As a culture, America loses its mind every four years as every bubbling tension is brought to the surface in the emotional outpouring/long term strategic planning scrum better known as the Presidential Election.
No corner of the culture is safe from this, seemingly increasingly sadistic, ritual. Social media is the eye of the storm, while cable news, comedy, and dinner table conversations create an inescapable cage of mental pain.
Not even video games are safe from the touch of the campaign. There are scores of products in the iOS App Store looking to make either a quick buck or a “real difference” by marrying gameplay with this election’s troupes. There’s plenty of options for playing Flappy Bird or Whack-a-Mole clones with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump skins, if you’re so inclined.
What you won’t find in the App Store are some of the sharpest satirical takes in game form. That’s because The GOP Arcade, home to interactive hot takes like Trump Toss and the topical Epipen Tycoon was rejected by the App Store.
“We were supposed to release it as an app,” said Brian Moore, one of the small group of friends behind The GOP Arcade. “Apple rejected us because of the content of these games.” (more…)
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You know that we dig escape rooms here at Turnstyle, and that we are also into crowdfunding projects, so when we heard tale of a Kickstarter project that promised to put an Escape Room in a box, you know that we had to find out more.
Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin are two stay-at-home moms who met at a game night during their pregnancies at Patel’s weekly game night. Patel had become obsessed with escape rooms.
“The first time I did (an escape room) it was a chance to completely disconnect from everything,” said Patel. “You’re timed so all your focus has to be on going as fast as you can so you make it out on time. You put your phone away and there’s things that engage your mind in such a way that you have to be present and focused on what’s in front of you.” (more…)
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IndieCade, the annual International Festival of Independent Games held in Culver City each October, has announced the official selections for this year’s festival. Touching down in downtown Culver from Oct.23-25, this year’s festival features a mix of returning favorites, award winners, and intriguing new offerings across a plethora of genres.
Remember: IndieCade isn’t just about video games. There are “big games” which involve full physical participation, board games, and virtual reality experiments right alongside more “traditional” computer games. Whatever “traditional computer games” means these days. No one really knows. Isn’t that wonderful.
VR heads would be wise to show up and check out the selections on offer, which were curated in part by Brent Bushnell of Two Bit Circus and immersive journalist Nonny de la Peña. (Now that’s a couple of people who know VR.) If you’re lucky you’ll get your hands on experiences like the Proto Award winning I Expect You To Die and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
Or maybe you’ll discover the next great award winning VR experience.
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Everything still pretty much comes down to the input. How does that remote feel as a controller?
The presence of Disney Infinity 3.0 is probably the most interesting announcement, along with the forthcoming Guitar Hero. (Although I admit I would have lost my mind if they annouced Rock Band instead of that Wii Sports thing Harmonix stood up with.)
Infinity and Guitar Hero are from the universe of periperhal-based “toys to life” games. The games exist in part to sell “plastic crap” that make playing the game possible. It would be easy for Disney to pack in a “standard” controller with the Infinity base kit. It’s what Activision does with Skylanders on the iPad, after all.
So while this isn’t a direct threat to console makers it is another nail in the coffin: PC gaming is already eating up the oxygen on AAA titles, and that will only be exacerbated by the VR influx of next year. If you’re a “mid-core” gamer — that’s the folks who buy a couple of titles a year, one of which is usually FIFA or Madden — you might look at a set-top box more seriously if those games hit. The legions of Wii owners who are looking for family fun could line up for Infinity and Guitar Hero, however. If Apple encourages cross-platform buy between iOS and tvOS? That would be a sweetner in the pot.
Can Apple TV do what Vita and Ouya didn’t?
I really feel it all comes down to whether or not the “fiddly bits of plastic” business model for games becomes the standard it seems to be turning into.
The big consoles are destined to fade away, almost certainly after this generation, but that has more to do with the demands of virtual and mixed reality than it does with hockey pucks plugged into flat screens.
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Earlier this year, while at E3, I checked up on the guys who made The Banner Saga–Stoic– to see how the sequel to their popular, Kickstarter-backed turn-based RPG was doing. (The short answer: really well.)
While I was in the booth of publisher Versus Evil, who have partnered with the studio to get the game out into the world, I was introduced to the cats at Skyshine. They are another indie studio who have built a turn based RPG which is going to be hitting the digital shelves soon.
Their game is called Bedlam, and it’s a post-apocalyptic haul across a nuclear wasteland with a plot ripped from the fever dreams of teens obsessed with Mad Max and other 80’s nightmare-scapes. Because that’s exactly where the game comes from: the junior high and high school RPG notebooks of Skyshine’s founders. That’s right: they turned their old home brew RPG setting into a video game.
You have to love this stuff.
