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Hopefully by now, you've played Amanita Design's marvelous point-and-click adventure/exploration/music-time story-thing Botanicula. But I'm entirely open to the idea that you have not—and so is Amanita, who have now made the first section of the game playable for free through their website.
You may recall that earlier this year I said Botanicula so charming that it stole Julia Roberts away from Pretty Woman-era Richard Gere. That about sums it up. You really should play this game: It's got a great sense of humor, beautiful art, and one of the best and most distinctive soundtracks of the year.
Don't take it from me! Head on over to Amanita's site and play the game for free. And bear in mind that there's much more to the full game than the bit in the demo; all sorts of hidden joys and fun digressions. You'll see. Go play.
Botanicula Demo [Main Page]
I think that Botanicula, the new game from Machinarium indies Amanita Design, is freakin' wonderful. I already wrote about why I like it, so read that if you're wondering about the game. Short verzh: If you have a heart and like lovely and funny things, you should play it.
Botanicula comes out today, and as part of a promotion, the Humble Bundle guys just let us know that they have created a special bundle just for the game. They also sent this goofy-ass video to promote it. Heh.
You can pay whatever price you want (!!), and if you do, you'll get Botanicula as well as Aminata's other two games, Machinarium and Samorost 2, both of which are great in their own right. You'll also get the soundtracks for all three games, which are all so good that they're pretty much worth the price of admission on their own.
If you pay more than the average price, you'll also get the (probably weird and delightful) Czech film Kooky, with art direction by Amanita's Jakub Dvorsky, as well as Windowsill, another point-and-click game from Vectorpark.
The kicker is that not only will you feel good about yourself for getting a bunch of great games for basically no money, but you can also pat yourself on the back for saving the planet—you'll have the option of donating a portion of your purchase price to the World Land Trust.
So what are you still sitting here for? Go do this thing. Play Botanicula!
Humble Bontanicula Debut [Humblebundle.com]
Joy is a terribly underrated commodity in video games. Most of the games I play inspire all kinds of feelings-stress, tension, exhilaration, frustration, even less-celebrated but still mentionable sensations like "comforting routine" and "empowering murder-fantasy."
There aren't all that many... More »
There aren't all that many games that make me feel really, truly joyful. Botanicula is one of them.
Argh, this game. This game! It's basically a government-created smartbomb designed to deliver a payload of exuberant joie de vivre from your hard drive straight to your brain. Except it wasn't made in some government lab—it was made by actual people who put their actual selves into it. The result is a gorgeous, hilarious, endlessly creative, warm-hearted thing.
Botanicula, which comes out tomorrow and costs $10, is basically a point-and-click adventure game for PC, Mac or Linux. You'll be able to get it from Steam, the Mac App store, from GOG.com or direct from the developers.
In it, players control a group of five little nature-dudes who live in harmony on a giant tree. I call them "five little nature-dudes" since each one is different and it's not entirely clear just what they are. There's the little one-winger dragonfly dude, the little branch dude, the little(ish) fungus dude, little mushroom dude, and little glowing nut-dude.
Uh oh! Some scary black spider-things that more or less represent "evil" arrive and start sucking the life out of the tree. The head little nature-dude, (glowing nut-dude if you're keeping track) sees a vision and decides to get his little dude-friends and set out to stop them.
This is all conveyed without words—just like Machinarum, there's no talking in Botanicula, just goofy sorta-speak from various characters as well as visual representations of text that play like little cartoons.
Botanicula comes to us from Amanita Design, an independent Czech game development studio headed up by Jakub Dvorsky and Tomas Dvorak. Amanita is probably best known for their fabulous and too-often-overlooked adventure/puzzle game Machinarium. Have you played Machinarium? Good god, what are you doing with your life, etc. Go play it, etc. It's on like every platform known to man.
Where Machinarium relied on ingenious (if at times very difficult) puzzles roadblocking your progress, Botanicula is much more exploration-focused and, perhaps, approachable. I've been moseying through it and while all of its puzzles require brainpower and creativity, they're nothing close to the difficulty of Machinarium. They are fantastically creative, though—the game found a splendid number of ways to use my Macbook's trackpad, backing up Tim's notion that the apple trackpad is the best game controller yet made.
