brutal wilderness.

 

As always, I had a chance to talk with one of the developers on the project. This time, I had the pleasure of chatting with designer and co-creator, Lukas, who answered this… when I asked him about the inspiration to the game:

The original thought was to make a Viking game, where we try to go against the otherwise popular glorified Hollywood Viking and try, instead, to depict a more real, dark Viking story. A Viking story where a raid had gone horribly wrong. This idea became the inspiration for our concept in almost all the different stages of Atlaga. Although the game went through massive changes during development the thought of the real and de-glorified Viking tale persisted.

The game is, by the way, free through their site. You can download it for both iOS and Windows, meaning Atlaga is finished. To some dismay, when I asked Lukas if they’d planned to continue Atlaga, he said this:

For the time being, we are not doing an Atlaga sequel […]

However, adding:

[… ]it would be a shame to say that we will not revisit the Atlaga universe. We want to make sure that our next project incorporates what we have learned over the past 2 years.

We found some things that we believe we are good at, and some things we need to be stronger at.  Atlaga evolved naively from a part-time school project, but now with a bit more experience, we are a dedicated team that wants to develop more games. We want to create something new but we want to stay true to what we like – dark and serious.

So, although the dark, Viking survival game maybe a case closed, it’s not certain it won’t be reopened… someday. This news might be most devastating for the fans of Atlaga as the game has gotten quite a bit of following, praising the game for its story, art, and survival aspect.

A good community can be vital for an indie studio’s survival. Like Atlaga, the world of games is a pretty tough place where only an elite has the supremacy and although it is possible to rise in the ranks, the few who do so are far in-between the norm.

So I was curious to know how it’d felt, receiving such a backing for a project, which initially was a display of present skill:

Receiving all the great feedback that we have took us by surprise and having such backing has been crucial to our mental well-being. We had all heard, on numerous occasions, that the internet is a foul, nasty and unforgiving pit of hellish pus when it comes to feedback and criticism.

So far the internet people have been nice to us and that warms our hearts. We’ve actually gotten really good and kind feedback, which is part of the reason why we want to continue making stuff.

Drawn into Trouble – like the pen, not the action

Ringstone Games just by the looks of their website has this very clean and minimalistic look to it. Although the lines are “messy”, it’s subtly messy all-around, making it deliberately messy and therefore not messy at all, but rather clever.

Ringstone’s first game, Drawn into Trouble, follows the same style — or should I say the game’s style affected the studio’s appearance? Either way, it works. But what is Drawn into Trouble?

I’ve chatted a bit with the co-founder, Tommy Faldt, and here’s how he described Drawn into Trouble:

Tommy: Drawn into Trouble is about helping an old lady find her way back and solving puzzles by selecting the right tool and draw the right figures.

Adding:

Sometimes you need to combine the tools in the right order, other times you need to consider size and timing to make it work.

After seeing the art style, I became a bit curious about what inspired their game.

The inspiration for Drawn into Trouble is mainly based on two elements. The first is La Linea animation from the Italien animator, Osvaldo Cavandoli. The other element is The Incredible Machine, developed by Kevin Ryan.

Drawn into Trouble, helping an old lady, puzzles? Gotcha. The game is being developed for mobile only and as this is Ringstone’s first appearance on the indie game scene, they are planning to release the game first in Denmark and Sweden, but then also to the rest of the world.

According to Tommy, the game’s release date is late this year, 2018.

But, enough about the game! You can presumably play an alpha or beta version at Game Scope in Aalborg, but other than that, you’ve gotten all the information about the game that you’ll need.

It’s a puzzler. A simple game, utilizing the smartphone’s hands-on playability where your finger can draw the lines. The story, although we don’t have much information at this moment, could be something genuine and sweet with the plot focusing on an old lady. Could also be nothing, and the game would probably still work.

Now. Let’s talk about the people behind Ringstone Games and Drawn into Trouble. The team consists of three people, all co-founders with Tommy Axelgaard being the game engine architect, Tommy Faldt working as the level designer and PR. Lastly, we have Michael Lund who is the investor.

Ringstone Games (site)

Ringstone Games (Facebook)

Ringstone Games (Twitter)

We have played a lot of games in our youth and at some point, the thought came along, can we do that, can we make our own game. It would be pretty cool if we could.

