Indie Games of 2016

Hi there! I figured I'd dust off the old blog for another year-end post, but this won't be as extensive as my previous year in review write-ups.

Many amazing games were released this year, but I'll stick to indie games this time:

screenshot from the-witness.net

Platforms: PC, X1, PS4; Duration: about 30 hours; Cost: about $50

The Witness is a brilliantly designed open-world puzzle game, and my favourite game of the year. It takes a simple premise – drawing lines on a grid – and develops it in so many interesting and surprising ways over the course of about thirty hours.

Jonathan Blow is a polarizing figure, but he's a game design genius if you ask me. His talks and interviews are always interesting and enlightening, and his games – both Braid and The Witness – are a testament to his skills and knowledge.

Beautiful, challenging, and rewarding, The Witness is an exceptional experience that I won’t soon forget.

screenshot from gamekult.com

 Platforms: PC/Mac, iOS; Duration: 25+ hours; Cost: about $15

That Dragon, Cancer is one of the most emotionally impactful games I've ever played. In fact, it's the only video game to bring me to tears. The game follows the journey of Ryan and Amy Green as their family struggles with their child's cancer. Through a series of deeply personal scenes, the player experiences part of what the family went through.

While this game was mostly well received, it did endure some criticism. Some took issue with the game’s use of religion, and while not a religious person myself, I think the game would be lacking if Ryan and Amy had left out their faith, which was clearly a big part of how they dealt with their son’s illness.

Either way, there's no denying that this game succeeded in sharing the authors' story in an engaging and powerful way.

screenshot from supergameplay.com.br

Platforms: PC/Mac/Linux, X1, PS4; Duration: about 4 hours; Cost: about $25.

Firewatch is a narrative-focused exploration game set in the Wyoming wilderness. Players embody Henry as he adjusts to his new job as forest ranger and learns to deal with his issues.

Most of the drama unfolds through radio conversations between Henry and his supervisor, Delilah. Players must choose dialogue and actions that change the way the narrative plays out. The voice acting and writing are top-notch, making Henry and Delilah's relationship believable and engaging.

Firewatch also boasts gorgeous art – Olly Moss was on the team, after all – and a great music, which work together to create a unique ambience. It's a really great experience, from the gripping intro to the controversial ending.

screenshot from techraptor.net

Platforms: PC/Mac, X1, PS4; Duration: 25+ hours; Cost: about $20

Stardew Valley is a peaceful, pleasant, and replayable farming game. Players can manage and customize their own farm, as well as interact with a village full of colourful characters, explore dangerous areas, and complete different quests.

Stardew Valley is the indie success story of the year. Developed by one person, Eric Barone, Stardew Valley began as a passion project created to fix perceived problems with the Harvest Moon series and to improve his programming skills. Five years later, with the help of indie game publisher Chucklefish Games, Eric has released a highly praised and successful game to the public. Somebody get this guy a medal!

screenshot from gamespot.com

Platforms: PC/Mac/Linux; Duration: about 5 hours; Cost: about $25

Quadrilateral Cowboy is a cyberpunk heist adventure where players must type commands into their portable computer terminal to overcome a series of puzzles with careful planning and hacking.

Brendon Chung's latest game has unique typing and hacking gameplay in addition to the quirky style and charm its creator is known for. Figuring out how to use each of the available tools is challenging and rewarding. Although the game is excellent, it feels as though the game ends too soon, just as the player finally feels comfortable and ready for greater challenges. You know your game is great when the most popular complaint is that there isn't enough of it.

I'm very excited to see what Brendon will make next now that he has a larger-scale game release under his belt.

screenshot from playdead.com

Platforms: PC, X1, PS4; Duration: about 5 hours; Cost: about $25

Inside is the latest game from Playdead, the studio behind 2010's indie hit Limbo. In this 2D puzzle-platformer, players guide a young boy across a dangerous landscape while being pursued by mysterious forces.

