Friday, June 24, 2011

Dying, not Dead

Just wanted to drop in to say I'm still here. I have a lot of ideas for blog articles, but at present I don't have the time to write anything new. Maybe tomorrow, but for tonight I'm busy.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 07 - The Man Behind the Egg

Indie Video Gaming Week, Day 07 - Developer Interview: Matt Thorson

If you're wondering, the reason why Chris Roper's interview had a screenshot at the top instead of an awesome piece of fan art is, unfortunately, I couldn't find any fan art for Return to Sector 9!

Anyway, as I mentioned before, I am a huge fan of Matt Thorson and his games, so I was really looking forward to this interview. Read on, if you wish. If you don't, do so anyway.


Reuben Horst: So how’s your life been recently, Matt?

Matt Thorson: It’s been great! Loving the spring/summer weather despite allergies.

RH: About how old were you when you started getting interested in making games?

MT: As far as I can tell I’ve always been interested, I used to draw video game levels as a kid. I think I first started actually making them when I was 14 or so with Game Maker.

RH: What are your favorite video games, PC or console?

MT: Some of my favorite games ever in no particular order are Yoshi’s Island, Pikmin 2, Team Fortress 2, Super Metroid, and Starcraft 2. There’s a lot more games I love, I just can’t think of them right now.

RH: What are your favorite hobbies not related to gaming?

MT: I like to paint, draw, graffiti, play guitar and drums, jog, bicycle, read, listen to music, and travel. Think that’s about all of them.

RH: Which of the games you have made are you the most satisfied with?

MT: Probably An Untitled Story and Give Up Robot 2, because those are the games where I feel like I broke the most new personal ground.

RH: Is there any chance that you could ever finish the game you were making quite a while back, Jumper 4?

MT: I might make a Jumper 4 someday. It likely won’t be much like the preview I gave earlier. I tend to start a ton of projects and eventually one of the many wins out and absorbs the ideas from the other projects, killing them in the process. If Jumper 4 comes back it’ll use new ideas.

RH: Without giving too much away, could you tell us a bit about your current projects?

MT: What I’m working on the most right now is a flash game with my friend Chevy Ray called Fat Wizard. It’s about a wizard who wants to make an omelet out of a gigantic egg. Gameplay-wise, it’s sort of like if you took my old Hold Off games but fleshed them out way way way more mechanically. Also its got a really cohesive and full world. That’s what Chevy is really good at – making things feel like a world within the computer.

MoneySeize 2 is a game for the Winnitron 1000. It’s a two-player competitive platformer designed to be played in an arcade setting. It’s about a married couple divorcing and each character trying to grab as much cash as possible.

And the Monocle Engine! I’m working on this with Alec Holowka and a bunch of people from the indie game community. It’s going to be a free, open-source framework for indie developers, to make 2D game development faster and easier.

RH: Is MoneySeize 2 ever going to be publicly released?

MT: Well anyone can play the Winnitron, and it’ll be a Winnitron game. So in that sense, yeah, it’ll be public. Whether I’ll make it available on my site for anyone to download, I don’t know yet. If it makes sense, then I’ll make it available.

RH: Looking back, are you glad you chose this career of making games?

MT: Incredibly glad. I do what I love all day and get paid. Plus, as a bonus, I decide my own work hours.

RH: What’s your favorite brand of soda?

MT: Don’t drink much soda, but I like any brand of root beer.

RH: Thanks for your time, Matt!


Matt Thorson's Website

So that's the end of both the interview and IVGW 2011. I really had fun this week, and I think I'll do something like this again.

Until later,
Reuben Horst

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 06 - Crossing Fingers

Indie Video Gaming Week, Day 06 - Developer Interview: Chris Roper

That ship in the above image is about to be owned into pieces. Just saying. Anyway, we have gathered here today for a very special reason . . . it's Friday! No, no, no, I'm not referencing any song, I'm just saying that today is Friday! Friday is Day 06, and on Day 06 we interview people! Or at least one person.

That one person is Chris Roper (Pug Fugly Games), the genius behind Return to Sector 9, along with many other arcade-style shooters. I would call him a master of being addicting, but I'm pretty sure it's his games that are addicting, not himself (though who knows . . .).

Anyway, here it is, if you're bored enough to feel like reading the interview. . . . Just kidding, it's an awesome interview. Read it!


Reuben Horst: So how’s your life been recently, Chris?

Chris Roper: Fine thanks!

