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Indie Developer Spotlight: Hastilude

Indie Developer Spotlight: Hastilude
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We spoke with Dustin from Ghost Crab Games, who we met at Too Many Games, about their upcoming game Hastilude. Here’s that they had to say:
Q1: Tell us about your game.
A1: Hastilude is a competitive & co-op sci-fi fantasy game where you battle rival knights atop flying mounts, attempting to knock them off and swoop in for the score. Each knight has unique movements, attacks, and abilities, working inside a combat system that’s easy to learn but tricky to master. There are several arenas from which to choose (and more on the way), both in classic arcade wrapscreen style and a dynamic camera style. The visuals are bright and colorful, featuring high-resolution artwork and hand-drawn character animation mixed with special effects. We’re still working on all the features (campaign mode, a player tutorial, team battle, etc.), adding new arenas, and creating new characters while getting the game into players’ hands for feedback with the free Alpha version.
View the trailer here:
Q2: What was your inspiration to create the game?
A2: Chris and I were at the Barcade in Philadelphia in 2014 and played a bit of Joust on one of their machines. We realized that among all the retro game updates that had been released, we couldn’t think of anyone who had done a modern take on one of our classic arcade favorites. Hastilude began very similar to Joust, but as we added items, unmounted combat, and more modern features, it started to become something more. Indie local co-op games gained in popularity during 2013, so after getting some good feedback at Dev Night and the Philly Game Forge we had the confidence to move the project forward. We got the idea for game mods and match badges from one of my first local co-op games, Worms, on the PS1. We love the fighting game genre as well, and have worked in a number of things from that branch of gaming like the Super Meter and characters with unique move-sets and storylines.
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Q3: When should we expect to see it?
A3: Hastilude will release in 2017. We’ve gotten great feedback at shows like MAGFest, Too Many Games, South Jersey Geekfest, The Boston FIG, Arcade @ Dilworth (Philly Tech Week), and Gamescape, and we’re aiming to do a lot more! We’re hoping the Alpha version gets us some valuable feedback from people who have chance to play the game outside a show environment. The things most people want to see the most are typically things on which we’re already working — more characters, arenas, and game modes. Our next showing will be at Super Smash Con on August 11–14, 2016 at the Dulles Expo Center in Virginia. Come by and play!
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My Experience at Too Many Games

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One month ago marked the beginning of Too Many Games and the first time I’ve attended it. Now, I am excited to tell you all about my first experience there. Of course, I was nervous. Not only was this my first time at this particular con but this is also my first time at any convention as press.

Too Many Games was held in the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA, and ran from Friday, June 24th to Sunday, June 26th. I’d never been to the Expo center and it’s almost a hidden secret, but all I had to do was follow the traffic and I found it fairly easily.

Immediately upon entering, I was greeted by the friendliest con staff that I’d ever met. Ushering me to where I needed to get my badge and then into the gaming room.

This was a magical room. Filled with TV’s, chairs and arcade games, nearly wall to wall. It was a thing of beauty. I saw Nintendo, Super Nintendo, GameCube, Sega and so many more systems hooked up. There were flickering screens with childhood titles inviting me to sit down and relive so many memories.

Of course, I stopped to play a few games, but what caught my interest were the music games towards the back, located just before the entrance to the tournament area of the gaming room. If music met whack-a-mole, this is what you’d have and I loved every second of it. There were several of these, most names I had never heard of and, of course, DDR was there in at least two different spaces.

This was a gamer mecca that I was proud to be a part of. From the sounds of the games to the hum of chatter to the rotating DJ’s in the corner, the noise was a choir of all the things I loved. At the same time, though, nothing was so loud you couldn’t have a conversation. I adored the adorable handheld lounge off to the side, furnished by Yogibo, where players were invited to sit and game in absolute comfort. I knew I’d never get up again if I sat down. I also loved that Save Point was there to fix any games as they malfunctioned or broke. I noticed that some didn’t last the whole weekend, but I knew they were being played constantly since I walked in on Friday.

