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Mini Motorways is coming to Apple Arcade this week

Mini Metro (review) is the lovely game of subway maps, and its simple style and soothing music has consumed quite a few hours of my time. Developer Dinosaur Polo Club has announced their follow up, Mini Motorways, will be available on Apple Arcade starting this week.

Mini Motorways will launch Thursday, September 19, and it’ll start out being exclusive to Apple Arcade. As far as mobile goes, that’s going to be it – while a Steam launch is scheduled for 2020, there’s currently no plan to bring Mini Motorways to other mobile storefronts, which means Android users are out of luck on this one.

Which is a shame, because Mini Motorways looks delightful. It retains the stylized maps of Mini Metro, but adds a few subtle gradients and new color schemes to the mix, while adding to Metro’s complexity with highways, multiple building types, and new vehicle behaviour.

Here’s the trailer:

You can actually choose your color mode in Mini Motorways, and options include colorblind and night modes, which is a very nice touch.

The music, which is dynamic and changes as your cities grow, was created by Disasterpeace – that’s the artist behind the soundtracks for Reigns, Hyper Light Drifter, and the 2014 indie horror hit It Follows.

Microsoft Open Source Standard Template Library

Today at CppCon, Microsoft announced they are open sourcing the Visual C++ implementation of the Standard Template Library.  Available now on GitHub and licensed under the Apache License v2.0 with LLVM Exceptions.

Details of why Microsoft have open sourced their STL implementation from the C++ team blog:

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: There are several reasons. Working on the STL in GitHub will allow our customers to follow our development as it happens, try out our latest changes, and help improve our pull requests by reviewing them. As C++ Standardization accelerates, with more large features being voted in every year, we believe that accepting major features as open source contributions will be important. (For example, C++20’s chrono and format libraries are potential candidates.) We also want to contribute back to the C++ community by making it possible to take our implementations of major features. (For example, C++17’s charconv.)

If you’re getting your hopes up that this is the first step in open sourcing more of Visual Studio, don’t get your hopes up too high!

Q: Are you going to open source anything else in the MSVC toolset?

A: We have no such plans. We chose the STL because it’s different from other MSVC libraries and the compiler. Specifically, the STL is fast-evolving and designed by the C++ Standardization Committee, unlike other MSVC libraries. (Being designed by Committee is an advantage for open sourcing! It means that we don’t need to spend any time and energy on feature design review. Implementation strategy and tactics are far more constrained, and therefore easier to review.) The STL is also relatively easy to contribute to, and somewhat loosely coupled, unlike the compiler (where, as a general rule, everything interacts with everything else).

(One exception: there are support libraries for the STL that we may open source in the future, but we have nothing to announce at this time.)

You can learn more about this open source release in the video below.

GameDev News


Lumberyard 1.21 Released

Amazon have released a new version of the Lumberyard game engine.  This release includes 70+ features, changes and improvements.

Highlights of the release from the Lumberyard blog:

  • We continue to add new features and make workflow improvements to Script Canvas visual scripting to save you time. In this release, Script Canvas gets greater flexibility working with dynamic types, new comment and group presets so you can define color code comments and groups, and the ability to disable nodes so you can test different graph structures more quickly. We’ve also added three new nodes for increased functionality: Repeater, Switch, and Ordered Sequencer. (A few months ago we released the Project N.E.M.O sample to help you get started with Script Canvas. Check it out here.)
  • The EMotion FX Animation Editor can now dynamically simulate physically-based secondary animation for your actors. This lightweight solver provides realistic looking motion for items like backpacks, holsters, and even long hair, as your actor moves. Using the Simulated Objects node, you can adjust an objects stiffness, gravity factor, colliders, and more.
  • Lumberyard Beta 1.21 now uses NVIDIA’s PhysX 4.1. This latest version of PhysX boasts increased performance, stability, and accuracy.
  • We’ve also refactored Lumberyard’s cross-platform architecture. We removed heavy reliance on cascading platform #ifdefs by reorganizing platform-specific code into a parallel directory hierarchy. This makes cross-platform feature development and maintenance easier and also significantly reduces the effort required to add new platforms to Lumberyard. (Note that public APIs were not changed as part of this refactor.)

