Indie Game News Roundup: Travel To The Edge Of Minecraft, Make Games SA, A Monument Valley Teaser, And An Existential Mountain Manifests

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 11 July 2014
Category: News Comments View Comments


In our latest update we cover Shovel Knight's controversial release; examine a mountain simulator that is testing the sanity of gamers and games reviewers; watch a cart travel to the end of the world in Minecraft; and learn more about the Make Games SA initiative from Desktop Dungeons' developers.

Indie Game News Roundup: Travel To The Edge Of Minecraft, Make Games SA, A Monument Valley Teaser, And An Existential Mountain Manifests

Humble Update
The Humble web site is once again very busy with bundle offers and store sales. Here's a roundup of what's on offer, starting with the Humble 2K Bundle, the latest big bundle offer. It's running for 10 more days and the offer comprises a number of 2K games, including BioShock, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, and The Darkness II at the US$! level, BioShock 2, Mafia II, and Spec Ops: The Line at the average-payment level (with more games to be announced soon), and XCOM: Enemy Unknown and BioShock Infinite at the US$20 level. However, all but one are only available on Steam, rather than a DRM-free download, and many aren't available for Mac OS, and Linux. (All are available for Windows.) The bundle is good value for Steam/Windows gamers and has already made over US$2.3 million. There are about 10 days to go.

The weekly offer is Humble Weekly Bundle: Gamepedia Presented By Curse. It comprises nine games, including two early access games - Paranautical Activity and Edge Of Space - as well as a closed-beta key to Strife. Most of the games are available for both Steam and as DRM-free downloads and Mac OS and Linux are supported for about half of them.

Humble has also announced the Humble Store DRM-Freedom Sale, in which a rolling selection of DRM-free games are being offered at up to 85% off. Recent offers have included Machinarium, at 80% off/US$1.99 (for the five people who don't already own it...) and Race The Sun for US$2.49 but they change regularly so it's important to check the page every day. The sale runs until Monday 14 July.

Shovel Knight Is Out (For Some People) - And So Is The Free Soundtrack (For Everyone)
Shovel Knight has been released but it's been bittersweet for some gamers. The game is a side-scrolling platform arcade adventure that is an homage to the 8-bit era and NES games and it was initially funded via a Kickstarter campaign last year, although late backers were also able to join the party via a PayPal payment. In the game you play as a shovel wielding knight who has to defeat an evil enchantress and save his lady love, Shield Knight.

YouTube link

Backers were treated to a slightly earlier release late on Wednesday (or early Thursday morning if you were in South Africa), 25 June, which gave some very enthusiastic people enough time to finish the game before the general public gained access on Thursday, causing the game to trend briefly on Twitter.

Unfortunately, even weeks later not everyone has access to the game, which has especially upset some backers who will only get to play it sometime in the future, long after many people who didn't help to support the development from the beginning. Right now what has been released is a Humble and Steam version for Windows worldwide, and the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions for the North American market (the US, Canada, and Mexico). People in the rest of the world, including the EU, Australia, and, I would presume, South Africa, cannot yet redeem their game codes in the Nintendo Store.

Additionally, Mac OS and Linux gamers have also been left out and Yacht Club Games, Shovel Knight's developer, was slow to respond to the many queries about this from affected backers, although it eventually said that as those two platforms were only a stretch goal it's not yet complete and those gamers will have to wait. (There are other stretch goals that are also still to be implemented in future game updates.)

Meanwhile, in happier news, the soundtrack to the game was released a day later on Bandcamp by the game's composer, Jake Kaufman. There are actually two albums available - the 48-track original chiptune soundtrack and an 18-track selection of rearranged tracks by other composers. Both albums also include contributions by Manami Matsumae, who composed the original Mega Man soundtrack in 1987.

Not only are both albums free (although, really, you should toss in a few dollars) but they have been released as CC by-nc-sa, meaning you are welcome (and in this case encouraged) to remix the music for non-commercial purposes as long as you release it under the same licence.

Yacht Club Games: Official Site, Twitch, Twitter

Mountain: An Existential Experience
Mountain (or MTN in the iTunes App Store), by David OReilly, the person who developed the game seen in the recent film She, is a computer program for iOS, Windows, Mac OS, and Linux that may or may not be a game and/or a simulation and/or a multimedia experience and/or a screensaver, depending on who you ask. (The developer likes "ambient procedural mountain game".)

Mountain from David OReilly on Vimeo.

It was released earlier this month and has been giving games reviewers existential crises ever since, including resulting in this beautiful commentary by Cameron Kunzelman for Paste and this reflective essay by Leigh Alexander for Gamasutra.

Some rather rabid early fan reviews, however, painted a different picture:

Others have jumped in on the fun and are contributing to what may very well be a giant art experiment by the developer:

I tossed in US$1 last Friday and have been watching my mountain for the past week but I can't say that I've had any profound experiences though I, too, have witnessed odd things flying into my mountain, some of which have subsequently disappeared when I've reopened the program and at least one of which continues to move, unsettlingly, even while it is half buried in a cliff (it may be a bug). For the most part the mountain rotates, usually clockwise but sometimes not, and the weather cycles remain predictable, though a dark rain cloud rests on the peak far more often than I would like.

