During the second weekend of January, the 4th annual PAX South took place at the Henry B. Gonzales Center in San Antonio, Texas. In case you are unfamiliar with PAX, it stands for Penny Arcade Expo. Reed Exhibitions hosts six conventions around various parts of the United States and Australia to celebrate all kinds of gaming, including video games, tabletop games, and arcade games. It is also a great hub for indie games to be able to market their games to large audiences. We had the opportunity to interview 3 wonderful developers about themselves and their games.

First up is a fun, fast paced, 8-player hybrid between air hockey and pinball designed for a fun competition between friends called Clusterpuck 99. With its simplistic play style, 32 built-in levels and a level builder so you can create your own, Coatsink and PHL Collectives offer players a sporty local multiplayer party game full of smack talk and competition.

The Switch has become a very popular platform for indie games recently, as Nintendo has loosened up its previously strict guidelines for allowing indie games on their platforms; this was definitely noticeable at PAX South. The Clusterpuck team has “always dreamed of putting our game on a Nintendo platform, since the N64 was the console most of them grew up with. So when we wanted to put Clusterpuck out on different consoles and had the opportunity to put it on the Switch, we really jumped on it as fast as we could.” The local multiplayer and the 8 controllers that the Switch offer also make it the perfect platform for Clusterpuck 99.

The Nintendo Switch isn’t even a full year old yet (March 3rd, 2018 will be the first anniversary), so it is an enticing market for both indie games and gamers. Over the past six months, Nintendo has been allowing more and more indie developers to release their content on the Switch, but not without meeting certain requirements first; a huge difference from Steam, where most indie games are released. The Clusterpuck team shared their feelings on Steam, stating that “…Steam is currently letting in almost every game that applies to them… which is kind of like a beauty and a curse. Everyone has an opportunity to release their game on a platform, but there are so many games that your game can get buried very quickly.”

Nintendo in general has previously been very closed off to indie developers, but seems to be trying to change that with the Switch. Since the Switch is so new, there is a fair balance between Nintendo licensed games and indie games on its current game market. However, while Nintendo is easing the door for indie games open more than it has in the past, the door isn’t quite blown wide open. They are still selective about what standard of game that they will allow on their platform, which makes indie developers want to step their game up to meet those requirements. It also giving the indie gamers peace of mind knowing that the games on the Switch will be at least somewhat worth the investment.

Clusterpuck 99 is currently available on Steam and Xbox, and will be available soon on the Nintendo Switch.

 

The second team we were able to meet with was the wonderful Phoenix Labs, formed by 40 developers who previously worked with Riot Games, BioWare, Blizzard Entertainment, and Capcom. Their first highly anticipated game, Dauntless, takes influence from Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, as well as Dark Souls given that it is a hardcore PvE game and Destiny and World of Warcraft due to the social and multiplayer aspects they are bringing to the table. We had the opportunity to play the demo, and afterwards speak with one of the developers!

Dauntless is a free-to-play online game where “…The main focus is to team up with 3 of your friends and fight huge monsters,” which is exactly what we did during the demo. When you start the game, you’ll load into a central town (think the Tower in Destiny) where you can link up with your friends and start the hunt. There are currently 13 unique monsters (and more in development), each with its own unique pattern of attacks, weak points, and tells that you figure out through repetition of the fight and adjust your strategy around, along with multiple different environments. There are definitely optimal team and armor compositions, but the game is designed to where it is possible to beat any monster with any composition; its just a matter of efficiency.

Dauntless also caters to whatever goals the player may have, whether “…you care about beating monsters as quickly as possible or if you just want to go and have the most stylish outfit possible, we’re building ways to support those kinds of play-styles.” While fighting the behemoths is the focus, there is a campaign behind the game which explains exactly why your character is on these islands fighting huge behemoths.

Players can either enter with their own parties or join a match-making queue to progress through the campaign and gain better gear. In Dauntless, there is no level attached to your character, but rather your progress is marked by your gear progression.

The game is currently in closed beta, but the open beta is slated to be released sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2018!

Last but certainly not least, we got an exclusive look at Outpost Zero, a Starcraft-esque multiplayer FPS survival game by Symmetric Games. Outpost Zero is a multifaceted sandbox game that focuses on base building, survival, and controlling AI units. The basic premise is that you are an AI Overseer sent from Earth to establish a habitable area for humans on an alien planet. You will have to fight against native alien creatures, bands of pirates, and enemy players while harvesting resources and building your base to transform the planet from hostile to habitable.

The demo showed how the basic mechanics of the game worked along with the stellar graphics that are included. It is a simple art style while still being vibrant and engaging. You begin the game by landing on the hostile planet and are tasked with harvesting materials so you can begin to build your base.

While there is no set order to do things, there is a large amount of strategy behind the game to make your use of limited materials efficient and allow survival to be easier. Once you have established the main portion of your base, you can begin to create more AI bots that you can command to go and harvest materials, build more structures, defend against invaders, and more.

The most interesting mechanic included in this game is that the AI bots that you control develop a sort of personality; their work conditions must be kept to a certain standard for them to stay happy and work efficiently. The bigger and better your base gets, the harder it is to keep your worker bots happy and healthy. You are able to outfit your colony of worker bots with armor and weapons, train them in specific skills such as gathering resources or crafting and entertain them to keep morale high to run an efficient settlement.

They can  is currently ramping up their pre-alpha and will be releasing their open alpha soon, so keep an eye out for it!

These three games are all very different, but a small sample of the gems that indie games can be. Be sure to give them a try if you haven’t been following them already!

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