Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

Bernband

Just walk around and explore the futuristic sights and sounds of the “city of the pff” in Tom van den Boogaart’s Bernband.

That’s it!

If you’re looking for more to do, Tom is working on something that looks similar but involves more punching.

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Handmade Hero

Handmade Hero is a project by Casey Muratori to program a “complete, professional-quality game” from scratch using C, C++, and assembly language and document the entire process through a series of videos. According to Casey, every line of source code will be explained on camera, and people can follow along live on Twitch, every weekday at 8pm for about an hour or two (the project began on November 17th). The videos will also be archived on YouTube.

Although it’s unclear exactly what kind of game Handmade Hero will end up being, Casey says that the project will take at least into 2016 to complete. Before the release, however, people can pre-order the game for $ 15 and receive access to the full source code. Also, two years after the game’s release, the source code will be released into the public domain.

For more information about the project, see Casey’s announcement on his personal website.

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Kickstart This: That Dragon, Cancer

As a new-ish father, I can’t even imagine going through what Ryan and Amy Green and their family went through (and are still going through). That Dragon, Cancer is a point-and-click game about their 5-year-old son Joel’s four year battle with cancer. Joel died in March. Not a conventional adventure game by any means, the goal of TDC is to go follow the Greens through their experiences in a series of vignettes that appears to mix real world settings (like the hospital) with surreal places and imagery that are meant to evoke certain emotions. Although it’s a nightmare scenario for any parent, the Greens say that their game is ultimately about hope and imagination.

Originally designed as an Ouya exclusive, the game is now slated for a simultaneous release in 2014 on Ouya, Windows, and Mac.

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Hadean Lands

Andrew “Zarf” Plotkin is a well-known and influential figure in interactive fiction – on top of penning classic IF games like Spider & Web and Shade, he also developed the Blorb package format, Glx API, and Glulx virtual machine for making and playing them. His latest game, Hadean Lands, is four years in the making (following a successful Kickstarter) and is apparently one of the largest and most complex IF games to date, spanning 73,000 words of printable text and 170,000 words of logic (according to Andrew’s twitter). In the game, you play a young alchemist who has awoken to find him or herself trapped in a crashed starship, armed only with your knowledge of alchemical rituals and whatever ingredients you can scrounge up on the ship.

I’ll spoil some of the unique features of the game after the jump:

Unlike a lot of IF games, Hadean Lands has a “restart” feature that rewards experimentation by letting you keep any knowledge of rituals that you’ve learned in previous playthroughs. Learning a ritual for the first time may require many steps, but using them again is just a matter of saying “perform [name of ritual]“. In this manner, the player is able to solve ever more complicated puzzles without the fear of getting stuck.

For a better explanation, I suggest reading this excellent write-up by Emily Short.

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Kickstart This: Formicarium

I’ve been wildly interested in ants since an early age, and have often wished that there were more games that allowed you to take control of an ant colony, such as the classic SimAnt, or 2008′s Ant Rush. So I was especially excited earlier today, when Formicarium crawled onto Kickstarter.

Billing itself as a strategic simulation game, Formicarium allows players to “become the invisible mind guiding an ant-hive through difficulties and dangers.” Drawing inspiration from other titles such as Dwarf Fortress and The Sims, the game aims to simulate a procedurally-evolving world where insects and arachnids struggle to survive the environment, and each other – with the player guiding their own colony of ants.

Similar to Dwarf Fortress, the colonies or “hives” of Formicarium will consist of multiple “cross-section” levels, extending downwards from the surface. Chambers will need to be dug, food will need to be stored, and new ants will need to be be birthed. All the time, the player will need to keep an eye out for potential dangers from the surface, including antlions, spiders, bees and wasps, and more.

Formicarium is being created by a team of just two people. The development side of this duo is Konrad Feiler, whose history as a mathematician and software engineer is being put to good use developing a procedural world, filled with all manner of bugs behaving in realistic manners. On the design side, artist Dorota Orlof has provided an incredibly eye-catching style, bringing each of the game’s “characters” to life through a clean and colorful approach.

