The State of Things

Team and company: We finally made the hard call to cut non-productive team members. The remaining operations are splitting into 2 companies (Gigaloth Games and Gigaloth Publishing). One of them may end up being re-branded and re-incorporated as the finer business points of that are sorted out. Gigaloth Games now has a staff of 2 people (programmer and graphic designer). They both have outside jobs however are committed to bringing Empyrium Tactics to fruition as fast as possible. We will be hiring/recruiting new team members soon. The website is about to undergo an overhaul to reflect all this restructuring.

Website: We owe everyone an apology as we had not been keeping the website current. The website is going to see a relaunch before July 1. Following that, our commitment to you is to push out a weekly progress report on our current project Empyrium Tactics.

Empyrium Tactics: It has been fully converted from Unity to Unreal Engine. We are now working as fast as we can to get the game into a publicly playable testing state. Weekly progress updates will begin to be published on the re-launched website starting July 1.

Kingdom Blitz: This project has been cancelled.

Produce Wars: Purchase on XBOX Live for $1. No plans to make any additional content, patches, or ports. There is a PC version of the game on our shared hub (requires USB Xbox Controller). Send an email if you would like access. We are discussing releasing this open source.

Thanks for all your patience,
Gigaloth

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Fairy Tales & Parlor Tricks: The Past, Present, and Future of Video Games

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“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.”

-G.K. Chesterton

If you were to play your ocarina and warp back to 1889, you might be surprised to find Nintendo getting its start as a playing card company. Everyone knows the video game giant now lives in the clouds at the top of an enormous beanstalk-esque vine. Nintendo continues performing parlor tricks, keeping storytelling alive on the Wii U with Mario in Super Smash Bros., Zelda in Hyrule Warriors, and the whole gang in Mario Kart 8. So, what’s Nintendo’s big secret?

The Legend of Zelda series is but one of many examples offering a piece of the mystery used by Nintendo game designers. Games like Zelda take age-old, classical storytelling, found in fairy tales, to market, what G.K. Chesterton might consider in his essay “The Red Angel,” a “clear idea of the possible defeat.” Whether the bogey is Bowser, Ganon, or Dr. Wily, the key to an epic video game is a timeless story coupled with just the right amount of challenge to keep the player engaged in defeating a main boss.

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Game designers must consider, and reconsider, the action of a fairy tale or high stakes card game: A hero or champion faced with impossible odds (but not so impossible they want to quit). Picture a little wart of a boy becoming a great warrior and king, an underdog flipping over an ace and queen to win the jackpot in a game of blackjack, or Link collecting enough pieces of The Triforce to overpower Ganon. Whatever the narrative, the timeless secret to a successful game is alluding to stories embedded in a culture’s DNA and keeping a carrot just far enough out in front of a generation’s nose for them to keep playing. Nintendo effectively continues to tell tales that captivate both Japanese and western audiences, and demonstrate ongoing mastery of game play and challenge.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was originally titled The Triforce of the Gods in Japan, and offers an otherworldly illustration of how a game, steeped in fairy tale lore, gives games the Pegasus ride of a lifetime. Here is a game nearly a quarter of a century old that keeps players captivated to defeat the evil bogeyman, Ganon, time and time again. Pushing in a SNES cartridge, or downloading A Link to the Past on a Wii virtual console, sends a 2015 gamer back in time to experience a near perfect balance of storytelling and game play that’s just as enjoyable now as it was then. These are the games game designers are charged to continue making as we move forward in 21st-century game development.

As gamer designers, Gigaloth aims to strike this balance of storytelling and engaging game play in games such as Produce Wars. Gigaloth continues to carry a torch of eternalized storytelling, and presenting just the right amount of ardor in each and every game. Other Gigaloth titles to watch out for include Empyrium Tactics, a role-playing game with real time strategy, and Kingdom Blitz, a multi-player online battle arena tabletop, card game.

DevChat: Interview with Chasm’s James Petruzzi

I recently got the chance to ask a few questions to James Petruzzi, who is the brain behind Discord Games and the upcoming indie Metroidvania platformer Chasm. Most of my questions were focused on how Discord Games went from regular XBLIG developer (Take Arms, 48 Chambers) to indie powerhouse with Chasm (which is slotted to be available on Steam later this year).

