[tumblr] Allicorn's picks of 2013
With the end of the year just about upon us I figured I’d round up some of the things I’ve played this year and blather about them enthusiastically. There are other things I’ve played, many of which I rather liked, but for the sake of brevity here are just a few. They weren’t necessarily all this year’s releases - I just got around to playing them this year.
This is my AAA star of the year. I’ve played a fair few AAA games and a lot of indies. I tend to find myself less disappointed with indies on the whole. From time to time though, a AAA comes along that actually lives up to its gajillion dollar marketing budget and reminds me that there are things that the AAAs can do that only the AAAs can do and that - just sometimes - they do really, really well.
I also used it as an opportunity to test out AMD Eyefinity mode on an FPS for the first time and so ended up playing Shadow Warrior in some vast resolution spread across 3 monitors. Recommended!
You arrive at the family home from a trip abroad, expecting your family to be there but they’re not. Why not? The only way to find out is to rummage through their possessions, read their mail, look at their bookshelves and try to piece the story together.
One gaming ingredient I’ve always particularly enjoyed is a sense of “expedition”. Maybe there’s a better word for it but my meaning is that particular feeling of empowered self-determination you get when a game helps you to achieve competency within in its world and then allows you moments where you decide to engage in actions that require planning and take a meaningful amount time to execute.
Miasmata also has going for it that wonderful “emergent beauty” phenomena now common to a number of games where vast environments, dynamic weather, day-night cycles and so forth conspire to occasionally throw some scenery in front of you that’s so beautiful you just have to stand and stare. The game’s procedural cloud systems, coupled with the day-night cycle, lead to some particularly stunning sunsets, black night-storms and idyllic coastal walks.
I met Seaven Studios at Eurogamer Expo where their puzzle-platformer, Ethan, got a lot of praise. Ethan is a smooth and fast side-on 3D platformer who’s unique ingredients are time-stopping and telekinesis abilities. Those two extra mechanics there, combined together with the effective, speedy platforming physics, lead to really surprising depth and variation. What if you could launch into an impossible jump over a deadly chasm and then timestop mid-jump, pick up the ramp you jumped off of and place it in your own path so that you could jump off it again in the instant before gravity sends it plummeting into the pit? That’s Ethan. Fun stuff!
Flippfly’s gloriously minimalistic racer has you blazing across a geometric landscape which is procedurally generated but changes only once every 24 hours. Everyone plays the same map, but it changes once a day. Your ship is solar powered and the sun is setting and the closer to the horizon it gets, the longer the shadows of obstacles become and the less space you have to maneuver in to keep your batteries alive. Average game length is just minutes here - it’s ferociously unforgiving - but your play session may run into hours of “ARGH NO! … Just one more!”
The puzzles are effective both inside the chambers and out in the wilderness but what I like most is that without a single word of dialogue, spoken or visual, anywhere at all in the game, it manages to tell an intriguing and meaningful story.
Man I love this thing. Sadly it now reliably crashes at some random point - usually when I’m doing well. Receiver is an utterly ruthless, desolate, terrifying little FPS with uniquely complex gun mechanics. It doesn’t look like much, the control scheme is difficult and the story is delivered entirely in droning, somewhat otherworldly cassette tape narratives but if it hooks you, you’re going to experience heights of adrenaline-doused tension you didn’t think were possible.
Lastly and most recently, Futurlab’s successful console schmup Velocity Ultra has come to PC and it’s infuriatingly perfect. The control scheme was a bit horrifying at first but practice - it really will become second nature. Velocity is basically a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up with modern graphics, pounding contemporary-retro music and the special trick that you can teleport jump through barriers with the mouse or beam long distances with a special dropped item. It turns into a pretty unique hybrid: the puzzle-schmup. There is a huge MASS of bonus levels, missions, subgames and stuff in there too. Great stuff, highly recommended.
