Luke Venchus

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  1. The Lineup is a 3D comic book style indie game for PC, Mac and Linux. The player-controlled character is a psychic detective who identifies the faces of suspected murderers by reading the minds of their victims. Using a third eye, the player must pay attention to a morphing set of faces ultimately revealing the identity of the criminal. The challenge is to pick the killer from a lineup based only on a quick vision of morphing faces. This proves to be quite the challenge as I made many mistakes playing the game. If the player does not choose the correct killer, the suspect is released back onto the streets to claim more victims. If the player does choose the correct killer, justice is served and the killer is immediately executed by the electric chair. Guessing the wrong killer will only result in a loss scenario once a certain limit has been reached. In my case, on the normal difficulty, the game ended after only three wrong guesses. The harsh realities of this game play weigh heavy on the player’s decision-making process. If the correct killer is not chosen the first time, they will be released and able to kill more and more innocent people. This fact alone creates a sense of urgency to find the killer. Allowing the killer to roam the streets, by mistakenly choosing the wrong suspect, is an awful feeling. I found myself feeling a sense of empathy for the police detectives as they attempt to bring the correct criminals to justice. The developer designed a win condition that can only be met by acting morally responsible. This is the most powerful aspect of the game as it forces even the most cynical players to help the police department. Using the player’s unique psychic abilities, the game creates a sense of responsibility seldom found in games. However, this sense of responsibility feels forced and almost unnatural. Restricting players the option to choose the evil path may alienate an entire audience of players. The pixel art style and moral ambiguity are the strong points of The Lineup. The game play succeeds in questioning a player’s moral prowess, but fails in creating a fun experience. Reading minds and choosing criminals from a lineup is not exactly a fun activity or a full game for that matter. The lack of game mechanics makes this game feel incomplete. At best, The Lineup is a mediocre mini-game that should be part of a much larger game.
  2. Slendrina: The Cellar is a new horror title combining retro game mechanics with an intense modern 3D experience. The open world environment in this indie title gives the player the ultimate freedom to explore the space in their own unique way. Slendrina: The Cellar immediately draws players in with lighting and audio effects. The restricted visibility of the player’s small flashlight creates suspenseful tension as anyone or anything could be at the end of a corridor or the back of a room. The player is enticed to inch closer and closer to the screen by the eerie soundtrack that is almost difficult to hear. This is intentional as the screams of Slendrina will be sure to knock you back in your chair. I was genuinely frightened by the first encounter with Slendrina, her face pale white and scrawny body floating just steps away from you. I was entirely afraid to turn around at that point fearing the appearance of Slendrina. The terrifying ghost creature with devilish red eyes really resonated with my inner child. As a person that doesn’t scare very easily, Slendrina: The Cellar really peaked my interest. The goal of the game is to collect all of the books while avoiding Slendrina. Without the game’s scare factor, Slendrina: The Cellar isn’t much of a game at all. In order to survive the player must make their way through the level avoiding eye contact with Slendrina, for a set amount of time, before she eats your soul. Without unnerving suspense and intrigue the game play would be dry and ultimately pointless. The simplicity in merely exploring the space with no apparent goal or instruction is interesting, yet lacking. Lacking, in the sense that, a strong goal would provide a sense of urgency that is much needed in a horror indie title. The weak attempt to slap a storyline on existing gameplay feels painfully apparent. Using long corridors and doors, the developer was able to create an easy to build level system. It felt to me as though the storyline was developed secondary to the game mechanics. The control scheme gives the gameplay a jagged feel. The player is constantly pushing left or right to control the camera. This issue may be intentional designed to create a more scary game, but it only gives the player a headache. The dull environment seems repetitive and boring after extended gameplay. Hallways, rooms, doors, and shelves are just about the only art assets that exist in the game. A more interesting level would encourage exploration and hopefully create a better sense of urgency. Nevertheless, there were several notable strengths. The astounding audio creates suspense and horror. The slow eerie soundtrack creates unnerving suspense and the scream effect triggered by Slendrina’s appearance will surely knock the average player back in their chair. The art style succeeds in its simplicity by creating a genuinely scary character and environment. The free roam gameplay style helps give this title true value in the indie realm. Overall, I enjoyed this indie title for what it is, a cheap thrill. The combination of the art style and audio effects scared the pants off me. Using headphones or a loud speaker to get the full effects of the in-game audio helps push the horror factor. The replay ability of Slendrina: The Cellar is very low and the weak storyline might disappoint the average player, but I recommend checking out the gameplay for anyone looking for a quick scare. Slendrina: The Cellar was released to the Android marketplace on May 30th, 2014. It is available to download in free and paid versions.
  3. In this thread, I would like to engage discussions regarding trending characteristics of successful mobile games. What makes a game successful? What themes, mechanics, styles, or other game elements can guarantee success in the current market? One thing I have noticed recently is the growing community surrounding the zombie theme. Zombie movies and games have been around for years and years, but recently the push for more zombie games has grown greatly, especially in the mobile marketplace.
