Whether you're roasting chesnuts on an open fire, lighting candles, getting ready for Kwanzaa (which I am learning all about and my goodness that looks like such a rad time!), or just vegging out, there's always time for Link Dump Friday! Two more of my esteemed colleagues join me to tell you what their absolutely favourite games released in 2011 were, and we sit down with Nitrome's Matthew Annal to talk about advice and the developer's plans for the coming year!
Cory Galligher's 2011 Picks
Xenos - My favorite game console was the Dreamcast and my favorite game for it was a little title called Bangai-O. In it, you piloted a robot and battled loads of enemies using giant screen-clearing masses of lasers and missiles. The only thing that could improve on a formula like that is melee weapons and that's exactly what Xenos offers. This is a fantastic fast-paced action game where you have to balance strengthening your weapons and unleashing powerful special moves to destroy hundreds of enemies at a time. Throw in hidden secrets and huge boss battles on top of an amazing presentation and Xenos earns a place in my heart. It's not long, but it doesn't have to be... it's a great hour-long robot-blasting romp.
Terraria - This was one of 2011's indie darlings and it's easy to see why. Terraria takes the basic structure presented by Minecraft and gives it a healthy injection of gameplay. There's a variety of enemies and bosses to fight, weapons to craft and secrets to discover. What's more, the developers continue to release hefty content patches for the game to this day, taking a game that was fantastic when it was released and making it amazing. Playing this online is one of the best experiences you can have that both costs less than $10 and is legal in most countries. Plus you can construct giant shrines to Jay Is Games. You just can't go wrong with Terraria.
Realm of the Mad God - So first you take all the danger and excitement of Nethack. Then you sprinkle in some of the shooting action from Gauntlet. Toss in a variety of classes, each with its own unique skills and gear. You end up with Realm of the Mad God, a sort of MMO-lite that combines the addictive qualities of your favorite MMORPG with the disposable nature of a roguelike character. Pick a class and dive in, blasting away at the minions of the Mad God Oryx. Reach as high a level as you're able before you die a horrible death. Earn prizes based on your performance that can help future characters. Then dive back in and try it again. You'll lose sleep over this game, but it's absolutely worth it.
Trinn's 2011 Picks
Nick Toldy and the Legend of Dragon Peninsula - If you ever thought that a free flash game couldn't bring you quality and quantity, Nick Toldy is here to prove you wrong. He may not be the brightest or most fearless knight, but he could put MacGyver to shame with his item-mashing prowess. This point-and-click game is a heavily Monkey Island inspired adventure that gets just about everything right: it looks fantastic, it's stuffed full of hilarious dialogue, plenty of quirky inventory-based puzzles (there's literally Troll Science involved), plus it boasts a whole four chapters of gameplay. Did I mention your epic quest of peril to slay the dragon and score a date with the princess? Ah, the things we do for love.
Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure - Pick up your phone and call your dentist, because this game is so sweet it will give you toothaches. Even a heart made of ice would melt at this adorably silly point-and-click adventure featuring artwork and voice acting from the equally adorable Cassie. Using the cursor to pick up items and interact with the fantastical environment, the goal is to find and rescue all of the ponycorns. Accomplishing that task and completing the game would only take you a few minutes. The real enjoyment that's sure to last comes from taking in the magic and excitement found only in a 5 year old's imagination.
ClickPLAY Rainbow - It's easy figure out from the title alone that you need to click the Play button, but it's sure as heck hard to find the little guy when its concealed by a number of deceptively difficult puzzles. Featuring the charming visual style of the previous installments, Rainbow pops the monochromatic bubble with a burst of eye-appealing color. The challenges come in plenty of varieties including word games, physics puzzles, and lots of experimental clicking. Rainbow has all the endearing qualities and addictive mini-puzzles of the other ClickPLAY installments, peppered with just the right amount of difficulty, and then served up to you by a robot waiter. What's not to love?
Your Traditional Holiday Erinaceinae As we head into the weekend, for some of us packed with presents and fattening meals, and for the rest of us hopefully filled with love, happiness, and humour regardless of the time, we leave you with this... singing hedgehogs. More interactive art than anything else, this series of YouTube videos by BirdBox Studios is simple, adorable, and very well done. No matter what you're celebrating, or even if you're celebrating nothing at all, we wish you a great weekend filled with the cute animals of your choice and more fun than you can handle.