You can read full details of this release in the release notes available here or by watching the video below.  The example N.E.M.O demonstrated in the video below is available here.

GameDev News


Blender Google Summer of Code 2019 Results

Every year Google sponsors the Summer of Code, a program that pays students to work on open source projects.  This year’s GSoC is over and the results are being released.  Earlier in the week the Godot game engine reported their results, yesterday Blender reported the results of the 7 projects undertaken in the 2019 summer of code.

The 2019 GSoC projects at Blender were:

More details about the entries are available of the Blender Developer blog or learn more by watching the video below.

GameDev News


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The worst way to play Hyper Light Drifter is the best way to learn it

By Jerret Green 13 Sep 2019

Heart Machine’s Hyper Light Drifter is one of the best action adventure games you’ll play this side of A Link to the Past. It’s sombre and contemplative, and yet can be surprisingly uplifting and warm. It’s beautiful in both its moody and brooding backdrops and in it’s lush and vibrant locales alike. It’s available on basically anything that can play games, and it’s a pleasant experience everywhere you decide to check it out.

Well, *almost* everywhere.

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Recently, the Special Edition of HLD was ported to mobile, and while I’d hoped it would make for the perfect place to start yet another run of this instant classic, the iOS port leaves so much to be desired.

The content is all there, of course. You’ll still be playing the wandering Drifter, as they battle a plague that has corrupted both the world and their well-being. Armed with a sword, a gun, and a trusty robot sidekick, you’ll climb the highest of heights and sink to the deepest depths in order to save what’s left.

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The charming anti-dialogue is still just as enrapturing. All conversations with NPCs are had via pictograph, small slideshows depict the jist of what they’re trying to say to you, and outside of conversation, there are plenty of level design tricks that train you to examine every inch of a room you’re in for possible secrets. All that remains just as clever as it ever has been.

But the controls suffer greatly. Many action games that come to mobile – be they ported to or developed primarily for phones – tend to use the touch screen controller set up that HLD employs here to a wide range of successes and failures. A couple hours in, I still can’t rightly determine what side of the spectrum this control set is on.

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When exploring areas and taking out small groups of enemies, things seem to be working well enough. The moving is done with a digital left stick that appears wherever you tap or hold on the left side of the screen, and it does it’s best to keep up with your rapidly changing angles or long drags in a single direction… but it’s responsiveness is dicey. All the action buttons – dashing, shooting, attacking – are on your right side, and these tend to respond well, but with so many actions for basically just one finger to be responsible for, you end up being a jumbly mess after a while.

It may seem a little nitpicky, but when combat heats up, this control solution can often make a tough fight feel near impossible. On a controller, these options were spread out as such to allow the sort of complicated sequences of actions you have to make in order to beat some bosses. Even some extra challenges, like the dash room in the main hub town, are frustrating feats. You really miss the shoulder buttons on mobile.

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Hyper Light Drifter was never a cake walk. The struggle, though maybe not Dark Souls, was still part of the experience. This port’s struggle seems artificial, or at the very least, incidentally difficult. It sort of mars what I used to consider well balanced and designed encounters. To make matters worse, there’s no way to adjust or change the control scheme, further sending home the concept that you’re going to have to struggle with it as is if you want to play it in this format.

All that said, if you’ve never played Hyper Light Drifter, the mobile port may still be the best way to get into it. There’s an Easy Mode, which takes a lot of the combat pressure off of you. With less and weaker enemies on screen hitting, the mistakes you’ll inevitably make due to the control scheme will be forgiven far more often. It’s also the cheapest way to play it — at around $7 bucks, it’s well worth the cost to experience the visuals on a nice handheld, given how pretty their screens are these days. Be sure to grab a good pair of headphones, though; Disaterpiece’s score should not be missed. It’s easy to look down on mobile ports of action titles because of the inevitability of their tactile shortcomings, but when it comes to one of the best Zelda-like adventure games available today, consider meeting this one half way.

