If I had to name the single most influential mobile game developer of the iPhone era, my pick would be Adam Saltsman. Many developers can boast of having shipped a hit game or two, but how many can lay claim to inventing an entire genre? Saltsman can. The creator of both the genre-defining game Canabalt and the widely-used game development framework Flixel, Saltsman’s fingerprints are evident everywhere in mobile gaming.
Together with his wife Rebekah, Saltsman launched a new publishing label called Finji last week, an imprint whose stated mission is “collaborate with who we want, when we want, on the games we love.” The games in development under Finji’s tent are kaleidoscopically varied and intriguing: from grim turn-based survival game Overland to the lavishly-illustrated cartoon adventure Night in the Woods.
Over the past few days I’ve been talking to Saltsman about what Canabalt looks like to him five years later, and what he wants to achieve as a publisher.
Space Noir? But space is already noir. Maybe “space” is being used as an adjective here. Like the way car companies name colours. Champagne gold. Caribou beige. Get your 2015 Citroën DS in Space noir.
But perhaps not. Space Noir is a sci-fi dogfighter from N-Fusion, the New Jersey-based studio that collaborated with Eidos Montreal on Deus Ex: The Fall and brought us Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded. The game appears to be re-routing a lot of power to narrative the way Freespace and Wing Commander did, casting you as space mercenary Hal Markham, who’s on a mission of space vengeance against the evil-doers who ruined his career, killed his family, and married his girlfriend. That’s totally in the marketing materials, I’m not making it up.
Action is tough to do well on touchscreens but Deus Ex: The Fall was pretty solid. Space Noir is due out this summer for “tablet” — presumably iOS & Android.
I got a fresh jolt of that uneasy brace of emotions this morning when I read Payton’s post-mortem of Republique over at Gamasutra. As an analyst of the game’s creation, Payton is unflinchingly forthright and doesn’t spare himself any barbs. One section in particular reads like a penitent’s self-flagellation:
Thinking pretty highly of myself at the time, you can imagine how horrified I was to see that one of the big negatives of the project, was, well, me… In short, I became the type of creative director that many of us didn’t want. While my decisions were not made in a vacuum, it was clearly stressing the team out.
This is the kind of easy, endearing candour that made Payton such an enjoyable interview subject. That frankness in this post-mortem also lays bare why Republique never achieved a cohesive tone and why the lacklustre gameplay seemed so mismatched with the game’s otherwise remarkable production values.
Much to my chagrin, the development of République ended up mapping closely to the Japanese style of game development that I vowed never to do again. For instance, we prepared dozens of features, threw them together near the end of development, and then tried to connect all the desperate parts together into a cohesive experience. As much as I wanted to iterate on our core gameplay loop for the better part of 2013, we only got serious about iterating on what we had in October, just two months before ship.
The downside of Wolverine’s mutant healing factor is that Just For Men doesn’t work on him.
Last week I heard from Glitchsoft, the makers of that perfectly-styled He-Man mobile game from 2012. The Canadian devs wanted to announce that they were putting the finishing touches on Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past for iOS and Android and that it would be available in May. Which very conveniently will land it right alongside the rush of promotion for Marvel’s Tyrion Lannister-starring X-Men film of the same name.
“I like the cut of your collective jib, Glitchsoft,” I said, “but nobody’s ever–ever–made a decent movie tie-in game. Forget it. It’s Chinatown.”
That’s a cute answer, but I’ll take it. The game is a 2D side-scroller but the devs are boasting that Days of Future Past features “an immersive and story-driven game unlike anything available on mobile”. We can judge for ourselves this spring.
Owen, have you seen Stratolith? Looks like just the intersection of weird and interesting that PT is always looking for.
Brad you are right on. Its developers aren’t revealing all that much about the game just yet but watching the trailer seems to suggest that Stratolith is a sci-fi RTS controlled through on-screen analog dials and buttons. If the devs can make that feel really tactile then this might be something remarkable. It’s coming to PC, Mac, and iPad late this year.
Stratolith is the creation of Winning Blimp, who brought us the very attractive puzzler Mosaique last year (here’s Kelsey’s review). I’ll see if I can’t get them to come chat with us about what they’re doing. Watch the trailer below.
I know that we tend to regard touchscreen action games with the squinty suspicion that greets SyFy Channel original films and Ma Faraday’s Sunday roasts but I’ve had my eye on Crescent Moon’s Mines of Mars for quite a while now. This game combines the 2D mining of Motherlode with a bit of Metroid-style action and it looks absolutely beautiful. It looks like someone played Waking Mars and irreverently thought that the game would be improved by the addition of lots of guns.
Crescent Moon (who need to atone for Coldfire Keep) got in touch this morning to say that Mines of Mars shall be with us this Wednesday night. The game world is procedurally generated so it’s reasonable to expect a lot of replay value.
I don’t know, man. Do I look like Nostradamus? Is PT written in rhyming quatrains?
I do know that the keenly-anticipated expansion to last year’s RPG of the Year runner-up is out right now for desktops on Steam. I’ve asked Harebrained Schemes if they had a target date for when the mobile version of Dragonfall would be released and they replied with their usual circumspection that they did not.
The expansion takes Shadowrun’s magical-infused sci-fi setting and jets it over the Atlantic from Seattle to Germany where rumours of a dragon preoccupy the citizens of Berlin. I’m hearing that the combat and the UI are much improved over the original iteration.
I’ll keep my ear to the ground and let you know when the iPad and Android versions are near.
I see some real genius in your calculating, Maverick, but I can’t say that in there.
NinjaCrime’s one-of-kind arithmetic-battling collectible card game Calculords has been with us for a whole week now. Designer Seanbaby was kind enough to give us some strategies for beginners earlier this week, but if you’ve spent the last seven days glued to Calculords then you’re ready to graduate to some more advanced training. And probably a stronger glasses prescription. Nerd.
If you want to get some advice from Seanbaby on building a great deck from the cards you’ve collected, I’ve got it for you right here.