New Humble Indie Bundle is Awesome

I am sure a bunch of you must be experiencing Bundle Fatigue (or, the reproachfully mundane approach at the fungus-like outbreak of indie bundles. We mean fungus in the absolutely nice and positively delicious mushroomy way, but yes it tends to get annoying after a while) but this one is, as one oft quoted cricket commentator says, a stunner!


The mother of all indie bundles, the Humble Indie Bundle has delivered an excellent package, as always, with four excellent games for pay whatever you want and one bonus game for paying above average. Trust me, you will be paying above average because the bonus game is Bastion. The same hauntingly beautiful hack n’ slash that stole our hearts away a year or so ago.

What are the other games, you ask? Well, my good man, the bundle includes super spooky survival horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent, followed by the brilliant mind boggler Psychonauts that will ruin 3D platformers forever for you (because I am yet to play one that tops this one’s experience). Following that is another charming and shadowy 2D platformer Limbo that has you playing a lost boy on a physics-y quest. Finally we have the iOS-to-Steam musical album/journey/game? Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (a mouthful, but definitely one of the most magnificent experiences in modern calculation devices)

Where do I get these DRM-free, you ask? Why, right where it’s usually found:

P.S. The bundle is worth its weight in gold because of the enchanting soundtracks of each game (especially Bastion and Sworcery) that comes free with every purchase of the bundle. Excited? Yes, yes we are.

Introducing 0x10c, A New MMO Being Developed By Minecraft Creator Notch

Minecraft creator Notch’s new space faring Massively Multiplayer Online game called 0x10c has an ominous backstory of a doomed people waking up after billions of years of cryogenic sleep in a universe that is slowly dimming:-

In a parallel universe where the space race never ended, space travel was gaining popularity amongst corporations and rich individuals.

In 1988, a brand new deep sleep cell was released, compatible with all popular 16 bit computers. Unfortunately, it used big endian, whereas the DCPU-16 specifications called for little endian. This led to a severe bug in the included drivers, causing a requested sleep of 0x0000 0000 0000 0001 years to last for 0x0001 0000 0000 0000 years.

It’s now the year 281 474 976 712 644 AD, and the first lost people are starting to wake up to a universe on the brink of extinction, with all remote galaxies forever lost to red shift, star formation long since ended, and massive black holes dominating the galaxy.

That is definitely a lot of information to digest, but I am guessing Markus Persson (Notch) wanted it that way, since it is a hard science fiction (read: as grounded in plausible engineering and science as it is possible) video game with a player controlled ship that is guided by a player controlled and software emulated 16-bit CPU. That is correct, you are a space farer on a ship that is controller by a computer from the ‘80s, that you have to program on the fly to work in deep space. Sounds like fun? We bet!


The website for 0x10c mentions a lot features such as a fully working computer system, lots of engineering and knowledge-based game play and, of course, lots of space loot! The documentation for the working computer system has been released. There is also an unofficial FAQs available that answers a ton of questions!

Notch also mentions that this will be a game that features a monthly fee; probably not as much as the mainstream MMOs like EVE: Online or World of Warcraft, but is a sufficiently significant step in the annals of indie gaming history.

The Humble Indie Bundle 4 Becomes the Fastest Selling Bundle

With great fanfare and much adulation, the Humble Indie Bundle 4 (not exactly the fourth, technically speaking) has been released. It contained the exact games (plus an addition) that we had talked about in our earlier post. Great happiness, since I was looking forward to playing many of the games in that list, beginning with Gratuitous Space Battles and Shank. (The other games in the bundle are Super Meat Boy, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Jamestown, NightSky HD and Cave Story+)


The bundle is also the first to break the one million dollar mark in a mere twenty four hours. A feat that few mainstream games manage to do. For this, Jeffrey Rosen and his Humble team need to be applauded.

However, it must be known that the average purchase of Windows users, by far the biggest share of the Bundle buyers is abysmally low at $4.70, meaning most of us (yes, you and I both) did not think that these five games are worth even a dollar apiece. Maybe some people buy the bundle at the average rate once, and buy it for pennies to gift to others, or maybe they do not think indie games are worth more than that. Either way, it is rather disheartening to see the abysmal rates from Windows users.