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AppGameKit Studio Free Mega Media Pack

The Game Creators have just announced an excellent new perk for owners of AppGameKit Studio, their newly released 2D game engine with a full editor built on top of the AppGameKit SDK.  Available as free DLC, AppGameKit Studio owners will now get the Mega Media Bundle free.

Details from the AppGameKit website:

This FREE DLC for AppGameKit STUDIO includes these AppGameKit Classic media libraries:

  • 3D Asset Pack
  • Community Template Games
  • Games Pack 1
  • Games Pack 2
  • Giant Asset Pack 1
  • Giant Asset Pack 2

3D Asset Pack
Includes over 250 low polygon 3D models, complete with diffuse, normal and specular textures, ready to drop into your project.
The assets are subdivided into eight categories, and provide an ideal starting point for your 3D game or app

Community Template Games
A range of AppGameKit projects with full source code and media to help you learn how different game genres can be created

Games Pack 1
Over 20 AppGameKit game projects you can play, many of which come with full source code

Games Pack 2
Full project source code is included with all the seventeen games in this pack

Giant Asset Pack 1
A library of over 400 megs of 2D art assets are at your disposal. Includes platformer graphics, space genre art, explosion animations, UI art, vehicles and much more

Giant Asset Pack 2
Art for classic board games, pixel art, slots, icons, characters and more – over 350 megs of art assets

Owners of AppGameKit Studio can download the pack from TheGameCreators Order History Area and Steam users can just add the DLC to their library for FREE.

If you are interested in learning AppGameKit Studio be sure to check out our step by step tutorial available here or watch the video embedded below.

GameDev News


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Telling Lies Review

First, let’s dispense with genre. Telling Lies is a narrative game with a puzzling aspect. Though its creator insists the game isn’t voyeuristic, its whole spiel revolves around the player watching video footage collated from an intelligence archive. Although the central mechanic is not digging through dirty laundry, per se, it is nevertheless watching movies of people’s immediate and unfiltered lives. There is some perverse pleasure in breaking this taboo, in being a fly on the wall of someone’s life.

On the flipside, it provides an honest, unflinching look at their lives. Using all the raw footage, the player is meant to piece together a master account of the connections between four people and one final act, presumably extreme enough to merit all this surveillance. In pursuit of this final explanation, the game becomes a simple trawl across the videos to try to find every clip. Fortunately, the strength of the acting and individual scenes is compelling, even while the much-vaunted mystery falls a little flat. In a nutshell, play Telling Lies for the human element and scrambled story, not for the whodunnit.

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Any conversation can be searched by its component dialogue, broken down into individual words. The very first keyword, ‘Love,’ springboards the scattershot search. To keep things from getting too easy, you can only see the first five results. This is the exact same method as used in Sam Barlow’s game, Her Story (review), and it’s no worse for wear from reuse. In a novel twist, many of the conversations in the videos are dialogues between characters, so the actor might be flirting or arguing with a silent second video component, which must be tracked down and mentally reconstructed to give a full picture. Splitting videos makes for a delightful exercise in conversational deduction and wit. Oh, and the ‘metadata’ of each video also includes date and time-stamps. Protip: use the rewind function to view the full video, start-to-finish. Those are all of the game’s technical tricks; the rest of its staying power comes from the story.

Said story is convoluted but not especially complex. The video clips cast a web that is finely woven, with clear connection and logical nodes. Piecing it together is disorienting, like being thrown into a whirlwind of memories, fights, inside jokes and backstory. Here’s a rough sketch of some of it. The wife back home is sometimes aggrieved, sometimes amorous, always tender to her daughter. A cam girl manages her clientele with expert discretion and finesse. A right mess of a man attends a poorly lit party and sways after a few. He’s coming on to a fellow activist, and she’d rather go home alone, thanks. These vignettes and many more besides function like brushstrokes building up the details of each person’s life and motivations. Suffice to say that all of the four central characters are under stress and laboring under some illusions. That’s about as generic a setup as it gets, so luckily Telling Lies has a strong, diverse cast of characters with competent actors bringing them to life.

