IGW is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers who are actively seeking funding. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!
Storium by Stephen Hood
Collaborate with your friends to tell a story with Storium.
“Storium is a web-based online game that you play with friends. It works by turning writing into a multiplayer game. With just your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can choose from a library of imaginary worlds to play in, or build your own. You create your story’s characters and decide what happens to them. You can tell any kind of story with Storium. The only limit is your imagination.
Storium uses familiar game concepts inspired by card games, role-playing games, video games, and more. In each Storium game, one player is the narrator, and everyone else takes on the role of a character in the story. The narrator creates dramatic challenges for the other players to overcome. In doing so, they move the story forward in a new direction. Everyone gets their turn at telling the story.
“Story and Game had a baby, and it’s Storium. This is vital stuff, equal parts revolutionary and fundamental — giving the old ways of storytelling a major digital upgrade.”— Chuck Wendig, novelist and screenwriter”
“Every puzzle leads you to something real: a moment in history, a scientific discovery, a hidden culture, a tradition forgotten by time, an ancient joke. So there are endless ways to solve the puzzle. Most of what you need to get to the solution exists outside of the box.
Hundreds of wood, acrylic, or felt puzzle pieces start you off. You start to gather clues from the piece shapes and textures, from the images they form, from the words etched into their face. A cryptic printed riddle helps you along; it gives your efforts direction and nudges you back onto the trail when you get lost. Mysteries and gaps in information challenge you to look closely, think deeper, and search for sources that bring you closer to the solution. No two paths to the answer are exactly the same.
I’ve developed five puzzle series for this campaign. Each series comes with a number of physical puzzles, a written riddle, a hint in case you get stuck along the way, and the solution, so you can be sure you’ve solved it. The riddles are delivered by a guide that helps you navigate the clues, beautifully illustrated by the wonderful Jerel Dye.
The puzzles are cut from solid wood, acrylic, or 100% wool felt. The designs on the face of the puzzles are made by etching into the wood with a laser.”
“ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children (ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games. Children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. Children can modify characters in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves – then use the programming blocks to make their characters come to life.
ScratchJr was inspired by the popular Scratch programming language, used by millions of young people (ages 8 and up) around the world. In creating ScratchJr, we redesigned the interface and programming language to make them developmentally appropriate for younger children, carefully designing features to match young children’s cognitive, personal, social, and emotional development.”
As soon as I saw a clip of game-play, I knew that I would love Banished: a uniquely beautiful, city building, resource management, strategy game.
Developed entirely by a single person, Luke Hodorowicz, Banished was completed and released for download earlier this year.
Here’s a description from the developer:
“In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland.
The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource. They are born, grow older, work, have children of their own, and eventually die. Keeping them healthy, happy, and well-fed are essential to making your town grow. Building new homes is not enough—there must be enough people to move in and have families of their own.
Banished has no skill trees. Any structure can be built at any time, provided that your people have collected the resources to do so. There is no money. Instead, your hard-earned resources can be bartered away with the arrival of trade vessels. These merchants are the key to adding livestock and annual crops to the townspeople’s diet; however, their lengthy trade route comes with the risk of bringing illnesses from abroad.
There are twenty different occupations that the people in the city can perform from farming, hunting, and blacksmithing, to mining, teaching, and healing. No single strategy will succeed for every town. Some resources may be more scarce from one map to the next. The player can choose to replant forests, mine for iron, and quarry for rock, but all these choices require setting aside space into which you cannot expand.
The success or failure of a town depends on the appropriate management of risks and resources.”
Between the rustic setting and the calming music and sound effects, this game was incredibly relaxing and easy to get lost in.
Banished makes things a little more personal by giving the citizens of your town names and lifespans. You can assign them specific jobs, and if you like, imagine what kind of lives they’re living.
You need to maintain your citizens happiness and health and can do so by ensuring the town has things like healers, tailors, clergymen and beer.
You are also able to adjust time flow to control things more specifically, or to speed up the process of procreation or crop growth.
Once you give yourself the chance to explore the controls, the game becomes fairly self explanatory. However, even after several days of game play there were a few things that I still felt in the dark about; nothing that a quick wiki check wouldn’t fix.
I’ve really enjoyed Banished and would definitely recommend it to anyone with $20 and looking for an addicting and relaxing new game.