Adding:

After years of education, software development, and life experience we now return to the thought, can we make our own game — maybe, we sure have more skills and experience now — let’s do it.

A new MMORPG is on the rise

Aren’t MMOs Dead?

Short answer? No.

Long answer? Yeah, you better read on ahead.

MMORPGs aren’t that popular anymore. Back in the early 2000s when World of Warcraft emerged, everyone who was anything and anyone who wanted to be anybody was playing it day-in and day-out (or so it was at my school).

However, they died down with multiple MMOs made but only a handful still being played. So, I didn’t think I was going to write about a new MMO at Game Scope.

Neither did I believe I was going to be so invested in the game after eyeing it a couple of times. But reading about it, this one might just change the game.

So, what are we talking about and by who? Sune Thorsen and the team at So Couch Studios have made an MMORPG called Ember Sword.

The Team

If you’re interested in Ember Sword, its development, or any other element involving the game or its makers, here are their respective links:

So Couch (site)

Through their site you can get access to the “Game Pitch”, all the people behind the game, along with their newsletter, and a very well-done FAQ section. Not to say you shouldn’t read on here, but although we cover some  questions, we’re only scraping the surface.

However, one of the questions we are covering is the “why” — in why you and your team decided to develop a game:

Games have always been a big part of our lives, and right from the early days of MMORPGs, we’ve all been captivated by the vast universes these games provided us.

Until now, pretty straight-forward. Love of games? Established. A specific genre mentioned? Yes. But here’s where this gets interesting…

 

The Problem with MMOs

This sadly also means we’ve all felt the frustration of never actually owning any of the items we spent thousands of hours and hundreds of dollars collecting in-game, and always being limited by the universes the developers decided to create instead of being active participants in shaping the future of the game world.

That’s what we want to change with Ember Sword.

In Ember Sword, we enable the players to shape the vast in-game universe as Landowners, and rare cosmetics in scarce supply, like skins, emotes, and capes are gathered through gameplay objectives instead of bought from us – not to mention that players literally own these cosmetics, and they’re thus allowed to sell them to others.

With roots in what I believe to be a very Danish mentality, we’re building a MMORPG universe where the players control as much of the world as possible, and where we don’t attempt to reap all the profits through selling lootboxes or the like, but rather allow players to find cosmetics through gameplay and freely trade them among each other.

Didn’t I tell you it got interesting? And don’t worry, it’s only going to get better!

A “How-to” Fix It!

I mentioned the decline of popularity concerning MMOs. “A dying genre” some would say with the dwindling number of subscriptions and the staggering amount of titles going free-to-play. What prompted you to make Ember Sword along with the creative decisions you made in order for it to stand out?

I wouldn’t say MMORPGs are dying, but consumer wants have changed, causing most new MMORPGs that monetize through a required monthly premium subscription to have a hard time these days.

That is why Ember Sword is completely free to play, and with our cartoony, polished, art style we target a much broader audience than traditional MMORPGs like TERA, Guild Wars, and World of Warcraft.

With Ember Sword, we want to create the MMORPG for the next generation of players. A re-thinking of what an MMORPG is and can be. A game with a large, persistent, universe where the community permanently owns and decide the fate of the world and experiences within.

It’s a living, breathing world where landowners build & evolve the universe and monetize their own plots of land, where players are free to do whatever they want whenever they want and truly own their own cosmetic items, and where artists can monetize their own creations by making epic emotes, animations, skins and more that end up in-game as cosmetics. Ultimately, Ember Sword is more than just a game, it’s a community, a world, an economy.

The Power of Ember Sword and “real economy”

Along the topic of the creative decisions that shaped the game and made it stand out, you mentioned your frustration concerning ownership and games, specifically MMOs. I’m curious to know what your solution with Ember Sword is?

Our solution is about bringing ownership over the world and in-game items back into the hands of the players.

We’re essentially giving players ownership over their in-game cosmetic items and the land plots that make up the Ember Sword world, which means players are free to trade these items for our PIXEL token and other cryptocurrencies, and can do so in a safe and transparent way.

Buying and trading digital virtual goods in games is a $50 billion industry, and real money trading of these in-game items has a very long history in the games industry. In most games, however, trading of virtual goods outside the game is banned, with the players not truly owning their own items.

