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20 February, 2017

Ultimate Nintendo Switch Guide Out Now

If you're interested in the Nintendo Switch, this is your perfect companion book. Like a digital games magazine, it covers everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch.

The Nintendo Switch is launching on March 3 and gamers are starting to get very excited. And for good reason. The console is launching alongside the next entry in The Legend of Zelda series after all. Then there is the whole ability to take your console with you when you leave home, switching it to a portable device with ease. The new Joy-Con controllers offer the same kind of promise we saw in Wii Sports, but now the technology is actually up to the pace of the gameplay we desire. All up, suddenly it's looking pretty good for Nintendo again.

Whether you are sitting on the fence deciding whether to get a Switch or not, or just need help choosing which accessories and games to spend your money on, then this book should be of interest. The Nintendo Switch Guide, which is available now on Amazon, or on iTunes, takes you through everything there is to know about the launch of the console.

The author has had early access to the Nintendo Switch, so has been able to play a number of the titles well in advance of release. Plus he has been able to run his hands over the device, feel the controllers in action and talk to the creators. The full analysis is available in this guide, along with information like the specifications, button layout and what is happening with the online service. You can read a tonne more information and get a chapter overview here.

It looks like the indie game scene is going to get plenty of love on Nintendo's new console. Of the 10 Switch launch games, four of them are downloadable indies and one is I Am Setsuna - an indie-like from Square Enix. There's plenty more announced for the console, too, with some 90 games now revealed as in production for the Nintendo Switch.

20 October, 2016

Framed 2 Announced - Hideo Kojima’s Game of 2014 gets Sequel

The innovative and amazing Framed by Loveshack Entertainment is getting a sequel, and Kojima will be stoked.

We adored the original Framed when it released in 2014. Its stunning concept intimately linked story and gameplay, asking you to rearrange the pieces of a comic book to not only unravel the noir story, but also evade the police. Moving each panel therefore not only had to make narrative sense, it had to function to keep the protagonist safe. Wonderfully presented, it was not only Grab It that fell in love with the project, with Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima nominating it as his 2014 game of the year.

Not bad for a little indie studio from Australia!

08 December, 2015

Innovative Indie Game Objects in Space Receives Funding

Sydney developer Flat Earth Games has received financial support from ScreenNSW for its upcoming stealth space-trading game.

In the few shorts years since the Harris brothers – Leigh and Rohan – founded Flat Earth Games, the little indie developer has made quite an impact. Its first title, Towncraft, was a city-building title that plugged into gamers’ libraries somewhere between Animal Crossing and Minecraft. Follow-up Metrocide was a brilliant and brutally challenging top-down stealth gem that recalled Blade Runner meets GTA. Then the studio mixed it up with classic, old-school arcade blow ‘em up bloodbath Super Death Fortress.

Next up is another new direction; Objects in Space is a Han Solo sim of sorts, with you playing the role of captain in a single-seat ship out in the Apollo star cluster, wheeling and dealing with all sorts. With no view-port, the game is more submarine than Millennium Falcon. You’ll be playing the numbers game, pouring over data to keep all you systems running properly, watching scanners for signs of useful loot, and then making the trades without getting shutdown or caught by pirates, the mafia, corrupt governments and shady police.

The game will feature a number of unique explorations into game development that make it well worth keeping an eye on. For starters, gamers who like to tinker will be able to build their own hardware that can be used to control the game. The image below shows what this may end up looking like.

In addition, the narrative will unfold in a bizarre, yet exciting fashion, that will see it expand across 12 different systems in an ad hoc fashion. We’ll let the developer explain:

“The game's seven writers will each be tasked with writing one short, interactive story for the player to engage in which will be playable at the beginning of the game. Rohan and Leigh Harris, the game's lead programmer and designer respectively, will then reveal the next key plot points to them for each of the 12 star systems in the game. When the writers reconvene to write their next stories, any plot points which have affected their ongoing characters must be taken into account. In this way, we hope to see the game's narrative unfold naturally and have the same uncontrollable nature that stories in real life hold.”

“The writers were chosen to represent a variety of different styles. While there is one experienced games writer (Daniel McMahon - L.A. Noire), the team also includes writers from theatre, screen, copywriting, MUSHes and pen & paper RPG writing. The idea is that the Apollo cluster will feel very different depending on which star system you're in. Not only will the news you read be vastly different, slanting your view on other star systems' politics, but you'll also be hearing different voices telling you stories within those systems."