Botanicula feels designed to draw you into its world and, once it's got you there, to delight the living shit out of you. The world is organic and real-feeling from the first moment of the game. The art and colors are vibrant, soft, and lush. The puzzles and sequences themselves are all unique and memorable—you'll never repeat a single action, and each each new area and challenge arrives at new creative heights.
This game has been realized down to its tiniest details—many of the best gags are easter eggs that have no effect on the game whatsoever. (Watch out for the penguins, is what I'm saying.) The character animations are so good, so funny, that they recall Pixar's best and most charismatic silent beings—say, the robots of Wall-E. Each character was animated with flawless comedic timing—a pause here, a beat there—that makes every tiny movement a pleasure to watch.
On top of all that, Botanicula is possessed of one of the most creative and endearing soundtracks I've heard in ages. And that's not just my well-documented bass clarinet bias talking.
All of the sound effects and music in the game were created by the band DVA, who for the bulk of their sound rely not on instruments or samples but on human voices. Almost every humming insect, growing flower, and plunking, crashing sound effect was created by a human voice. It gives the game a loopy, child-like energy that in this age of (don't-get-me-wrong-lovely) chiptunes and electronically augmented sample libraries. It feels damn near sweded.
Friendly John Walker at Rock, Paper Shotgun observed that the soundtrack recalls the (hip! good! worth checking out!) band The Books, and he's spot on—from the moment the game started, I felt as though I was playing a video game version of The Lemon of Pink.
Curses. I don't want to get sidetracked on the soundtrack just yet. For now, just… the soundtrack to Botanicula is pleasing, hilarious, winning, touching, and flat-out gorgeous. It sounds entirely unlike every single other thing ever.
To sum up, here are some 100% true facts about Botanicula:
And so okay, yes, it won't be to everyone's taste. It's not exactly that difficult and there's not as much "game" to it as there is to many other games.
Vampires and Republicans probably won't like it. It'll probably go over the heads of most babies, and Vulcans won't see the appeal. Ditto serial killers and dead-but-actually-secretly-comatose soap-opera characters and people who paid to see Stan Helsing in theaters.
But whatever, I'm not talking to those people. I'm talking to you.
Botanicula is so good. You should play it.
Man, I want to play Botanicula. Amanita Design won me over forever with their splendid adventure game Machinarium, and I've been looking forward to its follow-up Botanicula ever since I first heard about it.
Today, Amanita announced that Botanicula will be released for Windows, Mac and Linux on April 19th. No word on an iOS release.
Take a look at this trailer and you'll see what I'm talking about. Can't wait for this one.
The folks behind the recent first-ever Indie Game Music Bundle are back with… can you guess the name?… the Indie Game Music Bundle 2! This one has five truly great soundtracks, which you can download for any price you'd like to pay.
You'll get the music from Aquaria, To The Moon, Jamestown, the bloody fantastic music from Machinarium, and even Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, which you'll recall was my favorite game soundtrack of all of last year. Jim Guthrie's work in that game is a big part of why I put it in as a contender for our Game of the Year award.
In keeping with the bundle tradition, if you drop $10 on those five soundtracks, you'll get even more soundtracks, with a lot of albums that I actually haven't hear, as well as some as-yet-unrevealed bonuses that will be unlocked if they sell enough copies.
Hmm. Unlocked as they sell more copies? That smells like gamification to me. It would seem that the musicians have indeed learned a thing or two from their game-developer brethren.
Well played, video game composers. Well played.
Indie Game Music Bundle 2 [Official Page]
While we're on the subject, Amanita have also recently done some amazing work on both the puppet film Kooky and its book. You can - and should - check that out on their site.
Machinarium creator Jakub Dvorský was at this weekend's GameCityNights event, announcing not one, not five, but three new games to come from Amanita Design. We (read: Kotaku's favorite Englishmen at Rock Paper Shotgun) dispatched monocled investigator Brendan Caldwell to track him down and find out everything possible. Dvorský tells us how he plans to rescue the adventure genre, his views on piracy, and what we can expect to see in the new projects. You, and anyone else you know, can read about the new games, and see their chat, below.
