Modding Classics – Blood Omnicide

One of the drawbacks of focusing on older games, to record playthroughs of older titles is that you have to deal with the inevitable bout of software and hardware incompatibility. Recently, I’ve been bashing my head against the wall trying to get Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain to perform properly, without success until just a day or so ago.

But before then, I had to make plans, and one of them involved an incredibly ambitious mod called Blood Omnicide. Continue reading Modding Classics – Blood Omnicide

Nancy Drew – End of the road?

It finally happened. Earlier this week I reached the end of the line with the Nancy Drew adventure game series, playing and finishing Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness, the last title released in the series so far. Continue reading Nancy Drew – End of the road?

Game Building – Homebrew or Third Party Engines?

Video Game engines are at the core of any video game development. They provide the tools the content creators will need to build the game the audience will enjoy. Engines also come with constraints, limitations that often drag games down or make further entries in a series a harder task.

We all know of the popular engines such as Unreal and Unity, but there are dozens out there we never hear of, as they are homebrewed creations by the developers, built from the ground up to serve the need for a specific game. It’s not unusual for developers to use these private engines once and then switch to a new original engine or adapt an existing one. Continue reading Game Building – Homebrew or Third Party Engines?

The Demo Perspective

When did Demos die on PC? When did it go out of fashion to show your prospective buyers how your game looks, let them play it for themselves before they buy the product? It used to be almost absolute that a game would have a sample releasing before the actual retail product, but nowadays only a handful of games have them and most are indie. More confusing still is how developers and publishers release demos on consoles but not for PC, even if the game is multiplatform. Continue reading The Demo Perspective

NFTS Games – UKIE GameJam 2015 – Team It Starts With a Square Interview

Since last year, while I was part of another site’s team, I came to know of the NFTS Game Development Courses and the students’ amazing titles. Earlier this year I had the opportunity (and the pleasure) of attending the Graduate Showcase and the imagination and creativity on display blew me away. Since then, I’ve kept a close eye on what NFTS and its students are up to, hoping for any chance to talk to them.

During April, UKIE held their annual GameJam and of course, NFTS students joined the fun. As soon as it ended, and the students were back to their usual routines, I quickly got in touch with Tony Evans, the NFTS Games Coordinator and had him pester them on my behalf. I had questions about their experience working on these “Identity Crisis”- themed games and I wanted answers! Continue reading NFTS Games – UKIE GameJam 2015 – Team It Starts With a Square Interview

NFTS Games – UKIE GameJam 2015 – Team Ipseria Interview

Since last year, while I was part of another site’s team, I came to know of the NFTS Game Development Courses and the students’ amazing titles. Earlier this year I had the opportunity (and the pleasure) of attending the Graduate Showcase and the imagination and creativity on display blew me away. Since then, I’ve kept a close eye on what NFTS and its students are up to, hoping for any chance to talk to them.

During April, UKIE held their annual GameJam and of course, NFTS students joined the fun. As soon as it ended, and the students were back to their usual routines, I quickly got in touch with Tony Evans, the NFTS Games Coordinator and had him pester them on my behalf. I had questions about their experience working on these “Identity Crisis”- themed games and I wanted answers! Continue reading NFTS Games – UKIE GameJam 2015 – Team Ipseria Interview

Indie Dublin: One Game a Month and DubLUDO

Last week I published the interview I did with Colm Larkin from Gambrinous. We met at the One Game a Month (aka 1GAM) meetup they hosted at Against the Grain in Dublin, a lovely pub.

The meetup started three years ago and each month has a theme, like many other game jams, but the event is relaxed and casual, the theme only there if you can’t come up with anything else. “If you have an idea for a game, then just do that, the theme is just there to help.” Colm mentioned. He sees 1Gam as an opportunity to meet new talent and catch up with friends. And that was the vibe I go from it all, these were old and new friends, sharing drinks, food and a good laugh over their ideas. There were developers, designers, artists, composers and some writers.

For this jam the theme was depth, but the games were an eclectic sort, reflecting the creative freedom One Game a Month is all about. One of them was a procedural music game. In another you controlled a quicksilver shaft across a road, avoiding giant spheres and other obstacles and another involved digging and shaping a landscape to merge spheres together. There was even a point & click adventure game, developed with a new set of tools for Unity that allow drag & drop game development.

But while other game jams focus on the competition and a winner, One Game a Month, as I previously mentioned, is more about the community. The devs there were just as interested in showing their game to the attendants as they were of sharing a good pint, a nice story and a good joke with everyone else. It was a terrific and relaxed environment and one that I feel is great for new developers. There isn’t any pressure to deliver, just enjoy your time there.