Although Inside resembles its predecessor, its surreal, minimalist art style and narrative are stronger than before. There are evocative moments throughout, but it’s the unforgettable ending that seems to leave the strongest impression on players. I think my jaw was on the floor during the entire final act.

Although I initially thought the game was a little overrated, I've come to better appreciate it in retrospect. Its many awards – including Best Independent Game at The Game Awards 2016 – are well deserved.

Honourable mentions: Pony Island had unexpected twists and tricks, but was just okay overall. Kentucky Route Zero's fourth act was good, though not my favourite. Here's hoping the finale will be great. Virginia was an interesting narrative experiment, but I would only recommend it if you like Twin Peaks and games with minimal interaction.

There were lots of other interesting indie games released this year. Here are some that are on my radar, but that I haven't had the chance to play:

From what I've read and seen, I think Darkest Dungeon and Superhot might have bumped Quadrilateral Cowboy and Inside off my top 6 list. Darkest Dungeon's brutal roguelike gameplay and mental health affliction system seem really fun, and Superhot is often described as the most innovative first-person shooter in years.

Hyper Light Drifter's art and soundtrack are great, but I have yet to try the game. It has received mostly good reviews, but not everyone loved this Zelda-inspired adventure.

Oxenfree's dialogue system has recently been featured on Game Maker’s Toolkit’s top game design innovations of 2016. This alone makes me want to try the game out.

I loved the original game despite its flaws, and The Banner Saga 2 has apparently improved and refined the formula.

I don’t know a whole lot about Va11-HALL-A, which has the subtitle of “Cyberpunk Bartender Action,” but I’ve heard it’s great.

I hadn’t looked into This Is The Police until Super Bunnyhop made a video review explaining how it works and why it’s interesting.

Abzû is a beautiful underwater exploration game for the PS4. The art director is none other than Matt Nava, former art director at Thatgamecompany who worked on art game classics Journey and Flower.

Thanks for reading!


Guide d’utilisation de Twine

Pour ce projet, nous utilisons la version en ligne de Twine 2 : www.twinery.org/2


Le PASSAGE est l’élément de base de votre histoire Twine. Les passages sont comme les pages de votre histoire.

En commençant un nouveau projet Twine, vous verrez le premier passage au centre de l’écran, nommé  Untitled Passage. Double-cliquez sur ce passage pour le modifier. Le champ où l’on voit  Untitled Passage, c’est le titre du passage. Modifiez-le selon le contenu de votre passage. En dessous, c’est le corps du passage. C’est ici que vous écrirez votre histoire.

Ensuite, il faut savoir comment connecter des passages en insérant des liens.

Les LIENS relient vos passages et vous permettent de bâtir votre histoire interactive.
Pour lier deux passages, utilisez cette syntaxe dans le premier passage :

[[Texte affiché->Nom du prochain passage]]

Par exemple, si on écrit [[Entrez dans la maison->Maison]], cela crée un hyperlien affichant le texte  Entrez dans la maison qui mènera au passage nommé  Maison. Si aucun passage nommé  Maison n’existe, il sera créé automatiquement :

Et voici le produit final lorsqu’on lance le jeu. Les hyperliens sont en bleu :


Une VARIABLE est une valeur numérique utilisée pour différentes raisons. Par exemple, nous pouvons créer une variable pour compter l’argent du joueur, le nombre de balles dans un fusil, ou tout simplement vérifier si le joueur a un certain item ou non.

On définit des variables comme suit (var serait remplacé par le nom de votre variable) :

(set: $var to 1)                                (n’oubliez pas les parenthèses!)

On peut aussi ajouter ou soustraire d’une variable. Par exemple, si le joueur gagne 30 dollars :

(set: $dollars += 30)

On peut aussi modifier une variable lorsque le joueur clique sur un lien.
Voici encore une fois un lien standard : [[Texte affiché->Nom du prochain passage]]

Maintenant, voici un lien qui modifie une variable lorsqu’on clique :
(link:"Texte affiché")[(set: $var to 1)(goto:"Nom du prochain passage")]

Les EXPRESSIONS IF créent une condition. On peut donc créer du texte conditionnel qui change selon les variables :

(if: $var is 1)[Texte affiché si la var. égale 1](else:)[Texte affiché si la var. n’est pas  1]

Par exemple, si j’ai une clé, je peux ouvrir la porte, mais si je n’ai pas une clé, je ne peux pas.

