Epic Games made the most of the its stage at GDC 2016. In the company's “State of Unreal” panel, CEO Tim Sweeney packed in as much news in as he could – an empowered battle against CryEngine's latest announcements. The success of the latest iteration of the Unreal Engine was a focus point; according to Sweeney, Unreal Engine 4 now has over 1.5 million users, and the seven largest franchises on the engine have generated over $1 billion in sales each.
The Unreal Engine news wasn't limited to larges titles, though. Last year, Epic announced a grant for indie developers using the Unreal Engine and, not to be outdone by CryEngine's $1 million indie fund, Epic increased their grant from $800,000 to $1.2 million. Epic is additionally partnering with HTC and Valve to bring 500 Vive units to indie developers to increase the development of VR titles.
PAX is a microcosm of the gaming industry: Fraught with chaos and ambition, but terribly fun to take part in. The indie scene is the center of that chaos and ambition; its developers are often more open and willing to share or provide insight, it’s just a matter of finding the games worth seeing.
Mekazoo was one of those.
Digital distribution platform Desura, recently acquired by Badjuju, has reportedly failed to pay its partnered developers over the past several months. Through forum posts and reader emails, we've learned that indie game developers who have entrusted the service with the sale of their games have gone unpaid, despite exceeding payment threshold requirements. We've received multiple emails from indie developers pertaining to Desura's lack of payment and decided to conduct further investigation.
Indie game developer Iron Dynamite recently introduced its rhythm-influenced twin stick shooter to Steam's Greenlight service, receiving early praise from Greenlight commenters. The game, aptly called “Quark,” places players into the 'body' of a sub-atomic particle that dwells within the Large Hadron Collider; our heroic Quark particle is assaulted by sub-atomic enemies, but makes use of stun blasts and detonation (AoE explosion) mechanics for defense.
Randomly and procedurally-generated content is becoming more prevalent in independent games created by small teams. I discovered at PAX East that this is extending to a variety of game genres and genre hybrids.
Montreal studio Clever Plays has designed a unique twin-stick action RPG, Leap of Fate, that blends elements of magic and cyberpunk lore within a randomly-generated setting. Game Director Mattieu Bégin took me through half a standard playthrough and broke-down the game’s premise, core mechanics, and replayability.
For a week, our team wandered San Francisco and Boston, trekking between GDC and PAX East. We endured delayed flights, frozen rain, unseasonable (for us) heat in California, massive snow drifts (in Boston), smelly clothes, unfortunate public transport, and the overall frustration of travel and hotel. But for brief 10 minutes, fortune shined on me.
The platformer genre is one that initially stood out as challenging, with titles like Metroid, Contra, and Pitfall. Eventually, it expanded to larger 3d worlds that developers enriched to offer more than just jumping from platform-to-platform. After that grew repetitive, the number of platformers in the AAA market began to dwindle. Fortunately, many 2D platformers have emerged from independent developers and are putting their unique twists on the genre.
Goldeneye and Halo: Combat Evolved introduced me to PVP first-person shooters. I eventually worked up my chops enough for my friends to target only me when playing a free-for-all mode, but one day while playing Halo, my friend called me out for “screen-cheating.”
I never heard of such a term and, given that split-screen multiplayer still puts it out there to use the whole screen space to win, I never thought of this dubious act as one that’s frowned upon. Given that he was (and still is) my friend, I instantly quit screen-cheating and never returned to form.
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