Square pusher: former Spore dev gives bare minimum with iPhone’s MinMe


Created as part of last month’s Experimental Gameplay Project (that would also spawn Adam Saltsman’s Canabalt), Chaim Gingold’s MinMe [App Store] adheres strictly to the Project’s “bare minimum” theme: the user has to “minimize the board,” has a bare minimum of graphics, was made in 1.5 days, and costs the App Store’s bare minimum of zero dollars.

The kicker: Gingold (best known as the original prototype developer of what would become Spore‘s Creature Creator) only had time enough to include a bare minimum 10 levels, and so it ends precisely at the point where it’s just getting good.

Consider this an open plea, then, for an expansion of at least another, say, like, 60 levels. Download the game via iTunes here.

Why I’m going to Indiecade (and you probably should, too): Pt. 2


Continuing on from my last post on why I’ve decided to spend October 1st through 4th at Indiecade, and expect you should as well, conference organizers have revealed more of what to expect from the four days, including highlights of its keynote from none less than former Maxis head Will Wright.

Wright, you’ll remember, recently departed the company to head his long-time incubator side-project the Stupid Fun Club, and — given Day 2’s theme of “art and innovation” — Wright will be focusing on what he’s cooking up in the Fun Club.

Apart from Wright, day two will also see talks from Avaloop, the indie virtual world company behind their “self-expression, communication, environmental awareness” focused Papermint, Arts Game Innovation Lab director Tracy Fullerton on working with video artist Bill Viola on The Night Journey, an iPhone panel by the RadioFlare, Ruben and Lullaby, and Eliss teams, and Uncharted designer Richard Lemarchand talking with Giant Sparrow designer Ian Dallas, creator of void-painting game The Unfinished Swan.


Indiecade has also sent Offworld more information on the Day One conversation between Katamari Damacy‘s Keita Takahashi, Flower‘s Jenova Chen and thatgamecompany’s Robin Hunicke, who have clarified that their talk will be a brainstorming session on “Fresh Ideas for First and Third-Person Shooters”. Takahashi will discuss his theoretical FPS/TPS “where characters grow as they succeed,” Chen will “brainstorm ways to make an FPS/TPS where the players have to be nice to each other,” and Hunicke will talk about her own game where “shooting created things instead of destroying them.”

The full conference schedule has been posted to the Indiecade site, which will also see Sunday sessions themed around “opportunities for aspiring young gamers, including a special workshop on colleges and universities that offer degrees in gaming, and a special pitch session where young designers can get feedback on their game ideas, as well as a series of sessions dedicated to adults interested in entering the game industry. Sunday’s program will include a premiere of a soon-to-be-published indie game.”

I’ll do a final post wrapping up all the games to be exhibited at Indiecade in the very near future, and might have more surprises in store, as well.

Touch me I’m slick: Daniel Johnston rolls toward Laurie in Hi How Are You


There’s a certain segment of the population that’ll will need no introduction to Daniel Johnston — whether they came to him via the recently released Devil And… documentary, or (more likely) through the Kurt Cobain-sported T-shirt that broke Johnston further into the public consciousness, or — for the true-blood Texans — simply the local lore and hometown pride Austin still holds for its long-troubled and simple-souled singer/songwriter.

And if you don’t need that introduction1, then you probably will have by now had the same reaction I had several months back when I heard whisperings that Peter ‘Dr. Fun Fun’ Franco and Steve ‘Smashing Studios’ Broumley — former art and technical director, respectively, at the now-defunct Austin branch of Midway — were working on a game featuring Johnston’s art and music: I’ve more or less been waiting for this day since the early 90s.

Hi How Are You [App Store] isn’t the game I imagined it would be. There’s no Punching Joe boxing, there’s no tilt-to-Walk-the-Cow, there isn’t a single speeding motorcycle to be found. Instead, the game lands somewhere between a Mario 64 challenge level and Q-bert, where you tilt one of four characters across free-floating platforms to flip all floor tiles green.

Meanwhile, you’ll be working against the clock (to gain higher level trophies and achievements), dodging any number of Johnston’s demons (like his floating devil’s eyeballs) and platforming your way through the alternately whimsically-innocent and hellishly-dark landscapes trying to rescue Laurie, the real-life love and muse of Johnston’s early adulthood.

On reflection, these abstractions are probably for the best: what Smashing/Fun have given us is Johnston’s lore injected into a game, rather than basing a game directly on one of his icons. It’s probably a more tactful solution, and one that starts to work as a (very light) metaphor for his own life-long struggles.