Remember that Samorost? Of course you do. Remember that Machinarium? Of course you do. You're a man and/or lady of prolific memorisation skills, unspecified reader. Plus, it had robots in it. Nothing sticks in the mind like robots. They're mnemonic. Or pneumatic. Or some other awkward word that's spelled nothing like it is said aloud. Oh, I don't know. You remember it. That's the important bit.
Jakub Dvorský of Amanita Design, the Czech developers behind Machinarium, has just announced three new games. Aye, you heard right. Three. Then he showed them off during a presentation at this month's GameCityNights event in Nottingham. It's nice in that Nottingham. I've been there. It's got caves in.
The first game is called Osada and will be available to play on Anamita's website within a couple of weeks. Jakub admits it isn't so much a game as it is an "interactive music video." The player is taken through several screens of delightfully twisted Monty Pythonesque animations set in the Wild West. Clicking on different objects and characters determines the musical instruments or sounds, ranging from tinny guitar to whistling bottles to a chorus of Native Americans. It's all deliciously surreal.
The second game announced is called Botanicula. It is more characteristic of Amanita's style. The player controls a band of five plant and fungus-like creatures as they wander around their home in a big ol' tree, trying to find the last seed in order to save their home from parasitic beasts. "So it is a simple story," Jakub says. "With a lot of exploration and a long journey." You progress in very much the same way as in Samorost. There is pointing. Also, there is clicking. And plenty of Amanita's typical part-bizarre, part-logic puzzles.
"For example, here we are trying to put together a chicken," says Jakub. "It's not easy."
Chickens are important, we are told. They power a giant engine within the tree. Of course they do.
The animation looks encouraging. But then you will have come to expect this from Amanita. As I have already said, unspecified reader, you have an elephantine memory of these things. Of course, I don't need to remind you of that. Sorry.
The third game looks even more characteristic of Amanita's visual trademarks. This is possibly because it is a sequel – Samorost 3. Yes! The little white guy is back. What is that little white guy anyway, you ask? "Uh… a white… nameless… space gnome," says Jakub. There we are folks. Mystery solved. A space gnome.
Right now Samorost 3 is still in the early design stages. But Amanita know that they want it to be set in the same kind of world, only much bigger, so that the story can be fleshed out. No prizes for guessing what genre of game it will be. Okay, one prize. Answers to my email. Winner gets a big stamp on their forehead. It will read: "I know a thing."
Knowing things isn't so important though. Amanita wants Samorost 3 to be a more welcoming puzzle game. "We want it to be more accessible. We just want to change the approach of the whole game. The goal shouldn't be to defeat it and solve all of the puzzles as quickly as possible. The player should enjoy it. So we are thinking of it as an interactive toy."
Jakub laments what he calls a lack of replayability in the adventure genre. "We want to approach it like a music record. You hear it once, but it still has value the second time, the third time."
His presentation ended here, just after Jakub showed us a change to the main character's design. He will be more ninja-like, able to jump around and move more fluidly. So there we are. A white, nameless, ninja space gnome. What do you make of that?
But more questions must be asked. Questions are important. They help us learn.
RPS: So. Botanicula. What does that mean exactly?
Dvorský: Oh, it's nothing in particular. The whole game takes place on a tree, so. We're probably just trying to create a new word so that when you Google it and you get the first result – it's your game. It's worked so far with Samorost and Machinarium.
RPS: With Botanicula and Samorost 3 you've said you want to change the way the games play slightly, from what you had before with Machinarium. How are going about that?
Dvorský: We want to make it more accessible and more playful. So, it should be really relaxing experience. You shouldn't be trying to think too hard or need any special skills to play the game. You should just enjoy playing it because it's easy and it's fun. Basically it should be fun. We want to achieve that by having an interesting world which is fun to explore, by having interactive things that are fun to play with. I was showing earlier our interactive music video Osada, which is not a game at all… to call it a game… it's too easy, too simple. You're really just switching on and off different tracks. But still it's fun to play it. And try it, you will realise it's quite fun to just click on it and to play with the sounds and with the music. So this is the way we want to go. That it should basically be fun to play with.