If the mechanics of the game seem familiar it’s with good reason: it’s Stoic’s Banner Saga engine. The guys at Skyshine licensed the tech to build their game on it. This kind of thing isn’t all that unusual in the game industry, Unreal Engine comes to mind, but it’s great to see one of the early crowdfunding success stories in gaming have this kind of legacy. Given that Bedlam itself was Kickstarted, that means the game was–in a sense–double Kickstarted.
If you’ve got a hankering for turn-based nuclear wasteland action, Bedlam is available on September 17th.
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Dungeons & Dragons is the granddaddy of Role Playing Games, having sparked the imaginations of more than one generation of game designer. That makes a new edition of D&D news, and the 5th edition of the game is making its way towards stores even as I write this.
Fast Company has a good look at the collaborative process that went into reinventing D&D, which in the last edition tried so had to woo the fans of video games like World of Warcraft that it drove long time fans into the arms of its competitors. This time around the game’s makers, Wizards of the Coast, have their eye on a different kind of digital product: apps.
Wizards announced it is working with Trapdoor Technologies on a computer application codenamed “Morningstar.”
The program will have features to help Dungeon Masters create adventures before gaming sessions start, features to help run a game while everyone is playing, and then features to help keep track of an overall campaign as the players travel across a world and defeat their enemies. “By putting some of the mechanics in the hands of an application the people can focus on the player interactions and storytelling happening at the table and not worry about how much damage your great axe deals,” says Stewart.
While Morningstar is still in development the basic rules of the game are available right now for free. That’s another lesson that D&D is taking from modern gaming: ye olde free to play gambit. The major elements of the game system will be published over the remaining months of the year, in time for all the components to be wrapped up and placed under a Yule tree.
If you’re curious as to how the rules have changed from the universally panned 4th Edition, Polygon walks through the differences. The short version: don’t worry about investing in miniatures, this one’s designed to play out in player’s heads. That’s music to this 7th level Bard/4th level Paladin’s ears.
The increased emphasis on imagination and narrative–including direct language about character sexuality not being limited to strict binaries and game mechanics that won’t penalize players for making those choices–indicates that a very progressive vein is alive in the most mainstream of RPGs. Well, as mainstream as RPGs can get, anyway.
So… who’s up for a game?
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If YouTube was a person, they’d be suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder.
First up: this month YouTube has been mired in a controversy over an expansion of their system for policing copyright on the video site. ContentID, is an automated system that allows content owners to either block or put liens against ad revenue on videos that feature their material.
When YouTube expanded ContentID to cover users who are “affiliated” with major Multi-Channel Networks like Machinima a population of users who had been sheltered from the absurdities of ContentID suddenly found themselves exposed to takedown notices. Plenty of which come from companies that have little or nothing to do with the content.
Erroneous ContentID claims affect more than gamers and game makers, but it is in the video game community that the weirdest incidents are easily found. Here’s an example from a Patrick Klepek piece on Giant Bomb:
Terry Cavanagh is the designer of VVVVVV. He published a gameplay video of VVVVVV on his YouTube channel, and it was flagged with a copyright claim. Magnus Palsson is the composer of VVVVVV’s music. He also started getting copyright notices about his own music on YouTube.
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When Psychic Bunny’s Jesse Vigil asked if I wanted to take part in a play test of their latest game I naturally said yes.
Psychic Bunny is the Los Angeles based design firm that released the audio-centric game “Freeq” earlier this year. Last week that game was back in the spotlight thanks to a feature by Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek on the studio’s efforts to make “Freeq” accessible to blind gamers.
The new project from the game studio side of Psychic Bunny is “Batonk!” and is a throw-back to the kind of couch-based multiplayer experience that gamers grew up with. In fact, anyone who has spent time at events like IndieCade will have seen a fair number of games in this genre, from “Hokra” to “Hidden In Plain Sight”.
Producer Diana Hughes took me through some of the development that went into “Batonk!” which is in the final days of a Kickstarter campaign.
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There's nothing I like more than a thoughtfully designed interactive experience.
"Device 6," described by its creators as "a surreal thriller in which the written word is your map, as well as your narrator" sounds like my cup of tea. Andrew Webster of The Verge elaborates:
While Device 6 — the latest release from Year Walk developer Simogo — might not be a game in the strictest sense, it definitely demands all of your attention. It's a short story mixed with a series of interactive puzzles, and it's one of the most inventive and playful narrative experiences you're likely to find.
Head to The Verge for a more in-depth look. I'll be downloading this for my vacation next week toot-sweet.
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A little follow-up to yesterday's post about my own impressions of IndieCade 2013.
The complete list of winners of this year's festival have been annouced, and I'd be remiss for not sharing that with you, gentle reader.
Follow the jump to see the full list, and keep your eyes (or feed readers) on Turnstyle for more out of IndieCade 2013 in the weeks to come.
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