Genesis Noir: not all black and white

Last January I wrote a post which mentioned that I hadn’t backed anything on Kickstarter in quite a while. I’d previously given my support regularly to old adventure sequels and quirky indie titles, but over time the quality of campaign had dipped and so I’d stopped visiting.

12 months on and it turns out that 2017 was actually a pretty good year in terms of Kickstarter projects: I ended up backing seven in total, five of which were successful. Beautiful Desolation is an isometric adventure by the makers of STASIS; Ama’s Lullaby is a point-and-click set in a cyberpunk world; Epitasis is a colourful exploration game; and Trüberbrook is a sci-fi mystery inspired by Twin Peaks. Then there’s The Tomb Raider Suite, where composer Nathan McCree is re-recording the original Tomb Raider music.

And it looks as though 2018 could be a good year too if Genesis Noir is anything to go by. Being created by Feral Cat Den, it was the strapline which first drew me to this campaign while browsing through the crowdfunding platform last week: ‘A noir adventure game set before, during and after the Big Bang. To save your love, you must stop the expansion of the universe.’

Although there is plenty of information available on the Kickstarter page and official website, it can be hard to decipher what this title is actually about. There’s something of the ‘Amanita Design‘ about it all: the abstract story is told through visuals and music rather than text or speech, and the feel is reminiscent of the Samorost series. This makes a lot of sense seeing as the developer cites the studio as one of their influences.

Here’s what I’ve been able to make out so far. Players step into the role of No Man, a watch peddler stuck in a deterministic hell as he gets caught up in lust and crime. Confrontation over a love triangle gone askew results in a shot being fired – the Big Bang – and a piece of shrapnel – the planet Earth – hurtles towards the heart of a fragile god. Can you find a way to stop the Big Bang and save her?

It’s up to No Man to discover worlds both familiar and alien, collect cosmic clues, solve puzzles and possibly even destroy the universe. You must enter the Big Bang at various levels, search for a way to stop it from striking your love and then change something in order to affect the outcome. Along the way you can express yourself by planting seeds, transforming landscapes, creating stars or improvising a jazz duet.

A crowdfunding project doesn’t need to explain every little detail about a potential game in order to make it interesting or appealing; in fact, the way that the page for Genesis Noir holds a little something back just makes it all the more intriguing. I’m looking forward to finding out more from Feral Cat Den as the project continues, and even more so to playing the title when it’s hopefully released at the end of next year.

At the time of writing, there are still 22 days left on the clock so head over to campaign page page to show your support. You can also give the developer a follow on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date on their progress.

For sale: video game real estate

Last week I wrote about my dream development team and how all we needed was an idea (plus the necessary budget, technology and skills) to make a best-selling video game. Once that’s happened and we’ve found fame, fortune and critical acclaim, we should really start thinking about investing our money and upgrading where we live. So what’s available on the market?

As part of the Liebster award nomination from Morgan over at Fistful of Glitter, the people she selected were asked the question: if you had to live in a fictional world, which fictional world would it be? Join me as I step into an estate-agent role in this post dedicated to this lovely blogger, and take you on a tour through some of the most sought-after properties in video game settings.

A rustic chateau in an idyllic setting

The Witness, video game, castle, lake, trees, sky, buildings, gardens

With natural harmony and traditional design throughout, this rustic chateau is in need of renovation but has plenty of scope for improvement. Spacious rooms are accessed via a state-of-the art security system giving peace of mind; and seven well-lit bedrooms and nine bathrooms split between three buildings would suit a large family.

Flat-roof terraces suggest warm summer evenings spent looking out over the beautiful shoreline and idyllic surrounding areas. With the nearest train station situated over 300 miles away and no incoming roads, this property provides privacy and tranquillity for a buyer looking to get away from it all.


A modern apartment in the heart of the Citadel

Mass Effect, Mass Effect 3, video game, personal apartment, living room, fireplace, sofa, stairs, modern

Featuring a weapon bench, armour locker and private terminal, this modern apartment is conveniently located in the heart of the Citadel and would suit an active Commander. Its sleek interiors and high-end furnishings provide a place for buyers to move straight into without need for redecorating or maintenance.

Three bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms and the master with a hot-tub, provide plenty of privacy while several seating areas give comfortable spaces for company and lively conversations. With an art gallery, gym, bar counters and gaming table, this is the perfect property for those who like to entertain guests.


