Day 09 - Tolles Spiel III 

TGGC is a fellow German game developer, and he is very humble person. (That's probably why his name means "The Great Game Coder".) He works for Related Designs, which isn't called Related Designs anymore, but they still don't have a new name, so we might want to still call it Related Designs. He worked on a lot of the "Anno" (or "Dawn of Discovery") titles there, and still does it as far as I know. Also, since some months, he irregularly livestreams when he plays German indie games and calls this SpieleKost ("GamesFood").

The Devmania is an annual event in Mainz, Germany, and it is about hobby game development. As the scene became smaller over the years, the event (called "Dusmania" up until five years ago) also lost a lot of visitors, but it still is a highly entertaining and interesting meet-up of individuals with the love for games and development. There are project presentations and talks, but also a game jam. This game jam is the oldest game jam I know, as the first Dusmania happened around 1999 or so, and its game jam always was called The Overnight Contest.

TGGC participated in this contest (and won 1st prize) more than anyone else, and as he is so humble, his games are mostly named "Tolles Spiel" (= "Great Game") from the beginning. In a sense, TGGC is one of my heroes, as I take part in many game jams nowadays.



A game that particularly stood out for me was Tolles Spiel III (Download). It was made in 2006, using sounds and graphics handed out before the contest began (that's the reason why the snakes are skulls and spiders). So yes, it's a bit ugly – but it is pure fun, if you play it against at least 2 or 3 other people. (The problem with single-system multiplayer games of course is that the situation of having 4 people playing a contest game is very unlikely outside of a game jam.) It's a Snake inspired game where not only the players' tails get longer and longer, they also create permanent walls or become faster depending on power-ups. The great fun we all had playtesting "Tolles Spiel III" for hours, while TGGC polished it bit by bit until it was perfect, is one of my fondest memories of any Dus- or Devmania.
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Day 08 - Shelter 



I knew that I would love this game from the moment I saw the teaser for the very first time. Who can say 'no' to cute animals and an art style that you probably haven't seen before. Shelter is the perfect symbiosis of minimalistic animal characters that will find a place in your heart very soon and a tight atmosphere, which will feel - maybe in contrast or because of the look - very lively.

In Shelter you play a mother (or father?) badger that is guiding her five pups out of the den into the open world to grow and stand on their own feet. Your task is to feed them, hunt down foxes (noooo!) or voles and keep the little ones hidden from dangers like huge flying birds or waves of water.

The gameplay is very simple, whereby you will dive directly into the skin of badger mom. And if the animated series “The Animals of Farthing Wood” is still evoking warm nostalgic feelings, this is your game!
And believe me: Every child you lose because of carelessness will leave a hole in your heart! Awwww.

Get Shelter here.


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Day 07 - Delver 

I could never deny it (and why should I): I love Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds. I love the game because of the atmosphere and the story, because of it being so immersive, deep and manifold, and because it was one of the first PC games I ever played. Some years later I bought and played the first part, Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss. It was a rather strange experience, as a lot of the cool parts I liked about UW2 were missing, and the game screen was much smaller and I also thought it was too hard. Nowadays I enjoy it as much as the second part, main reasons being that I appreciate its origin as one of the first 3D games much more, and that I also understand the developers' game design choices much better.

So, Delver. Delver is very obviously inspired by Ultima Underworld I, and that's why I bought it for my Android tablet! Of course, the game really is something else, much more arcade action (a real dungeon crawler, so to speak), and with roguelike elements; the latter meaning it has randomly generated dungeons (for a higher replay value) und permadeath (for a higher replay enforcement). It also doesn't have a deeper story other than "find the magic orb and bring it back to the surface". On your way you slay a lot of enemies with swords and fireballs.



Although I like my RPGs mostly because of the story, there are reasons why I would recommend Delver nonetheless. Foremost it has a great atmosphere, as the dungeons feel quite natural and spooky and the music is awesome. The gameplay is balanced well enough to not be totally frustrating (although the controls on the tablet are cumbersome, as with all games in first-person perspective), and even though I seem to die instantly when I finally get the Orb, I would play it again.

By the way, all that I write from the perspective of an Android user. The desktop version of Delver already got a major graphical overhaul, and as far as I know, additional gameplay, like a skill tree and a level on the outsite, and so on. I just hope the developer doesn't add too much stuff, because for what Delver already does, it does it very well (and I'm not a big fan of the new SD style of the characters).
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Day 06 - Luxuria Superbia 



Tale of Tales is one of the few developers whose games I buy the first day they come out. I don't even think about if the game might be interesting for me or rated as a 'good' game. I watch and play their works since their critically acclaimed and also hated game or Not-game “The Graveyard”. Since then they showed me what different kind of games can be made instead of the typical level, level, level sequence with highscores and meaningless shooting.




Their latest game is – in some way, ironically exactly that. But because it's a Tale of Tales game it also contains an interesting meta layer about gaming, love and the devotion to gadgets. A sub comment you find in every one of their games. And this sub text is worth discussing.
Like every artist's work you can just examine the piece of art for its own and think of it as beautiful and impressive. Or you step back and consider the whole work and biography you know about the artist, to realize the work as another comment on love, art, relationship, communication and gaming. It is not only a game about sex, but a comment on scoring, tunneling through games to reach THE goal. I think this game is kind of amusing, including the fact that this might be the first game where you pleasure the game, instead of the other way around. Which means I enjoy playing their games as much as I enjoy discussing their gameplay, attitude and statement.

It may be the weakest of their works, but Luxuria is a beautiful, colorful and enjoyable piece of game. And always remember: “Gaming stands in the way of playing.” (Tale of Tales, Real Time Art Manifesto)

Watch the trailer. Buy the game.


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Day 05 - Lock'n'Roll and DiceWars 

Addictive gameplay ahead! I like boardgames and own a few of them, but what usually throws me off is when there is too much luck involved, mostly in form of dice. Yet, there can be discussed so much about a simple random number generator (a normal six-sided die isn't anything else as picking a random number between 1 and 6) and how it is used in games everywhere. Just pick a traditional RPG and you sometimes even might see strange weapon descriptions like "Damage: 1D+5", which is the short form of saying that the weapon makes the enemy lose health between 6 and 11 points.



Lock'n'Roll is a game about colored, four-sided dice and how to combine them in a simple 4x4 grid. Four similar-natured dice (e.g. same numbers or same colors) in a row, a 2x2-block or a diagonal line will give you points, and when the points are high enough, the dice will vanish and you can carry on. It's a simple game with a good portion of luck, but I really can't stop playing it when I want to distract myself.

Popular games are "easy to learn and hard to master", and Lock'n'Rolls is a bit lacking in the "easy to learn" department, as it isn't always clear how the score is calculated. But overall it's my number one time waster nowadays.



Another game that taught me about the virtue of simplification is DiceWars, and it's one of the first Flash games I played a lot, since a decade ago at least. The game is basically the popular board game "Risk", but without all the fancy stuff, like a background story. While any other game presents its entities as part of a story, for example "Giant Rat", "Soldier" or "Tim the Mighty Mage", in Dice Wars you play with dice only, on an abstract landscape. The dice are your 'soldiers' and your enemies, and thanks to the direct representation you always know how strong an entity is.

Of course, the game has its weak points, like a pretty dumb AI, but for a few plays it's quite fun. Other shortcomings, like a slow end game or the inevitable death when the AI got lucky with the distribution of the 'countries', are mostly the same in the physical counterpart "Risk". (They might be game design problems interesting enough for making a better version.)
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