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If you're a fan of weirdly ethereal electronic bleeps, uplifting synthetic bloops, and occasional ambient strumming, the latest Humble Weekly Sale should be of interest. Rather than focus on a particular game series, or a developer's back catalogue, it features the work of Jim Guthrie: composer of the soundtracks to Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and Indie Game: The Movie - both of which are also available in their original non-soundtrack forms as 'beat the average' bonuses.
I was a big fan of Sword & Sworcery, and so much of that game's effortlessly off-kilter tone was defined by the way Guthrie's music was integrated into every part of it. At its heart, it was a soundtrack you could walk around in.
It's also a good time for Humble to branch out into approaching a game-related bundle from a new angle. If you just want some cheap games, you're aren't short of options this week. So rather than try to compete with Steam's sale dominance, it's nice to see this emerge as an alternative.
You can find the Weekly Sale page here. The Jim Guthrie and Friends collection will run for just over six days.
Indie Game: The Movie is to get a special edition, bringing over a hundred minutes of new short films, and epilogues for each of the original's main subjects. Is there significantly more to that follow-up story than "everybody got extremely rich"? Will Phil Fish want to stone-cold murder anybody else? Will the movie's creators remember that not all indie games are 2D platformers. A new trailer may reveal the answers to some of these questions.
Damn, they really love that Jonathan Blow passage.
The special edition will also bring new commentaries from Team Meat and the directors of the movie. It will be available as a standalone purchase for digital owners, or as DLC for the Steam version.
In addition, DVD and Blu-Ray box-sets are being released, with over 300 minutes of new material. Details of that package are available at the IGTM website.
Indie Game: The Movie Special Edition will release July 24.
Dec 27, 2012
Now there's even more reason to use that holiday cash Aunt Myrtle sent you on something charitable. The ongoing Humble Indie Bundle 7 has just expanded its indie game offerings to include The Basement Collection of Flash games, the action puzzle platformer Offspring Fling, and the retro 2D platformer Cave Story. The original bundle was packed with indie hits Snapshot, Closure, The Binding of Isaac and its Wrath of the Lamb DLC, Shank 2, Dungeon Defenders and its DLC, Legend of Grimrock, and the documentary Indie Game: The Movie. So, for the next six days, you can snatch up nine full games and one movie for a price that's absurdly close to free.
If you haven't done a Humble Bundle before, here's how it works: You can donate any amount of money and receive Snapshot, Closure, The Binding of Isaac, Shank 2, and Indie Game: The Movie. But if you pay more than the average ($6.41 as of this writing), you'll also get Dungeon Defenders, Legend of Grimrock, The Basement Collection, Offspring Fling, and Cave Story. The folks at Humble Bundle estimate the total value of this collection at $170. You can even choose how you'd like to have your payment divided between the developers and the two benefiting organizations, Child's Play Charity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
For more information on the games included in the bundle, check out the trailer for Humble Indie Bundle 7 here.
The seventh Humble Indie Bundle is upon us, just in time for the holidays. For whatever cash you've got left over after your shopping's done you get a slew of indie winners that include The Binding of Isaac, bloody platformer Shank 2, the surreal Closure, the gross-tastic Binding of Isaac (and its Wrath of the Lamb DLC), and colorful sidescroller Snapshot.
You'll also get the Indie Game: The Movie documentary, and clearing the average price—$5.87 as of this writing—gets you the excellent Legends of Grimrock and Dungeon Defenders (plus included DLC). That's the holiday spirit!
The bundle's organizers introduce each game with terribly hilarious puns in the trailer below.
Graham, Tom, Rich and Chris discuss FTL, The Witcher 2, Indie Game: The Movie, the Steam charts and answer your questions from Twitter. Also featuring exclusive information on the breakfast preferences of the PC Gamer team. Graham likes sausages.
We also talk about the overcrowded MMO market, Hitman: Absolution, the future of competitive Dota, and whether or not you should build your next gaming rig yourself.
Download the MP3, subscribe, or find our older podcasts here.
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.