Thanks to the CMP Game Group and Simon Carless for the invaluable support and hosting of the new site; we promise to continue to serve all your indie games news and review needs as we have done before. Here's a word from Simon about this change:
This whole concept started a couple of months ago when Tim announced that he might have to shut the Independent Gaming blog unless he got some help in hosting and partly paying for his time working on the site. We wanted to help out, and we'd already launched IndieGames.com to help educate people about independent games, so having him move his blog over here made a lot of sense.
So nothing is really changing here - Tim's still got an open editorial remit to blog and interview who he likes, and we may occasionally pop in to mention IGF and other Game Group-related news - which is likely of interest anyhow. We'll also be working with him to look at whether we can help to better develop the indie scene through setting up better distribution mechanisms for independent games - though we've only just started thinking about this."
UPDATE: cactus has decided to update the game due to the feedback he's gotten. The jumping level is now easier and skippable for those who have trouble beating it. There's been a few other changes as well, including vital bug fixes.
This is cactus entry for the winter competition at YoYoGames.com.
"Welcome to Mondo Agency! An eerie cyber FPS with horror and puzzle elements. As an agent it is your mission to kill laser indians and save the president!
Turn off your lights and turn up your speakers for maximum enjoyment!"
Tekkyuuman is a new release by prolific Japanese developer Ikiki, famous for a number of controversial games featuring ninjas, bloodbath and outrageous violence. Usually with all three elements at the same time.
In this game, you must make your way towards the green spiky object and smash it with the flail. Use the control key to swing your weapon and tap the left shift key to jump. A wall jump can also be executed by pressing the same shift key when scaling up walls.
Red switches can be activated either by touch or hitting them with your flail. An extra life is awarded after every boss fight. [zip file of Ikiki's games]
EDIT: Exclusive preview image courtesy of MDickie.
MDickie is the author of dozens of unique games, and probably needs no introduction for most of this audience so I'll get right to the interview.
1. One thing that's notable about you is how fast you complete games, often in three months; did you ever have problems with procrastination, or is working so fast natural to you? Do you use any productivity tools such as to-do lists or schedules, or do you just work on things as you feel like it?
MD: Well, let's not fly that flag too hard because time is gushing away from me like water at the moment! I estimated it would only take 3 months to turn Reach into a wrestling game, but the project is heading into its 6th month and I'm still working 12-hour days. Of course, 6 months is still pretty astonishing for a game of that size and sophistication. My closest counterpart, "Pro Wrestling X", has clocked up a good 3 YEARS in production - and that's a team effort! As you say, 3 months is the standard for me now though - so my fans get restless at anything longer. After all these years, I guess I just know what I'm doing. I instinctively know exactly WHAT needs to be done, WHEN it needs to be done, and HOW I might best achieve that. It's a lot like a puzzle - I just know how to put all the pieces together as quickly as possible. One of my best tricks is dividing the day into art work and programming work. I create media in the morning and then bring it to life in the afternoon, so there's a nice flow to what I'm doing. Other than that, it's a race against the clock that makes me work so fast. I don't really have a choice! It may be a cliché, but time is money. The longer I spend making a game, the more money it has to make. For instance, if I had spent all year making World War Alpha I'd be out of business now because it didn't fly. Game over. I'm only here because Hard Time arrived and picked up the slack. My scattergun approach makes me failure-proof. If one concept doesn't work, another one is right around the corner to take the next shot. And on and on it goes, evolving towards perfection. The weak concepts die out and the strong concepts live to fight another day...
2. You've said on your site that you believe that making a game as a team is a bad idea because it dilutes the creativity. But couldn't each team member be creative in their own part of the game? For example, the musician with respect to a game's music, or the artist with respect to a game's graphics. It's not necessarily true that having a team means that every decision in a game has to be decided by committee, each person could have full dictatorial control over their particular part.
MD: Well, let's qualify that by pointing out that it doesn't work for ME. Other people are free to do what works for them, and they'll no doubt have more success in certain areas. All I know is that everything people love about my work is down to me doing it single-handedly. There's not a soul who can tell me what I can or can't do, or what is or isn't possible - not even at the level of publishing. That's how I tackle concepts and add features that would never get past committee. I simply find it more fulfilling too. When you rely on somebody else to bring your vision to life then things get lost in translation. With this new wrestling game, for instance, I can't countenance how many hours I would have wasted explaining why an animation needs to follow certain rules or why a texture needs to have a certain structure. All of these things I understand instinctively, so not one second is wasted in error and not one pixel is lost to compromise. That's true of any profession. People usually rely on others because they HAVE to - not because they want to. It used to drive Woody Allen crazy that making a film was a team effort. He lamented that "every day a truck pulls up full of fresh compromises"! Likewise, Michelangelo was criticized for working alone - but he insisted, "How else can I hear God's voice?". Only in solitude is a man true to himself and his vision. Anything less is a counterfeit version of creativity, born out of necessity rather than will. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself whether you're Michael Jackson or "that guy from The Jackson Five"...
3. The first time I played Hard Time, I walked a few steps, caught some type of sickness, walked a bit more trying to figure out how to cure myself or find a doctor, walked a bit more, started falling down and coughing and looking like I'm about to die, a police officer came up to me, I tried to talk to him but accidentally hit the kick button, and that was when he then killed me. This strikes me as getting the spirit of exactly what prison is really like (at least according to my aunt who spent a few years in it, she tells some pretty crazy stories, like how they had to work for long hours or get no bathroom paper).
So the question is: how much research did you do on prisons before making that game? Did you rely mainly on how it's portrayed in media (like that HBO "Oz" series), did you watch documentaries on it, did you ever visit one, and in general, how important do you feel it is to research subjects relevant to your games?
MD: The way you opened that question, I thought you were going to criticize it for NOT being realistic! I'm not sure what kind of prison your Aunt ended up at, but the one is Hard Time was supposed to be fictitious in its barbarity. You obviously don't live in the UK! We live under a liberal regime, so our criminals are treated like royalty. Their only concern is which game they'll load onto their en suite PS2 or which TV show they'll watch on cable, so it wasn't exactly a fruitful source of inspiration. I did suddenly start taking an interest in how prison was portrayed on TV (Oz was already fresh in my mind and Prison Break had just gotten big), but I'd be lying if I said there was anything structured to it. At the end of the day, a game was always going to be fictitious and exaggerated - so any realistic details would have only fallen by the wayside anyway. Making a game is a lot like writing someone's life story - you play down the things that aren't interesting and dwell on the things that are. The closest thing I did to research on this project was to follow a discussion that I had stumbled across on GameDev.net. By coincidence, they happened to be talking about how a prison game could possibly work from a design point of view. All the problems I eventually had to tackle myself - such as how do you keep it realistic without it being as dull as a real regimented lifestyle? Some might say I didn't actually succeed in sidestepping that landmine, but I did my best! It was a very difficult concept to hold together - as most of mine are - but I pride myself on being able to turn anything into a game. Not necessarily a good one, but a coherent game nonetheless...
