Abduction Action! – Preview + Interview

A WDesm exclusive for XBoxHornet

The hits just keep on coming ’round these parts.  We managed to snag an exclusive interview with Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games about his upcoming release, Abduction Action! for XBLIG, and we also talk a little about his past release, Nasty, a very sweet-and-under-appreciated platformer.  Hang on tight kids, and enjoy the ride!

WD: To those unfamiliar with your upcoming game, can you explain Abduction Action!’s gameplay?

FI: Abduction Action! casts you as an aspiring UFO pilot visiting Earth for the first time and more than ready to cause a little havoc. You must use the tractor beam of your UFO to pickup Earthlings and other objects in order to complete a series of tasks given to you by your superiors. Tasks you must complete include things like abducting five cows, dropping rocks on angry jocks, or going toe-to-toe with a police helicopter.

While you can exclusively work through the Story Mode, the game also has a sort of Grand Theft Auto vibe, meaning that many gamers will probably have just as much fun tossing around Earthlings, dropping objects on them, etc. as they would completing the Story Mode missions.

WD: How many hours of gameplay should gamers be expecting?  Is there much replayability?

FI: I believe there is a lot of gameplay in Abduction Action!, more than enough to make the game well worth your 80 Microsoft Points. The normal game (story mode) features five levels with 6 to 10 tasks each. I expect it will take the average gamer several hours to master and complete each of these levels. There is also a Score Attack mode that gives you one life as you try and progress through all the game’s enemies and obtain the highest score.

Additionally I believe a lot of gamers will simply find enjoyment in starting any level and tossing some Earthlings around just for the fun of it.

WD: Your company, Fun Infused Games, has also released Nasty, a shooter/platformer for XBLIG.  How is Abduction Action! similar/different from Nasty, and what skills were transferable to the new game?

FI: Both games are 2D games and have some similar artistic stylings, but they don’t share much else after that. Nasty plays much more like a platformer with guns while Abduction Action! has you flying through the sky and forces you to be more creative to dispatch enemies and complete levels. Overall Abduction Action! gives you more freedom in what you can do. Nasty had a ton of levels (100) but the five levels in Abduction Action! are much larger and have a lot more to do in each.

WD: What first inspired you to create games, and what has inspired Abduction Action! and Nasty?

FI: At a very young age, I fell in love with gaming. I grew up playing lots of Commodore 64 games and later transitioned to the NES. I really enjoyed the NES / SNES / Genesis years and those style of games have been the ones that I have really wanted to make.

Nasty was largely inspired by Bubble Bobble and Contra… the game plays like you have the Contra characters stuck inside the levels of Bubble Bobble. I’ve always really enjoyed co-op games and feel that they’re underrepresented today, so creating a game that allowed this was also one of my goals.

With Abduction Action!, it started with the idea of having a game that involved Abducting Earthlings. I’ve always had an interest in UFOs and other unexplained phenomenon and thought this would be an interesting concept to explore.

WD: How long was the development time for Abduction Action!?

FI: It’s been about eight months in development now, ever since the day after I put Nasty up for review. It was my intention to have this released last December, but I expanded the initial concept from just abducting Earthlings to include many more varied tasks and put another month or so into just polishing the game after it was essentially completed. The game plays and looks a lot better due to the extra time I spent on it.

WD: Why are gamers going to get hooked on Abduction Action!?

FI: The core concept alone is different from anything else gamers have played and is very fun. The in-game characters also show a lot of personality, gamers will get a kick out of picking up Earthlings just to hear what they scream as you lift them up and drop them to their demise.

WD: Have you found the XNA/XBLIG coding experience enjoyable and worthwhile?  Why or why not?

FI: Coding in XNA has been great, really easy to get into and there are a lot of good tutorials/examples that can be found online to help out (along with a lot of great people in the community willing to lend a hand).

Financially my first game Nasty hasn’t done as well as I would have liked. I believe it’s a game people would really enjoy but I initially priced it too high and it has faded into obscurity in-part because of that. Regardless, I enjoyed making Nasty and learned a lot in the process, including some mistakes I hope to avoid for my second release.

