Articles Tagged with: aalborg

Acrylec Studios, their game “Chase”, and what’s next!

Acrylec Studios

Acrylec Studios (site)

Acrylec Studios (Facebook)

Acrylec Studios (Twitter)

Based in Denmark, Acrylec Studios has through their AP degree in Computer Science, #1 founded their company, #2 aced their second-semester exam and #3 pitched their game, successfully I might add, to Gamehub Denmark.

Chase

Chase is the name of the game, and I’ve talked to the CEO and programmer, Peter Witt. I asked him to sell his game to me to the1 best of his ability BUT only using one sentence: Explain to me what Chase is —  sell it to me to the best of your ability!

Chase is pure, fast-paced, space-themed fun, filled with intense moments and enough power-ups and explosions to keep you and your friends competing for a long time.

However, to dive a bit deeper into the game, from their press kit, Chase is…

[…] a fast-paced competitive party game, perfect for any party occasion. With a missile that can kill you in a split second, you must use your skills to avoid, out-play and react fast to win over your friends. Inspired by the Warcraft 3 mod “Hungry Hungry Felhounds” one player gets the tracker and tries to not get hit by the missile. You can shoot the tracker into other players to get the missile to chase them, but if you keep the tracker and survive, your next shot will be empowered, making It harder for your target to evade. You can also use powerups to get an edge over the other players.

Peter’s Game Development Journey

But, let’s talk game development a bit. Game development is a tough business where both luck and skill are involved — you know luck from yours and Mikkel’s coincidental meeting, but how did you prepare skills-wise — take me through what you did to cement yourself in the world of games?

We have always been hardworking, in school and with other part-time projects before starting Acrylec. We have had a lot of long nights of working, spent a lot of time researching both the technical aspect and design of making games.

Adding:

I think the key to being able to make games is to give all you have, and just get going and make something.

Why “Gamedev” is awesome!

To return to “game development” a bit more: What does “game development” mean to you — to specify, can you name three things that make game development, in the simplest of terms: awesome?

#1 The creative challenge of making and designing a game that people will love playing.

#2 The tremendous payoff when seeing someone playing and enjoying your game after many months of hard work.

#3 Making games are just a lot of fun, and we love making them, with all the ups and downs, mainly long nights, that come with it.

We’ve talked past, present… Why not discuss the future a bit: Can you tell me what’s next for Acrylec Studios after Chase is out on Steam — are you aiming for general console release or planning another game?

We have definetely considered releasing Chase on consoles and think that it would be a great fit for that. However, if that doesn’t work out we already have new game ideas lined up, ready for prototyping.

Spoiler Alert!

It’s the name of the game

Jeff Jensen founded Megafuzz in 2013 with his and his partner’s, Martin Pedersen’s, game called Spoiler Alert. The duo began working together on Spoiler Alert or what would become Spoiler Alert at IndieTAW game jam in 2012.

Working on the game proved difficult for the indie team of two as they lived in separate cities. But utilising Skype, Facebook, and Google Docs, they developed the game over a period of six months, which only just started their adventure into the game industry!

Let’s talk about Spoiler Alert, Jeff, and games!

In Spoiler Alert, you start your journey at the end, literally as you pick up the game, the boss has been defeated, everything’s collected, and the princess has been rescued. Video game trope aside, the goal is now to unravel the past.

Let’s do the same! I asked Jeff: what’s your end goal — when/where in your life, would you claim yourself “done”, in the way Mario finally reaches Princess Peach or Doomguy finally downs “The Icon of Sin”?

I don’t think I would ever feel like I’m “done”. Even in the wildest dream scenario with a super smash indie hit, lots of money in the bank, the girl of your dreams, the nice car and all that, I think there will always be a hunger for more. If there’s no drive, then what’s the point? So to stick with your analogy, I’d say life (to me) is more of a procedurally generated “endless” runner than a finite set of levels with a goal. It’s a sandbox, really. The day I’m no longer hungry for more is the day I’m truly dead.

From here I want to unravel your past, and I can’t do it without talking about how you started. What was your first experience with games and what steps did you take to “make it” in the game industry?

I got into old school pen & paper roleplaying, especially AD&D before videogames. When I “migrated” into playing videogames more, that roleplaying interest carried itself over quite naturally, and two of my oldest and fondest memories are Dink Smallwood and Baldur’s Gate, two games which still to this day influences me greatly as a developer. 

Adding:

What actually got me into making games in the first place was that I had been developing my own pen & paper system for a while, and seeing how they adapted AD&D to videogames in Baldur’s Gate made me think “what if I could migrate my own system to a videogame?”.

So, pen and paper roleplaying games and AD&D, along with RPG video games was what inspired Jeff. But when did the inspiration become more than just thoughts and ideas — when was the shift from dream to reality?

I was around 13 at the time, and started looking into several different tools to help me get started – RPG Maker was one of the first ones I tried, which I quickly moved away from due to a lack of flexibility. From then on it was an all-consuming hobby, until a little game called “Braid” came out in 2008, and it dawned on me that the video game industry was going through a paradigm shift – and it slowly went from being a hobby to a more serious industry endeavour.

But let’s not dwell on the past anymore, but instead look to the future or, more exactly, the present! Since Spoiler Alert is out, what’s next for you guys — could you tell us a bit about what you’re working on now or your next project?

We still have Xbox One and Switch ports of Spoiler Alert in the pipeline, but beyond that, our main project right now is Ronn For Your Life which is an RPG with heavy emphasis on branching narrative, mixed in with some good old-fashioned action, platforming, exploration, and puzzles.