So far, the duo has a working prototype of Formicarium, and they are now moving to bring the project to full fruition as a game on both mobile devices as well as PC and Mac. To reach that goal, the Formicarium Kickstarter campaign is aiming to raise just a modest $ 20,000. If the idea of being the overseer of a virtual ant colony – struggling to survive in a procedurally-simulated world of competition and danger – appeals to you, head on over to the Kickstarter page for Formicarium to learn more and pledge. You can also keep an eye on the game’s website and Twitter for more news, and even vote for it over on Steam Greenlight.

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First Playable: Return of the Obra Dinn

Lucas Pope has released a very early development build of his latest project, Return of the Obra Dinn. While the website warns that there’s “not much content”, the build does a great job of conveying the game’s wonderful atmosphere and introducing a few of the key concepts behind the title. Obra Dinn is the name of the merchant ship on which your adventure takes place. Lost on route to the Orient in 1802, the ship has returned to port four years later, and you’ve been sent to investigate as an insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office. Figuring out what happened aboard the Obra Dinn appears to be the central premise for the game, but how you accomplish that task is anything but ordinary.

Pope was the creator of the surprise hit Papers, Please, which made the seemingly mundane job of immigration inspector feel exciting and personal. It’s great to see him take that unique outlook into his next game, but with such wildly different themes, mechanics, and audiovisuals (which he describes in great detail in his fantastic TIGForums DevLog). Can’t wait for more.

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Trailer: LISA

A game about survival, sacrifice, and perverts…

Lisa is a quirky side-scrolling RPG set in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Beneath the charming and funny exterior is a world full of disgust and moral destruction. Players will learn what kind of person they are by being FORCED to make choices. These choices permanently effect the game play. If you want to save a party member from death, you will have to sacrifice the strength of your character. Whether it’s taking a beating for them, or losing limbs in a Yakuza style apology, or some other inhuman way. You will learn that in this world being selfish and heartless is the only way to survive…

LISA was successfully funded on Kickstarter on December 14, 2013.

Steam Greenlight: LISA

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Legend of Grimrock 2

Legend of Grimrock 2 launched fairly quietly about a week ago. The sequel to the successful 2012 dungeon crawler, Grimrock 2 seems to improve and expand on nearly every aspect of the first game without sacrificing any of the classic exploration, combat, and puzzle solving that defined it. Probably the biggest change is the inclusion of expansive outdoor environments – whereas Grimrock 1 took place entirely underground inside dark dungeons and caverns, Grimrock 2 let’s you explore the surface of the Isle of Nex, traversing opulent beaches, forests, and other outdoor locales. Monster AI is also noticeably improved, and though the combat retains the “dance-like” quality of Grimrock 1, it’s not as easy to lead opponents around the same four tiles without getting hit. Monsters are more likely to anticipate and dodge your attacks, and are less inclined to walk into the range of your weapons. New races, new classes, an upgraded skills system, and a friendlier UI round out a list of improvements that should please fans who were satisfied with the original.

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Super Time Force Ultra

It’s easy to be wary of high-concept indie titles based around some quirky concept like time travel, gravity, teleportation, guns that shoot science instead of bullets, etc. When they work, of course, they work marvelously, like Portal, Braid, Antichamber, The Swapper, Fez, or any of the best puzzle platformers. But there’s no denying that there is a glut of gimmicky imitators in the genre, and more often than not the concepts, no matter how interesting they sound on paper, are stretched thin across never-ending tutorial levels. So despite Capybara’s strong record it was with some trepidation that I embarked on Super Time Force Ultra, the updated PC version of their time-traveling run n’ gun Super Time Force (which won Microsoft’s first-ever IGF “XBLA Award” for a publishing deal on Xbox 360 and Xbox One).

Thankfully, STFU shrugs off the stereotypes quickly and easily, and while the game is certainly unique and innovative, it has the frantic pacing of a good run n’ gun that is not found in most puzzle platformers. On top of that, there is an element of light tactics that strangely enough reminds me of Sega’s 1988 cult classic arcade game Gain Ground. It’s a mad idea that I would not have been brave enough to work on, but I’m happy that Capy was.

At the start of each level, you select a character from your team to play as and begin running and gunning in typical fashion. At any point in the level, however, you can Time Out and rewind time to a previous point and select another character (including the same character, if you like). When you start up again, your previous characters will still be there as ghosts, fighting and dying alongside you.

