Nothing says “indie” quite like breaking down the walls of copyright and adding a bunch of characters from games you had no hand in making. And wouldn’t you know it, Gaijin Games is doing just that with their cardiovascular improvement simulator, BIT.TRIP Presents: Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien or "Runner 2" for those who need to work on their lung capacity.
Those who drop $3 for the “Good Friends Character Pack” will have access to Psychonauts’ Raz, Cave Story’s Quote, Machinarium’s Josef, Super Meat Boy’s Dr. Fetus, Portal 2’s Atlas (who’s Steam exclusive), Bit.Trip’s invisible Commander Video, and Spelunky's, er, Spelunky Guy.
We’re a little bummed that the DLC doesn’t offer new levels of some kind, but it’s hard to complain about anything when it’s a paltry $3, which, as developer Dant Rambo notes, is less than "a bag of hot dog chips." Still, here’s hoping we get some new levels to break in this new cast somewhere in the near future. In the meantime, why don't you watch these character introductions narrated by none other than Charles Martinet, aka, the voice of Mario. Yes, that Mario.
Just as promised, Steam Trading Cards is now live. The virtual cards can be earned by playing participating games on Steam, trading with other users, or buying on the Steam Marketplace. Complete a set to create a badge, earn rewards and XP, and level up. The user with the highest Steam level at the end of the year gets to high five Gabe Newell while announcing Half-Life 3. In space.
In other true facts, I'm already hearing from users playing the Steam marketplace to profit off the cards' initial popularity. One user I spoke to has been buying low and selling high to pad his Steam wallet, even creating scarcity by buying up low-value cards in quantity. I'll keep an eye on marketplace prices as more users start trading the collectibles.
I was hoping to find a good deal on a 1952 Mickey Mantle card, but unfortunately, baseball isn't a participating game. You can see which of the games you own are participating here.
Brad Muir may be busy running Double Fine's latest Kickstarter, Massive Chalice, but he's still got time for his greatest vice: Dota 2. "I'm extremely addicted," he says. "I'm playing all of the Dota 2 I can handle!"
Name: Brad Muir Occupation: Project Lead at Double Fine Productions on Massive Chalice Location: San Francisco, CA Twitter: MrMooEar
Who are you?
I'm Brad Muir! I'm a Project Lead at Double Fine Productions. I've been here for almost 10 years, working on games like Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, Iron Brigade, and now Massive Chalice. "It boots and loads games so quickly it's ridiculous. I feel like I'm in the future." What's in your PC?
I used to be really into building my own PC's but this time I around I had a good friend help me out. I just haven't been keeping up with hardware trends. But the rig that he spec'd out for me is about a year old and it's still a beast! Core i5 3570k, 8GB DDR3 RAM, GTX 580, 256GB SSD. It was such a major upgrade to my old rig!
What's the most interesting part of your setup?
I think it's a pretty normal setup. My PC is at a desk in the guest bedroom with a desk chair. There isn't really anything fancy about it. But I will say that upgrading to a PC with an SSD has been revelatory! I know that it's not uncommon nowadays, but the speed just hasn't worn off on me. It boots and loads games so quickly it's ridiculous. I feel like I'm in the future.
What’s on your desk?
It's so messy it's embarrassing! I keep a lot of stuff by my PC. There are a ton of books, Magic cards, and official-looking pieces of mail laying around that I should be dealing with. But mostly I'm just ignoring these things and playing Dota. "Games were a great escape for me and let me really feel in control of what was happening in the world." What are you playing right now?
Oh man I'm playing all of the Dota 2 I can handle! My younger brother roped me into the game and I'm extremely addicted right now. I'm definitely looking forward to The International 3 in Seattle in August! I've also been playing some Crusader Kings 2, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and X-COM: UFO Defense (old school!) for MASSIVE CHALICE research! It's pretty awesome when these games are considered "research" for your job!
Why do you game?
When I was a kid I think it was all about having a safe space. Games were a great escape for me and let me really feel in control of what was happening in the world. Nowadays I think it's a lot different—games are a great way to socialize and keep in touch with my brother. And I think they're a great, interesting way to apply stress your brain in a positive way. I'm so excited that games are offering all sorts of diverse experiences these days. I'm loving the indie community—it's just great that you can have games like Kerbal Space Program and Cart Life in the Steam store next to Call of Duty. Amazing!
How I Game is a weekly spotlight of developers, pro gamers, and community members. Know someone who you’d like to see featured? Drop a comment below.
Amnesia Fortnight is how Double Fine turns creative people into games—everyone on staff is hit on the head with a brick or some other amnesia-inducing device and spends two weeks prototyping new ideas. It's how Costume Quest and Stacking were greenlit, and last year Double Fine introduced us to the process by letting us vote on concepts in its first Humble Bundle collaboration. Those prototypes, and a few more, are now available again through the current Humble Double Fine Bundle.