Adding:

It’s a rather tragic love story told in a high fantasy world. Right now I’m trying to piece together a somewhat playable and presentable demo for Game Scope. It will be very short and boast temporary programmer graphics, but the idea here is to give a general idea of what we’re going for and to take notes on player reactions to the different aspects of the main game mechanics. We’ve only just moved into the production phase and are starting generating content, so we’re very open to feedback and want to correct as many of the obvious flaws we haven’t seen ourselves as early on as possible before the game shapes itself too much.

You can follow Jeff on his game development endeavours on his blog linked below!

We’re also very open about the development process and the more technical side of things on the game’s developer blog which you can follow here:

Megafuzz’ Blog

Anybody still playing Yu-Gi-Oh? No… what about, Soapra!

“Soapra”

Mind Bulb Games (Instagram)

This entry is a bit different, maybe even a forgotten phenomenon to newer generations. Mind Bulb Games are like other like-minded card/ and board game lovers fighting a battle to not erase, essentially, the origin of video games from pop culture media.

To put it bluntly, card/ and board games, to some, are a thing of the past, not considered pop culture anymore, and generally dismissed at a party. But, to others, board games are still one of the best Friday nights you can ever have, whether it’s D&D, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, or Pokémon, it doesn’t matter as long as there are people, laughter, and games.

For Mind Bulb Games, it’s probably the latter. We’ll talk about their game, Soapra: Flights of Fancington and the thing that makes it stand out from amongst a crowd, but firstly, I’m dying to know, what was your first experience with board games?

As with many others, our first introduction into board games was playing ludo with the family. However, our interest in tactile gaming arose when introduced to more complex and story- or socially driven games like Pandemic and Munchkin. Though learning from different games we both found that the possibilities of story-telling and game mechanic design were a wide and wondrous world waiting to be expanded and explored.

Although this isn’t a war on ‘what medium of entertainment is the best’, board games have been overlooked more in the past years then they were in the 90s and early 2000s. Could you tell me three reasons why board games still matter and what they do better than any other medium of entertainment?

#1 Unlike most video games, board games have a type of immediate presence that cannot be quickly recreated like, say, a counter-strike match. Playing a game of Call of Cathulu or Risk can take hours in which the tension slowly rises. There is no reloading or saving. Once things go down, they go down for all parties involved.

#2 Board games will always be the better social game, no matter how much voice- or video chat you implement. Simply sitting in a room with another player, be they, teammates or opponents, seeing the fear or joy in their eyes, hearing their cheers or wails of torment will always be more real when you’re sharing the same room.

#3 Another thing board games have over computer games is their element of the ‘real’. You can touch them, feel them. When you score points or kill enemies, you get to move meeples around on a board. Drawing cards will always be a much more engaging result than having a computer generate something at random.

Luckily for board games enthusiast, it seems like they are making somewhat of a return in the later years with more people playing them and albeit fewer making them — original ideas are on the rise!

So, why don’t we talk about Mind Bulb Games’ original idea? I’ve asked Mads Reedtz about his and his team’s game, Flights of Fancington. Specifically, if he could describe the game using only one sentence:

Soapra is a media-culture based card game involving social manipulation, keeping secrets, telling stories, but most importantly it is about being the fanciest in Fancington.

However, to focus in on his game, in particular, I’ve asked him to specify the traits of Flights of Fancington, which makes the game stand out from the rest.

What makes our game stand out, at least to some extent, is that the game is really just a medium for interpersonal relations. Granted, Soapra is all the mechanics and rules, but the real game takes place amongst the players and how they negotiate with and manipulate each other. Other games do this as well, sure, but none of them is nowhere near as fancy.

Adding:

Also, Soapra uses a cultural jumping-off point that everybody can relate to Soap operas. Be it Days of our Lives, Soap, Star Wars or any other drama-related media, we’ve all watched a soap opera in one form or another.

Now. We’ve talked board games in general. We’ve talked Mind Bulb’s game. Let’s talk about making card/ and board games.

Designing card/ board games and designing video games are a bit like each other — although there are differences, there something to learn from both mediums. What are your top five tips to aspiring board game developers?

Game Scope presents: Mind Bulb Games’

Quick-y Guide to Getting Your Game On!

#1 Start small.

#2 Get to play it quick.

#3 Get fresh eyes.

#4 Be careful with your manual.

#5 Be prepared to kill your darlings (over and over and over and over and over again) and remember, this is supposed to be fun.

The Weird Baby of LIMBO and Portal

Lightmatter

Tunnel Vision Games have created a beautiful puzzle game, featuring a unique game mechanic, where “the floor is lava”, except there isn’t any lava, but shadow instead.

The name of the game is Lightmatter. I haven’t any release date yet, but it’s set somewhere in 2019. However, even though the game isn’t finished, it already has accumulated four nominations/awards.

To supply some text with the images you’re seeing, the game is described on their website as:

If LIMBO and Portal had a weird baby…

Tunnel Vision Games

Tunnel Vision (site)

Tunnel Vision (Facebook)

Tunnel Vision (Twitter)

And it that isn’t an interesting enough combination, it’s actually pretty accurate too. However, I’ve chatted with Gustav Dahl, producer and programmer at Tunnel Vision Games. The team at Tunnel Vision was founded by five guys from the same study at Aalborg University, but the team, as of present date, consist of eight members in total.

