Island Hopping: Lemma

By Adam Smith on February 28th, 2012 at 9:41 am.

You play a lady, so if you look down while playing you can see lady-breasts but thankfully not in the manner of Trespasser

Jumping, falling, kicking through walls, RUNNING AWAY. It’s how I’ve spent my morning and some of last night, as I made my way through the alpha release of Lemma, an indie game set to be released as a charity fundraiser. The most obvious point of comparison is Mirror’s Edge and since I’ve not woken up enough to make a more obtuse comparison, let’s go with Mirror’s Edge because in Lemma you perform parkour from a first-person perspective. There’s a story, told through exploration of the island on which you inexplicably awaken as well as through convincingly written text messages exchanged with someone in need of assistance. Stumble from your precarious foothold and join me below for a trailer and more.

BAM, that wall sure got kicked in the face. But then the pieces of wall sometimes trundle around in a way that pieces of wall definitely shouldn’t. That’s when kicking becomes running.

There is creepiness and cleverness, and at its root, Lemma is a game about plotting your route from one side of an area to another using the tools at your disposal. At first, your limbs are those tools but later on, there’s manipulation of the environment, both deliberate and not, as well as some other interesting things that I’m going to keep a secret from you because you’re going to play the alpha and discover them for yourself.

Here’s a thing that I noticed. When the lead character receives a text message, her phone makes a vibration sound that sounds a bit like the noise my phone makes on my desktop. The first couple of times I thought I’d become inexplicably popular only to be disappointed. But then I became worried; why does the phone vibrate as if against wood when it’s in her pocket? Maybe the firm muscles of the parkourier are as solid as a tree trunk? Or maybe I’m still too tired to form coherent thoughts.

Despite the fact that I’ve become stuck on scenery upon occasion, this is a solid alpha release and the environment is much more open than you might think at first. Explore, jump off the highest peaks, go wild.

One word of warning – the download was flagged as unsafe for me. This is a known issue addressed by the developer (“It’s because I can’t afford a code signing signature at the moment, so the installer has not been signed.”) and I’ve scanned it thoroughly and found nothing untoward. Jump in here.

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26 Comments »

  1. iARDAs says:

    Mirrors Edge and Minecraft had a fling the other night. They got intimate, did not use any condoms and this happened. Lemma.

    the thing is will they wish that they used a condom or will they be happy with their mistake?

  2. mondzi says:

    Looks like all virtual worlds became little bit blockier after Minecraft…

    • Maldomel says:

      Yeah now there’s blocky stuff everywhere. Not that I don’t like it, but it’s like zombies, at some point developpers will have to stop and step out of the trendy train. For their own good.

    • faelnor says:

      It’s not so much of a trend as it is mass realisation by developers (who may have been too stupid to think by themselves) that using a voxel-based data structure for the game world allows them to ease up the implementation of dynamic behaviour while still allowing for suspension of disbelief.

    • CMaster says:

      It’s more a realisation that players will put up with the look of blocky worlds. The old voxel graphics games got a lot of stick for their apperance, while vocels for destruction were being used at least as far back as Worms 3D in 2003 – however they then wrapped the voxels in a dynamically generated polygon mesh to smooth out the blockiness, as they didn’t think players would accept it. (One suspects that Red Faction did something similar). The technique of building worlds from blocks is well known – it’s just that nobody thought you could get a good number of players with such an obviously fake world.

    • Urthman says:

      I’m delighted to trade a little blockiness in the graphics for letting indie developers do inventive stuff with physics like this.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Voxels are cool for dynamically changing adding and removing stuff, but they suck for rotation. I mean, it’s like pixels versus vectors in 2d drawing–Photoshop and Illustrator both have good uses.

  3. KarenRichardson says:

    Yes you are right about mass realization by developers.

    turbo tax

  4. faelnor says:

    A bit rough around the edges (hah). There is still a lot of imprecision in jumping, kicking and mantling, which is the first thing to fix in my opinion. As long as the determinism in mechanics isn’t perfect, the player won’t feel sufficiently at ease to get immersed in the story.

    My advice: add real, “soft” mantling* when jumping on a ledge, tweak kicking so you won’t destroy the environment right under your feet.

    Other bad bit: body awareness needs more animations and a better, more stylised body model.
    Good bits: I really like the SMS idea and the whole premise of the game. There’s a lot of potential there.

    * I mean it should be rather permissive with the player, allowing near-missed jumps to still trigger mantling.

