Peru :: Squares Trials

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“Reverse engineering is key”

My recent journey to Peru inspired me to find my game for this wonderful country full of llamas and crazy altitudes. After some research on games developed in Peru I was immediately fascinated by its game development history and how everything started, so this time I want to take the chance to share with you this story: Peru’s game development history started off very early – with an interesting game “analyzing” and reverse engineering (nice way to put hacking and cracking) scene before internet and games were widespread and the people of Peru had to find alternative ways to spread and play video games.

This polygon article and this gamelab article tell the fantastic story of Mr. Byte and his hacker’s club TEG (Twin Eagles Group). While decompiling, and cracking first games, they’ve also gained the required expertise in game programming. They’ve started by adding new scenes, new levels, new languages to the games; so it was only a short way until they started developing the first games on their own: Gunbee F-99 (Amiga: 1989), and games inspired by local politics such as La Tercera Vuelta and The King of Peru (fighting game), but also the first Peruvian erotic game: Samba de Oruga (tetris with “happy end”).

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By 2007 TEG stopped their development efforts and the Peruvian game development industry was almost dead. However, apparently starting with the Lima Game Jam in 2012 the spirit to develop games was rediscovered. In the middle of the mobile game area, a new chance for publishing games  was visible to Peruvian developers.

Since 2012, Peru is also home of a vivid and uprising IGDA chapter. The’ve just published a brilliant guide of all games developed in Peru. I was extremely surprised by the variety of games developed in this country. In particular the new rise since 2012 is very visible in this guide. Uprising studios such as Bamtang Games and LEAP Game Studios seem to be strong forces in this country. So the IGDA chapter was also the first address I used to raise my question “If I should play ONE game developed in Peru – which one should it be?“. After a couple of days I got my answer: “We talk a lot about your question and we believe that you must play Squares Trials“.

Squares Trials is a very polished fast-paced pastime mobile game about – squares. It uses a simple but addictive and challenging principles: tap blue squares; double tap dark blue squares; never, ever tap on red ones; move arrows to the right direction – and that’s it. That’s also already the very simple and comprehensive tutorial of the game. Sounds easy – it is also easy – the first 3 levels. The games becomes extremely addictive but also very stressful and sometime definitely frustrating. The music also adds to this constant panic – and especially this evil grey shadow disappearing from right to left to put even more pressure on me failing again.

Definitely a perfect game to forget some stressful bus journeys in Peru  :-) In summary I am very fascinated by Peru’s development spirit and how they made their way into games (literally). Well played Peru – well played!

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(me playing at Machu Picchu)

 

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Release 2014
Genre Casual Mobile Game
Developer LEAP Game Studios
Publisher LEAP Game Studios
https://itunes.apple.com/pe/app/squares-trials/id703217085

Sweden :: Year Walk

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“To see if we would be loved”

Sweden is definitely an outstanding region to develop video games. It is home of masterpieces such as the Battlefield series, Just Cause, Wolfenstein: The New Order (btw one of my favourite games developed in one of my favourite cities: “Uppsala” – featuring several in-game easter eggs pointing to home), Minecraft, Mirror’s Edge, Need for Speed, and even the Goat Simulator. Looking at this giant list (and list of giants), I was pretty surprised how many games in my own shelf were actually developed by Swedish studios. While Sweden has a lot of different games to offer, one recommendation definitely took me into the Swedish mood: Year Walk. It was the snow scenery looking at the screenshots and the interesting name, which made me start the game, but it was the fascinating story, which kept me playing until I’ve heard and seen it all. It is the story about Daniel Svensson, who wants to know if his lover Stina will still love him in the future.

What would one suffer through to be able to see the future? What would we do to see if we would be wealthy, happy, and loved, or even if we would live? This game definitely is one which made me think and which taught me a lot. A Year Walk is a handcrafted and artistic game with wonderful music and atmospheric graphics telling a very special story: the story about Sweden’s ancient pagan ritual “Year Walk”, which was widespread in the beginning of the 19th century. This ritual should enable the walkers foreseeing the future and is described as a dangerous, challenging – even deadly – quest. Year walkers would lock themselves alone without food and drink into dark rooms on days such Midsummer’s Eve with one final spiritual destination: the church as place to see the future. On their way to the church they would encounter different supernatural mythical creatures and ghosts threatening the walker physically and spiritually. At the end the walker has the possibility to vision the future, but also finds the feared Church Grim. A very dark background comes with the Church Grim: when churches were built in medieval times often animals (sometimes even criminals) were buried alive under the church as guardians. But this is only one part of the Swedish folklores the game tells us about.