Next to the game room was the concert hall, complete with stage, chairs, awesome lighting and a tech booth. Several bands played, along with a few DJ’s. They all sounded amazing, but I didn’t stop in for more than a moment at a time. There was so much to see and a lot of people to talk to.

I spent the majority of my time on the merchant floor, which was large and lead into the guest booths, developers area and gaming tables. I didn’t spend a lot of time at the gaming tables, but I did chat with the people running it, Sunmesa Events. I had never stopped in a gaming area at a con, so this was new to me. I love the concept. You pick a game, drop your ID with them and go play. It’s an awesome concept I wish I saw at more places. There were a few games I knew and so many I’d never heard of. I am still sad I didn’t get a chance to play the huge Settlers of Catan they had set up, but alas, I had a job to do. Sunmesa Events also handled all the non-video game tournaments, such as Magic: The Gathering, Love Letter and more.

The vendors were abundant and so very, very tempting. The treasures that I would have bought if I had the money… I’d have room for nothing else. I was interested to see so many of the vendors were selling old school videos games. Of course, this wasn’t shocking, but I am used to seeing one or two at a convention. This being my first gaming convention, though, I was floored. Not only was it beautiful, but it was also inspiring.

I also saw an array of board games. There were some vendors who had the typical or ‘traditional’ board games for sale, but I, of course, ooohed and ahhhed over the new school of board games and names I’d never seen before. The vendor array was simply incredible. I enjoyed each and every table. If I had the time to have talked to every vendor there, I would have, but alas, I did not.

So let’s talk about where I spent the majority of my time: the developers floor. I loved every minute of it. So let me tell you about all the new friends we made there!

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Tim from Last Week Reviews: Dungeons & Dragons #1

Writer: John RogersD&D#1 coverArtist: Andrea Di Vito
Colorist: Aburtov and Graphikslava
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Released: 11/2010 (collected 7/2011)

Review by: Tim from Last Week

John Rogers is one of those writers that you know, but don’t know you know. He handled the first script for the Transformers movie. He was a creator on The Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon (a favorite in the From Last Week household!). He created and executive-produced TNT’s Leverage. In comics, he was co-creator of Jaimie Reyes, DC Comics’ “new” Blue Beetle. He has also written for BOOM! Studios (Cthulhu Tales, Zombie Tales).

Andrea Di Vito has been working in comics since the early 2000s. His first regular art gig was on The First, followed by Brath (CrossGen Comics). Then he moved on to higher profile jobs, including Thor, Annihilation, and Nova (Marvel Comics). Di Vito has also worked on assorted G.I. Joe titles for IDW Publishing.

On the first page, we are dropped right into the action (don’t get too excited: it’s just a tease, to whet your appetite). Dealing with zombified orphans (“…nobody’s gonna miss ’em”) seems like a good place to start! Then, flashback to earlier that day. A pre-existing party of adventurers is signing up a new member at the local bar. The team is set (but not stable): Adric Fell (human, leader), Kahl (dwarf), Varis (elf), Bree (halfling), and new member Tisha (human/tiefling). We get to see them razzing each other, just before the action starts.

Zombies break through the floor, and we get to see everyone in action trying to stop the horde of zombies. It turns out the zombies were following tunnels under the town. But, it seems that the zombies aren’t really zombies, and that leads to the gang getting arrested for murdering a bunch of townsfolk. The group is about to be sentenced, but an old friend of Fell’s, Copernicus Jinx, arrives to explain the situation. It seems darkness is seeping into this realm, and infecting people.

As Fell and the team try to escape the now-infected constabulary, Jinx tells Fell that his daughter (who also has history with Fell) had already gone to investigate this disturbance at the Orphanarium. The team splits up to try to solve the mystery and save lives, some going into the tunnels, and some heading for the orphans. The tunnel crew finds that a strange being invoking dark forces below town. The orphan crew arrives to find that the orphans have already been “turned,” and Jinx’s daughter, Juliana, is defending herself from an onslaught of mini-zombies. A large explosion occurs below the orphanage, and we leave the story, there.

