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About The IGF is presented by the UBM TechWeb Game Network, which runs the Independent Games Festival & Summit every year at Game Developers Conference. The company (producer of the Game Developers Conference series, and Game Developer magazine) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers.

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Interview: Fishing Cactus on the Shift to 3DS for Shifting World

February 3, 2012 3:00 PM | John Polson

Shifting World.jpgThe browser-based, puzzle platforming Shift series has garnered millions of plays over at Armor Games. The game's iterations shifted successfully onto iOS devices in 2009 and 2010 and later to PlayStation Network in 2011.

After many digital leaps, Fishing Cactus feels ready to take the Shift series to retail. Shifting World is set to release on April 24 in North America at $29.99, thanks to the help of indie-friendly Aksys Games, who've also published Gaijin Games' Bit.Trip Saga for 3DS.

In this interview, lead game designer Guillaume Bouckaert speaks about Shifting World's transition from 2D to 3D and its sizable expansion. Bouckaert discusses how much could be ported from Shift's previous iterations to the 3DS version. He also hints about adding eShop content, though that content may end up being sold through the recently announced Nintendo Network.

The world's been playing Shift for a few years now. How much different is Shifting World compared to its last iteration, Shift Extended (PSP)?

A lot! From a technical and graphical point of view, we went from a 2D game to a full 3D game (without touching the 2D platform gameplay). We also added many new mechanics to the original game, some linked to the "shifting" ability, which is at the core of the Shift series, as most players know, and some new ones, entirely different, that ups to the puzzling elements of the game.

The levels of the game were also hugely expanded. We went from small levels limited to the size of the screen to huge labyrinth-like mazes. There is now scrolling, and that's a big improvement.

We also took a creative approach to the story of the game. While the original was a story about an experimental lab putting test subjects through vicious tests, we went in another direction entirely with Shifting World. We ended up creating a series of characters that really add their charm to the game and will tell the players a totally different story!

Nine Dots Studio Launches Action-RPG "Brand" For Xbox Live Indie Games

February 3, 2012 12:00 PM | Danny Cowan

After spending ten months in development, Nine Dots Studio has released the side-scrolling action-RPG Brand, its debut effort for the Xbox Live Indie Games platform.

In Brand, players are tasked with a simple objective: refining and upgrading a sword until it's "fit for a king." Players have multiple upgrade paths to take, and are able to choose among many different combinations of powers and abilities along the way.

Each sword upgrade requires fetching certain items or completing a specific task, however, and there are multiple non-linear areas for players to explore in their questing. The gameplay seems fun from what I've played so far (I'm especially fond of the move that lets you dash through enemies), and the customizable weapon mechanic is quite appealing.

Brand is priced at 80 Microsoft points ($1), but will increase in price to 240 Microsoft points on March 3rd. A PC version is currently in development.

Escape Goat (XBLIG) Now Priced At $1

February 2, 2012 11:00 PM | Danny Cowan

Making good on a promised price drop, developer MagicalTimeBean has permanently discounted its Xbox Live Indie Games puzzle-platformer platformer Escape Goat to 80 Microsoft points ($1).

In Escape Goat, a purple goat must solve puzzles and navigate tricky single-screen dungeon layouts with the help of a friendly rat, who can climb steep walls and squeeze into tight passages. Some of the more taxing puzzles require the use of teleportation magic, which allows the goat and the rat to exchange places instantly.

MagicalTimeBean's Ian Stocker explains the logic behind the price drop in a recent article at Indie Gamer Chick, noting that revenue for the developer's Soulcaster series more than doubled after the games were re-priced at $1 each.

"Since almost all games are priced at 80 MSP, this has become the normalized price to the buyer," Stocker hypothesized. "Pricing at triple this is viewed as arrogant by customers, and you won't even get them to download the trial."

Stocker continues: "Microsoft has solidified XBLIG as the 99 Cent Store of Xbox Live. Now, more than ever, having a game above 80 points will hurt your sales. Also, marketing does play a role, so if you drop your price, let everyone know."

Global Game Jam 2012: A Growing Collection

February 2, 2012 3:00 AM | John Polson


The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is billed as the world's largest game jam event, occurring annually in late January. The games created for GGJ are traditionally centered around a theme. This year 's was the ouroboros, representing an eternal life cycle. In 2011, teams in 44 countries created over 1500 games in one weekend. At my last count, GGJ 2012 developers have uploaded 2218 games -- quite the increase!