RH: About how old were you when you started getting interested in making games?

CR: About 10. I started with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum in about 1983. I then made games on and off, on various computers and ultimately ended up with Game Maker.

RH: What are your favorite video games, whether PC, console, or handheld?

CR: My favourite games of the last few years are Uncharted 2 and Fallout 3. I don't really play many games but the PS3 is my gaming platform of choice at the moment.

RH: What really inspires you to make games?

CR: Generally I make games I'd like to play really. I guess that's ultimately a waste of time because once the game is done I tend to not want to ever see it again! Also it's nice to do something creative with your spare time I think.

RH: Which of the games you have made are you the most satisfied with?

CR: R2S9 [Return to Sector 9] - it's my best game, but apart from that it was a massive project that was on and off for a few years. I'm pleased I stuck with it and actually got it done, and I'm pleased with the overall quality of it. The Pyramid did well for me in winning the Retro Remakes contest, but I'm not all that fond
of the game to be honest.

RH: How did you think of the story and backstory in the various arcade games in your compilation game, Return to Sector 9, that all take place in the infamous, fictional region of space known as “Sector 9”?

CR: Well I just wanted to have a brief background to each game. Didn't want to be serious or too in depth. I was going for an amusing, cliched kind of feel to the little stories. Not sure about the inspiration, probably Red Dwarf and various nasty space films...

RH: You recently stated that your latest announced game, Glum, has been indefinitely cancelled. Is there any possibility at all of you finishing it someday?

CR: Don't think so unfortunately, even though it is a pretty decent game I think, with a lot of potential. It would be a big project to do it justice and I don't want to commit to a year of development. Also I've become more interested in the idea of developing games for various mobile platforms and would like to concentrate on that.

I have quite a few promising projects that will probably never be worked on again, but I'm guessing it's the same for all developers.

RH: Are you working on anything new now?

CR: I've had to abandon a few projects lately for various reasons beyond my control which has been disappointing, but I'm currently in the process of formulating my next game. It's something a bit different and will hopefully be coming to a mobile device near you at some point, fingers crossed!

RH: If you could make a collaboration with any other video game developer, independent or not, who would it be?

CR: Hmm interesting. Not really sure, I think ultimately I'm happiest working on my own, although I would like to make a game with Darthlupi at some point. We've always discussed doing it, just the timing has never been right.

RH: What’s your favorite brand of soda?

CR: Would have to be boring and say Diet Coke unfortunately!

RH: Well thanks for your time, Chris!


So yes, my entire goal of the day has just been completed. I'm finally finishing and posting on my blog before noon, and it's a lot better than trying and trying to get it done later in the day, and ending up with it being at least 5:00 pm before I get my blog post up.

But anyway, if you're interested in more games, check out Chris' website!

Ta-ta for now,
Reuben Horst

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 05 - Heroes, Princesses, and . . . Sprite?

Indie Video Gaming Week, Day 05 - Developer Interview: Daniel Remar

I have been a fan of Dan Remar since I first played his 2D platformer puzzle game, Castle of Elite, two or three years ago. I have stuck with him (been a loyal fan) since the release of his two latest games, Iji and Hero Core. He is currently working on a new game, Hyper Princess Pitch, partially based on the old DOS game Operation: Carnage.

I recently sat down with this man (figuratively) to talk about the games he made. The results are below in white.


Reuben Horst: So how’s your life been recently, Daniel?

Daniel Remar: Pretty calm, but stressful - I need to stop feeling guilty for not answering emails on time or not updating my site or not working on my games for a while. I think having a cell phone, email adress and near-constant internet access leaves me too little time to relax and get away from other people's expectations, and the ones I place on myself. I stay away from social sites or things like Twitter, or I'd probably break. :p

RH: I know you like a lot of NES/SNES/DOS titles. Care to list some of your favorites?

DR: That's a lot... I can't really make a list. But the ones most influencing my work the last few years are games like Metroid, Jetpack, Section Z and Equinox.

RH: Which of the games you have made are you the most satisfied with?

DR: I'd say Hero Core, and Iji but for different reasons - the former because the design and execution is better than my previous games, the latter because I actually managed to finish it, especially since I'd stopped doing my comic "Ultimortal" halfway in 2004 and realized how terrible it was in hindsight. Iji is also the game that taught me how to handle critiscism; the improvements from 1.0 to 1.3 were mainly things people found were poorly done or missing. But it shows that I started working on it in 2004, and most of the writing and cutscene pictures are beyond saving from terribleness.

