Miasmata: Completed!

Miasmata was an early Christmas present from a friend.. a first-person survival horror created by two-man team IonFx.  Not only did they create the entire game themselves, they also wrote the MILO engine that powers the game!

Miasma - Statue (more…)

A Machine For Pigs?

Frictional Games, creators of horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent, have another game in the works, and over the past few weeks a few details have been released.. the game may be set in China, and will be another first-person survival horror.

The teaser site, www.nextfrictionalgame.com now reveals a possible title: “A Machine For Pigs” as well as a release date of Autumn, 2012.

As always, people have dug through the clues and found a little more information, gathered on the Amnesia ARG Wiki.. and they have uncovered the possibility that The Chinese Room are involved in the making of this game too.  The Chinese Room were responsible for Dear Esther, as well as Nestlings, an experiment in story and mood, but they also created Korsakovia, an experimental horror mod about madness and the end of the world.

Dear Esther Releases Today

The indie remake of the cult mod Dear Esther releases today for PC and will be available on Steam.

Dear Esther started as a mod for Half Life 2, an interactive ghost story with randomly generated audio telling a tale, created by Dan Pinchbeck and with a soundtrack by Jessica Curry.

The visual overhaul comes from professional game artist, Robert Briscoe., and the remake of Dear Esther has been supported by the Indie Fund, an investment model which aims to support the growth of gaming and indie developers.

Dear Esther – First Trailer

Dear Esther is the reimagining of an interactive ghost-story by the same name, originally created using the Source engine and released as a mod for Half Life 2, by Dan Pinchbeck and The Chinese Room, a development research project at the University of Portsmouth, UK.

With an overhaul of the graphics and level design from Robert Briscoe, a professional game artist, the project became so much more than a simple mod, and then with the support of Valve the team were granted a license to turn Dear Esther into a completely independent release.  The Indie Fund have also helped by providing investment funding for the project.

The first trailer for the game shows off some of the beautiful environments on the island:

Dear Esther is planned for release on Steam on the 14th Feb 2012.

Q.U.B.E. goes live on Steam!

First-person puzzle game Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion), by Toxic Games, is now live on Steam!

Players begin the game by being dropped into an all-white room, and with little instruction, they must find and use coloured blocks to solve the puzzle and discover the way out of each level.  Q.U.B.E. has drawn comparisons with Portal.. but you can see for yourself by trying out the demo.

Toxic Games is a UK-based independent games developer; Q.U.B.E. started out as a part of the developers’ student project in 2009.

Q.U.B.E. is also the first Indie Fund game to be released!    Indie Fund is an investment fund backed by a team of successful indie developers, providing the investment new indies need to help cover ongoing costs and get their game finished.  Other games being backed are Steph Thirion’s Faraway, Robert Briscoe‘s re-imagination of Dan Pinchbeck‘s Dear Esther, and Pocketwatch GamesMONACO.

The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable is another in a long line of experimental mods for Half Life 2, with a narrator guiding the player through the story.. the author of the game recommends that people play before reading about it, so.. go play first, as this post may contain spoilers 😉

Stanley is employee #427, whose job consists of pushing buttons as instructed, when instructed, every day.. until one day, there are no instructions, and no other people.  The narrator provides the direction, and he says that Stanley goes to the employee’s lounge..

After leaving the office, I was presented with two open doors.. the narrator said that Stanley goes through the left one. I disobeyed..

The narrator commented on Stanley having gone the wrong way, and said that he therefore turned left at the next available opportunity.. of course I carried on going the wrong way, which resulted in the narrator talking about how bad Stanley was at following orders.. and that he then decided to punish himself!

The oh-so-calmly delivered commentary about my ruining the story, insults about my ability to follow instructions and the direction to go and punish myself had me crying with laughter 🙂

When the lift arrived, I missed the fact that there was a choice to disobey again, and went up as instructed, to face my punishment.. and mocking from the narrator about being stupid enough to actually get into the trap too 😀

I decided to behave on the second run, but when I came to a set of stairs to go up, I went down.. and then round and round until Stanley went mad, collapsed and died, only to be discovered by a woman who served as a pointed comment about not finding out what the story was about as you didn’t follow instructions!

The third run had my obedience right up until the very end.. I came across the generator room where the player is told about the machine controlling all the employee’s feelings, and causing them to do what they’re doing.. much like how a game controls the players’ feelings and actions 😉

Right up at the top of the room had the option to engage or disable the failing generator.. the blue pill or the red pill.. I made my choice and was rewarded with freedom, or at least entry to an outdoors area 🙂

As it’s still ScampLAN, the guys also tried out the game afterwards, and both disobeyed the initial instruction to go through the left door, though maybe influenced by my comments..

They were more disobedient than me, and went down a floor in the lift, to be faced with the choice of doors again, and with more disobedience being shown an room made of skybox and dev_textures, before being put into an empty Half Life 2 map, with the narrator throwing a few insults about Stanley being fat, ugly and really stupid, bad at his job, and addicted to drugs and hookers:D

When I downloaded the mod, it came with a text file of author commentary, which was preceded by a note saying not to read anything before playing the game itself.  Apparently most people take the left door on their first playthrough.. so I guess we’re a little more delinquent than most!