  5. CMaster says:

    OK so thoughts:

    - Neat idea, world looks quite good for something made of blocks.
    – A lot of the movement abilities were rather ropey, especially wall run and wall jump.
    – The kick was what I used (as it was better than everything else) to get past pretty much any challenge. The kick would propel you huge distances in whatever direction you were looking, making it quite easy to get well outside the level (which the game wasn’t able to handle, leading to me being stuck in water at one point)
    - Combat is awful. You either land the kick and get the kill, or don’t and die. If there are multiple enemies, or enemies that can survive a first kick, you land the first kick and get the kill, then die anyway. Add to that you get ambushed a couple of times without even the chance to respond to a kick.
    - Why can’t I grab on ledges?

    Looking forward to seeing more of this.

  6. fomka says:

    good

  7. Williz says:

    Those Angry Red cubes attacking her make the same noise the Alien from John Carpenters The Thing makes. This is gonna get creppy at some point.

  8. Secundus says:

    i looked down and i saw that i was a beautiful female poser model with rockin weird 3d titties, thank you indie developer

  9. et1337 says:

    Developer here, thanks so much for the feedback everyone! Next release I’ll be taking another pass at the controls, fixing the physics wonkiness, and adding some actual combat. What I mostly need to know is what you don’t like so I can fix it. :)

    Also, the player model is actually a male MakeHuman model with the muscles turned all the way up. Awkward… I’m starting to see the advantages of a female character though…

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      I think the name promotes the assumption that you’re female. And why not.

    • AndrewC says:

      What tone are you going for? Like, overall game feel? Fun/wistful/weird/scary?

      This is an entirely personal reaction, but big empty places that are a bit abstract are naturally beautifully haunting to me – a bit like Dear Esther or something. The lava thingies in the video were good because they remained abstract and blocky – they were a representation of *something* malign but you couldn’t quite recognise them. Evil forces you can’t quite comprehend are positively Lovecraftian! Blocky Cthulhu!

      Basic graphics are great for this because obviosuly you can see the monsters as clear as day, but they still resist definition – thus allowing imagination in.

      So with that in mind, I reckon you shouldn’t be scared of keeping all your characters basic and abstract. Maybe if you look down and it is a simple loose fitting garment that does not specify gender.

      Still, if all that means nothing to you – go with a lady. Lady!

    • et1337 says:

      Definitely going for the weird/scary vibe. Your description of abstract baddies and big empty spaces is exactly the goal!

    • Urthman says:

      This looks really promising. I love both the art style and the gameplay mechanics here.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Awesome game so far, count my £££’s as in your pocket if things carry o the way they are going!

      Feedback: I keep getting stuck when I try to go off track and explore, for example the high sand near the start – I’m sure there’s something good to see up there but I kick myself a hole and hover there until I reset the game!

      Also it would be nice (and I realise the nature if this demo) if the geography was a little more believable – the beach at the start is gorgeous but crashing through that cliff and it all gets a bit abstract – if that’s what you’re going for, so be it but I would prefer the same jumps and puzzles in a slightly less abstract space :)

      Hugely impressed though and looking forward to the release! You find yourselves very near the top of my list of “Games I want”

    • Nate says:

      I’m having a couple of problems with this.

      1) I’m getting stuck in world geometry pretty frequently. This seems to be happening when I explore small spaces, and when small bits of rock break from underneath me. One weird thing that happens to me when I’m stuck is that I lose the ability to turn fully– my view becomes locked within a certain range of angles (in case that’s helpful info for you). It’s frustrating to explore the alpha when I keep getting stuck, since there’s no “return to last checkpoint” command that I can see– every time, I quit the game and restart it.

      2) I find it difficult to gauge distance in the alpha. Part of the problem with this is the use of directional lighting in conjunction with the cube world– there aren’t any visual cues for me to lock onto, other than texture details, and the texture details that exist don’t help much (rock texture could be big grain or small grain, who knows…) I think that relying less on directional and ambient lighting and a little more on point lighting would help with this problem, but maybe just a bit. Any other kind of cues that would indicate how far away something was would help– there just isn’t anything in the game I can point to and say, “That’s x big, therefore, at that size, it’s about yay far away.” This is especially true, and especially problematic with the bad guys, who are totally abstract and shaded flatly (I think they might even come in various different sizes?) It’s essential to be able to gauge the distance of the bad guys to fight them.

  10. GallonOfAlan says:

    This is great – I haven’t been able to look at my own tits since Jurassic Park: Trespasser in 1998.

  11. tomeoftom says:

    This is EXACTLY (well, it was a co-op rather than lone, with a kind of mechanised British Bulldogs multiplayer mode) the idea that’s been broiling in my head for months. Fuck. I’m really, really glad this is being made.

  12. Urthman says:

    My favorite part of the video is when the player “grows” a pillar of red cubic stuff and approaches what is, to my FPS / Minecraft – trained mind, a ledge clearly too tall to jump up on, and then just pulls herself up on it like any human being in the real world would.

    So refreshing.