On va insérer le lien approprié dans cette condition if :

(if: $clé is 1)[(link:"Tu peux ouvrir la porte.")(goto:"Chambre")](else:)[Tu as besoin d’une clé.]

Donc si tu as la clé ($clé = 1), tu pourras cliquer sur l’hyperlien pour entrer dans la porte. Toutefois, si tu n’as pas la clé ($clé = 0, la valeur par défaut), l’hyperlien n’apparaîtra pas.

Il est aussi possible de modifier l’apparence de votre histoire Twine. Voici quelques options :


Consultez twinery.org/wiki/twine2:guide et twine2.neocities.org/ pour plus de renseignements

Écrire de la fiction interactive

Vous pouvez faire votre histoire sur n’importe quel sujet : une aventure mettant en vedette vous et vos amis; de la science-fiction; une histoire comiqe; de la poésie interactive; etc.

Le format de votre histoire peut prendre beaucoup de formes. Beaucoup de fiction interactive est écrit à la deuxième personne (tu/vous). Les choix/actions peuvent aussi être présentés en deuxième personne, ou à l’impératif :

Il y a beaucoup de façons à utiliser le choix dans vos histoires. On peut choisir nos actions, comme dans l’exemple ci-dessus. On peut aussi créer des conversations interactives :

Un choix peut mener à une suite de l’histoire, ou peut arriver à un cul-de-sac (dead end). Par exemple, si on « Crie pour de l’aide » dans la forêt (exemple en haut de la page), on pourrait juste ajouter un passage qui indique que personne ne te répond. Il faudrait ensuite retourner au premier passage et choisir « Suis le chemin » pour faire progresser le récit.

On pourrait même faire en sorte que l’option de crier ne s’affiche plus puisque le joueur l’aura déjà essayé sans succès. Il suffirait d’ajouter une variable dans le nouveau passage –dans ce cas, (set: $cri to 1) et une expression if autour du choix de crier dans le premier passage :


fade (en)

fade is a game I helped create for a UNB research project. We presented the game at Different Games 2016 in Brooklyn, New York City.

(update: someone has posted a Let's Play of the game!)

About the game:

A group of youth have developed a new video game about their experiences in the LGBTQ+ community as part of a dissertation by University of New Brunswick PhD candidate in sociology, Nathan Thompson.
Photo: Lance Blakey, UNB
The game explores the varied micro-aggressions that many members of the community deal with on a daily basis. It also deals with non-binary gender identities, something people may not be as familiar with.

In fade, the player takes turns playing two different characters, each of whom experience their day in slightly different ways. The game includes some unexpected revelations, some touching but emotionally challenging moments, and playful and interactive dialogue and characters.

Making the game:

Nathan asked me to join this project to help with the game development. Empathy games really interest me, so I accepted right away.

While I had made games about marginalized groups before, this was the first time I contributed to a project about the LGBTQ+ community. Working on fade definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things, like non-binary identities and microagressions. Hearing such a diverse and open group talk about their experiences was really interesting.

So once the six participants chose the main themes of the game, we worked together to design the game and storyline to emphasize these elements.
Photo: Lance Blakney, UNB
While the participants were in charge of content, I still helped by giving feedback on what was realistic and what was out of scope, or what would work well in a game or not. Once the game was designed and the script, characters and maps were made, I buckled down and built the game over two weeks in January.

Since we had a limited timeframe, the game is only 15-20 minutes long and is pretty linear, but based on our thoughts and feedback we’ve received, I think we succeeded in our goals. The group was awesome to work with, and I’m really proud of the game we made.

The trip to New York was a blast! It’s great that Different Games thought the project was interesting enough to have us present at their conference.

Photo credit: Jim!