Reading this comic, I reacted similarly as I have to other D&D comics, over the years (more on that, later): this isn’t a D&D story, it’s a sword-and-sorcery story that happens to have the D&D logo on it. I’m still not sure if that’s a bad thing, or a good thing. Although I played Dungeons & Dragons when I was younger, I was never deeply into it, and I have only read D&D stories in comic book form (yes, someday, I will read all of the D&D related novels). As such, I do not have a deep connection to the worlds and motifs of D&D, and that may be the reason that I do not “feel” it.

However, I do have to say that I enjoyed the camaraderie between the adventurers, and could imagine being at the table with a group of players, having similar conversations in and around the gameplay. At the same time, I generally enjoy stories about otherworldly evil/darkness affecting the “regular” world, so I think this could be a fun story to explore. Though I am still not sure how effective this comic was as a D&D story, I do need to credit Rogers with giving us a taste of what could be a good sword-and-sorcery story. Maybe that is more important…

I’ve enjoyed Andrea Di Vito’s art in most of the titles mentioned above. Between his CrossGen Comics work and his work on Marvel’s Thor, Di Vito really made a name for himself in sword-and-sorcery comics. However, I sometimes find that his art is a little too heavy for some adventures. To a certain extent, most of his characters look very strong and powerful, but I like a little more variation between dwarves and elves, for example. But, I expected certain things in Di Vito’s art for this comic, and I got what I wanted. Dynamic characters, action, and good story-telling. While I am not sure this is my favorite Di Vito art, it is still pretty good. I am hoping that his characters evolve, visually, over the course of the series.

The granddaddy of tabletop gaming, Dungeons & Dragons has had an on-again-off-again relationship with comic books. DC Comics published a line of D&D comics in the 80s. KenzerCo published D&D comics in the 90s. In 2005, Devil’s Due Publishing was adapting R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf stories. In 2010, IDW Publishing obtained the license, and is still publishing D&D comics today. This series ran for a little over a year, and had 16 issues. Those 16 issues have been collected into 3 trade paperbacks. Volume 1 (“Shadowplague“) and volume 2 (“First Encounters”) are priced $19.99, and volume 3 (“Down”) is priced $17.99.

Dungeons & Dragons, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook!

‘Pokemon Go Made Me Do It’: The Latest Craze in Passing Responsibility

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It has been two weeks since the ridiculously popular Pokemon Go released in North America and has since taken the mobile gaming market by storm.  I myself have never seen so many people walking in my neighborhood.  Families I’ve never seen leave their house except to drive off in their cars, kids I never knew lived in the area, and people from all walks of life wandering around, talking, and unwittingly getting more exercise in the course of a day than most of us would get in a week.  We’re witnessing a true phenomenon that I expect will spawn a plethora of similar, or outright copy-cat, apps and games over the next several years.  Augmented reality  games are definitely a thing now, and not going anywhere anytime soon.

I’ve read some great stories about people coming together, meeting up and sharing their interest in this game.  Just a couple days ago, I read a story a mother posted to Facebook about her autistic child who found a way to open up to other people through his love of the app.  Communities are building around the game, bringing people together who might not otherwise meet and often finding they have more in common than just their desire to catch imaginary creatures.

As usual, with the good, there is some bad out there related to this game.  People are getting hurt, wandering onto private property, stepping into traffic, and generally being complete idiots while playing.  The worst cases are the people who claim “The game made me do it.”  It’s almost like we have to say this a million and one times, and people still don’t seem to want to take any responsibility for their own actions, or lack of common sense.

Entertainment media does not make us violent, the cell phone doesn’t make us use it while driving, alcohol does not make us drink it, nor does any other inanimate object or service force us to do anything.  We choose to go out and do stupid things, drive recklessly, or drink to excess, causing accidents.  Saying, “it puts Pokemon across the street, forcing us to go get them,” just boggles the mind.

Everything in life, unless you never leave your block, is literally across the street.  When you’re playing the game, on your phone, it shows you the roads, landmarks, cliffs, and dangers.  Even if you’re distracted by the app, the app is showing you what lies ahead and you make a conscious choice to step onto the road.  From what I understand, since my son plays it, you don’t even have to be looking at your phone, it alerts you when something is close.