For developers looking to make the same jump from obscurity to somebody, these answers are a must-read!

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Chris: Five months ago, when you started your work on Take Arms on XBLIG, could you have ever predicted the success that you’ve had so far with Chasm?

James: Haha, no way! I actually hadn’t even thought of Chasm yet. It wasn’t until the winter after release that the idea came to me. I had pretty much resigned making games after the terrible launch of Take Arms, but winter boredom eventually got me working again.

Chris: How many hours per week do you put into Chasm these days? Between the website, administrative duties, marketing, and the game itself, I imagine there’s a lot to do.

James: I cover basically everything for marketing, PR, and most admin stuff (my wife helps with some duties). I’d say I do at least 12-14 hours a day of work, usually seven days a week.

Chris: When did you first decide to use Kickstarter to fund Chasm?

James: After we went to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2013 looking for a publisher, we decided it was time to go forward with it. I was hoping to find a deal that would work well for us, but publishers really don’t want to give out money with a risky game. Kickstarter seemed like the perfect fit for a niche title like Chasm that has a rabid Metroidvania fan base waiting for a successor.

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Chris: I think the hardest part of Kickstarter is knowing when to put your project out there. At what point in development did you know: we have enough to put this game out there and get the support that we need?

James: I was working full-time with money from Take Arms for about 4-5 months making the original Chasm prototype. We spent our last dollar taking it to GDC to find someone interested in it. The Kickstarter was basically our last shot at getting the game made before returning to full-time jobs and putting it back on the shelf.

Chris: How did you decide on $150k as the Kickstarter goal? Many good looking indie games struggle to raise even $20k in their Kickstarter campaigns.

James: There wasn’t really any other option for us if we were going to work on it full-time. Supporting five people for a year isn’t cheap, and you can’t ask for any less than what you need. My personal opinion was that if the Kickstarter failed then either the market wasn’t out there for the game in the first place or we weren’t ready for it.

Chris: What were the most effective ways you marketed Chasm for the Kickstarter – before, during, and afterwards?

James: We studied the Kickstarter school religiously, and tweaked the page endlessly. That paid off greatly as we were a Staff Pick the first day of the Kickstarter and got a nice push out of the gate. Also, having a playable prototype that showed the game was real and not some vaporware went a long way. Getting Youtube and Livestream personalities to play also saved us when we hit a major slump towards the end.

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Chris: Chasm will be available on Steam. Did Valve contact you, or did you have to seek them out?

James: Nope, we had to wait in the Greenlight line like everyone else. We were pretty mad when the Kickstarter was going on and we couldn’t get through. We felt like it would have helped pledges to have a guaranteed Steam key, but it didn’t happen until maybe 3 months after the campaign ended.

Chris: What are your plans after Chasm? Have you even thought about that yet?

James: If it’s successful, we’re hoping to get the whole team into one geographic spot finally. It’s been really hard working remotely, but it will be awesome when we can finally get everyone together in the same room. We have talked a bit about what we’re going to do next, and it will most likely be a smaller highly replayable arcade-style game before we attempt another massive epic RPG!

Chris: Any Easter eggs we can look forward to in Chasm? 😀

James: Yeah we’re going to have a bunch of fun hidden stuff in there. One thing to look forward to is the “Backer’s Room”, which will be a special tavern underground with our $1000+ Kickstarter backers. They will each be in the game with their own line of dialogue and some other cool bonuses.

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Chris: What would be your biggest piece of advice to indie developers out there who are trying to make a living making games?

James: It’s REALLY hard! The market is saturated with great indie games now, so it’s getting harder and harder to stand out.  I would definitely recommend NOT quitting your day job until you’re able to sustain yourself.

Follow us on Twitter to catch more developer tidbits like interviews, articles, and commentary. Help me, help you!

4 Awesome Kickstarter Indie Games in 2014

Check out these fantastic looking Indie games that were funded on Kickstarter and should hit digital marketplaces sometime in 2014. If you haven’t heard of them, get to it and check ’em out.

