September 9, 2012 12:00 AM | Staff
Whenever I'm asked who I believe to be the most exciting indie developers of the moment, without fail I mention Blendo Games. My love for Brendon Chung's work began with the wonderful Gravity Bone, and extended to Flotilla, Atom Zombie Smasher and pretty much anything else he puts out.
Much of my love comes from the fresh, unique feeling that each of Chung's games exudes. It's difficult to find another game as off the wall as Gravity Bone, or as well realized as Atom Zombie Smasher. You can go into a Blendo game with the knowledge that you're about to experience something unlike anything you've played before.
Two new Blendo titles sent me into a tizzy in the last month. Thirty Flights of Loving, originally available as a reward in the Idle Thumbs Kickstarter, was released recently on Steam as a sequel to Gravity Bone. While relatively short, it encapsulates everything that Blendo Games is about, with players taking on the role of a criminal in a heist that goes horribly wrong. Chung's ability to tell linear stories in a truly unique and exciting manner surges throughout.
But it's with his new upcoming game Quadrilateral Cowboy that Chung is really turning up the heat. The cyberpunk low-tech game once again pits you as a 1980s criminal, intent on breaking into offices, vaults and other important buildings, stealing information, and getting out without being spotted.
The game features some incredibly intricate elements, as players use a laptop terminal to hack their surroundings, opening up pathways and deactivating cameras and lasers. The build we played had us first breaking into some offices to steal vital documents, using code such as cam8.off(3);wait(2);cam7.off(3);wait(2);door3.open(3); to advance.
Another mission put us in front of a formidable hacking setup, with a portable CCTV monitor placed next to the laptop and hooked up to a 'Weevil' robot that can be controlled from the laptop with commands such as "move 20" and "turn 90." This is truly an experience that gets down deep and dirty with code and commands.
"I've always wanted to play a game where hacking is exclusively done via a command terminal," Chung tells us. "There's something wonderfully tactile about typing in a long sequence correctly in Quadrilateral Cowboy -- my brother described it as there being something "Guitar Hero" about it -- and marry that with the satisfaction of learning a language syntax and executing a solid plan."
Inspirations for the title include Thief, Rainbow Six and Uplink, says Chung, all games that are very dear to him. Allowing the player to complete a task or level in the way that they desire most is key to unlocking Quadrilateral Cowboy's real potential.
"A big focus of Quadrilateral Cowboy is player agency," he adds. "The player has a lot of abilities, and can traverse the world in interesting ways. The idea is to give players a sandbox to play in, and let them plan and execute their own unique route to the objective."
He continues, "There are more tools, such as the projector, that displays a false image to fool guards and cameras. There's also the fact the player can clamber, meaning ledges, walls, and ceiling vents are surmountable obstacles. I can't wait to see how people approach things."
Chung is well aware that his games are a little "out there" and perhaps not to every gamer's taste. With Thirty Flights of Loving in particular, he was fully expecting a strong outcry from players when it was released outside of the Kickstarter and onto Steam.
"I was expecting an avalanche of strongly-worded emails, but surprisingly that hasn't happened," he says. "The most common feedback I get is 'I don't know what this is, but I like it.' I think games are in a period of great growth and experimentation, and I'm glad to be a part of that in some small way."
He adds, "I try to step out of my comfort zone. I grew up making first-person shooter levels, so when the opportunity came to start my own independent company, I decided to make a turn-based strategy game. I had zero experience in the turn-based genre, but I think something wonderful happens when you stretch muscles you haven't stretched before. These muscles in turn help out all your future projects."
As for his place in the indie scene, Chung doesn't believe he possesses any "indie fame" as such. However, he notes that whenever an aspiring developer emails him asking for advice on where to go next, his advice is simple: "just make stuff."
"Make things, release them, learn from them, fail fast and fail early," he says. "I've been making games since elementary school, and to this day it's shocking how much new things I learn every day."
[Mike Rose wrote this article, which originally appeared on Gamasutra.]