"While there are many things to do in the game, Objects in Space will not feature a 'main quest' line. Instead, it allows the player to focus on exploring, profiting and surviving at their leisure. The story of the Apollo cluster is one which the player can be deeply involved in, or only give a cursory glance to. There are huge advantages to knowing a lot about the game world, but for those who just want to experience the mechanics of the game, there is nothing forcing you into its narrative elements."

For these reasons, Flat Earth Games attracted the attention of ScreenNSW, who – it was revealed today – will provide $25,000 from its Production Finance program to bring on the game’s development. It is set to release on PC, Mac and Linux some time in 2016.

In the interim, pick up the studio's other games:
   - Super Death Force
   - Towncraft
   - Metrocide

Chris Stead

16 November, 2015

Chambara Announced as a PS4 Console Exclusive

A multiplayer stealth action game from Team OK brings a unique, arty take on the genre.

In a world of only two colours, hiding yourself becomes a lot easier and, as a result, identifying threats all the more harder. In Chambara, the world is black and white, so depending on the colour of your character, you can be effectively invisible while right in front of an opponent – great for ambushing. However, your position can become exposed if the world is viewed from a different perspective. It’s such a neat idea!

It’s a 3D arena game, with an intricately patterned black and white landscape blessed with the odd flourish of vibrant colour. If you’re character is white and you are standing in the white, you are impossible to see. However, if your opponent moves, from their new perspective you might shift from a white background to a black one and become exposed. The cat and mouse gameplay that follows deepens as the skills and map knowledge of the players grows.

05 November, 2015

PAX Aus Diary: Tiny Titans

The debut title from Terran Studios gets its first hands-on session.

Earlier in the year as part of our Global Game Jam coverage, we spoke about a new indie team named Terran Studios. I was pleased to see them at PAX Aus this year with their first commercial release.

In the corner of the indie pavilion, surrounded by a mob of parents and kids, was a colourful little booth with a roaring cartoon t-rex emblazoned on the side. The game was Tiny Titans, the first release by the fledgling developer.

Tiny Titans is simple and effective: a perfect example of how a developer can avoid getting bogged down trying to do everything and just stick with doing a few things very, very well. A mobile title currently available on Android, Tiny Titans tasks you with destroying a miniature city with your chosen titan by stomping, chomping and causing havoc wherever you go. Havoc is the thing that Tiny Titans does very well, you move your titan by tapping the screen, and the act of moving causes destruction. You stomp on cars, smash buildings and crush police who try to shoot you down. It really does give you a feeling of being a miniature Godzilla, so it's no wonder then that the first titan is a giant lizard.

The objectives are simple; get a high score, get some coins, unlock more monsters and cause more destruction. This is a game to be played in short bursts on the train or in-between meetings at work, a cathartic experience that lets you blow off some steam and unleash your inner beast for a few minutes. Each character has a special ability that augments the way you play, whether that is breathing fire or charging through buildings. These abilities are flashy, satisfying and cause a lot of destruction. To compliment this, the art style is cartoony and over the top - bright colours make the explosions look great and plumes of smoke erupt out of buildings when you crush them.

Terran Studios are relatively new to the indie scene and Tiny Titans is their first official release after the four developers graduated university last year. Lead developer Michael Breen told me how their intention was to make “something simple and easy to play”, that “any kid could pick up and have fun with, and any parent would be happy to download.” This is seen in the lack of in-game transactions or additional payments, the game is free and the only monetisation is in optional ads that can be played with a button after a round, or coins that can be purchased. Neither of these options feel forced on the player and the game is friendly for kids and their parents bank accounts.

The development team has been helped out over the past year with interns from major universities, and they are in talks to take on more students next year. Michael said that the goal was to fill in the knowledge gaps from their uni students, and help them to get their name on a released title to help them find jobs.

The game is currently available on Android in Australia, the UK, NZ and Canada, with iOS and other countries coming after this first wave of release.

Nathanael Peacock

04 November, 2015

PAX Aus Diary: Forts Hands-On - Worms Meets Missile Command

Earthwork's indie game Forts for PC is hard to put down.

Forts sat in the centre of the indie pavilion at PAX Aus 2015; a PC game about strategy, subterfuge and out-thinking and out-planning your opponent. It feels like every game you used to play as a kid, like building pillow forts or castles in the yard, or playing dodgeball at school. Forts is being developed by Earthwork games, and this competitive multiplayer gem is hard to put down.