The author also lists Dear Esther, which I played and loved a while ago, and Robert Yang’s Radiator HL2 mod, which I’d not heard of before but is now in my download queue 🙂

Nestlings

Quite a few weeks back, somebody recommended I try Nestlings, a mod for Half Life 2 by Lewis Denby.  This is available on ModDB, and requires Half Life 2: Episode 2.

Rather than a game, this was described as “an experiment in story and mood”.
You start off facing an old, abandoned-looking house, completely surrounded by darkness.  Oh, what to do?

There’s a note pinned to the wall by the door which sets the scene – someone conducting some kind of research out here, all alone.. and imploring ‘Annabelle’ to turn around and run away.  Creepy.

There are more notes scattered in the rooms of the house, pages from a diary with details of research into the Nestlings, some kind of supernatural creatures from out in the forest.  I was expecting these Nestlings to jump out at me as I started to explore the rooms, but I made it upstairs without incident..

Through the ground floor, I managed to find the diary pages in the right order, but upstairs I turned left to start at one end, rather than opening the door directly in front of me.  This meant I came across the last note first; this page had a key attached which would unlock the attic.

I checked out the other rooms before heading up the ladder, as I really didn’t want to miss anything.. but after that there was only the attic left..

I think one of these bodies has to be the researcher, as the diary pages all foreshadow him being at the “peak of the house”, but I think that the second is Annabelle.  I think she would have come looking for the researcher and either died of the illness mentioned in her note, or met the same fate as he did.

After reading Annabelle’s note, the attic door slid shut and the lighting changed; after the lack of anything jumping out on me previously, this actually made me scream! 🙂

The abandoned house and rather abstract story reminded me of Dear Esther, another experimental story-mod I played a while back.
Looking at the developer’s blog, it seems Dear Esther has had a few updates over the past few months with some amazing looking graphical tweaks too!  He also mentions another, final, level is in the works, which I’m sure will be well worth checking out when the time comes.

Mods

For a long time, I wanted to create my own games.  Lacking the skills of a game developer, and to some extent the time and patience to figure it all out, I turned my attention to map making and level design, as the really hard work has already been done.  There are also plenty of tutorials around the web, taking even more of the pain out of it.  So far, I’ve not devoted the time required to create anything I’d want to show beyond my closest friends though..

Others though, have the time and patience (and the skill!), and there are some great works out there.  I’ve been recommended a few HL2 mods over the last week or so: Awakening, MINERVA: Metastasis, and Dear Esther – and the latest in the list, Korsakovia, is downloading now.

Awakening was described to me as a good game with awful voice acting.  You play as Adrian Shepard, from Opposing Forces, somewhere between Half Life and Half Life 2 in the timeline.
It starts off with a rather long trailer – Combine troops attacking some kind of facility – which pans around the fighting then inside the base, and eventually comes to rest where you wake up from stasis..  Simple enough game – shoot them all!  It’s quite a short game too – I completed it in about an hour.  The level design was great, and battles seemed to be well balanced, although I found myself seriously low on ammo for quite some time..  but yeah.. the voice acting was somewhat amusing.. 🙂

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MINERVA: Metastasis really stuck in my mind as the best of the three mods, although all three were quite different from each other.
You begin the game strapped to the underside of a stolen Combine helicopter, being shipped into an island to spy for Minerva.  She communicates with you only via radio messages which appear as text – no dodgy voice acting here, although the language is strangely poetic and could put some off.   Exploring the island, and finding out exactly what the Combine are up to, requires plenty of shooting and some puzzle solving.

The map design here is very open, and although there’s really only one way to go to further the story, you’ll return to the same places a few times during exploration.   I was also quite impressed with the quality of the graphics – at least on a par with the official game itself.

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Dear Esther is a strange sort of interactive ghost story, rather than a game.  Had I come across this myself, without recommendation, I might not have paid it much attention – especially as it started off so slowly, and you’re confined to a very slow walk – but that wouldn’t have done it justice.

The game begins with a portion of a letter being read out, to “Esther”, as you look on a deserted building.  Exploring the island triggers other portions of letters, or rambling thoughts, which only seem to become more rambling, more confused as you get deeper into the island, and markings on the walls only add to the atmosphere.

I discussed this with a friend afterwards, comparing notes on our understanding of what happened – an accident on a motorway, drink driving, the loss of a loved one, self-imposed isolation.. mixed with long lost shepherds, stolen bibles, monks and syphillis – all ramblings of a man delirious with a broken leg who somehow feels he deserves his fate..

Having looked around the internet for this one, I find that parts of the script are actually randomised, so if someone else were to play through this, they might have a slightly different interpretation.  Dear Esther made me feel rather sad, stirring up memories of my own, but that doesn’t stop me from admiring it.

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I also mentioned I was downloading Korsakovia..
This is another mod from The Chinese Room, the team who created Dear Esther.  This game – experience? – is not meant to be enjoyable.. the whole intent was to explore what happens when you push boundaries and subvert what people expect from a game – with flashing lights, disturbing sounds, and the oh-so-creepy tagline:

The paramedics report that they were unable to find his eyes. We think he may have eaten them.