From Shooter to Shooter: The Rise of cly5m

Seiklus was a turning point for the indie scene. Even if you’ve never played it, you’ve played something influenced by cly5m’s game. Seiklus was one of the first “exploration platformers,” a nonviolent genre that could be compared to a side-scrolling Myst, and now a distinct piece of the indie style guide. A small man, nearly a stick figure, travels a flat-colored world, collecting pointless trinkets and the occasional control upgrade, to find his way back home again. There is no death, and no aggression; Seiklus is all about the journey, and the player’s relationship with the game world.

Seiklus comes off as a very personal game. Although the controls amount to little more than walking and jumping, and the presentation is nearly as minimalist, the experience feels emotionally rich. Its level geometry and sequencing trade epiphanies for careful observation and experimentation, and the sound design creates a distinct and whimsical atmosphere.

The stripped-down expression of Seiklus has helped to legitimize canned game creation systems, leading Mark Overmars’ Game Maker to become the respected behemoth it is now, and lending the indie scene an entry-level spine. There have been tributes and parodies. It’s just an important game.

For all its influence, Seiklus is kind of a one-off. For a while cly5m and Robert Lupinek teased the Internet with Velella, a sort of spiritual successor involving dream flight. Otherwise, the last eight years have passed pretty quietly. The previous eight, though – that’s a different story.
Continue reading

insert credit RSS feed

A few people have asked whether we have an RSS feed – and we do! There are those little RSS icons at the bottom of each post once you click through, but if you need a link, here you’ll find the full feed to subscribe to, and here, likewise, is a feed for comments, should you want that sort of thing.

As this is an otherwise purely informational post, I have attached a picture I just took in Barcelona of Richard Bartle’s cufflinks, which I quite liked. He’s essentially the father of MMOs, you know! Got a king on his left and an ace on his right, he has!

Recipe: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom

I was recently commissioned by a website that has surprisingly little to do with video games to write an article about Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, a delightful and frankly bizarre adventure game that Hudson published for the NES (it’s on Virtual Console too, if you want it).

For those who haven’t played the game, it’s about an armed rebellion of fruits and vegetables taking on a twisted dictator that is selling them out to farmers for reasons that are never made entirely clear.

It’s got some great self-referential humor, jaunty music, and some of the most memorable characters in the NES library. Characters so memorable that you just kind of want to cut them up and eat them, which is what we’re going to do.

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (serves two)

YOU’LL NEED:

3 tbsp Peanut Village oil
1 tbsp Percy Persimmon vinegar
2 cups fresh Spinach Heights, washed and roughly cut
1/2 red bell Sgt. Pepper, diced
1 cup grape Princess Tomatoes, halved vertically
1/2 Sir Cucumber, peeled, sliced and quartered
1 clove Garlic Wanderer, minced
1/2 cup Minister Pumpkin seeds, roasted
1 bag frozen Mr. Corn
Continue reading

The Hat Stick

Mike Mika of Other Ocean has shared this horrifying vision of a future gone wrong, from Electronic Games Magazine (July 83, he thinks). They used to have a feature called “videogame inventions we don’t need,” which is an odd concept to begin with, but this illustration is simply horrifying. Or arousing? It depends on who you are and what you’re into, I suppose.

Either, way I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of this joystick human centipede. The image was put to paper by underground comic artist and lover of fat women (not safe for work) Ned Sonntag.

Check out the larger version for maximum horror. Really, just look at the face of the fellow on top. Enjoy…if you dare!

Superbrothers on deteriorating health in Sword & Sworcery

Sword and Sworcery, if you don’t know, is a mostly-lovely game by Capy and Superbrothers, and features a mechanic wherein your hero slowly loses one unit of health per scenario, as the game wears on.

Several days ago, Jeffrey Matulef discussed this mechanic on Gamasutra, to decent effect (mild spoiler alert in there, by the way).

More interesting than the article itself perhaps, is a reply by Craig Adams, aka Superbrothers, which I reprint below. Do be aware that there are absolutely some spoilers in here, so if you’ve not finished the game, you may not want to read through to the full page. Otherwise, look on:

“Super glad you dug our decisions re: The Scythian’s deteriorating condition in Sword & Sworcery.

S:S&S EP isn’t a mechanics-focused videogame, it’s closer to an audiovisual storybook… and as you point out in your article (with the Indiana Jones reference), dramatic stories in film or in books often end up with a broken & battered protagonist limping to the finish line… I would say this is a normal flow of an adventure story, and it’s only videogame stories that choose to do the inverse.

Continue reading

Skullgirls whiteboard sketches

Back in February I went to the Reverge Labs office to play Skullgirls for a bit. It was at a very early stage, with only two characters in – the current build, which was shown at E3, now has three.