However the makers of the Bundle have made an effort to increase the spending by allowing two bonus games to be unlocked only if the purchase is above the average. The bonus games are Gratuitous Space Battles and Cave Story +. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best Bundles in a long while, and those two bonus games seal this brilliant game. I urge you all to spend more than the average to get your Bundles!

Indie Royale Opens Up Preorder Model

Fans of the Humble Indie Bundle as well as indie digital distribution platform Desura will know of the Indie Royale Bundle the set minimum price pay-what-you-want bundle that set the indie world on fire akin to the first Humble Indie Bundle. Selling about 70,000 bundles (350,000 games with 5 games in each bundle), the developers pushed some fairly known and other little known games both recent and old back into the limelight. This obviously had its own brand of little technical hiccups such as Steam keys not being generated for most of the bundles initially as well as the servers being swamped with connection requests that resulted in many people missing that key minimum price at the start of the bundle (it starts with a price of $2.99).


In lieu of this smoldering server scrape, the makers of the Bundle have come up with a preorder model for those who are impatient and really want to get their paws on the great deal (It also works well for those of us who will not be near an internet device when the bundle launches to get the minimum price). You can preorder the next bundle here for $3.99, but you will not know the contents of the bundle until the minute of release.

While this sounds like a pretty decent deal (being just $1 dearer than the launch minimum), the fact that you will not know the what games are part of the bundle is rather silly. Sure, it seems like a sweet gift that you gave yourself a few days ago when it contains 5 hitherto unknown games (to you, at least), but if it contains 5 games which you have purchased on other platforms, it does seem rather silly. On top of that, the only guaranteed OS that these games will run is Windows, with some games having Mac/Linux support and some without.

Nevertheless, I am always up for indie games so I did put in that preorder. Tell us what you think in the comments!

Developer Interview: Samuel Clay Of NewsBlur, a Google Reader Alternative

Newsblur Front Page

NewsBlur front page

Google Reader has been in the news of late after its recent changes, which have had a very sharply negative reaction from passionate fans. I had earlier written about how there are no good Google Reader alternatives in the market today and had mentioned NewsBlur then. Since then, I have been using NewsBlur daily, and have been extremely pleased with it. I got in touch with the developer, Samuel Clay, and he gladly made himself available to discuss life as an indie developer, developing NewsBlur, and how he plans on competing with Google.

Samuel Clay is an indie developer of NewsBlur. He just moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco. Previously, he worked at DocumentCloud, where they wrote Backbone.js, VisualSearch.js, Underscore.js, and many other open-source libraries. He is now at Tasty Labs, making a more useful social application on the web. Samuel can be reached on twitter at @samuelclay and NewsBlur is also on twitter at @newsblur.

Techie Buzz (TB): What is NewsBlur?
Samuel Clay (SC): NewsBlur is a feed reader with intelligence. It tries to do two things very well:

  1. Shows you the original site instead of a context-less feed. Read the original and NewsBlur marks the stories you’ve read as read.
  2. Filter stories you either like or dislike. A three-stop slider goes between dislike, neutral, and like (red, yellow, and green). Training is super-easy and all click-based (as opposed to you having to writing out what you like in a site, NewsBlur asks you, semi-Hunch-style, your opinions on facets of the site).

I started working on NewsBlur to see if I could do it, put the AI together with the back-end feed processing and fetching, along with the nifty front-end of the original site. This is one of those projects where I just kept pushing in all directions until I felt I had something good, not knowing if I could do it at all, but believing the entire time that I was able to complete the project.

Intelligence Trainer Slider
Intelligence trainer slider

To The Moon: A Review

While it does seem like I go gaga over every video game I have ever played (there are notable exceptions such as Prototype; that was a lousy game) To The Moon evokes this strange warm feeling reserved for a wonderfully narrated book, and on occasion, a lovely artsy movie in which Jim Carrey plays a serious role. Yes, To The Moon reminds me strongly of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind more than, say, Memento (whose influence is also reminiscent in this video game) and I will tell you why.