Here are but a few of those games created:

Omelette Boris (WIN/MAC) - Kumobius' puzzle platformer about the cycle of life won Best Game & the Jammer's Choice awards for the Melbourne, AU Jam.

MIRRORMOON (WIN/MAC) - Bloody Monkey worked on this adventure-puzzle-exploration game, set on a mysterious red planet.

ARoboros (Win 7 Phone) - Sugar Pill Studios created an augmented reality game in which you flip snake markers onto passing mice to catch them.

Universe Within (iOS) - Kotaku spotted this dazzling pixelated game, where you "steer through obstacles as it advances from the the galaxy through the stratosphere and into a human being's cells."

SBPSG (WIN) - Desktop Dungeons devs QCF Design created an RTS based around gathering, directing and recycling armies of particles to attack and destroy the opposing player's base beacon.

Lovers in Dangerous Spacetime (WIN, GGJ Link) - Matt Hammill worked with a team to create this vibrant 2-player co-op mini platformer within a pink Death Star which is under attack. Players need to run back and forth between ship control rooms to fight off hordes of space baddies.

Disillusion (WIN) - True Valhalla created this minimalistic, abstract platform game with a focus on exploration.

Towelfight of the Gods (WIN) - Stoz Studios has the player warped from a shower into an arena of the gods, fighting off opponents with deadly bananas.

Feel free to leave any cool GGJ games you find in the comments below!

Milkstone Releases Little Racers STREET For Xbox Live Indie Games

February 1, 2012 11:00 PM | Danny Cowan

Infinity Danger creator Milkstone Studios has released Little Racers STREET, an overhead-view racing title for the Xbox Live Indie Games service.

The gameplay here recalls Rare's NES classic RC Pro-Am, minus the weapons and (hopefully) the cheating AI drivers. Little Racers STREET features a surprising amount of depth, considering the shallow nature of most other XBLIG racers -- the game includes more than 30 cars that can be purchased throughout the lengthy single-player campaign, all of which can be upgraded with new parts to boost performance.

Little Racers STREET is priced at 80 Microsoft points ($1).

IGN's The Next Game Boss is Back?!

February 1, 2012 3:00 PM | John Polson

IGN is at it again with its indie dev reality series, The Next Game Boss. Six dev teams will spend one week attempting to survive judged competitions surrounding different aspects of game development. Whereas last year's Game Boss pitted existing Indie Open House teams against one another, this season's contestants are essentially auditioning for a spot in the next Open House, along with earning $10,000 in prizes (which are mainly dev tools).

Lazy 8 Studios, developer of Cogs, is one familiar face in the bunch. As much as I love Lazy 8, I don't think they should be bunched with "up-and-coming devs," being a multi-award winning studio with a multi-platform game. Their game was even in Humble Bundle, helping raise awareness of the team and Cogs substantially.

XBLIG indie devs Team2Bit also grace the screen with their scruffy presence, branding themselves as Team Fist Puncher as a nod to their upcoming game. Michael "Bean" Molinari has been doing some neat art games, and his talent shows in his creative concept in the premiere episode. The other teams I believe are new-comers.

The series is bound to rub some the wrong way, but I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned. Rapid conceptualizing is hard, but it is an invaluable skill when you want to figure out whether your idea is worth fleshing out as a game. Bringing your best pitch forward is an equally important lesson, as often developers only have one chance to pitch a great concept, be it in an email, in a trailer, or in front of industry professionals.

My favorite moment of this episode was meeting Dogsworth McFreedom, though it doesn't quite reach the level of craziness that I saw from Runt or Cryptic Sea in last year's Open House (Raptor Hitler, anyone?). Surely this kind of indie filming isn't going to win any Sundance awards nor end up on HBO. Some may even see it as a step back for the indie scene as a whole or at least for those who want meaningful press on IGN's website. However, The Next Game Boss season 2 feels like a slightly better attempt at capturing game development and is good for a (possibly uncomfortable) laugh.

Dead Pixels (XBLIG) Receives Major Content Update

February 1, 2012 10:00 AM | Danny Cowan

CSR-Studios' top-rated XBLIG survival horror game Dead Pixels has updated with expanded content and a number of significant changes and fixes.

New to this update are the "Last Stand" and "The Solution" gameplay modes. The game also now includes a new "hardest" difficulty level, which is apparently quite the challenge. Other changes include upgradable melee damage, stat rebalancing, and an array of bug fixes.