4. Because this is a blog for other independent developers and I'm one myself, I should ask this question. Like Introversion, the self-proclaimed "last of the bedroom programmers", you're a bit separated from the rest of the independent games community: you don't post on forums for example, and say things like "If you look around, I'm the only person in the history of this business that's doing what I'm doing." (Said in a March 2004 interview.) You've called them (us) embarrassing, insecure, out-of-touch, bitter, jealous, and so on, and you've called yourself the most reviled man among independent game developers.
I'm not saying that the current state of indie development doesn't have flaws, but do you still feel that *not one* other independent game developer even comes close to your level (either in talent or outlook) enough that you could call them a kindred spirit? For instance, take the finalists at the IGF (http://www.igf.com) for this year, or the winners from previous years, do you truly have nothing good to say about any of those games or the people who make them?
MD: It's funny you should bring this up, because I just posted a commentary on my website about this very subject ("The IceMan Thaws", 16th December 2007) - acknowledging the quality of some of this year's entries and endorsing the efforts of my fellow independent developers in general. Even going so far as to say I'm not worthy of being a part of it. I've never really had a problem with individual creations (I've been playing an independent pool game for the past 5 years!). My argument has always been that I simply don't see anybody else doing what I'm doing - whether that's for better or worse. At the end of the day, there's a difference between what I do and what the average independent game developer does. I single-handedly make big, sophisticated 3D games that kids get excited about - the average independent developer makes quaint 2D games that appeal to a niche audience. I churn out a rich variety of concepts at the steady rate of a mainstream corporation - the average independent developer forces out one title every year or two. I publish my own boxed products and run a profitable business - the average independent developer is resigned to it being a hobby. Now, when you're asked to articulate those differences as often as I am, the rhetoric is bound to get a little ugly from time to time. Especially when I constantly have to defend myself against a loud minority who resent all of the above and see me as a threat. I know how hard I work and I know how special what I do is, and anybody who has the audacity to dispute that is going to be chastened. At the end of the day, there's a limit to how much I can apologize for stating the truth. I've never said anything that I can't back up 100%. When Wrestling MPire 2008 drops next year, you bring me one human being who could even begin to make anything of that size and sophistication. He doesn't exist - not at the independent level or even the mainstream level. I don't take any pleasure in saying that. My fondest wish is to create an army of people who ARE capable of that. At the moment, that's simply not the case. And until it is, I'll be bridging the gap between independent creativity and mainstream success - proving that the impossible is possible and the unthinkable is thinkable...
5. You once said something that I've always thought was a very inspirational quote: "People assume I'm quite courageous for starting my own business, but there's actually a lot of cowardice involved. I'm just as scared of NOT achieving something as other people are about going out and doing it." I wish we had more cowards in that sense.
One of my favorite movies is Ikiru, which is about this old Japanese guy who worked in a bureaucracy for all of his life and then was diagnosed with stomach cancer; suddenly realizing that he'd done nothing with his life he spends his last few months doing one last worthwhile thing. I think for a lot of people it takes some drastic event like that to make them realize the importance of their life, and how short it is. So this may be a difficult question, but what do you think is the best way to get people to be afraid of wasting their life (short of being given a few months to live)?
MD: If you want to get deep about it, I had a cousin who grew up alongside me at practically the same age - only to pass away before he was barely a teenager. You'd have to be pretty cold not to be haunted by that! One of us is living the life of his dreams, the other isn't living at all. That'll get you on a "gotta compensate for the chance they missed" kinda vibe. Subconsciously, it's probably why I spend every waking hour achieving something or other. It's practically a sin not to. As for the particulars of getting into this profession, it's not my place to preach because I got into it when I had nothing better to do. I had no stable source of income to sacrifice and no mouths relying on that income, so I would be remiss to advise a family guy to follow my example. It's like what Jesus said about rich people, except it's "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle" than it is for a man with responsibilities to pursue his dreams! The more baggage you've got, the harder it is to travel. That's why the Buddha spoke of "detachment". The more nerve endings you put out into the world, the more painful it is to live the extraordinary life that many of us yearn for...
There are two ways to be happy - to have everything you want or to want nothing! I'd lean towards the latter if I was to counsel a man of responsibility to pursue his dreams. The trick is to enjoy the process rather than the end result. For instance, it's impossible for me NOT to be a game designer. It's not something I "do" for a purpose, it's something I "am" instinctively. Banish me to a cave and I'll conjure up some form of entertainment involving rocks - just as my younger self had made games out of cardboard. If you're doing something for the right reasons then you can't fail at it anymore than you can "fail" to play tennis - you can only fail to WIN! And so it's by divorcing oneself from the result that one guarantees he'll enjoy the process. Pay attention the next time someone gives up learning to play the guitar or some such, and you'll realize that's what's going on. They weren't enjoying the "process" of making music - their mind was focused only on the end result. Recreating the tunes of their favourite musician, playing to an appreciative audience, getting a deal, etc. The sponsoring thought was counterfeit, and their efforts could only follow suit. As Bart Simpson conceded, "I wasn't good at it right away so I gave up"...
6. You've mentioned that even though your games are violent, they treat violence much more seriously than other games do, they you don't romanticize it, but instead they show its harmful aftereffects; you've said that your war game was really a game about peace. I agree with that viewpoint myself, for instance in one of my games there was a point in the story where many players told me they felt guilty about killing so many enemies (which was exactly the intention). But this type of thing is rare. For instance, last month I played through Jets'n'Guns, which is a wonderful indie shmup but as anyone who has played it knows it absolutely romanticizes violence almost every aspect of the game. Why do you think that type of thing is much more common in games?
