Jun 30, 2012
Edmund McMillen speaks his mind. Whether it be about games, religion or poop, he never holds anything back.
In the interview, Edmund talks at length about his childhood wherein he found the inspiration for Isaac and in doing so manages to make some very interesting comparisons between games and religion:
"People wonder why there's a lot of violence in my work. I grew up with a picture of a bloody dying man who is suffering for everybody, a martyr, and it's the whole idea of self-sacrifice. Your exalted God, your God, rips his body to shreds for the good of the world. Violence becomes holy. And in a lot of ways, in the Bible and Catholicism, violence and gore is considered holy. You drink the blood of Christ, you eat his flesh. How does that not come in to me? When I'm going through seven years of catechism growing up and they're teaching me, you know, spells... I'm learning how to cast incantations before I receive the blood and body of Christ, you know? So I can be protected from the devil. It's total magic, and I totally love it for that, I love it for its mysteriousness, I love it for its ritualisticness. I think Catholicism is quite interesting. It's very close to D&D. It seems like such a natural progression."
That is just a tiny part of this fascinating case study of a fascinating indiviudual and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to not read the full interview.
"Who would have thought a game about an abused child fighting off his mother with his tears could ever sell 700k copies in less than a year? Not me, that's for ****ing sure."
So begins an e-mail that Binding of Isaac co-creator Edmund McMillen sent us this morning. The popularity of the Wrath of the Lamb DLC has helped his weeping foetus roguelike rack up an incredible number of sales - but its launch, McMillen says, could have gone better.
"The limitations of Flash and the abundance of items caused an infinite number of variables that we simply couldn't effectively test, and it kinda sucked. We were able to squish all the major game breaking bugs in the 1st day of release, but it still left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth - so we decided to do yet another content update to the already bloated experience."
Wrath of the Lamb version 1.3 is out now and if you already own the DLC then the update doesn't cost anything. It adds new items, bosses, enemies, music and a new ending cutscene "that should shed some light on the game's story even more."
McMillen has also announced on his blog that he's working with Tyler Glaiel of Eyebrow Interactive on remastered versions of three of his flash games - Aether, Time Fcuk, Spewer and "an extra little unlockable game."
The games will be updated with achievements and bundled together as 'The Basement Collection', which will cost $3 on Steam.
Check out our Binding of Isaac review for more on why the game deserves your attention. The launch of Super Meat Boy is also covered in detail in Indie Game: The Movie, which we also liked.
Jun 13, 2012
Boys in their bedrooms, drop-out dreamers, shut-in gore fetishists - if ever a film were to quash the red-top stereotypes of game developers than this would surely be it. Indie Game: The Movie follows four of the most thoughtful, hard-working and sensitive young fellows you could probably find in this business or any other, and is both a clarion call for the thrilling creative freedom of independent development and a grim warning of its near-lethal stakes.
The sheer graft underpinning the development of Braid, Fez or Super Meat Boy is writ large here, and accompanied by no small amount of heartache. Charting half a decade of development, the filmmakers cherry-pick from a catalogue of dramas, as the four developers struggle with the threat of financial oblivion, acrimonious legal wrangles, corrosive relationships with corporate gatekeepers, depression, insomnia, bad diets and eccentric facial hair.
Just how much they sacrifice to ship their game, and just how much they suffer both before and after, makes for moving viewing. The film deftly sketches their characters, too: a shot here of the meticulous Jon Blow, developer of Braid, sitting with stiff poise in a bare apartment; a shot there of Super Meat Boy’s Tommy Refenes drowsily pawing through a pile of grease-stained to-do lists. Refenes and his Team Meat partner, Edmund McMillen, are an endearingly asymmetrical duo - the tattooed, moustached McMillen is relaxed and warm, but touchingly vulnerable, while the skeletal Refenes is dryly cynical and seems permanently exhausted. You suspect his energy levels might improve if he didn’t survive on microwave burgers.
It’s Phil Fish, however, who offers the most wrenching story of all. While everyone seems willing to kill themselves to make their game, only in Fish’s case does this appear to be a literal threat. His game, Fez, has been in development for years by the film’s start, and has yet to ship when the titles roll. You get a glimpse of the reason for this in Fish’s painstaking pixel-perfect overhaul of the game’s textures - the third they have undergone. Like all of the film’s subjects, this man is a perfectionist, possibly to the point of self-annihilation.
Curiously, though the film expertly explains the passion it fails to describe the projects at which it is directed. Sure, we know Braid does something funny with time, and Fez goes all 3D - but how these things are manipulated to create elegant puzzles and transcendent epiphanies goes unrecorded. Blow even describes sinking into a depression when Braid’s rapturous reception failed to acknowledge his meta-narrative, but we never even understand how brilliant Braid’s time-contorting mechanics are, let alone what its meta-narrative entails. For the uninitiated, all three of the featured platformers might end up looking very similar, and though the film focuses on the human story behind these developments, the intelligence and intent of their construction surely deserves more space. As it is, without a ready explanation of the games’ ambition and worth, the film undersells the development as something akin to tilting at windmills.
There are some striking insights when the devs are allowed to discuss the design process: Blow describes how he structures his game as a dialogue with the player, so that the mechanics tumble out as minor revelations during play. Making an intimidating conundrum isn’t the interesting thing, he suggests, but bringing the player to a comprehension of it. Perhaps this answers Blow’s own puzzle: one reason for the lukewarm response to his narrative ambitions may be that they appeared opaque for opacity’s sake.
