Cult of Mac’s Luke Dormehl posted a look behind the scenes of Monument Valley, one of the most unique and beautiful iOS games I’ve played this year. There are photos of early sketches and an interview with Monument Valley designer Ken Wong, which includes this important quote about movies and game design:

A lot of games make too much sense,” Wong says. “Their makers try and emulate movies, for example — wanting to look like Star Wars or The Godfather. Games can be so much more. The titles that excite us the most here at ustwo are the ones where you get to do really strange things. It doesn’t have to make sense. That’s where Monument Valley came from conceptually.

Nuclear Throne, the upcoming game from Vlambeer (Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers) currently in development and available through Steam Early Access, will receive native Mac support today. Previously, the game was only playable through Early Access on Windows machines.

Nuclear Throne is now live and should be stable on Mac. It’s also live for Linux, but we can’t promise stability (or even functionality) just yet, but rest assured we’re working closely with YoYo Games to make sure the Linux build will be up to speed. If you own the game on Windows, the Mac and Linux builds should show up on Steam right around now, and the Humble builds will be uploaded later.

Nuclear Throne is an action roguelike title from the award-winning studio that can be played during the development process thanks to Early Access; Vlambeer is regularly hosting live streams on Twitch to offer a glimpse into the game’s creation and showcase the latest additions.

You can more on Vlambeer’s “performative development” of Nuclear Throne at Edge and watch Polygon’s demo and interview with Vlambeer from last month’s GDC. The Mac build of Nuclear Throne will be available today on the game’s Steam page.

Apr
2
2014

Monument Valley Review

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Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a game about paths that don’t exist – unless you want to see them. In its beautiful intricacy of platforms and perspectives that defy the laws of physics, geometry, and gravity, Monument Valley, developed by London-based studio ustwo, impresses visually and technically thanks to a fantastic combination of gorgeous artwork, intuitive controls, and just the right amount of puzzle-solving that works perfectly for an iPhone or iPad.

In Monument Valley, you control Ida, a silent princess that has embarked on a quest for forgiveness that will require her to find exits in monuments once built by men but now inhabited by crow people, totems, and other strange entities. “Tap the path to move Ida”, Monument Valley begins, and, sure enough, tapping on the screen advances the character on a linear path, accompanied by a sound effect. The first stage of Monument Valley is immediately perplexing: while Ida can walk a few steps, the aforementioned path isn’t connected to anything. Hold and rotate a wheel next to the path, however, and a pillar changes its orientation, creating an optical illusion that allows Ida to walk over the path and reach the exit of the stage. Monument Valley perpetuates a lie – that perspective can be used to alter physics – for the sake of gameplay, and, ultimately, that’s fun and intriguing.

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Stuart Dredge:

Really, though, if you want to find out why Candy Crush Saga is so popular and makes so much money, you should ask the other people: the ones actually playing it. Mums and dads, aunts and uncles. Grandparents, even. Housewives and househusbands. Commuters from office juniors through to CEOs.

Your non-gamer friends, especially. Even if you're not quite as aware of how much they're playing Candy Crush Saga and similar games since you figured out how to turn off their Facebook alerts begging for help. Candy Crush Saga's audience isn't just huge: it's hugely mainstream.

The question is whether King will end up like Zynga or not.

Tadhg Kelly, writing for Edge:

In the short term, your game’s player numbers may go up and your revenue might explode, but you inevitably sacrifice integrity. You might have onboarded a few players to pay for stuff, but you’re teaching many more to ignore any messages that the game spits out. It becomes harder to communicate with players and you lose their loyalty or the possibility of a game building a unique, defensible culture.

“Integrity” – most tech pundits will tell you that it doesn't matter when you can monetize free-to-play with behavioral strategies that increase engagement and other meaningless buzzwords.

Luckily, there are exceptions, even on the App Store.

Monument Valley, the highly-anticipated game by London-based development studio ustwo, is launching on April 3 at $3.99 for iPad and iPhone, the company confirmed today.

Monument Valley, originally teased in November 2013, is a mobile-only puzzle game influenced by the drawings of Dutch artist M.C. Escher: with a mix of impossible perspectives and its own set of physics, in Monument Valley players will have to guide main character Ida through a series of stages that challenge the rules of geometry and spatiality and that are beautifully realized and animated.