RH: What really inspires you to make games?

DR: My imagination mainly, and wanting to make people happy while making them think and feel. I need creative outlets all the time and have been drawing and making games since Qbasic, but as I grew older my games started to get "serious" twists to them, to keep them from being one-dimensional. There are few things more juvenile to me than a modern game with an angry man with a gun out for revenge. But I still make everything from Retrobattle to Iji and the extremes of World Fell Silent - I'm not saying I didn't enjoy games like Death Rally, but they had a sense of self-awareness to them.

After the potentially depressing endings of Iji and Hero Core though, I'm back to making more positively-toned games, whether they have any action or not. I'm drawn to the Super Mario games' way of inspiring your imagination and joy regardless of age.

RH: Acknowledging the fact that you have stated that there will most likely not ever be a sequel to your game Iji, do you think there is any possibility of there being more media related to the game in the future?

DR: I'm not sure. I like the little quirks of the setting, but with a game with so much text and backstory, not to mention plot holes, it's hard not to get self-indulgent and just spout more text about it. It would have to be a game or something interactive that makes use of the setting. Actually on the whiteboard at work there was such a game designed, called Tasen Lift Repairman, but I won't say any more or I'd just feel stressed about having to make that too. :p

RH: You are currently working on a game called Hyper Princess Pitch that was inspired by a DOS game called Operation: Carnage. Could you tell us a bit about this project?

DR: It's a lot of fun to make. If you've played Operation: Carnage, you'll recognize nearly everything about Hyper Princess Pitch's gameplay. However I want to improve on the things I didn't personally like about Operation: Carnage, such as the unfairness of dying and having to restart a whole room which is likely to get you killed several times more, and long waiting times between spawn waves.

To me, Operation: Carnage was all about the old-school cheesiness, the apparently crazy self-narrating player character and the over-the-top explosions and powerups. I try to make these more pronounced in Hyper Princess Pitch without sacrificing the gameplay or imbalancing it too much. However it has a 90's demoscene look in places, and the same kind of humor as Garden Gnome Carnage, so people will likely find it weird, especially if they haven't played GGC and know the characters. I'm afraid some will think it's just going for the "random humor" route, with mecha-elves, cats, princesses, piledrivers and rainbows, but it's really just building on the GGC world, which was made before I knew these things were pretty much mainstream tropes.

To counter this I'm putting more effort into the presentation and gameplay than before, so it's consistently better animated and snappier than my previous games, and I try to make it fun and varied to play through many times. The final boss uses a better variation of joint animation than Iji's final boss, for instance, and the different hats that represent the difficulty levels are worn by Pitch in the cutscene pictures and in-game sprites. However the higher expectations I put on myself also means it's been delayed for months, compared to when I thought it would be released. Right now I've been stuck on the ending animations for weeks due to a lack of motivation and friends asking "is it done yet?".

To return to a previous question, while you're playing a villain and it's an arcade action game, there's a playful mood and Pitch herself is cheerfully aggressive. I think just making her angry or giving the game a serious tone wouldn't make you feel happy and encouraged to replay it, and it would lose the self-awareness. After all, this is a game with garish colors and obvious nods to Mischief Makers, so any moment of seriousness is either accidental or played for laughs.

RH: Have you picked an artist to create the soundtrack for Hyper Princess Pitch yet?

DR: Yes, it's a great artist I've "hired" before, but no music has been produced yet so I don't know if I should say anything about this yet.

RH: You mentioned on your site recently that after your current project you’re going to take a long break from computers and gaming, so it will be the last game for quite a while. How long would you estimate before you ever develop another game?

DR: I won't stop planning and developing, but the game planned after Pitch is potentially a big one, and I won't work as quickly on it either. I need to excercise more and experience more new things, is all. While I'm very happy with my job at Ludosity it's becoming stale to have the same routine every day, and my back is suffering from all the sitting in front of screens. I had serious back pain for a while during Iji's development when I literally just sat and coded for weeks on end, and when your body tells you to stop, you listen.

But after Hyper Princess Pitch I'll also be pretty content with the collection of games I've done, so I may just want to do something different with my spare time for a while. I've wanted to join a voulenteer organization to do something more useful than making games, but I've always been too lazy, which is yet another factor of guilt and stress. :p

RH: What are some of your favorite freeware PC games?