“Being a Princess is not an easy job. Being a Queen is even harder. Especially when you’re only fourteen years old, and the reason you’ve inherited the throne is that your royal mother has just met an untimely end.
Now power is up for grabs. You may be the official heir, but much of the country’s nobility would love to steal the throne for themselves. Aggressive neighbors will take advantage of any weakness to enlarge their borders at your expense. And that’s not even mentioning the magical dangers which are lying in wait…
Can you survive long enough to reach your coronation?”
The suggestion to play was Adam‘s, and he warned us ahead of time that we should try and decide as a group what kind of princess we wanted to be. It turns out that as you go along, you can choose to work on different skill sets to try and prepare yourself for what you may encounter throughout the game. For some examples, check out the video below:
Your goal is to keep the princess alive for a total of 40 weeks until you can officially be crowned queen.
“The player reads through the story and schedules the protagonist’s weekly lessons, in topics such as economy, foreign affairs, logistics, expression, military matters, self-defense, intrigues, doublespeak and magic. Based on those activities, Elodie increases her proficiency in various statistics. Additionally, during the weekend Elodie has free run of the castle and can choose an activity that alters her mood. She has four emotional axes, and her position on each determines her proficiency at learning certain topics; for instance, being “Willful” will help her master military and intrigue skills easier, but it will also hamper learning civil skills like royal demeanor. Once all three sub skills of a particular skill are raised to a certain point (around 30 each), Elodie gains an outfit that boosts that specific skill. Learning some skills unlocks additional weekend actions, for example, learning “Dance” allows you to attend balls, while “Reflexes” gives you the ability to play tennis.
As the weeks progress, Elodie is presented with various social and political opportunities. When they occur, the game performs checks against Elodie’s current skills and chooses an outcome, sometimes without giving the player the option of interceding. For instance, one of the first skill checks (a snake attack) requires 10 points in the “Composure” skill. Should Elodie be successful, she keeps her cool, allowing a guard to kill the snake; should she fail, her cousin gets bitten, an event whose consequences can be felt in one specific route the game can take. Most of the checks can be failed without serious consequence, but some can close off entire branches of the story. Very often however, passing or failing a skill check is a matter of life or death for Elodie, if her skills aren’t up to par, she dies (in one of the various possible ways to die).
Because of the branching decision trees, the game features multiple endings, varying according to whom Elodie marries, how she dealt with neighboring nations, her ability with magic, the fate of her father Joslyn, and—of course—whether she survived to her coronation at all.”
Enough about the game details – here’s what we thought of it!
Adam: I need to play more of this game to see if I can spoiler my cousin, but to do that I would have to increase my spoiler stats first. Super good times.
Brie: Games that are text heavy aren’t really my bread and butter, but I knew something was going to be special about this one as soon as it started. The visuals are pleasing and entertaining, and one of the best parts of the game play (as the character of Elodie) is unlocking new outfits and being able to change them. I also found the writing style very pleasant and easy to read, and though there’s no voice overs, we suggest that if you play with friends to read the text out loud to each other with accents.
What I particularly enjoyed though, was the flexibility in the story line. You are given a lot of choices for how you develop your character, and what you do effects your ability to participate in things, protect yourself, or simply rise to your destiny of future Queen. There are a lot of ways to die, and many ways to succeed, but no matter what you do, I guarantee you’ll want to play several times just to see what happens.
Cat: Something I love about our little group is how adaptable we are. Though the game, for all intents and purposes, is single-player, we managed it group-style by hooking up one of our laptops to a TV. There’s no voice-acting in the game – but not to worry! Something grabbed us right off of the bat and we each decided to voice various characters ourselves throughout. It was a uniquely fun experience, though I am not sure it’s repeatable (or recommended) for all groups. Depends on your chemistry, I suppose. Ultimately, it was an incredibly fun time and the game itself was definitely a gem. We managed to survive far longer than I expected and eventually unleashed the Kraken (whoops!). The writing was playful, there was an incredible amount of detail put into the skill system, and I love how well balanced it all was. It is very re-playable, as you can try out different approaches and choices for a myriad of story consequences. It’s smart, a little dark, and a lot of fun.
