The final game my friend and I played was Light Wars. This was a game highly influenced by Geometry Wars and it wasn’t afraid to show it. It was the same concept, an arena-based shooter where players fended of loads and loads of enemies. The major difference, and perhaps the only one, in comparison to Geometry Wars was the weapon used. When firing, an energy beam extended from the player and bounced around for a few seconds before disappearing. When I played, I used this like a windshield wiper, cleaning the stage of the enemies.
Everyone was pressed for time at this point as the designers were given the order to begin tearing down their stations. I was fortunate enough to have gotten to play Light Wars for a few more rounds. Like Geometry Wars, it was an addicting score attack game. I also didn’t get any contact information for the designer behind it and unfortunately, I didn’t even catch his name.
The next to last game my friend and I played was Cannon Golf. It was probably my favorite game of the show as I really dug the learning curve and the responsiveness of the balls. Attempting to make it to the hole in as few strokes as possible was the name of the game and this was made difficult by the various obstacles on each stage. However, at players’ disposal were three different types of balls; a normal one, one with inverse gravity, and a third that would stick to surfaces.
I remember discussing with Kevin Meier, one of the game’s designers, the efforts he went through to have the balls react realistically when hitting walls. From what I could tell, his work was a success. The only thing I noticed was that sometimes, when my ball looked like it was in the hole, the game wouldn’t recognize this and I’d have to take an additional stroke or two so that was always a bummer. Still, I dug the succinct stages and the puzzle-like nature of the game and it held my interest for the entirety of the demo.
Now try not to get confused here, but the next game my friend and I played was Shotgun Wizard. Previously we had played a game called Gun Mage so the fact that there were two games with drastically similar names was something of a comedy, like Dead Space and Killzone. Even the developers were joking around with each other. These were two dissimilar games however.
Controlling the eponymous shotgun wizard, players were confined to a side-scrolling room that was continually bombarded by skateboarders, babies on balloons, and bouncer-size men. The shotgun used had three types of magical ammunition that players could switch between on the fly. In fact, it was encouraged through the game’s scoring system. Getting kills by alternating ammunition increased the score multiplier. Not utilizing this tactic would result in lackluster scores.
Shotgun Wizard was a score attack game and my only gripe was with its controls. Movement was done with S and D or the arrow keys, looking was the result of moving the mouse left or right, jumping was W or the up arrow, ammunition switching was the E key, and shooting was done with a left mouse click. I never got the hang of moving left and right and also having to look left or right, so when it got hectic (and believe me, it did) I cratered quickly. Still, with enough practice, it was fun trying to outdo my best score.
Having actually completed Gun Mage, my friend and I moved onto Pet Duck, another game that I was able to see through to the end. Pet Duck was a lighthearted top-down action game which saw the player searching through maze-like stages in search of their pet duck. The player character was equipped with a gun but I found it inefficient – I wound up playing the game doing my best to evade enemy fire and I found enjoyment through that.
There were about five stages and humorously, when the player found the duck in all but the final stage, it turned out to be a decoy. The text explaining this had me grinning each time. The most impressive aspect of the game was the soundtrack. It was an epic summer-blockbuster sort of theme that totally didn’t match the game. But, it was just one more contextual thing that made the game humorous. Pet Duck wound up winning the game showcase so congrats are in order for End to Begin Games.
After a brief experience with Greywater, my friend and I moved onto the game that I sunk the most time into – Gun Mage. It was a side-scrolling action game inspired by the likes of Contra and Metal Slug. The graphics were simple, but the gameplay reeked of its influences. It seemed pretty basic until I died enough times that Cameron Fowler, one of Gun Mage’s designers, clued me in on a cheat of sorts. Pressing the page up button filled the magic meter, which allowed me to combine a magical effect with a weapon. With about a dozen combinations, I had a blast experimenting with them and seeing their outcomes.
Even though Gun Mage only had nine screens, I spent a good twenty minutes to get through them all. I think I might’ve been the only person to do so at the show. Managing the stock of hearts I had well meant seriously paying attention to the two enemy types. Blue enemies appeared to have knives, only doing damage on contact, and beige enemies who were equipped with guns. Staying alive meant jumping over the bullets of gun wielding enemies and finding a weapon/magic combination that suited me.
The demo is available to play via the Dropbox link and through its Facebook page. Don’t forget about the page up button!
The next game my friend and I transitioned to was Greywater – an isometric role-playing game in the vein of Diablo. If Project Land Mineded was the most technologically proficient game I played, then Greywater had the strongest art direction and implementation. The steampunk influences were readily apparent at first glance and the art style was complimented by a 19th century backdrop of a highly polluted city – hence the name, Greywater. It also seemed like there was a lot of story and character development already present in the playable demo, more than any other game I played at the show.
That said, I actually didn’t play much of the game as I didn’t gel with the control scheme. I might not be recalling correctly, but I believe movement and attacks were done via the keyboard while menu navigation was with the mouse. I would’ve preferred most everything but movement be done with the mouse. I also didn’t get a good sense of feedback when attacking enemies. I couldn’t tell if I was damaging them or missing completely. I wish I’d played more of Greywater in hindsight as Team Sweepy placed second in the game showcase and won the gallery show. Congrats to them!
If you wanna follow their progress, you can do so via their Tumblr or Twitter.
This past weekend saw The University of Tulsa hosting the Heartland Gaming Expo 2013. Per the website, the goal of the event was to showcase the creation and development of video games in the central region of the United States, primarily Oklahoma. There were a few different events and it was free and open to the public Saturday and Sunday. My friend and I went Sunday morning and hung out for a few hours, playing the games that were present and chatting with their designers.
It was pretty desolate when we went on Sunday morning as many of the participants were taking part in the eighteen hour hack-a-thon that began Saturday evening. From what we gathered from some of the designers, many others just didn’t show up Sunday – which isn’t surprising as there didn’t seem to be much publicity for the event. Besides my friend and I, there were only five or so other spectators. There were about fifteen designers present though and it seemed like everyone was enjoying each other’s company.
The first game I played was Project Land Mineded. It was a first-person shooter focusing on arena-based multiplayer. It was designed with the Unreal Development Kit and was undoubtedly the most technologically-proficient game present. The game was a fast-paced, twitchy sort of deathmatch game through and through but it had an interesting hook. The sole weapon was a rocket launcher and after firing a rocket, it ricocheted a time or two before losing momentum and becoming a stationary mine. Before too long, the arena was ridiculously littered with mines, meaning evading them was nigh-on impossible.
Project Land Mineded was designed by a Norman, OK high school student – Marty Rand. What’s perhaps most impressive about the game is that it was designed using nothing but free software such as GIMP and UDK. The game’s technological proweress made a little more sense when he elaborated that he’s been programming for a long time, specifically robotic programming. He said he’d like to continue on in the game design realm and I think he has a bright future. Project Land Mineded was a blast and I can imagine with a little tweaking, it could be a commercially available product.
Below is a video that Marty uploaded to YouTube and also, here are links to the game’s blog and Twitter.