RPS: Some developers have said for a while that the point and click adventure genre is broken, that it doesn't really work any more.
Dvorský: And they were right. There was some golden era of adventure games which were great and then later the games started to be more and more difficult and you had to [handle] tens or even hundreds of items at the same time in your inventory and there was no logic involved in places. And there were endless dialogues which were sometimes really boring. Sometimes the dialogues were funny but it's not playing a game. It's reading a book. So, it started to be quite annoying to play adventure games. I want to change it, make it more streamlined, more fun to play, more accessible. Of course we want some hard puzzles but still it should be in some boundaries of possibility. To solve it on your own, without help.
RPS: Machinarium was still quite hard at times though. You still had to use trial and error at times.
Dvorský: I believe it's possible to find out the solutions by logic only. But sometimes I must admit it's really hard. This is why we integrated the help system there. It's just different. We want to change this approach a bit.
RPS: When you talk about dialogue being very long, in Machinarium you used speech bubbles with simple pictures in them to keep the narrative going. Is that something you're going to continue for Samorost 3 and Botanicula?
Dvorský: Oh yeah. I'm always saying that I am a bad writer and I can't write meaningful dialogues or funny dialogues. But anyway, I always hated the dialogues in adventure games. But some communication is needed for telling the story and for broader reasons. I just believe that these comic bubbles are communication by animation, which is much more fun to look at.
RPS: And your games do put an emphasis on their visual impact. How are you going to develop that in the new titles?
Dvorský: We want to make the visual style of Samorost 3 a little different. It was me who created all the backgrounds in Samorost 1 and 2 but this one will be created by our graphic artist Adolf Lachman, who created Machinarium. So it will definitely change because of this. But we are actually trying to find a new look for it – a new technique for this game. And we do that every time we are starting a new project. We are first thinking about the world where it takes place, then trying to invent the proper graphic style. So, we are now trying to find it. It's not easy.
Dvorský: No. We are making two titles but at the moment we are in fact two separate teams inside the studio. It's just Jaromír Plachý who is creating Botanicula and one programmer and the musicians. The other team members are just speaking to him and I do a little bit of game design for it. Samorost 3 is our main project so all the members will be involved in it. Our main music composer, Tomáš Dvořák, isn't involved in Botanicula. So in fact those are two separate teams so we are quite free and we are not under pressure when in development. And because of the success of Machinarium we are also quite all right with money and everything's fine so we're not under pressure at all.
RPS: It's very popular in Russia, apparently.
Dvorský: Not only in Russia! It's doing well everywhere, so…
RPS: Would you contribute some of that success to deals like the Humble Indie Bundle? How much do things like that help?
Dvorský: It did help a lot. It was a big success. The game was already more than a year old and then we created the Humble Bundle with the Wolfire guys who are really nice and it worked so well. More than 230,000 people bought it in fourteen days, which is great. So it helped.
RPS: Were there any points during those three years of development when you felt it was going to fall apart?
Dvorský: I never believed that it was going to fall apart but there were some moments when it was really dark. We had to change the main artist, the main painter of the backgrounds in the early stage of development. The guy who started working on it was great and talented and everything but he wasn't really passionate about it. I think he didn't believe that it would be a good game or a successful game so he wasn't working really hard. So we kicked him off at some point. Or rather he just stopped working so we had to find another [artist] and we were very, very lucky to find Václav, whose really professional and a really nice guy and talented. So there were moments, sure, when we got depressed. It's always like that.
RPS: Considering the piracy that hit you guys, is that something that riles you up?
Dvorský: Despite the piracy of the game and other games too being really high, there is also a huge amount of people who are willing to pay for it. Even some pirates. Even some pirates who downloaded it for free somewhere realised that they really enjoyed the game and pay for it afterwards. Or at least they spread the word. So, they are part of our free marketing efforts. So that's not so bad with pirates. Definitely we don't believe in any piracy protections because finally any protection can be cracked or overcome.
