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BitSummit 6 – Run Down Hoe Down

Hoe Down, y’all. Play that funky music.

Went to BitSummit Volume 6 in Kyoto over the weekend. Played some great indie games, reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones. A good time was had by all. 

Here are some thoughts on what I saw:

Trends:

  1. The Switch: The Switch is the trend. Period. A lot of the showcased games were 2015-2017 releases sporting shiny new Switch ports. I think that the overall quality of the games on display can be traced to a large number of them not being new, but rather having recently released optimized versions to the hot new console.

    One developer I talked to put it like this: “It’s great for indie games because so many of them are perfect for playing in short portable bursts. Not every game shines when you have to sit in front of a PC to play it on Steam.” This is true, and I applaud Nintendo for making it easier for indie games to be released.

  2. The Haves and Have-Nots: However, there was a feeling of disparity at BitSummit this year. The developers with the Switch ports were making bank. More than one time I heard variations of “finally we’re making money on this.” And that’s great, but there were a ton of devs that were a bit disappointed that they haven’t been able to manage Nintendo’s licensing system. Games just as worthy as any other are being pushed aside because it’s hard to deal with shifting requirements and paperwork in a language you don’t know well. I feel a great deal of sympathy for the devs struggling with this. I hope that indie games are enough of a boon to Nintendo that they can find a way to be more inclusive.

  3. The Middlemen: The solution seems to be in part to find a publisher with an “in” in Japan. Pikii, Dangen, and Devolver among others had large booths of fresh Switch ports. I have no idea about the business end of things, like how much of a cut a publisher takes, and I’m sympathetic to devs that want to retain more control over their product, but middleman production companies look like the future. I could be totally full of it on this, feel free to hit me up on Twitter if I kneed some knowledge.
  1. Other than That:
    We are still banging on with the 2D pixel platformers. Homages to the 16-bit era are still the bread-and-butter of indie gaming. I await the PS1 nostalgia wave so we can get our hand painted background and janky 3D tank controls on.

    Very international crowd this time. Felt like more European and South American devs made the trek this year than last. The indie scene is all over the world.

    Much less VR this year. Is VR dying? Sources say “yes, it is a nonsense gimmick.” Sources are “my butt”, but I truly wonder about the viability of that platform in the future. Kits aren’t really becoming any less of a luxury item, and the Switch might take over as the future thing for the next couple years at least.

Games:

I didn’t have a chance to play everything, but here’s what I got hands-on with along with some thoughts:

What exactly is that under the water?

Above – You explore a world of water and islands in your seaplane looking for materials and battling sea monsters. Still in beta, but it’s already fairly polished. Could be *really* good upon final release. I’ll keep an eye out.

Agartha – Neat little 2D platform shooter with destructible environments. Fire gun turns water to steam. Bullets and explosions can destroy earth. Go grab it from that link. It’s fun.

Black Bird – Slick 2D shooter with a cool “evil bird beast destroys medieval town” aesthetic. This was fun to play. Just the kind of shooter where you can’t help but cackle maniacally as your destroy all the things. Won a bunch of BitSummit awards, and deservedly so. 

Live your MAGA life

Boss Golf – A golf course sim. Build a golf course and play it. I asked the dev if they had a “Donald Trump” option and he was all like “He’s already in the game.” Zoomed in on one of the players and sure enough there was little pixel Tonald Dumph playing golf. Priorities.

Weapons are sexy

Boyfriend Dungeon – You are a person who only dates weapons. The weapons are also hot people. Part dating sim. Part Diablo. All Awesome.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon – Me: So, this is just Castlevania III with modern updates? Dev: *shuffles feet nervously* Me: Dude, don’t act embarrassed. I’ve wanted this game for 20 years.

ClusterPuck99 – Elegant, simply executed hockey game for multiplayer. It’s on Switch now! Really fun party game to look for if you have a Switch (or any system with multiple controllers).

The Dev shares my Birthday!

