Articles Tagged with: Game Scope

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

A game about sound or the lack thereof

From “Sound not there” to…

Bark Lab is a fairly new “studio” — studio in quotations because when I chatted with Kristoffer, he told me that they weren’t actually a company yet nor had they a website. So, fairly new.

However, Bark Lab is one of the studios that prove the only thing needed in order to band together and make a game is a common interest. Of course, other elements as skill, talent, and work-ethics also play a part in game development. And when it comes to indie game development, it’s more often or not that you’ll need an innovative or original idea, and/or execution of said idea.

Bark Lab did just that. Banded together, the group of strangers who met at the biggest Danish game jam, Nordic Game Jam, created a game revolving around sounds.

Themes are common at game jams, and the theme at Nordic Game Jam 2017 was “Not there”, which prompted the team at what would become Bark Lab to create a game called “Sound Not There”. The game is fairly straightforward: you walk around and… gosh, why am I telling you this? Let’s hear it from someone who’s actually worked on the game:

The premise of the gameplay is to interact with animals or objects inhabiting a 2D environment. […]. When the player interacts with an object, its animation is connected to the sound it plays. Let’s say the player presses an elephant holding the sound of a rooster. Now the elephant jumps up on its back legs with its trunk lifted in the air, while crowing like a rooster.

Next step: find the rooster. Pretty straightforward. It’s a simple puzzle game — albeit maybe “too” simple. However, that was the product of a game jam, meaning 48 hours of intense programming, drawing, and scripting.

Now, Bark Lab brought their game jam project to Game Scope 2017 where they got a lot of feedback on their game, including being presented to creator/presenter/writer and host of Troldspejlet, Jakob Stegelmann.

With the feedback, the team gathered, brainstorming how they could further develop their game, and this is what Kristoffer could say about that:

We met again at Nordic Game Jam 2018, where we discovered that the ideas of puzzles and themes we had brainstormed up to the event could be split into two different games: A game for adults with a “twin peaks”-like atmosphere and more in-depth mechanics. And a game for children on handhelds that is cut to the bone of the game, which is the game mechanic of switching sounds.

“Paplyd”

As in most every field, having a goal is essential to get anywhere. With Bark Lab being a newly-founded studio, only one having one release under its belt, I wanted to know what they hoped to accomplish with their game — in other words, if they had a goal:

Obviously the game is not for everyone. The game is supposed to be picked up by parents who want an imaginative game for their kids. Hopefully, we are also able to convince parents who are sceptical of games.

That’s it from Bark Lab! Be sure to find them at Game Scope 2018 — the most important things to indie developers are feedback and building communities, so they are sure to love a conversation whether it’s about their game, games in general, or game development.