[tumblr] BRAVEST WARRIORS
So I’m a bit nuts about Bravest Warriors. It’s a wild, hilarious and tiny bundle of exploding imaginative joy created by Pendleton “Adventure Time” Ward and it plays on the Cartoon Hangover YouTube channel.
Season 2 of the show is in full flight now but a while after Season 1 finished, after a binge of episode-re-watching, I decided I’d try to draw a whole bunch of characters from the first season in ultra tiny pixel art style.
And there they are! You can see the original pixel scale characters in the box at the top and some scaled up, slightly more accessible versions standing on the steps (numbered by episode). There are lots of the main cast in various costumes (there are a lot of crazy costumes in the show) and a whole heap of other characters including pretty much everyone that had a line.
Check out the show then see if you can identify all the pixel chars!
[tumblr] What aspects of solo gamedev eat up all the time?
The stuff that’ll take you longest - waste you the most time - is the stuff you didn’t adequately plan beforehand.
[tumblr] Starting with a new language
We don’t use Unity at work but a couple weekends ago I decided I’d pick it up and have a play in my spare time since it seems popular and looks interesting. I dived straight in on a simple match-3 game idea suggested by my partner. And yesterday I published a little puzzle game on Google Play.
It’s nothing much, the code is a mess, the art is “programmer art”, the overall software design is poor but I wasn’t really aiming to make something super-polished and worthy of a trail of 5-star reviews splattered across the web. Instead, what I wanted was to start from scratch with a new language and go all the way to release. To begin to understand the process. To get to that point in coding where you realise you’ve been doing it wrong.
The point is, it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to fail to grasp everything immediately. It’s okay to do things in wrong, kludgey ways just because you can’t yet imagine how else to do them. Because in trying, and struggling to slap your game together with duct tape and good intentions, you’ll bit by bit learn to replace the duct tape with cement and the intentions with competency.
[tumblr] Q-Con after-action
A few weeks ago, Puppygames was invited over to Belfast to exhibit at Q-Con. It took just a fleeting instant for Caspian and I to decide that this was a convention not to be missed. Just look at the stuff they had going on!
Back in the main building we set up in the Indie Arcade area, itself part of a much larger videogaming zone within the con where a host of Xboxes, Playstations, Wiis (is that a word?) and classic consoles were hooked up to projector screens and great collection of games were playable.
Five Q3A instances in a 3D-printed chassis - this is geekery of the highest order and was bloody impressive!
Weirdly, one of the most popular consoles there was an ancient 1970’s Binatone. This thing is nearly as old as me and features two tiny twisty “paddle” controllers and a few variations of very simple, blocky, bat-and-ball games that all pretty amount to “Oh, it’s Pong!” To see this old beastie hooked up to a whopping flatscreen was quite something and the thing was in near constant use all weekend.
And whilst we’re on the subject of cosplayers: cosplayers everywhere! If you’re into it, this show has a very large (and apparently annually growing) cosplayer presence. You won’t believe how many Finns and Fionas there were (hey, it’s a pretty easy costume) but also a whole host of anime, videogame and comic characters and a few furries too right up to this epic quadsuit (Carrie McAlinden performing, I believe) pictured below.
On the final day, a fantastic cosplay masquerade ran, allowing all the costumed attendees to show off on stage. Quite a sight to see. Although, some of the very, VERY brief appearances - as folks skipped across stage in apparent terror - made me wonder: if you’re going to go out in public in an outrageous costume, possibly with neon spiky hair and an oversized foam battleaxe… why so shy? You’re at a roleplaying convention folks: the locals don’t think you’re crazy - they think you’re awesome - so strut it!
Predestination from locally based Brain & Nerd was particularly interesting. They brought tons of beautiful concept art for folks to browse through and it created a great talking point. It’s a giant, galaxy-spanning empire-building game, it’s on Greenlight, check it out.
Don’t even get me started on the massive trade floor. I bought some lovely pony art and a very striking notebook for my girlfriend to use in making notes on her second book. One of the Predestination devs came away with a crazy haul of out of print AD&D stuff for just a few quid. Well worth a visit.
