Minecon wasn’t only about Minecraft. Mojang were good enough to invite along the bright lights of the indie dev scene to give a series of inspiring, funny lectures, describing how they got into the business and what they’ve learnt along the way.
Taking to the stage in chronological order: Hello Games, purveyors of deceptively chirpy stunt-biking game Joe Danger; C418, Minecraft’s maestro of electronica; Introversion, creators of Uplink, Darwinia and the tremendously tempting crowdfunded clink-sim, Prison Architect; Suspicious Developments, aka Tom Francis, aka maker of Gunpoint, aka PC Gamer writer, aka man sitting two metres two my right as I type this and looking rather dashing too, I might add; Mike Bithell, the dev behind clever platformer Thomas Was Alone; and Mode 7, creators of simultaneous turnbased-tactics masterpiece Frozen Synapse.
Hit the jump for the videos of each talk, and watch out for our PCG-helmed indie dev round-table which we'll publish in the next few days.
Hello Games / Grant Duncan
Hello Games' supremely talented artist, Grant Duncan, takes the mic to talk about conjuring Pixar-like delight from pixels and polygons in Joe Danger (and also to tease Hello Games’ next aesthetically divergent title, quite possibly coming to PC, currently going under the codename of Project Skyscraper).
C418 / Daniel Rosenfeld
The effervescent Daniel Rosenfeld, also known as C418, talks about the production of Minecraft’s electronica score, game music in general, his album, and the soundtrack for the upcoming Minecraft documentary (teaser clip within) - all in some impressive technical detail. A must for electronica nerds and aspiring musicians.
Introversion / Mark Morris & Chris Delay
British indie-dev double-act, Mark Morris and Chris Delay discuss the long and bumpy road they’ve taken, from early hits Uplink and Darwinia, to the calamitous production of Multiwinia and the aborted Subversion. But - spoilers! - it has a happy ending with the hugely successful crowdfunding of clink-building sim Prison Architect.
Suspicious Developments / Tom Francis
PCGamer’s very own tame indie developer, Tom Francis, discusses how being mean to games professionally has helped shape his development practices on Gunpoint, and how becoming a developer has changed his perception of the games he writes about.
The supremely affable creator of Thomas Was Alone discusses its origins as a rough-hewn Flash experiment and how the curiously emotive reaction to it - which saw players ascribe human thoughts to its simple cuboid avatars - snowballed into a project capable of attracting accolades and high-profile voice-actors.
Mode 7 / Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor, the co-director of Mode 7, who heroically multitasks as a musician and creator of hilariously terrible PowerPoint slides, tracks the company’s evolution, from its early swordfighting game Determinance, to the terrific tactical tour-de-force which is Frozen Synapse.
As part of Steam's regularly awesome Midweek Madness sales, the Best of British Indie Bundle packages seven indie games crafted by the skilled folks across the pond. Lasting until 4pm PDT Thursday, the $10 deal provides a sampler of excellent strategy and action timesinks, including Introversion Software's DEFCON, Alex May and Rudolf Kremers' Eufloria, Mode 7's Frozen Synapse, Positech Games' Gratuitous Space Battles, Puppy Games' Revenge of the Titans, and a double-whammy finisher of Size Five Games' Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That! The value-candy gets even sweeter as most of the included games (with the exception of Gratuitous Space Battles and Size Five's goods) carry Steam Achievements for your hunting pleasure in addition to saving nearly $70 in your still-recovering-from-Summer-Sale wallet.
"Owen. You killed Davis!" Alas, poor Davis, the VIP Owen and Tom F were supposed to protect lay dead, victim of a grenade throw gone bad. Who could have imagined that a convoluted plan to bounce a grenade off a fellow soldier's riot shield through a window could possibly go awry. Such was lunchtime in the PC Gamer office today when we tried out the New Red expansion for our strategy game of 2011, Frozen Synapse. Find out exactly what went down in Tom's account.
It already looks as though the co-op mode will prove to be the highlight of the update, but the Red expansion comes with a clutch of neat new features. There's a new riot shield unit that can deploy a silver barrier when standing still to repel enemy fire and deflect incoming grenades.The expansion also adds a 15 mission single player campaign and 10 challenge missions with additional rule mutators to add extra challenge.
It also adds red mode. What does that do? "IT MAKES THINGS RED" say Mode 7 in the Frozen Synapse Red trailer. The expansion is available to buy now for $9.99 from the Mode 7 site and Steam.