Sons of Sol looks cool already!
Sons of Sol looks cool already!

Last Thursday I went to another Dublin indie event at Colm’s suggestion, DubLUDO. Compared to 1Gam, Colm described this as a more official meet, for more professional indie developers. And if the quality of the products on show is anything to go by, he was spot on.

Owen Harris started DubLUDO two years ago with the goal of creating a space dedicated to quality. Not for marketing and sale, but for indie devs to show what they were working on and could receive honest feedback on how their game played. He told me it came to him after spending years going to evens and only hearing chats about marketing and sales, but none on polishing a game until it worked.

As it is now, DubLUDO is a more casual event where the different developers can meet and catch up and work with each other, but Owen aims for it to become that collaborative quality-focused space he envisioned.

As I arrived at the event in the Odessa Club, Owen took the mic for a speech and revealed the meaning behind the differently coloured tags everyone wore (and which confused me on arrival). Whoever had a blue tag was someone offering their services to indie developers, be it coding, art, music, etc. And those with green tags were looking for help. It might seem silly to you but I felt it was a big step in the direction of Owen’s ambition for the event. The moment he put the mic down, I saw a group of people with green and blue tags huddle together and exchange business cards and speak of their different projects. It worked, it got people to talk and hopefully collaborate on building great games and I tip my hat to Owen and co-organiser, wife and Larian Studios writer Char for the brilliant idea.

As for the games, the ones I tried hooked me instantly. Sons of Sol: Crow’s Nest is an interesting SHMUP. Your ship is part of a squad protecting a vessel through an asteroid belt. You need to destroy the giant incoming space rocks and fight off enemy fighters. Sounds straightforward so far but what makes it unique for me is that there are proper Newtonian physics at work. Thrust will generate momentum in whatever direction you’re facing, and if you want to move in the opposite direction, you’ll first have to come to a stop by using your thruster in the opposite direction and fight the current directional speed. It makes maneuvering in the asteroid field extremely challenging but also quite rewarding when you pull it off. The game is on pre-Alpha, but developer Kevin Murphy—a dude with a cool name—plans to hit kickstarter next year once he’s progressed enough. He’s currently on the lookout for a pixel artist, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll get you together!

F-Drum is pretty awesome!
F-Drum is pretty awesome!

Ballistic started out as “The Paddle Game,” before Andrew Carass decided to give it a proper name. I only had a few minutes to play it but it struck me as a wonderful party game. Each player takes control of a coloured paddle in a multicoloured-walled cage. There are light balls bouncing around the room, and you need to intercept them with your paddle to change their colour and that of the walls they hit. But with the balls coming from multiple angles, you need to turn your paddle to face them or they destroy you, forcing you to respawn and waste time and possibly lose the walls you had already claimed. It’s fast-paced, engaging and extremely fun! The game is Andrew’s final project for university and he has plans on taking it further, hoping Steam or Xbox Live and PSN.

The Umbrella Game is a project by Stephen Larkin and Peter Cantwell, two of Owen’s students. It’s an umbrella-flying simulator. As the name implies you control an umbrella and you float, glide and pivot to move through the environment. What I played was a proof of concept demo, but the guys assured me they had a lot more planned. And to keep with the feedback and quality focus of DubLUDO, they grilled me for honest feedback on what worked and what didn’t and I obliged.

F-Drum Masta is Esteban Moreno’s graduation project. It’s a visually simple game but it’s extremely fun and complex. It’s a rhythm game, like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, but instead of playing on a guitar or similar instrument, you press button on a small number-pad-like controller. Each button has a color and it matches one on screen. As the notes scroll towards a black & white bar on the edge of the screen you need to press the buttons on time to keep the music going. It sounds simple but with 9 possible buttons to press, it takes precision and coordination, and I don’t have much of that to be honest. Still, I managed to clear the intro level and Esteban congratulated me for being the only one to finish it that evening. Then again, I only had one pint of Guinness in me while the rest had about triple that amount by the time I arrived, so maybe being sober is the way to go.

As I’ll be living in Dublin now, I think I’ll go to more of these events and see what new stuff the Irish indie community comes up with and to keep an eye out on the progress on some of these titles I’ve seen.

I’d like to thank Colm Larkin once more for inviting me to both events!

Phoenix Online Studios – Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

And I’m back! Holidays enjoyed, food devoured, post-bing-detox done! Now let’s start up a year with a nice little Attic Diving, where I take a plunge into other people’s Mental Attics to find out nice stuff about their past, current and future projects. To start the year we have an interview with Phoenix Online Studios, developers of the hit episodic game Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, which earned top marks on The Mental Attic’s Scoring System! You can read my review here.