DR: Cave Story, Lyle in Cube Sector, The Cleaner, World of Pong, Alien Swarm (the one on Steam) and Mr. Pants 2000 (yes, really).

RH: What is your favorite brand of soda?

DR: If we're talking carbonated sodas, definitely the regular Sprite.

RH: Thanks for your time, man!

DR: You're welcome!


And there you have it, people. One interview, ten questions, pure awesome. Keep checking my blog in the next couple days for interviews with indie developers Chris Roper and Matt Thorson!

Until later,
Reuben Horst

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 04 - The Egg

Indie Video Gaming Week, Day 04 - Game Review: An Untitled Story

Yes, I'm late again. Yes, I reviewed this game before. Is there any reason why I can't review something twice? Besides, this is Indie Video Gaming Week, I need to review something!

Welcome to the land of . . . well, I really don't know. The land doesn't have a name. It's untitled, just like the game. And yes . . . you are an egg.

An Untitled Story is a game about an untitled egg, journeying across an untitled land, looking for untitled adventure. The only thing wrong with that is a question. What is "untitled adventure"? Well, I would say this game is untitled adventure.

AUS, as it is called for short, is a 2D exploration platformer created in two years by Matt Thorson. I was not able to play through the entire game before writing this review, because the game is so dang huge. Beating the entire game wasn't necessary though, because I've beaten it many times before.

In An Untitled Story, the story is as subtle as the average Metroid game's story is, and it is filled with dozens of different locations (from inside a tree, to a volcanic passageway, to an icy castle floating in the sky), numerous bosses, and tons of collectibles.

Of the three games I've reviewed this week, this game is the longest and, in my opinion, the best (though I would recommend all of them to everyone). There are four main difficulty levels (and one you can unlock), each dramatically altering the game difficulty.

The first time I played the game, I thought I had almost beat the game after a while. What I didn't realize then, is that I was probably less than a tenth of the way through the game. And the bazillion power-ups and health upgrades hidden all around the game world didn't help in making it any shorter.

Like the last two games, I strongly recommend An Untitled Story. It is one of the best games I have ever played. Ever.

Download An Untitled Story for free from Matt Thorson's Website

Anyway, that ends the game reviews. The last three days of the week will consist of interviews. Talking with the men who made these wonders.

Until later,
Reuben Horst

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 03 - Space Jellyfish

Indie Video Gaming Week, Day 03 - Game Review: Return to Sector 9

Welcome back! My apologies for this update being so late in the day, but I couldn't help it. Here are three reasons why this review is late:
  1. Today I got to watch live streaming of Nintendo's event at E3 2011.
  2. I got two awesome books in the mail that I wanted to read.
  3. A lot of the afternoon was spent playing the game I am reviewing.
Anyway . . .

Return to Sector 9 is one of the first arcade shooters I've ever played on PC (it was around the time that I actually got around to playing PC games), but this is not including crappy Atari games such as Asteroids or Space Invaders.

R2S9, as many people call it, was created primarily by indie developer Chris Roper (a.k.a. Pug Fugly Games), though he had a lot of help. The game is a compilation of nine very addicting arcade-style shooters, first and foremost of which has the title of the entire compilation, "Return to Sector 9".

There can unlock a total of 15 alternate ships (including the one you start with), each of which have several unlockable color schemes and a special weapon.

The games range from an ordinary space shooter (just destroy all of the ships that are coming towards you in waves), to playing as a nearly-extinct jellyfish trying to survive (in space!), to searching the boarders of this section of space known as Sector 9 for none other than solid gold. (Why is there gold floating around in space?)

I have always considered Return to Sector 9 a classic and a favorite, ever since I first played it. My brothers have epic records in all of the games, and I've done fairly decent myself. The addictive gameplay is intriguing, and I could seriously play this game for hours at a time (but don't worry, I do discipline myself).

So would I recommend it? Heck yes.

Download Return to Sector 9 for free from Chris Roper's Website

Farewell for now,
Reuben Horst

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 02 - Invaded by the Tasen, Destroyed by the Komato

Indie Video Gaming Week, Day 02 - Game Review: Iji

I first played Iji probably a year ago, when I found out that not only was it the #1 freeware indie game of 2009, but it was also made by Daniel Remar, the chap who made Castle of Elite back in . . . some year I can't remember (I'm thinking 2004).