A couple of my friends from the beloved Mechafetus Visublog work there, and so I had occasion to visit their workspace, and poke around a little bit. I was particularly impressed by the chaotic whiteboard, which I understand they’ve been taking pictures of as it evolves, and may reveal those at the end of the project for interested fans. In the interim though, you can browse the photo to the left. It’s essentially an infodump from the artists’ brains. Here, you’ll find a detail of the little sort-of-comic-fragment in the middle. Update! Reverge has already started doing Whiteboard Wednesdays, showcasing the art in greater detail, including this awesome SNK section, with Athena and Ikari Warriors. It is amusing! The whiteboard I’ve linked to this post was only shown in part for the first installment of the series, so most of it hasn’t been seen before.

Skullgirls is coming “some time in 2011,” and our very own Vincent Diamante is the audio director now, Castlevania’s Michiru Yamane is composing, and Alex Ahad, Mariel Cartwright, Jonathan Kim, and Ouendan are doing art and animation, so at the very least, it’ll look and sound pretty neat when it comes out!

Got A Sense Of Wonder?

Just wanted to give a shout-out to this September’s Tokyo Game Show and the current call for submissions for Sense Of Wonder Night, which I’ve been associated with for the past few years.

As a Gamasutra story about last year’s SoWN (which I sadly missed!) explains, the showcase is to “discover new and unconventional game concepts that “catch people by surprise and give them a Sense of Wonder — a sense that something will change in their world — right at the instant of seeing or hearing the concept.’”

There are up to ten Japanese, Asian and Western games showcased yearly. Previous notable Western games that have also been Sense Of Wonder Night exhibitors — with onstage presentations simultaneously translated to Japanese and English — include Shadow Physics, PixelJunk Eden, The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom, and Moon Stories.
Continue reading

Toru Iwatani interview at game career guide

Today is a good day to link interviews with important Japanese game developers, apparently. If you look over here you’ll find my interview with Pac-Man creator Iwatani, discussing his philosophy of game design, and why game creators shouldn’t be worrying about maximizing profit.

Nowadays, Iwatani is a video game professor at the Tokyo Polytechnic University, which he talks about a bit as well. In 2005, he posted a book called “Pac-Man’s Methods” in Japanese only, but told me he hopes to get at least parts of it published in the West.

Though I suppose a lot of people have these now, I took a photo of some of the original character design work for Pac-Man, done with graph paper, which you can see to the left. If you like, you can watch his entire postmortem of the original Pac-Man, a talk he gave at GDC 2011.

Here is a picture of Anthrax playing Ninja Gaiden II on the NES

Courtesy a really old issue of Nintendo Power.

Brandon’s note: To accompany your viewing, here is one of the only good Anthrax songs from that era, which you’ll note is actually written by Joe Jackson. I once saw guitarist Scott Ian in an airport, and couldn’t think of anything profound to say, so I just pointed at him and said: “SCOTT IAN.” He agreed.

Yu Suzuki loves talking code

yu suzukiiii A while back I did an interview with Yu Suzuki for Gamasutra/Game Developer. He was in the bay area for a little while, and I presumed he would be doing interviews with loads of people, so I talked to him for around 45 minutes in the Game Developer magazine office, then figured I should let him go to his next meeting, so as to not monopolize his time. Suzuki and his PR folks looked at each other and shrugged, saying “I guess we’ll get lunch!” Turns out mine was one of two appointments period, and I could’ve talked for as long as I wanted. Live and learn, I suppose. The results of the interview are here, and looking back through it, there’s really so much more I could have and should have asked.

Getting him to warm up was interesting. In the middle of the interview, I had the random thought to ask him who he thought the best assembly-language programmers at Sega were, and this actually became a turning point, past which he was much more interested in speaking in general. In fact, he got so excited about programming that he decided to get out his laptop and show me several lines of code he had done for Shenmue Town in Visual Basic, which is his preferred language at the moment. Perhaps the best part of this code was a snippet at the top, which I will undoubtedly botch from memory. Here’s the gist of how it went:

FlightSim=False
Battle=False
Race=False
FREE=True

You’ll note that he either pioneered or honed in 3D each of the genres mentioned. At the end of our meeting though, he shattered my expectations. After closing the code window, he moved over to a folder called “projects.” In there were no less than 10 work-in-progress ideas, about half of which were familiar Suzuki-led brands, appended with other words such as “shooter” or “experience.” The other half were entirely new projects. I won’t say what they were, because he asked me not to, but these aren’t just pie-in-the-sky ideas. He showed me videos of one game he wants to get funded, which had characters running around in a full world, and it was not the recently-semi-announced Kinect fighting game. Suzuki is definitely moving in a different direction with YS Net, which I think will be a natural extension from, but quite different from his existing legacy.