  4. Gunman Clive is the main character in this basic narrative to save the Mayor’s daughter from a group of bandits. In his spare time, independent developer Bertil Hörberg created Gunman Clive available on IOS, Android, Steam, and Nintendo 3DS. This artistically interesting platformer game proves its worth within the first few minutes of playing.Gunman Clive is the main character in this basic narrative to save the Mayor’s daughter from a group of bandits. In his spare time, independent developer Bertil Hörberg created Gunman Clive available on IOS, Android, Steam, and Nintendo 3DS. This artistically interesting platformer game proves its worth within the first few minutes of playing. The developer was able to capture the laid-back cowboy look and feel very well in the basic animations, art style, and camera work. The cowboy theme is well-represented in this indie title. According to the Steam website, “A group of bandits have kidnapped Mayor Johnsons daughter and are spreading havok across the land.” Gunman Clive is the main character in this basic narrative to save the Mayor’s daughter from a group of bandits. In his spare time, independent developer Bertil Hörberg created Gunman Clive available on IOS, Android, Steam, and Nintendo 3DS. This artistically interesting platformergame proves its worth within the first few minutes of playing. The color scheme mimics the desert realities of life in the American West in the 1800s. The developer was able to capture the laid-back cowboy look and feel very well in the basic animations, art style, and camera work. The cowboy theme is well-represented in this indie title. The three basic mechanics in Gunman Clive are move, shoot, and jump. In the simplistic control scheme, the developer was still able to create a fun, unique platformer title. Gunman Clive was originally meant to be played on smartphones before being ported over to the Nintendo 3DS and eventually the PC. The levels in Gunman Clive are interesting and make this game one worth playing. As the player progresses through the game, the environmental effects and abilities for the player become increasingly challenging. Trains, boss fights, and damsels in distress make Gunman Clive, a classic cowboy platformer anyone can enjoy. The gameplay and strategy elements are quite simple. Each AI unit moves/shoots according to a specific set pattern. It is important for the player to recognize the patterns in AI behavior in order to survive. In my experience, it was vitally important to observe AI movement and shooting patterns entirely before attempting to play through the level. The basic pattern AI system can seem dry or boring at first, but Gunman Clive is a worthwhile puzzle platformer that keeps the player interested. Shortcomings worth mentioning The default keyboard control settings in this game are abstract and unnatural. During my first playtest, I decided to change the controls to something more manageable on the keyboard. In researching the release dates of the title, I realized the PC version was the last to hit the marketplace. The character can only shoot straight in two directions, left and right. The AI characters have the same functionality, but can shoot up and down as well. This gives the game a distant feeling and disconnect from the overall game play. The predictable nature of the AI behavior and storyline takes away from the immersive gameplay. The storyline, though not original, gives the game a sense of direction and purpose. The main weak point of Gunman Clive is the storyline. The predictability of the story elements make it narratively uninteresting to a hardcore gamer or someone who emphasizes unpredictable original narrative. The developer more than makes up for this in the art style and gameplay mechanics/elements. For the causal puzzle platformer gamer, saddle up and enjoy the ride. Gunman Clive provides a fun challenge with a visually interesting art style that is sure to grab your attention. Luke Venchus Game Design student at The University of Advancing Technology. Intern at Retora Games Studio and Indie Game Source. Click here to view the article
  5. Gunman Clive is the main character in this basic narrative to save the Mayor’s daughter from a group of bandits. In his spare time, independent developer Bertil Hörberg created Gunman Clive available on IOS, Android, Steam, and Nintendo 3DS. This artistically interesting platformer game proves its worth within the first few minutes of playing. The developer was able to capture the laid-back cowboy look and feel very well in the basic animations, art style, and camera work. The cowboy theme is well-represented in this indie title. According to the Steam website, “A group of bandits have kidnapped Mayor Johnsons daughter and are spreading havok across the land.” Gunman Clive is the main character in this basic narrative to save the Mayor’s daughter from a group of bandits. In his spare time, independent developer Bertil Hörberg created Gunman Clive available on IOS, Android, Steam, and Nintendo 3DS. This artistically interesting platformergame proves its worth within the first few minutes of playing. The color scheme mimics the desert realities of life in the American West in the 1800s. The developer was able to capture the laid-back cowboy look and feel very well in the basic animations, art style, and camera work. The cowboy theme is well-represented in this indie title. The three basic mechanics in Gunman Clive are move, shoot, and jump. In the simplistic control scheme, the developer was still able to create a fun, unique platformer title. Gunman Clive was originally meant to be played on smartphones before being ported over to the Nintendo 3DS and eventually the PC. The levels in Gunman Clive are interesting and make this game one worth playing. As the player progresses through the game, the environmental effects and abilities for the player become increasingly challenging. Trains, boss fights, and damsels in distress make Gunman Clive, a classic cowboy platformer anyone can enjoy. The gameplay and strategy elements are quite simple. Each AI unit moves/shoots according to a specific set pattern. It is important for the player to recognize the patterns in AI behavior in order to survive. In my experience, it was vitally important to observe AI movement and shooting patterns entirely before attempting to play through the level. The basic pattern AI system can seem dry or boring at first, but Gunman Clive is a worthwhile puzzle platformer that keeps the player interested. Shortcomings worth mentioning The default keyboard control settings in this game are abstract and unnatural. During my first playtest, I decided to change the controls to something more manageable on the keyboard. In researching the release dates of the title, I realized the PC version was the last to hit the marketplace. The character can only shoot straight in two directions, left and right. The AI characters have the same functionality, but can shoot up and down as well. This gives the game a distant feeling and disconnect from the overall game play. The predictable nature of the AI behavior and storyline takes away from the immersive gameplay. The storyline, though not original, gives the game a sense of direction and purpose. The main weak point of Gunman Clive is the storyline. The predictability of the story elements make it narratively uninteresting to a hardcore gamer or someone who emphasizes unpredictable original narrative. The developer more than makes up for this in the art style and gameplay mechanics/elements. For the causal puzzle platformer gamer, saddle up and enjoy the ride. Gunman Clive provides a fun challenge with a visually interesting art style that is sure to grab your attention. Luke Venchus Game Design student at The University of Advancing Technology. Intern at Retora Games Studio and Indie Game Source.