So what is it that makes this game so great? Well, Iji could have been any old unoriginal 2D platformer shooter (that was a long description), but it is indeed more than that. One thing that makes the game cool is that it took four years to make. How does that make something cool? Are you kidding me? Games that take a long time to make are always cool! Everyone knows that!

In the meantime, Iji is a very fun, complex game to play. The in-depth story is intriguing, and it also differs depending on choices that you make during the game. There are ten sectors, and that is enough, though the game is good enough that I wish there were more.

Iji is jam-packed with secrets, hidden collectibles, unlockables, et cetera, that add hours and hours of replay value. There are log-books everywhere in the game that add almost more backstory than necessary (though they are pretty darn cool). Upon that, fans have come up with dozens of storyline theories (warning, link contains spoilers) that are just plain cool.

I don't want to continue too much, in case I accidentally say something wrong, but I'll just go with this: play this game. You won't regret it.

Download Iji for free from Daniel Remar's Website

Until later,
Reuben Horst

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 01 - Indie Video Gaming Week

So you may be asking, what the heckleness is Indie Video Gaming Week? Well, to tell the truth, it is an unoriginal name! That's what it is!

No really, I'm going to be blogging once per day for a week. Three days will be reviews of freeware PC games, and the other three will be . . . interviews with the creators of the three games!

I told you I was working on a deadline before, and it was for this. Today is the introduction day; not much happening. But the rest of the week will be cool. At least in my opinion.

If you don't know what independent video games are, then find out!

Now, I must be off! More deadlines to meet!

-Reuben Horst

Friday, June 3, 2011

[Insert intriguing title here!]

I wanted to name this post something more original than "Update". I could do "Update Again" or "Another Update", but that would just be boring.

Anyway, I'm currently reading several books, all of which I plan on reviewing. My main focus right now is The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead, and after that I'll work on getting through Nick of Time by Tim Downs. I need to read both of these books as they are so assigned by BookSneeze.

I'm also in the middle of reading The Blood Book by Ted Dekker, and I also will soon be reading Genesis by Ted Dekker, Indeliable by Kristen Heitzmann, and Pieces of Light by Julie Cave. All of this reading will unfortunately make it harder to succeed in my mission of reading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy this summer. But, alas, an assignment is an assignment.

In other news, I have a large blog project planned for next week, starting on Sunday, June 5. Within the next couple days I'll need to work hard in order to meet my deadline.

There was more information that I was going to mention, but it has slipped my mind. If I remember, I will not hesitate to make a blog post entitled "Just One More Update".

Also, and also, my little signature thing at the end of each blog post (~Reuben/Arkatox~), does that look too cheesy? I want my blog to look professional, but I want to leave something at the end of each post to sort of "sign" it. "~Reuben/Arkatox~" works, because my name is Reuben, and my online alias is Arkatox (for message boards or programs such as Steam), but I'm thinking maybe I should leave maybe something a little more mature-looking.

What do you think?

-Reuben Horst, a.k.a. Arkatox

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


"Okay . . . so what exactly is going on?"

That's what I kept asking myself, and the rest of my family (probably to their annoyance), as I watched through Inception. It's true it is a complex movie, and I find it hard to understand complex things. There are many things I find hard to understand, and it's really starting to get under my skin, because I love complex things (as long as they're not boring).

This movie is like taking The Matrix . . . and making it more complex. A group of men—along with a woman—are assigned to find something out, and the only way to find this information is to get inside someone's head . . . or dreams.

The technology for being able to enter somebody's dreams has been around for quite a while, though it is considered top secret. What some people believe is not possible is a process called "inception". Inception is the idea of planting ideas in somebody else's brain, through their dreams. People say it's not possible, though this team needs it to execute their mission.

One man on this team, Dom Cobb, knows that Inception can be done, as he has experienced it before. This being known, the team enters the dreams of Robert Fischer, the heir to a business empire. Before long, the team is questing through several different dreams inside another, all to discover the code to a safe.

That doesn't sound complex, does it? Well, I've barely described the movie.

Inception is action-packed and, long story short, just plain awesome. The acting was great, along with the script and special effects. The film was directed by Chistopher Nolan, the director of The Dark Knight, and frankly, I enjoyed Inception far more than The Dark Knight.

The story was intriguing and complex, and shows that people can still make good original movies nowadays.

No movie is without flaw, though, and I have to say I completely hated the character Mal Cobb, who was Dom's wife. Even though she played a huge part in the film, it would have been much, much better without her.

Yes, I would recommend this movie. Go watch it!