Best of all, what it does is serve as an accessible entry point to discovering his art: Johnston’s music has been licensed for use throughout the game, and each earned achievement unlocks a scale- and pan-able version of one of his illustration from throughout the years.

While it won’t quite reach (and was obviously never meant to) the cultural-rocking level of the playable documentary that is The Beatles: Rock Band, it’s exactly the kind of cross-media crossovers we need more of, is as loving a tribute to an artist as I’ve seen from a game, and if it helps introduce just one more person to Daniel, couldn’t rightfully be called anything but a success.

Hi How Are You [App Store link, Dr. Fun Fun/Smashing Studios]

1. ^ [If you do, start with Johnston's Wikipedia entry, move on to his homepage, track down the aforementioned documentary sooner than later, and then move on to his Continued Story/Hi, How Are You and Yip/Jump Music CDs, or ease yourself in with the Beck, Tom Waits, Death Cab, TV on the Radio, etc. etc. covers on Discovered Covered -- use Yip Eye Tunes if you just want the MP3s.]

TGS: More satellite-view shooting in Square Enix’s 0 day Attack on Earth

I don’t think I can precis 0 day Attack on Earth any more succinctly than I did in its April debut — where I called it a mashup of the metropolitan invasions of Sandlot’s brilliant Earth Defense Force and the overhead-mapped view of PlayStation Network favorite The Last Guy — and its new co-op mode and Google-Earth-ish extension of real-world locales make this one of my most anticipated XBLA shooters.

TGS: Square Enix prepare Xbox Live Arcade for Death By Cube

Originally unveiled in April as ‘Project: Cube’, Square Enix has brought this updated trailer to the Tokyo Game Show and given it its new official title, Death By Cube. While it’s almost as entirely opaque as the original, it adds a bit more mechanical depth to the original with new clean-sweeping energy swords and dash moves, but (most depressingly) appears to have lost the bass-thumping/disco light show that gave the arenas in the first trailer their disco-rave-like energy.

TGS: Square Enix, Popcap partner for RPG/puzzler Gyromancer

Not to be outdone, apparently, by scrappy puzzle-newcomer Infinite Interactive and their would-be casual/RPG champ Puzzle Quest, the two behemoths of their respective fields — Popcap and Square Enix — are teaming up for Gyromancer, due soon on Steam and Xbox Live Arcade.

The game will take the core of Popcap’s Bejeweled Twist and run it underneath a combat/RPG system designed by Square, and will see main character Rivel overcoming distinct challenges in each stage “from defeating beasts that block the player’s way, to solving puzzles before time runs out.”

The two companies say Rivel will eventually learn to “summon dozens of the unique beasts he encounters, bending their power to his will and commanding them in battle,” and can “search the map for items, coins and new beasts to join Rivel’s fight.”

From the trailer above, it looks to be a more compact and casual focused experience than the sprawling story laid out in Puzzle Quest or even its sci-fi spiritual sequel Galactrix. Expect more details soon as the two companies prepare for the ‘upcoming’ launch.

King me, please: The Behemoth reveal new Castle Crashers figure


Joining the lineup of The Behemoth’s extensive collection of vinyl figures: Castle Crashers‘ King, quite possibly my favorite if only because I’ve always been a big believer in the “one big tooth” (or three, if you’ve got them to spare) theory of character design.

TGS: Deeper into Okamiden‘s ukiyo-e environment

Capcom’s brought to the Tokyo Game Show its most complete trailer for downsized DS sequel Okamiden to date, showing a wider range of stylus-brush interactions, more combat mode demos, and 100% more nature-restoring landscape-wide scampering.

TGS: Two more minutes with Ico creator’s Last Guardian

For its Tokyo Game Show appearance, Sony’s put together a short behind the scenes look with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus creator Fumito Ueda explaining that the fantastical mix of creatures that make up his Last Guardian actually increases the gryphon’s realism.

Watching the subsequent new two minute trailer, with every talon stretch and head-scratch, it’s very hard to deny.

Fancy flights: the little big dogfights of Tak Fung’s Mini Squadron

Coming soon to iPhone from former Lionhead and Sony programmer Tak ‘Mr. Fung Fung’ Fung (who the eagle-eyed will remember as the ‘Master’ in Rag Doll Kung Fu‘s live-action intros): Mini Squadron, an online playable multiplayer 2D dogfighter where you take down “enemy planes, bombers, UFOs, and ducks” with over 50 unlockable aircraft and “a plethora of power-ups.”

See the trailer above for a quick-burst of just why this could be a recipe for fantastic success, and follow the game’s progress via Fung’s official blog.


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