Chasm by Discord Games
ChasmBannerChasm is a 2D action platformer RPG that bursts with pixels and pixels of pure sweetness.

From the Discord Games website:

In Chasm, players take up the role of a conscripted soldier fighting a war in distant lands. One day you receive a mysterious letter warning that everyone and everything you know is in danger, and to come home immediately. You abandon your post and set off into the wilderness towards home, and eventually pass through a remote mining town nestled deep in the mountains. Now trapped in the town by supernatural forces, you’re left with no option but to explore, battle enemies and bosses, and increase your abilities in hopes of finally escaping and returning home.

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For me personally, the game reminds me a lot of Casltevania Symphony of the Night, which is of course a good thing. The pixel art is fantastic, and the gameplay is smooth and exactly what you’d expect from a metroidvania. It has equipment, spells, levelling, and tons of varied baddies in six different randomly generated areas.

Chasm raised $191k on Kickstarter last summer, and is available for pre-order on the game’s website at three different tiers (including Steam keys!). You can also download a short demo from the Kickstarter page (I’m not sure if there is a newer demo available or not).

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy.

 

Cosmic Star Heroine by Zeboyd Games
CosmicStarBannerCosmic Star Heroine is your classic RPG that will have all the fun, depth, story, and wackiness that RPG legends Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger had. On top of that, this is Zeboyd we’re talking about, so expect plenty of humor, parody, and spoofs.

From Zeboyd:

Cosmic Star Heroine is a turn-based sci-fi Japanese-style RPG from Zeboyd Games currently scheduled to come out in 2014. Alyssa L’Salle is one of the galactic government’s top agents and always manages to save the day! But when she accidentally uncovers a dark conspiracy, her own government outs her as a legendary spy and the people’s champion! Sure, now she has hordes of adoring fans but every villainous organization she’s ever crossed in her career knows who she is and is out for her blood! Can she save the day once more while she faces her greatest challenge… Everyone!?

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I’ve been a fan of Zeboyd’s growing collection of games since Breath of Death VII and Cthulu Saves the World first appeared on XBOX Live Indie Games. Since then, Zeboyd has refined their methods, artwork, and engine into this fantastic sci-fi RPG that should deliver every bit of fun that it promises.

Cosmic Star Heroine raised a whopping $132k on Kickstarter in October 2013, and looks to be another solid title for Zeboyd. You’ll be able to pick this game up on Steam with all of Zeboyd’s other titles. Every one of them is worth it, so what are you waiting for?

 

Night in the Woods by Infinite Fall
nightbannerLive. Dream. Believe.

Just watching the video for Night in the Woods will give anyone with a soul goosebumps and conjure your imagination right in front of your eyes.

From Infinite Fall:

Night In The Woods is a 2D story-focused adventure/exploration game with many extracurricular activities to enjoy, characters to meet, and secrets to discover. Run, jump and use astral projection to explore the many sides of town of Possum Springs and the surrounding environs. Waste time around town with your crew of loser friends. Gain abilities that grant passage to new areas. Discover the secrets of a large cast of characters and the town itself. Experience a big crazy world and the remarkable events unfolding there. Play bass. Break stuff.

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I’m not exactly sure what this game is about or how it plays, but the animation itself is reason enough to check it out. Even if this game ends up being an LSD trip with a controller in your hands, I can almost guarantee it will be worth playing. Oddly, it reminds me of “Where the Wild Things Are”.

Night in the Woods kittened up $209k during its run on Kickstarter, and could be one of the most artistic games in production right now. It’s available for pre-order on the official website, and should be available sometime early 2015. At the end of everything, hold onto this game.

 

The Hero Trap by Smashworx
herotrapbannerAnd now for one you probably haven’t heard of yet.

The Hero Trap is a fiery-fast top-down hack-and-slash action-RPG that couldn’t possibly use more hyphens to describe it.

From Smashworx:

“The Hero Trap” is a frenetic, roguelike dungeon-crawler. A  glorious treasure has been promised, but all who’ve sought to attain it have found only death. But you have a plan! You can gather the souls of great warriors past, who’ve failed where you now seek success, to aid you on your epic quest. These heroes are strong, but not invincible–their spirit energy can only withstand so much punishment before returning back to the ethereal ooze.