To The Moon is an example of how a video game does not necessarily need to be graphically impressive, or stylish, or violent or anything of that sort. It’s an essay on why video games must be considered an art form. It’s a story of a dying man, John, and his last wish. In the future technology to alter memories and experiences exists and two doctors, Dr. Neil Watts and Dr. Eva Rosaline who are alternatingly the player controlled characters work for a firm that grants dying men and women their last wishes. The two doctors traverse through the memory of every patient and at a particular moment initiate a key driving thought that changes their life (in their memories). Of course, none of this is real, but for a dying man it does not matter, for he is very happy to have lived through his dream.


The problem with John is that he really does not know why he wishes to go to the moon. As Drs. Watts and Rosaline traverse through his memories in reverse (from an old man to a teenager), they find that there are no impulses to go to the moon except towards the end, and that too quite randomly. Interconnected through his entire memory is his wife, River, who suffers from a mental condition that is hinted-at but never quite explained throughout the game. This came off as letting the player fill details in as he or she sees fit, and not spoonfeeding the entire story.


The gameplay itself is quite simple, with the player characters walking around and collecting small pieces of memories (visualized as colored orbs) that unlock a very strong memento that links to an earlier memory to which they can jump.   The memento needs to be prepared’, which is a simple tile-switching mini-game that is no more than a minor annoyance to further the story. Some small mini-games pop up here and there (with a tongue-in-cheek reference to both Plants vs. Zombies, because the musician involved in PvZ was also involved in the making of this game, as well as traditional Japanese RPGs) but for the main part, this is pretty much what the gameplay is like. In effect it allows you to immerse yourself into this game without any complicated schemes to optimizeyour gameplay.


The characters of the story itself are marvelously written up, with the constant bickering between the geeky, unsentimental and boyish Dr. Neil Watts and the officious-yet-warm and forward thinking Dr. Eva Rosaline forming a hilarious and lovely backdrop to what is essentially a tragic story that will drive you to tears in many parts. The extremely strong narrative pace repeatedly made me laugh at the innocuous and geeky humor of Dr. Watts while Dr. Rosaline looks on with emotions ranging from severe disapproval to abject dismay at his actions.


The story of John, however, was very well presented with some parts of his life akin to many things that we, normal people, might have felt.

To The Moon is a game of regret, love and dreams that is both unconditionally beautiful with its low-res graphics and at once heart-wrenching with its excellently crafted story. I implore you to play this, for this is the greatest video game I have played this year.

Gemini Rue: A Review

For me, any game that deals with memory and personality always has echoes of Planescape: Torment washing over it like a cool summer’s wave on a calm beach. It’s funny how a piece of art from 1999 keeps casting its shadow (visible or not) in many games of today, especially when it casts an invisible shadow over a game of a different genre set far in the future. Yet the lo-fi graphics on both the games form shimmering tendrils that are *known* to me.


Gemini Rue is a lovingly crafted point n’ click adventure game from Wadjet Eye Studios that combines the brilliance of Blade Runner to the anxious urgency of Beneath a Steel Sky. It’s a throwback to the days of adventure games that one played for cleverly constructed puzzles as well as an immersive story that is both atmospheric and surreal at the same time.
And boy does Gemini Rue have atmosphere. Even with its pixelated stylized lo-fi graphics, the game oozes atmosphere right from the start. Baraccus’ dimly lit streets with flickering lights seem even more subdued under the constant rain that envelops the city, and the faintly heard refrain of a saxophone in the background only serves to enrich the fertile atmosphere and remind one of Blade Runner which no doubt served as an inspiration for this game. While I cannot say much about the story for even the most minor telling might spoilt the adventure, I can wax lyrical about the noir atmosphere that has been so effectively designed in the game.