MD: I attribute it to something I've often criticized the industry for, which is our bizarre fascination with Hollywood. Despite all the success, we've somehow reached the point in our evolution where we're "ashamed" of being game designers! We want to make movies instead. The problem is movies already exist, and they don't need us. And so we have this awkward dance where a game designer steps outside of his comfort zone and makes a fool of himself. It's like a mechanic and a chef switching roles for the day - your car won't work and your kitchen will be a mess! I cringed when I heard they were making games of The Godfather, The Sopranos, and Reservoir Dogs - because I knew they'd miss the point and screw it up. Handling that material isn't where a game developer's strengths lie, so it's like giving a loaded gun to a child - quite literally! If you've ever been in the company of a child once they've accidentally been exposed to those images, you'll notice that they're preoccupied with what doesn't matter. "Wasn't it cool when Tony Soprano shot that guy? The gun went bang! And there was blood! And the blood was red!" From what I can gather, game developers seem to respond in the same way. Out goes everything that does matter and in comes a fascination with what doesn't. The same is true of (relatively) original material such as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt. It's very much from the childish school of thought that states "anything naughty is cool". They're the kind of people that listen to rappers and say, "He just swore! Did you hear him swear?!" - blissfully unaware of all the sentiments that were articulated in and around the swearing. I can only attribute that to the industry's infancy, and the fact that we're not used to having this much creative power. If you give a starving man a meal, he doesn't eat it with much decorum. Take a socially inept man and give him power, he'll make just as much of a mess. That said, my games are as violent as any out there - so who am I to talk?! I'd like to think I'm a bit more articulate about the whole thing though. If I was embroiled in controversy, I'd be explaining myself via every media outlet in the country. These guys tend to run away like kids that have let off a stink bomb. When there's no method to your madness, you cease to be an artist...
7. You mention that when you're not working on games, you're working on self-improvement: exercise, studying philosophy and politics, and so on. Do you have any strong views on those subjects? You don't often speak about those types of things on your website, so it'd be interesting to know who your favorite philosophers or political thinkers are, and what type of exercises you use and recommend (I favor complex isometrics like this for example), and any other self-improvement tips or practices you've picked up.
MD: I get accused of going "off topic" when I talk about creativity, so there's no way I could pull off a rant about politics! I do know a lot about it and have some considered views, but I'm not arrogant enough to believe that my opinion is more valid than anybody else's. That pretty much sums up my political views to be honest - the belief that there are no right answers. People often like to criticize politicians, but I seem to spend a lot of time defending them. The whole "George Bush is stupid!" and "Tony Blair is a liar!" angle seems very childish to me. People tend to have such passionate views to compensate for the fact that they don't know what they're talking about. The reality of politics is that you spend 18 hours a day going blind on paperwork, trying to make as few mistakes as possible. The whole "I hate him for this!" and "She's stupid for doing that!" line of thought doesn't quite do the balancing act justice...
As for philosophy, for me that tends to be a by-word for religion. "Religion" is a very loaded word nowadays, so you have to wheel it out carefully. It conjures up images of a brainwashed zealot who believes in following rules. The reality is that religion is simply passionate philosophy. If you think about, these guys are just philosophers who were so incredibly popular that people built up institutions around them. They're victims of their own success. That's why militant atheism bothers me a great deal, because - as with politics - it doesn't get to the heart of the matter. 90% of atheists are simply annoyed by religious people and religious practices, and know no better way of articulating that annoyance than by disregarding the whole thing. They quite literally throw the baby out with the bathwater! They would do better to acknowledge that Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad - and thousands of others like them - were great human beings first and religious icons second. And so would religious fanatics. It all boils down to the human ego. The atheist's ego says, "I'm intelligent and you're gullible!" - whereas the fanatic's ego says, "I'm close to God and you're not!". If they were detached from ego, they would each see that they're arguing about the same thing. The scientist has a profound respect for life, and the spiritualist has a profound respect for God. The thing is the words "life" and "God" are interchangeable - two ways of viewing the same energy that permeates every atom in the universe. In that sense, science and spirituality are growing closer and closer together - until we realize that they were never apart...
And so my interest is in developing an all-encompassing world view - which understands every religion in the history of mankind and cross-pollinates that with science, politics, and the arts. The role of exercise is to create the perfect vehicle within which that world view might travel and be expressed. People think I'm going off topic with that too, but I can't stress enough how important it is. Where do you think I get the energy to work 12 hours a day without going crazy?! It's true what they say about "strong in body, strong in mind". I shudder to think where I'd be if I didn't sit a fit and healthy body in front of this laptop. People assume that fitness is an egotistical pursuit, born out of some deep-rooted insecurity. "Who are you trying to impress?" was the snide remark of one woman I recently argued the matter with. "Nobody" is the answer - it's all about YOU and how you feel when you wake up in the morning. There's no better metaphor for human achievement than a bar of metal that weighs more than you, which you'll eventually lift over your head! The mental strength that's required to confront your notions about what is or isn't possible. The confidence that comes with setting goals and achieving them. It's all life in its many permutations - mind, body, and soul...
8. You've written once in an interview that you have a retirement letter already written, and may give up independent game making because it's not as rewarding and you aren't able to make a good living at it. Have things improved since then, or are things still on the down-turn for you? I hope it doesn't happen personally, it'd be great to see you continue to make your 'seasons' of games for many decades to come.
MD: The irony is it's the fact that I've got everything going for me that makes me feel that way! I'm as well-publicized as it's possible for an underground artist to be, I work with genres that have mainstream appeal, I have a huge catalogue of products, and I pocket every penny of the proceeds. And yet here I am barely making a living, so I have to ask myself is this as good as it gets? Is this what I'm telling kids to aspire to? When you first get into the entertainment industry, you hear tales of 50 Cent selling one million albums in a week and figure it must be child's play. With hundreds of millions of people owning computers and playing games, how hard can it be to reach just 0.01% of them? The reality is for all those millions playing, not ONE will part with their money unless you give them a reason to. And I mean that quite literally! I was once being shown around the premises of a publishing house and the guy was pointing to each game poster saying, "That one has sold, that one hasn't, that one has...". He wasn't talking about whether or not they had sold "many" copies - he meant whether or not they've sold AT ALL! That's what independent artists are up against. Whether it's films, music, or games, the little guy is struggling to find ANY one to put ANY value on what they do. But that's just the mortal in me talking. The human ego thinks it needs recognition, and the human body thinks it needs food and shelter. The immortal, on the other hand, seeks only to experience things. He's the one that can't sleep at night because he's so excited about what he's going to achieve the next day. The one that enjoys spending every waking hour doing something creative. The only "paper" that one cares about is the fan letter from a kid who considers you to have made their favourite game, or the guy who's been inspired to hold his head a little higher and chase his dreams a little harder. When you hear me switching from positive to negative, it's the latest battle in that endless war between yin and yang. How long it remains balanced in favour of my games is anybody's guess!
