What could be more in keeping with the theme of in-development indie games than this column being delayed? At least its release was only pushed back a week; I could have extended it for years and called my continued absence performance journalism. But no. There's too many embryonic games to discover.
Drowned worlds! Drown-able worlds! Corporate spies! A game called "Theme Parkitect"!
Uppercut Games are a small studio making a big game, one set in a half-submerged city where players explore in a simple fishing boat and scale ruined buildings in search of supplies.
There's not much more information than that at this stage, but the game's inaugural devblog post outlines how they're wringing as much detail out of Unreal Engine 4 as their three-person art team can manage.
We first created a master material that had 3 channels, one each for a base surface, a damaged surface and a moss covered surface. Each of these materials has its own physical properties like roughness, normal maps and colour. These materials are then combined into a single layered shader, with a set of masks to blend the materials together.
If you ever wondered how videogame environments were created for you, this is one of the most fundamental tools. I hope Uppercut continue to explain how they're building their drowned world.
At this year's Rezzed I had the chance to tickle Biome, a game in which players click to raise and lower a tiny slice of land. Mountains burst from the earth, oceans ebb and flow, and with each re-factoring of the landscape new environmental properties are discovered.
At the Biome blog, the game's UK-based designer offers insight into the creation of the game: details of that trip to Rezzed, in-progress GIFs of new effects, advice for fellow indie developers, and the distinction between toys and games.
Whichever Biome is, it's lovely to watch these pet worlds be enriched with detail. I could stare at these GIFs for hours; imagine how long I might spend if they were alive, manipulable, inhabited.
There are so many archetypes that I'm sick of, such as elves, zombies and sometimes robots. I never seem to get sick of spies, though. Hidden Asset is a stealth game with puzzle-like level design in which you take part in corporate espionage and sabotage.
It's inspired by XCOM and Syndicate and from its screenshots at least, it's already a considerable distance into development. That's in part because the project began in 2010 - or its devlog did - and although it's been dormant for the past year, its one-person developer says they've been working on it continuously ever since.
Since returning from silence at the start of the month, there's been a flurry of activity, including posts detailing the new combat system, the new lighting system, procedural NPC generation and the reasons behind a recent name change (from Hostile Takeover). I am ready for some XCOM-style games which are not just literally re-creating XCOM, so here's hoping the quick pace of progress continues.
If the mainstream industry won't build the game you want then by golly an indie developer will do it instead. If Citybound is an attempt to make the SimCity you've always wanted, then Theme Parkitect may turn into the modern Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon of your dreams.
The project only began back in April, but the TIGSource forum thread is already 17 pages long. Some of that is the game's rapidly growing and adoring audience, begging for the ability to make rollercoasters crash at high speed, but there's a lot of rapid development and detailed designer explanations, too. Here are the beginnings of the game's real art:
And it's not like all that begging didn't produce results.
Why has it taken someone this long to start making this game? Follow its development before it becomes cool.
In a fit of ambition, I had my character declare lordship over a village to a farmer in a cottage. I then graciously offered up my position as leader of the new entity to him, an honor which he accepted. Now unemployed, I asked to become one of his guards. He said I wasn't worthy enough yet, which I thought was sort of ungrateful. Unfortunately, I think he might try to stage an actual site takeover at some point, or move his new entity into a ruin. I wonder if the game has become odd. Eventually people will have to develop more sense about their life goals.
Thanks to those who sent submissions in these past two weeks. Keep doing so, or I'll think you don't like me.