But let’s talk Lightmatter and puzzle games! Puzzle games can be some of the most rewarding games you’ll ever play, but on the other side of that coin is frustration, blatantly teasing you for walking in a circle when the right path was straight ahead.

Metaphor aside, I’ve always wondered if puzzle games are as frustrating to make as they can be to play?

Good question! In the beginning of the project, making puzzles was really difficult. It took us a long time to figure out the process, which was a bit frustrating. Initially, we wanted to base the puzzles around cool environments, but we learned that this approach did not suit our skill sets.

Adding:

It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation: do you design the puzzle or environment first? After much experimentation, we found that we are best at designing the puzzles first and then later decorate it with nice environmental art. Our process now is to design on paper or with physical LEGO bricks first, then implement a rough prototype in Unity. We then test it internally to assess whether or not we should continue with a given puzzle. If we find it good enough, we proceed and test it externally, tweaking it until it works as we want. If a puzzle gets the green-light throughout all of these steps, we then sit down and talk about how the level should actually look like and what we want it to convey art- and story-wise.

Making games is generally a difficult and strenuous process, and I’d bet that developing a puzzle game is equally difficult, if not more, but I really want to know, what has been the best moment or moments when working on Lightmatter (was called “See You On The Other Side)?

Playtesting is one of the highlights for us since this is where we can validate whether a puzzle works or not. Seeing a playtester struggle for some time but then realize the solution is always fun. These “aha moments” are what motivate us to continue working on the game.

For full transparency’s sake… I don’t play a lot of puzzle games myself — and to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the genre. Sadly never been. Not that I can’t see the appeal, I just don’t get “it”. I’d reckon most puzzle game fanatics would already be all over your game, but how you would you sell it to people like myself — what makes your game stand out or do differently?

I get where you are coming from. Some of the team members didn’t even like puzzle games that much when we began this project! To us, puzzle games are about lateral thinking, or in other words, thinking outside the box. This experience is super satisfying as a player.

What we want to achieve with See You On The Other Side [Lightmatter] is to let as many people as possible to experience this. That’s why we are working hard to strike a fine balance with the difficulty. Also, keep in mind that there are many different types of puzzles. Sudoku and Bejeweled are puzzle games, but so are Portal, LIMBO and Antichamber.

What makes our game unique? We believe our core game mechanic about shadows is quite different from other games. Traditionally, lights and shadows are only used as aesthetic elements, whereas in our game they are an integral part of the gameplay. One way to pitch the concept is to describe it as “the floor is lava … but with shadows”.

Well, as we’ve established, puzzle games and me, we don’t really get along unless I have close to an eternity to finish it. However, that’s not even the hard part, which essentially makes we feel even smaller. But, the hard part about puzzles isn’t solving them, but rather making them. Or so I believe.

I truly believe that in order to make a puzzle game, you’ll have to rewire your brain a tad bit just to survive the madness of figuring out your own puzzle. But since I’m no developer, could you share your top five tips and tricks when making a puzzle game?

So without further ado, here is…

Gustav Dahl’s and Tunnel Vision Games’

How-to: Puzzles Games

#1 Experiment a lot and be ready to fail. We’ve made hundreds and hundreds of puzzle prototypes, but many of them will never get into the game.

#2 Playtesting is super important. You as the designer cannot judge the quality and difficulty of your own puzzle. Having other team members definitely help, since you can playtest each other’s puzzles quickly.

#3 Try different methods and modalities when designing puzzles. Some like to sketch out on paper, whereas others need to build them physically or digitally. Most good puzzles are made in collaboration with other people.

#4 Iterate, iterate, iterate! Maybe the first version of your puzzle isn’t good, but keep testing and tweaking and it might turn out to be something great.

#5 Have an idea of the scope and what you want to achieve with the puzzles. It has taken us a long time to find our “voice” when it comes to puzzle design since we didn’t really know in the beginning what type of game we wanted to make. It’s a tough process, but you will get there eventually.

Looking for the Next Fez? Youropa might be the Answer

What’s Youropa?

Youropa is an interesting game. It sort of reminds me of a blend between Little Big Planet because of its child-friendly and casual art/gameplay style, and Fez because of its 3-dimensional walking mechanics

Yourupa (site)

Yourupa (Facebook)

Mikkel Fredborg / frecle (Twitter)

But why let me explain it when you can hear it from Mikkel Fredborg, one of the developers behind Youropa:

Youropa is a puzzle platformer where you walk on walls – you have suction cups instead of feet – and explore a fragmented city floating in the sky.

Adding:

It starts out as a quite slowly, but as you play you constantly evolve and learn new abilities which keeps the challenge going. And all the characters are brought to life by paint, so you get to design your own character and you can create your own levels as well.

Besides a unique puzzler, Youropa is a platformer by heart — however, with so many platformers and puzzle-platformers out there, how does Youropa stand out?

Because you can walk on walls and ceilings it’s a very different experience from a normal platformer, you really have to think in 3 dimensions and twist your mind to figure out how to get from one point to the next.

I mentioned Fez and Little Big Planet as “vibes a got off of the game”. Turns out, I wasn’t completely off with Fez. However, the indie triumph is far from the only inspiration for Youropa. I was, of course, was curious to know, which games did?

It’s inspired by a lot of different games – Some of the biggest inspirations are Super Mario Galaxy, Portal, Jet Set Radio, and a bit of Fez – but there are a lot of other influences as well.

