Sym is out now!

Sym is a puzzle-platformer that explores social anxiety disorder. Play as Josh, a teenage boy trying to reconcile a maze of two contrasting worlds that coexist within the blank spaces of each other – his perception of reality, and the world he created to avoid his fears.

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Sym is a game that came to us rather than us finding it, the developers got in touch with us because the game was stuck on Steam Greenlight (something we hear alot) and they wanted some help from a publisher to help get the game noticed.  We took a look at a build and I think pretty quickly fell in love with its looks, it has a very striking art style.  The other very interesting thing about the game was the message behind it, the social anxiety message was something worth supporting, especially from my point of view as this is something I do suffer from.

It didn’t take long for a deal to be agreed and we set about making it known we were publishing the game. A few months later it was greenlit by Valve and we set about getting the game ready for release.

 

The developers Atrax Games are Italian and based in Italy so timezone wise this made my life alot easier, I think the only real issue we might of had was the language barrier. While they speak English very well I suspect certain language subtleties caused a little confusion on both sides, nothing that caused any major problems though as they worked very hard on improving and localising the game ready for release. The only thing that slowed down this release was localising it, this is always alot more work than developers think it is, especially if they haven’t done it before. It can throw up alot of issues that you just had never planned for.

Overall I have been very happy how Sym has gone since we signed it, I hope the team at Atrax Games enjoy the release and I look forward to seeing their future work 🙂

Sym is out now on PC & MAC.

 

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The Weaponographist is out now!

In the effort to post more about what I do for a living I plan to talk a bit about each of the games Mastertronic release. So kicking this new initiative off is The Weaponographist.

The Weaponographist is the second game from indie studio Puuba, we published their first game (Concursion) on Steam for them last year. Not long after this release Danny Garfield came to us with his next great idea for a game to see if we would fund it. Obviously we liked what we heard and said yes 🙂

We came very late the party with Concursion, it was stuck in Steam Greenlight and we agreed to get involved to get it out and released so I had very little idea what working with Danny and team at Puuba was going to be like for a full project.  It didn’t take long to realise that Danny was a proper workaholic, and a true gent. From the moment we saw the first build until the release build he and the team have worked their socks off. One of the reasons its actually releasing ahead of schedule!

This was also the first time we had started to use external playtesters, we had been gathering quite the list of people that wanted to help out so I enlisted a small amount to give me gameplay feedback on the game. I used this with our own feedback to help Danny tweak/improve the game as you will play it today. This was incredibly useful in making the game better and it will be something I do again. Thankyou to everyone that helped out on this.

By the time this post goes live the I will have prayed to the Steam gods that the magic release button has worked correctly and that people are enjoying the game. Release days are a little stressful even when games are as on schedule as this, you never know what might go wrong or if people are going to enjoy the game, all you can do is hope you have done a good enough job to give it the best chance possible.

The Weaponographist is out now on PC and MAC, so go take a look 🙂

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100+ hours of Heroes of the Storm, still enjoyable?

The easiest way to start this post would be with the statement:

“Hi, my names Stu and I’m a Heroes of the Storm addict”

So this at least means I’m still playing it, a lot.

Both playing and enjoying it a lot it must be said, Blizzard have finally created a moba that I can enjoy which has me very happy indeed.

 

My overall thoughts on the game haven’t changed from my previous post but over the hundreds of matches I have now played it’s become very clear that while the game is more action orientated than its competitors DotA and LoL it still has plenty of depth to learn.

You probably don’t pick up on that a lot from the quick match option but in the ranked modes like Hero League it becomes important to know the game inside out to give your team the best chance of a win. Picking the right heroes to counter the enemy teams selection is key, as is then choosing the right talents in game to keep them at bay. Like in all games in the genre knowing the maps is also important, from knowing when camps are spawning to when and where certain objectives are spawning it all helps you have a better chance of coming out on top.

 

If you end up on a losing streak I can see why people start to rage in these types of games, I have never really understood it as a newcomer to the genre but now I have got to the point where I understand where things go wrong I start to see how it can make you cross.

Seeing players do things that you know are wrong is frustrating, I have sworn at my screen probably more times than I would of liked but I have never taken to chat to throw abuse at the person. Maybe I have a higher threshold of control than a lot of others, or maybe I’m just aware that people need to learn from their own mistakes to get better. Either way I can see why such a super competitive game could cause people to lash out, even if they shouldn’t.

With the player base increasing by the day its likely the community will get more toxic, but I figure if you can ignore it and still have fun its not a massive deal. Just mute the idiots.

 

For now I am still having a lot of fun, even if I seem to be stuck on a horrendous losing streak at the moment! The high 30’s in ranked mode seems to have me destined to lose continuously!