9. My favorite game of yours is Wrecked -- not for its execution, but for its ideas, just for what it meant. I'm an atheist myself, but even so I still found a lot to like about a game with such religious/spiritual purpose. I felt that there was a lot of potential in it, but that it was marred with a few problems which kept it from reaching it fully. Do you plan on making a sequel to it, or a game similar in style and tone to it?
MD: Yeah, Wrecked suffered from a lot of novice flaws. But if you think about it, it's the first time I had ever tackled a game of that nature. Everything prior to that was industry sims like Popscene, niche concepts like Sure Shot, and of course fighting in its numerous guises. Hard Time is practically the only other step in the evolution of that adventure gameplay, so there's plenty of scope for improvement. The spiritual themes in that game were very much an afterthought. Throughout its production, it just became obvious that the way a player chooses to guide a life says a lot about them. Do you give in to base instincts to get what you want, or do you make life harder for yourself by showing restraint? What I love about the end result is that it's entirely ambiguous. God or spirituality never manifests itself at any point, so you don't know whether the guru was mad or telling the truth! It's just something you're told, and then you decide what it means to you - much like in real life. I like the idea of a player being the "soul" to a game character's "body". That's a theme that I'll being expanding upon in some future games. Most notably one about a game character who doesn't know he's a game character! The nature of existence will obviously be key to that game, as the "created" struggles to come to terms with "creation" - and indeed the "creator". More controversially, I'd also like to make a series of RPG's about religious figures. I don't see why a game need be any more offensive than a movie about those times and places - of which there are many. In fact, you could argue that a degree of interaction would make it even more meaningful. It's just such a thorny issue that I have to hold off until I know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it...
10. You've written things like "Programming is a scientific factor that crushes the spirit, and scares away talented visionaries. The pivotal moment in the life of any art form is when the 'scientist' starts losing ground to the 'artist'." This is why I feel that game engines which allow anyone to make games without much programming or technical knowledge are the future of game development, but a lot of people feel that 'real' game designers write their own engines from scratch and only use C++ or the like, and they look down upon games made in Blitz Basic, Game Maker, or engines like that. Do you think this will change as engines and computers get increasingly powerful, and that we'll see a time when most games don't have a 'programmer', or do you think the emphasis on the graphical arms race will ensure that most games will continue to be made using pure programming indefinitely?
MD: Oh, you'll never see the back of programming. That's what game development IS! It's inconceivable that there'll ever be a time when making games doesn't involve telling a computer what to do, when to do it, and how to do it - and that will always be a technical factor. I'm not calling for that to be eradicated - I just celebrate when it's made more palatable. Like the wires hidden behind the plastic face of your favourite gadget, we're just looking for the unnecessarily complex to be simplified. I mean, playing the piano isn't "easy" - but it's just easy enough that anybody can sit in front of one and work at getting their head around it. I think products like Blitz BASIC and Dark BASIC are already achieving that for game development, and that's all we need to coax our version of Lennon & McCartney onto the stage. I resent the implication that it's not "real" programming though. People talk about them being "game engines" as if they're readymade games, but all I get out of them is a more logical way of loading in and manipulating 3D models. There are still 250'000 lines of code that make my latest project a wrestling game! Like writing music, the talent is in coming up with those lines and inserting them in the right place. We never want to make something so easy that there's no struggle involved. I'm reminded of a story my school headmaster used to tell us about two caterpillars at the bottom of his garden. One emerged from its shell and blossomed into a colourful butterfly, whereas the other made no such progress. In order to make life easier for it, he gently cut its casing and a butterfly eventually emerged - only it was black & white because, without the struggle, no blood had gotten to the wings. Long may game development be hard enough to get the blood pumping!
Genetos is a vertical shooter by Tatsuya Koyama featuring stages with design styles from different eras of arcade gaming classics. Use the cursor keys to move your ship, and tap the Z key to shoot. Press the X key to launch a bomb if available.
Name: Genetos Developer: Tatsuya Koyama Category: Shooter Type: Freeware Size: 5MB Direct download link: Click here
Midwinter Rites is an incomplete interactive fiction adventure made to mimic the look of a Commodore 64 release. There are few commands to use but important objects and characters are always highlighted.
Name: Midwinter Rites Developer: Mattias Gustavsson Category: Adventure/IF Type: Demo Size: 1MB Direct download link: Click here
RGCD is a downloadable CD-ROM based magazine containing retro reviews, features and developer interviews. Each issue of RGCD contains direct links (to files on disc) of each game, emulator or tool reviewed irrespective of platform.
Previews of each issue are available at www.rgcd.co.uk, but in order to actually read the rest of the articles and reviews you'll need to download the .ISO image and either burn it to disc or mount it on a virtual drive. There is also a cut-down 'lite' version (excluding all games and emulators) provided as a downloadable .ZIP archive.
RGCD is 100% spyware free and all files are virus checked before uploading. Magazine contents are posted in the comments section.
Pen Pen Xmas Olympics is a skiing game with seventeen events consisting of slaloms, downhill races and ski jumps. In the first two categories, players must attempt to reach the end of each track under the qualifying time to progress or lose a credit if they fail.
Use the cursor keys to control the protagonist's speed or direction of travel, and press the space key to jump over obstacles.
HandMade Game announces latest information of the deluxe version of Rooms, the IGF2007 Student Showcase Finalist game.
Rooms is an original puzzle game, based on logical sliding puzzle and platformer. As we’ve gotten hot response to the previously introduced freeware version of Rooms, we’ve been developing the deluxe version, Rooms: the main building.
The deluxe version contains 100% only-mouse interface, new objects & items, more improved graphics, 5 original soundtracks and a Level Editor to create your own puzzles. With all these, 80 new attractive levels are waiting for you to challenge.
In Frozzd, you take the role of an astronaut tasked with the mission of freeing orange-colored creatures named Mubblies from their frozen state. You begin each level with King Mubbly as your companion, who has the ability to unfreeze his subjects or attack the Frozzds with a tap of the space key. Drink coffee to increase your suit's temperature, and use the points you've acquired to unlock new stages.
Each of the twelve levels introduces a different enemy, and points acquired from previous stages can be used to unlock new ones.