Along with Psychonauts, Costume Quest, Stacking, and Brütal Legend, beating the average price (currently $8.15) will now also get you Windows-only concept games Autonomous, Black Lake, Hack n’ Slash, Spacebase DF-9, The White Birch, Happy Song, Brazen, and the Costume Quest prototype.
Also added are the prototypes' soundtracks, as well as 2 Player Productions' Amnesia Fortnight 2012 Documentary, which was originally released as daily video updates during the two-week prototyping crunch. Check out the trailer below:
The launch of The Humble Double Fine Bundle means that for a limited time you can get Psychonauts for the low price of whatever you want. You'd be a psycho not to take that offer!
I'm so sorry about that, but it's true. And for whatever price you choose, you'll also get Costume Quest and Stacking. Pay more than the average ($8.29 at the time of writing) however, and Double Fine will throw in an extra umlaut in the form of Brütal Legend.
Pay $35 or more, and you'll get all the games plus a "slacker backer" pre-order of Double Fine's Kickstarted adventure game, Broken Age. The post-Kickstarter backing program grants you the following:
Access to making-of documentary episodes in HD Access to private forums featuring concept art, development updates, team and backer discussions Participation in the closed beta A Steam code for the finished game on PC & Mac, or a DRM-free download on PC, Mac, or Linux
The bundle also features the Psychonauts and Brütal Legend soundtracks, and all games are available on Steam or as DRM-free downloads for Windows, Mac, and Linux. As always with Humble Bundles, you can partition your contribution any way you like to support Double Fine, charities, and the organizers, Humble Bundle, Inc.
Oh, and for a less-humble contribution—$75—you'll also get a classy Double Fine t-shirt. Unfortunately, the shirt is not available as a download, but worldwide shipping is included.
We're a week away from the PC release of Brütal Legend. Three and a half years late, but considering true metal originates from the Edge of Time, that's not too bad. But it seems, just as we seem like we're reaching the end, our blood brothers at Double Fine might have more to give for the rocktastic franchise... and maybe even Psychonauts, while they're at it. In an interview with RPS, Tim Schafer hinted at some possible DLC, and didn't leave a full expansion out of the question.
“I think is the most plausible to me,” Schafer told Rock Paper Shotgun, in reference to new Brütal Legend content for the PC. “Because single-player requires content, which means reengaging all the voice actors—which is something that was a lot easier for EA to pay for. Also, reengaging music licensing. I’d love to do that too, but I think that would involve more funding than we have cash on hand to do.”
While DLC is all fine and dandy (and in a single instant, I lost all of the metal cred from the references earlier in the article), a full-blown sequel would rock even harder. Schafer says it could happen, but they're likely to look to their less blast-beat-driven franchise first.
"It’s been longer since Psychonauts and we wouldn’t have to do any music licensing,” he said. “So we could probably afford to do it more if we got some funding. I feel like a Brutal sequel would cost twice as much as Psychonauts. It’s easier to imagine Double Fine doing a sequel to Psychonauts. But for creative reasons, there’s no preference of one over the other.”
So there you have it. The eyes of the world are on Double Fine, and only time (what is time?) will tell what might emerge.
If you find all the metal references in this article, tweet at AsaTJ and I'll tell everyone how special you are.
It was almost a year ago to the day when Notch publicly proposed to Tim Schafer. No, not that sort of proposal. This one: "Let’s make Psychonauts 2 happen."
But any plans for a follow up to Tim Schafer's weird and inventive platformer were put on hold when Double Fine launched an adventure game Kickstarter. Now, in a thread on Reddit thread, the Minecraft creator has revealed that he'll no longer be funding a Psychonauts sequel.
"I somewhat naively thought "a couple of million" was two million. I had no doubt in my mind that a Psychonauts 2 would earn that money back easily," Notch writes. "Turns out they wanted 18 million dollars, haha."
While the Reddit thread was celebrating Minecraft's success - Notch himself made over $100 million from the game in 2012 - he admits that the complexity of making such an investment would have been too much of a time constraint.
"I don't have the time at the moment to even try to get educated enough to make an eighteen million dollar deal. Perhaps in some distant future when I'm no longer trying to make games, I could get into angel investing."
"I've made one private investment into a game so far, at 100k, and it's frankly a lot more work than I thought."
A statement by Double Fine said the company was "excited about the prospect of making a sequel to Psychonauts, but we’re currently focused on making our Kickstarter game and haven’t been able to budget it out. Once we get around to it, we’ll likely explore alternative funding methods that will require multiple sources to make it a reality."
You can read more about Minecraft's success in our Making Of feature. It includes Markus Persson saying things like, "I think I was already fucking rich by the time I realised, 'I’m gonna be fucking rich.'"
