Welcome back to the Indie Highlight Reel, freshly re-envisioned as a fortnightly column in which OnlySP takes a look at some of the most intriguing indie projects to garner recent attention. This latest iteration shines a spotlight on a wordless adventure game, a Telltale-esque comic book adaptation, a colourful action-simulator, and, for the first time, a small company doing some wonderful things with story-based games.
Golem is the latest game from Longbow Studios, a long-standing development team best known for the Hegemony series of strategy titles. Taking place in a fantasy world, the game follows a girl tasked with collecting water for her village who stumbles across a mysterious creature and embarks on an adventure to the top of a tower to uncover ancient secrets.
This latest project is quite the departure for the studio, focusing on a small, self-contained story, rather than the grand scale and scope of historical war and political manoeuvring. Despite the apparently abrupt shift in tone, the game’s Lead Designer, Rob McConnell, says that personal stories have long been a passion for the team. “We’ve actually had an interest in character focused games going all the way back through the Hegemony strategy series,” said McConnell. “We started the first one to tell the story of Philip of Macedon who was the little known father of Alexander the Great, and we continued that direction in the second game by focusing on the personal journals of Julius Caesar. While the characters were never the focus of the gameplay in these games, at least for us, we found the battles and conquests felt much more significant when you knew they were based around real people who were more than just a name in a history book.”
The early concepts for the game were heavily inspired by Monument Valley, while the choice to feature a female protagonist “came from the lack of female characters in [Longbow’s] other games, and at least for [McConnell] personally, was also inspired by [his] two daughters.” The design of the golem, meanwhile, arose from the desire to have two distinctly different main characters, while the creature’s ability to “evolve through different forms came partly from the fact that [the team] like too many of the concepts and couldn’t settle on a single one.”
Golem is currently targeting a PC release later this year.
THIEF OF THIEVES
Thief of Thieves is an upcoming adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s (The Walking Dead) comic series of the same name. Developed by Rival Games, Thief of Thieves will act as a prequel to comics, following Celia during her apprentice years. The game will be the second project from the development team.
Although apparently similar in visual and gameplay style to Telltale’s oeuvre, Thief of Thieves will feature a greater range of ‘traditional’ gameplay elements, with stealth, lockpicking, and social engineering being just a few of the fully-featured mechanics. Speaking about the way that these features are incorporated into the title, Rival Games’s CEO Jukka Laakso said that they “are integral to the game experience, so it’s not a traditional point and click adventure spiced up with gameplay and minigames.”
Another differentiating factor is the use of highly-stylised visuals that lean heavily on comic books through inclusions such as speech bubbles, which “since the game is based on the series of graphic novels created by Robert Kirkman and and published by Skybound, and the comic book aesthetics are close to [the] heart… in Rival Games, the comic book style was a great fit.”
Thief of Thieves Season One is scheduled to release as a four-part episodic series on PC in early 2018.
Nimbatus is a 2D “space drone constructor” that tasks players with exploring a fully-destructible procedurally-generated universe. Players begin by piecing together a drone using a chassis, engines, and weapons, with the construction comprising potentially hundreds of pieces, before embarking on a series of missions.
The game appears to draw inspiration from Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program, and the project’s lead programmer, Micha Stettler, confirms that those games had an influence on Nimbatus’s design. “My initial idea,” said Stettler, “was to create a simple 2D game combining the dynamic landscape of Minecraft with the spaceship building from Kerbal. Through various iterations the gameplay has changed [a lot] and has turned into a completely new experience. The gameplay of Nimbatus is focused on the building and designing of drones out of many different parts. You can build fully autonomous drones using various sensors, motors and logical parts, or you can fly them yourself and fight in a completely destructible environment.”
With the game taking place as a series of missions, Stettler confirms that a background story is present, but players will not have to follow it as the universe will be readily explorable for the player to create unique adventures. With an incredibly eye-catching aesthetic and eminently videogenic gameplay, Nimbatus is a simple game with considerable potential.
The developers at Stray Fawn Studio have not yet announced a target release date or platforms for the project.
ONE MORE STORY GAMES
As a development studio rather than a single project, One More Story Games is a first for the Indie Highlight Reel, but the team’s tools should be of interest to anyone who loves story-based games. The studio’s mission is to empower those with ideas for narrative games to bring their visions to life with a powerful and relatively simple suite of tools. Some of the projects to emerge from such partnerships include Mandatory Upgrade: X-Marks the Spot and Danielle’s Inferno.
Founded in 2013, One More Story Games has been working on the StoryStylus game engine for more than three years, but according to the company’s CEO Jean Leggett, “It’s only been the past year where we’re in a position to work with authors.” The most notable of those authors is Charlaine Harris, who is best known for the Sookie Stackhouse novels that most people would recognise as the basis for the HBO series True Blood. The game emerging from that partnership will be based on the novel Shakespeare’s Landlord is expected to release a little later this year.
Anyone is free to sign up to use the StoryStylus tools, but only the strongest narratives are selected to be published and highlighted by the team. As might be expected, those published receive royalties for their work. At present, authors are expected to source their own media content for projects, but the company is working to make the process easier by “building a community of writers and artists to match them up to the appropriate creative relationships.” However, the tools seem straightforward, with Leggett saying that the team has “successfully taught kids as young as 8 years old how to use the engine [though] most current new users to the system need to rely on YouTube tutorials or in-software FAQ” due to the beta status of the software.
One More Story Games recently announced that Kate Edwards, the former head of the International Game Developers Association, has joined the company’s Advisory Board to help grow its reach.
As ever, if any of these projects have piqued your interest, be sure to let us know in the comments below. Otherwise, if you are an indie developer looking to spread the word about your upcoming game, get in touch with us for your chance to be featured in the Indie Highlight Reel.