I want to thank the amazing Katie Hallahan, Head of Phoenix Online PR and Game Designer, for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer this mammoth list of questions, which will hopefully not be the last list I send her, though I have promised and committed to keeping the interviews shorter from now on!

Warning – Spoiler Alert: The last two questions (19 & 20) contain spoilers, so if you haven’t played the game, please skip them!! Continue reading Phoenix Online Studios – Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

Thomas Busse, Order of Dagon – H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon

dagon_logo_transparentH.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon is an in-development Point & Click adventure game by Order of Dagon Publishing, led by Thomas Busse, inspired by the many works of the Cthulhu Mythos, and taking place in one of the most famous locations in the Mythos, Innsmouth, home to the Esoteric Order of Dagon and featuring a very famous character from Lovecraft’s Work, Dr. Herbert West, Reanimator.

Recently, Thomas took some time off his very busy schedule to answer some questions for The Mental Attic.

For more information on H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon visit the Order Of Dagon website and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and Order of Dagon? (I, Kevin, mistook the name of the game, so tremendous way to start off, right?

First of all, the name of the game is H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon, unfortunately I confused many people by using the domain, so now everyone thinks Order of Dagon is the name of the game. So, the first thing I can reveal about myself is that marketing is not my strong suit 🙂

Development of the game initially started in 2009 as a university project, it was my Bachelor thesis and I worked on it together with two others. Back then, we created a prototype of the first chapter of the story, and the plan was to continue working on it after we finished university. Life came in between these plans however; I moved from Germany to the UK, the others also got fulltime jobs in different parts of Germany. On top of that, I started working for a game publisher, and there it was not allowed to work on private game projects because that was seen as a conflict of interests, and so the game was put on ice for quite a while. I always wanted to continue working on it, but it wasn’t until early 2013 that I found the time and motivation again. I wasn’t too pleased with the old prototype anymore, so I started again from scratch.

Story wise, I have mixed a number of Lovecraft stories (mainly Dagon, Shadow over Innsmouth and Herbert West – Reanimator) and created my own storyline out of this.

The story is set in 1927 in the New England coastal town Innsmouth. The town is secretly controlled by Doctor Herbert West and the Esoteric Order of Dagon; West’s plan is to evoke the old god Dagon and, with his help, take over the world. The player controls two different main characters that end up in Innsmouth for different reasons and the task it to stop West and the Order of Dagon.

2. Previous Cthulhu videogames have been mostly Action Adventure, what made you choose the Point & Click Adventure genre?

There have already been Point & Click adventures in the past, e.g. Prisoner of Ice and Shadow of the Cometh. The reason for me was that I’m an adventure gamer for nearly 30 years now, it’s the genre I love most and so it was natural to me to choose it for my own game. Also, I think it’s still the best genre to transport story, characters and atmosphere, which is what Lovecraft is all about for me. Running around with a shotgun and hunting tentacled monsters doesn’t really do Lovecraft justice 🙂

I hope to be able to recreate the horror in a different, more subtle way, without reverting to simple “kill everything you see” mechanics. There might be a bit of blood though, after all we are dealing with Herbert West!

Hopefully it won't be long before we can click on that!
Hopefully it won’t be long before we can click on that!

3. Will the game feature 3D environments or models?

Sort of, while the game technically is pure 2d, all the backgrounds and characters are built in 3d, but then prerendered. Low-poly real-time 3D is unfortunately too work-and-time intensive for me at this time; if I’d go that route, you could expect the game in 2025 at the earliest 🙂

4. Aside from Lovecraft and other Mythos writers, what games, books, films, etc. inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon, both in storytelling and gameplay?

Gameplay wise Broken Sword comes to mind, the way it handles 2 playable characters will be similar in H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (it’s mostly linear based on the story, you can’t switch between characters manually most of the time), and I use the same simple yet effective user interface. Apart from that, I guess everything around me influences me a bit, for the part of the game that plays in the Innsmouth Hospital for the Criminally Insane for example, I found the second season of American Horror Story quite inspiring, and I like the atmosphere in outdoor scenes of Silent Hill, so Innsmouth might go a bit in that direction.

5. The story is set in the town of Innsmouth, which has been the setting for previous Cthulhu mythos games, such as Dark Corners of the Earth. What do you think is the appeal of the town and its residents for Mythos Storytellers such as yourself?

The town has quite a history and a colourful array of characters that can be used, and the fact that it’s located by the sea opens up a lot of possible story twists. I like the idea that it was once a rich, prosperous town but has now transformed into a bleak, sad place but the old heydays are still visible below the surface. Its connection to the Deep Ones, the Order of Dagon, the residents in their various degrees of transformation; all that is a great source of stories to draw from.

