Hello! James Monkman here on the keys. You may know me as the guy responsible for running the retro/indie crossover site rgcd.co.uk, or perhaps through my occasional news and review posts over at indiegames.com. I’ve been a loyal fan of the Ouya console pretty much ever since it was first announced on Kickstarter, so it is super exciting to have the opportunity to write here on the official blog :).
My first foray into game development was back in 2009, via a little freeware game that RGCD released in collaboration with the French demo group NoExtra for the vintage 16-bit Atari STE home computer. That game was r0x, a really simple avoid ‘em up that went largely unnoticed outside of the small Atari scene.
We began work on a prequel (r0x zer0) that sadly never went any further than a proof of concept prototype, mainly due to me becoming distracted by 8.0 release of YoYo Games’ incredibly-simple-to-use GameMaker. I spent a few weeks playing around with Game Maker, and instead of working on r0x zer0 I ended up creating a PC remake of an old Atari game from the early 1990’s – Robotz DX, a single-screen, tactical arcade blaster that (in contrast to my previous work) proved to be quite popular.
Half a decade later, I still have a lot of love for r0x. So when Jamie Howard and I started talking about writing a ‘simple little game’ together back in May, a multiplayer rewrite was my immediate suggestion. With completely reworked mechanics, multiple game modes and a heavy dose of feature creep throughout development, what started as a remake ended up evolving into a much larger project than we’d anticipated.
…r0x EP was developed for under $1000 in less than three months of ‘hobby time’…
Jamie and I have both always wanted to develop a console game, and r0x (Extended Play) was designed very much with the big screen and controllers in mind. The Ouya was the perfect fit; compatible with GameMaker Studio, supporting local multiplayer and being incredibly easy to get on board as a developer. In total, even with the contracted artwork by uber-pixel artist Dugan Jackson of Tikipod, r0x EP was developed for under $1000 in less than three months of ‘hobby time’. This cost includes multiple purchases of Game Maker Studio, the Android export and YoYo Compiler modules, as well as the Ouya consoles and controllers themselves.
We actually launched a pre-release build of the game at Sundown, a demoscene party held here in the UK about 10 miles from our home city of Exeter. It was a close call, with hours of beer-fuelled programming crammed into the week prior to the party, and the work continued all the way through to the final minutes before the deadline.
The reception our Ouya received at the party was fantastic; Sundown attracts tech-savvy coders, artists and musicians from all over Europe and everyone who saw the little chrome box either already owned one, or was exclaiming their desire to do so upon their return home. Demonstrating r0x EP in front of the party goers on a huge cinema-size screen, backed by cheers and applause was a real high point for us, and the game ended up achieving 2nd place in the ‘Wild’ compo.
Our plan was always for r0x EP to be a freeware title, and the guys at Ouya were totally awesome about this and helped us bypass all of the annoying tax and bank stuff that we didn’t need to deal with. The developer sign-up and launch process was really painless, completed in a single evening. Without having to deal with acquiring limited and/or expensive dev-units, registering as a company, paying licence fees or signing NDAs, the Ouya really is the fastest and easiest route to getting your game into the front-rooms of players around the world. If you’ve created a game in GameMaker Studio and already own the Android module, there’s simply no reason not to consider an Ouya port.
…Ouya really is the fastest and easiest route to getting your game into the front-rooms of players around the world…
Of course, r0x EP is available to play on PC as well, but there’s no doubt that it plays best on Ouya – especially with a group of friends or family members. I also very much suspect that the positive response we received by launching on Ouya has helped our game’s popularity overall. r0x EP has since been featured by PC Gamer, GameJolt and indiegames.com – with all making reference to its humble microconsole origins.
So what’s next? Well, we’re currently planning out our next game, and I’d really like to revisit Robotz DX at some point and bring that to Ouya too. Jamie and I both have real life jobs outside of game development, so for now we’re keeping our designs and ambitious realistic, although we’re determined that our next release will be a little more advanced than r0x EP!
Developing your own game is definitely the most fun you can have with an Ouya, but of course, the RGCD office’s console regularly sees its fair share of gaming time too. Our Ouya’s are full to bursting point with releases from the Discover store in addition to also hosting a ton of side-loaded, work-in-progress apks mailed to us from our friends and collaborators. With r0x EP as a reference, it should come as no surprise that both Jamie and I are huge old-school arcade fans – and it’s at regularly delivering these byte-sized classic experiences that the Ouya really excels.
