Tag Archives: indie games

Rust Introduces Randomly Assigned Race for Players in One Seriously Dope IDGAF Move

Some games only let you be some white guy who saves the world. Some games let you customize everything from skin tone to eyebrow height.  In one seriously bold move, creators of the realist survival game Rust just introduced a feature that randomly selects a players race. In the first iteration of the game, every player was running around fighting hypothermia and building shacks as a bald white guy. But now, players characters come in different skin colors.

Founder of Facepunch Studios Garry Newman wrote in the Rust dev blog post about the change: “Just like in real life, you are who you are — you can’t change your skin color or your face.” He notes that each character’s appearance is actually tied to each player’s SteamID, so it can’t be changed.

Naturally, a bunch of Rust players are ten types of put out about it, and, even more naturally, many of them are coming back with some racist bs responses or the “I’m not racist, but…” responses that reek of willful ignorance. According to Kotaku, Newman also noted an increase in racist language since the change:

“It makes me wish I’d set up some analytics to record how many times the N-word was used before and after the update” Newman said. But Newman also said that he noticed these less-awesome players weren’t the majority and were usually “confronted” (apparently this means they teamed up and hunted the fools down) by other players in the game.

Is it wrong that all I can think of doing after reading all the butthurt racist responses is giving a loud, menacing Nelson-from-the-Simpons-esque “HA HA!”?


Happily, there has also been some good responses to the change, and even some gamers stepping up to remind others that being “forced” to play as a different race is pretty much what every gamer of color deals with in most games. You can peep a solid sampling of the responses over at Al Jazeera’s great analysis of this change.

Fortunately, so far, Rust creators don’t seem to be budging on the matter.  In fact, Newman writes that Facepunch Studios plans to further develop the feature to include a wider range of skin tones. “There’s still work to be done, so consider this just the boilerplate of an idea for now. It’s quite pleasing to see different races working together in game, and makes you realise how arbitrary race is.”

The concept is pretty unique and fresh (and pretty darn cool), and Rust‘s realistic survival theme makes it a perfect game to try out such a concept.  While the game play doesn’t really reflect any of the real-life social situations one might face due to skin color, having players play as a race that isn’t their own just might lead the way to more even more interesting experimentation with social issues in gaming. Or, at the very least, it could help a few gamers think about their own relationship to race in the real world.

And maybe eventually, Facepunch will actually throw in another gender too…

All in all, well done, Facepunch Studios. This slow clap’s for you.


Boston Festival of Indie Games: Highlights

This past weekend MIT’s campus was overflowing with even more geeks than already grace its nerdy grounds. The Boston Festival of Indie Games (FIG) took over, bombarding Boston’s geeky masses with an offering of independently created tabletop games, digital games, and the wisdom of professional game developers.

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Although small in comparison to the numbers that show up to PAX and E3, the Festival featured an impressively diverse offering of games, from ninja dice games to zombie football to games for social change and games about depression. Gamers of every gaming style could find something to satisfy their geeky tastes at this gathering of daring developers.

Below are some of the highlights from the Digital Games showcase, but keep an eye out for upcoming features on some of the incredible developers we got a chance to chat with at the Festival:

Candlelight (Idle Action Studios)



Featuring a beautiful silhouette design, this 2D puzzle platformer allows you to control two characters at the same time — a boy whose movement is limited by the lantern he carries and a taller young girl with greater mobility. The two characters must work their way through a dynamic maze whose puzzles they can only solve together, helping each other along the way and often taking vastly divergent paths in order to do so. The game will be available on Mac and PC late this Fall.

Demon Chic

Created by mom and son team Christine and Michael FrauenhoferDemon Chic is a delightful head-trip of an RPG that warps you into the freaky world of a trio of roommates navigating love, life, and the demons that come along with them. A creative mix gameplay folds perfectly into the immersive stories that touch on big bad ideas like race, gender, and economics, enriching the narrative.  As the three roommates Ashok, his boyfriend Gary, and his brother Devraj, all high out of their minds, get really real with each other, they’re constantly interrupted by various freaky demons, whom they battle using powers they acquire in an on-screen word-jumble. Alternately hilarious, weird, and touching, Demon Chic is as much a surrealist head trip as it is an honest look at real life and queer issues. The game is available in the iTunes App Store and is vying for a place on Steam (for PC & Mac).

The Time Tribe (ThunderSnow Media, Inc.)

Anthropologist Karen Bellinger Wehner is not a gamer, but, with an awe for the teaching power of games, she put her PhD to the test and created The Time Tribe, an RPG puzzle game that sets you off an adventures across continents and time. Designed with historically- and culturally-accurate artifacts, the game aims to endow young players with a greater cultural literacy in a society that often criminalizes or ignores whole cultures and peoples according to political interests. You can play different parts of the game as any one of the quirky cast of four young kids whose choices from the moment they arrive at an old mansion impact how the story unfolds. To bridge the real world with the game’s fun adventuring, The Time Tribe offers artifact packages you can get in the mail, an online community, a Time Tribe comic and short stories, and even a feature that lets players donate in-game currency to social justice organization around the world. But, with a great story and some mystery mixed in, the game is just plain fun for kids and adults alike.