A couple of weeks ago, while Cat was at GDC, she sent us a picture from the Expo floor of a game called “Goat Simulator.” I didn’t know a single thing about it, but I could already tell that it was the game for us.
There’s not much that can be said about what kind of game this is that isn’t explained in its title or that you haven’t seen on the internet, so just watch this trailer and understand that once you play… your life will never be the same.
Here’s a brief note from the developer:
“Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. It was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat.”
We played as a group this past Friday, and here’s what each of us thought:
Adam – Maaaaaaah mmmaaaah mmmaaahaaa maa aaa meeee maa meeeeeeh. (No really, it is super awesome and I’m not just saying that because I’m a goat.)
Brandie – I loved this game. It’s very entertaining to watch someone play, and I’m sure even more fun to play. There’s so many different things you can do, bouncing on trampolines, water slides, hang gliding, flappy goat, sacrificing humans, and going to space just to name a few. I can’t wait to actually play it myself. It makes me wish I could be a goat IRL.
Brie – Game of the year! Goat of the year! There’s nothing about this game that I didn’t love. You start in the world as a goat in a yard with a handful of controls and freedom to do whatever you chose. From the first headbutt to the surprise jet pack, this game kept me entertained and laughing the whole time. Even after several hours of thorough exploring, I know there are still lots of things we didn’t find or do. There are plenty of achievements to keep you trying, and lots of hilarious bugs yet to be discovered. I’m really excited to see what comes from this game in terms of new maps or add-ons and I look forward to sharing its majesty with others.
Cat – Wanna hear my boyfriend giggle with wild abandon? Here you go. You are welcome, by the way. As you can tell from his outbursts, this game is … a delight. Clearly of the highest caliber, devastatingly sophisticated humor, and an example of the kind of morality we all should aspire to in our own lives. But in all seriousness, on a scale of one to goat, I’d give it a solid Taylor Swift. Play it in the living room with a bunch of friends for a delightfully goat time.
One of things we do as a group on Friday nights is try out new games. Sometimes that means a group play through of something designed for groups, such as Pandemic or Cards Against Humanity, other times we all watch on as one of us plays a single player game. This time around, we all watched Brie play through a game that has gotten a TON of buzz over the last year – Gone Home.
Gone Home is made by the Fullbright Company, and is billed as a story exploration video game. It was a 2013 Independent Games Festival Finalist for excellence in narrative, and earned an honorable mention for Excellence in Audio and Seumas McNally Grand Prize. You can buy it on Steam right now for $19.99.
From the creator’s site:
Investigate the Greenbriar family’s house. Discover the story of what’s happened to them. Go home again.
Here’s the trailer:
The response to the game has been huge, as evidenced in part by the fan responses. Here’s a video that’s been making the rounds on YouTube that we particularly liked:
And finally, here’s each of us thought of it:
Adam – This was by far my Game of the Year for 2013. I spent 6 hours over 3+ play-throughs, and besides watching Brie play, I watched 2+ complete play-throughs on YouTube (Check out this wonder play-through by Zoey Proasheck.) Besides watching people play the game I also enjoyed reading others reactions and criticisms of the game. Here are a few:
Austin Walker digs deep on one of the subplots of Gone Home that is left up to the player to either figure out, or just ignore.
Ian Bogost doesn’t like Gone Home as much as others. But he rightly explores where it fits in comparison: “Gone Home gets the praise one would associate with Alfonso Cuarón-does-7th Guest or Sarah Waters-does-Myst, when in reality it’s more like John Hughes-does-7th Guest or Judy Blume-does-Myst. It’s a literary work on the level of young adult fiction. And you know, that’s not bad! Hughes’s movies and Blume’s books have a place in the world, and that place is not necessarily better or worse…”.
I will continue to enjoy Gone Home’s story and hope to share it with as many others as I can. I’m also super excited for what the Fullbright Company does next.
Brie – This game was really special to play. The atmosphere lead me to believe that it was going to be some sort of horror game and I was apprehensive through almost the entire play through. I loved the freedom it gave me to wander around and examine the family’s life; everything from articles and letters to little notes that were strews across the house, lead me to understand the family in a more in depth way. I became emotionally invested quickly and I was not let down with how the game ended. There’s so much to explore and discover, but even if you don’t find everything by the time you’re done you don’t feel like your game was lacking.