You play alternatively as Azriel Odin, an assassin-turned-policeman searching for his brother on the planet of Baraccus, and a patient designated Delta-Six on a mysterious testing facility where memory wipes and betrayals run amok. For most of the game you can switch between these two characters and complete their puzzles individually. As Azriel, you will engage against the semi-legitimate crime syndicate of the Boryokudan, (a reference no doubt to the Yakuza crime syndicate of Japan that is designated as boryokudan(violence group) by the Japanese police) who have the information on his brother, while Delta-Six trains with weapons and hatches plots for his escape from the facility. Later on you get to play other characters as well. The puzzles, for the most part, are quite simple; yet some of them are either rather mundane or something you would not think about until you replay it several times. Combat, as with many games of its kind, is rather silly and sometimes non-responsive. Thankfully combat is not very frequent in the game and the handy auto-save feature helps immensely in these cases. At some places the story does get a little oratorical and high-handed with its philosophical questions that relate memory, experience and consciousness. It’s a precarious perch, no doubt, from where the game sermons on you on these matters and at times does feel a little overdone. Nevertheless the story otherwise is magnificent and the voice acting is excellent for an indie game.


The game is spectacular, and has brilliant references to other SciFi noir culture gems such as Blade Runner (with the give me a hard copyachievement) as well as cameos from Cowboy Bebop. This is a must-play for any adventure game fan as well as those who would like to sit back and relax on a rainy Saturday evening with a cup of hot coffee by their side. Buy it.

Bastion Review

I honestly did not know what I was getting into with Bastion, an indie game that came with a bucketload of recommendations and a folder full of evocative screenshots. I knew it was a highly recommended game, it was an Xbox Live Arcade downloadable title and that it was a hack-n-slash role playing game (RPG).

Nobody warned me about the haunting storyline and the beautiful soundtrack. Even if they did, I was too busy staring at the gorgeous screenshots to notice.

Bastion is, as mentioned before, an action RPG in which you play as the Kid a young silver-haired fellow who is as silent throughout the game as Gordon Freeman is in Half Life. The Kid wakes up at the end of a world-ending Calamity and seeks out the Bastion where he was told to go in times like these. There he finds out much and more about the Calamity and what he must do to repair the damage. However, the subtext of memory, remembrance and nostalgia is at times so subtle that it is invisible and at others, too jarring to be of any use. It is thus a good idea to re-play the game to understand a good chunk of the plot properly.

The Bastion

The Kid’s story is told by a kindly old narrator as you plod through the game. Each and every action of the kid is narrated dynamically by the narrator and the story itself is furthered by the narrator’s words. The world literally falls into place as the Kid progresses through the story, so much so that if you play this game without turning up the sound you are missing out.

The World of Caelondia

The music of the game complements the storyline and its redolently striking art style. In a world that has been shaken by an unknown Calamity every level is a shadow of its former self, yet as the Kid plods through the worlds, Bastion‘s music touches upon that level’s former beauty and shakes poignant chords in the player’s heart. In one level, I was completely mesmerized by a melancholy song to the extent that I stopped playing for a few minutes just to listen to that song. The tune lingered throughout my playthrough from that point onwards and I am sure it will stay in my mind much longer.

The gameplay is quite similar to other hack-n-slash games, with a variety of weapons to unlock. You can select your loadout (the weapon that you will use with the left click, the right click and a special weapon as well) before starting a mission, or sometimes during the mission itself. The levels themselves vary in difficulty and it is essential that you get used to a set of weapons and upgrade them as you play the game.

Getting hit!

The game is a treasure-trove for the 100%-ers (gamers who wish to do everything and find everything in a game) since there is way too much to do. You can finish a level in your own time, or go to a training level to earn trinkets and upgrade materials. There are achievements to unlock and level-hardening idols to worship. There is a lot to do in this game and it does not get boring too fast (however it does since after a point, it’s just mindless clicking. I still maintain that Diablo II mastered the art of keeping one entertained through hours of mouseclicks).


I heartily recommend Bastion to any fan of action RPGs or indie games. It’s a surprisingly well-made game that will keep you entertained enough for at least two playthroughs, while the soundtrack will haunt your ears for a longer time.

