When I was first following along with videogames on the internet, there were these things called .plan files. They were essentially blogs, or Twitter before Twitter, but they were updated by game developers like John Carmack, Cliff Bleszinski, Randy Pitchford and more before everyone grew too busy, too old, or too ensconced in the PR machine to speak so openly and frequently.
They were great, because they were a glimpse both into the development process ("Post Q3A, I plan on doing a research engine that is fully dynamically lit and shadowed instead of using lightmaps," writes Carmack in one 1999 post, marking the moment he worked out how to make Doom 3), but also into the people making those games (I only understand half of everything Carmack writes; he must be very smart).
It's a good thing that indie development and Kickstarter have brought back regularly updated development blogs, then. It's a sensible thing, then, that I write this still-not-sure-it'll-be-a-regular column charting some recent updates from those devlogs.
A tower defence/real-time strategy game in which you defend cities from giant monster attacks by researching tech, placing defences and deplying "calming measures such as 'Keep Calm And Carry On' mugs".
It's early days for the game, but there's plenty of cute artwork in its TIGSource DevLog. Like so:
Developer Kevin Tsang will be at Rezzed later this month with a playable version of the game. He's currently polling people as to whether to name of the game should change, perhaps to Monster Panic. I vote no, but you can tell him otherwise in the dev thread, or in Birmingham.
CrossCode is an action RPG described as having the theme, "Throwing balls against everything." That's pretty accurate. It's also snappy, both in its jumping and moving mechanics and in the physical way things slide around or smash when you hit them with those balls.
Most exciting/necessary for the purposes of this column is the lengthy development blog its creators have been keeping. It contains 43 updates thus far, covering art creation, code optimisation and, of course, GIFs.
Everything the team make is made using HTML5 and the Impact engine, meaning i) it's especially interesting to read about the programming of the game and ii) there's an early tech demo of CrossCode playable in your browser right now.
Risk of Death 2
A side-scrolling wave-attack combat game, best conveyed via this single GIF:
New art and GIFs are appearing regularly, as always, on the TIGSource forums.
Somewhere is a first-person stealth exploration game in which you overcome obstacles by possessing and becoming other characters within the environment. There's a Tumblr, a TIGSource Devlog, and a pre-alpha chunk of the game available to play now, called Fictions.
There's a lot of interesting writing on the devlog about the power of stealth games to draw you in to a world, and the complementary nature of the ability to inhabit specific characters in order to explore their world further. But I'm following along to watch the art develop, which is stunning whether in-game or not:
From the archive
The Blue's News archive of .plan updates (based on a system my brother wrote, like, fifteen years ago) is incomplete, but there's plenty there that seems historic and interesting in retrospect. Or just odd. Here's Gearbox's Randy "DuvalMagic" Pitchford before their first game came out:
Gearbox is within days (hours?) of "Release Candidate 1" for Half-Life: Opposing Force. But, that's not the cool news. The cool news is that Brian's been working with the Sierra marketing and art dudes on a Corporal Adrian Shephard stand-up/cut-out display for the stores.
It's planned to have an animated Pipe Wrench that he brandishes... The whole thing is supposed to run off of solar power. It sounds very cool.
Was this ever made? In the back of someone's garage is there a solar powered Adrian Shephard, his stiff hand still grasping a wrench, dreaming of the day when sunlight again strikes his face?
More important questions: should this be a regular column? I wrote it last week because I had two neat games that didn't quite deserve a post on their own. I'm writing it this week because I got about 15 emails from indie devs containing links their devlogs, and so I've already got material to last me a month.
But is it worth your time? Should these games be posts unto themselves, or not featured at all? Is "DevLog Watch" really the best name we can come up with?
Edit: I said I'd link this last week and then forgot. If you like this sort of thing, you might like the TIGSource DevLog magazine, which does something similar but with nicer pictures.