Thursday, April 16, 2015

Game Development from Scratch: An Interview With Breaker's Yard Developer Dan Dujnic

In a market as diverse as video games, the fact is that getting the word out about your game is often a difficult task. While Breaker's Yard by Protophant may not be the next big thing in gaming, it caught my attention for one reason: the developer's mission of game development from scratch. Dan Dujnic is the sole developer at Protophant, and has been working on the game in his free time for the past two years.

At the moment Breaker's Yard is a pretty simple twin-stick shooter. Pick one of multiple characters with different advantages, and shoot hordes of enemies using stackable power-ups. It doesn't sound or function different than most games of its kind, but do other games let you rain ricocheting chainsaw projectiles on your enemies? Didn't think so.

Dan was nice enough to answer some of my questions about the creation of Breaker's Yard from the development process to the challenges of bringing an indie game to PAX. Read along to find out more!

Finish the Damn Game: Child of Light

     Child of Light is the most fun I've ever had while being told a bedtime story. You play as Princess Aurora, the heroine of a fairy tale about bringing light back to the fictional land of Lemuria. When Aurora, the daughter of an Austrian duke, suddenly falls deathly ill, she finds herself in a strange world whose sun, moon, and stars have been stolen away. As the eponymous Child of Light it is your destiny to find them and defeat the evil queen Umbra in order to save Lemuria.

My selection this week is Child of Light,
a game told in rhyme, its writers to spite.
     As an interesting side note, there actually are stories about a lost continent called Lemuria, which appear to be similar to the tales of Atlantis: That is, that an ancient and mysterious civilization was destroyed and sank beneath the ocean after some undefined cataclysm.  The plot may not be anything novel or mind-blowing, but it has a comfortable familiarity to it. It's a child's fairy tale, and that's exactly what it feels like. The lost, frightened princess makes friends, learns powerful magic, fights against and eventually overthrows the evil sorceress, and saves the world. Child of Light would be right at home among classic Disney movies.

     Oh, and Queen Umbra is Aurora's stepmother. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Walking Simulators, Non-Games, and Choice.

     There's a huge difference between a game and an activity. Snakes and Ladders is an activity while Ticket to Ride is a game. Roulette is an activity while Poker is a game. Gone Home is an activity while The Talos Principle is a game. Reading a great novel or watching a powerful and engaging movie are activities while Connect Four is a crappy game.
Connect Four has been totally solved. The first player will always win if they know the right strategy. It never changes.
     Can you spot the difference?

     The distinction is that games offer the control of choice. Player decisions alter the fundamental experience. If the user has no meaningful input to impact the course of events or change the outcome, then the pastime you are engaging in is an activity. 

Finish the Damn Game - Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition (HD Edition)

I remember when Wyatt introduced me to Dante, the silver-haired demon hunter protagonist of one of Capcom's cheesier franchises.  Here he comes back into our dorm room, overflowing with excitement, brain clearly working faster than his mouth as he rattles off all the amazing things about this character and why I need to get into this game right away.  I remembered hearing about the franchise, but as I had never owned a PS2, I had never played one.  The one thing I really remembered was hearing a lot of unfulfilled hype about the second title in the franchise.  He quickly reassures me that this title is not that game, and definitely worth playing.  So, I pop in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening into his PS2 and see what it's all about.

Three things immediately struck me about the game.  First, it was some seriously cheesy stuff.  Hilariously overdone cheese that makes me think "Man, those developers in Japan must be a bit nuts."  Secondly,  the game is -hard-.  Like, NES era hard.  I was used to games kicking my ass up front, that's nothing new; it was just shocking how badly I was getting beaten.  I was even briefly worried when the game's second level ended with a fight seemingly against Death himself.  I wasn't sure the game had anywhere else to go but down, but wow was I wrong.  And thirdly, and this was the big one for me, it was odd how much fun I was having while dying.  Learning patterns, dying, playing with new moves, dying again, breaking random stuff in the background, and dying another time.  I didn't care, I wanted more.  When I beat the first level and found the game was judging me for how long it took me, how stylish my fighting was, etc, all that did was fuel my desire to get better.  I was one level in and hooked.  This game not disappoint, and years later, I picked it up again to see how well it held up.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Finish the Damn Game: Borderlands

     Borderlands is the first-person shoot-n-loot that kicked off a great series, one that sucked me in far more than I expected it to. With zany characters, intense action, and a dark setting, Borderlands has a lot of apparently clashing elements that blend together into something unique. In spite of all of that, not to mention my hundred-and-*mumbles number* hours of playtime on Borderlands 2, I’d never actually sat down and finished the original until now.

Four badasses. One Vault. Lots and lots of guns.
     I got into the series with Borderlands 2, which I and several of my friends bought for super-cheap during a Steam sale. I played through it several times with several characters and, as a fantasy nerd, I was basically obligated to buy the Attack on Dragon Keep DLC. Many, many hours of fun were had, so when I got the chance to pick up the original for $5 I jumped on it. I was about halfway through it when I picked up the so-called Pre-Sequel, and the original Borderlands again fell by the wayside. With explanations and excuses out of the way, here’s what it was like to finally play through Borderlands for the first time:  What started this game franchise?

State of the Site, April 2015: Getting Both Achievements and Closure

Let's be honest for a moment: to play games in the 21st century is a chance to enrich your life, not just waste it away.  The more time Jon and I spend thinking about where to go next with Sprites and Dice, the more time is spent around a table together, pulling out Netrunner cards or unpacking a massive game of Super Dungeon Explore while we figure out where we want to go next with our joint project.  While modern life gets busier and busier for us, we still find time to talk about our passion here, because it genuinely boosts our spirits, through cold winters and long bleary hours.

Games are a panacea for feeling helpless in a busy modern world, an immune booster for the spirit. They are an excuse to gather with friends and share in heroic and otherworldly moments of victory. There are so many worlds to explore, either alone or co-cooperatively, so why are so many games we excitedly buy stay on our shelves unfinished?  That's what we want to take on this month at Sprites and Dice.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mech Deck: Adorable Ten Thousand Ton War Machines

     I'm a sucker for giant robots, no matter how big they are. Mech Deck has the biggest tiny robots in the business. Or the tiniest big ones, I'm not sure. Either way, Mech Deck is a promising game and I'm very excited to see where Lead Designer and weekend mecha-pilot Patrick Fahy takes it.

     There's a blend of parts-drafting, tactical play, and silly blind luck that creates an addictive play experience. The core concept is that players get to create mechs from disparate parts in order to blast the shit out of each other in a deathmatch.
All the models are 3D printed because we live in THE FUTURE.

       It's pretty visceral when you get to blow bits off your opponent's robot. Bonus points if you yell out the names of your attacks like a giant anime nerd.

     I yell out my attacks when I play this. I'm a giant anime nerd. Sorry.