Gamers want to trade their in-game items outside of the games they play, however, as clearly demonstrated by the many large black markets where players buy and sell in-game items from each other. And why shouldn’t they? They’ve fought long and hard to acquire these items after all.

But apart from being discouraged and against the terms of service of most games, these black markets are far from ideal for the gamers either, as hacking and scamming of items is a big issue.

In Ember Sword, each cosmetic in-game item is actually a crypto token that the player truly owns. Each of these tokens is stored in a blockchain wallet created when players register a game account. Not only does this mean that the player truly owns their own cosmetic items, but it also means that they are free to transfer, trade, and sell them to and from each other either through our in-game PIXEL Marketplace or outside of the game.

Additionally, the blockchain guarantees the scarcity of each cosmetic item, ensuring players that their cosmetic is indeed rare, as opposed to typical game cosmetics where the total supply is unknown to the players and items exist in infinite quantities.  

With this solution, we hope to create a marketplace of virtual goods in Ember sword that embraces trading of cosmetic items instead of bans it, and transparency about the scarcity and rarity of each item.

I wouldn’t say our method is the “only solution” – that is what is so great about blockchain; there are many interesting and different new concepts. For Ember Sword, this system is what we believe to be the best.

TL;DR

The really short version is that in normal games, an in-game item exists only within the game and is never actually truly owned by the player, whereas by applying a player-owned unique crypto token to each item, that item now exists and can be traded outside of the game too.

Okay, time for a breather. A lot of thought has gone into making this game, not only in the normal sense of art, story, and design, but also the economics and the “afterlife” of it. To me, this speaks volumes of how well-polished this game is going to be!

But as it sounds, Ember Sword is far from done yet. There’s still a lot to be done, changed, made better, and everything in between.

The future and You!

So… if you could, what are “the next steps” for you, your team, and Ember Sword — let’s say for the next 5 years’ time?

The next step for us is to complete the private presale and public crowd-sale of our PIXEL Cryptocurrency Token, which is what powers the Ember Sword economy, used to make in-game purchases and trade cosmetics and land.

The funds generated through these two sales will be used to develop and market the game, which will take the next 2-3 years depending on the sale volume.

What the in-game world will look like after launch, and how it will evolve over the first few weeks, months and subsequent years is all up to the players. In fact, that’s part of what excites us the most; to see what the players will do with the world, how they will play, what sort of groups or perhaps factions will evolve, which areas will be popular, and how people will build them and evolve them. It’s both humbling and fascinating to think about.

After launch, we will focus on ensuring the best possible gameplay experience by constantly optimizing our servers, engaging with the community, adding new features to the game, and making sure the Ember Sword game becomes as accessible as possible across all devices (PC, consoles, mobile).

In 5 years, we hope for Ember Sword to be among the most played MMORPGs on the market, with a thriving marketplace of players, landowners, and artists.

Players who wish to follow the game should join our Discord server and signup to our newsletter on https://socouch.com.

Age of Empire? No… Age of Space!

Let’s see… Cool name? Check. Outstanding graphics? Yep. A neat idea? 100%. Well, let’s have a look at Age of Space by Podpal Games.

Age of Space (site)

Age of Space (Facebook)

Podpal Games (Twitter)

The best space battle simulator?

Age of Space is what I can only describe as, a space-opera fan’s greatest war simulator, but don’t take my word for it! Check out the images above and below — and while you’re at it, what about having a gander through my chit-chat with the creator of the game, Anders Lindås.

But before that, let’s break down what Age of Space is, and to do it as quickly and informative as possible, here’s a bullet-point style break down of what you can expect in Age of Space.

  • Coined as a “tower defence versus”-genre.
  • You play as a commander of a massive fleet and you’ll have to be tactical in order to take down the enemy.
  • Go online or play as one-of-three factions with their own unique campaign.
  • Customize your ship and play endlessly, watching your greatest triumph unfold or face the consequences of poor management and feel like that one guy watching the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV.

With Age of Space and Anders, I really wanted to know when the idea first sprouted as I knew the game was originally going to be 2D and a mobile game instead of the 3D PC version we’re getting.