Why I like Heroes of the Storm, so far.

After ages of waiting Blizzard finally decided to let me in on the Alpha (now Closed Beta) of their upcoming MOBA  – Heroes of the Storm.

I was going to start with explaining that I have been a casual MOBA player for a while now, then I looked at my League of Legends playtime and noticed the 69 hours played… I guess for a MOBA that’s still pretty light. So…

I am a pretty casual MOBA player, I have always enjoyed the team gameplay of the genre and the nice learning curve it offers in its mechanics, but the time needed to play a single game just never seem to fit into the time I had, which was a big shame. League of Legends introduced a couple of new modes that helped bring down times but they never felt like they did enough and I always felt like I was missing the main game.

Upon starting Heroes of the Storm I assumed I would have a similar issue, however after my first match against actual humans I realised this was certainly not the case. Most games seem to finish in about 30 minutes, usually less if one of the teams is a bit rubbish.  This is a major plus for me, at last a game in this genre that I can play around my life.

This was a very one sided fight, but games can be quick.
This was a very one sided fight, but games can be quick.

Another thing that always got to me about other MOBAs was items, the shops full of items often had so many choices that it seem liked it took ages to work out what were the best options, and once you knew them you never used any of the others. Always seemed a little odd to me.  There is no such item shop in Heroes of the Storm, at certain hero levels you get to choose a talent from a selection of four (at least once you have played a few games with a hero) and customise your hero that way. Much simpler, maybe too simple? I am still torn on this.

Storming the base, Valla style.
Storming the base, Valla style.

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Windows 10 – It’s cool to hate, but actually…

On the 21 January 2015 Microsoft held a conference all about Windows 10 and it was… long.  However it did contain a number of interesting announcements.

  • Windows 10 is designed to support all devices it runs on, so keeps stuff synced up between all your Windows 10 devices.
  • It will be a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and 8 in the first year.
  • Cortana is coming to Windows, the virtual assistant currently on Windows Phone has been integrated right in to the operating system.
  • Start Menu is back, the Windows 8 Start Menu screen is now compacted into the traditional Start Menu many still love.
  • Project Spartan, Internet Explorer is dead so long live Spartan. Microsoft have a new browser coming that aims to allow people to share and make notes directly on the website itself.
  • Xbox App for Windows 10, the familiar activity feed on Xbox One is coming to Windows. Allows messaging, sharing content etc.. on PC.
  • Game DVR, like the Xbox One Microsoft are building in their Game DVR directly into Windows 10. Users will be able to hit Windows + G and record footage from any game running in Windows 10.
  • DirectX 12, is coming. From the short demo it seems to be far more efficient than version 11.
  • Stream Xbox One games to Windows 10 devices, if you own an Xbox One you will be able to stream the games you own to your other Windows 10 devices.
  • Cross Platform play is coming, Fable Heroes will be playable between Xbox One and PC players.

 

Now its easy to look at the above list and think its all a massive waste of time, indeed nearly all the people who hate Microsoft will state that regardless. It’s what they do. However for me it kind of seems like they are really trying to get things right this time. That is, assuming these things work as intended…

 

Game DVR

Operating System level built in game recording must be a good thing? I think so. Yes there are many options to do this on PC but having it as part of your OS is a bonus. Assuming it allows options. My fear with this is it will be too restricted for people to really get on board with.  If we end up with a 720p 30 fps restricted video each time then most people will continue to use other software making it pretty pointless.  I really hope that Microsoft have thought about Game DVR in Windows 10 properly.

 

DirectX 12

Not alot was said about this, but I really hope this is some serious tech. If it can streamline performance while giving us all the shiny new effects this could really boost both PC and Xbox One games.

 

Streaming

Streaming tech has a long way to go, but for me (when the TV is in use) if I have the option to play my Xbox One games via my PC I will be pretty happy unless its a terrible experience… Happy to give it a try though, would loved to be proved wrong on this front ans see something on this front that actually works.

 

As a PC, Xbox One and Windows Phone user this is all pretty exciting, the only reason I moved to a Windows Phone over an Android one was that it made sense to have one main account across all these platforms. Windows 10 seems to be pushing that focus even more and this pleases me. I just hope they do a decent job of it, not expecting it to be perfect but decent would do 😉

I look forward to jumping on the Windows 10 upgrade once its available to find out how it all works.

 

Steam Dev Days – Day 1

Day 1 of the first Steam Dev Days was an interesting one for many reasons, most of which I wont bore you with as its more interesting for me and my work but my real surprises of the day were:

 

Steam Controller: This is something I was eager to get my hands on and see what the fuss was about (is there fuss?) however what struck me most during the presentation on the subject was just how much Valve have thought about the design and how they are still adapting it now. They have put shed loads of thought into this design and how it will work for users. For example all bindings people make get shared to other users, which means in theory the best, most used set will get used for people that don’t want to mess around setting them. I am looking forward to giving it a proper play with either tomorrow or when I get home as they were kind enough to give us each one in our goody bag!

