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Some pretty good takeaways from Gamescom 2018 for Indies

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Power to the Indies!

Last week, Gamescom 2018 came and left, reminding us once more why this yearly event in the heart of Köln is the place to be for every video game enthusiast in Europe.

From Devil May Cry 5's new gameplay trailer to various Nintendo showcases, there has been a lot for everybody to take care of. And, unsurprisingly, even the indie scene shone with a set of amazing gems worth discovering and talking about.

I had the chance to try out several demos & alphas, and to chat for quite a while with the developers in the Indie Arena Booth. So, without further ado, let's begin our trip with...

Xmorph: Defense

Planet Earth is under attack, and the army is gathering superweapons to kick those filthy aliens where the sun doesn't shine. But what if you would play as the aliens?

This is, in short, the premise of a game which presents itself as a hybrid between a tower defense and a space shooter. You take control of an alien spaceship with four different fire modes (normal shots, laser, anti-air, and anti-ground artillery respectively) and place upgradeable turrets on the path of the Earth army forces while shooting at them with all your alien might.

Every stage is divided into several waves of enemies, with an ever-increasing map. Between each wave, you have time to set your turrets and think about your gameplan, as you can start the next wave by pressing a button when you feel you are ready. If the army manages to destroy your base, is game over.

"One of our Steam reviewers wrote that our game resembles a Michael Bay movie", told me one of the developers at the booth, "but, hey, we do like explosions and cool effects". And explosions are not definitely missing, as well as any sort of devastation one can imagine from this kind of game.

Tha game runs on a custom C++ engine, because "the development started when Unreal Engine wasn't free and Unity was not as good as it is today. So, we put together our engine and stuffed it with all the cool features we needed, such as advanced path-finding algorithms and realistic physics". To further underline the point, the asked me to "shoot a building with the anti-ground artillery".

I did it, and the result was amazing: the building just crumpled to the ground, effectively making one of the approach routes unusable by the army.

One of our Steam reviewers wrote that our game resembles a Michael Bay movie, but, hey, we do like explosions and cool effects.

The game by Polish indie studio Exor Studios was released one year ago on Steam, but received a new DLC campaign just recently. The demo presented at Gamescom was a vertical slice of the game and it was a fresh new experience that managed to convince someone like me - who hates tower defence games to the guts - to give it a chance and enjoy the wacky action of the game.

"We offer different difficulty levels so that everyone can enjoy the game. All in all, we are talking about around twenty or more hours of campaign, including several bosses, with additional split-screen cooperative multiplayer".

The game is currently available for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. A Nintendo Switch release is officially planned.

Why it picked my curiosity?

I personally got interested in the game when I saw a giant robot smashing a city while shooting against a starship. As a long time fan of Pacific Rim (both the first AND Uprising), I couldn't let it go without a test!

Velocity Rage - Tactical Combat Racing

What is better than an arcade car game where you can smash your opponents to smithens, like in Burnout? Well, an arcade car game where you can smash your opponents to smithens AND blow them up with weapons!

This is what went into the minds of the Israeli devs of Mysticgg: Velocity Rage is an action-packed arcade racing game built on top of Unity, focused on online multiplayer and strategical management of the various weapons and cool gadgets that can be equipped to the car.

"We have developed this game for three years, first as a side project to our daily jobs, and now as our full-time commitment", told me the devs at the Velocity Rage panel.

"The game will feature a single player arcade mode, but we want to put emphasis on the player-versus-player experience, as this game can become quickly quite competitive."

The sense of speed is surely incredible. When using speed boosts, for example, the camera gets further back from the car, increasing the feeling of acceleration. The controls are quite simple to master on a joypad (right trigger and right bumper for accelerating and braking, left trigger for hand-braking, while the four face buttons are used to trigger the gadgets). The controls are responsive and there is a general feeling of fluidity in he gameplay as a whole.

The game will feature a single player arcade mode, but we want to put emphasis on the player-versus- player experience, as this game can become quickly quite competitive.

The HUD is also quite intuitive, as the information is lined up nicely on the back of the car. If you like arcade racing games, this is surely worth checking out.

Why it picked my curiosity?

I've followed the development of the game via Facebook, and, besides, I liked Burnout Revenge quite a lot back in the Playstation 2 days. When I saw the car taking down an opponent, I HAD to try it out.