The build of Forts that I played was single player against the AI, but there is 8 player multiplayer and a single player campaign in development.

The aim of the game is to build your own fort out of wood and metal, harvest resources and then fire lasers missiles and bombs at the other player. It plays like Worms meets Missile Command, and I can see multiplayer matches getting hectic and complicated.

Also Read: The biggest indie games magazine ever created on iPad

The crux of the game is in building your fort: an accurate physics model means that the structure can tilt and lean like a palm tree in the wind. You view the map from the side and need to build your fort in triangles to keep it from toppling over. Placing weapons to wreak havoc and resource buildings to fund the havoc is as simple as clicking and placing in the open spaces of your fort.

Weapons range from snipers to missile volleys and lasers, all of which vary in price and effect. There are also defensive options, such as reinforced walls, sand bags and machine guns that can be used to shoot missiles out of the sky. I can see players easily developing favoured playstyles and rushing one weapon or another. I for one loved the missile launcher, but it's an endgame tech, so I was more open to defeat in the early game.

The physics of Forts makes a wonderful little balancing act (literally) as only the front facing rooms can house weapons without shooting your own structure, and that means going taller to add more guns. However, the taller structure is more prone to toppling like a house of cards, and taking your hard-earned weapons with it. To that end, the weapons that you can lob at your opponent's structure all do varying amounts of damage, with some peppering holes, some setting fire, and later ones blowing great chunks out of its side. The balance for the developers is in making sure that all of the weapons are fair as well as easy to use. The missile launcher, for instance, is balanced by the fact that it needs a sniper to paint a target on the enemy fort, or else it can't be fired.

Forts is being developed by a two man team, with a freelance sound designer working tirelessly in the wings. The game has been showcased at a number of smaller events in and around the team's hometown of Brisbane, but PAX Aus is easily the largest showing thus far. Artist Nick Smith said that the reception has been fantastic, with players finding new ways to win that the team hadn't come across yet. Programmer/Designer Tim Auld was frantically scribbling into an overstuffed notebook throughout the half hour that I spent with them - they really seemed to be soaking up the experience of having so many playtesters eager to try something new.

Eventually we would love to see an iPad version of Forts, as the controls just feel like they would flow well on a touchscreen. But for now, check out Forts at EarthWork Games website, which has test matches and development blogs to learn about the best strategies and failures.

The intended release date is between early and late 2016; Tim and Nick seemed to disagree on that.


Nathanael Peacock

19 October, 2015

Crysis 2 and Syndicate Writer Richard Morgan Bringing Gamebook Trilogy to PC and Mobile

Veteran video game writer Richard Morgan's dark fantasy trilogy A Land Fit for Heroes on its way to PC and Mobile

If you’ve played Crysis or Syndicate, then you’ve had a taste of the superb work of author Richard Morgan. Likewise, if you’re a fantasy fan then you may have read Morgan’s dark fantasy trilogy “A Land Fit For Heroes,” comprising The Steel Remains, The Cold Commands and The Dark Defiles. In rather exciting news, Morgan (in conjunction with indie developer Liber Primus Games) will be bringing his trilogy to PC and mobile in the form of a digital gamebook. And rather soon, in fact.

For those who may not be familiar Morgan's work, here is the background to the series (from Goodreads):

“A dark lord will rise. Such is the prophecy that dogs Ringil Eskiath—Gil, for short—a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose cynicism is surpassed only by the speed of his sword. Gil is estranged from his aristocratic family, but when his mother enlists his help in freeing a cousin sold into slavery, Gil sets out to track her down. But it soon becomes apparent that more is at stake than the fate of one young woman. Grim sorceries are awakening in the land. Some speak in whispers of the return of the Aldrain, a race of widely feared, cruel yet beautiful demons. Now Gil and two old comrades are all that stand in the way of a prophecy whose fulfillment will drown an entire world in blood. But with heroes like these, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.” 

11 October, 2015

K.O.M.R.A.D. Announced - Tap Into Your Inner James Bond

Brand new indie studio Sentinent Play tackles spies, secrets and Soviets in The Cold War with its debut title, K.O.M.R.A.D.