Monument Valley, which was originally meant to be an iPad-only game, has been designed to let any kind of player finish the game; according to ustwo, each level is intended to be a work of art that can be hung on a wall (the game will feature a special screenshot button to capture completed levels as images). Monument Valley, which has been in development for over 10 months, is ustwo’s next major game to land on the App Store — the company’s previous hit, Whale Trail, generated over 5 million downloads to date.

In an interview with TechCrunch, ustwo’s Ken Wong shared some of the details behind the design and development of Monument Valley, citing Valve’s Portal and Brian Eno’s music as sources of inspiration for the game. Created specifically for mobile devices, Monument Valley will only run in portrait mode due to the verticality of its structures. In February, ustwo’s Ken Wong wrote that his hope for Monument Valley “is that it might contribute to the argument that the medium of entertainment we call video games is in fact art”.

Ahead of the game’s public launch next week, ustwo has published a Behind the Scenes video, embedded above. You can check out more Monument Valley teasers at the game’s official website.

Pocket Gamer's Lee Bradley posted an interview with Nyamyam, the studio behind the recently released Tengami for iOS, a puzzle/exploration game built as a Japanese pop-up book.

Our goal was never to be the next big indie hit. People look at like Fez and Braid, games that made millions. But that was never our goal. We just wanted to make a game that we love. Something that was very unique and original, something that nobody else has done before.

I didn't like some of the choices in Tengami 1.0 (puzzles seemed arbitrary; character movement was slow), but I loved the atmosphere and visual representation of different types of folding paper. Tengami was just updated to version 1.1, which introduces an alternative character control, and I'm going to give it another try.

Brandon Sheffield, writing for Gamasutra:

Frogmind was founded in 2012, by two developers from Trials developer RedLynx. In 2013, they released their first game, Badland, and immediately got 100,000 downloads at $3.99, which was great, but sales took a nose dive after the first weekend, going down to 1,000 downloads per day, and eventually less.

Badland is a fantastic iOS game that's truly built with touch controls in mind. In Frogmind's GDC session, CEO Johannes Vourinen shared some interesting numbers that iOS game developers thinking about other platforms (Google Play Store, Amazon Appstore) should take a look at.

Also interesting is his report on temporary sales and Apple's “Free App of the Week” initiative (which Badland participated in, although during the special App Store anniversary week) – because the game is typically a paid download with no In-App Purchases, the result after the promotion wasn't what most people think it is.

Following a weekly refresh of the App Store’s featured content, Apple has started highlighting indie games in a section called “Indie Game Showcase” today, presented on the App Store’s homepage.

The new section, available on iTunes here, will presumably highlight indie developers on a regular basis, featuring a selected game from the development studio and offering a glimpse into the favorite games of an indie development’s team. This week, Apple started by featuring Simogo, the independent, award-winning studio behind Year Walk, Beat Sneak Bandit, and the widely acclaimed Device 6.

From Apple’s Indie Game Showcase page:

Often made up of just a few dedicated members, independent studios prove that what really matters is the size of your dream. In each Indie Game Showcase, we celebrate a popular game and its creative team, highlighting the developer’s titles along with their favorite games from other studios.

In featuring Simogo’s Device 6, Apple notes that the experience was “tailor-fit for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch”, resulting in a game that was included in the list of runner-ups for the App Store’s Game of the Year collection in 2013 from a company that has made “outstanding games exclusively for the App Store”.

Apple’s Indie Game Showcase comes at the end of the Game Developers Conference, which saw an increased interest in indie productions by larger companies. Among various announcements, Sony unveiled improved development tools for indie developers on PS4, Microsoft showcased games part of the initial rollout of the ID@XBOX program, Nintendo showed the capabilities of its Web Framework, while both Epic and Crytek announced subscription services for their game engines, a move likely aimed at smaller, independent developers.

Alongside the Indie Game Showcase, Apple also featured its “10 Essential Indie Games” section on the App Store’s Games category page again, including recent releases such as Nyamyam’s Tengami and Sirvo’s Threes.