New Adventure

Indie Royale Bundle Launches with Quirky Pricing Scheme

Quirkypricing is obviously a commonplace phenomenon with indie games as a lot of them want great sales without selling their game for $0 and it is great exposure when your game is bundled along with heavy hitters of the indie scene. There’s also the question of alpha funding for many games (Project Zomboid comes to mind) (I jest) and these quirkily priced bundles are an excellent way to get some money before your game is finished. Wolfire Games’ initiative the widely known Humble Indie Bundle was one of the first game bundles to offer a unique Pay-What-You-Want scheme for buying a bunch of incredible games. and indie digital distributor Desura took this idea a little further with their recently released Indie Royale Bundle.


What is so unique about the Indie Royale Bundle? Straight from their mouths:-

[From a starting point of $1.99 for the first bundle], Indie Royale uses a unique new pricing mechanism. The total cost for the four-game bundle (which are worth over if $40 purchased separately) gradually increases as more bundles are bought, with early adopters guaranteed the best deals, and prices remaining competitive throughout.

There’s also a brilliant method that entices Samaritans who wish to help both the developers as well as other customers; if you buy the bundle at a higher price (say $50) then the effective price of the bundle comes down a few points:-

…those who choose to pay more than the current cost to support the indie developers and the people behind the bundle will appear on the front page of Indie Royale as part of a special section, with their name and URL called out specifically. In the process, they will drop the price of the game bundle for everyone else anywhere from several cents to multiple dollars! This pricing methodology will likely spawn unpredictable but entertaining results, and the creators of Indie Royale are looking forward to seeing the pricing trends that result.

The current bundle includes A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda, Nimbus, Gemini Rue and Sanctum. Gemini Rue is supposedly an excellent point-and-click game that I am yet to play and since I have bought the bundle you may see a review of it soon enough! Moreover, new bundles will be released in a few days with different combinations of games to have fun with.


As an addendum: the site works well with Indian debit cards! My purchase went through without routing over to VbV and I was the happy owner of four fun indie games.

BIT.TRIP RUNNER Review, or How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Smashed the Keyboard

Alright I did not literally smash the keyboard, but I came maddeningly close to doing so while playing BIT.TRIP RUNNER (coincidentally, while playing Super Meat Boy as well, but that’s another story). Gaijin Games’ second WiiWare to PC port is incredibly addictive, gloriously pixelated and at times, incredibly tough. It’s so much fun that, well, everytime you see the end of the level and get kicked back to the start, a little part of you dies.


BIT.TRIP RUNNER is a fast paced on-rails platformer. This means that your character (Commander Video is his name) is constantly running towards the right hand side of the screen and you have to time your jumps, kicks, slides and launches with the incoming obstacles. Every action you time right will add to the chiptune music track playing in the background. Running in to or jumping on to giant plus signs increases the number of musical instruments playing in the background and makes for a richer gaming experience, since everything about this game is about timing and rhythm. So I would recommend playing this with great headphones it’s a blast.


The graphics are gorgeous. Everything is retro inspired and pixelated. But there’s this certain charm for 16 bit graphics in three dimensions (or at least two and a half), wouldn’t you say? There are three different zones with twelve levels each (including one boss level per zone). Each zone has a different visual and aural esthetic attached to it kudos to the design team!

The objective of this game is to collect carefully placed gold bricks that are the sole way you can earn points in this game. The giant plus signs are score multipliers as well with each plus sign multiplying the gold bricks’ points by 10. Collecting all the gold in a level opens up a bonus level inspired by the Atari 2600 classic Pitfall. The gold in the game is kept at precarious spots and a non-ninja would bump into an obstacle if said ninja did not time the jump/kick/other-BIT.TRIP RUNNER-action properly. This results in an instant teleportation to the start of the level and resetting of all the scores no checkpoints.


Yes, no checkpoints. If you were this close to finishing the round and got hit by an obstacle, BAM! you’re back where you started. Frustrating? Yes. Annoying? After a while, very much so especially when the levels are terribly long. I get how the retro-inspired hard-as-nails trend is back with indie games these days, but for gamers looking for a short burst of gaming, some of the levels are very long and unforgiving.


In conclusion, BIT.TRIP RUNNER is an addictive and beautifully designed game and is just a few notches short (especially in the balance section) of being the BOZARKINGINSTANTRECOMMEND from Techie Buzz’s very sane gaming staff.