A cosy cabin at an attractive price

The Elder Scrolls, The Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim, abandoned shack, cabin

Situated along the northern coastline, this single-story cabin is the perfect for a buyer willing to take on a long-term renovation project. The original stone fireplace would make an excellent focal point for a cosy living room, with new windows offering views of the beautiful mountains and lake in the surrounding area of Hjaalmarch.

Traditional wooden walls hold a rustic charm and any engrained stains can be hidden with a lick of paint. The current owners have priced this property at an extremely attractive price and are looking for a quick sale; they have assured us that the cabin will be fully cleaned before the keys are handed over.


An ancient castle steeped in history

The Beast Within, Gabriel Knight, Schloss Ritter, castle, mountain, trees , sky

The grand Schloss Ritter was originally built in 1223 and stands high above the cobble-stoned streets of Rittersberg with its traditional shops. Previously passed down through generations of Schattenjäger, its walls hide plenty of ancient Bavarian history and mysterious secrets for those with an enquiring mind.

The castle’s aged exterior encloses an expansive entry hall, library, chapel and reception room, with staircases leading upstairs to ten grand bedrooms which would be perfect after modernisation. A new central-heating system combats against freak summer weather conditions and protective external walls defend from wolves.


An art-deco apartment in a unique location

BioShock 2, video game, personal apartment

Looking for a home in a unique location? This gorgeous apartment may be just the place for you, situated in the underwater city of Rapture and accessed via personal bathysphere. Its original art-deco features, high ceilings and curved windows provide for one of the most sought-after properties on the market.

Although some water-damage is evident and small repairs are required, the in-built gene bank mean genetic modifications are available all day without leaving your home. A three-sided fireplace and glass bay window in the bedroom make for a romantic and relaxing space after a long day at work.


Thank you so much to Morgan for nominating Later Levels, and congratulations to all of her other nominees! Start boxing up your belongings and loading up the removal van, and let us know which video game world you’d like to move to.

The WordPress jigsaw: perfectly imperfect

Blogging awards usually require the author to create some questions for their own nominees, which means they can be tailored to fit the subject of the sites around them. But every now and then one comes along that’s off-topic and asks for something different from its winners; and it’s this type of award which inspires an alternative and important kind of conversation.

Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog very kindly included Later Levels in her Perfectly Imperfect Tag recently and I’m incredibly grateful. Sometimes we need to step outside our comfort zones, and this award encourages just that by asking things more personal than video game questions. Instead we’re invited to share who inspires us, how we want to make a difference, and offer advice for those who doubt themselves.

The WordPress community is a wonderful one to be a part of. Members come from cities all over the world and we have different backgrounds, cultures and experiences; we’re so far apart in location and each hold our own unique view on life. Yet we have this amazing ability to gather in blog comments, social media responses and collaboration projects, and it feels as though we’re sitting right opposite each other.

Myst, jigsaw, puzzle, pieces, table, video game

We’re a huge, eclectic jigsaw puzzle for which the instruction manual was thrown out long ago. Each part is distinctive and has its own shape, but we come together to create this beautiful picture full of colour, contrast and balance. We no longer want to be constrained by the borders of the original image and so new pieces are added to our form every day, but there’s no danger of a single one of them not finding a place. We just fit.

If being a member of a community like that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

When one of us isn’t feeling so great, the others send kind words along with a funny GIF or two. When one of us is struggling with an issue, the others offer moral support and practical advice if it’s needed. When one of us needs help with a problem or project, the others are there to jump straight in and lend a hand. And when one of us does something wonderful, we all recognise their effort and celebrate their achievement.

So to the blogger who has just started out on their journey and isn’t sure of their place: you’re more than welcome here and we’ll be patient while you find your feet. Give us a shout if you have any questions or need someone to point you in the right direction. We’re looking forward to getting to know you better.

Mass Effect, video game, man, woman, Commander Shepard, FemShep

To the blogger who’s been doing this for a while but feels discouraged: don’t be so hard on yourself because your work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Tell us your opinions, start discussions and share ideas. Give us the chance to collaborate on a project and together we’ll create something amazing.

To the blogger who’s going through a personal issue and needs a break: focus on life and don’t feel guilty about neglecting your blog. Take all the time you need because we’ll still be here when you return and it’ll be like nothing has changed. And if you need any support or advice, we’ve got your back.