Want to check out this week's interview? Continue reading for an interview with Nitrome
First things first... congratulations on completing your 100th game, Nitrome Must Die! That's a milestone few developers ever see. Do you have any advice for anyone who might want to follow in your footsteps, or even just dip their toes into the game-designing pool for the first time?
Thanks.... I wish I could say there was a master plan that others could learn from but in truth we just made games as many do for the love of doing it and it only kept going because people kept supporting us by playing which we are very grateful for. I think the best advice I could give is to not go in with any great expectations. If you love making games make the best one you can and see what happens... if you have a talent for it you will find ways to make enough money from it to keep doing it. If not you at least gave it your best shot and poured your heart into a project that hopefully remains special to you.
Perhaps on top of that as actual advice I would say to make sure you retain full rights to your games... if you have a success you want to be able to use that to push yourself further forward so be careful what deals you make. Also, although advertising can ultimately be the most financially rewarding way to finance yourself I have yet to hear of anyone who could instantly grow an audience big enough for it to cover costs from the beginning so you will need to use some form of sponsorship or licensing to fund things from the start.
You've created so many games, and you rarely take the simple way out by making "just" a platformer, or a shooter, or an arcade game. This past year in particular you've tried a lot of different things with your titles. Which one would you say was the biggest challenge to design and create, and which one taught you the most?
We feel that for a project to be worthwhile it should offer the player something they have never seen before. If you manage to make a game that is the best of its genre then that is probably worthwhile too but it's hard to imagine doing that in a flash game. When ad revenue dictates the time you can afford to spend on a game it is not really realistic to make something better than what retail titles have managed in the past. In making something new you have not got the same comparisons being made so you can explore your concept and keep things fresh without needing to outdo anyone.
In direct answer to your question Steamlands was by far the biggest title we have ever taken on (though Nitrome Must Die took a long time too). It was particularly challenging as it was hard to see if it would all come together to be a fun game in the end and it was many months into the project before we got to that point. Unfortunately I think the biggest lesson we have learnt with our bigger games is that spending more time on them really does not lead to much if any extra revenue. Though this was suspected from the outset it is never the less frustrating for us as we have been developing games for a while now and it would be nice to make some of our games as large as our passion dictates. We are considering experimenting more with a game split into parts to counteract this but it may be more realistic to be left for other formats where the extra time would hopefully be rewarded with the extra revenue needed to cover such a time investment. Interestingly we learnt this lesson from Steamlands but still went on to spend almost as much time on Nitrome Must Die so perhaps we will stubbornly still do it on occasion just for the reward of the game we get to make.
Looking back over all of the games you've done over the years very few of them have gotten sequel love. Are there any games you'd like to go back and remake, with everything you've earned now, or even just a personal favourite you'd like to experiment more with by making a new installment?
That is actually a very interesting and well-timed question as it is something that has been discussed a lot in the office recently and I am happy to say that as a result we have some of our older games that we are going to go back to. We have not even made sequels to some of our most popular games which may seem strange... the thing is that we do intend to make follow ups to a lot of our games but for various reasons never get round to them. If you don't make a sequel quite soon after the original game things tend to move on and by the time you bring it up again the idea of making something substantial enough to outdo the original can often seem out of scope for the time we can afford to spend on it.
Without naming the actual games you can look out for some more sequels and even remakes from us in the future. :)
Flash isn't the only fish in the pond anymore. Have you ever thought about trying to create a game with, say, HTML5 or Unity? Have you experimented with it at all?
We have nothing against other web technologies but at the moment we see no advantages to using HTML5 or Unitly. For us there needs to be a good reason to look to new technology for what it will allow us to do and I think in that instance it is much more interesting to look to other potential platforms and the best languages/tools involved in getting there such as iOS/Android/Steam/download based stores rather than other ways to make a game on the same platform. That is not to say though that we never would look at any other platform...something might change that makes it more viable or interesting to us. :)
We're right on the cusp of a new year, and hopefully 2012 will be just as packed with Nitrome as 2011 was! Are you already planning your "next big thing", or are you just taking and developing ideas as they come? Anything you've got in mind that you can share with/tease us with?
We have big plans for 2012 some of which have been in the works through much of 2011 but it would spoil things to let it all out of the bag so soon. I can say though that there will definitely be some big updates to our site, some big new games both sequels and otherwise and something else not related to flash too. :)