GDC Next 2014: The Top Indie Game Experiences
The Game Developers Conference Next 2014 is smaller than the regular GDC; but still, there were some entertaining games to check out. The GDC Next conference focuses on assisting smaller developers in a saturated video gaming market place. Some indie developers showed off some fun titles that will be coming to Steam, digital arcade, Android or iOS. The games I got to play at GDC Next may not have had huge budgets and amazing graphics, but the titles made up for that with fun ingenuity and easy playability. Here are some of the titles I enjoyed playing the most at GDC Next 2014.
By far the coolest game at GDC Next was the highly creative Dex. Dex is a new title being developed for computers that will be available on Steam. The game is a cyberpunk role-playing game presented in a 2D, side-scrolling format. The game was developed by an independent studio called Dreadlocks Ltd, which is based in Prague, Czech Republic. Dex looks like a fun mash-up of Ghost in the Shell meets Blade Runner. The story is non-linear and focuses on exploration. You play as a cyborg mercenary named Dex.
Dex features an old-school look and feel. The game features pixel graphics and character models. Dex is situated in a sprawling urban city situated as a Metroidvania-type map. Throughout the city, Dex can shop in stores, stop for noodles at a restaurant, or take up side quests, such as searching for drugs for a raving homeless man in exchange for information. The game contains combat and shooting components. I really like the design style for the game. Cyberpunk is a highly underutilized sub-genre, and the game appears to play in that genre quite well. Over the course of the game, I get the sense that Dex will learn more about her origin and where she came from. Dex is slated for a first quarter 2015 release. It will be available on Steam for Windows PC, Linux, Mac, Ouya. In addition, the game will be released for the Nintendo Wii U.
Another interesting title showcased at GDC Next was StarCrawlers by Juggernaut Games. The best way to describe StarCrawlers is that it is a 3D, first-person role-playing game. In the game, you play as a team of specialists tasked with locating an artifact on the Stella Marin. The ship was on the fringes of space, and its colonists and crew mysteriously vanished. The nefarious corporate overseer of the ship wants you to explore the facility and retrieve an artifact. However, as you get deeper into the bowels of the colony ship, the team discovers that things are not quite kosher with the corporation. The game appears to feature branching pathways.
StarCrawlers has a fun, sci-fi design. The game was completely funded through Kickstarter. The exploration of the game is done in 3D first-person perspective. There are malicious robots and drones on the ship. Players can avoid these drones, but if they are caught, the team must engage them in battle. Each fighter on the team is a specific class and has unique attacks and abilities. The battles are staged in strategic RPG combat with a time unit action system. Eventually, the team locates the artifact. However, some dangerous space worms start attacking the team, and the team must escape. Toward the end of the demo, the team can decide to return the artifact to the evil corporation or a seemingly benevolent, but enigmatic, resistance party.
I like the look of StarCrawlers. The first-person exploration worked quite well. It was not too intimidating or difficult to get into the RPG combat. The story is quite intriguing, and the demo provided a nice chunk of the game to get me interested. The game is currently still in development for a Steam early access release before the end of 2014. StarCrawlers will have PC, Mac and Linux support.
Another interesting title I got the chance to pick up and play was Lucky Chance’s first-person mystery game, Homesick. Homesick is a completely 3D first-person point-and-click adventure game. You play as a nameless and enigmatic character who is stuck in a dilapidated building. Apparently, the apocalypse has hit whatever world the player character is currently in. If the player character wanders too close to the open windows, blinding white light fills the screen. There are various documents and books strewn about the building. However, the player character cannot read any of them. The main player character appears to have amnesia, and part of the mystery of the game entails earning how to read and decipher the literature.
Things get stranger when the player character goes to sleep. The main character suffers from nightmares. In a nightmarish, dark version of the building, the player can go to areas of the building he/she cannot go to during the day due to the blinding light. When the player awakens, things that happened in the seeming nightmares affect what transpires during the day. It appears that something horrible has happened, but the audience has no idea what occurred. The object of the game is to get to new areas of the building, and presumably to escape. The demo was filled with various puzzles. You have to accomplish tasks like finding keys to open up locked doors, or locating an ax to break a lock. Other various tasks include chores like watering the plants in the main character’s room. The game features some impressive, fluid graphics and designs. The environments are highly detailed and gorgeously rendered. The visuals looked very sharp. I am definitely curious about the layered, mysterious story. The game is currently available for pre-order for Steam.
GDC Next 2014 overall had a strong focus on lesser known indie titles that are definitely worth a look. Indie games are becoming much more interesting in recent years with some stronger production values, ingenious ideas and innovative concepts.