WD: Nasty has received patches post-release, and your Nasty homepage even has a poll for which feature gamers most want to see Nasty get next update.  Do you intend to give the same long-term loving to Abduction Action! ?

FI: Yes I do. I want to give gamers the best game I can and listening to their feedback is the best way to do that. Nasty is a much better game now then when it was released because of changes that I have made based on feedback from gamers and I fully intend on using the same approach not just with Abduction Action! but also with releases after that.

I also feel improving my games is a good way to give back to gamers who purchased my games and to renew interest in previously released games that may otherwise be collecting dust.

WD: As a game dev, what do you think are the most effective tools for attracting and retaining fans?  With all the possible ways to focus attention (high quality presentation, invasive marketing, addictive gameplay, bug-free gameplay, etc), you must have to pick and choose favorites.

FI: The most important thing is to make good games. Gamers know what is fun and it doesn’t take fancy graphics or elaborate marketing plans have a fun game. The core concept of your game must be solid and enjoyable and heavily polished. It should be fun all around and it is important for it to be free of any buggy behavior, as that will quickly pull a gamer out of the reality the game creates.

WD: What is your opinion on the use of various ‘bonus’ features (online leaderboards, DLC ‘hidden’ in title patches, avatar support, badges/awards, unlockables, etc) in XBLIG games?  Do they significantly add to the game’s quality, or simply bog down development time and add more opportunities for things to go awry?

FI: As a gamer, I’m personally not all that interested in most of these features but as a game developer, I realize that many gamers are. With Xbox Live Indie Game titles, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage to Xbox Live Arcade games as we aren’t given the option of true leader boards, gamer scores, achievements, downloadable content, so we have to make due best we can (for instance using peer-to-peer methods to share high scores or create local ‘Awardment’ systems). Implementing these features can be a fair amount of work for what feels like only a marginal benefit, but if the style of your game fits, I think they can be important to include.

Avatars are a bit of a different story… Gamers seem to like them a lot and Xbox Live Indie Games are in a position to take advantage of them more-so than Xbox Live Arcade Games (shorter time to market, less risk in making the games means we’ve got more liberty to try new things with Avatars). I haven’t personally delved much into Avatar usage but it is something that I’ll be looking into for future games.

Thanks Kris!  I know that I’m certainly looking forward to some cow-throwing, and I can only wonder what you mean by the “Realistic UFO flight” comment on your website.  Thanks again to Fun Infused Games for taking the time to answer our questions, and keep tuning in for even more previews, interviews, reviews, and contests!

View a trailer of Abduction Action! here.

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Breath of Death VII Preview + Interview

A WDesm exclusive for XBoxHornet

Less than a week after our intensely awesome Flotilla preview, we’ve been lucky enough to find another XBLIG dev waiting in the wings to release their game, and Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games is here today to talk about Breath of Death VII, their upcoming ‘parody RPG.’  Read more about it, and then watch the trailer below!

WD: How did you get started in video game creation, and what XBLIG titles have you already released?

RB: As a teenager over 10 years ago, I started work on a RPG called Rainbow Despair (so named because I felt it followed the traditional Japanese RPG naming convention of having 2 words that had absolutely nothing to do with each other) using an RPG toolkit called Verge. Various things came up in my life and I never finished, but I always intended to go back and make a full fledged RPG. Flash forward many years. Microsoft announced XBox Live Indie Games and I knew this was my chance to pursue game making for real.
The first game I made for XBLIG was Molly the Were-Zompire, an e-book akin to the old Choose Your Own Adventure book series, however due to some last minute bugs, I didn’t actually release it first. While I was cleaning up the code and getting it ready to resubmit, I decided to write a second e-book called Epiphany in Spaaace! and that turned out to be the first game I actually released on XBLIG.


WD: How is Breath of Death VII similar to your previous games?  Were you able to work from previous code, or was it all from the ground up?

