Sep 22, 2014

DualMondays: Press Start To Begin

DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things.

In Greece we have a saying: "The beginning is the half of everything." I'm not sure this is in fact a proper translation, so please do excuse me in advance, if that's the case. Thing is, it sounds so much more impactful in my native language.  This ancient saying by Pythagoras is something I've always kept in mind when I started work on a project. Whatever that may be, it applies for everything, videogame production included.

For some reason lack of composure and motivation - common difficulties that every developer has faced - were always magically transformed  into challenges. Challenges that I *had* to overcome. And I knew, thanks to this particular piece of wisdom, that if I could get by the initial hurdles, the best was yet to come. Even when I was designing the boring parts of a game or a program, I knew that all that was needed, was to actually begin work, and then I'd see it through.

Recently, Mark Yohalem, member of Wormwood Studios and writer of Primordia (which I personally coded *cough* self promotion *cough*) wrote a blog post releasing information about Cloudscape. Cloudscape is a now abandoned project and Yohalem wrote a very interesting piece regarding the reasons behind said decision from his point of view. So, with that in mind, I came to solidify my thinking about abandonded projects throughout. It's not about there being enough talent on your team (regardless of team member number), but about whether someone/the team actually creates a portion of the product.

To begin
The baby steps of any project shouldn't be exclusively about brainstorming over a wonderful idea. Even though it does help to keep everyone excited and hyped, brainstorming alone doesn't contribute any actual work towards the main goal - which is to deliver a finished product to the market. Endlessly coming up with new, exciting ideas is a common loop in which even the most talented teams have found themselves.

Gradually the initial emotions get toned down and then everything is about creating the silliest, most dysfunctional alpha version of your dream, regardless of its countless faults. It stands to show to everyone in and out of the team, that this is doable. It's a proof of concept, it's a motivational wheel, it's to put it bluntly - the half of everything.

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Sep 18, 2014

Game Books From Transylvania to Na Pali

Reading is good for you, you know, and reading about games can be incredibly enjoyable too. Yes, odd, I know, but books about games do not have to be manuals on level or game design. Nor do they have to be about programming. They can be everything from wonderful strolls through alien worlds to exhaustive write-ups on classic series.

They can be just like HardcoreGaming 101 Presents: Castlevania or Escape to Na Pali. Two vastly different books I have really enjoyed reading and have somehow intrigued me enough to replay a game I had mostly forgotten and, well, properly give the Castlevania games a try.

The first of them two books, the first to be released that is, Escape to Na Pali: A Journey to the Unreal was written by Alan Williamson and Kaitlin Tremblay and is a 110 pages long exploration of the first cinematic FPS. It also is a very well written journey through Unreal's planet, history and culture, complete with essays on whimsical architecture, world building and even narrative design. Oh, and some interesting ideas on the fusion of fantasy and sci-fi elements.

Interestingly, I'm fairly certain that Escape to Na Pali can be enjoyed by people who have never heard of Unreal. I've even used it to convince a friend who hasn't played any games in over a decade, that some interesting things can and do happen in our interactive medium.

Surely, the same friend wouldn't be too interested in the book about Castlevania, but, being a huge fan of the detailed articles over at HardcoreGaming 101, I must admit I absolutely loved their Castlevania offering.

Yes, it's aimed at the gaming connoisseur, but it's brilliant, brilliant specialist stuff. It's complete, thoroughly research, exhaustive, lavishly illustrated and up to the usual lovely writing standard of HG101. And it does really cover everything there is to be written about Konami's genre defining classic, including more than a few installments I had never heard of.

Also, I'm out of words and very sleepy.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and things. Thanks! 

Sep 16, 2014

Patreons Shout Out The Second

Well, cuddly reader, following an okay-ish summer and an already nasty autumn I'm delighted to announce my return to my humble and beloved Gnome's Lair. Yes, it's been a long time and things have happened, but we'll have time for everything only right after I give another shout out to more of the wonderful souls that have supported my Patreon campaign:

Ofer Rubinstein (twitter): developer of Afternoon Hero who keeps a devlog here and a YouTube channel here.

Ludicrously talented Robb Sherwin (twitter) whose site you can find here and who has created some of the best written interactive fiction this side of the Great Underground Empire.