 

 

Steam Machines: I have really struggled to see who Valve were going after with these machines but after its presentation it became alot clearer.  They just want to give gamers choice, the choice to pick a spec they want/can afford and use it how they want with access to all their library of games in whatever room you want.  It also became clear they are convincing the bigger publishers/developers to support Linux so hopefully all games will work on it.  Some of these boxes are small enough that they will fit most places, I can see a use for one in my home now but not quite sure I would pay out for one.  To our surprise Valve said we were all going to get one to take home today, and they weren’t joking!

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So I look forward to giving it a test out with SteamOS.

 

There were plenty of other interesting talks on Early Access, Steam in general but they will sound pretty boring to anyone who doesn’t actually work with things on Steam.  All in all though the first day was great and Valve have done a great job so far, its great to see normal people who love their job talk about what they are doing and how they got there.  I look forward to tomorrows sessions.

 

Steam Dev Days – we have come a long way…

So after 2 planes and nearly 5000 miles I am sat in Seattle wondering what Valve have in store for their first developer conference (Steam Dev Days).

 

 

I have decided what talks I want to sit in on (which is pretty organised for me), but it was harder than I thought as there is plenty going on.  For me though I am most interested is the Steam Controller and Valves thinking behind the Steam machines as I am not completely sold on them.

I did have an interesting conversation earlier that basically said the Steam controller once you are proficient with it can be as good as a mouse and keyboard and might even be better?  This is something I find hard to believe but am excited to give a go to find out.

 

It wouldn’t surprise me if Valve had some announcements to make to catch everyone out, nor would it surprise me if they didn’t…  Will Steam go open?, will they make their own Steam boxes? Will Half Life 3 be announced?

 

Who knows, but I will be tweeting from the event the best I can and will do a write up of each day on here.

 

Completed: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

Completion time: 11 hours (all minor missions done)

Platform: PC

There has been alot of talk about The Bureau, most of it not being that great so I was interested to see if it really was as bad as people were saying…

Nope, its not that bad. It’s not a great game but its competent enough… just about.

 

Gameplay

For a 3rd Person Shooter it does the basics right, shooting feels fine and cover works pretty well for the most part. However for a team based shooter its AI lets it down, your two team mates seem to jump in and out of cover like they sat on an ants nest often getting themselves downed by enemy fire. They also sometimes just run off to the other side of the level right into a nest of enemies just to die again. On the plus side slow-mo battle focus allows you to direct them and order them to use their special abilities and they tend to do this as ordered.

(Me running through one of the story missions about 2/3’s of the way through the game.)

Graphics

The Bureau is a pretty nice looking game on PC, well the actual in engine stuff is. The cutscene movies are a shocking resolution which can only mean they are direct from the console versions 🙁

A lot of love has clearly gone into the 60’s setting of the game, this mixed with the sci-fi elements makes it a really nice world to shoot stuff in.

 

Is it XCOM?

This is a good question, and at first I thought it was a pretty tenuous link to the series but on reflection the answer is Yes.

Squad members can die for good, you can hire new members and train them by sending them off to do missions alone. Enemies, weapons and tech is all from the XCOM world… although would of been nice to see some more variation for enemies. You have a base… although its actually quite an annoying place to be!

If you play it as an XCOM origins story then you can see it fitting into the universe but I still much prefer the strategy games.

 

Final Thoughts

If you love the XCOM universe you can probably forgive the games faults, but even then I wouldn’t suggest picking it up until it was at least half price in a sale.

 

Dream is now available on Steam Early Access

It has been a busy few months (when isn’t it I hear you say) and the result of this is one of the games I have been working on being released on Steam today, via the Early Access program.

Dream is a first person exploration game set, well in the main characters (Howard) dreams 🙂

Made my 3 great guys at HyperSloth the game will launch on Early Access today with Act 1 of the game available to play.  More content will get added as it gets completed.

Here is the trailer we created for the launch:

Dream has alot of great things going for it, it looks great and has a great soundtrack.  I am really looking forward to player feedback to help make this a really great game!

 

The Chaos Engine – The Chaos is Back!

Another game that has been taking up my time at work is a (if you like) remastered version of the Bitmap Brothers game, The Chaos Engine.

http://www.thechaosenginegame.com/

This version will be coming to Steam later this year, including on-line co-op for two players amongst all the usual Steam features you would expect.

The game will be playable at this years Rezzed show, which is going on this weekend.

Come play if you are there.