Bottom line people, use common sense and take responsibility for yourself.  It’s a fun game for people who like it, and has a lot of good about it, but it doesn’t cancel out the basics.  Look both ways when you come to a street.  Look up from your phone when walking, and pay attention to where you’re going.  Don’t trespass, especially on government property.  If you see Pikachu in ol’ man Flanders’ back yard, knock on his door and ask if you can go catch it.  Don’t sneak around the local police station at night.  If you’re out after dark, bear in mind curfews if you’re underage and don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do late at night.  You don’t suddenly become invincible just because you’re playing Pokemon Go.

Parents, you’re under more pressure with this app as well.  Take it from me, it’s strange to see your otherwise introverted child, who rarely leaves the house, suddenly want to walk down the park in the evening to play this game with friends.  Granted, mine is older, so we aren’t as worried as I imagine parents of younger kids are.  Have you talked to your kids about strangers, where to go and where not to, and what to do if they are in danger?  These are all fairly standard topics for parents of active kids who get out and run around all day, but if you’re a parent of a gamer who spends most of their time indoors, this may not be the case.  Have that talk, and have it again.  Heck, go out with them, if you have an interest in the game.

I have to say, though, despite the isolated cases of the dumbs I’m seeing out there, there are a lot of people having a great time and meeting new people.  There’s been a couple of ‘ew, nerds, don’t talk to me’ articles, but really the overwhelming majority of people seem to be coming together around this simple little game.  With so much ugliness in the world, it’s a much needed bright spot.  Let’s keep that up, whether you’re a player, a parent, or a journalist covering the game.

Free Game Spotlight: Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest

Free Game Spotlight: Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest

Dev: Hibernum
Platform(s): iOS, Android
Release Date: December 15, 2015

Guest Post by: Michael Wells

Welcome to the July Free Game spotlight! This month we’re talking about Poke– wait, we’re not talking about Pokemon Go? No we’re not. If ever in the history of games there was something that didn’t need a spotlight, it’s Pokemon Go. No, this month’s game is Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest.

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Pictured: Not Pokemon Go

First thing’s first, Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest is a free-to-play game. It’s a free download with options for micro-transactions. Most of the micro-transactions require the game’s premium currency, but some exclusive cards or characters can only be purchased with real money. It’s got daily rewards, event rewards, and PvP ranking rewards to keep you coming back in the hopes of convincing you to open your wallet. If you’ve played any free-to-play game since Farmville, you know what to expect. That being said, the game is worth trying for two reasons. First: the game respects your time. Micro-transactions are available, but aren’t necessary to engage with the game and get a real sense of progress. Second: the game is fun to play.

The Puzzle Quest series began back in March of 2007 as the first successful attempt to take the match three gameplay of Bejeweled and match it up with RPG combat and character progression. It was a surprising two-great-tastes-that-taste-great-together moment and has inspired a whole sub-genre of puzzle RPGs. The first game was a modest hit but its more ambitious sequel failed to find an audience. Puzzle Quest 2 languished on various app stores for several years before publisher, D3, quietly made the game to free-to-play. Since then, D3 has used the basic match three plus combat gameplay as a platform for licensed properties like Adventure Time, Marvel, and, most recently, Magic the Gathering. While the previous licences were odd fits for the formula, Magic the Gathering gets the game back to the strengths that made the first game such a surprise and also provides its own welcome twist.

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Unity Promotes Women with Workshops

Unity Promotes Women with Workshops

CiLi4fcWEAAUzCxIt’s no secret that I’m a big proponent of encouraging more women to get involved in the gaming industry. While I lack the education and computer know-how to start making games myself, I applaud the women who are able to pull through the negativity of the media constantly telling them “it’s a man’s industry” and do what they love.

That being said, Unity has launched a series of free and open global workshops, called “Women in Gaming,” in an effort to empower women and encourage them to pursue careers in the video game industry.

These workshops discuss many of the issues women face when attempting to advance their careers in gaming. At the same time, they allow for the people in attendance to network with each other and learn from each other. Other topics covered in the workshop include organizational dynamics, leadership skills and strategic thinking.