Eatvolve – Still early in development, but this promises to be a fun platformer with the mechanic that when you eat another creature you can some of its abilities. Frogs = jump. Bats = wings. Looking forward to a full version.  

Fight Crab – A game where crabs battle in gladiatorial combat. Epic. From the creators of Ace of Seafood. Which is also epic. Didn’t get enough time on this to fully rate it, but it was epic.

Brave Earth: Prologue – A birds knocking you into pits simulator with no checkpoints from the I Wanna Be the Guy guy.

Kero Blaster – The best game about a Frog who does business and that business is shooting things. You literally have to shoot your work because there is an evil work creating machine. Now on Switch!

I don’t know what is going on, but I love it.

Knuckle Sandwich – This. This game. I don’t know what was going on here, but I love. RPG style in the vein of Earthbound. Weird ass WarioWare mini games. I want more of this. I could’ve played this for a long time if my friends weren’t so eager to get in on the Fight Crab game.

Kwaidan (?) – As my partner in crime intuited, PS1 nostalgia could be the next big thing. Didn’t play much of this cause my Japanese is weak sauce, but a trend to watch.

Necrosphere – Two button (left/right) Metroidvania. Very cool and intuitive. I want to spend some more time with this.

Parade! – Cute and funky rhythm game for Android and iOS. Dance with a bunch of cute animals until you get abducted by aliens. I dig it.

Phogs! – Still in development, but this was a fun, cute, and good looking game where you solve puzzles as a two headed dog. Looking forward to getting my hands on a full version of this.

Pixel Game Maker MV – A 2D platformer creator from the RPG Maker folks. Potentially a really big deal if it takes off like RPG Maker did. Keep an eye out for a community that forms around this game once it drops in the Summer. I predict there will be some gems made for this if one is willing to dig.

PixelJunk Eden Obscura – Not officially at BitSummit, but Q-Games hosted a launch party, so I’ll include it. It’s an odd little experimental game for Android. I’m not really sure what to make of it. It involves elephant DJs who require pollen from trippy plants for like, magic or something. Cool music and visuals from Baiyon.

Psyvariar Delta – Bullet hell shooter. Ain’t my jam, but if you like the bullets and the hells, check it out.

Witch Girl Fight!

Remilore – Upcoming Diablo clone with an anime witch girl reskin. Wacky weapons including a giant skewer of ddeokbokki. Super fun with two players.  

Rising Hell – 2D vertical beat em up where you get a magic punch glove and proceed to punch your way out of hell. This was one of my favorites at BitSummit. Like Black Bird it required some skill, but once I got going I felt like a blood soaked bad-ass.

Runner 3 – The third in the Bit.Trip Runner games. Stylish one button run jump platformer. Coming to Switch!

8-Bit Love

Save Me Mr. Tako – Game Boy platformer homage from Nicalis that is finally coming out. I’ve seen this a few times before. It’s cute and also Game Boy so I’m on board.

She Remembered Caterpillars – Cute / creepy puzzle games. Didn’t spend much time with this but the folks at the booth were really nice.

Shu – A nice looking 2.5D platformer from 2016. I pretty much like any game where you are a bird or a bird person, so this is right up my alley. Now on Switch!

Slime-san – Super Meat Boy style wall jump platformer. Super difficult, but one of my favorite games from a year ago. Now on Switch!

Super Aban Hawkins and the 1001 Spikes EX – Port of the multiplayer ultra difficult platformer by Nicalis. Really hard, but fun with a friend. Now on Switch!

Chaos!

Super Slime Arena – Smash Bros. style 2D battler where you are all slimes. Gimmicks are 1) can be used with any controller (I used a Dreamcast Fishing Rod), and 2) can be played with as many players as you have open USB slots (up to 30 or so, I think). Good times.

Super Sportmatchen – It’s like those terrible old NES Track and Field games, but actually good! Another style of game I’ve been wanting to see get a modern update for a while. Super fun party game. Now on Switch!