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Very well-made and solid graphics, The Hero Trap looks to deliver a nice fast-paced action game with randomized dungeon levels and lots of loot. Think “Diablo” meets “Gauntlet”.

The Hero Trap raised $26k on Kickstarter, which is certainly nothing to turn your sword hand to. You can download the alpha demo directly from the Kickstarter page (or here). Seeing as the Kickstarter just finished, keep your eye on this game and when you might be able to pre-order, and help it get the props it deserves.

Any other indie games on Kickstarter you’ve seen recently that you are excited about? Let me know!

 

5 Reasons Why Titanfall is the Best FPS Ever Made

Titanfall is the first triple-A game made on the next-gen consoles, and has reportedly contributed to more than one million XBOX One console sales for Microsoft alone.

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Okay, yes. I know Titanfall is made by Electronic Arts (a.k.a. The Source of All Evil). But there’s no denying that it’s simply the best first person shooter on the market.

To be fair, the game was actually developed and designed by the folks at Respawn Entertainment. Don’t know who they are? Sure you do. They were the brain trust behind creating Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, but left Activision in a bitter feud with management, and brought dozens of Infinity Ward employees with them to start their own studio.

But you aren’t here for the back story. There are plenty of places you can find that. You aren’t here for me to spew sales numbers at you either, and to listen to me telling you that millions are buying the game, and you should too.

No, you’re here because I’ve actually played the game. And I’ve played Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield as well, and Titanfall is simply superior in every way. While I’m making the claim that Titanfall is the “best FPS ever made”, it doesn’t mean we won’t see better games in the future.

In fact, I fully expect to see many games piggyback the ideas from Titanfall, because it is one of those “once in a generation” games where in a few years we will look back and etch it into the Mount Rushmore of first person gaming alongside Wolfenstein 3D, GoldenEye 007, and Halo: Combat Evolved.

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It’s one of those games that makes you realize you’ve been eating McDonald’s and Burger King your whole life when you thought you were actually eating a GOOD burger. It puts all of the most recent first person games (Battlefield 4, Halo 4, CoD: Ghosts) to extreme shame.

As a game designer, there’s plenty to love about the intricacy and creativity behind the game as well. So I come to you as both a designer and gamer, and I tell you that Titanfall is – right now – the best first person game to date. If you haven’t played it yet, here’s a few reasons to believe me:

Parkour! Wallrunning, Double Jumping, and Wall Hanging

Blasphemy! These game mechanics belong in 2D platformers, not first person shooters!

The Prince of Persia and Ninja Gaiden series popularized wall running and jumping into the 3D space, and Mirror’s Edge was really the first game that expanded the idea and used it creatively from the first person perspective.

Enter Titanfall where you get to sprint, jump onto wall, run for thirty feet horizontally, jump off the wall, double jump, run twenty feet (horizontally again), jump off the wall, double jump, grab a ledge, and pull yourself up to the top of the world.

Seriously though folks, the first time you get to do this in the heat of combat you feel like Jasmine on a magic carpet ride.

Okay, now that we’ve got that spot-on yet very awkward and semi-erotic metaphor out of the way, let’s talk about it. The wallrunning and jumping mechanics in Titanfall are smooth. So smooth in fact that you almost never get caught up trying to traverse a wall or building and fail. You will rarely (if ever) be frustrated with the mechanic because it’s very user-friendly and extremely liberating.

After playing Titanfall the last couple weeks, I went back and tried to play Battlefield 4. What a drag. I felt like my guy had steel blocks on his feet and everything was just so…rigid. Mind you, I LOVED Battlefield 4 not more than two months ago but I’ll probably never touch it again just based on the movement mechanics. Blegh.

There is one very specific reason this mechanic works well in Titanfall though. You actually move quite a bit faster while wallrunning and jumping, so you are encouraged to parkour your way around the map in order to get where you need to go faster than if you stay on the ground (a brilliant design decision by the developers).

