Category Archives: Sem categoria

The innovation of the Indie Games

It’s common to hear that games from big companies (the so-called “triple A” titles) lack in innovation, and cling to used formulas that once proved successful in the past, and keep beating the dead horse until something really bad happens. And if by this sentence you thought about Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty, you are right.

In the recent years, a few titles received a lot of praise from the gaming community, specially for bringing innovation, challenge and new approaches to old game styles. Most of these games are from small studios that invested years and about all their money to make a product that they would be proud of. All this breeze of fresh ideas came from the Indie Games, and I’d like to point a few of the most impressive to me so far.

Spelunky

Spelunky is one of my favorite indie games ever created, and the single reason I haven’t sold my PS Vita yet. Simple, straightforward, challenging and 8-bit inspired, every detail of the game must have been carefully constructed to be there for a reason. Every detail can be a reference, every different block can be a secret.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

You assume the role of a spelunker, and must endeavor for 4 different stages to bring back the riches of the Golden Idol, trusting only your whip, your ropes and your bombs. You navigate through mazes of stages in caves, jungles, egyptian scenarios, and even the arctic pole.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

There are secrets everywhere, and most of them can take you to different paths in search for new challenges. You unlock several different characters, and since every stage is randomly generated, there are very few chances you can know exactly where to go.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

 

Super Meat Boy – Team Meat

Super Meat Boy is an instant classic, released to the XBox Live Arcade in 2010. It combines a simple story line, humor, speed and precise jumping to advance the game in the 6 stages of the game, while searching for Bandage Girl, Meat Boy’s girlfriend.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

This game checks all the box of a good game on its design: combines simple level design with basic controls in the early stages, does not waste time of the player after a fail attempt, and loads every stage quickly to keep the player engaged during the whole game. It also included several secrets, warp zones, unlockable characters, and speed run modes, to every type of player out there.

screen_3_big

Source: Google Images

It’s really impressive that a team of 2 enthusiasts was able to produce such a fun and engaging game. In less than 2 year, the game sold more than 1 million copies, and a sequel is currently in development. If you would like to have more details about the process involved in the creation of Super Meat Boy, the documentary Indie Game: The Movie has several stories of games about to be released in 2010, and this game is included there.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

 

Shovel Knight – Yacht Club Games

One of the best platforming games from 2014, Shovel Knight follows the story of Sir Shovel, a retired hero forced back into action to defeat the Order of No Quarter. Mixing a simple 2D platforming scheme with known pogo and slash attacks, Shovel Knight can be instantly placed in the Best Adventure category, specially when compared to re-used ideas in the genre.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Shovel Knight was eventually released in several consoles, including different secrets for a few of this platforms (you can battle Kratos, from God of War in the Playstation systems, and one of the Battletoads on the XBox version).

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

The game received several praises for its style and gameplay, and a DLC was released shortly after the port to every system, with a new adventure using one of the villains in the game. Including all the version, the Kickstarter backers, and the DLC, Shovel Knight surpassed 1.5 million copies, as of June 2016. An enormous success to a product coming from crowdfunding.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

The work of Gunpei Yokoi

If you like videogames, you heard about Nintendo. If you like Nintendo games, you probably heard about Shigeru Miyamoto. Creator of all the Mario-related games, plus several franchises that paved the way of Nintendo as a symbol in the game industry, it’s easy to be wondered by his achievements and respect Mr Miyamoto. But Nintendo owns a great deal to another designer from the house. Mr Gunpei Yokoi.

gameoy1

Gunpei Yokoi was hired by Nintendo to oversee a production line for the electronic toys department of the company, and used his free time to exercise his mind creating simple engineered devices, in order to study and develop his skills. During his time in the production line, he developed an extended arm in his free time, that eventually became the famous Ultra Hand (the one in the picture below).

Ultrahand_01

Because of his ingenious ways, Mr Yokoi was invited to participate as one of the first game designers for the new department of the company, and it would lead the new innovative field of arcade cabinets and home consoles, about to hit the market in a few years.

Nintendo_office

One of the most famous inventions from Mr Yokoi was inspired by the most common problem in the world: boredom in daily commute. Legend has that Mr Yokoi was observing a businessman playing around with a calculator in the train, while waiting to get home, and this little event sparked the idea to create the first successful product from Nintendo in the video-game business: the Game & Watch.

Game&Watch

The Game & Watch portable device is well praised in the early development of the industry, and set the tone of Yokoi’s philosophy of “Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology”. Basically, Gumpei always considered the use of well known technology on his creations, but applying a innovative use to make devices that feels fresh, even with “old” technology. The device spawned a series of titles, including some that would later be present in the first console of the company, such as Balloon Fight and Donkey Kong.

Game&Watch Games

A few years later, Gumpei Yokoi revealed his latest invention to the headquarter of Nintendo, and in 1986, the GameBoy was released to the public. Featuring a LCD screen, lightweight and with durable battery life, the GameBoy soon would become the prefered portable device in the market, even competing with better rivals, such as Game Gear and the Atari Lynx. As game designer, Gunpei Yokoi released a few important games to the portable, such as Metroid II – Return of Samus, Super Mario Land, and Kid Icarus.

GameBoys

The last time Gunpei Yokoi was in the news, unfortunately, was to release the infamous Virtua Boy. Trying to reach into 3D environments, Nintendo asked his R&D team to come up with ideas to turn a game into a 3D virtual reality, and Gunpei Yokoi was appointed as lead designer. After the success of the GameBoy, no one else inside the Big N would have better credentials to do so.

Virtual-Boy-Set

However, in light of the difficulty to create a portable 3D simulator, the project took too long and had to make concessions on the design, to avoid an exorbitant price. The design selected by Nintendo resembled a futuristic microscope, standing on a tripod, with controllers at your hand. Anyone that played one of the 22 released games would complain about headaches, nausea, and in a few extreme cases, desorientation.

virtual-boy-2

It’s not certain why Nintendo decided to go ahead with the design showed to the public, but the backlash of criticism made Nintendo blame Yokoi for the failure in sales of the Virtua Boy. Gunpei Yokoi decided to stay in Nintendo a little longer (he was ready to leave for his own company) and clear his name.

However, on October 4th, 1997, Gunpei Yokoi was hit by a passing car, after leaving his own to check a small collision with a truck, in a busy highway in Japan. Gunpei Yokoi was pronounced dead 2 hours later at a local hospital.

Yokoi obituary

Although he is gone, his legacy is forever cemented in the game industry. The original Game & Watch featured the first Directional Pad (or D-Pad for short) ever made for gaming, and it became a standard for every controller from Nintendo; His accomplishments with the Gameboy are undeniably huge, and his philosophy of cost x technology lives on inside Nintendo as of today; his design for the dual screen model of the Game & Watch would be the basis for the Nintendo DS, released years after his passing; the original R.O.B. toy, that was packaged with the Nintendo Entertainment System and helped pave the way for the games back in the trust of the customers, was also designed by him.

Gunpei Yokoi was one of the founding fathers of this industry, but unfortunately ostracized by one mistake in his otherwise brilliant career. It’s a shame a legend like him is slowly being left behind as one of the greats in the game industry.