In essence, the game allows you to play co-op with yourself, with up to over 30 characters playing together in each level. Your team grows slowly as you complete missions and is diverse in movement and weaponry. One of your starting members, for example, is a fast-walking sniper whose charged shot goes through walls, and another has a shield that can be used to block enemy fire and create force fields. With a single character it’s impossible to beat a level within the 60-second time limit – the bosses alone have too much health to take down in such a short amount of time. Destroying barriers, exploring side paths, collecting items, and rescuing new members also drain a lot of time, providing ample reason to rewind and bring in new teammates (or copies of the same teammate).

Time Outs are also activated automatically when you die, and it is possible to then save that dead character by killing the enemy earlier or throwing up a shield. Since there’s no input for the revived character after his or her point of death, Capy came up with another way to bring them back into the action – as collectable “power-ups” that give your current character an extra hit point and also the revived character’s abilities.

It’s certainly a strange game that defies conventional wisdom. For one thing, it’s very hard to actually lose in STFU, given the generous amounts of Time Outs per level (30), but somehow it doesn’t feel problematic. In Klei’s Mark of the Ninja I felt the liberal use of checkpoints hurt the game’s pacing and went against the game’s ninja assassin theme, but was told that it let the player focus more on “creativity” rather than playing perfectly. The “creativity” argument makes much more sense within the context of STFU’s light-hearted time traveling story and mechanics, in my opinion. In the same way that a painting emerges out of overlapping brushstrokes, it feels like a complex group assault emerges out of your individual playthroughs, a feeling that’s highlighted at the end of each level with a looping replay that lets you see it all unfold from beginning to end (a la Super Meat Boy).

There’s still plenty of incentive to play levels more than once and the true challenge lies not in simply surviving and beating the game, but in collecting “shards” (slow-mo power-ups) and “glorbs” (extra Time Outs), and beating each level under the time limit. These tasks require serious planning and completing them will earn badges and, more importantly, unlock new teammates, which, to carry the painting analogy further, feels like getting a new color added to your palette. You’ll also unlock short levels in the “Helladeck” that are more about puzzle-solving than running n’ gunning.

Capy’s presentation has always shined in its games and Super Time Force is no exception. The art/design team of Vic and Mike Nguyen has developed a striking, boxy pixel art style that is very colorful fun to look at. The characters, who run the gamut from wizards and robots to skateboarding dinosaurs, are well-animated and reminiscent of early LucasArts adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island. One thing that really impressed me was the amount of unique content that was created for the game – even within a single area levels are distinct and detailed, with very little reuse of setpieces.

It would have been easy to make the entire game the Helladeck levels and call it a day. That the Helladeck is merely an optional challenge attached to something so much bigger and vibrant is a testament to Capy’s dedication to taking the initial concept to its limit. There’s really not much more to say other than that it’s great – if it sounds like something you might like, you’ll probably like it.

(Note: Capybara Games has an awesome tumblr.)

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Kickstart This: Creepy Castle

Indie studio Dopterra has just three days to reach the modest goal of $ 6000 for its colorful 8-bit title, Creepy Castle. Promising a mix of 2D platform-based exploration and turn-based RPG combat, the game follows the adventure of Moth (note: an actual moth) within the halls of the titular Creepy Castle in an effort to uncover and thwart a looming threat. Dopterra has also teased several other protagonists, playable in an assortment of scenarios that intertwine with Moth’s story.

With a graphical style inspired by the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and a catchy chiptune soundtrack, Creepy Castle certainly aims to present a fantastically old-school experience – but its six-person dev team is not afraid to pay homage to the modern indie game scene as well: It’s been revealed that characters from recent indie titles such as Shovel Knight and Super Meat Boy will appear in-game, possibly even in the form of playable characters.

With only three days to go in its Kickstarter campaign, Creepy Castle is tantalizingly close to reaching its goal of just $ 6000. Whether you’ve long dreamt of fluttering your way as a moth through a labyrinthine castle – drawn not to a flame, but to your awaiting destiny – or you simply enjoy old-school graphics and gameplay, Creepy Castle might just be the game for you: Head on over to the Creepy Castle Kickstarter page to learn more and pledge. You can also vote for Creepy Castle right now on its Steam Greenlight page. Finally, if you simply want to watch the game as it develops, be sure to check out the Creepy Castle DevLog on TIGForums.

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