Bossgard

We all lived this situation, at some point, as a gamer: the last room of the dungeon, boss fight, total party kill. Reload, rinse and repeat. But what if I tell you that there is a game where you can use the boss against the poor party members?

Welcome to Bossgard, created by the evil masterminds at Sand Sailor Studio, Bucharest.

At its heart, Bossgard is a crazy party game: up to five players can choose each one a different viking, set a special ability (like a desperation move which is loaded by dealing damage) and throw themselves into the fray, against a giant, humongous and, huh, well, ridicuolous boss (including a giant dice, a giant breadloaf, and a giant plunger).

One player controls the boss, while the others have to try to defeat them. The boss has access to its own desperation move, which is as hilarious as it is ludicrous, plus they have access to a second lifebar AND a second phase, like every respectable boss in any old school game.

The controls are quite simple: one button to attack, one button to dodge, one stick to aim, one stick to move, plus one action button to perform the desperation move. The game is mostly targeted at Nintendo Switch, as "there are still not enough party games on the console", as the devs put it.

The viking players have to cooperate, if they want to win. Certain skills, attacks and type of vikings work the best together with each other. Balancing this aspect while building the party is the difference between a close win or a total party kill

Testing the game was a fun ride: I and four strangers got bodied by the boss player (a giant plunger, whose special move was sucking in all the players for massive damage) in an arena semi-filled with water and freakin' jumping sharks trying to eat us in the meanwhile. The boss wiped the floor with us, without almost ever reaching its second phase.

Watching our grim faces, the devs actually took pity on us and gave us some pieces of advice.

"The viking players have to cooperate, if they want to win. Certain skills, attacks and type of vikings work the best together with each other. Balancing this aspect while building the party is the difference between a close win or a total party kill. For example, a double poison arrow special would have bested the less mobile bosses with ease, while everyone was just avoiding the attacks."

The game will be also out on Steam, Xbox One and PS4.

Why it picked my curiosity?

As I have the sense of wonder of a 10-years-old child, how could the sight of a die boss monster transforming into a rolling spiked die and breaking havok on a bunch of cartoon vikings NOT pick my interest?

The Textorcist: the story of Ray Bibbia

"For the Global Game Jam 2016, we had to build a game with ritual as its main topic. So, I said we make the player type the prayers from an exorcist's text book. My teammate looked at me and asked what more? And that's when I said well... and avoid bullets at the same time."

What better introduction for The Textorcist, the typing-bullet hell game by the Italian team Morbidware? Yep, that's exactly what it says on the tin! With the right hand, you move Ray Bibbia, the private exorcist and main character of the game (nomen omen, as "Bibbia" means Bible in Italian), while with the left hand you physically have to type his exorcisms on the keyboard!

The result is a crazy pixel art game, developed using Game Maker, and full of humor deconstructing and parodying its namesake, The Exorcist. The gameplay is fast paced: one hit and you lose your book, one hit more and you are dead. Furthermore, you have a time limit to recover your book before a game over.

Typing and moving at the same time is frustratingly intriguing, and creates one of the freshest experience I witnessed at Gamescom.

"We make the player type the prayers from an exorcist's text book". My teammate looked at me and asked "What more?" And that's when I said "well... and avoid bullets at the same time"

The developer also added that "We are preparing a console port of the game, and we had to think a lot on how to translate the typing mechanics into something that could be played on a pad. After many trials and errors, we settled for using the shoulder buttons alternately. This can seem strange, at first, but the overall velocity of pressing them is akin to what you could achieve by typing on a keyboard"

I have watched several players try and fall against the showcased boss, the naughty owner of a strip club who kidnapped girls for his activity. the boss fight was frantic, with each new phase outshining the previous one.

The game will be available for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. You can play a demo of the game on itch.io.

Why it picked my curiosity?

The boss fight made it all. I was wandering through the indie booth and got caught by the amazing clash of colors and projectiles, which, in the end, made me talk with the dev to know more about it.

So here it is! These were my personal picks form the Indie area at Gamescom! What were yours? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Tags
#indiegame gamedev indie indiedev #gaming gamer #C++ conference gamescom gamescom2018

Andrea "Jens" Demetrio

A PhD student in Physics by day and hobbyist game programmer by night. My insane love for fighting games made me try to build my own one – Schwarzerblitz – and spending my time improving it. I'm the kind of jack-of-all-trades / one-man-team guy who goes full throttle on his passions and never gives up.

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