I started working on Age of Space in January 2016 as a solo project. However, the overall concept of making some kind of “battle simulation” between two fleets was born several years earlier when I was heavily into Eve Online.

So, Age of Space is still a relatively new game per se, but the idea has been accumulated over some years. Gotcha.

With most programming, you’ll need to be good or at least decent at math if you don’t want to be left behind or sitting with a headache during most hours of the day. And with a game like Age of Space with battle simulation running events, long strings of code, and probably relying on some kind of AI, you’d believe Anders was some kind of math genius.

Frankly, I am as surprised as you are.

I’ve been wanting to get into game development since I was around 10 years old when I started writing my first programs in BASIC. After I started at the university I was hit by a huge monster called “math” that killed my ideas of becoming a game developer and sent me down a different path. In recent years I decided to take a look at Unity and see what it was all about.

Following this is something all aspiring game developers who also struggle with math should learn now rather than later.

To my great surprise I found that I was able to quickly get results without having to deal with the difficult math. The last two years I’ve been taking steps to change my career path towards game development.

Failure doesn’t mean failure. It never does, it’s usually what you do after experience a failure that determines how much a failure that failure actually was. Wording aside, there’s a message in that, and it’s something Anders can attest to:

We’ve had all kinds of amazing things happening to us the last year. However, I must admit I was a bit disappointed when we received the message that we did not qualify for the “Nordic Game Discovery Contest” qualifier in Oslo. After seeing which kind of companies that got selected it made perfect sense though. However, that situation turned around completely when we got a late invitation to participate and even ended up winning the qualifier which sent us on yet another high.

All that’s left to ask, is what’s next?

I want to continue to build PodPal Games and hopefully make a handful of great games. If I ever get tired of making games I’d love to work with scientists solving the mysteries of consciousness.

However, adding that:

I hope that Age of Space will be well received at launch. I also hope that some people stick around for years to complete in multiplayer for the top ranks.

Narrative games and Arcadia Fallen — a lost battle?

Just a short disclaimer, with Galdra Studios’ response to my questions, there is nothing really I can add to it.

I think this is best read raw and uncut — with zero ‘funny’ remarks from my side. Enjoy!

Arcadia Fallen

Galdra Studios (site)

Galdra Studios (Facebook)

Galdra Studios (Twitter)

The niché genre of…

Visual Novels

To fill you in just a bit (covering only the basics), this is what Gadra Studios is and what it does great:

Galdra Studios consists of three people, Daniel Christensen, CEO and programmer, and the person I’ve been chatting to, Mette Jakobsen, in charge of art and writing, and lastly, Jesper Green, doing the sound and music.

Arcadia Fallen is Galdra Studios’ baby. It’s a visual novel about story and relationships, focusing heavily on choice, and the consequential emotional journey of the protagonist.

But without further ado, let’s get into the article!

Let’s begin with visual novels: why did you want to make Arcadia Fallen and what made you want to make it an interactive story told in pictures? I’m asking, as visual novels and narrative games, in general, have been a bit more-far-in-between and when it comes to popularity. Of course, overlooking the success of games like Firewatch, The Walking Dead-series, and games like Dear Esther, as they are not visual novels but what some would call “walking simulators”.

We are fully aware that Arcadia Fallen, like many indie games, falls within a niche market. Story rich games, especially text-heavy ones, are not for everyone, but to us at Galdra Studios, game narrative and how we make choices in games is incredibly fascinating, hence the choice of genre.

As for our target audience. Visuals novels are roughly put a genre, that takes the choice mechanic found in many RPGs and isolates it. So the people who enjoy forming bonds with their companions in games like Mass Effect, or cried when they had to make their final choice in Life is Strange, that’s our people. Is it a large group of people? Probably not as big as the crowd a triple-A game must attract to make back their production costs, but that’s the tricky part with measuring success, it is all relative. Can we be successful compared to the sales of a triple-A title? Most likely not. Can we be successful within our niche market, with a game that focuses on the wants and needs of that particular audience? We believe so.

A timely return?

The decline in popularity is what leads me on to my next question. As game developers and especially indie game developers, you’re, metaphorically speaking, fighting in a battle royale with a lot more than 100 other indie developers. But not only that, this royale also has boss battles: game companies, publishers, marketing, and consumer theoretics!… Metaphor aside, my question is, how does Arcadia Fallen stand out from amongst the crowd?

