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Two weeks ago, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away. Our coalition government saw fit to spend £10 million of taxpayers’ money on her funeral. This was a woman who divided the country, and whose iron grip is still curled around Britain’s bleeding heart. The rich and powerful turned up to see her off, while poverty-driven protesters quite literally turned their backs on the funeral procession. The BBC refused to play “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” an anti-Thatcher song taken from The Wizard of Oz, after her haters propelled it to number two on the UK music charts. If anyone could suck the fun out of life, it was Thatcher.
A couple of days after she kicked the bucket, I learned that a humble New Zealand pub owner named Les Lisle had passed away. I met Les only once, in 2011, while travelling the globe with a ginormous backpack strapped to my back. It was customary to stop at the Mahinapua Pub, affectionately known as the Poo Pub, on the way to the town of Wanaka. The tour company I was travelling with booked the place out for a slap-up meal followed by a fancy dress party. When we arrived, old Les (who was 85 at the time) got on the bus and laid down the rules of his house in a well-practised and often funny speech. When we ventured inside his pub, we found the ceiling covered with hats; there were over 3000 of them, all tacked to the ceiling. Les told me some were his, and some were donated by the travelers who passed through. He was managing that pub of his before I was even born. I doubt he played many video games – there was a pool table and dart board – but he was an agent of fun, and probably managed to affect more peoples’ lives in a positive light than Thatcher did with her negative rule. They were both born in 1925, and died with days of one another. If anyone deserved a £10 million funeral, it was Les Lisle.
Unfortunately, I barely have £10, so in honour of his youthful spirit in the face of old age, I’m dedicating this month’s Kickstart This! to Les. Let’s see if we can channel some of that positive spirit into funding projects that are fun for all, such as the 2D upward-scrolling platform puzzler Brave Bit, hand drawn sci-fi adventure gameA Small Favor, 8-bit microorganism sim Bitcrobes, and underwater tower defense title Fish vs. Crabs. And just to shake things up, we also have the helpful app GameSnap, and last but not least, PWNED: A Gamers Novel, a romantic comedy adventure set within an MMORPG.
Let the games begin! (more…)
The fact that some major games are not coming to the Wii U has been making headlines recently, although in the case of the poorly reviewed Dead Island: Riptide and Aliens: Colonial Marines, this may prove to be a blessing. However, the lack of third party titles heading to Nintendo’s new console, whether they be amazing or awful, has meant many people are dredging up Nintendo’s past reputation for having poor relations with other developers. The company is clearly aware of this, and is taking steps to ensure their future by aiding indie developers who wish to produce titles for the Wii U eShop.
At the Full Indie Summit in Vancouver last week, Dan Alderman, Nintendo of America’s Manager of Business Development, explained the steps Nintendo is taking to ensure developing for the Wii U is an easier process than the stringent steps companies had to follow for its predecessor. Back in the days of WiiWare, developers were required to have a business office, rather than the bedroom some games are born from. They would also only receive payment if the game managed to sell above a certain target and concept approval was required. Developers were often encouraged to use the Wiimote’s motion controls.
All of this red tape has been thrown out, replaced with an easy questionnaire that studios can fill out if they are interested in attaining a license to develop for the Wii U. There are no other charges in developing for the eShop beyond obtaining a business license. In fact, Nintendo will gift the Unity Pro 4 engine to developers free of charge, something that could be very beneficial to the many Kickstarter projects who budget for the engine in their donation target.
Many critics have already ruled the Wii U out of the next generation race. Yet it seems that rather than worry about the AAA titles not coming to their console, such as EA’s Battlefield 4, Nintendo is fostering relations with the next generation of developers and programmers. This move may manage to spell success for its home console at a grass roots level, while larger developers buckle under the pressure of making games with overblown budgets.
Bashing Nintendo’s new console has quickly become a troll’s favourite pastime. Not a day has gone by in 2013 without a cluster of articles marked with the words DOOM and GLOOM in big bold letters, attracting fanboys from all sides of the fence like moths to a flame, caught in an endless argument of whose favourite manufacturer is better. Then news came that Deep Silver would not be publishing Dead Island: Riptide or Saints Row IV on the Wii U. It all reached a fever pitch during the GDC, when DICE confirmed that Battlefield 4 would not appear on the platform either. You could hear the carving knives being sharpened, with many asking how would Nintendo’s new console survive without major third-party support? Later in the week, Kotaku’s Kirk Hamilton asked Epic co-founder Mark Rein if the Wii U would run their brand spanking new Unreal Engine 4. His response, one of laughter, was hastily clarified on Twitter as Epic sought to smooth their relations not only with Nintendo, but gamers in general, who hounded Rein’s account. Giving Epic the benefit of the doubt, I could not help thinking that we’ve heard these arguments before.
Then I realised we had. (more…)
Today, Ubisoft announced that it’ll distribute Pwnee Studios’ ridiculously hard platformer, Cloudberry Kingdom. The game will be available on the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, and Wii U eShop this Summer.