Cognition (Phoenix Online Studios)

A point-and-click mystery thriller, Cognition follows FBI detective Erica Reed as she uses her ability to see the past when she touches an object to solve her brother’s murder by a serial killer who seems to have resurfaced just to taunt her. The game is now in its fourth and final episode, but all four episodes are available online for Mac and PC.

Revolution 60 (Giant Spacekat)

A self-proclaimed mix of Heavy Rain and Mass Effect, Revolution 60 features an all-female special operative team in the future on a mission to steal a space shuttle and prevent nuclear war. Heavily cinematic but boasting interesting gameplay and combat mechanics, the game is pushing the boundaries of what is possible for games on the iPad. You play as special operative Holiday, who can be as no-nonsense or as sassy as you make her, but every choice you make affects the next step and how the game ultimately ends. Part of a six-part series, the game will be out in March 2014 on iOS with PC and Mac soon to follow.

Depression Quest

Not exactly the most encouraging title, but the game has a great premise and offers an important look at what it’s like to live with depression. A free-to-play, text-heavy online game, Depression Quest takes you through the everyday experience of a person suffering from depression, from simply getting out of bed in the morning to conversations with a significant other. With five possible endings and over 150 unique encounters, every choice you make throughout the “quest” has impacts your depression levels and what comes next. At the Festival gamers crawled inside a sheet tent to get the full experience of the game. Created by Zoe Quinn to spread awareness about depression, the game is free to play online, but donations go to iFred, an organization that supports education and research on depression.

Get Water! (Decode Global)

InGet Water! players experience modern India as the young girl Maya, who only wants to go to school, but she is continually removed from classes in order to collect water. The faster you help Maya get water, the sooner she can return to her studies. Throughout the game, Maya acquires new tools and skills that allow her to collect more water faster. Created by Montreal-based team Decode Global, the game aims to draw attention to the dual-causes of water scarcity and girls’ education in India and other nations. However more than just becoming aware of the issues, players also learn about the efforts of real world charities like chartiy:water and the international work to bring water to developing nations. Get Water! is available on iPad in the U.S. and will be available on the App Store for India and Canada September 17th.

Indie Wednesday: Accessible Gaming, Disabled Vigilantes & Vampire Noir

It’s the Wednesday before payday, and that paycheck will soon be burning a hole in your pocket for booze and pizza and low brow entertainment, so why not balance it out and make yourself feel better about your more indulgent purchases by spending the first dollars of your check on some noble independent projects?  Here are a few that’ll help salve your conscience and please your inner geek at the same time!

Special Effect

With E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in full force, everyone’s hopped up on the latest technology consoles and game developers are boasting about at the expo. While the name of the game at E3 is awe-factor, over at the offices of the mission-driven organization SpecialEffect, the goal is to take advantage of cutting-edge technology to bring video games to individuals whose needs are not currently met by the field.

SpecialEffect finds solutions so that those affected by neurological disease, physical impairment, or a disability of any kind has the opportunity to play the latest and greatest games.

It seems awareness about accessibility is on the rise in the gaming industry. Just this past February SpecialEffect was chosen as the 2013 Charity of the Year by Multiplay, and In an interview with founder Dr. Mick Donnean over at PCGamer, Donnean notes that various game studios have sought out SpecialEffect’s help in developing accessible games.

Blood Kiss 

Written by Michael Reaves, who has worked on such projects as Disney’s Gargoyles  and Batman: The Animated Series, and starring such awesome geeky talent as Neil Gaiman and Amanda Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Blood Kiss promises to debut a brand new genre — Vampire Noir!  —  combination of genres that seem so perfect for each other it’s hard to believe it hasn’t happened before.

Here’s a bit on the plot:

“Blood Kiss revolves around detective Joe Belicek, who must solve the murder of a vampire before a deranged killer murders them all. Inspired by Film Noir, this supernatural thriller is set in 1940s Hollywood with famous haunts like the Brown Derby.”

If you don’t know Michael Reaves, you might find the video intro a bit kitschy– the ol’ cue card trick — but you’ll soon find out that Reaves suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, which makes it difficult for him to speak. The film will be associated with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, in order to promote awareness about the neurological disease. Check out Reaves’ blog Parkinson’s Monster where he writes about his experience with the disease.

The Kickstarter has already reached it’s $50,000 goal to make the movie, but with 3 days to go, the crew is pushing to make the film all it can be. With $100,000 support Reaves and crew promise better sound, costume, and makeup and a film of”Indie Thriller quality, shot with red cam”. The story will also be captured in comic book form.