Looking at the recent success of Dream Daddy or Doki Doki Literature Club, and the never-ending stream of Japanese PSP titles being ported to Steam, we do not recognize the notion that the genre should be in decline. On the contrary, our biggest challenge will be to stand out in this sea of content, a challenge most indie developers know all too well.

Arcadia Fallen is our take on a merge between Japanese visual novels and Western RPGs. Traditionally Japanese visual novels are a fairly linear experience with binary choices that lead to good or bad endings, while Western RPG titles focus on branching narratives with choices that have consequences. Arcadia Fallen will make use of the format and aesthetic of the Japanese model, and the choice mechanic from the Western model, bringing together the best of both worlds.

To dwell a bit on the game itself: why Arcadia Fallen, exactly — what prompted you to make this game: what inspired it?

We felt that there was a lack of games in the genre that delved into self-expression through roleplay. A lot of visual novels have a set protagonist and focus on players making the “right” choice. How many times haven’t you encountered a character who is acting like a real jerk, wanted to call them out, but not been able to, because the choice leads to a dissatisfying ending? Arcadia Fallen is a game that encourages the player not to make the right choices, but their choices.

We were inspired by modern fantasy and coming of age stories that focus on internal conflict and drama, rather than an external worldly conflict. That is not to say the world of Arcadia Fallen doesn’t have conflicts, it has plenty! But rather than picking up a sword, our hero will have to deal with their struggles by interacting and bonding with characters in the world, gaining friends and enemies and possibly falling in love.

Arcadia Fallen — a visual novel series?

When making games, it’s often wise to have an end-goal: a finish-line or something similar to reach. However, too often the likes of dreams get mixed up with reality. What is your team’s dream for Arcadia Fallen — no holds barred, what do you want it to become?

Our goal is to have a game series with several installments that are released at a regular basis. You wouldn’t want to wait 6 years for a sequel to a book, why should you with a game? The pillar of Arcadia Fallen is self expression through gameplay. For now we focus on choice menus, but we want to explore how other types of gameplay can be utilized for player expression and storytelling. Dreaming big, we want Arcadia Fallen to be a game that inspires new ways to think about choices in games.

Finally, to people, like yourselves: narrative-lovers, visual novel-enthusiasts, and game developers. What would your tips and tricks be to make a stand-out visual novel — can you name three things you learned during your journey that might help others?

Break the mould. There are already strong opinions on what does and doesn’t constitute as a game, which is bullshit. Arguably our medium is still in its infant state and there is still much to be explored.

If you wish to make a stand-out visual novel, start by making just a visual novel, and experiment from there. There are many successful visual novels, and there is nothing universal about them except for the genre. Do what you want to do, and work towards becoming the best at doing that.

For the vast majority of game developers, making games is a passion, so foremost consider what you want to be doing. Following your passion means that even if you never make an outstanding game, it won’t have been a waste, because you created something you care about.

Last year’s “People Choice Awards” winner, ALL CAPS, is back!

Just a short disclaimer, with ALL CAPS’ response to my questions, there is nothing really I can add to it.

I think this is best read raw and uncut — with zero ‘funny’ remarks from my side. Enjoy!

ALL CAPS

ALL CAPS (site)

ALL CAPS (Facebook)

ALL CAPS (Twitter)

ALL CAPS, of course, won the Game Scope 2017’s “People Choice Award” with their highly addictive, Disco Flip, which can be played with a Dance Dance Revolution matte. Some say it was meant to play on it, however, I was wondering, how did it feel winning the PCA?

Seeing all the happy and entertained people playing our game during Game Scope 2017 was something that brought us great pride, and then winning the PCA made us even prouder of our product and what we achieved with it.

Adding:

The trip to Kiev was extremely fruitful and we made some lasting connections with other people of their games business that have great value for us! So all in all? Very amazing!

To me a bit informational. The prize for winning the PCA is tickets to a Casual Connect conference of their choice!

I want to hear a bit more about the game in questions, what was your inspiration to make Disco Flip, but before that, let’s have a watch for ourselves:

ALL CAPS have always been interested in rhythm-based games, starting all the way back to our university education when we met and spent many nights playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band. We decided to bring the element to the fast-paced world of endless runners and we were immediately surprised by just how well it worked!