And to every single blogger reading this: you’re awesome and you don’t need to be more or less than what you already are. You’re in integral part of the jigsaw that makes our image as special as it is, and you bring a unique quality to the community that nobody else can. It’s great to have you here.

Undertale, video game, heart, determination, quote

Thank you again to Luna and to others like her, who have been an inspiration over the past year and proven to be much more than simply ‘someone I met on the internet’. You’ve each taught me something new and shown me how I can improve both as a person and a writer. There are great things ahead of us, shining in the distance, and I can’t wait to see what we all achieve together.

They’d better find a bigger box for that jigsaw.

Dream development team

How many times have you come across a blog post in which the author reveals they want to make a video game? It’s a noble ambition but sadly not one easily achieved: ever-increasing technical requirements and high consumer-expectations make it difficult for a single person to create a mainstream title.

But what if money were no object? NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog very kindly nominated Later Levels for the Unique Blog award recently and one of his questions to nominees stood out: if you were allowed to help in the production of a game, which role would you take on and why? The following post is dedicated to him – and ropes some other amazing bloggers into my dream development team.

Creative Director

The Creative Director is the key person during the game development process, overseeing any high-level decisions that affect how the game plays, looks or sounds.

Who better to organise and keep our motley crew in check than NekoJonez himself? He fits more into a day than I could in a year, coordinating a day-job, blogging, acting and other activities in his busy schedule. His credentials were proven last year when he arranged The Legend of Zelda retrospective; despite some obstacles and a delay, he overcame the challenges to create a collaboration project which was a lot of fun to participate in.

Producer

The Producer is responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of a game, on time and within budget.

Teri Mae from Sheikah Plate is one of the loveliest bloggers I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She’s always there with a kind word, a positive comment or sound advice – which makes her the perfect person to be our Producer. She’d cheer us up when project deadlines or budgets were tight; we wouldn’t be able to say no to her if she needed to throw a bit of extra work our way; and this excellent chef could always bribe us to stay late with the promise of baked goods.

Writers

Due to the extreme focus on game design during development, it’s a Writers’ job to make sure that story elements work within the design choices.

Who better to form our writing team than three talented ladies? The Shameful Narcissist is an excellent fanfiction writer who creates hard-hitting stories such as The Broken Rose (please heed the content warning). Athena from AmbiGaming is an expert at analysing characters and their motivations, and would be able to create a great backstory for our protagonist. And LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release went all out to win the Blogger Blitz challenge last year; how could we fail?

Designer

The Designer devises what a game consists of and how it plays. They plan and define all the elements of a game.

As I’ve said before, I don’t tend to read reviews because their analysis misses what makes a video game special. But I do enjoy those written by Rob from I Played The Game! because they’re a great balance of fair and personal. He manages to get across both the positive and negative points of a title, and does it in a way that shows a bit of personality and makes me laugh. Who better than someone with that knowledge of games to oversee our project’s design?

Lead Programmer

The Lead Programmer leads the team responsible for creating all the computer code which runs and controls a game.

Luke from Hundstrasse isn’t only a blogger: he’s also made several games for the Arduboy, a miniature game system the size of a credit card. This experience has taught him that sometimes an easy idea can be difficult to implement; so hopefully he’ll be able to turn his hand to learning the programming skills we need for our project as quickly as possible. In addition, he deserves to be a member of our team for the awesomeness of his puns.

Level Engineer

The Level Editor defines interactive architecture for a segment of a game, including the landscape, buildings and objects.

I’ve known Nathan from Hurricane thought process for several years now and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about him, it’s that he’s absolutely bonkers. In a loveable, larger-than-life, creative kind of way – so if there’s anyone who’d be able to take the levels for our video game and engineer them into something that provides both challenge and sheer amazement for the player, it would be him. I’d fully expect to see chickens, dragons and magical swords incorporated into his plans.

Lead Artist

The Lead Artist is responsible for the overall look of the game.

Every awesome video game deserves a distinct visual style, and who better than to create one of those for us than Ian from Adventure Rules? He very kindly drew a character for each Blogger Blitz competitor and Guybrush Threepwood’s portrait may even look better than the pirate himself himself. The humour displayed in his drawings would be a great quality for our project, and we could also get him to do the box art for its physical release.

Audio Engineer

The Audio Engineer creates the soundtrack for a game, including music, sound effects, character voices, spoken instructions and ambient effects.