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The material they’re given to work with is stout. Three women whose lives are only connected by a man, his own life riddled with uncertain motivations and cutting half-truths. Most of the titular ‘lies’ involve omissions and incomplete accounts rather than outright untruths. Telling Lies is, true to its title, a perfect exercise in context and discretion. The player is wholly free and unfettered can experience every perspective without judgement or heavy-handed narration. Even while dealing with the heaviest of material, the game never veers into easy moralism. The most intense disputes unfold with their full intensity while the player sits mutely as a third party, though the player character’s identity is not a simple bystander. As more videos are accessed, the in-game laptop timer advances into the late hours of night and eventually the wee hours of morning. Reflections pass across the screen-within-a-screen. It’s a deliberately layered perspective, partially to justify the video-access gameplay through a story conceit.

The plot, such as it is, unfolds in a little over a year and has several huge events. National security, political activism, and ‘relationships’ make fodder for every kind of interaction. There are lullabies and come-hither crooners, fairytale tuck-ins and fairytale codenames. Because every player will view the archive in a unique order based on their search whims, the story is modular. Sometimes this means its emotional beats fall out of the usual rhythm, occasionally stealing thunder. If it were a less carefully constructed plot, or less interesting set of characters, the whole conceit would fall flat. Telling Lies mostly avoids this.

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I’d talk details, for they are where the juicy bits are, but they are absolutely best experienced fresh. Suffice to say the game builds up its characters’ lives in the best way possible, including ordinary scenes as much as dramatic, emotional ones. Its tone is varied and generally well-considered. Unfortunately, each character’s appeal relies a little too much on their alluring status of strangers, like dimly scouting someone intriguing across a crowded room. Once they become a known factor, things start to look a little flat. The connections between them are shockingly direct and the final ‘gotcha’ is less satisfying than Her Story’s. This is largely quibbling: those who like getting inside the characters’ heads and stalking every last bit of a stranger’s life will take to Telling Lies like catnip.

By including a wide range of its character’s lives, Telling Lies mostly succeeds in telling a complete, compelling story connecting four disparate individuals. It coheres and tantalizes, but in its greater scope, becomes a little muddled in the final moments. That we’re witnesses a resurgence of FMV-style games is nothing short of a miracle, and Telling Lies remains an excellent addition. It falls short of perfection, but has all the hallmarks of a critical and commercial darling.

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Premium subscription service Apple Arcade is going online later this month

By Ian Boudreau 11 Sep 2019

Apple’s subscription service for iOS games, Apple Arcade, will go online later this month. Apple device users will be able to find the service in the App Store starting September 19. The service will cost $4.99 USD per month, with a one-month free trial available.

We first learned about Apple Arcade earlier this year, and it’s joining the likes of Google Stadia, Xbox Games Pass, and Ubisoft’s Uplay+ as a new way to pay for premium games. Apple Arcade will launch with access to 100 games, and Apple says more will follow shortly. Once you subscribe to Apple Arcade, you’ll be able to download and play the full catalogue, and they’ll work whether or not you’re online for as long as you remain subscribed. 

Many of our initial questions and concerns about the Apple Arcade have yet to be specifically addressed by Apple, as it’s still unclear how this monetization model impacts developers, how Arcade exclusives are going to work, and what the basis is for the Arcade’s curation process. Is Apple making mobile games more accessible to more people, or creating another ‘walled garden’?

Time will tell on those fronts, but in the meantime, Apple has shared more of the exclusive games coming to Arcade:

  • Ballistic Baseball, Gameloft
  • ChuChu Rocket! Universe, Sega
  • Exit the Gungeon, Devolver
  • Overland, Finji
  • Pac-Man Party Royale, Bandai Namco
  • Projection: First Light, Blowfish (pictured above)
  • Rayman Mini, Ubisoft
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens, WayForward
  • Skate City, Snowman
  • Sneaky Sasquatch, RAC7
  • Steven Universe: Unleash the Light, Cartoon Network
  • Super Impossible Road, Rogue Games
  • The Bradwell Conspiracy, Bossa
  • The Enchanted World, Noodlecake
  • Various Daylife, Square Enix

We’ll be watching closely to see how mobile developers react to Apple Arcade, and to report on any great strategy games the service winds up offering.