And when asked about the style:

The visual expression was born from our company culture, keeping things whimsical and colourful!

Now, as an entrepreneur, what are your plans moving forward — are you planning any updates to Disco Flip or your first game, Block Amok, or have you an entirely new idea in the works?

Keeping your games updated with new content is a good way to ensure your users stick around, and we have a lot of updates planned for this game that we will start implementing once the game is launched. For the rest of our game portfolio, a re-release of Block Amok is in the works and we are working on a new project, which will be unlike anything we have done, stay tuned!

To end on some more personal notes: What inspired you to become a game developer — when did it start and what steps did you take?

Lastly, do you have any advice for like-minded individuals who want to make it in the industry (or at least get their foot in the door) — can you name three things one can do and should do, or just begin doing?

A good question, and hard to answer because there are many things that you can do to improve your abilities and your chances of landing a job as a game developer.  I’ll give you my top three things that you can do:

And without further ado, here is Christian Bæk’s top three advice!

Game Scope presents: ALL CAPS’

“How to Game Dev 101”

  • Start networking with other game developers as soon as possible. A lot of inspiration, energy, and general passion for the trade comes from being around other dedicated people. No need to wait until you are a skilled developer, just hanging out with game dev people can help you for example at local events or other places.
    This can also be done digitally by joining different online communities that talk and showcase game development related stuff. Start building a network of people you know, and that know you!
  • Start creating game related stuff. Even if you just use very simple game creation tools, get into the mindset of a game developer. This might also help you figure out what aspects of game development that you like in particular, and down the line, you can start focusing on that aspects more and more. It is, however, a good idea to have a general knowledge about how the different parts of game development work.
  • It is vital that you start out small. Game development is not easy and thinking you’ll be able to create an RPG, even a simple one, from the beginning is a mistake. Better finish a super simple game, than five percent of a big one.
    I would suggest simple platformers and arcade games with basic mechanics so there aren’t many things that can go wrong and super simple graphics.
    This ensures that you can create something that works, and build from this compared to spend the first long amount of time planning and coming up with complicated decision-trees and inventory-system. Save all that you do and start building that portfolio, so when you are looking for a job in the future, you have all these things to showcase.

Chop Chop Chop Chop Cho—p

Chop Chop Games

Chop Chop Games (site)

Chop Chop Games (Twitter)

Valhalla Olympics is a game in early, early alpha, meaning it’s far from finished, however, couch-play lovers can rejoice as the viking-themed party game brings back the joy of laughing on a couch with your friends.

The game is made by Chop Chop Games and features a smartphone-system so you can play a true couch game without having to live off of cheap ramen. This is, at least, the vision for the game, Dario Rahimic and his partner, Michael have envisioned.

Our inspiration comes from wanting to make this experience possible for as many people as we can, by giving budget-friendly versions that require minimal setup and all of your friends can join in on!

Both Dario and Michael are avid gamers, loving the couch-play format, and has done so through years of play. Both of them have always loved games, going back to their childhood, they’ve experienced both casual, but also competitive play.

The dream of making games instead of only playing them had probably been in the back of their minds for a long time, however, it was after they’d finished University that they decided to make the dream a reality.

We had it all planned out from when we finished University till now. We’re not fooling ourselves, while it’s definitely an exciting and amazing journey, it’s definitely tough doing your own start-up and creating games that people will hopefully spend their hard-earned money on! Planning is the key to success […].

Another reason why Dario and Michael decided to join the game industry was:

[…] we feel that there’s a gap in the industry for bold design-decisions that challenge the way we play and think about different genres of games.

But enough of Dario and Michael — if you have questions, personal and professional, there’ll be around the Expo Venue of Game Scope, surely happy to share their experiences, thoughts, and joys concerning gaming and the industry.

Instead, let’s talk a bit about their game, starting with its genre: why make a couch game?

There’s something special about having friends over and enjoying fun co-op or competitive games where the players’ reactions are half the fun.

However, couch-play in and of itself had died off over the years. Whether it was the rise of online games like World of Warcraft, FPS like Call of Duty, or just the general gaming generation turning their blind side to the “old” format, I do not know.