If we focus a bit on the game itself and its conceptualisation, it’s not uncommon to see games made because of a mechanic, ending, characters, or music alone. Sometimes, evolving one feature of the game, centring everything else around that can be detrimental to the rest of the project development phase. At other times, it can be quite the opposite.

There are plenty of sad endings to games, and none of which concludes with the actual ending of the game, but rather — or sadly rather, the conclusion of a failed project. Though not all:

We started out by building the wall walking mechanic, and as soon as we had that working we knew this was going to be something special. We kept on adding twists and turns to the formula so that the game continues to evolve as you play through it, that’s one of the things I like the most about it – it’s never the same as it was 10 minutes ago.

Timeline-wise, Youropa’s development doesn’t look that good on paper as:

[…] it’s been in development on and off for more than 10 years, so obviously that’s a long time.

However, luckily, for frecle, it’s been a blast making their project. From idea to concept, to reality. If I hadn’t asked Mikkel these questions in the same email, I might have wanted to know about those 10 years in development.

How they’d felt and what he learned from it particularly. Luckily, frecle is coming to Game Scope, which means I have another chance — but so do you too, if you’re interested in game development, the story of frecle and Youropa will be worth knowing.

But back to the article!… However, luckily for frecle it’s been a blast making their project:

[…] making the game has been a lot of fun and very interesting all the way through. The biggest challenge has been getting the time and money to do it – in the beginning of the project we spent a very long time negotiating with a publisher, but once we got to the point where they had to put their signature on paper, they pulled out.

That was definitely the low point, we were all out of money and energy at that point. So the project was on hold for a very long time, before I had the opportunity to self-fund the rest of the development and get a small team on board to complete it with me.

And that concludes the article. The only thing left to say is that you can try Youropa out for yourself at Game Scope!

But before I end, why don’t we look to the future — more specifically, the future of Yourupa:

Currently, we’re working on getting sharing of user-created levels and characters working in a nice way, and we are working on releasing it on other platforms. After that, we have a lot of cool ideas about how to develop the universe beyond the game itself.

ASTROSMASH — a Battle Royale

Toxic Storm? Shrinking Planet!

Let’s get a bit laid back — dare I even say “casual”, and talk games. And who better to talk casual games with than Niels Mynster from Footstomp Studio, who with his team of two, Jason and Daniel, have made ASTROSMASH.

We, as a team, currently consists of me, programmer and lead, the visual artist Jason, and the other programmer, Daniel. Jason and I are the core team, where Daniel is my go-to guy if I need something particularly difficult programmed haha! (Seriously, hire him)

ASTROSMASH is a unique battle-royale that doesn’t have a toxic cloud draining your health, but rather a low-poly art style with a shrinking planet.

Since I’ve chatted a bit with Niels, I wanted to know what inspired him and his team to make their game and why it was ASTROSMASH, specifically.

For me personally, I just loved the recently released Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, by Landfall Games. […] they are absolutely nailing their products in my opinion. (sure, servers went down on launch, things happen, haha).

If you haven’t check out TABG yet, you should try it, haha, it’s quite fun and well made and got some serious silly goofs that I just love. And yes, granted their art style is lowpoly as well as ASTROSMASH, does that make me biased? Maybe, maybe not. They did a great job of making it uniformly, awesome-ly looking.

Daniel had some interesting weapon inspirations come from the Ratchet and Clank series, which had some very interesting design that didn’t follow any particular rules.

Jason has recently been playing a bit of No Man’s Sky, and is very inspired of the fact that they kept on developing and improving the game, even though it had a very, very rough launch. Now, two years later, they seem to be turning it around with all the work they’ve been putting into it, following their vision. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is, haha.

And on the note on why ASTROSMASH:

Actually, it started out as an experiment on making a character controller that could walk around spherical surfaces. It soon escalated when we saw what things we could use this application for, and we started working on ASTROSMASH.

We figured it should be multiplayer as we love playing games with friends, and figured the planet shrinking gave an interesting mechanic, as it changes the environment drastically.

As soon as we implemented shooting, where the projectiles curve around, eventually allowing the player to shoot himself in the back, we knew that this is something we wanted to pursue.

To get a bit personal before we end on a somewhat high-note about the reason “battle-royale” trend. So, let’s dig a bit deeper into Footstomp and what they love in games.

  • We, as a team, love when a game’s visual style is just on point, and this doesn’t particularly mean a certain style, like a realistic style or a low poly style, but any style that’s really brought out in the game in a uniform way.
  • Now, this leads us on to the next thing we love about games, and it’s really related: Exploring. Exploring certain game worlds is a fantastic feel, and I’m pretty sure most gamers have had a point where they saved before a two-way path presented, only to load the save back and explore the other option once you’re done with the first. Or maybe even being a slight bit disappointed when you suddenly encounter enemies on one of the chosen paths that makes you figure that you took the right path for the game to progress. […].
  • And the last thing we love are experiences you can enjoy together. This, combined with the previous two mentioned things, create very inspiring fun games, that we probably all love.

Lastly, with the trend of battle-royale games or at least, games featuring a battle-royale mode — breaking the mould as an indie developer can be quite difficult. Nearly as difficult as this question, but hey, game development is tough and difficult questions are posed all the time.

Luckily, I think Niels had a pretty good answer:

Now, also, sadly, because of those two games being so popular, it started a new wave of these type of games, and the general assumption is now that it is either a Fortnite/PUBG clone or a shameless cash grab riding the wave. I think that’s a bit of a shame, however, I’m getting off topic now!