Tarotica Voo Doo – Originally planned for the MSX. Homeboy programmed this in BASIC and Machine Code cause he is OLD SCHOOL. Was showing off how changes in the Machine Code affected the game. I love when these old indie projects show up. Indie ain’t new.

Three Stars of the Match

Note: I’m disqualifying the games that were previously released and are now just getting a coat of polish. No offense to those, but I wanted to showcase some new stuff.

  • Knuckle Sandwich – I want more of this.
  • Boyfriend Dungeon – obviously gets a star.  For obvious sexy reasons.
  • That Game Where You Controlled a Cardboard Box to Move a Naked Guy Who Had to Get Home Without Being Spotted Metal Gear Style – I have no idea what it was called, but it gets a star.
The Labo is awesome!

 

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Blog (Pre-Medium)

BitSummit 2017 – Best or Bestest?

Holy crap it’s been a hell of a week. Work’s been blowing up, it looks like North Korea wants to blow up the world like just a little bit more now, and oh yeah, and BitSummit happened! The Burpy Crew (TM?) just got back from Kyoto, and boy are our thumbs tired! Hahaha! I kid, I kid. That’s just arthritis. #old

 

Parappa is fricking hard with this mess.
Yes, that controller actually works.

 

Though this year’s event was held in the smaller first floor space at Kyoto’s massive Miyako Messe, it was packed to the gills with an almost unfathomable amount of electronic resplendence that, in a different time, would have been wrapped in gold, silk, and maybe myrrh, and presented to the richest merchants and royalty visiting from the lands around.

But, no one gives a shit about royalty anymore and the richest merchants now have cocaine, so we get all the goodness to ourselves. And there was a lot of it. Too much to cover in just two days. The bar was set really high this year, in fact I can’t remember any title that I didn’t think was quality.

Here’s what I liked the best.

 

Galak-Z Cosplay. On point.

 

GALAK-Z – Super polished transformation shooter gets a suitable VR finish. In VR, you act as the captain on a stage. Currently the stage is still being implemented but having menus being ever present, but just off to the side seems way way more streamlined to me. It’s kinda like how the Enterprise stage was set up so that the captain could always turn to a certain set direction to get a certain type of information. I’m not sure if this is exactly the direction they’re going to go with this, but I’m excited to see what comes out.

Figment – This gorgeous puzzle game reminds me of Toe Jam & Earl, but if Toe Jam & Earl was actually a good game and had a great art style. You’re this Tingle-looking dude and you wander around putting things in things to make the most fantastical contraptions YOU’VE EVER SEEN IN YOUR LIFE do your bidding in the most abstract puzzle-adventury way. Magical.

 

Line Wobbler – Two player 1-D fun!

 

Line Wobbler – Billed as the 1-D RPG, this installation piece is actually two copies of the same game. You’re a green dot, and you have to take out all of the red and pink dots to win. Wobble the stick to produce a deadly yellow attack! It’s surprisingly fun for a string of multicoloured lights. I got into it. There are about 10 levels but I’d like to see a bit of an extension…maybe to 1.5D?

 

 

Paper Garden – If anyone knows how to do VR, it’s Vitei Backroom. Holy crap they’re amazing. They’re back this year with a new beautiful prototype based on throwing magical paper planes to hit special targets hidden through a magical garden. Basically, the game feels like throwing darts that you have a lot more control over. Many VR games feel restricted because… well.. it’s really hard to traverse terrain when you’re tired to a bunch of wires that are tied to your console and probably a TV that you don’t want to see on the ground. VB has solved the VR translation movement problem by setting teleport points around the world that you can access by throwing planes to them in a way that still feels immersive. If I were to have one complaint it would be that I kept punching myself in the balls trying to grab the planes floating around me. That might be conceived as a benefit to future generations though.

 

I.F.O. by Total Battery

 

I.F.O. – Burpy Fresh loves some Total Battery. We always love some Total Battery. We always will love some Total Battery

Pawarumi – A shooter that is so fresh, so clean. It’s amazing to look at. I got killed super quick, but I suck at these types of games.