Well, you can probably tell by the ridiculous way that I’ve rambled on that I thought Q-Con was an absolute blast. Next year is the con’s 21st, I have a feeling it’s going to be quite a birthday.
Huge thanks to Greg, Angie and Andy for getting us involved!
[tumblr] Impressions from Rezzed 2013
So, I was at Rezzed on the weekend, at the Puppygames stand. We had a right royal riot, gave away over 300 free copies of our entire catalog, saw some epic hiscore championship battles on our arcade games and - now and then - snagged a few minutes to have a quick squizz at what our neighbors were offering.
There’s a strange kind of cognitive dissonance that comes from being a raving Planetside fan for years then finding yourself sharing a show floor with Sony (and having a busier stand!)
It was a pretty busy corner of the show floor all told with right behind us the popular Sir, Your Are Being Hunted (which looks like it could be a real blast but I don’t think is expected very soon) and the utterly mind-boggling Revenge Of the Sunfish which is one of my personal favorites of the whole weekend.
Sunfish is a vast interlocking web of detonatingly strange mini-games that together form a kind of adventure through some of the zaniest, most horrifying, hilarious, jarringly weird territory that videogaming has to offer. And when I say vast I really mean it! I stood across from this game for two days and barely saw the same sprite twice.
We had a few chances to chat with solo creator Jacob Buczynski who has spent years pouring incalculable amounts of imagination into this project and was conducting video interviews with players to help tune the pulsing, careening rhythm of his monster’s heartbeat before eventual - and not too far off - release.
Summing it up you’ll probably hear a lot of folks use the phrase “mad genius”. They’re not wrong.
If I had to find something to compare it to - uh - it’d be pretty hard actually. At a stretch you could invoke 1985’s sublimely odd Deus Ex Machina from Sinclair Spectrum developers Automata which featured a Jon Pertwee, Frankie Howerd and Ian Dury soundtrack to be played on synchronized audio cassette but where that was a colorful, bubbling stream of dreamy strangeness, Sunfish is a raging mega-tsunami of uplifting bizarrerie.
My other favorite from the show was Montague’s Mount, a beautifully bleak and eerie looking first person adventure mystery with - I’m told - some carefully placed spikes of real terror in there too. Based on an isolated island off the Irish coast, the environments are crafted by a developer who clearly has a real feel and passion for the kind of beauty that emerges from misty, overgrown desolation.
Voice acting for the first-person narration is exceptionally good and coupled with those rainswept visuals and the subtle, evocative soundtrack you’ve got a game as drenched with atmosphere as its dismal environments are slick with fog. Personally, I can’t wait for this one. There’s a little bit more work to do apparently but the end is within sight. You can support Montague’s Mount on Steam Greenlight and please do!
To compare it to something else I think you could justifiably say: think Dear Esther with puzzles and horror too.
High points from the weekend were meeting too many fascinating developers to mention but particularly Jake from Grey Alien Games who’s been working on a mobile version of our own Titan Attacks. It’s looking fantastic and will answer the calls of all those folks that keep asking me “Why isn’t this game on my phone!?”
Low points - well I had a lot of fun, so not many. Still - why did the NEC atrium have to be on the opposite side of the site from the Hilton front exit? We got lost a lot navigating all the way around the place. And who closes the bar just as the show finishes on the final day? WTH?
Well, some time fairly late in the development cycle we decided it'd add something to the game if it had some pounding, high-tempo music to accompany the endless destruction of devious robot enemies. It turned into one of the fastest music projects I've ever done. Some 40 tiny loop-tracks were made for the original game but I had a lot of fun with them and felt I'd like to do a more listenable work-up of some of them, and that's how this OST game about.
Fourteen of the most memorable themes from the game have been juiced up into nearly a seamless hour of pulsating techno frenzy. You can hear the whole lot for free over on my Bandcamp page and here's a preview of one of the tracks:
Nearly a year in production (well okay, mainly in procrastination) my third H.P.Lovecraft-themed album is finally ready. This time it's all based around one particularly monumental Lovecraft tale. One that's inspired me into a variety of creativity over the years. The frozen epic "At the Mountains of Madness".