The developer's notes do say, however, that there are 50+ hours of gameplay available so perhaps I just haven't watched my mountain for long enough. I tend to switch it off as it's surprisingly mesmerising and distracts me from my work, especially once I start playing tunes on the keyboard. (It does appear that sound is the key to unlocking some of Mountain's mysteries.)

Your mileage may vary but US$1 won't kill you. If this is all one big joke the developer deserves some compensation just for keeping everyone guessing and entertained for so long.

Journey To The Minecraft World Edge
Gamer JL2579 decided to set up a Twitch-based live stream showing a journey on a minecart that is travelling at 20 metres a second from 0/0 in Minecraft to the edge of the world, which is 30 million blocks, or 30 thousand kilometres, away.

[ YouTube link ]

The project has been running for just over 10 days and the cart is just past halfway so there are about nine days to go.

Visitor participation is encouraged, and not just through Twitch's chat system. JL2579 is using the experiment to obtain donations for the charity Child's Play and has been running a competition with various prizes on offer for viewers who are the first to spot special marked piers that he has set up along the track. A subreddit has also been created where followers are posting interesting screenshots and observations of the trip.

If you're interested in behind-the-scenes info on a more technical level, you can read the long project description on the Twitch page, as well as watch the following video:

[ YouTube link ]

The video stream is mesmerising in the same way that Mountain is so dip in over the next week if you have the bandwidth.

Journey To The Minecraft World Edge: Live Stream: Twitch, Reddit, Stats And Info
JL2579: Twitter, YouTube

The Nightmare Cooperative Launches Next Week
The Nightmare Cooperative is a "strategic adventure" game by Lucky Frame, a developer in Edinburgh, Scotland, that is best known for Bad Hotel, a tough but highly entertaining tower-defence puzzle game with procedurally-generated music that is influenced by how you develop your defence mechanisms around the hotel you're trying to save.

[ YouTube link ]

In The Nightmare Cooperative you are invited by your village council to join the cooperative to aid it in raising funds to pay back the interest on loans that the cooperative owes due to having spent too much money building monuments to previous cooperative members. (It sounds like your typical day in political mismanagement, just with more monsters.)

The game is a single-player roguelike puzzle game that involves fighting monsters and earning gold to help the cooperative. You control a party with varying characteristics per member, rather than a single character, and the entire group is moved with one set of controls, which is where the puzzle aspect comes into play as you have to navigate with care to avoid, or tackle, traps and monsters as you pick up health, gold, and potions. Your party members seem to be quite expendable, however, in aid of the greater good and as some die you'll manage to pick up others along the way.

The Nightmare Cooperative will be available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux via Steam on 16 July. iOS and Android versions will be released at a later stage.

The game was originally developed for a game jam and you can play that version for free here to get a feel for what the final game will be like. You can also take a look at the source code on GitHub if the inner mechanics are of interest to you.

The Nightmare Cooperative: Official Site

Monument Valley Will Be Getting New Levels Soon
ustwo, the developer of puzzle game Monument Valley, which is available for iOS and Android, posted a teaser photograph last week showing new levels that are in development.

The game, which was released in April, was highly regarded by critics and many gamers but some fans complained that it was too short, leading to speculation as to whether more levels would be added at a later stage. The developers said in May that this would be the case and it seems that progress has definitely been made.

In related news, the game's audio developer, Stafford Bawler, won a Develop Award for Creative Contribution: Audio earlier this week. He was up against audio producers on games such as Forza Motorsport 5 and Killzone: Mercenary.

According to its web site, the Develop Awards "are the only peer-voted prizes for UK and European games developers which focus purely on creativity, teamwork, and inspiring innovation". This year's competition was the 11th annual event.

Finally, the game is currently on sale in the iTunes App Store as part of a puzzle-games promotion so if you've been on the fence about getting it now is the time to do so.

Desktop Dungeons' Developers Talk Make Games SA At Net Prophet
Danny Day and Marc Luck, two of the developers that make up the three-man team of QCF Design in Cape Town, spoke at the Net Prophet tech conference in Cape Town in May. QCF Design is most famous for developing Desktop Dungeons, a puzzle-based dungeon-crawling roguelike game.

[ YouTube link ]

The developers discussed their game-development history, digital distribution, the indie-game scene, and how they are part of a movement that makes games in South Africa rather than from elsewhere in the world, around which there is now a formal initiative called Make Games SA (MGSA) to encourage the growth of the industry and provide help and support. It's an interesting peek into a South Africa industry that has been outputting some impressive products and garnering major international awards largely under the radar.

[ YouTube link ]

One of Desktop Dungeons' most appealing features is that games can be played in about 10 minutes so it's perfect for people with very tight schedules who might just need to kill time in between meetings, for example.

The game runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux (with iOS and Android pending) and features a cloud-save ability if you create an in-game account. If you're keen to try it before you buy it you can download an early alpha prototype for both Windows and Mac OS.

In related news, Desktop Dungeons is now available on GOG, should that be your purchasing platform of choice. It's already available on Steam, the Humble Store, and directly from the developers.

Tags: #cape_town, #games, #music

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