In an interview over on GamesIndustry.biz (currently not published in its entirety, so just to be fair, there may be additional information that adds context to this), 2K boss Christoph Hartmann talks about the need for games to become photo-realistic. Not simply for its own sake though, as a visual marker of technology. No, because without such technology, we apparently won't be able to get new genres, or any real emotion from the ones we already have. Here's the relevant snippet from the site.
"It will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies," he said. "Until games are photorealistic, it'll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now."
He's certainly not the first person to say this over the years, and he won't be the last - and this isn't intended to be a hatchet piece about someone saying something silly in a much longer interview. It is however an example of a commonly held position that's not simply wrong, but that actively hurts the drive for realism and in-game humanity by missing the point of what makes us laugh and cry.
The argument about genres can easily be summed up in one word: No. Photo-realism is no automatic boon to anything not intended to be set in a realistic world. Better graphics are something to strive for, sure, but every genre that exists got its start without photo-realism, and while many of them obviously benefit from visual improvements over time, cool new experiences are always popping up without that crutch. This is a non-discussion. The answer is no. End of story. No. No. Thrice: No. If you believe that, even a little, you have no imagination or understanding of just how awesome gaming is.
When it comes to the emotional side though, things get much more interesting - not for what needs to be done, but for what already happens. There are certainly games like 2K's own Spec Ops where modern graphics play an important part - walking through the carnage of a mortar strike for instance wouldn't work anything like as well if it was a few splattery sprites instead of, say, this:
It's not however usually the graphical fidelity that makes a moment emotional, but the combination of concept and response. It doesn't matter if it's 'realistic' as long as we're sufficiently swept away by the moment to consider it real. When Bambi's mother is shot, we don't see ink and paint; we see loss and confusion, desperation and emptiness. To use a later Disney movie, Jessie's heartbreaking song in Toy Story 2 works regardless of the fact that she's both a 3D model and within her own universe, a doll - the emotional descent from happiness to the cruel moment that sense of belonging is just snatched away is something that can resonate with us just as well as anything else. Or, proving that it can go both ways in the same scene, how about the opening of Up and its amazing adult life montage?
It's no surprise that animation tends to do these moments so well. While realistic to a certain point, the real magic is in control; animators and voice actors alike can focus so tightly on the details like the glimmer of a tear in an eye, or take things grander with the understanding that we won't object to something like a character having expressive almond eyes that we'd find creepy as hell if applied to an actor.
Just as importantly, because the visual experience is inherently divorced from reality, we're not subconsciously looking for problems - in any way. In most cases, we don't even have a mental line - nobody thinks of "Pixar's Wall-E" in the same way we subconsciously see "Christian Bale's Batman." We just accept the fictional construct and embrace it for what it is - the only real exceptions being when the reality intrudes with something like a celebrity voiceover so that we're constantly reminded that we're just watching Will Smith bop around the screen as a fish or whatever.
(And of course, the more realistic things get, the greater the chance of problems emerging. LA Noire for instance offered phenomenal facial animation, but its character work - while far from great - constantly jarred by being not... quite.... right. This is usually referred to as the "Uncanny Valley" effect - that in getting close, but not close enough, our response becomes one of revulsion/distance rather than acceptance. It's not hard to think of examples from film or games.)
Games have far more in common with animation than they do film, but with an important extra element - we're not simply passive observers. We get far, far more time to get to like and empathise with the characters, even over a relatively short 10 hour game, as well as being the instigators of the events that spark powerful emotions - love, happiness, pain, betrayal, the fear of not belonging, whatever.
If those emotions are tied to realistic characters, as in (apologies, but it's the highest profile recent example) the PS3 game Heavy Rain, then that's great. The work just as well though with Psychonauts' Raz realising his father loved him all along (not to mention many smaller details, like discovering seemingly happy-go-lucky teacher Milla's hidden pain in one of the most startling secret rooms ever), the scene in Sanitarium where a ghost girl walks through the devastated family her death has left behind, or many, many, many other examples from games cartoonish, grounded, dramatic - or even outright comedic. Comedy after all is the genre that really knows the value of an emotional sucker punch. If it can make you laugh, it can make you cry. Two words: Jurassic Bark. Sob.
(And this is only if we're talking about things with a foot planted in a desire to even be vaguely realistic. There's many an effective art game out there that finds emotion by different routes entirely.)
In short, photo-realism is a perfectly fine thing to aim for, but as far as emotions go, it's just a shell like any other - a creative choice, not an end-goal. Emotions themselves are always going to be inside it, and powerful enough to breathe life into anything from a real person with carefully modelled sweat on their brow, to the unexpected death of a cartoon rabbit. Why, with the right writing, character design, and concepts, a good designer can even make us feel sympathy for a coloured rectangle.
Maybe there's even a few new genres somewhere in that. Stranger things have happened...
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.