What ASTROSMASH can offer is a more casual game, where skill, stats and playtime shouldn’t matter as much, instead you should just be able to quickly join in and have fun. No very steep learning curve, neither super long games, we are aiming for a more casual approach where you easily should be able to invite a friend or two (or play alone, no worries, haha), and have some quick fun in a goofy environment.

Part from that, we are hoping to change the core experience from those two games with our game mechanics. For instance, the map shrinking makes us able to unlock new areas of the map, as you suddenly can jump over a river or walk over a mountain. That means it possible for us to change how the game play in the mid and late stages of the game, instead of the gameplay not changing throughout the entire match.

This, in additions to some really goofy weapons, such as a morph gun that make whatever limb it hits huge, will hopefully be what makes this game stand out.

An “Oddman” Indeed

I Agree with the Title

Set Snail is an indie game studio consisting of only three people. I’ve spoken with game designer and art director, Kasper Bøttcher, however, for good measure, Morten Claussen, (game developer) and Brian Lund (game developer but also art director) are the two remaining people behind Set Snail.

The Team

Set Snail have been busy, as they started with one of them, drunkenly shouting, WE SHOULD DO GAMES! and five projects later, we’re seeing their sixth project, Oddman, being realised.

To name a few of their other well-known titles, we have: Snake Towers, Pack a Puzzle, and lastly, their ultimate success, Daddy Long Legs, which got downloaded over ten million times across iOS and Android.

Oddman

So, let’s hear it from Kasper on what Oddman is:

We are currently working on Oddman, a simple fast-paced fighter for 1-4 players for handheld devices. The game is set to release October 1st.

But adding:

Android users can have a go already because we are in the early access category on Google Play.

To list a few selling points from their press kit:

  • Fast and endless gameplay!
  • Collect fighters and play as your favourite!
  • Local multiplayer with up to 4 players.

It’s safe to say that Set Snail focuses on mobile games — specifically, comical, short, fast-paced, and entertaining games. But what inspires such madness as Daddy Long Legs? Well, I asked and Kasper didn’t disappoint.

Our inspiration can come from the weirdest of places. We once got inspired by looking at a stone. That’s just the way we are. Making games allows us to have fun while putting different creative skills to use. That’s why we love creating games.

Okay. But what’s the most important skills to have when it comes to making games??

Again, Kasper didn’t disappoint, as he gave me a simple three-step guide to be the Master of the Universe when it comes to games.

The ability to come up with a good idea. Execute the idea really well. Get people to play the game.

And that’s all good-and-well, however, everyone who’s ever thought of making a game and actually gotten to the point of beginning to create said game, has at one point struggled, which could eventually lead to quitting.

So, I asked Kasper what his advice for following through with a project was:

Hold on to your game until you are satisfied with the result. Try not to rush it and have fun with it all the way.

On an ending note, I asked him a question concerning to approach developers, and on how one was to do such a thing.

We like it when people drop by our office. Generally, we love to hear from people with the right mindset. People who love to learn. Those are the most important things. So, make sure to convey that message in your application.

From Hitman to LIMBO to Mechanic Miner

Mechanic Miner

Just a short disclaimer, with stillplay Games’ 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!

Just one thing before we move on to Kristoffer’s response, I’ll just go over the team behind Mechanic Miner.

  • As game director, we have Finn Nielsen.
  • Doing the maths and coding, we have Daniel Carlsson.
  • Making things say stuff, we have Josef Aarskov.
  • Managing how pretty the game is, we have Tore Poulsen.
  • Network engineering… eh… we have Alexander Taylor (sorry, but I don’t really know what “Network Engineering” entails, but I’m guessing math and programming).
  • Lastly, as CM or community manager, we have Kristoffer Rasmussen.

Mechanic Miner (site)

Mechanic Miner (Facebook)

Mechanic Miner (Twitter)

Now, without ado nor funny remarks, the article.

The Inspiration

From watching a few videos about Mechanic Miner, I’m getting a Minecraft and Terraria- vibe off of them. Is Mechanic Miner inspired by the likes of those games?

Yes and no. Let me try to explain this through a “quick” resume of Mechanic Miners history. Mechanic Miner was an idea born in the mind of our game director Finn Nielsen almost 7 years ago.

(Finn Nielsen is a veteran within the game development industry and has among other things worked as a technical director on the original “Hitman” and have most recently worked on the indie hit “Limbo”).

The original idea behind Mechanic Miner was to create a game where everything was centered around building steam-powered machines (and getting them to work). Together with our Art Director Tore Poulsen, Finn and Tore created a prototype of Mechanic Miner focusing on the visual style and atmosphere inspired by the old pixel-style games combined with the styles, the machines and the science from the steam-engine era. If anything, this would be the “true” inspiration of Mechanic Miner.

Fast-forwarding a few years, Mechanic Miner started being a rather serious project and more people was hired. Now we’re a total of 6 people with a combined broad interest in different game genres, and of course among these different games we find inspiration.

Since Mechanic Miner shares a lot of similarities with games like “Minecraft”, “Terraria”, “Starbound”, “Space Engineers” (and so on) we often turn to these games for gameplay/mechanical inspiration and solutions (since these games already overcame many of the same challenges we meet in our development progress as well). E.g. during the development of Survival Mode in Mechanic Miner, we had to decide how to procedurally generate the game world and found a lot of inspiration in the way “Terraria” semi-randomly generated a world with specific content spread in a world with a specific size.