Cat – What an incredibly unique, well-executed game! I was deeply emotionally invested in the story, and was totally transported back to the 90’s days of ‘Zines and Riot Girls. There are folks who will argue that this was less a “game” and more an “interactive exploration,” but either way it is deep and packs an emotional punch. I was very impressed with both the story execution and the mechanics – extremely simple and yet so effective, atmospheric. You essentially just wander around a home and discover what happened by picking up and examining objects (including audio tapes). I don’t want to spoil too much of it – just know that I highly recommend it. 10/10.
It is hard to separate my experience of watching the game being played 3 years ago, to my experience of playing the game myself in front of my family/friends. I’ll point out that I had such a great time watching the Giant Bomb guys play the game, that when a Director’s Cut version was announced for the PS3, I was super excited to finally play it myself and share the craziness with others.
The most basic premise of Deadly Premonition is that you are Francis York Morgan, an FBI agent who has been sent to a small northwestern town to investigate the ritual murder of a young woman. If that sounds like a certain 90s television show, this is not a coincidence. Twin Peaks was a direct inspiration for this game. Not only is the story premise very similar, so is the aesthetic. The story is weird and wacky, yet surprisingly serious, just like Twin Peaks.
Watch this video as an introduction to the type of silliness the game thrives on.
The story of Deadly Premonition is good for all the same reasons as Twin Peaks, but it is the weird jankiness of the gameplay that allows it to transcend to another level entirely and become a cult classic.
Between cutscenes like the one above, you will drive around town and whenever no one else is around, you will have to shoot zombies(?) (and the occasional ceiling witch). They will continually inform you that they don’t want to die.
I think the best way to experience this game is to play it with friends around so you can all laugh and share in all the dumb things about the game. Then you will all have a new shared language of references that can be referred to at appropriate (and inappropriate) times.
Also, the music is great.
Let us see what others have to say about Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut:
Brandie: “Just want some pie”
Brie: Watching Adam play Deadly Premonition was a lot of fun. It seemed silly at first, but it quickly became a way of life. Every Friday we would gorge ourselves on delicious food and then lie around the living room watching Agent York point at, and talk to, himself. I was intrigued by the story, we all had our theories, but mostly I found it humorous and that was what I enjoyed.I’m really glad it wasn’t me playing though; I think I would quickly get frustrated with the combat mechanics and controls.However, I wouldn’t say no to exploring it again since there was so much of the world that we didn’t even touch on. From what I hear there are loads of side quests and material and you can spend hours and hours on.I’ll tell ya what though, this game did not go in the direction I thought it would. It kept me surprised right up until the end.
Cat: *points at self repeatedly* Well, according to my coffee this morning, this game was a hoot. I think watching it as a group made it much more fun – and it was reassuring to confirm that the weird thing we thought happened had, in fact, actually occurred. It’s a truly odd game, which is great for lovers of quirk. A few fairly expected issues with the treatment of women and those who fall outside the realm of heteronormativity, but that’s unfortunately pretty par for the course in the horror genre. Hopefully recent conversations regarding sexism and lazy writing in storytelling will help improve games to come. In the meantime, this is still a solidly bizarre game that’s perfect for those who appreciate strange humor.
For those who care about these sort of things, I played Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut for the PS3. There was previously an Xbox 360 release and a Japanese version for PS3. I don’t have the experience to recommend those versions, or not. I do though heartily agree with this review and if you would be interested in trying this game out on your PC, please go here and vote for it!
And now for a recipe! The name for these was inspired by an item in the game, though the recipe comes from elsewhere. This recipe does require a special kitchen implement: a popover pan. I wouldn’t recommend trying it without, but if you do, let me know how it goes.
We created this space in 2013 as a home for recipes, reviews, and entertaining tips for those on the nerdier end of the spectrum. We're on vacation at the moment, but there are usually new posts every Thursday. Sometimes more, if you're lucky.
With our powers combined, we represent a culinary school grad, an aspiring astronaut, a culinary school dropout, social nerds, gamers, cinephiles, bibliophiles, laqueristas, food fanatics, social anxiety disorders, and more. It’s fun stuff. Oh! And Brandie is wife to Adam who is brother to Brie who is cousin to Cat! Clearly nerdiness runs in this family.
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