The Innsmouth Hospital for the Criminally Insane...makes Gotham's Arkham look warm and fuzzy.
The Innsmouth Hospital for the Criminally Insane…makes Gotham’s Arkham look warm and fuzzy.

6. The Town of Innsmouth isn’t the friendliest of places; will there be moments of danger, possibly death, for the player? If so, have you thought of how you’ll implement them?

Yes, while fighting the Order of Dagon the player will face dangerous situations, and death is always an option 🙂

However, I intend to use it in a non-frustrating way people aren’t fond of having to replay hours of gameplay because they died in the game and forgot to save, so the game will take care of that.

7. Sanity, and madness, is one of the recurring themes of the Mythos and its adaptations, will H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon manage the character’s Sanity?

Yes, I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but one of the two main characters will be directly affected by what’s lurking in the darkness, and this will make him doubt reality.

Poor guy...I bet he's hoping she doesn't have the key!
Poor guy…I bet he’s hoping she doesn’t have the key!

8. You have already revealed Dr. Herbert West as the main villain, are there any other characters, godly or otherwise, we might expect to see in the game?

Yes, Dr. West as well as the Esoteric Order of Dagon are part of the game, as well as a few residents of Innsmouth, for example Zadok Allen. All in all there will be around 15 characters featured in the game.

And there is of course something lurking out there, below the sea, in the shadows …

9. Will we see some of the good Doctor’s reanimating?

You’ll find out once you start roaming through the halls of the Innsmouth Hospital for the Criminally Insane 🙂

Dr. Herbert West - Reanimator!
Dr. Herbert West – Reanimator!

10. How far along are you on H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon, development wise?

The script (story, scenes, puzzles) is more or less finished. I say more or less, because I always make changes here and there, often because things that looked very good on paper don’t turn out to be that much fun when implemented in the game, so I always make adjustments here.

Music and sound are missing completely as of yet, unfortunately that is an area in which I have no talent and need to rely on someone else’s help.

Overall, I would say that I’m about 10-15% done.

No one likes a rat!
No one likes a rat!

11. You mention, on your site, you will soon start your Kickstarter campaign; How soon can we expect it to launch?

I hope to launch the campaign mid to end of January 2014.

12. You have recently participated in the AdventureX event, can you tell us about your experience there? Are there any other events in the near future where we might have a look at Order of Dagon?

Yes, this was the first time that I’ve shown an early prototype to the public, which was quite a bit terrifying in the beginning, but it turned out to be a nice experience. Reception so far has been quite good considering that the game is still in a very early stage of development with many aspects like sound and nearly all animations still missing.

I haven’t planned any other events yet, but should something similar to AdventureX come up again I’d be in for sure, after all there is no better way to get in touch with people who are interested in the game.

Creepy Nurse or Nice Nurse? We'll have to wait to find out...though I'm leaning towards Creepy!
Creepy Nurse or Nice Nurse? We’ll have to wait to find out…though I’m leaning towards Creepy!

13. On the technical side of things, could you walk us through the tools you are using for development?

I’m using the Wintermute Engine, an open source engine specialised for the creation of adventures. It’s a very powerful, flexible and robust engine that was used in quite a number of commercial titles already. Recent additions allow the games to not only run under Windows, but also on Macs, iOs, and lately even under Linux and Android. Since last year, ScummVM is also working on a port for WME, which is part of the stable releases now, so in theory Wintermute games now run on all platforms that ScummVM is available for.

For graphics, I’m currently using Blender, and also started looking into Vue (for outdoor scenes). The 3D modeller that will later come on board is using 3ss Max. For 2D, I’m using Photoshop; and AfterEffects for the planned video sequences.

14. To help put the word out there; What sort of skill sets are you looking for in collaborators/employees?

At the moment, I’m working alone. I already have a potential team in place, depending on whether or not the Kickstarter campaign will be successful I will hire three collaborators (a composer, a 3d modeller and a graphic designer) to help out on a freelance base, and later on a writer who will help me translate the dialogues into proper English based on my own translation (I’m developing the game in German).

So, at the moment I’m not looking for further people, should that change however, I will announce it on my website, Facebook and Twitter 🙂

The Innsmouth Look...wouldn't want to meet this guys in a dark alley!
The Innsmouth Look…wouldn’t want to meet this guys in a dark alley!

I want to thank Thomas for taking time to answer these questions for The Mental Attic, giving you the chance to find out more about the fantastic game he’s making. Again, be sure to visit their site and follow them on Twitter and Facebook, and keep your eyes open for his Kickstarter. When it happens, I’ll be sure to let you all know so you can back H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon just as I will.