Name: Frozzd Developer: Jesse Venbrux Category: Action Type: Freeware Size: 5MB Direct download link: Click here
Kei Mesuda's Arcanacra Black Label is an update of his earlier browser-based vertical shooter release. Another Mode can now be accessed right from the start, and replays of any level by the top ranked players can be watched even if you have not attempted that particular stage yet. Bomb stock is also increased from three to five.
Click on the screen to add credits. Press the Z key to shoot and hold the shift key to target enemies with your ship's homing lasers. Switch between rapid and spread shot by holding either one or both shoot buttons. The boss of each stage can be beaten easily once your ship has a persistent lock on it, especially when the lock weapon has been upgraded.
Push the right arrow key when the main menu is displayed to view the high score table.
Rise of the Video Game is a five-part series which examines the evolution of the video game and its cultural impact on the world of entertainment today.
"From the early days of Pong to today's ever-popular Halo 2, and from Atari 2600 to Nintendo to PlayStation, this Discovery Channel special tells the story of the people, the ideologies and the technology behind video games and how they have exploded into a cultural phenomenon."
I interviewed Jon Blow, creator of upcoming XBLA (and PC eventually!) game Braid, and found him to be an wonderfully nice and insightful fellow.
EB: How do you go about designing a level? In Braid, the levels are sort of no-nonsense. They're very efficient.
The game is about understanding what it means if time behaves in certain ways -- exploring the consequences of these hypothetical laws of spacetime, and the puzzle pieces you collect are concrete tokens representing the understanding you have gained. So, every puzzle in Braid has a very specific point; it is there to tell you one thing.
Because I wanted the game to be focused (and not long and bloated with filler), I decided early on that the levels would only contain the elements necessary to create the puzzles inside them. There aren't lots of random enemies to jump on or big levels to just sort of wander through. Everything is in the game for a specific reason. After being in the game for a while, the player might start to pick up on some of the nuances (why certain puzzles are grouped together, for example).
What I've said here only applies to Braid, though; if designing a different game, I would probably take a different approach.
EB: Define "drug", in terms of games (WoW, etc)
Games like WoW are very deliberately designed to dole out rewards in order to keep players glued to the game. (It's not just MMOs that do this; for example, the Diablo games do the same thing, and so does Peggle, though in a simpler way). These tend to be very similar to the systems modeled by B.F. Skinner; anyone interested in this might start by reading the Wikipedia article on "operant conditioning".
I claim that some rewards are natural (you automatically make yourself feel good for having accomplished something; or you received acknowledgement for building a skill you didn't have before you played the game; or else you learned or experienced things that will make your life richer) and some rewards are artificial (the game tells you that you are doing a good job, gives you lots of eye/ear candy to celebrate your progress, or pretends to give you valuable things when in fact it is giving you nothing).
I think of natural rewards as food, and artificial rewards as drugs.
All games provide some mixture of natural and artificial rewards. My problem with games like WoW is that they take a huge amount of time and give you only artificial / empty rewards. In other words, they grab players' attention for long periods, but don't feed them much. I think that's a very bad thing, when you look at how many people are playing these games, for so many hours. With Braid I very deliberately tried to base the game design on natural rewards, using artificial rewards sparingly and only when they support natural ones.
EB: So in your eyes, natural rewards are sort of about "self improvement"-even if this improvement is only related to the game itself.Perhaps why this improvement is only related to the game itself isbecause games are so detached from reality (although Braid appears notto be from what I've played).
It doesn't necessarily have to be self-improvement, but that is a major aspect. Much of it is evolutionarily grounded in some way, even if it's subtle. For example, you look at dogs, they like to play-fight with each other. Why do they do that? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but some of them have to do with keeping healthy and physically fit, and practice-fighting so that they are better off when they get into a real fight. (But of course there are social aspects too, and others... it's complicated).
EB: In your MIGS talk, you said "Games are trying to achieve a goal". Doyou think that we really need to try an achieve a goal? Doesn't thislimit the sort of games we can make?The Endless Forest is pretty much goalless, unless you say that there's "implied goals".Nevertheless, it doesn't really have any stated goals.
The Endless Forest is not a game, by my way of thinking. It's an "electronic interactive experience" or something like that. I don't think that's bad, it's just different. It's much harder to make something like that, that will hold the player's interest, than it is to make a game. That's why you see relatively few of these things.
I fully agree, though, that we need to expand our notion of what games are. When I go give a lecture like the recent one in Montreal, guys on message boards start posting things like "that guy is dumb, because if you do what he says then games won't be fun any more, and the whole point of games is to be fun". Well, I actually disagree with that statement from several different directions. For one, I think that the majority of games that people feel compelled to play are not "fun". Counter-Strike is one of my favorite games, and it is not fun at all, except on rare occasions. Raiding in WoW is not "fun". They are gameplay experiences that people want to have for other, more-complicated reasons.
But also, I think it's important to get rid of the idea that a game should be "fun" or even compelling. Ian Bogost wrote an essay about this recently and I agree with him completely. The problem is that the word "game" is so invested with prior connotations; we need to come up with a new name for what this medium is. But nobody's really come up with a good word for it yet, so I end up saying things like "electronic interactive experience".
EB: Yeah, I agree with you on the word "game". All the other suitors sound kind of pretentious, though. There's a quote that goes something like "to teach them, you must entertain them." What do you think?
I do think there is something to this. So many "Edu-Games" are so terrible because they are bad games. I spoke before about how natural rewards are evolutionarily grounded. Our minds tend to reward us for doing things that have survival value to ourselves or our society. Thus if we are doing things that are really interesting, we ought to be entertained, automatically. Raph Koster's book "A Theory of Fun for Game Design" has something to say about this.
Somehow we have developed this educational system that manages to be rote and boring, that somehow leeches all of the entertainment out of learning. And then we try to artifically restore it via stuff like edu-tainment. Well, instead, why not figure out where we dropped the ball in the first place, and just make the learning itself interesting again? I bet that would work a lot better.
EB: You mention that a game (or interactive realtime electronic experienceif you want) doesn't even have to be compelling- what's the rationalebehind that?
All the time in everyday life I have experiences that were not "compelling" but that I am glad I had. "Compelling" is a super-high bar to try and reach, and if we only shoot for that, we are missing a Long Tail of value.