But slowly and steadily that format has returned with fan-favourites like Gang Beasts and Overcooked. Though new and cool games haven’t been the only factor in bringing back couch games:

Lately, consoles like the Wii and Switch have brought gaming back to the living room for avid Nintendo fans who invest into the console and games to recreate the fun environment.

I’ve only touched a bit on the subject of Valhalla Olympics, mentioning it’s in its earliest of stages with placeholder graphics and characters that are not going to be in the final version. Because of this, I’ve asked Dario if he could describe the vision he has for the game:

We want the game to appeal to a large crowd of people without taking itself too seriously. We see the art style going in a more cartoony way, as you would see in popular games like Fortnite, but obviously with a Viking-heavy twist, flying pigs, and any other silly thing you can imagine.

Adding:

Right now we unfortunately don’t have any concept art to share, but we’re working on getting the resources and finding the right people in other to bring our practical vision to life!

Lastly, I asked Dario if he could share what was next when Game Scope was over if he and Michael have anything planned:

Valhalla Olympics still has a long way to go, while the main theme and gameplay loop is starting to be set, graphic and further content are always being worked on. We also have another exciting project to announce, which we will announce shortly after Game Scope is finished.

But in general, he added:

Lots of exciting things in the pipeline. Valhalla Olympics is an ambitious project, and definitely is not going to be our only game, follow our Twitter for much more information once Game Scope is over!

Say it slowly, “Dumb as Wizards”

Pun — definitely — intended

Random Dragon Games has made the next “pun-intended named game” called Dumb as Wizards. I’ve chatted with Jacob Kjeldsen, CEO of Random Dragons about their game and couch play.

What are the three key ingredients of a couch game?

Jacob:

  • The social interaction (in-game and with your friend on the couch),
  • the ‘uhh, ohh, daaaaamn” moments are also uniquely emphasized in party and couch games, especially when action and crazy, and humorous things are involved.
  • And obviously multiplayer, the players on the couch should be impacting each other in some way.

Games like Overcooked and Gang Beasts have really helped to bring couch games back into popularity with their own uniqueness.

In one sentence, what does Dumb as Wizards bring to the table — other than a neat wordplay?

Deconstructing fantasy tropes and cliches, making fun of the genre from the inside out in order to build an experience that lowers the barrier of entry to the realm of nerds.

Jacob also urges you to have a look at their website if you’re interested in their studio and their ideals. But if you’re more interested in the game, here is the Dumb as Wizards’ press kit.

Random Dragon (site)

Random Dragon (presskit)

Lastly, I wanted to know if there was some new implementations or changes that he could share a bit about. Here’s his response:

There are lots of quality of life stuff that we are working on, but a major feature that needs quite a bit of work is the single player / co-op mode “Defend the Eye” […]

Detailing that:

[… ] we want to add more monster variety and make the experience a lot more engaging.

However, with Dumb as Wizards, Jacob also explained that they were always looking to add more abilities — the wackier the better. But to do this, ie. adding special or unique powers and costumes, he needs the voice of the guests at Game Scope this year.

[…] we hope to get a lot of suggestions from the players at this year’s Game Scope.

What the Mindfox?

Mindfox Studios

Mindfox Studios is a studio consisting of former employees from the giant mobile game company, Kiloo. Mindfox Studios has worked as contractees, doing client work in order to… oh well, let’s hear it from Maria Garde, Head of Studio at Mindfox.

Mindfox Studios (site)

First up, her note on her team. And spoiler alert, it’s a good team.

We have a solid team – we can dream big and build it. So our mentality is pretty straight forward: Fuck it, Ship it. We’re not afraid of failing, and we know that great products come out of many shitty ideas and iterations.

Maria believes in her team and their ability to work together as a team, which at the end to her, breeds a more fruitful harvest. In other words:

To think less and do more.

The Team behind Mindfox

Secondly, Maria on the studio’s mentality:

We love making games, but we want to earn our own money, so jumping from fund to fund is not an option for us. So we work for clients, and it’s fun to adapt what we know about games to all types of user experiences. Being able to “earn the right” to make your own stuff feels good, and client work is a very good way of learning about different users and needs.

Client Services

However, Mindfox Studios has with their game, Space Loops, put client work on hold to prove their ability and collective experience to make their own games.