The first two workshops have already happened. The first took place in Amsterdam on June 1st. The speaker was Fiona Sperry, the founder of Three Fields Entertainment. The second workshop was in San Francisco, CA, at UC Berkeley with Professor Dana Carvey.

The next three workshops are below:

  • July 28 – Shanghai, China. Special Guests: Amy Huang (AVP at NetEase Capital), Evelyn Liu (CTO at Firevale), and Yanyan Xiong (Founder of Shenzhenware).
  • September 22 – San Francisco, CA. Special Guest: Nanea Reeves (President and COO of textPlus)
  • Early November (date TBD) – Los Angeles, CA at University of Southern California. Special guest: Professor Tracey Fullerton.

1441576529unity-logoEach of the special guest speakers has been successful within the gaming industry. In the workshops, they will be sharing their experiences and insights with those in attendance.

While I wish we didn’t need to have initiatives like this within the gaming industry (and other “male-dominated” industries such as computer programming – see Girls Who Code), I applaud Unity for taking this step. As a woman myself, I can attest to how many times I’ve been told, “but that’s for boys,” in regards to video games or other nerdy things that I enjoy. Initiatives like this not only bring us just a little bit closer to eliminating that negativity in the world, but also gives young gamer girls strong women to look up to.

All of the workshops are free and open to the public. If you’d like to register for one, click here.

 

Review: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Review: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: Aug. 7, 2013
Platform: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android and Windows Phone

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I may be late to the boat on this, but I finally got on it and I have to say I am glad I didn’t miss it! Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a game I’d have never gotten myself. I’m not particularly into just straight up puzzle games and it seemed a bit boring compared to my usual onslaught of FPS and horror games. I have to say that I am delighted to find out how wrong I was.

What’s it about?
Well the gist of this game is the mother of these two brothers has died, leaving them with only their father. The father then gets sick, threatening to leave the two brothers orphaned if they do not find a cure. The boys go out on their own to retrieve a potion that will help save their father’s life and, through that, go on an amazing adventure that takes trust and teamwork for them to survive and accomplish their goals.

What did I think?
From the simple description, you might think it was perhaps easy and pretty boring. Though the game only took me around 5 hours to play, I can say for certain it was neither simple, nor boring. One part that threw me off for a moment was the mechanics. This is a controller based game; one side of the controller controls the big brother, the other baby brother. This, for me, was a unique addition to the game. This controller setup can be a challenge to figure out. Once you get used to it, however, it is a major part of the game and helps you feel connected to the characters.

As I said in the beginning, this was not a game I would have picked for myself. The fact that it is a puzzle game would have put it far down on my list. A friend gifted this game to me and I played it for them. Getting that chance to do so made me mentally invest in one of the most beautifully crafted and emotional games I have ever played. You will feel the feels with this game and once you get to the end it is a satisfying finish.

The puzzles can be a challenge because you not only work one brother but both simultaneously to accomplish a lot of things in this game. Figuring out how they both work together sometimes can be a struggle, but not so much so that it becomes frustrating. This is good since I will give up pretty easily if it gets to be ridiculously hard. Usually, if I can’t shoot it or kill it somehow, it is not worth my time. This game, being out of my comfort zone, did a perfect job at keeping my attention and not making me want to give up.

I am gonna say the replay value is probably moderate. There are challenges you can accomplish which is part of why I am going to be playing it again, but also just for pure enjoyment of playing and exploring the world that I was hesitant to explore the first time around is appealing. The fact that is a short game also makes it very approachable when it comes to replay as well.

One last note, this game is BEAUTIFUL. How the creators tell this story visually, how they do dream sequences and just everything. It is a trippy experience in parts and just an amazingly stunning one everywhere else. You get time to take in the sights at various benches throughout the game and I highly suggest that you do just that!

I could gush over this game for a long time, but really you have to play it to really understand what a little treasure it is.

Do I recommend it?
It is a wholehearted yes from me! Yes, I would recommend it. If you get the chance to buy it, please do and take the 5 short hours to play. You can get it on Steam, Xbox One, and PS4 consoles for around $20. I think it is well worth the price.

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