I first met Chris from OverThinker Y early last year after listening to one of his tracks and he’s continued to impress with his creative skills since. He has interviewed a number of bloggers for his Musical Mayhem series and produced some excellent music for them afterwards. The piece he wrote for me, If It’s Not Alright Now, It Will Be Soon, is genius – it cleverly manages to combine an 80s vibe with the feeling of Everything’s Alright from To The Moon.

Community Managers

Community Managers define the voice of a brand and make sure the tools are in place to support players

Here are two people I really admire for the way they get involved in and inspire the community. Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog is always so friendly in her blog comments and leaves everyone with positive words; and The Well-Red Mage knows exactly how to get conversations started on social media. They’re the perfect duo for spreading the word about our game and hopefully getting some streamers to champion an early version (I’m looking at you, Joey from AlunaRL).

QA Testers

QA Testers test, tune, debug and suggest the detailed refinements that ensure the quality and playability of the finished game.

Pete and Ethan are my world but damn: they know how to cause chaos. Leave them alone together for a couple of minutes and there’ll be an explosion, mass destruction or a whole lot of mess. If anyone is going to be able to find ways to break our video game and highlight any unknown bugs it’s these two; plus I know my stepson would be so excited to get the chance to work on a title before it’s release. Happy employees make for better workers.

So there you have it: my dream development team. And of course I’d be there to document our project’s progress on our blog! Now all we need is an idea for a game – plus the budget, technology and skills to actually make one – and we’ll be on our way to fame and fortune.

Job descriptions taken from Creative Skillset.

A bloggers’ words

The post I published in September about the secret to blogging success may have been satirical, but it did in fact hold some truth. Community and collaboration are important and worthwhile aspects of blogging. Getting to know the writers around you and working together to create amazing content will bring you more success than a dodgy SEO company ever could.

It goes to show then that we can achieve so much more together than when we choose to go it alone. Over the past year the WordPress community has given me the opportunity to meet talented bloggers, many of whom I now consider to be lovely friends. It brought forth collaboration projects through which I learnt so much from others. And it allowed me to participate in a competition, which taught me not to be scared about being more creative with my writing.

Unfortunately though, not all aspects of blogging are so positive or supportive. The sad fact is that there are some out there who want to copy the great content produced by others and claim it for their own. They don’t care how awful the authors must feel when they see their work on another site without permission, and they certainly aren’t concerned that benefitting from somebody else’s effort is just plain wrong.

I count myself very lucky to say that I’ve never had to experience this horrible situation. But it recently happened to an awesome blogger you’re probably already familiar with: NekoJonez. During the commute to his day-job one morning at the beginning of January, he found that all of his content from the previous month had been reproduced on two websites without credit and with a different writer cited as the author.

Let’s get one thing straight: this is theft. It’s the unsolicited taking of someone’s effort and creativity; awareness for their subject and potential readers; and the positivity they receive from blogging and being a member of the community. It may have been words published on the internet rather than physical assets stolen, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less hurtful or damaging.

It’s one thing to show your appreciation for the work of another blogger by quoting them where relevant and linking to their site, or even reblogging their posts in full. But it’s totally another when you deliberately take complete articles and pass them off as your own – and as we all learned way back in school, you can’t get away with copying somebody else’s answers. There’s simply no excuse for doing it.

As mentioned above, we can achieve so much more together; it’s therefore important we look out for one another and show we won’t accept the theft of a fellow bloggers’ content lightly. If you notice that someone’s work has been stolen, let them know as quickly as possible but do this privately. Providing links in a public forum will just divert even more traffic to a dubious blog which doesn’t deserve it.

Tell the bloggers around you in a group conversation on Twitter if you find your own work has been copied and feel comfortable doing so. Spreading the word in this way will mean we can all back you in filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice – whether that’s by filing additional reports ourselves or showing you moral support.

Use a text widget to include a clear copyright notice on your blog and place this in a location where it’s visible at all times. It’s worth reading the relevant WordPress support page too if you’re concerned about material from your site being used without your permission; it’s not possible to fully guarantee the complete protection of your work, but it does contain several steps which could help reduce the risk. NekoJonez himself has also provided some great advice over on NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog.