Full co-op for the single player campaign and all new single player content A new unit (riot shield) A new multiplayer game mode (“Upload”) 15 mission single player campaign 10 single player challenge missions Three mutators (gameplay modifiers for advanced users) 6 additional music tracks by nervous_testpilot (2 previously available in the Humble Indie Bundle) MP3 and FLAC download of all Frozen Synapse: Red music Original music tracks “Deeper” and “Focus” unlocked during gameplay “Impeccable Micro” - a chiptune album from _ensnare_ (MP3 and FLAC) The infamous “Red Mode”…
Frozen Synapse's new DLC adds co-op play and a new shield unit. Owen and I tried out both at lunchtime, with disastrous results. Our 20 minutes of planning resulted in the 33 seconds of catastrophe below, so I should explain what the hell we were planning.
Our objective was to defend the NPC (cyan coloured) from incoming attackers, so I said I'd hold the north (I'm in green) and Owen (yellow) would hold the south.
My plan was solid: my machinegunner would provide overwatch from behind cover, my shield unit would block the only north entrance, then drop her shield a second before the turn ends, so my grenade guy could fire past her to flush out anyone who was hiding from my gunner.
It didn't go well. My shield unit put her shield back up at the end of the turn, ricocheting the grenade back at us. It didn't blow, but in my next turn, I have a very large and explosive problem at my feet.
Meanwhile, Owen was taken by surprise when an enemy shotgunner ran right up to the south wall, hugging it so he could peek in and blast us at close range. Shotgunners beat everything at close range, so Owen had to do something inventive. He moved both his shield and grenade units away from the windows, and had the grenade one shoot at the shield, angling it to ricochet out of the window and blow up the shotgunner. I was impressed with his guile.
What I didn't realise was that he hadn't simulated this. You can share your plan in co-op, so you can see how it'll play out, but only for the next five seconds. The grenade didn't land in that time, but I assumed Owen had seen from the trajectory that it would sail clear out of the window.
It did not.
It tinked pathetically off the shield and fell at its owner's feet. So in the same turn, both of us had to escape deadly blasts of our own creation, while enemies flooded in.
The difference was that my blast didn't kill the NPC we were here to protect.
What I love about the video is that it looks like Owen's two units disagree: the grenadier wants to do the shield-bounce, and the shield lady is having none of it. My guys manage to survive by dashing round a corner and huddling behind their shield, but it's no help: the mission was the NPC, and we killed the NPC.
The new DLC is called Red, and it's $10 if you own Frozen Synapse. If not, you can buy both together for $27. They're also both on Steam.
We elevate the Total War games beyond simply being good strategy games because we believe they’re story-engines: that not only do they offer deep and difficult decisions about how to paint the map your colour, but they also entertain you with your own genius.
Shogun 2 is a spectacular return to form. Partly, it’s the period: a time in Japanese history when heroes and villains rise and fall. Partly, it’s the technology: there’s little in PC gaming that can match the drama of a full speed cavalry charge. But mostly, it’s because the game creates interesting drama. The time when you had to rush an army home to fend off a betrayal from your neighbour clan. The time when you hid an army and engineered an ambush. The time when your veteran clan leader dismounted, and held the line while thousands of peasants rolled into the front gate. That time when… you’ve got the stories. You remember.
Highly recommended: Frozen Synapse and Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty.
'Tis the season for increasingly excellent indie bundles. The LittleBIGbunch sale has gone live now on Get Games. It contains the excellent turn based strategy, Frozen Synapse, plaformer Explodemon, Serious Sam Double D, Munch's Oddysee and New Star Soccer. You can use the payment slider to decide how much cash you want to lay down (or write the number into the payment box), and then decide how your payment gets divided up between the developers and GamesAid.
If you're on the hunt for more great deals, the rumoured Humble Indie Bundle 4 went live earlier today. That includes Jamestown, Bit.Trip Runner, Super Meat Boy, Shank, and NightSky. If you pay more than the average donation, you'll also get Cave Story+ and Gratuitous Space Battles. Buy both packs and you'll have plenty to play over the Xmas holidays.
Frozen Synapse developer Paul Taylor, from Mode 7, wrote a "mini-postmortem" at Games Brief on how business and design considerations influenced the game's development and marketing. He explains why Mode 7 gambled on a higher price point (for an indie game) and discusses how Frozen Synapse is at once limited by being pay-once, but how it would likely fail as a free-to-play game.
He writes, "Pay-once is the most maligned business model out there right now: I would suggest that even the most hardcore entrenched old-school developers have been won round by the raw data that free-to-play games have generated, so pay-once is in decline."
