Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jim Rossignol)

Over-talented game dev Aubrey Hesselgren crafted an unofficial 3D mashup of Super Meat Boy and Super Mario Galaxy, apparently “for Tommy Refenes’ 30th Birthday”. You can see a video of it in action below. Hesselgren says on a Reddit thread devoted to the idea: “It’s just an experiment in adaptation. I kept hearing people write off 3D games with all the arguments about spatial perception, limited information etc, and wanted to try to tackle a few of their points, just for my own edification. I didn’t want to dismiss what they were saying, but I felt like I had to see for myself. I learnt a lot!” (more…)

Announcement - Valve
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PC Gamer
Hotline Miami is all about learning through repetition, then executing a perfect murder-spree.
Hotline Miami is all about learning through repetition, then executing a perfect murder ballet.

Tyler Wilde, Associate EditorThe word "repetitive" commonly has a negative connotation, and it's especially used negatively (all the time, every time, forever and ever) when talking about games. And often it's followed by a bunch of no elaboration at all. That doesn't make sense. I'm sure I've done it before, but criticizing a game for being "too repetitive" and leaving it at that is—strictly speaking—meaningless. A game might lack variety, but every game is repetitive. We repeat some pattern of input—running and shooting, stacking blocks, bouncing balls off blue dots—over and over, and expect uniform feedback. Then the problem changes slightly, and we tweak our input pattern. And then again. And yet "too repetitive" is lobbed at games all the time.

Alright, I know that sounds a bit pedantic, and I do recognize the difference in tone between "repetition" and "repetitive." Lack of variety is a fair criticism, but "too repetitive" is an extremely vague way to say it, and it dodges the truth: when we criticize a game for being "too repetitive," I think we often mean that we just don't like what we're doing. "It's repetitive" is shorthand for "this isn't fun (for some reason)."

If we like what we're doing, repetition is desirable. I like solving puzzles in Portal, and once I solve one I want to solve more. I don't want to solve the exact same puzzle again, but I don't want to stumble into a surprise Sudoku chamber, either. So Portal gives me increasingly clever arrangements of portal-ey logic problems. The puzzles get harder, but they're all just iterations of the same basic spatial problem I solved in the first puzzle. So after all my twisty, knotty figuring arrives at a solution, it always seems just as simple as the first time. That sense of clarity comes from repetition.

Super Meat Boy replays your failures, illustrating your own learning process.

Repetition is also how we learn, and both Super Meat Boy and Hotline Miami succeed by embracing that power. They present problems in small chunks—a level in Super Meat Boy and a floor of thugs in Hotline Miami—and rapidly reset them every time we fail. Each attempt gives us new information to apply to the next, building layers of experience on the way to that one perfect run. And that perfect run feels good: it's an accomplishment, like unknotting an especially tricky puzzle in Portal. Except in Hotline Miami there's more brain-stuff and skull chunks lying around afterward.

The same goes for Counter-Strike, StarCraft, and the rest. At their most basic levels, they're about repeating and mutating input patterns to solve variable, but not totally unpredictable, problems. The variables in Counter-Strike, for example, are the guns, maps, and opponents. That's been enough variety to keep us repetitively shooting at each other for 13 years.

Repetition can be pretty damn fun, so we've got to be specific, and always ask ourselves if it's really the repetition of a theme that bothers us, or the theme itself. I can shoot bad guys all day, so complaining that "the shooting is repetitive" in Medal of Honor: Warfighter would be confusing. Further examination would reveal that the guns, maps, and enemies have specific traits I don't like, which has nothing to do with repetition (except that the more I do them, the less I like them).

Fearing the dreaded "repetitiveness" may even be bad for games: that's probably how we end up with off-key phrases at pivotal moments, like a boss fight which takes away the gun I've been using the whole time and sticks me in a surprise platformer. It's variety, but it screws up the whole composition. A performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, for example, would not benefit from an unexpected dubstep interlude. No, I wasn't talking to you, Skrillex. Are you drunk? Go home, dude.

Anyway, if at first glance this looks like an ostentatious rant about a personal pet-peeve, then you may have seen correctly. But maybe not: try Googling any game name with the phrase "too repetitive." It's everywhere. I get what's meant by it (sort of, kind of, some of the time), but it says very little. It may not even be a criticism, because games like Hotline Miami wouldn't be fun without repetition. If dying and respawning didn't reset the level, and our prior kills stayed bloodied, it would be ruined. Maybe then we'd say that it's not repetitive enough?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Cats can't smile ACTUALLY

Four words all but guaranteed to win my attention: “a game about cats.” When said four words are twinned with the knowledge that the game in question comes from the creators of Super Meat Boy and one half of The Binding Of Isaac team, my attention becomes unwavering.

We know precious little about Team Meat’s Mew-Genics other than that it’ll be “randomly generated, strange and involve cats” so even a tiny, kitten-size scrap of detail is enough to cause a flurry of fluffy speculation. Today, that’s two new shots showing in-game characters. (more…)

Product Release - Valve
The Basement Collection, a collection of 9 award winning indie games from the creator of Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, is now available on Steam!

The Basement Collection includes:
  • Aether ( an exploration adventure game )
  • Time Fcuk ( a dark puzzle game )
  • Spewer ( a physics based platformer )
  • Meat Boy ( the super meat boy prototype )
  • Grey Matter ( an anti shooter )
  • Coil (an experimental game )
  • Triachnid (a physics based spider sim)
The collection also features 2 secret unlockable games and tons of unlockable comics, sketch books and even never before scene stock footage from Indie Game: The Movie.

Additionally, if you previously owned Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, or Gish on Steam, you'll receive 30% off for a limited time!

PC Gamer
Basement


Edmund McMillen, the man behind Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac has announced the release date for The Basement Collection. A grab bag of his earlier projects, many of the titles have been polished up with new visuals, music, and even content in some cases. It'll release on August 31st for $4 on Steam.

The promo on McMillen's website lists the following games:


Time Fcuk (updated with new content + levels and achievements)
Aether (updated with new content, graphics make over, improved physics and achievements)
Spewer (updaed with new content, graphics make over, improved physics, new levels, new music track and achievements)
Grey Matter (added achievements)
Coil (added achievements)
Meat Boy(flash prototype) (no new content)
Triachnid (no new content)
Secret game (locked) (updated with new content, soundtrack, difficulty modes and achievements)

McMillen also boasts that "Every game will come with bonus content, ranging from development sketches to early playable prototypes and tech demos," and "will also feature four very large bonus unlockables that should make fans of my work quite happy." The Basement Collection will also come with a free soundtrack, including 10 fan-made remixes.
Announcement - Valve
The Steam Summer Sale continues today with huge savings throughout the store!

Today's Daily Deals Include:

Don't forget to check back for a new Community Choice vote every 8 hours and new Flash sales throughout the day! You can also grab the Steam mobile app to make sure you never miss any great deals while you're on the go!

Complete information on all the savings, Flash Sales, Community Choice Votes and more may be found on www.steampowered.com.

Kotaku

In Which Edmund McMillen Compares Catholicism to D & D


Edmund McMillen speaks his mind. Whether it be about games, religion or poop, he never holds anything back.


The indie superstar responsible for Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac drops his latest bits of wisdom in this fantastic interview by Nathan Grayson over at Eurogamer.


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.


PC Gamer
The Binding of Isaac


"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.
PC Gamer
Indie Game The Movie review thumbnail


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.
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