Sure, the Ouya has its fair share of established must-haves (Duck Game, Super Puzzle Platformer, Castilla Maldita, Toto Temple Deluxe and Broken Age to name a few), but for me it’s all about the awesome games by lesser-known indies that probably would have passed me by if released elsewhere. Compiling a top ten out of 890 games has been really difficult, so I’ve dedicated this list to some of those special little arcade experiences that, for me, define what the Ouya is all about.
Back in the late 1990’s, when ‘indie’ games were called freeware and shareware, there was this ace Windows ‘95 space invaders clone called Space Bastards. Alien Bastards is essentially the same game, but with the attitude turned up to 11. Originally developed as an easter-egg part of a playlist editor for developer Mike Schuler’s band, Alien Bastards soon outgrew it’s host and evolved into an incredibly nostalgic, fully-featured multi-player beast of a game. A perfect example of a simple concept executed incredibly well.
Having Golden Scarab running in the RGCD office is a sure-fire way to ensure that no work gets done. It’s just awesome. The combination of timeless arcade game design mixed with neon blooms and speaker-destroying glitch-hop makes it feel like a more intense, modern reinterpretation of Bagfull of Wrong’s indie classic War T**t/Daddy, and that’s a good thing. When played with a friend the experience elevates to the plateau of total perfection, thanks to it’s ace ‘tag team’ style respawn feature.
Oh yes. At first glance My Nuclear Octopus might look like something your Dad played on his BBC Micro back in the early 1980’s, but behind those crude visuals is a relentless arcade game that’s a whole ton of fun. Highly recommended.
Rubble ‘N’ Strafe is an impeccable example of rose-tinted nostalgia done right. An endless flier/shmup hybrid (yet refreshingly NOT a Flappy Bird clone), RNS clearly draws its inspiration from Durell’s Harrier Attack, bringing the 8-bit gameplay up to date by adding the unpredictability of procedural generation and some heavy duty explosive action to the mix. Oh, and the crashes are awesome, almost to the point where you’ll want to nose dive into the enemy troops to see how much destruction is caused by your hopeless plane as the wreckage tumbles through watch-towers, skyscrapers and … flocks of incendiary sheep.
Being a fan of Syder Arcade on the PC, this was one of the first games I downloaded on the Ouya – and it is still one of my favourites today. Amazing production values and surprising depth, Syder is a chrome-plated, supercharged gunship of a shmup. I just wish Studio Evil would develop a follow-up!
We all know what this is, don’t we, so I’m not going to spell it out. I’ll be honest though, Twin Tiger Shark isn’t my favourite release by Wide Pixel Games – at least, not any more. I’ve been fortunate to play Mikael’s current in-progress project ‘Broken Pearl’, which takes everything that is awesome about TTS and quantum-leaps it into a future warzone full of weird looking aliens and super-sci-fi, excessive blast ‘em up action. Awesome.
Developed as a personal side project whilst Andrew continued work on the Kickstarter-funded Legend of Iya, Ultionus is a homage to the 8/16-bit home-computer Euro run ‘n’ gun ‘classics’ Phantis, Astro Marine Corps and Game Over. With its beautiful, tongue-firmly-in-cheek presentation and punk attitude, Ultionus is extremely fun to play and a great showcase of what can be achieved with GameMaker on Ouya.
An endless experimental arcade shooter by those cool chaps at Force of Habit, the recently re-discovered Neon Caves host a variety of hostile inhabitants (including historically accurate giant crustaceans) and it’s up to you and your research team to stabilise the fragile eco system via the use of blammo guns and power-ups. Banner-up!
Picking a single Ouya game by Locomalito for this recommended list makes no sense – really you should play them all. Guarodan, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Castilla Maldita … everything he releases is of such a high quality. However, it’s Verminian Trap that I find myself being drawn back to over and over again. This simple, Wizard of Wor style single-screen shmup is incredibly addictive, especially when played co-operatively or competitively with a friend (or three). A fantastic game from an inspirational developer.
This reimagining of Llamasoft’s Laser Zone by Boris van Schooten is an over-the-top cataclysm of vectors, techno and psychedelia. Controlling defensive dual-cannons positioned on the vertical and horizontal axis, you have to destroy the incoming waves of enemies by lining them up with the appropriately aligned weapon – which is easier said than done. Visually stunning, and one of my all time favourite coffee-break games.