RPS: Not a fan of DRM then.
Dvorský: No. In the end it's always an annoying thing for paying customers so we don't believe in it. However, I don't have any examples of it, just our guess that it wouldn't help.
RPS: What brought that interactive music video about?
Dvorský: It's our side project. It's developed by one of us, just by animator Václav Blín, the second animator, or the main one from Machinarium. And he developed it with an external musician, who's also not our member – he's not part of Anamita. He created it in his spare time, he's also hard working. Only our programmer helped him. I was helping him very little with design in places. Basically it's a one man project.
RPS: Where did the inspiration for the scratchy animation style originate?
Dvorský: I don't know. Maybe from illustrations or older animated movies. We definitely wanted to achieve a warm feeling for this cold robotic world, so we decided for a hand drawn style. And I also wanted to make it with some more free handed drawings. I can't explain this well but our graphic artist created everything very precisely and it wasn't ‘it' so I was pushing him to work more freely. And in the end he found out that it was much better to draw it with his left hand because he is right-handed. When he was drawing it with his left hand it was perfect. It was more loose or not so precise. So he created all the backgrounds with this left hand. But the problem was that in the end he started to be very skilful even with his left hand.
RPS: You should make him draw with his feet.
Dvorský: Next time.
RPS: Or his mouth.
Dvorský: Or his ear. But it could hurt.
RPS: You say you took inspiration from old animated movies. Now that you've actually worked on Kooky, what's it like going from designing an interactive medium to puppets in a movie?
Dvorský: It was quite a pleasant experience and very refreshing. Because when I am doing games I am the director of the team, I am the game designer, I am partly art director and I am also the businessperson, the marketing person, the PR person. And responsible for everything. So it was really nice to be a small part of the big team for a while. It's nothing that I want to do all the time but it nice to be just the designer of the puppets and the props on the film. It was quite a nice experience.
RPS: This indie scene has kicked off over here quite a bit. Is it the same in Eastern Europe?
Dvorský: I would say the situation is quite similar to the UK or America but we are just much smaller in number obviously, so the scene is smaller. But I would say the scene is quite strong. In our country there's lots of big studios. Well, not lots. There's two of them. But really big. And many small developers and beginners. I would say it's okay. Quite a similar situation to the UK.
RPS: Finally, any release dates set for Samorost 3 and Botanicula? Any time schedule set for yourself?
Dvorský: We want to finish Botanicula maybe in the end of this year, or the beginning of next. For Samorost three we don't really know. We don't want to promise anything yet. It's really at the early stages. So, we will see.
RPS: Thanks for your time.
Republished with permission.
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It was impressive when Robert Bowling, creative strategist for Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward, paid $500 for a batch of indie games that only cost $85. Then Notch, maker of Minecraft stepped up, with $2000.
These guys and a few others are paying lots of money for the Humble Indie Bundle 2, which went on sale yesterday. The bundle is the second offering of indie games being offered to gamers for any price they want to pay. People can name their price and direct their payment in different proportions to the games' developers and various charities.
The games in the second bundle are: Braid, Machinarium, Osmos, Cortex Command and Revenge of the Titans (pictured up top).
Bowling and Notch paid a whole lot more than the ordinary gamer, who are spending a little over $7 on average for the bundle, as of the writing of this post.
Humble Indie Bundle sales stats [Thanks to everyone who sent this in.]
Penguspy is a great resource for serious Linux gamers, who once they're done with the more high-profile penguin-friendly games like The Sims 3 can use the service to find other titles that may not wear their Linux compatibility so prominently on their sleeves.
It's not a store or anything. Rather, it's just a place where Linux games can be listed, detailed then rated by the community.
Machinarium, Defcon, X3, Minecraft, Neverwinter Nights, Amnesia...all great games. And as PenguSpy reveals, all totally compatible with the Linux operating system.
Those running Linux and interested in seeing just what else you can run, Penguspy's catalogue listing is below.
Penguspy [via Lifehacker]