Talha Kaya; an indie dev who has been creating absolutely bonkers games as part of the (super) Kayabros. Find them on twitter.

The great (and very dear) Erik Zaring of the exquisite Dream Machine. You can follow his handcrafted adventure gaming antics on twitter and facebook.

Also, a great big thanks to Rob, Anatoly, Alan, Francisco, Marcos, Dan, Ivo, Ben, Tim, John, Richard, Kurt, Delyth, Georgios, Dagda and Daniel. You people are just amazing!

Jul 8, 2014

A Short Summer Break and a short game on smoking

Having completely missed last summer and having endured what has without doubt been the worse six months ever, the time has come for my humble tired self to go on vacation; take a couple (or maybe three) weeks off. Have a bit of fun. Attempt to relax. Catch my breath.

This, of course, also means I'll be able to return and be properly refreshed in order to do all sorts of creative/indie things... You know, finish the Earthling Priorities freeware point-and-clicker (everybody else's work is mostly done), properly edit Workers In Progress, revamp this very blog, write more on indie and other sorts of games over at, Warp Door, Retro Treasures and some other --to be announced and rather exciting-- places.

Oh, and did I mention I'm working on a dream project of mine with some absolutely brilliant people? Well, I am, but can't say much more besides admitting it's a RPG of sorts.

And now, dear reader, I bid you goodbye! I expect to be back before you know it (i.e. 14 days or so) and here's a lovely little something to keep you occupied: The Smoking Simulator. It's silly and good looking and quite a bit of fun and, well, it also is a freeware offering.

So, uhm, see you!

Jul 4, 2014

The Watchful Indie Watch #4.7

And with the third installment to the Watchful Indie Watch series it's time for a short break. After two years I too need a few weeks in order to avoid random re-calibrations of that old gnomic brain; the Watch will thus probably return in August (or late July)!

Richard Cobbett has thoroughly cobbetized Fallen London and given us Fallen Swindon. Anything else said about it is a spoiler and thus, wisely, avoided.

Excellent bear-filled beat-'em-up Fist of Awesome has just made it on Steam. And is on sale. And a bear-'em-up. And as pixely as ever.

Dwarves, astronauts, dwarf-astronauts in Stone Space and some lovely art make for a rather promising Kickstarter. We Are The Dwarves!

Fire with Fire won't be launched for another 10 days or so, but it does have a shiny new trailer. Oh, and it's gonna be a tower defense / tower attack thing with some creepy creeps.

The second episode of stunning point-and-click adventure The Journey Down, the aptly named The Journey Down: Chapter Two has entered beta and will soon get its release date.

Eternal Desert Sunshine is currently asking for your moneys over at IndieGoGo. It wants to become a wonderful, surreal arcade adventure set in ancient Egypt.

Voyage to Farland, on the other hand, already is. It's a hardcore rogue-like that plays traditionally but looks like something even a child would appreciate.

Back to things that haven't been released yet: Missing Translation -- a most definitely beautiful affair that manages to draw its inspiration from both FEZ and traditional adventure games.

Aching to download something? Good! Here's the latest version of ascii-esque FPS Illuminascii for Windows, Mac and Linux; it definitely feels unique.

Jul 3, 2014

BITBITJam and the Classic Hardware Freebie Indies

Jams are a lovely thing. A varied thing also and even the one jam I never expected to see happen, well, happened. It's the BITBITJam and it tasked developers with creating games for actual, vintage machines. Not retro-inspired games, that is, but games that would run on your very real, rather old, most probably dusty ZX Spectrums and Sega MegaDrives.

And lo, 10 brand new freeware games for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Sega MegaDrive, Nintendo Game Boy and MSX have been released! Download them all here.

The Speccy is a bit over-represented, which is always a good thing, and has gotten itself five offerings, followed by the MegaDrive with two, while the other platforms got one (lovable) game each. As for me, I only tried a few of said offerings, really loved Conspiralove and Leovigildo's Murcian Conspiracy and am aiming to play through the rest of said entries as soon as possible.
Mind you, in order to play everything, you will probably need several of these handy emulator thingies: WinApe (Amstrad CPC), ZX Spin (ZX Spectrum), BGB (GameBoy), blueMSX (MSX) and Kega Fusion (MegaDrive).

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and things. Thanks!