Less than five months old, the Nintendo Wii U eShop is thriving and it is already home to a variety of interesting titles. In the first of a series of interviews looking at indie game development on the platform, TJ Lutz, Vice President of Pwnee Studios, answered some questions about their upcoming 2D platformer. (more…)
Kickstarter has been receiving a lot of attention in the press this week, mostly due to cult TV show Veronica Mars. Rob Thomas’ 24-hour success story (currently sitting at 175% funded) has been perceived by some as a wake-up call to the film industry, and by others as the end of Kickstarter’s indie innocence. The latter group highlighted the fact that Warner Bros. still owns the rights to the franchise, and that the multi-million dollar company will reap the benefits of the charitable donation of others. Those who have donated will have unprecedented access to information on the film during production, and fans donating over $35 will receive a digital copy of the film. While my own opinion on the positives and negatives of this project fluctuate, there was one detail that seemed very worrying. All of the reward levels come with a disclaimer saying “AVAILABLE TO US AND CANADA (NEW!) BACKERS ONLY.”
Thomas does acknowledge the fact, saying “there are hoops to jump through” in order to include other territories. It could be this is inherent in the dangers of crowdfunding a project where the rights are held by an entity whose aims are not wholly aligned with the spirit of Kickstarter. We have seen this in the past with rewards that required attendance to an event, but even then, people were still allowed to donate, and had the option to travel. For a show that aired globally, this seems like a worrying, xenophobic trend, one that I hope does not translate to other industries.
In light of this, I thought this month I would focus more on smaller indie projects, including classic side-scrolling action-adventure Shovel Knight, euphoric exploration game SoundSelf, first-person survival horror Pulse, retro pixel-art adventure Bik, surfing sim Kahuna Surfer, and last but not least, sci-fi RPG Reflux: The New World. (more…)
In March 2011, we reported that GK Films had acquired the film rights to the Tomb Raider franchise, and that a reboot of the film series was on its way. Now that the reboot of the game has launched, the good people at Crystal Dynamics, who have been developing the Tomb Raider games since 2006, are working closely with uber-producer Graham King’s outfit GK Films on a third cinematic outing for Lara Croft. The film will follow the game’s lead and reboot the series, possibly even using the plot of the new game. This is unlike the two previous films, which used plots that were entirely independent from any game in the franchise. It is perhaps for this reason that they are best described as “watchable.”
The Tomb Raider film reboot joins a slew of celluloid adaptations currently in development, including Assassin’s Creed, Deus Ex, Need For Speed, Hitman (again), Shadow of the Colossus, as well as Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon. But the big question on everyone’s lips is, “Who will play the new Lara Croft?” With the arrival of the game last week, we thought it might be a good time to have a look at ten potential actresses who could take the Tomb Raider baton from Angelina Jolie.
As well as being one of the best animated films of all time, Wreck-It Ralph had a very well planned marketing strategy that built an entire history behind the titular retro arcade game, including this old-school advert. Now, to promote the release of the film on Blu-ray and DVD, Disney has gone one better, creating a fictional version of smash documentary King of Kong for Wreck-It Ralph‘s world.
Entitled Garlan Hulse: Where Potential Lives, the 28-minute mockumentary features the film’s director, Rich Moore, as he leaps back to 1982 to enlighten us about Garlan Hulse’s recordbreaking Fix-It Felix Jr. score. He held the fame-winning title for only six weeks, before it was lost to former best friend, Kent Zborski. Cut to present day, and Moore journeys through California in search of the former gaming wunderkind. It is as equally as funny as the film it is promoting, and deserves half an hour of your day.
Famous games designer (and creator of the modern RPG) Richard Garriott, best known for the Ulima franchise, as well as the ill-fated Tabula Rasa, is returning to the game development fold, and is looking for a little help from fans. His new game, Shroud of the Avatar, was announced on Friday by Garriott’s new studio, Portalarium. Based in Austin, Texas, the developer’s announcement was timed to coincide with the first day of the city’s SXSW Gaming Festival. With Shroud of the Avatar, Garriott is aiming to provide gamers with “the keys to an ultimate role-playing experience.”
“These important tenets include things like a fully interactive virtual world, deep original fiction with ethical parables such that players’ choices are relevant, cultural histories and fully developed alternative languages and text. Also we want our players to have physical game components like cloth maps, fictional manuals and trinkets. These are all things that people came to expect in my earlier works and we plan on bringing them all back to create Shroud of the Avatar.”
In order to fund his new title, Garriott has launched a Kickstarter campaign under his alias, Lord British. In the video, Garriott explains that he feels modern RPGs coddle players too much, and hopes to set them free to do as they wish with Shroud of the Avatar.
As of this writing, the project is almost halfway to its $1 million target, with 29 days still to go. So it would be safe to assume we will be seeing Shroud of the Avatar on the PC very soon.