You can see s small gallery of AtMoM-inspired pictures by me here in on my DeviantArt pages.
The album goes on sale 14th February 2012 and should initially be available on my Bandcamp Store and at CDBaby. I'll update with more links once it's actually there. The album should also also be appearing on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify etc but that might not be happening until a little while after the initial release.
Here's a little preview. This is a very abridged version of the track "Thaw" made specially for Yog-Sothoth.com's latest thrilling audiogame based on the famous Chaosium Call of Cthulhu campaign "Beyond the Mountains of Madness.
Mixing up My Little Pony!
Well I got the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic bug pretty badly. It was inevitable I guess and, TBH, it's a 20% more awesome bug than most anyway. So, thanks Fuzzy!
After a flood of pony-related art on my DA profile, including some animation I decided I had no choice but to go all the way and make a remix of one of Pinkie's hilarious songs, and a video to go with it.
And here it is!
Hmm... then later somepony suggested doing another one straight away. Since this was clearly a completely crack-pot idea, I started work immediately. And here it is! In all likelihood, there are more to follow.
Then I got rather wrapped up in the whole concept and had to make a metric-pony-ton of Luna-related stuff. Much of it you can find on my DeviantArt Profile. I got a bit more carried away than just doodling pictures of Luna though. The result turned out to be an original bit of music and an all-original video full of various little scraps of animation I made about Luna/Nightmare Moon and the whole mare-in-the-moon thing. You can see the video over there on the right (and on my YouTube Channel) and if you fancy a copy of the tune, you can find the TinDeck link below:
Race for Best DeviantArt Pony!
So, I got to wondering how many faves and deviations of each pony I had in my account and an idea struck me...
Why not make a web pony-race game where the winner is the based on the numbers of each pony in the player's DeviantArt account?
All you need to do is tell it your DA page address and it'll race the Mane 6 plus the alicorns, Trixie and Derpy and show you who your real Best Pony is :-)
Give it a try!: Ultimate "Best Pony" Challenge!
(Oh, needless to say but obviously if you don't have any ponies in your account, it's not going to work ;-) )
Over 150 Characters from all three Stargate shows in teeny-tiny pixel form (around 29x9px for most).
Stargate Universe is coming to an end this week, marking the conclusion of 14 years of gate-related scifi on the TV. Wow. I figured I had to do something to commemorate it all. So I went through every episode of SG-1, Atlantis and Universe and drew pixel versions of all the characters that leapt out at me. Took about 2 weeks.
Must credit the excellent John Martz for giving me the idea!
How big of a Stargate fan are you? Can you work out who/what they all are? A few don't have names as such, but just a species, or an episode title. There's a kind of vague chronological order to each line, but it's not very consistent as sometimes I didn't draw a character based on their first appearance but on their main costume. You can click the main pixel characters image up there for a list of who they all are.
You can buy designs themed for Fantasy RPG, Horror, Sci-fi, Superheroes, Zombies and more, all based on my original pixel characters, on a range of clothing over at the Pixelpony Productions CafePress store.Buy Pixel-Wear!
There are also free wallpapers featuring these characters:
("Stargate" and all related trademarks are the property of MGM)
Old DA NewsImported over RSS from my old blog at DA - hence the lack of embedded links and newline quirks.
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Pixelpony Productions presents...27 April 2011
My DeviantArt profile just somewhat sprang back into life after a bit of a prolonged hiatus. My latest art project (projects, I guess) are a vast tide of schnazzy pixel-art characters. Lots of original designs plus - coming soon - a whopping great big panel of pixel interpretations of Stargate characters. SG1, Atlantis and Universe - over 150 little pixel people.
Better still, I'm selling designs based on these characters on a range of clothing over at the Pixelpony Productions CafePress store.