In the end, the inspiration behind Mechanic Miner derives from hundreds of different games from many different genres, and during almost any part of the development, we often bring other games into the discussion. This could be anything from “Path of Exile” to “Factoria”. The other day we even brought “Overwatch” into the discussion – a game that you wouldn’t normally compare with a game like Mechanic Miner.

It is not only in games we find inspiration, but also from books, movies and history. E.g. the log-ish past tense narration you’ll find in Mechanic Miners’ Story Mode was inspired by The Time Travelers lectures to his weekly dinner guests in the H.G.Wells Science fiction classic: “The Time Machine” from 1895. And The Dweller (a giant worm boss in Mechanic Miner) was inspired by the graboids in the cult-movie “Tremors”. And the Aeolipile Engine (an in-game machine), which is an invention made by the Roman mathematician and engineer Heron of Alexandria around 50 A.D. The Rail-gun (an in-game machine) was inspired by Winans Steam Gun (a centrifugal gun from the American Civil war). We also love doing references like the main characters name – John Smith – is a reference to Matthew Smith a somewhat renown game programmer that made Manic Miner in 1983. I mean, even this tweet is a reference to the “Hello John” scene from “Jurassic Park”.

A Unique New Game

If yes, what makes your game stand out?

Talking about similarities, obviously Mechanic Miner looks a lot like games like Minecraft and Terraria at first glance, maybe especially Terraria as they share the 2D sidescroller look. And Mechanic Miner surely shares a lot of similarities but differs in many ways – especially in the constructing part:

In Mechanic Miner the player can construct any kind of machine by their own design and test them in a environment with physics – like true physics (not like “Minecraft” and “Terraria”). Constructing is really the main mantra of Mechanic Miner. E.g. In Terraria you must find stronger armor and weapons to defeat the next boss, and in “Minecraft” you’ll need a full set of diamond armor and a bow to go kill the dragon in The End. But in Mechanic Miner, you’ll need to construct your own contraption to defeat the Roach Boss or survive the Aether Storm (A storm that turns all monsters aggressive). No matter what challenge you may encounter, there’s never only one solution, it’s up to each player to use their creativity and wit to design and build their own unique contraptions to conquer whatever lies ahead.

In the end I would say that Mechanic Miner is both recognizable and unique at the same time as it shares a lot of similarity with other games like “Minecraft” and “Terraria”, but also offers a particularly remarkable visual style, with a unique gameplay focused on building and constructing in an RPG-like setting with physics. I believe that this combination makes Mechanic Miner a one-of-a-kind experience.

Overwatch and Minecraft

Let’s get a bit personal: what game genres and specific games do you and your team hold dear? (Could be both old and new games).

As I mentioned before, our combined interest and preferences in game genres is broad – this means everything from “CS:GO” to “Factoria”, from “PUBG” to “Path of Exile”, from “Overwatch” to “Skyrim”, from “Warframe” to “Eve”, and so on… It’s hard to say which genres we enjoy the most as most of us enjoys a broad variety of games and genres. One thing we all have in common is the enormous interest in games, which really can’t be confined to a few genres, but one game that we – of course – all have invested a lot of time in, is Minecraft.

Player Feedback

What has been the best moments when working on Mechanic Miner — are there some that stand out?

There have been so many great moments during the development of Mechanic Miner, and many of those moments have had something to do with our community. We have a great community including over 800 alpha testers, actively discussing and sharing creations on our Discord Community. Seeing how they respond to the different content we’re continuously adding or seeing how they’re working together through Discord trying to reproduce or create some crazy contraptions from their own imagination or even from real life engineering blueprints, is just an absolute pleasure. We love our community and they have been a big part of the creation of Mechanic Miner – everything surrounding them, is just the ‘best’.

Also, around half a year ago we started getting YouTubers doing “Lets Play” of Mechanic Miner. Seeing how these YouTube videos allowed us to actually hear and see the players reactions to the game. Like the screenshot I’ve attached here: it’s from one of our first YouTubers – Gaming Faster Than Light (also called Josh) – who just, as this screenshot was taken, managed to build an Airpump-system. Just look at the pure joy in his face expression! Knowing that we created that joy, is just an amazing feeling!

If we ever feel demotivated, we’ll just go to YouTube and look at the many hours of footage of people playing Mechanic Miner or people expressing their excitement in the comment sections. On a side note: There are over 1.5 million views on Mechanic Miner content on YouTube, so we’re not the only ones who enjoy watching.

As a game developer, what has been some of the toughest creative decisions that you and your team had to make concerning Mechanic Miner?

Actually, we haven’t really had any tough decisions during the development of Mechanic Miner. Even though we’ve removed a lot of features and abandoned a lot of stuff that we wanted to implement in the game, it’s always been for the best. Maybe we’re just too optimistically minded, but every time we want to add a new feature that requires us to remove old features, or abandon planned features, we only focus on how freaking cool the new features are going to be.

Although there was one feature which seemed very hard to remove. In the earlier days of Mechanic Miner, you were able to mine/drill directly into the ground – removing pixel for pixel and creating your own tunnels and paths underground. We had to eventually remove this feature because of problems with small and almost invisible pixels left behind blocking the player and vehicles.

Removing this feature seemed like a set back at the time, but now we’re happy that we did as it paved the road for a new dungeon-crawl-like experience where the player must explore and find their way through procedurally generated mines and caves – a feature that wouldn’t have been added without removing the “pixel by pixel” digging.

A Multiplayer Experience?

Are there features that you’re still planning to implement to the game that fans can be excited about?