An experience that is just Mildly Interesting can be pretty good, if it only takes 15 minutes of our time. Our mistake is that our idea of a game is that it takes 8-80 hours to play... but we don't know how to put real material into a game to make it interesting for that long, which is why we pump them full of artificial rewards. What if the average game cost $1 and took 30 minutes to play and was interesting and fresh for the entire 30 minutes? Wouldn't that be nice?
EB: What do you think about the Game Grammar/Game Chemistry crowd? Are they trying to reverse-engineer art?
I don't pay much attention to schemes like this, because they are fundamentally unappealing to me. They always seem like they start by wanting to establish a formal theory, then ignore 75% of what makes games interesting in order to come up with a simple-enough picture to admit any kind of theory at all; then they kind of make up the theory and in the course of bending that 25% to fit the theory they've made, they lose most of that too, so at the end maybe you have 9% of games.
That's fine, but it bears almost no relation to anything I experience on a daily basis.
(Raph Koster is a friend of mine, and I say good things about his books pretty often. But I am really not into the Game Grammar thing.)
I like Formal Abstract Design Tools better, because it's not trying to be a closed universe. It says, "hey, we ought to have a language for talking about game design; if you want to make a formal description of a tool and plug it in here, hey, that's great and useful." It does not say "Here is a structure that describes all games!!!" which is what Game Grammar, Game Chemistry, etc try to do.
I have my own game design viewpoint that I have never formally written up, which I call Loop-Oriented Design. It's not really about trying to classify games; it's more about just trying to highlight gaps in a design, to find things that are missing (and which are not obvious because it's a lot harder to see something that isn't there than something that is).
EB: I'm glad you don't pay attention to game chemistry- There's no solution because there is no problem. Can you explain a bit about Loop-Oriented Design?
It's really a long topic that I can't go into at sufficient detail here. But, I think of it as a "reality-based" design approach, in that it starts with the basic core of what a game really is: it's a program that runs in a loop, from Input to Simulation to Rendering, then back to Input again. But then the player is in that loop too, and you can make up some boxes that stand for the different stages that go on in the player's perception/action cycle.
Then you can say that an event happens in the game world -- starting at Simulation -- and then start tracing that event through this loop, seeing what the effects are as it propagates through the different boxes. If things are designed well (and have good "game feel", as Steve Swink put it), then this loop will go continuously forever (though the effects of your event might shrink asymptotically to zero). Maybe you'll realize that there is a piece of hidden game state that's important but that is never rendered via graphics or sound, so the player has to guess at it... which makes your game feel bad.
This can be applied at the low-level (game feel) or the high level (long-term goals, story, etc) or any blend of those. However, it doesn't really approach the art question. It doesn't try to talk about how to make a game meaningful or important. It's just to help look for mechanical problems.
EB: A couple of people have complained about Braid's main character. Any reason he's designed the way he is?
Yes, he's designed that way because he's the right character for this game. He adds something significant to the mood and the themes. The reason why is delicate and subtle, but I think upon playing all the way through, at least some players will kind-of understand. If people want to be a talking wombat, or a guy that carries 17 guns, they can go play a different game.
Games are already so full of bullshit escapism that sometimes it's hard for me to take the medium seriously any more. Some days I just look at the games that are out there and think, "Why am I devoting my life to this again? Surely I can come up with something better to do, like go help some kids in Iraq or Somalia stay alive."
If games are ever going to be a medium that is intellectually and emotionally important to people -- not just otaku man-children, but, like, well-respected and powerful people too -- then they need to do something besides escapism. This means there has to be room for games where the lead character is not a 7-foot-tall guy in power armor, or a chick with guns whose tits are bigger than her head.
So if anyone is dissatisfied with the main character in Braid, I would just encourage them to think about what they are asking for, and why.
EB: Why do you think game developers shy away from commenting on reality?From making games that aren't just sheer escapism?I see this in the indie scene too- there's very few games that aren'tjust escapism.
It's easier to make something that is escapism, than something that isn't. It's easier to make something flashy and empty than something deep and meaningful. And the more we make flashy but empty things, the easier that becomes, since we build those kinds of audience manipulation skills, and new generations of designers grow up with just the flashy empty stuff as their main model of what a game is... so it becomes hard to imagine something outside that box.
Most Hollywood movies are empty escapism, too. But the difference is, movies have shown that they are able to affect people in a way suitable to what we might call great art. So you can have all these lousy Hollywood action flicks, but there is this foundation that something more meaningful is available, and people know where to go if they want to look for it (even if they do that much less frequently than watching Hollywood flicks). Games have not established that foundation. Until we do, every escapist game is one more nail in the coffin of comic-book-style nerd ghettoization... too much of this, and then even if someone makes a very meaningful or important game, society won't pay much attention, because games are just about pretending you have a giant penis. When a typical American thinks of comic books today, he doesn't think of Maus; he thinks of Spider-Man or something like that.
EB: What would you call "great art"? Something can affect people a lot, and not be artistic.
Well, sure. An AC-130 gunship can affect people a lot, and that's usually not art. Art is one avenue that we have by which to affect people and the world. I'm really not going to get into the business of defining art here. When creating things, it's something you either feel or you don't.
EB: What's wrong with escapism exactly, in your view?
There's nothing wrong with a little bit of escapism. Sometimes people are very sad or depressed, they have a hard time dealing with some event in their life, or with life in general. Escapism in these cases can be useful therapy.
But it's like ice cream. If you eat ice cream for every meal of every day, you are going to be a very sickly person. If you're a little kid, maybe you only think ice cream and candy taste good. But actually, steak tastes good. Broccoli and cauliflower taste good. Some people even think haggis and gefilte fish are edible!
All the time we spend escaping detracts from the available time we have to build richer lives for ourselves and to make our contributions to the world. This is extra-nefarious because it's so hard to see -- it's harder to see something that is missing but that would be beneficial.
How did Bill Gates get to be the richest man on Earth? How did Mother Theresa or Mohandas Ghandi come to be the well-respected historical figures they are? How did Albert Einstein discover the Theory of Relativity? I guarantee you it wasn't by playing World of Warcraft.
EB: You say "and new generations of designers grow up with just the flashy empty stuff as their main model of what a game is". Isn't it a fallacy to base your model of what a game is on previous games anyway?
Well, it's not a good idea, but that's how people are. We build our mental models of the world from the things we have seen and experienced. It is often very difficult to break away from those preconceptions and do something new.
EB: It's just that I think if we learnt design from games, and used that as our model, we would end up with a really narrow possibility space of games.
