At many gaming industry events, high-profile AAA games take up most of the airtime and subsequent discussions. The Game Developers Conference is different – it’s an event where indies have traditionally taken the spotlight; In fact, this year several showcases were completely filled with upcoming independent titles.
At the GDC 2023 we are celebrating 10 years [email protected] with a preview event showcase featuring a range of titles coming to Xbox consoles and PC this year, showcasing the diversity of genres and styles in independent games. Here’s a look at a few we need to spend some time with.
The debut title from UK-based Balloon Studios fits comfortably into the burgeoning ‘cozy games’ category; My time with this plant based puzzle game was hands down the chillest experience of the conference. This is how it works:
I stepped into a foggy greenhouse and planted a seed that germinated but would not grow any further. I found clues to the plant’s homeland and temperature preferences in the room, and learned to place the flower pot in front of a heat source at just the right intensity to warm the soil. The plant supported my efforts by flowering dramatically, clearing the greenhouse smog and allowing progression to the next area. The next plant was a bit more complicated; I had to reproduce the preferred blustery conditions by mixing chemicals and placing the scion in front of an old-fashioned flash camera.
The more crops you grow, the more puzzles you solve, the further you get. Puzzle fans like The witness And Escape Academy will feel like home… only cozier.
My time with this plant based puzzle game was hands down the chillest experience of the conference.
Laure De Mey, Creative Director at Balloon Studios, promises that the final game will be much more open-ended than the linear demo – if a player gets stumped at a plant, they can follow clues about others around the sprawling estate and return once they find them has found. I have encountered a revelation.
De Mey explained how the plants grow into the story: “When people see weeds, they pull them up because they didn’t put them there. These weeds are a forgotten flora, and the main character is also a bit forgotten.”
Botanical estate is part of the just announced Developer Acceleration Program and Balloon Studios plans to release this year. We will not forget it.
Planet of Lana
The first title from another studio, Planet of Lana comes from Wishfully Studios, a gaming arm of Swedish artist and animation group Fully Studios – and that artistic influence shows.
This cinematic puzzle adventure is stunningly animated; This is evident not only in the movement of the playable main character Lana and the feline alien companion Mui, but throughout the mysterious world of Novo. Throughout the display case, I stared at the gently swaying branches of Planet of Lana‘s lush swamp level – but that’s not just something you watch, and luckily the gameplay holds the end of the pack.
Working together in symbiosis, Lana and Mui use their unique strengths to help each other overcome obstacles and enemies, while Lana tries to rescue her sister who has been kidnapped by robots that have besieged the peaceful planet.
Tom Davis of publisher Thunderful said the game is “like it was made by Studio Ghibli Inside.”
The demo just started; Players guide Lana to a raft to help the hydrophobic Mui cross a bog (apparently even alien cats hate baths). But this isn’t a one-way companion mission: hold RT to point Mui to places Lana can’t reach, like a high ledge where he can release a vine for Lana to climb. Mui can also interact with the world in unusual ways to allow Lana passage through routes blocked by alien creatures. While it wasn’t part of the demo, I’m told that puzzle solving extends to combat, as the pair use the environment to defeat enemies and survive, as opposed to direct conflict.
Tom Davis of publisher Thunderful said the game is “like it was made by Studio Ghibli Inside.” I was reminded of that sometimes too Ori and the Will of the Wisps
League of Lamplighters
From new studios preparing their first games for launch to seasoned teams preparing their latest creation: Harebrained Schemes, makers of BattleTech
League of Lamplighters is “a globetrotting adventure” set in a stylized 1930s setting. The initial vibe is very “Indiana Jones meets XCOM‘ although after an hour of play I think the closer comparison is the excellent one Mutant Year Zero. Players control their party from above in a real-time “infiltration mode,” walking over or through obstacles using class-specific abilities. As they are often outnumbered, there is an emphasis on keeping a low profile; You can see how much noise you are making as you move and interact.
League of Lamplighters is “a globetrotting adventure” set in a stylized 1930s setting. The initial vibe is very “Indiana Jones meets XCOM“.
Once detected, the action will pause and continue as a turn-based combat until the battle is over. Each character has a signature ability that can be used once per mission, and these can be game-changing. For example, “Sneak” drops a decoy and turns invisible, which helped restore strategic position after I was clumsily spotted in an open area.
After the fight, which can range from a small fight to an open battle, the game returns to infiltration mode. and levels can contain several different combat sequences. The flexibility in choosing when or if to attack enemies coupled with the not-often-seen attitude of doing League of Lamplighters a must for strategy fans when it lands on day one this year with Game Pass for Xbox Series X|S and PC.
Also this year comes Game Pass for console and PC Venbaa cooking/puzzle game where players experience the life of an Indian couple immigrating to Canada via an interactive, stylized meal prep.
each of Venba‘s Level takes us a little later into the characters’ lives, with a new recipe to be made. Our demo had us making idli, a savory rice cake from southern India. After reading the recipe, I arranged the batter on special plates and set them to steam…spilling batter everywhere. I should have read the recipe more carefully! Next time I put towels over the plate first and rotated the trays to allow for more even steaming. These came out perfect, and then I found out more about the couple and their decision to stay in Canada.
Venba’s art is inspired by cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls, but more serious.
“A lot of immigrant stories focus on the kids, but we wanted to talk about the parents,” explains Sam Elkana, lead artist at developer Visai Games. “They really sacrifice so much, so we wanted to tell the story from Venba’s perspective.”
Featuring art inspired by cartoons like “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Powerpuff Girls” but more serious, Venba will bake a place in your plans this summer.
Leave a Reply