However, he also points out that a game like Frozen Synapse does not lend itself to F2P, and that Synapse's target audience of hardcore gamers is "averse" to F2P models. He also admits that designing for "pay once" let Mode 7 design a game that was "not based around restricting the player's access to content."
"I’m yet to hear a sane scheme for an F2P Frozen Synapse," Taylor concludes.
The whole piece is worth reading for an interesting description of how Mode 7 used a paid-beta to switch to full-time development, Steam's critical importance, and why Mode 7 is being very cautious about expansion and porting. While the core team has moved onto another project, because Taylor says they do not want to stagnate, they have also brought a new team member aboard to work on DLC and tweaks for Frozen Synapse.
Paul joined us on Three Moves Ahead a few months ago, and he addressed a few of these topics in some detail, as well as the importance of Frozen Synapse's curious fiction and single-player campaign.
The Humble Indie Bundle has once again proved an incredible success, with the latest packet of independent gems pulling in over a million bucks.
As reported over at Joystiq, the latest bundle that came packaged with fan-favourite Frozen Synapse went on sale in late September. The deal window is now over, meaning if you didn't get chance to take up the offer you're now out of luck, but 231,799 people took advantage of the pay-as-much-as-you-like deal and scooped not only Frozen Synapse, but SpaceChem and Trauma too. The average donation was $4.81/£3.07 per bundle, pulling in a total of $1,115,350.13/£710,947.02.
Last week we announced the landmark launch of PC Gamer Digital, and today we're excited to let you know that Episode 2 is now available on Steam - you don't want to miss it! In the second episode of PC Gamer Digital, you'll climb into the ethereal world of BioShock Infinite for a self-guided, 360-degree tour of Columbia, go behind the scenes of upcoming free-to-play shooter Tribes: Ascend, discover the cerebral tactics of Frozen Synapse, and much more!
Purchasing PC Gamer Digital Episode 2 also scores you the Killer Exclusive hat in Team Fortress 2. (It's extremely sexy!)
If you haven't checked out Digital yet, it's a brand-new interactive environment which houses all-original games coverage and strategy guides from the editors of PC Gamer. There's nothing else like it, so if you want to really know what it is, we highly recommend that you grab the free base application (which includes Episode 0 with free content) to experience the future of games coverage for yourself. PC Gamer Digital is currently only available in the US, but we're working through legal stuff and load testing as quickly as possible so that we can launch elsewhere - we'll let you know as soon as we have an international release date. For answers to more questions, give our announcement FAQ a glance.
Here's a little more about what you'll get in Episode 2:
BioShock Infinite - Step into Columbia's Downfall You've seen the trailers, but you've never seen BioShock Infinite like this. Experience the beauty and discord of Columbia as you explore 360-degree panoramas with commentary informed by Creative Director Ken Levine.
PCG Plays: Frozen Synapse - Tactical Showdown! This week, we're playing Frozen Synapse, an elegant game of tactics and psychology from indie developer Mode 7 Games. Not only that, PC Gamer's Evan Lahti got to test his wits against one of the game's creators, Mode 7 co-founder Ian Hardingham. See how he fared!
Tribes: Ascend - Interview with Todd Harris We visited indie developer Hi-Rez Studios to talk to Executive Producer Todd Harris about Tribes: Ascend, which promises to bring back the large-scale, kinetic CTF action the series pioneered, as well as introduce new facets, not the least of which is a free-to-play model.
StarCraft II - Protip: The Baneling Bust Are your Zerg rushes running up against pesky buildings? Damn industrious jerks. Learn how to clear the path with a tactic that's as explosive as it is gooey: the Baneling bust.
Video Settings Explained: Part 2 of 2 - Advanced Settings Demystified How does ambient occlusion work? What is tessellation? Discover the effects of five rarely-explained graphics settings with our direct on/off comparisons and narration.
The Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle already received a surprise bonus with point-and-click adventure Trauma, and now indie puzzle game SpaceChem has further sweetened the pot. In case you are not going through enough mental contortions from trying to plot your next move in Frozen Synapse, you can take a break by trying to solve problems with SpaceChem's molecular machines.
You can buy the bundle here. If you already have it, you will find that SpaceChem has been added to your account. Buyers who pay more than the average also receive Trine, the Shadowgrounds games, the prototype for Jack Claw, and a preorder for Splot. One week remains for this sale, which benefits the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and Child's Play.