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Because of this, you begin to look at the maps, buildings, and terrain more creatively. You feel like Emmet from the Lego Movie when he becomes a master builder. Your mind engages with the terrain like never before, as you decipher which one of the two billion ways to get from point A to point B you will use. Movement becomes highly cerebral and tactical.

Best of Halo + Best of Battlefield + Best of Call of Duty

Another reason Titanfall instantly appeals to any first-person gamer is that no matter which mainstream series you come from, Titanfall has the gameplay to match it.

Want the gunplay and quick death combat of Call of Duty? Keep your boots on the ground and skirmish infantry while your Titan protects and roams on auto-pilot. Want the shielded dodge-and-duck combat of Halo? Take your skills to the cockpit of your Titan where shield recovery is essential to surviving prolonged combat.

Titanfall lets you dictate which style you prefer, and gives you the ability to play to your strengths. Inevitably you have to get skilled at both ground and mech combat to get better at the game, but the important thing is that they allow you to choose. Giving autonomy to the player is never a bad thing.

Furthermore, the Titans are not so overpowered that infantry don’t stand a chance (ahem…Battlefield). The anti-titan weapons that infantry carry pack quite a punch, and a single skilled infantry can take down a titan quite easily if they aren’t careful.

Map Design is Top Notch

It’s no coincidence that Titanfall has amazing map design considering the best maps in the Call of Duty series were far and away from Modern Warfare 2, and presumably this same crew had a hand in designing the maps for Titanfall.

All of the maps are clearly designed with the parkour mechanic in mind. Many objects are placed specifically as go-betweens for wallrunning between or climbing the sides of buildings. Because of this, there’s literally no place you can’t go.

There’s also very few good “camping” spots in the game, as most rooms inside buildings have multiple sight lines entering the room, and multiple entrances (remember, with double jumping and climbing, people can drop out of the ceiling and pop up through the floor).

Furthermore, each and every map is designed with Titans and infantry in mind. There are no maps that are wide open and favor Titans, and no maps that are so enclosed that they favor infantry. Both Titans and infantry are viable in almost every part of every map.

Weapon Design is Intuitive and Unique

Let’s be honest. In Call of Duty or Battlefield, there’s almost no difference between the dozen assault rifles that you can choose from. Sure, there’s always the quirky burst fire one or the single-shot one. But for the most part, all of the automatic rifles pretty much function the same with slight variations on fire rate, accuracy, and damage.

In Titanfall, the designers recognized this and boiled the weaponry down to its simplest form. You have one shotgun, one fully automatic assault rifle, one burst fire rifle, one single shot rifle, etc.

They don’t clutter you with too many weapons that are so similar that you can’t even remember which one does what (with the exception of the R-97 and C.A.R. SMG’s, which are probably the most similar).

While some people may criticize Titanfall for “lack of weapon variety”, I can guarantee you that it has the equivalent of every single gun you see in Call of Duty or Battlefield. They were able to take 60 guns and pare them down into 10, which only makes sense.

In addition, being a fictional sci-fi environment, I expect to see some more awesome and non-standard weaponry hit DLC (like the Smart Pistol).

Singleplayer is Multiplayer

Let me first get one thing out of the way.

The story in Titanfall is literally background noise during multiplayer matches. Which is actually a good thing, because the story is terrible. Some games force the story down your throat thinking you might actually care about the characters and world that they’ve created, and you might – if they are good.

But the fact that the singleplayer campaign is actually just a string of multiplayer matches with flavor text actually works in Titanfall’s favor simply because of the nature of the game. To be honest, I had to play the campaign through like six times before I even know what the heck was going on with the story.

Was this annoying? No. Because I’m not forced to sit there and watch something I don’t want to. Could Titanfall have benefitted from a better story and campaign? Absolutely. But the designers did exactly what they should have: deliver gamers a mechanically sound game without selling the game on story.

Expect to see a more involved storyline and characters as the Titanfall series evolves.

What are your thoughts on Titanfall? Do you agree or disagree with what I said? Anything to add? Please comment! You can also catch up with Gigaloth many places “on the line” such as Twitter and Facebook.