Category «Festivals»

Mondar at the A MAZE 2019

We visited the A MAZE this year, and it was relaxing and fun. After missing it in 2018 (we went to the Reboot in Croatia instead), we were eager to meet fellow German and international developers in Berlin again. For those who don't know the A MAZE, it's a games festival with exhibition, talks, live music and workshops (and probably more). The focus is on art/games, and not on the business side or even the development of games. It's all about personal stories, crazy, mesmerizing and/or glitchy visuals, VR/AR/MR/XR/PR and generally digital weirdness. So, we had a good time.

The A MAZE happened at a new location this year, at the SEZ, a big building reminding Friedrich of his former school which was built in the 70s. While the Urban Spree was always very fitting for the AMAZE in our opinion, the SEZ brought the event together well and was also better suited for this year's cold weather. The venue change was good!

In order to justify our visit a bit, we also brought Mondar's Dungeon with us and showcased it for a few hours at the Open Screens (right next to Sos' Open Sound System). Some people eagerly played the game and gave feedback, and overall we are stoked by the positive reception. Mondar's Dungeon was originally meant as our entry for the 7-Day-Roguelike-Challenge (yes, the same event Pitman Krumb was part of, back in 2011!), but we didn't finish in time and instead worked a bit more on it until it felt complete. The elevator pitch: "Mondar's Dungeon is a roguelike, but with cards." While future updates might still come, it is mostly finished and can be played on itch.io for free!

Our friend Björn was also at the A MAZE. He released his game Murder Machine Mini on Steam two days before, and Friedrich lent his laptop so he could present the game at the Open Screens too. He did, and quite a few people had a good look at this retro shooter.

As mentioned before, the A MAZE also offers talks and workshops, and we attended some of these. For example, while Jana took part in a workshop by Anita Sarkeesian about diversity and representation in games, Friedrich was more interested in the technical side of game creation and attended workshops about ray marching shaders and about stage design in Unity. But our personal highlight were the Hyper Talks, where nine creators each had five minutes for talking about everything, from playing with dogs to creativity burn-out.

It goes without saying - we also talked to friends and friendly people at the venue all the time, discussing games, game design and the weather. Jana took part in a podcast (about game difficulty), over at the Saftladen.

Now what does the future hold for Rat King? Sadly, Behind Stars and Under Hills is on hiatus with an unknown fate. But to keep going, we accept commissioned work - the second half of 2018 was dedicated to the game for an app about the sky disk of Nebra, commissioned by MotionWorks GmbH. This sky disk is probably the oldest still existing depiction of the cosmos - we will write a bit more detailed blog post about the game soon.

Of course Rat King is still indie, thus we create concepts and prototypes for different game ideas floating in our collective rat hive mind. This blog will hopefully be more active again soon!

Rat King at the Gamescom 2017

In the last full week of August we not only visited the Gamescom, which is the biggest gaming convention in Europe - we actually went there to showcase our current project, Behind Stars and Under Hills, at the Indie Arena Booth. As Jana is part of the orga team of this 'convention within the convention' we took the opportunity to present the game on 9m² and get some feedback by gamers. (Of course, the 'game' itself still is a prototype, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and the Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung.)

Behind Stars and Under Hills is very much pre-alpha (which means nothing is set in stone, everything is a placeholder, and anything can change) and won't be finished for at least a year. But it's important to let people see and feel a project early enough, so you don't develop a game eventually nobody wants to play. This is why this time, in contrast to our Gamescom presence 3 years ago (with TRI), we offered sheets of paper and felt-tip pens so players could write down their feedback. Quite an impressive amount of colorful text was produced this way, filled with criticism, wishes and comments.

So, to say it loud and clear: thanks to all our players! While for me just standing around and talking all the time quickly became tiring, and the whole experience was stressful and even annoying sometimes (thanks to loud presentations by some hardware vendor, offering t-shirts to the cheering masses), meeting so many cool, polite and interested gamers was a blast and made up for any inconveniences. Personally I was a bit surprised that most visitors of our booth were delighted by the design of our game and of the dialogs. To be honest, I expected people to be less patient - but here it shows the benefit of being part of a site dedicated to indies only, as the expectations of the visitors coming by are different.

During the five days of Gamescom the most common gripes with the game were the lack of a button for sprinting and a missing (auto-)map. Of course we already planned some kind of map, but are not sure yet how to implement it exactly. We'd like some kind of 'cartography skill', to make the maps more meaningful and part of the gameplay. Or maybe we'll just distribute hand-drawn maps in the game's world, to support the lore and the immersion.

On the other hand, sprinting is a different thing. We never planned to have it, as we actually want to make a "slower" game with a certain atmosphere to convey. (If you remember the development of TRI, you will feel like having a deja vu.) And maybe such a sprint mechanic could even lead to new problems especially for people with short attention spans, where they wouldn't process the environment anymore and just rush through, and find their way even less. So it's possible not the lack of running is the problem, but the amount of backtracking (e.g. having to go back to familiar place because of a quest with an NPC there). Maybe having a map already fixes this particular problem; thus adding maps has a higher priority for us. In any case, something like teleporters between the levels (anchored in the background story) are definitely planned.

A bug found during the gamescom: sometimes an NPC can stand on their head

I regret a bit that I wasn't able (physically and mentally) to play some of the other games, not even at the Indie Arena Booth. Behind Stars and Under Hills is so unfinished, fragile even, that I couldn't bear leaving it alone to the masses for too long. I mean, it was the first time the game was playable for the public!

But of course it never really was alone, as we had help by our wonderful volunteers - here's a shoutout to Björn, Jacky, Ludwig and Max! Not only did they explain the game to interested bystanders and answered questions, or helped players who got stuck, they also handed out flyers and made the whole experience much less of a hassle than it could've been. Here's hoping the Gamescom, loud and chaotic as it was, has been a wonderfully crazy experience for them, too.

Our next plans are to develop Behind Stars and Under Hills further of course, and refine it a bit - for example, the whole storyline still is too hazy so we need to work on it a lot more. More gameplay has to be implemented, more characters created, more levels built... Also coming up is the Poznan Game Arena in October, but it's much too soon, i.e. that we probably won't have much new to show. Still, if you happen to be around, come by and try to find crazy old Willard in our small game demo!

That's all, folks!

SOLITUNE at the AMAZE and on Steam

Jana's small and short art game SOLITUNE (you might have read about it before) is nominated for an award at the German games festival A MAZE. It's a great honour for us, as SOLITUNE will be showcased next week at the location in Berlin, along with more than two dozens other games! Of course we will be there too - as usual.

In related news, the game went through Steam Greenlight and is soon available on Steam, most likely during the "Games Week" in Berlin (26.-28. April), which the A MAZE is part of.

So if you want to put SOLITUNE on your Steam wishlist, or just marvel at its Steam page, now you can! :-) By the way, if you bought the game on itch.io you should already be able to claim a Steam key of the game. With the release on Steam a few improvements were made, visually and technically. The mandatory Steam achievement and trading cards will be there, and it's now also possible to play the whole experience with a gamepad - perfect for the avantgarde couch potatoes among us!

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