And of course, all of these favourites from previous BitSummits and BICFests etc, Arena Gods, Read Only Memories: 2064 (Now in Japanese!), and Megacopter: Blades of the Goddess.

Finally, I want to say Nidhogg 2, which everyone said was there but for some reason I couldn’t find. I looked for TWO DAYS for that thing, so if it was there, I’m a fucking idiot. If not, I got punked by like 10 people.

Gah. So many good games. So much inspiration to make an actual good game. Speaking of, that’s what I’m going to do now. Until next year BitSummit!

 

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Blog (Pre-Medium)

BitSummit 2017 – Arcane Musings

Did up  BitSummit 2016 with my boy Doug last weekend. Had a good time talking to Indie Game folks and playing their games. He’ll post more picture as he is good at that. My picture are all blurry and make BitSummit look like more of a drugged up rave than it was.

Here are some brief thoughts on the trends I notices and some quick and dirty reviews of games I got hands-on with:

Trends

-Quite a few two-stick arena shooters. And 4-player arena combat games.

-The Metroidvania trend seems to be waning though their were some good ones.

-A few re-skins rather than re-makes of old 1980s games. I’m a bit wary of this level of nostalgia. Looking back is good. Reproducing the past? Maybe not so much.

-Switch was the new hotness. We’ll see if Nintendo actually works to make it a good indie platform. History says: “probably not.”

-I dug the experimental stuff, though there wasn’t a ton of it at BitSummit. I saw a 1D game, a alien abduction game with the Oculus Rift, and a Chip-Tunes theremin. I need to get to a games-as-art convention at some point because this is the future right here.

-Lack of wizard based games.

-No real star of the show this year. No single game that everyone was buzzing about, but a high level of polish across the board.

Individual Game Thoughts  (Note that these are games I actually played, and most were in preliminary stages so take anything good or bad I say with a grain of salt.)

Agartha – Particle physics based plat-former. Very early in development, but potentially the best game at BitSummit. You can play as a wizard.

Arena Gods – Four player one-hit kill top down mayhem. Like Nidhogg or Bushido Blade, this is a top notch party game.

Blaster Master Zero – Re-make bordering on re-skin of original Blaster Master. On my list for a play-through if it gets to Steam or I get a Switch. See my comment above regarding re-skins.

Brave Earth – Castlevania (not Metroidvania) clone. Birds with push you into pits.

GĂ–RSD – Four player arena Pac-Man? It’s for the Switch!

Iconoclasts – Best of the BitSummit Metroidvanias. Very polished with a very tactile mechanic-with-a-wrench mechanic. I’m eager to play more when it’s released.

Killer Queen – Weird hybrid of Joust and strategy. I was mostly in it for the Joust.

Kill the Dragon – Nuclear Throne with a fantasy skin. You can be a wizard in it.

Luna & Jhona – Mobile game where you dig for things.

Megacopter: Blades of the Goddess – An evil copter that is the physical incarnation of a wrathful Aztec god? Yes. Sweet pixel art? Yes. Blood and explosions? Yes. So much yes.

MetaMorph – Diablo with RTS mechanics. Really polished. I need to spend more time with it to get a better opinion. Keep an eye on this. You can be a rabbit samurai in it.

Missileman – Fun mobile shooter where you are a man with a missile. Sadly, Missile Assault Man isn’t part of this game.

Mr. Shifty – Great Hotline Miami style game with teleportation mechanics. It’s ‘Nightcrawler: the Game’ which I’m totally down to spend more time with.

Nemo & DO – Cool little top top-down tank game. Works as a one-stick two-tank puzzle in single player and a straight combat game multi-player.

Pon Pon Pirates – Bubble Bobble clone by the makers of Pirate Pop Plus. I love Bubble Bobble and Pirate Pop Plus so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Wonderboy –  Stunning re-skin of Wonderboy III. Fun, but see my comment above regarding re-skins.