Magfest 2016 Indie Games Recap
Two of the biggest worlds in the entertainment industry have collided once again at the Washington Metro Area to usher in the 14th annual MAGFest convention. As a celebration of music and video games, MAGFest 2016 featured a large open video gaming room, a hall of arcade cabinets, concerts by various artists featuring rock, rap, jazz, chiptune and video game cover bands, a Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) LAN Party and so much more.
Since this was my first year attending MAGFest, I really didn’t know what to expect. Most of the pre-event promotion was surrounding a ton of daily concerts, but otherwise I was in the dark. My expectations were blown away upon entering the convention center for the first time; the floor was an indie devs dream!
This was a gaming hipster’s wonderland as booth after booth offered small times with big innovation. While most we’ve covered at previous PAX conventions, there were a few notable premiers that really drew me in.
First up: Just Shapes and Beats
Just Shapes & Beats is a simplistic action and music game created by Berzerk Studio. As the title suggests, the game is simply about controlling various shapes while dodging other shapes to the beat of various songs. While it sounds simple, the game quickly shows its players that they will need very quick wits and timing in order to dodge and master each song available in the game.
This game is filled with a handful of unheard of tunes such as Chronos by Danimal Cannon & Zef (as heard in the teaser trailer) and popular tunes including the original Mortal Kombat Theme Song. When I first played through the demo at their booth, I didn’t think much of it at first, as the challenge of dodging red shapes didn’t seem that hard. Plus the music was average at best. But as the demo progressed, the challenge started to get more and more intense, as well as the music selection. Once I got up to the final boss of the demo, I really got into it, as there were so many shapes flying on the screen, narrowly escaping hit after hit was a total rush for me.
We’ve been following this game since PAX East 2015 but for quite some time it’s been a static demo as funds to continue development dried up. However thanks to recent investors at the end of last year, we saw actual progress towards completing the game at Magfest. Hopefully we can see this game launched later this year! It really is a simple concept, but an addictive one once into it.
Next game is called Default Dan.
Now this is a popular title by the YouTube community, because this is a game that just screams Ragequit potential. Imagine a game the takes everything you know about platform games such as Super Mario and turns them into one big lie? Well that game is Default Dan in a nutshell; a game where everything that looks harmless like coins, mushrooms and power ups will actually kill you, whereas bad things like spikes, pitfalls and intimidating monsters are actually good things to help you complete a course.
Just from the first stage alone, it took me five minutes longer than the course should have, all because I couldn’t stop trying to pick up coins or avoid pitfalls. This is a game that really plays with your head, because it’s so hard to just ignore years of platform game knowledge that has been burned into my brain. However, when I finally managed to get past the first stage, the game slowly started to get easier, but only slightly because new things were constantly being thrown my way, like happy clouds, fire flowers that actually set you on fire and other things that should be harmless but will wreck your whole day. And once I got to the third stage, I just had to call it quits at that point.
Overall, this is a challenging game for all the wrong reasons, but in a good way (if that makes any sense to you.) I’d say if you have a friend who has never heard of Default Dan before, I would urge to have them play the game blindly; don’t let them watch footage ahead of time. Trust me, it will be a lot more fun that way.
Next up was Combat Core, a beat ‘em up fighting game by Micah Betts. Inspired by gaming classics including Power Stone and Custom Robo, Combat Core features a colorful roster of eight starring characters, each with their own unique fighting styles. These fighters can bring different core abilities with them into a match that will alter their strengths and weakness, as well as give them one unique special move that can either give players a huge buff in stats or a damaging blow that will scrape a huge chuck of health off of opponents. With that said, as a previous backer of the game on Kickstarter, I was really excited to meet Micah in person to learn more about the game.
With the game’s presence at MAGFest, he was there to spread awareness about the game and give attendees more details into the upcoming Early Access version that will be on Steam very soon. Since I had plenty of time to spare, I managed to get a ton of rounds against Micah as well as some random attendees. The combat was fast-paced and chaotic as players can attack, guard, dodge, parry and perform all sorts of attacks. Along with the core system that can be mixed and matched between characters, the level of depth in Combat Core makes the game much deeper than Power Stone in terms of its gameplay mechanics.
After winning a few rounds, Micah was actually quite surprised at how good I was at his own game, until I told him that I was actually one of alpha tests from the Kickstarter campaign, that is…
Last up was Camelot Unchained
Conveniently located right next to the Just Shapes & Beats booth, this Kickstarter sensation by City State Games was also shown off at MAGFest this year. For anyone in the know, this should be quite a surprise as City State Games is extremely protective of sharing footage of anything alpha for this massively funded Kickstarter title, unless you’re a backer of course. As I’m outside the loop and our Portal Manager has stayed perfectly loyal to the cult of alpha backers inside the game already, this was my first chance to understand this RvR PVP focused MMORPG. As a spiritual successor to the original Dark Age of Camelot, Camelot Unchained pushes PvP and only PvP as the driving force behind all things from crafting to horizontal progression. With several unique races, a fully customizable skill system, sandbox tools to create your own environments and more, this game plans to set a new standard for the MMORPG genre as a whole.
As I got a chance to sit down and play the game, it was quickly apparent to me that the game was in a very rough but playable state – far closer to an engine test than an actual game. When most games these days like to spread the words “Alpha Test” or “Beta Test” or “Early Access” around, it usually amounts to the game already being in a fairly finished state using buzz words for marketing. Not the case here. Camelot Unchained’s demo was as raw as it gets. Many of the items and features in the game do not even have their text or icons properly labeled, which such items being seen as “file_itemset_armor1” or something similar.
Regardless, the staff at the booth showed me a handful of possibilities that the game has and will offer, such as completely meaningful open world PvP, a freeform skill creation that allows players to literally create any kind of abilities they want with their own strengths and weaknesses, vast open worlds to explore and many other features currently in the pipeline.
Recently, many development breakthroughs have been made, such as the new and improved lighting system that’s managed to recreate real world light reflection and bending with various shades of shadow in a dynamically not pre-rendered world. The C.U.B.E. system has also gotten tons of love as beta 1 approaches, in the hopes that player structures will be just as satisfying to build as they are to destroy. When I asked the staff on deck regarding these new features, I was told that the lighting system was so new that they sadly had no new details to give on its current develop status. C.U.B.E. on the other hand is one of the most advanced testable features in the game, but still only available via an offline client as it had yet to be implemented into the alpha game on a regular basis. Soon they’re hoping to release a system for players to post their achievements in C.U.B.E. online to showcase to others. With all that said, it became clear to me that City State Games was here to raise more awareness for the game, but I was left fairly impressed by what they had to show off, as well as the live demonstration they had with both 3D and 2D modeling arts showing off their creations in front of a live crowd.
If you’re on the east coast and looking to start a career in game programming, they couldn’t emphasize enough that they’re hiring. Be sure to hit them up for a job!
With so many indie games shown off at MAGFest, it just goes to show everyone that the indie gaming seen is alive and well, and will continue to grow for years to come
For more info on the games featured in this article, as well as a few other games that were shown off this year and MAGFest this year, check out our upcoming game profiles here at OnRPG/MMOhuts.
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