Archive for May, 2010

[Indiecast] Frozen Synapse Interview

Small squad, turn-based tactical combat is a genre long held dear by PC gamers.  Jagged Alliance.  Laser Squad Nemesis.  Fallout: Tactics.  Silent Storm.  The 1993 classic X-COM.  We love to take our tiny group of stalwart warriors and carefully hand-pick their orders, maximizing their potential in each turn to keep them safe and bring ruin to their enemies.  Typically, of course (Laser Squad Nemesis being the only exception listed above), those enemies are managed by the computer, and we match our wits against varying grades of AI.  The developers behind the focus of this Indiecast would like to invite us to turn this deadly chess match against each other, and it’s been a long time since that metaphor has been quite so apt.

Fan-Made Logo for Frozen Synapse

We had the very good fortune for this episode to be able to interview Paul Taylor, one of the co-founders of Mode 7 Games, currently deep in development on Frozen Synapse.  As you’ll hear, Frozen Synapse takes cues from many if not all of the games listed above, but also tries to emphasize tactical planning in a new way, with turns that resolve simultaneously and a very rigid set of rules for turn resolution.  When your guys go down, it will be because you were outsmarted, not because you failed a virtual die roll.  By the same token, though, your victories will be entirely your own.  You win when your plan is better, period.

There’s a lot of other neat stuff going on here, like an in-game option to export your finished match to Youtube for sharing, and a database that logs every game ever played so that you can research your opponent and try to get inside their head before you face them on the battlefield.  If you’d like to try the game for yourself, the cost of entry into the beta is a pre-order, which will net you two copies of the game, one for you and one for a friend.  The full release is currently slated for late this year.

I was thrilled to get a chance to talk to Paul about Frozen Synapse, and I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about it.  I have a feeling this one’s going to be on my hard drive for a very long time.

Want to talk about Frozen Synapse?  Come discuss it over at Colony of Gamers.

Hosted and Summarized by Eric [Ravenlock]
Joined by special guests & fellow beta players Matt and Jake,
and Paul Taylor from Mode 7 Games
Produced by Clayton [Voodoo]

For many who saw Star Wars for the first time, either in the theatre, on VHS, or DVD, would love to be able to get into the cockpit of a Rebel Alliance X-Wing fighter or an Imperial TIE Fighter and blast away. The two games that game before this one, X-Wing and TIE Fighter, allowed you to get that thrill of space combat but it was not until X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter was released in 1997 that going at it with your friends over a LAN or over the Internet was practical. That is if you call connecting with a dial up modem back in those days practical. But I suppose us old salts just had to make due and soldier on.  And for those of us who logged in hours playing this game remember the enhanced graphics, CD-Audio (gotta love that John Williams Star Wars score), and the wide variety of ships on both sides you could pilot. And yes, you did need a joystick to play this game effectively.

So join Robert [Trebor], Eric [Ravenlock], and Clayton [Voodoo] as we jump back into our favorite Rebel or Imperial fighter craft and discuss,  X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter

Robot ninjas.

Robot ninjas IN SPACE.

KAMIKAZE ROBOT NINJAS IN SPACE.

I like to imagine that the meeting where Plain Sight got greenlit went something like that. People crowd around a boardroom table, while a presenter puts those lines up on the projector, one at a time. At the first, a hush falls over the room. At the second, several people begin to rise from their chairs – perhaps an intern faints. At the third line, a cheer spreads throughout the room. Chest bumps occur. Everyone storms from the room in celebration, leaves work early and goes out for a drink. Because honestly, once you’ve hit on kamikaze robot ninjas in space, isn’t your work done?

Of course, that isn’t true – the work of making a game only just begins with the concept. The good news is, Beatnik Games followed through on the hard part, too. A frantic, silly action multiplayer game, Plain Sight will challenge your reflexes and your tactical skills as you zoom around in low gravity, destroying your robot ninja rivals and claiming their delicious energy for your own.

Sadly no demo for Plain Sight currently exists, but the cost of entry is a reasonable $10 and in my opinion, the return on investment in terms of hilarious entertainment is very high.

But don’t just take my word for it – listen to the Episode 32 Indiecast to hear what my fellow podcasters thought, and decide for yourselves.

Want to talk about Plain Sight? Come discuss it over at Colony of Gamers.

Despite what the media might tell you, video gaming is an inherently social medium.  And while you might not remember it all the time, given the stereotypical image of the PC gamer – fingers stained with cheetos tapping away at hotkeys in dimly lit basements in the middle of the night – it was PC games that first expanded the boundaries of multiplayer gaming beyond the couch and into cyberspace.  We want to game with our friends, and X-Box Live and PSN are nice and all, but we were sending headshots to each other across hundreds of miles of distance more than a decade ago, so forgive us if we seem hard to impress.

Rooted in that tradition, going as far back as the first DOOM, is a love of cooperative gameplay, and that’s what we’re here to talk about tonight.  The co-op experiences that helped form us as gamers, the ones we enjoy taking part in now, and the ones we’d like to see in the future.

You may notice as you listen that we lament a bit a shift that seems to have happened in game development where co-op play has become a standard of console games (and their PC ports), but rarely the province of PC exclusives.  I fear that I might have come across as saying that there are no good PC co-op experiences anymore, though, and that’s very clearly not the case.  A quick trip over to our good friends at Co-optimus will quickly dispel such a notion, and their list of PC co-op titles is a fantastic resource.  And, of course, the indie and mod scene haven’t forgotten the importance of co-op play; last episode’s indie game Flotilla has a local co-op mode, and mods like Fistful of Frags and Sven Co-op bring the experience to games that didn’t support it initially.

Come join us as we get by… with A Little Help From Our Friends.

Hosted and Summarized by Eric [Ravenlock]
Participants are Robert [Trebor], and J_Arcane
Produced by Clayton [Voodoo]

Want to talk about the show? Come discuss the episode over at Colony of Gamers.