That's exactly where I think we are right now. I am not saying it's a good thing, I am saying it's what happens.
EB: Shouldn't we take our models from Media as a collective whole, from life, from the world around us?
That's one way to do it. But it's hard to even have the mindset to do that. Certainly, I don't think the indie community has a very good track record of that, though there have been some recent works doing very interesting things (like Rod Humble's "The Marriage" and Jason Rohrer's "Passage").
EB: Why do you devote your life to games? To make the life of someone a little better?
I have deeply ingrained impulses and drives that I don't really understand. And I don't think that understanding them is necessarily possible or would be good, because there's a limit to how profound straightforward reasoning can be.
In part, I work on games because I see a lot of potential in where they can go, and how they can shape the future. But that is kind of a rationalization. I can't tell you the real reason because I don't exactly know, but I do feel that it's important.
EB: Maybe we shouldn't take games too seriously. The first Katamari game (apparently, it was never published in PAL format, but Tim Rogers seems to think the following is true) is quite an emotional experience, and had a strong message. Yet the creator- Keita Takahashi, doesn't take games seriously at all.
I do think Katamari Damacy was a very strong and emotional game. In contrast, Beautiful Katamari is just embarrassing. I turned it off after about 20 minutes. It's just trying to mimic what came before, but it fails in every conceivable way.
I don't claim to know much about Mr. Takahashi's attitude toward games, but when you play the original Katamari... it's very sophisticated. All at once, it is a playful game, but it is also an ominous game of universal doom. It's very fun, but it's also deeply scary in a way that you can't quite put your finger on. So, at least the way I see it (and we know there is always a big difference between audience perception and authorial intent), the game has some deep emotions behind it. If Keita doesn't take games very seriously, then perhaps games were just the medium by which this kind of expression came out this time, and it will come out via some other medium next time. Who knows!
EB: "How did Bill Gates get to be the richest man on Earth? How did Mother Theresa or Mohandas Ghandi come to be the well-respected historical figures they are? How did Albert Einstein discover the Theory of Relativity? I guarantee you it wasn't by playing World of Warcraft." Of course. Critics would say: "if that's the case (which it is), shouldn't we just burn all our games and start trying to change the world?" Otherwise, you imply that games the people who play these games of the future will play them and somehow change the world or whatever. That's a beautiful thought.
That is exactly what I think. Games have the power to change the world; I wouldn't spend so much time designing them if I didn't believe that. If you can emotionally or intellectually impact someone at some point in their life, then every decision they ever make in their life after that, everything they think and feel, is influenced (in at least some small way) by that thing you did. Isn't that interesting?
EB: It's kind of scary really. Imagine how people who play WoW are affected. Scary and wonderful.
Well, that's one of the things that makes it feel important to me, is the sheer scale of what's going on. Things that are just fine in small quantities can be horrible and scary in mass quantities. And things that are just little and kind of insignificant on an individual scale, can become very powerful when multiplied like that.
EB: What advice would you give to someone wanting to be a game designer? Do they need to play a large amount of games? (The second question comes from an argument I've been having with another designer).
I think it is very helpful to play a large amount of games. For me this is a big part of how I formed my design sense -- what kinds of things work, what kinds don't, what I think is interesting or boring. It's possible to create something good without this, of course, but I think that would be flying blind and hoping to get lucky.
There are a lot of things I don't do because I have seen them not work well in other games, or else kind of work but not ultimately be that interesting. If I hadn't played those other games, how would I know not to do these things? I would think they were potentially fruitful ideas, and spend a lot of time working on them.
EB: What are some of the key design things that you learnt from Braid?
It's hard to summarize in a pat way. Braid is the best project I have ever been involved with, so I've gotten a lot out of it. But a lot of it is subtle and not conducive to being conveyed in words. I think if people play it (when it becomes available, sorry it's not out yet!) then some of the ideas will come across.
Eyeball 3: Rorschach Dungeon is a short game in which both of the main characters can be controlled with the same mouse. Left click on an area to approach it, and hold the right mouse button to use your eye beam. Right clicking on one of the character's pupil will cause it to generate a shield, protecting it's caster while damaging other enemies on contact as well.
The health indicator at the top of the screen is shared by both eyeballs, and can be increased by colliding with enemies of the same colour.
The North, Pohjola is a strategy game which resembles David Galindo's The Sandbox of God. Players have to help a tribe survive a harsh winter season by making decisions limited to the four cards drawn in each round. The game ends once all thirty cards from the deck have been exhausted, and scores are then calculated for online submission.
Population count is represented by a percentage at the top left of the screen. Temperature can be manipulated by choosing the right cards to maintain a warm surrounding for your tribe. Certain cards award bonus points, and may only affect proceedings when their specific conditions are met.
R-Theta 2: Expanded Edition is a game based in polar coordinates. Every point in the game is assigned a radius and theta value, denoting the distance of the point from the centre, as well as the angle it makes with the x-axis.
The player is in control of a triangular shooter, built into a constantly rotating radar-scope which must be protected from collision with other enemies. Use the up and down arrow keys to decrease or increase the ship's radius from the centre. Hold the X key for rapid fire, tap the C key to shoot and use the Z key to launch a destructive missile. Keys can be reconfigured by pressing the F2 function key at the title screen.
This updated version includes nine new enemies and an adjustable difficulty setting.
The IGF organizers have announced the 12 recipients of the 2008 Independent Games Festival Student Showcase awards from a field of over 125 entries. Each student showcase finalist will receive a $500 travel stipend to help aid their trip to GDC 2008. The $2,500 Best Student Game prize winner will be announced during the same event this coming February.
Winter's Heart is probably my favorite of the over 100 Game Maker winter contest games I've played so far. It's made by Bit Pimp aka Darthlupi, who is responsible for some of the best classic Game Maker games (such as Mage Craft, Raging Skies, The Cleaner, and Legend of Shadow). It fits in no one genre, it has puzzle and action elements, and RPG-like upgrades.
Use Z to hoist and then strike with your staff, holding it longer produces more forceful blows. This however cannot harm enemies, but it can be used to knock snowballs into them, which can create chain reactions and temporarily stun enemies -- and while they are stunned, use the staff again to banish them. You can also use X to roll up snowballs for this purpose if you run out of a level's starting set, although this drains your freeze meter. Press C to use a spell (which takes away from your score), and press A and S to cycle between your spells (which you can buy and upgrade using your score).