We’re working on so many things right now, and there’s so much more planned and even more that we want to add in the future. New machines, new blocks, new weapons, new monsters, new bosses, new acts and so on. Talking about major features in the game we’re still missing two important ones; Multiplayer and Mod-support.

In a game like this, multiplayer is a no-brainer and we’re really excited about adding this to Mechanic Miner. Our community is already actively sharing their creations over the Steam Workshop and discussing the game on our Discord, so I’m sure they’re going to have a blast when multiplayer is ready and they can actually play together. I can’t reveal to you when the multiplayer will be up and running, but I can assure you that we’re working extremely hard on getting it ready asap – we even have one dedicated programmer (Alexander Taylor) for only this task.

Another big thing is mod-support. We really want our community to be a big part of creating Mechanic Miner, and mod-support is one way of doing it. Talking about inspiration, we’ve been looking for inspiration about this in “Minecraft”, “Terraria” and “Rimworld” – games that have great mod-support and a very active community surrounding it. Mod-support in Mechanic Miner is something our community is constantly requesting, I mean sometimes we even see them on our Discord discussing and trying to re-program the game (which isn’t really possible, but they don’t care). Mod-support is something we’re not currently working on, but we want to add it shortly after Mechanic Miner goes into Early Access later this year.

John, the Jerusalem Artichoke (Journey of John)

Wrinkled Art and Creative Art Games

Wrinkled Art is something… Well, it’s something else than what you would initially expect, but strangely enough, after a while, it seems like it couldn’t have been anything else.

Bertil Vorre is the creator of Wrinkled Art and the games we’re going to talk about. To try to sum up both Bertil and Wrinkled Art in one sentence would probably be impossible, so instead, I’m going to refer to his own page and let him guide you through a piece of his mind:

[…] welcome to my website called Wrinkled Art! This is where I upload all my art projects. […] I use a lot of my time to paint. […] I love art and especially interactive art projects! I really love to make creative stuff in a new interactive way. Why “Wrinkled Art” then? Well, it’s a bit wrinkled.

Although Bertil’s games are definitely “games”, they have a not-so-subtle kick of artistic freedom to them. Not that it’s a bad thing — or well, if you want clean and straight edges, it might become a bit of a problem… But if you want something original and artistically convoluted, then Wrinkled Art might just be for you!

But, let’s talk a bit about the games.

Journey of John

To be honest, I’m a bit taken aback by the website, especially the “Dev vlog part #1” — which I do recommend people check out as it’s quite… interesting. So, why don’t we pick Bertil’s brain a bit? And what better way to start, then with Journey of John!

Besides the fact that the main character is a Jerusalem artichoke, the game is “normal” platformer with unique physics-based controls. Why the obscurity in design and idea, is there a reason besides, “just for the kicks”?

Jerusalem Artichokes are not what one would normally think of, when thinking of characters in a game, you are right about that. But it is actually not that random. The visual aesthetics of the vegetables are a key factor, but that is not the only reason why it works – the transformation of the main character, John is well symbolised in the artichoke: a small insignificant vegetable, often overshadowed by the more popular roots (carrots, potatoes etc.)

Adding:

[…] a journey from the darkness and safety of the earth to the beauty and dangers of the garden – from root to blooming artichoke flower. A classic transformation of a character facing obstacles and the need to transform and take action. Journey of John follows a classical dramaturgy of character development, which is well reflected in the visual artwork of the artichokes. And to be honest, artichokes are just pretty cool aren’t they?

Although I’m not that fond of the taste of artichokes, I do like the symbolism and the connection to the real world Bertil establishes. However, “obscurity” and “indie” do go well together.

Kevin32

But, don’t get too laid back and comfy in your chair. We’re not done with Wrinkled Art yet, nor the obscurity. Next on the list is Kevin32.

Now, Kevin32 seems like the only actually normal-looking game. Talk me through the making of this narrative-focused puzzle/riddle game — where are you at now in development and what do you hope Kevin32 will become?

What will it become? Well, that is a good question. The process of making Kevin32 is pretty interesting. From the very start, we created a tight deadline and said no matter what we have to finish this game within a few months. We also agreed we had the freedom to completely start over if we felt the game was going in a wrong direction. We could basically change everything, except the title. No matter what it had to be named “Kevin32”.

Okay, so a creative challenge or something similar is a good way to break an artistic “writer’s block”. New ideas and not needing to cling to one vision opens up a lot of doors. But enough of me talking, back to Bertil, who’s about to take us through the process of Kevin32:

It started out being a one button iOS game where you were controlling the lonely guy Kevin who just got kicked out of his parents home and now had to earn money by balancing a piece of meat on his bald head (screenshot 1).

We quickly found out we really weren’t good at creating these simple one button games – we wanted more storytelling. We changed the concept to a story inside a train carriage. A love story about a living train suffering from heartbreak so badly that it wanted to derail to kill all passengers on board (see screenshot 2).

But again I wasn’t really satisfied with the game, and I had to ask myself why I was doing this game in the first place, and what inspired me. My inspiration came from the feeling of the days just passing by. A feeling you notice when sitting on a train. So I changed the story, made it simpler but stronger, portraying this feeling of a daily cycle just passing by. The game we will be showcasing at Game Scope is an iOS game about a lonely old man living an ordinary life that feels like a loop. Waking up, going to work, washing the clothes, watching TV, going to bed. Repeat. A cinematic experimental moody game, I guess you can call it (screenshot 3)

If you want to follow both or only one of the games we’ve glanced over, you can, of course, check out the website.