The game takes the player onto the journey of such a Year Walk while encountering different creatures and elements from Swedish folklore. Another story told in the game is the story of the “Mylingen” (The Mylings). This in-game encounter was a especially dark one. According to the game Encyclopedia a common crime during the 19th century or earlier was infanticide: mothers murdering their babies by leaving them in the woods or drowning them, because there was no room for more mouths to feed. The game takes us to different encounters of such crimes. Blood stains. Dark mood. Gloomy music. Tiny dead bodies. We need to take them to the other side of the bridge.

The mechanics of the adventure/puzzle game are simple. It is working with just a limited movement along the scenes, when arrows are visible (left, right, forward, backward) and eventually interacting with some game elements with the mouse as part of small puzzles. It is one of those games where you are better off with a small notebook (real one) next to the PC to solve the puzzles: remembering patterns, numbers, drawings. On-demand hints help the player. An in-game Encyclopedia tells the player everything about the Year Walk, and the different encountered creatures. All folklore elements are well researched and incorporated smartly into the game design. But this game is definitely not about the in-game interactions and the puzzles: it is the atmosphere and the stories that make this game to an unique and mystical experience.

In general, the game feels more like a mixture of reading an old book about the Swedish folklores and watching an artistic dark movie than playing a video game. No wonder: the original script was written as a film script and later adapted to fit an interactive dark experience.

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Release 2013
Genre Adventure Puzzle
Developer Simogo
Publisher Simogo, Nintendo
http://store.steampowered.com/app/269050

Croatia :: Serious Sam

Croatia

Sam I am..

Attending the Croatian game development conference “Reboot Develop” was the perfect spot to play my game from Croatia. This choice was extremely easy. All Croatian voices immediately shouted: “SAM! SAM! SAM!”. But first, I would like to mention the incredible fast development of the Croatian games industry. With a high-class conference such as Reboot Develop – bringing star-developers such as Tim Schaefer, the Romeros, Cliff Bleszinski, or Patrice Désilets (testing the locally developed indie games) to a beach-side paradise conference, which still feels like a large (game) family meeting – Croatia has created its own game-dev paradise. The local developer community is extremely strong and supportive. One of the most interesting outcomes of this community is also their “book of achievements” – a hardback summary featuring games developed in Croatia. And even if Croteam with its hits such as “Serious Sam” or most lately also “The Talos Principles” is a strong and well-known studio, it is only one of many talented voices of this country.

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Playing Croteam’s Serious Sam – The First Encounter was simply wonderful. The game is so basic. So wonderful basic. The entire gameplay is narrowed down to shooting enemies and a crazy sense of humour. No senseless and compulsive collecting, no complex storyline (basically only: aliens, future, Egypt), no epic rewards: you can fully concentrate on shooting monsters and saving the world. Short: “Being a hero by creating an alien massacre”. The main game elements are clear: an absurd hero, a variety of ridiculous weapons, and the memorable maniac monsters running while screaming in very .. foreign tongues. You face evil alien frogs, beheaded-rocketeers, beheaded-bombers, beheaded-kamikazes, beheaded-[enter-evil-alien-name-here], crazy werebulls, different forms of mechs, and basically a lot of different not-so-intelligent but fast and aggressive mixtures of mammals, arachnids, machines, bones, and weapons. The most fun and also stressful part are definitely the ridiculous mass-enemy-waves: it feels like thousands (at least!!) different enemies are running towards you, which make the game always to a fast-paced and highly stressful but wonderful high-adrenaline action.

The 3D game engine was for this time a wonderful piece of work. The created scenery, the amazing light effects, the environments full of rich details let players immersive in the alien-Egypt-world. Thanks to the high-performance engine it is possible that literally hundreds of werewulls, alien frogs, and beheaded creatures would run (and shout) at you. The game engine was recently made open-source: https://github.com/Croteam-official/Serious-Engine

In my opinion, definitely one of the most important parts of this game is its multi-player mode: a cooperative kill-fest! Playing this game was really a wonderful and also a very nostalgic experience to me. It is great to be reminded how you can create such a wonderful gameplay with a straight-forward and clear game design and a maniac sense of humour. (BTW this really motivated me to work further on my game – thx Croteam 😉 )

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Release 2001
Genre First Person Shooter
Developer Croteam
Publisher Take 2
http://store.steampowered.com/app/41050