"I hope you enjoy the new modes," developer CSR-Studios notes. "I tried to mix things up with them. If you don't like them, they were free and the original game is still there for you to play, so don't get too angry." Man! No matter how the new content stacks up with the main game, it's hard to imagine anybody giving these guys grief over a free update. Don't do that, if you're planning on it.

Dead Pixels is priced at 80 Microsoft points ($1).

XBLIG Multiplayer Platformer Kobold's Quest Drops In Price To $1

January 31, 2012 11:00 PM | Danny Cowan

Suckerfree Games has dropped the price of its Xbox Live Indie Games cooperative multiplayer platformer Kobold's Quest. The game is now available for 80 Microsoft points ($1), down from its previous price of 240 points ($3).

Kobold's Quest is a fast-paced romp in which up to four players fight off wizards, traverse dangerous terrain, and collect...babies. Judging from the trailer above, it's basically New Super Mario Bros. Wii if Mario and friends were replaced with a lovable gang of baby-kidnapping monsters.

Suckerfree Games is currently working on the follow-up title Dungeons Episode 1: The Eye of Draconus, which the company describes as "a Golden Axe style brawler with a wicked story and an irreverent sense of humor."

[via CAG]

Monaco Interview: A Tale of Two Andys

January 31, 2012 3:00 PM | John Polson

IMG_2271.JPGMost of the indie world knows of IGF host and PlayNerd model Andy Schatz, creator of Monaco. Much less known is Monaco's producer and level designer, Andy Nguyen. Nguyen introduces himself here very candidly as he shares the details of how he quickly proved himself as a rookie to become involved in such a highly anticipated title. The interview also reveals how flexible Schatz is, opening himself up to constructive criticism and help on the IGF winning project that he alone started over two years ago.

The story goes that Schatz was primarily looking for testers for Monaco, and Nguyen more than stepped up to the challenge. Nguyen actually asked for an internship opportunity to learn and provide help wherever possible.

With no skills to speak, with a finance degree instead of a computer science degree, one may wonder how he got Schatz's attention. Nguyen shares, "I spent 3 months writing a cover letter, and a 'game analysis' of Zuma Blitz, a Facebook game that had recently come out at the time. It had a lot of opportunities for me to talk about: scoring, mechanics, aesthetic, and Facebook as a platform."

Nguyen describes the callback from Schatz as very surreal. "Remember, at this time I had no idea who Andy Schatz was nor that Monaco was the IGF 2010 winner (although I knew of the IGF results from 2009 and prior)." Nguyen says he was nervous, but very excited, that he finally had the chance at the life he had always wanted.

"So when my chance began, Schatz simply had intentions of having me play the game once, and answer a few questions. It was a simple playtest and nothing more." For this, Nguyen used FRAPS to record his playtest, and then he went over the video and added his own commentary about what he observed. "It was VERY critical. I was definitely scared. I had no experience, no proof of any sort of credibility to my name, and yet I was making very harsh criticisms on his design choices."

Freeware Game Pick: Timeslip (Smudged Cat Games)

January 31, 2012 3:00 AM | John Polson

Smudged Cat Games knows temporal puzzle platformers! The Adventures of Shuggy was one of the cutest, funnest XBLA platformers I've ever played. Smudged Cat provides a great, free challenge here with Timeslip, which feels like a Shuggy prequel in terms of mechanics.

Timeslip is a time travelling 2D platform game where you are caught in a continual time loop, forever travelling back in time to encounter past echoes of yourself. While using past echoes is the key to opening doors and progressing through the levels, they must also be avoided to prevent causing a paradox.

Also worth avoiding are the pesky gnomes! In their defense, though, they seem to just doing their job of guarding the play area. One neat thing about the gnomes is that they, too, are caught in the temporal loop. Don't count on them staying dead. Fortunately, your past snail self should take care of them.

Not only does the player snail have to reach the exit, but it also has to grab a certain set of coins. A tiny complaint: the mid-air coins are a little too spastic for my tastes. That aside, Timeslip is hard (it quickly becomes harder than Shuggy) and fun.

Bonus history lesson: Timeslip was originally a Playstation One game developed with a Net Yaroze dev kit and released on an "Official Playstation Magazine UK" cover disk. Smudged Cat touts Timeslip as being the very first game to feature "self co-op" back in 1999. It was re-released for the XBLIG channel featuring updated HD graphics and a fresh sound track with the ability to switch back to the original version for that retro feeling.

Grab Timeslip for Windows for free. If you enjoy it even slightly or if you want something even more polished, be sure try out The Adventures of Shuggy on XBLA.

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