A bloggers’ words hold power and aren’t up for grabs. They contain our personality and our emotions, and they’re a part of the inner selves we only reveal in posts. Those words have meaning and value whether we’re paid to write them or simply do it for the joy of being creative; and above all, they deserve to be respected.

Ones for the wishlist

2017 was a mixed bag for both gaming and life. A lot of us wanted to hide when the UK voted for Brexit, Donald Trump became President of the US and gaming controversies continued; but we were shown things weren’t entirely bad when people from all over the world came together in the name of equality, and we were treated to new and amazing video game experiences.

Here’s hoping 2018 continues in that positive vein and the next 12 months are filled with light and awesome games. As part of the Liebster Award nomination, Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero asked us which titles we’re most hyped for this year so let’s stay positive and look ahead to what we’ve got coming up. Thank you to this lovely blogger for selecting Later Levels – this post is dedicated to you!

A Way Out

Leo and Vincent don’t know each other, but they’ll need to find a way to work together no matter the situation in order to break out of prison. I adored Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons so I’m really looking forward to this game by its creators; and I love the fact it’s a couch co-op designed to be played together with a friend. This is definitely one I’ll be roping the other-half into playing with me (although I don’t think it will take much persuasion).

Detroit: Become Human

Not everyone is a fan of Quantic Dream’s games but I’ve eagerly awaited their releases since first playing Fahrenheit in 2005. I got the chance to play a Detroit: Become Human demo at last year’s EGX event and have been excited about it since. There has been some controversy surrounding the title already, so it will be interesting to see how its themes will be handled in this story about androids and what it means to be human.

Lake Ridden

Here’s another game I got to try out at EGX in 2017, which is being created by former Mojang and Paradox developers. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to the horrors genre but give me a supernatural adventure with puzzles and an atmospheric plot and I’m right there. If you liked The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or What Remains of Edith Finch, I get the impression you’re going to like this one.

Praey for the Gods

I really enjoyed Shadow of the Colossus (see below) so it was hard to resist backing Praey for the Gods on Kickstarter when the project appeared on the crowdfunding platform in July 2016. You’ll play as a lone hero sent to the edge of a dying world to discover the mystery of a never-ending winter, and will have to face immense battles with giants where you can climb your foes.

Shadow of the Colossus Remake

Following on from Praey for the Gods, here’s a title which is cited as one of its influences: Shadow of the Colossus was originally released in 2005 and is now getting a remake. I’m really looking forward to getting the opportunity to play this game with my other-half and stepson; they’ve never experienced it before, and I have a feeling they’re going to end up loving it as much as I do.

The Gardens Between

It was the art-style that initially drew me to this title as it brought to mind a cross between The Witness and Oxenfree. And when I found out it was a puzzler in which you travel back and forwards in time to reveal a story about friendship, childhood and growing up, it got added to my wishlist straight away. I get the feeling this is going to be one of those unassuming little games which actually turns out to be something pretty special.

Trüberbrook

Another game which I backed on Kickstarter, this point-and-click adventure has a distinct visual style: all scenery is built by hand and real lighting is used to simulate different times of day and weather conditions. It’s a sci-fi mystery inspired by Twin Peaks, The X-Files and Stranger Things, and players will step into the shoes of Hans Tannhauser to find out what’s going down in the town and save the world.

Vampyr

Dr Jonathan Reid is a newly-turned vampyr. As a doctor, he must find a cure to save London’s flu-ravaged citizens; but as a member of the undead, he’s cursed to feed on those he vowed to heal. That conflict of interests sounds incredibly interesting and I can’t wait to play this game. It was delayed from November 2017 due to a technical issue which has now been resolved, so let’s hope we’re able to get our hands on it very soon.

We Happy Few

This one has been on my wishlist for absolutely ages but I’ve resisted the temptation to purchase it in its Early Access status so I can play it in its finished form. It’s now finally due for release in the spring. It’s a game full of paranoia and survival set in a dystopian English city in 1964: can you blend in with its drug-addled inhabitants, most of whom don’t take kindly to people who won’t abide by their not-so-normal rules?

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

This is a recent addition to my wishlist after reading several posts by bloggers, and is a game about folktales. Players take on the role of the personification of folklore after losing a poker game with the wrong entity and it’s now their responsibility to pass these stories from place to place. Each character is penned by a different writerso the title’s content is influenced by their individual interests.

Thank you once again to Thero159 for the nomination! Which games are you looking forward to in 2018?