Welcome back to the Indie Highlight Reel, where some of the most interesting small projects from around the world get a moment in the sun. The latest entry brings together a stellar-looking JRPG-influenced title, a reworked and massively upgraded Flash game, and a powerful attempt to shine light on a very important humanitarian issue.
Bevontule is the debut effort from the two-person team at Ohio-based Multithreaded Games that aims to offer a novel experience, bringing together the strengths of JRPGs, WRPGs, and tactical RPGs.
Beginning life as a short story concept almost 20 years ago, developers Derek Bradley and Andy Fenton have evolved the original idea into a massive story-driven RPG. Taking place in the decaying fantasy world of Onich, Bevontule will follow a small party of characters determined to stave off the apocalypse on an adventure that will take players across a vast, diverse continent.
The game’s designer and programmer, Andy Fenton, says that the inspirations behind the game are almost as broad as the history of RPGs: “The plots and lore of games like Xenogears, Elder Scrolls and numbered Final Fantasies left lasting impressions. Bevontule’s large open areas that beg exploring hearken to Xenoblade and WRPGs, whereas the leveling and crafting systems borrow from Final Fantasy IX, Dragon Quest and Star Ocean.” Despite the breadth on offer in that list, Fenton insists that “Bevontule, in many ways, is a union of these fundamental, and yet sometimes disparate gameplay mechanics, the end result being what [he and Bradley] believe is a very cohesive and novel experience relative to many existing RPGs.”
Although the aspirations, visual style, and gameplay mechanics of Bevontule appear similar to Midgar Studio’s Kickstarter success story Edge of Eternity, Fenton emphasises that his game is a much more tactics-driven affair: “While Bevontule is a turn-based game like EoE, turn order is not driven by an ATB. Rather, a character’s speed determines not only their place in the initial turn order, but how often they can take a turn. Also, during each character’s turn the player can freely move anywhere within the movement radius, the size of which is determined by the character’s MOV stat, and also take an action (attack, skill, item). Since skills have varying degrees of ranges and areas of effect, much more of an emphasis on positioning and timing can be found in Bevontule. With the addition of the combo system (multiple skills executing in succession against the same target do more damage), the battles as a whole are more tactical.”
Multithreaded Games is currently targeting a late 2018 release on PC for Bevontule.
MY FRIEND PEDRO: BLOOD BULLETS BANANAS
DeadToast Entertainment’s My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas shares a similarly lengthy concept process as Bevontule, but little else besides.
My Friend Pedro is a short, fast-paced 2D action game that released in 2014 after being initially developed almost 10 years ago. Blood Bullets Bananas is a complete reinvention of that original production, stretching the game’s 15 minutes of action across a adventure estimated to take upwards of four hours, while retaining the nutty story and exemplary acrobatics-infused shooting mechanics.
Despite being conceived as a standalone product, the project’s sole developer Victor Agren says that he now sees the Flash game as “a proving-ground for the ‘flipping through the air-mechanic’ and just the concept overall. I wasn’t certain it was something that was easy for people to wrap [their] heads around and get in to. But lo and behold, people got it and they seemed to love it!” For the upcoming remake, Agren has added a slew of levels, as well as new moves “and heaps of new environmental interactions” to expand on the action-movie antics.
For much of the period between My Friend Pedro’s creation and release, Agren was an employee of Media Molecule, working on the LittleBigPlanet series and Tearaway, and says that the biggest take-away from his time at the highly-acclaimed studio was how it “made [him] grow as a game maker. Mainly when it comes to level design, but it also allowed [Agren] to be around brilliant people who taught [him] about all aspects of game-making, and even life in general.”
MISSING: THE COMPLETE SAGA
Finally, MISSING: The Complete Saga is a small part of a much larger humanitarian campaign to raise awareness about the realities of sex trafficking in India and across the world.
Currently seeking $50,000 on Kickstarter, MISSING: The Complete Saga is an expansion and reinvention of the mobile-based MISSING Game for a Cause that released for free last year. While the original app followed a woman, Champa, in her attempts to escape a life of forced prostitution, The Complete Saga will chart a full life course, beginning with Champa as a young girl in her isolated village, through an attack of sex traffickers, and her attempts to build a new life following her escape.
Despite the dangers of misrepresentation inherent in a game with such a tricky premise, the project’s leader, artist and activist Leena Kejriwal, says that ensuring the story is true and respectful as always been a central focus of development: “For me… it was very important that the story was very true. For that reason I took my game designers Satyajit to meet survivors, to the village [in West Bengal] where we work at the ground level where there are girls who are going missing, I took him to meet a survivor and somebody who used to have to prostitute herself and now she can talk about her life after in the red light areas of Calcutta. I made him walk into red lights that he had never walked into before. It was very important for me that he understands the space that we were talking about… It was very important the game not be voyeuristic or graphic in any way.”
Originally conceived as an augmented reality app, a number of creative limitations led MISSING to be re-envisioned as a real-life RPG, with player choices giving Champa a range of skills that will help her to survive and flourish in a dangerous world. With gameplay changing depending on how old Champa is, MISSING is designed to feel true-to-life, which helps players to empathise with the character. Kejriwal says that this path was taken to ensure that the experience is “immersive” and allows players to feel “responsible for her future and [be able to] experience her helplessness and frustration first hand.”
The entire MISSING project began as a public art installation of “a silhouette of a girl set against the sky, larger than life, like black holes into which millions of girls disappear from the face of the earth,” and has since been expanded with a worldwide stencil campaign and a creative collective encompassing poetry, plays, and art. More details about the wider MISSING project are available here.
The game, meanwhile, is currently expected to arrive in April 2018.
Be sure to let us know if any of these projects have piqued your interest. Otherwise, if you are an indie developer interested in having your game featured in the Indie Highlight Reel, please do get in touch!