Wrinkled Art (site)

You can also just talk with Bertil at this year’s Game Scope in Aalborg where he’d probably love to share stories of weird and wonderful games! However, until then, let’s talk games, passion, and Bertil!

Okay, to hear a bit about you: what are your story when it comes to games, where did the passion start?

When I was 15 years old I taught myself to program and create websites. I started my website “Wrinkled Art” and at the age of 16 I released my first game on Newgrounds. It got a few gameplay videos on youtube and did pretty good on the different online flash games portals. This really gave me the motivation to do more. Shortly after, I created and released my second game “Justin’s Mind”.

For me, the most important thing about making games is to tell stories visually. That is what I like. I am studying at a film school and working with regular screenwriting and film directing, and trying to combine classical cinematic elements in a game is something I find really interesting. Trying to push the boundaries of what a regular game can do.

It’s clear as day that Bertil isn’t leaving the world of games, but rather that he will continue to strive and make obscure and neat games. However, what exactly is his next goal? Well, I’m sure glad I asked him that:

Hopefully to keep working with game directing and get the chance to tell stories visually, and experiment with combining film and games in new interesting ways. Virtual reality and facial capture are things I will investigate further in the future for sure.

Forgotton Anne — a Beautiful Gem

From ThroughLine Games

Today, we’re talking about ThroughLine Games and their critically acclaimed hit Forgotton Anne.

Forgotton Anne (Steam)

ThroughLine Games (site)

In Forgotton Anne we follow the female protagonist, Anne in a seamless cinematic adventure that focuses on meaningful storytelling, complementing the story-heavy parts with light puzzles.

Forgotton Anne has been rated 8 out of 10 and upwards by multiple and all highly-regarded news sites, like GameReactor and Eurogamer. Along with being the Gold Winner of the Indigo Design Award, what more proof does one need to add this gem to one’s digital cart and press buy unhesitantly.

It’s not often for indie teams to succeed in the way ThroughLine Games did with Forgotton Anne. It has surely something to do with the collective efforts of the team behind it — and I’ve been so lucky to chat with ThroughLine Games’ Creative Director and CEO, Alfred Nguyen.

The first thing I just had to know was how it felt, having, along with a great team, created something so critically acclaimed on possibly all fronts. In short: how does it feel to be able to say, “we made it”?

I think I can safely say that, on behalf of everyone who has worked on Forgotton Anne, we are extremely happy that the game has been positively received […]

A bit of an understatement, I think. Although I have no proof, I have a feeling, at least some from their studio couldn’t stop jumping up and down and up and down. However, to Alfred, it seems like the critical acclaim couldn’t beat the fanmails the team received.

[…] and some of the mails we’ve received from fans have touched us and we are just glad we took the gamble […].

I bet it was a gamble. The game industry is by far one of those that pulls more teeth out than it has anaesthetics. I wanted to know if the making of Forgotton Anne has given Alfred something he could reflect upon concerning game development, but also the game industry in general.

Developing games is part of an industry that thinks in business terms. My advice would be not to take that lightly and make sure you know enough or ally yourself with people who knows about this side of games […] Last but not least, remember Pixar’s motto, “trust the process” — focus on great and effective processes and don’t panic if your darling game looks and play ugly for a long time. It will become a swan one day if you persist.

No sugar coating with Alfred — or at least not until that ending bit. However, the game industry is a tough-as-nails business.

Before we end on a high note, as I’ve saved one or two of Alfred’s best advice for last, let’s dive a bit into the making of Forgotton Anne. The world of Forgotton Anne is a literal Forgotten World where things we don’t think about going.

Curious as Hell, I wanted to know what inspired the world of forgotten toys.

The world of Forgotton Anne as a concept was born out of my preoccupation with memories and the vast expanse of our minds which the premise kind of allowed us to explore as a team. We are so caught up living in our own heads and sometimes the world our mind inhabits isn’t even of our own making entirely, with everything and everyone around us constantly influencing us.

Hold on, this is a longer one, which I didn’t dare cut short.

So it is likewise a premise that allowed for exploration of themes that I’m always interested in and is relevant to everyone, our personal journeys to break free of the metaphorical shackles of the past and learned attitudes and [to] reach a higher level of authenticity and to make informed choices.

Before we conclude with Alfred’s words of advice, here what’s next for ThroughLine Games and Forgotton Anne.

First of, we’d want all fans of Forgotton to speak up and spread awareness of the game as we are still a relatively small independent developer […].

And this is really why some indie developers’ bond with their fans is so unbreakable. Because indie developers need to gamble and sometimes risk losing it all, they depend on their fans to be both their greatest critics but also their greatest supporters. However, we’re not in for blind faith, as Alfred has this to add.

In the meanwhile, we’ve begun working on projects we hope to share more about in the coming year, hopefully, sooner rather than later!

And with that, here are Alfred’s advice. I chose to accumulate it in the end, as to end on a high note.

Alfred’s Advice for People Looking to Join the Industry

#1 Aim for the stars but have modest expectations.

#2 As with all pursuits of passion: pain and pleasure go hand in hand.

#3 Remember that failure is the mother of success, so go ahead and fail […] preferable as fast as possible.

#4 Care about the relationships with others in your team and externally — in the end we’re all just striving for love, recognition, and being able to grow together while having fun, and nothing beats that.

#5 There is a lot still to explore and lots of originality […] go ahead and surprise us all!