Some of the connections the film makes are a little crude and possibly overly-manipulative: McMillen talks about his game’s protagonist, Meat Boy, a character whose absence of skin leaves him vulnerable and in constant pain. He needs his girlfriend, who is made of plasters, to complete him. Cut to: interview with McMillen’s girlfriend. It’s a metaphor, see.
The film also sags in its last part, apparently not quite sure what to do with Super Meat Boy’s tremendous success, except repeat it several times. Oddly, it even revisits a long mission statement Blow gives at the film’s start. Maybe the filmmakers were hoping for material provided by the launch of Fez, but Phil Fish’s ever-retreating schedule evaded them. The lack of conclusion to his tale does leave something of a void, although it is heartening to know, as we now do, that he has probably since become rather rich.
Was it worth the effort? Refenes pays off the mortgage on his parents’ house, McMillen buys his girlfriend a hideous cat, Blow pours millions into his next development (The Witness), all because they ship their games and people love them. By the fortuitous choice of its subjects the movie escapes the difficulty of wrangling a heartwarming tale from bankruptcy and suicide, but it’s not a story without moments of bleakness. Indie Game: The Movie is an inspiring film, and even if it is rather vague about the specific appeal of the games themselves, it delicately articulates the passion, idiosyncrasies and brilliance of the developers as they pursue uncompromised creativity - and at what cost.
Come with me, back into the distant past. Don't mind that wibbly blurry effect and that "WooOOoOOooOO" noise, that's just what happens when you go back in time. We're almost there. All you have to do is click this link and make the transition to April 4 2011!
I've always wanted to say that. If you just took the trip, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll also have a good idea as to whether or not you'd like to purchase the games going in the return of the potato sack sale on Steam.
Jun 12, 2012
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Brendan Caldwell)
The long-awaited documentary about the creators of Super Meat Boy, Braid and Fez is out now and available for download from its own site, iTunes or Steam. Here’s Mr Brendy C to tell you a few things about it before you spend your digi-groats on this much-feted film. Warning: could be said to include spoilers, if a documentary about some guys making videogames can be said to be spoilable.>
Indie Game: The Movie is in the unusual position of being able to say it was using Kickstarter “before it was cool, man.” So it’s already vulnerable to the kind of folk who shout ‘hipster!’ at every twenty-something in a pair of milk-bottle glasses. Of course, our readers know better than that. As children, most of you will have undoubtedly been told the tale of The Boy Who Cried Hipster, the moral of the story being ‘don’t lie about there being a dickhead around, in case a real dickhead should actually show up one day to subtly insult your decor, or eat you.’ Being so well brought-up, I believe we can look at Indie Game: The Movie somewhat more fairly and see it for what it actually is: a good documentary which occasionally lapses into artificiality. (more…)
Jun 12, 2012
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alec Meer)
Grumpypants time: I worry slightly that focusing on Super Meat Boy, Fez and Braid risks painting an extremely narrow picture of indie gaming, and as such Indie Game The Movie might be suffering from some of the same echo chamber issues that some felt this year’s IGF did. But hell, let’s celebrate that it has successfully brought an image of videogaming that isn’t guns/boobs/guns/boobs/guns/boobs/guns/boobs into another medium and be happy about it.
After what feels like years of promotion, the movie is finally out. But not in cinemas! No, right on your monitor. You can grab it from its own site, from iTunes or, a little later today, the Steams. I hear mixed reports, but I shall be in all likelihood watching it tomorrow and can report back more usefully then. Oh, and check back on RPS in a few hours to read young whippersnapper Brendan Caldwell telling you just wot he thinks of this here film.
Jun 12, 2012
Indie Game: The Movie is available to download on the official site and iTunes. It'll be released on Steam in about seven hours time, making it the first ever full-length movie to be released on the platform.
You could use Steam's remote download feature to kick it off from your office/school/college then watch it while eating your tea this evening. That's what I'm planning on do.
Alternatively, you can purchase on the official site and sneakily stream it in the corner of your monitor. Or just buy it on iTunes and watch it on your iOS device from a toilet cubicle.
Indie Game: The Movie was directed by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. It follows Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen as they create Super Meat Boy in late 2010 as well as Phil Fish, who struggles to prepare his first public demo of Fez. A post-Braid Jonathan Blow also features as he decides what to do after his massively successful indie. Jim Guthrie composed the score; he's the musician behind the Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP.
We'll have our review of Indie Game online soon. Are you excited about watching?
Innovative platformer Braid, differently innovative platformer Super Meat Boy and horror adventure game Lone Survivor have been added to the already immensely successful Humble Bundle 5. Anyone who's already bought the bundle will be able to grab the new games gratis. If you haven't already bought the bundle (WHY???), you'll need to splash out more than the average (currently $7.87) to get the three games included.
The latest Humble Bundle has been the best yet, packing Bastion, Limbo, Amnesia, Psychonauts and Superbrothers into one tidy and cheap virtual box. Now it's hard to know how it could be any more awesome, unless it added Half-Life 3 to the roster. We're also not sure how any future bundle can stand a hope in hell against its sheer blinding awesomeness.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (John Walker)
It’s arguable that the current Humble Indie Bundle is the best one yet. I’d argue it. I’m arguing it right now>. But incredibly, it just got better. Added to Bastion, Superbrothers, Limbo, Psychonauts and Amnesia are Super Meat Boy, Braid, and bundle first-timer, Lone Survivor. Oh my goodness.
When speaking to Humble’s Richard Esguerra earlier today, I took the chance to ask him about what difference these extras can make. You can see that below.