There are designs themed for Fantasy RPG, Horror, Sci-fi, Superheroes, Zombies and more...Buy Pixel-Wear!
TIS3 in production17 October 2008
Over at Arkhamsoft, the production team for Quin's
1400 Alt Names10 October 2008
The Book of Alt Names passed another couple milestones recently. With the ongoing contribution of lots of creative folks there are now over 1400 original names for Cthulhu Mythos deities, monsters and spells and over 4000 votes have been cast.
Image Retargetter21 April 2008
Image Retargetting, or "Content Aware Image Resizing" is a term coined by Drs Ariel Shamir and Shai Avidan in defining a process where by images can be stretched or squashed, horizontally or vertically without important parts of the image being distorted.
In simple terms, Image Retargetting allows you to make images wider, narrower, taller or shorter without smooshing up the important details. Normally, if you were to stretch or squeeze a family photograph, the people in the shot would look too wide/tall/thin/short and it'd be obvious to anyone looking at the image that it had been distorted. With Image Retargetting, you can stretch (or shrink) the image, without your distorting your folks out of shape!
The Image Retargetter is a sleek, powerful and feature-packed tool that'll allow you to resize and change the aspect ratio of your images in exactly this way. You can even export unique image display applets that, placed on any website, will allow your images to stretch - without distorting - to fit any layout.
I'm a developer and composer at indie game outfit Puppygames, makers of Revenge Of The Titans, Ultratron, Droid Assault and Titan Attacks. It keeps me pretty busy but I try to find time to stay involved with a wide array of creative projects.
Given my web-footprint seems to span not just several domains but possibly more than one dimension too these days, this page is intended to help connect all these disparate bits of work and play together in one place. The link list below is far from complete, but hooks together most of my frequent haunts current and past.
At The Mountains Of Madness
My latest Lovecraft-inspired moody, atmospheric album based on the legendary antarctic adventure that would inspire The Thing and countless polar horror to follow.
In Remote Places
My album inspired by the spectacular horror fiction of H.P.Lovecraft. You can download a couple free tracks, find more information and buy the album for as little as £3.99 at the In Remote Places page.
Music at Bandcamp
Bandcamp is an excellent music hosting site for bands with terrific looking pages and lots of great features. With the desmise of Last.fm I've recently been moving my main musical online presence over there.
You can hear a whole heap of my material on there including the entire Tattered and In Remote Places albums, all for free. Here's my Bandcamp page.
Best of all you can buy downloads straight from the page there in just about any format you could desire, right up to FLAC.
The older Emancipation, Network and Pareidolia albums should gradually appear there as I get around to uploading the huge originals.
I like remixing. I don't do quite as much of it these days as I once did but if you're eager for a mix and want to contact me, I'll probably oblige, time willing. Here's a sample:
Allicorn Art / Blogs
DeviantArt is a whopping great vault full of art of many kinds. It provides one of the better examples of a user-content-driven, AJAX-heavy "Web 2.0" site (IMHO) and - of course - is stuffed full of excellent arty content. Here's my DeviantArt profile page. This is my main "blog". Updated usually in occasional, brief but volcanic bursts of activity.
There's a a Tumblr feeding this blog, it's here if you want to "follow" it or such.
Handle is AllicornUK, profile page is at www.twitter.com/AllicornUK. I used to use their convenient RSS syndication to post links to updates across various sites which help keep them tied together but then they got all grabby with content that users provide to them for free to make their site worth anything and they chose to cripple that feature. Bunch of splitters.
Terribly intrusive service which I have no use for but, y'know, Google being the nice folks they are decided to effectively mandate having a profile there. So hey. It's here: Google+.
My Cafepress Store with lots of 8-bit retro style apparel with a range of themes both geeky and horsey. A strange mix, or so I'm told, but there you go.
Yog-Sothoth.com is Grand Central for all things Cthulhu-gaming related on the web. I hang out there and help out with the site a little. I'm easily reached there.
Buy Pixelpony Apparel
Make Custom Gifts at CafePress