Conspiracy theorists eat your heart out, The Cold War is still very much alive and kicking! Armchair detectives will no doubt agree that there are plenty of juicy little secrets yet to uncover from this tumultuous era of stone-eyed presidential face-offs and nuclear devastation just a button press away. It is this sense of mystique and curiosity tinged with fear that brand new studio Sentinent Play taps into with its first title, K.O.M.R.A.D.

Like a classic James Bond film, K.O.M.R.A.D. sets the scene with spies, secrets and Soviets:

Your phone chimes with a text message from an unknown number. In broken English, you’re informed that your online accounts have been hijacked — passwords changed, identity stolen. You can get it all back in return for a simple task: hack into a Russian computer untouched since the 1980s and probe it for useful information. How, exactly? That’s where your people skills come in, because K.O.M.R.A.D. isn’t any ordinary computer — it’s an experimental Soviet artificial intelligence that doesn’t know the Cold War ended.

What piqued our interest in K.O.M.R.A.D. is the rather unique approach it takes to the gameplay, unfolding as a real-time conversation (via text message push notifications) with the all-knowing computer mind. This means that the story (which can change based on player choice) will only gradually become clear over time as K.O.M.R.A.D. drip feeds information to the player. So unlike a traditional game, you’ll most likely only pick up K.O.M.R.A.D. for short bursts every day.

Probably the best way to think about K.O.M.R.A.D. is as a cross between an old-school text-based adventure and a gamebook, updated for the on-the-go mobile world. I'm a massive fan of both genres - just check out my exclusive chat with genre masters Tin Man Games in Episode 6 of Grab It - so I can't wait to get my hands on this love child. My hope is that player choice will have real and meaningful impacts on the flow of the story, rather than merely offering up superficial dialogue variations. But in any case, who doesn't want to feel like a suave spy, responding to secret messages on your phone?

K.O.M.R.A.D. will be “out soon” for Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad. In the interim, you may want to check out one of these similar excellent experiences;
   - Device 6
   - Fighting Fantasy: Starship Traveller 
   - Game of Thrones: The Game

Stephen Mitchell


15 August, 2015

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger's Big Comeback

One of Australia's biggest ever video game success stories is preparing for a comeback.

Go back ten years and Australia had quite a number of big successful studios making great console video games. Titles like BioShock, Stormrise, Mercenaries 2, L.A. Noire and de Blob all surfaced from the land down under, but there all gone now. The Aussie dollar resisted the crash of the global financial crisis, which made Australia's world-renowned talent and unbeatable work ethic simple too expensive to tap for foreign studios, and with the government doing little to help the situation through tax benefits, one-by-one they all fell.

Part of the collapse was Krome, Australia biggest studio. It's resume included the brilliant Sunny Garcia Surfing, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the Legend of Spyro series. It's biggest triumph, however, was Ty the Tasmanian Tiger.

A genuine challenger to the 3D platformers of the early 2000's like Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, Ty was one of the first to successfully go the open-world route. It was also quintessentially Australian, with characters, colours, gameplay and more all paying homage to the stunning, arid landscape of the mighty island continent. The three games (released in 2002, 2004 and 2005) were all great fun, but they also pushed into the US market successfully, seeding a TV show spin-off and suggesting a bright future.

But Ty never made the leap to the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, and with Krome all but disbanded as a developer, the series became yet another Tasmanian Tiger considered extinct. Then, out of nowhere, a 2D sidescrolling Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 4 appeared on Windows 8 devices in 2013. This little foray back into the world of gaming must have reinvigorated interest, because on September 18, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 4 will be making the leap to Steam, and it will bring with it all three original games.

If you have any fondness for the platformers of the PS2-era, or simply want to check out a game hero that burned bright and faded away all too soon, make sure you check out the Ty the Tasmanian Tiger series in mid-September.

Chris Stead 

30 June, 2015

Iron Fish First Gameplay Footage

Australian developer Dean Edwards and Beefjack are working on a truly unique horror title that seas you exploring the deep dark deaths of the ocean. Called Iron Fish, it's coming to PC later in 2015 and as you'll see in the trailer below, it's got a very creepy vibe to it. Endless Ocean this is not!

Promised features include;
   • Huge, stunning environments from coral reefs to the pitch-black abyssal plain
   • Discover a stack of long lost creatures and civilizations
   • Use stealth and strategy to avoid predators
   • Gadgets such as deep sea flares and sonars will be on hand
   • There will be a story to enjoy that skirts the boundaries of science and the supernatural

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