I like that it isn't just a set of levels, but there's a background story, bosses, and really great music. One thing I like about the game is that it's very economical with its elements, you only have two meters. The freeze meter doubles as health (you have to restart the level when it fills) and, because it's constantly moving down, also triples as your time limit. Your score and doubles as your magic points, because you use it up when you cast spells, and it triples as your currency, because you use it to buy new spells and upgrade them.
Name: Winter's Heart Developer: BitPimp/Darthlupi Category: Arcade/Action/Puzzle/RPG Type: Freeware Size: 3.2 MB Direct download page: Click here
Same Cube is an addictive puzzler which involves using the Z and X keys to rotate four tiles clockwise or counterclockwise to make a match of four blocks with the same color. Remove the blocks quickly to increase time, and complete all ten levels to unlock the unlimited mode.
Glass tiles are automatically removed if an entire column or row of these exists when the game is in progress.
Name: Same Cube Developer: Yamahara Category: Puzzle Type: Freeware Size: 10MB Direct download link: Click here
Clock Tower's Secret is a platformer in which players have to figure out a way to reach the exit portal by activating the correct switches to rotate the entire world towards the direction shown by the blue arrows.
Hold the Z key to zoom out, and tap the C key to jump. Press the X key when your character is next to a switch to activate it. Developed by ssi for a recent Three Minute Game competition.
Grilled Box is an action game which resembles Every Extend, developed by TERU-soach for a recent Three Minute Game competition. Blocks appear from the top of the screen at a steady rate, and players have to destroy as many blocks as they can before they reach the bottom. Left click on a block to start a chain reaction, or right click to use the magnet and bring the blocks closer to each other. Use these two actions sparingly, as clicking rapidly will decrease their charges faster and render them inactive for a short while when completely depleted. A time penalty is incurred for every block that escapes intact.
Name: Grilled Box Developer: TERU-soach Category: Action Type: Freeware Size: 1MB Direct download link: Click here
MinishoterRS is a horizontal shooter by Peposoft which features multiple ships to choose from, each with it's own strengths and weaknesses in combat. Hold or tap the Z key rapidly to alternate between your ship's primary and secondary weapons. Use the X key to activate a temporary speed boost, handy for dodging bullets or reaching a certain spot on screen quickly. Press the F2 function key to cancel a selection or exit a game in progress at any time.
This release boasts more than ten stages, with different routes to undertake and end level bosses to defeat. Press the Alt and enter key to switch between full screen and windowed mode, or use the Q, W and E keys for the same effect. Additional omake bonuses are unlocked when you have beaten the game and fulfilled certain conditions.
Name: MinishoterRS Developer: Peposoft Category: Shooter Type: Freeware Size: 10MB Direct download link: Click here
Santa Claus Vs the Ice Demons by Ablach Blackrat is another Game Maker winter's contest entry. This one's a danmaku game. I found it pretty easy until level 7, then increasingly difficult. Use Z to shoot and X to move slowly for more accurate movement. Your belt buckle is your hit-target.
It's not too special compared to the better games in the danmaku genre, and is pretty rough in a lot of places, but it's sometimes fun to have a nice warm cup of danmaku now and then in the cold winter months. I recommend that you turn effects off if you have a slow computer, it really helped the frame rate for me.
BenW's Chain Reaction is an arcade game with a simple premise, in which players have to continuously move towards the right of the screen while trying to avoid falling off collapsing tiles or contact with red blocks. Use the cursor keys to move your block around, or press the Alt and F4 function key to quit at any time.
In Rakukore, the aim of the game is to guide a ball towards it's end level destination while attempting to collect as many black dots as possible. The left and right cursor key can be used to change it's screen position. Tap the left shift key to jump. Press the same button repeatedly to execute a double or triple jump. Use the control key to pause the game or cancel a selected option.
MattC - "There are actually five difficulties with four levels each. Once you beat a set it opens up the next. After all five there is a "high speed" version of each. Once a level is available in campaign mode, they're available in free mode as well. Ctrl is pause/back."
Name: Rakukore Developer: Cheese Category: Action Type: Freeware Size: 1MB Direct download link: Click here
Samurai High Jump is a new Flash release from GamePure with a passing resemblance to Nanaca Crash, but not quite as addictive. Left click to plant the pole, then repeat the same action to control your ascent. The game doesn't end unless you make three mistakes consecutively, while the height of the bar is incremented progressively for each successful jump.
Unbound: A Wound Vignette is a sequel to Heartland Deluxe, and the second in a series of three short introductory games based on the backstory of an upcoming full-length game entitled: Wound. This release is shorter than it's predecessor, and will take less than five minutes to complete.
Motnxoqe is a rather clever strategy game of a variety that I don't recall ever seeing before. You have no direct control over the units in your "army", instead placing and removing road blocks on the map with the left mouse button. Any units that encounter an obstacle, either a wall or a roadblock, will turn 90 degrees clockwise and continue on their way.
You must guide your army (represented by the blue numbers) to the enemy base and destroy all enemy units on the screen to clear each stage. The key to victory is passing your units through the PI symbols located around the map, which will increase the value of your units and allow them to take out multiple enemy units before before being destroyed.
You can shift your view around with the arrow keys or the right mouse button, although I found the mouse technique to be somewhat cumbersome.
Name: Motnxoqe Developer: N.I. Category: Game Type: Freeware Size: 76KB Download page: Click here Direct download link: Click here
Possibly one of the most useful application that a game developer could have. DrPetter has written a program which randomly generates a sound effect based on selected options and slider settings. The results can then be saved as .wav files, ready for use in any projects.
Name: sfxr Developer: DrPetter Category: Application Type: Freeware Size: 1MB Direct download link: Click here
Gem Tower Defense by Peter Holko and Dorian Cox is, yes, another of the hundreds of flash tower defense games. But this one has a few new interesting mechanics: you place down five towers each round, but can only choose to keep one, the rest become rocks. You can also combine two of the five if they are the same level and color to make a stronger one. There are also special towers that you can create using special 'recipes' of other towers (the recipe list is shown under the game window).
I enjoyed it because of that mechanic, and because it also doesn't suffer from a common problem in similarly structured "mazing" tower defense games such as Desktop Tower Defense -- juggling, a cheap technique where you open and close routes to keep creeps wandering perpetually, which assures total victory if you know how to do it. It avoids it by not letting the player build during the battle period.
One big problem with the game is a lack of sound or music of any kind, but I assume the game is still being worked on. Recommended if you like the tower defense genre, ignore it if you don't.