Project Swinger [the codename for their game] just got its real name: Space Loops, and it’s a “safe title” for us, meaning that it reflects our CVs for the past years. A hyper casual mobile title that we’ve made in 2 months to show the world that Mindfox Studios is here, and we know how to take an idea into action.

Adding in relation to what’s next:

You won’t see more titles like this one coming from us – the next productions are going to relate to our mission: Make the world a better place, and will probably have something to do with saving the oceans from pollution.

And on the note of “their mission”, Maria also mentioned that:

We [Mindfox Studios] have the same mindset: We want to make the world a better place, and we believe games can communicate and teach us about some complex challenges our world faces.

Adding:

Sustainability and taking care of our planet is important to us, and we can see our clients are right there with us.

Mindfox Studios isn’t just about games, although games can be the greatest of teachers, it’s the message, which they teach that truly matter.

Games are a tool to engage users and create universes that are unforgettable. We love nature, and want to use our knowledge about game development to make the world a better place. Sounds glorious, we know. But we actually believe this is how we can contribute to solving for example the climate crises we’re facing. Walk the talk, right…?

However, not to take away from Maria or Mindfox’ message and purpose, at Game Scope we’re talking about games. If you want to talk about global warming with Maria or with the other developers at Mindfox, you can find them at GS18.

Without further ado, I’ll leave you with this last snippet from Maria about her game and then we can talk about nature and crises on a later occasion:

Space Loops is fun though – great mechanic and perfect for the purpose of passing time at the airport or in a boring meeting (we all do it… procrastinate in long meetings).

Indie VR title by Pareidolia Games

Wartime

Virtual Reality is a relatively new thing, although it has already swarmed the market, using its inherent features to provide a debatable but ultimately more immersive gaming experience than most other mediums.

Many see VR as being still in its earliest of stages: claiming the possibilities are near endless when it comes to what VR can do. But VR isn’t just about games, as artists are making beautiful illustrations apps like Tiltbrush and the medical industry is also trying to implement VR in medical training as well as in treatment.

However, today we’re just talking about games — more specifically a WW2 turret gunner “simulator” called Wartime by Pareidolia Games.

Pareidolia Games (site)

Pareidolia Games (Facebook)

Pareidolia Games (Twitter)

Pareidolia Games are a two-man team trying to develop a 3D, VR game. As any game developers know, especially indie developers, even a 2D game can be gruelling and stressful.

I wanted to know how taking on this mental suicide mission felt and if they’d felt the strain of working on a 3D-modelled, VR game project consisting of only two people?

Like other indie game developers we sometimes have very long days and with a new and evolving technology like VR there are definitely a lot of learning experiences. Because of our team size, we always appreciate help wherever we can get it, whether it’s advice, feedback, or third-party game assets.

Why VR?

Now, I like my Call of Duty, Dragon Ball: FigtherZ, my Skyrim, and my Pokémon too. And the common denominator of all these are that neither of them are VR games.

I’m not incredibly familiar with VR games as I’ve only played them a handful times. I have played many other games (a bit more than a handful last I counted). So, I’m not the best advocate for VR games and what they can do better as opposed to “regular” games.

Emil and Kenneth might not be VR-experts, but I asked them what they personally found different when comparing VR games with the games most of us know AND why they wanted to develop in VR opposed to the norm?

We think VR is an interesting new technology with a lot of potential, notably when it comes to providing an immersive experience. In the case of video games, we can create very seamless and intuitive interactions, which we hope translated into a more powerful experience.

Adding to that:

If done right, VR has the potential to elevate the impact of many aspects of regular video games, like story-telling, level design, and aesthetics. In our experience looking around or holding an object in VR feels natural and this intuitive connection to the virtual environment makes players both more observant and engaged.

Both Emil and Kenneth know the harsh of indie game development. And in this competitive industry, succeeding can seem likewise as impossible as finishing your first project. It can be especially tough for aspiring VR developers, but luckily, Emil and Kenneth want to share what they’ve learned from making Wartime.

Make use of the learning resources available to you. Resources that have been very useful to us, developing in VR specifically, are Oculus best practices and Epic Games’ Robo Recall project for modding, which is available for free through the Epic Games Launcher.