Vindicated will introduce readers to John Russell, a soldier who lost both his legs in combat.  Upon returning home, he takes up more than just a set of prosthetic legs, he dons armor and takes to the streets to combat organized crime in Seattle.

The creator George Kissell, a comic book artist known for his work with IDW comics and on the Alan Wake video game, is a veteran himself. Team members Ernesto Haibi and Robert Scott McCall are also military vets; Haibi was permanently disabled in combat. The team came together on this project in order to raise awareness about veterans who have been physically and psychologically scarred by war, and the process of coping when they return home.

What makes this project particularly salient is the dedication to realism that Kissell and crew have promised. Hiring technical experts in military and law enforcement, the creators will leave the impossible bullet dodging to the likes of Batman and other unpowered fictional heroes, and show how this everyday hero uses his combat-experience, intellect, and fierce dedication to survive the day and take down the badguys.

Goal: $8,000  End Date: July 12, 2013

Other Projects to Support:

Feel the Force – a Star Wars convention for geeks with disabilities

5 Geeky Ways to Celebrate International Workers Day

1. Support your local comic book shop!

Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, MA
Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, MA. One of our favorite locals!

Maybe you buy your comics online or maybe you wait for the trade volume of your favorite comics and you get them from the library… And that’s totally fine! But there’s no better day than May Day – a day of celebration for workers across the world – to suck it up and drop a few bucks in support of  your local comics shop. Grab a new comic or put your money where your cards are and join a Magic The Gathering tournament, or just load up on a couple comics you’ve always been meaning to get to.

And if you’re like us, at the comics shop so often people think you work there, then you can support too! Try a new comic, add that comic you’ve been himming and hawing about to your pull list. Ask the store owner for a recommendation and splurge on a brand new trade! Any way you can, support your store! We’re heading into Free Comic Book Day this weekend, so it all balances out anyway!

For Boston locals check out this post for some ideas on where to go!

2. Go Indie for the cause!

Believe it or not, comics creators and game developers are workers too! And they’re notoriously underpaid, overworked, and/or underrecognized.  Support your favorite creators directly by checking out their independent projects or discovering new creators. You can often find cool new projects looking for support on sites like Kickstarter, which even breaks it down for you with easy categories for games, comics, technology, etc.

Right now we’re loving (and supporting!) this creepy Dexter-like comic from artist Larime Taylor, whose brief Twitter bio describes him as “Disabled creator of comics. I draw with my mouth.” Check it out (and support!):

The Independents: Larime Taylor from Michael La Breche on Vimeo.

Another of our favorite indie games right now is Cardboard Computer‘s Kentucky Route Zero – a haunting magical realist adventure game set in an old mining town. Check out the trailer below!

3. Teach geekery for the cause!

The next generation of workers are up-and-coming, and one great way to celebrate the day is to make sure that next generation is sufficiently geeky!

Join a tutor program and teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) skills in underserved communities or to groups that aren’t traditionally represented in STEM careers. Check out STEM tutoring opportunities in your area.  Or if you can’t spare the time, then spare the change, and support cool organizations like…

Black Girls Code, which seeks “to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders”

4. Read (comics) about the cause!

Comics are as diverse and encompassing as any other literature, and there are plenty of comics about workers, labor rights, and important historical events in labor history. What better way to learn about workers history & rights than by reading a comic?! Here are a few to check out:

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco – An  investigative look at poverty in America

Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation by Harvey Pekar – An adaptation of a classic work by famous journalist Studs Terkel about the lives of American workers.

Abina and the Important Men by Trevor R. Getz & Liz Clarke – The story of Abina Mansah, a West African woman who was wrongfully enslaved and took her former master to court, creating a revolutionary case monumental in the history of slavery, the wage economy, and underpaid domestic workers in the UK and Africa.

Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World by Paul Buhle & Nicole Schulman – A star-studded history of the IWW and the fight for rights for industrial workers

Che: A Graphic Biography by Spain Rodriguez & Paul Buhle – A biography of Che Geuvara, a staunch workers rights fighter.

5. Cosplay for the cause!

Young Superheroes protest the MBTA (photo courtesy of Steve Annear and Boston Magazine)
Young Superheroes protest the MBTA (photo courtesy of Steve Annear and Boston Magazine)

Superheroes fight for justice and the little guy. A number of them, like Daredevil, She Hulk, Luke Cage even supplement their usual heroic tactics (a lot of punching things) with a little activist work on the side!  It only makes sense that superheroes would support a day that’s all about labor justice and workers rights. As a bunch of kids discovered last month while protesting the MBTA in Boston, nothing screams justice like a cape and tights. There will be no shortage of May Day events today, so put on your cape, get out there and show your geekery and your support for workers at the same time!