  6. They Breathe is the first indie game ever released by the Swedish-based independent game studio, The Working Parts. According to The Working Parts Steam webpage, the studio declares, “We are united by our passion for making games and our desire to take the medium towards greater maturity.” They Breathe was released on Xbox in 2011, and re-released for PC on Steam Greenlight, May 23rd, 2014. Players can purchase the game for a reasonable price on Steam(http://store.steampowered.com/app/294140/) or the Xbox Live Marketplace(http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/They-Breathe/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550a06). They Breathe is an action adventure horror game where players take control of a frog trying to survive in a dangerous, ominous environment. According to the Steam website, “As you swim deeper, it’s up to you to figure out the rules of an insidious ecosystem where nothing is as it first seems.” Surviving on random air bubbles floating to the surface, the player controls a small frog creature pushing deeper and deeper into the unknown. The ominous-looking background moves and breathes as the frog navigates through the environment. The depths of the sea are filled with strange dangerous creatures which must be avoided at all costs. Other frogs paralyzed by mysterious creatures can be saved by being pushed into rising air bubbles. The goal of the game is to reach the very bottom of the sea and save all your frog friends in deep trouble! Understanding the function and purpose of the frogs/creatures is enough to scare the average gamer. The horror genre tag is achieved by engulfing the player in a mind-game type scenario. Grasping the message and meaning of the game is another horror scenario in itself. They Breathe leaves the player guessing and wanting more. This game is a noteworthy indie title and gamers of all ages can enjoy the simplistic yet mind-bending content. By Luke Venchus I am a Game Design student at University of Advancing Technology. I am also an intern at Retora Games Studio and Indie Game Source. View attachment: indiedbboxart.jpg Click here to view the article
  7. They Breathe is the first indie game ever released by the Swedish-based independent game studio, The Working Parts. According to The Working Parts Steam webpage, the studio declares, “We are united by our passion for making games and our desire to take the medium towards greater maturity.” They Breathe was released on Xbox in 2011, and re-released for PC on Steam Greenlight, May 23rd, 2014. Players can purchase the game for a reasonable price on Steam(http://store.steampowered.com/app/294140/) or the Xbox Live Marketplace(http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/They-Breathe/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550a06). View full article
  8. They Breathe is the first indie game ever released by the Swedish-based independent game studio, The Working Parts. According to The Working Parts Steam webpage, the studio declares, “We are united by our passion for making games and our desire to take the medium towards greater maturity.” They Breathe was released on Xbox in 2011, and re-released for PC on Steam Greenlight, May 23rd, 2014. Players can purchase the game for a reasonable price on Steam(http://store.steampowered.com/app/294140/) or the Xbox Live Marketplace(http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/They-Breathe/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550a06). They Breathe is an action adventure horror game where players take control of a frog trying to survive in a dangerous, ominous environment. According to the Steam website, “As you swim deeper, it’s up to you to figure out the rules of an insidious ecosystem where nothing is as it first seems.” Surviving on random air bubbles floating to the surface, the player controls a small frog creature pushing deeper and deeper into the unknown. The ominous-looking background moves and breathes as the frog navigates through the environment. The depths of the sea are filled with strange dangerous creatures which must be avoided at all costs. Other frogs paralyzed by mysterious creatures can be saved by being pushed into rising air bubbles. The goal of the game is to reach the very bottom of the sea and save all your frog friends in deep trouble! Understanding the function and purpose of the frogs/creatures is enough to scare the average gamer. The horror genre tag is achieved by engulfing the player in a mind-game type scenario. Grasping the message and meaning of the game is another horror scenario in itself. They Breathe leaves the player guessing and wanting more. This game is a noteworthy indie title and gamers of all ages can enjoy the simplistic yet mind-bending content. By Luke Venchus I am a Game Design student at University of Advancing Technology. I am also an intern at Retora Games Studio and Indie Game Source. View attachment: indiedbboxart.jpg