RB: Breath of Death VII stars a bunch of undead heroes so in that aspect, it’s very similar to Molly the Were-Zompire. It also has a heavy emphasis on humor and parody which echo my previous games. As far as gameplay goes, they’re completely different.
Molly the Were-Zompire was originally intended to be a full fledged RPG before I turned it into more of a novel so I had a bunch of half-finished RPG code from the early version that I was able to adapt for use in Breath of Death VII. A lot of the code for formatting and displaying text in textboxes I was able to use almost completely unchanged from my earlier games.

WD: What have you learnt to improve upon from your previous games?

RB: In the past, many of my designs for RPGs I’ve come up for games have been overly complicated, to the point where even I have a hard time figuring out how best to play them! Battles that take place on both the physical and astral plane simultaneously, battles that need to be fought in a certain order to obtain the correct power-up to beat the next battle, stuff like that. Ideas like this might sound good on paper, but when you actually prototype them, they end up being more difficult than enjoyable. With Breath of Death VII, we’ve really pushed towards making the game highly accessible to player right from the beginning. Easy to grasp, hard to master, that sort of idea.

WD: As shown in your trailer, Breath of Death VII definitely harkens back to the NES/SNES era of JRPGs, but are there any specific games that inspired you?  Are there any games that you couldn’t help but parodying?

RB: The RPG Guadia Quest in Retro Game Challenge was probably our biggest influence. Other than that, some of our favorite RPGs include Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior/Quest, Chrono Trigger, Lunar, and Shin Megami Tensei, so don’t be surprised to find references to any of those. Also, there will be references to a few non-RPGs as well, like the RE4 Merchant joke shown in the trailer.

WD: Likewise in your trailer, we are shown a few snippets of video game geek in-jokes.  Is the entire game parodical, or will non-geeks be able to get enjoyment from the humour?  Is the storyline serious?

RB: There will be a good bit of geek in-joke humor in the game, but not all of the humor will require previous knowledge of games to understand. As for the storyline, the overarching plot is serious, but the execution most definitely is not.

WD: What about the hardcore gamers, who couldn’t care if there’s a story or not?  Can they expect to dredge up hidden gear, invisible walls, and unstoppable secret bosses? Can you unlock hidden characters, merits, badges, or new game+?

RB: The game has some optional dungeons & enemies in it for the hardcore gamers. Also, after beating the game, the player will unlock a Score Attack Mode where random encounters are turned off (although they can still be initiated intentionally). In this mode, the lower your character LVs are when you beat bosses, the more points you gain. We felt this would be a good way to add extra depth for those gamers who really want to master the game.

WD: The combat, though familiar, seems to have a few quirks and twists in it: What makes Breath of Death VII memorable/enjoyable to play?

RB: Breath of Death VII uses the traditional turn-based RPG format that was popular in the 8-bit & 16-bit era, but there are a few additions. For example, there’s a combo system where you rack up combo points with each hit. High combo values result in enhanced powers on certain skills as well as additional MP regained at the close of battle. However, using certain skills (such as most healing abilities) or having a character die can result in the combo count resetting so that’s something that has to be taken into account.
Another change that we’re proud of is the LV-Up system. With each LV-Up, the character has to make a choice between two different enhancements (like new spells or stat boosts) depending on the character and their LV. It’s a very simple and easy to understand system, but provides a lot of depth.

WD: Regardless of playstyle though, all games must come to an end (unless it’s an MMO, I suppose).  Roughly how long is Breath of Death VII, and can we expect any replayability or branching experiences?

RB: We’re aiming for around 4-6 hours for a thorough playthrough, plus like I mentioned earlier, there will be at least 1 new mode unlocked after beating the game. The game is mostly linear, but there will be some optional stuff scattered throughout the game that the player can choose to do or skip.

WD: The graphics in the game are definitely old-school RPG, but the music also sounds cranked out through an SNES synthesizer – do you moonlight as a chiptunes composer?

RB: I love good chiptunes, but I didn’t actually write any of the music for Breath of Death VII. All of the music was licensed from various musicians on http://indiegamemusic.com.

WD: What was the most difficult part of completing Breath of Death VII?

RB: Well, the game isn’t quite finished yet, so maybe you should ask in a few weeks! So far, I’d definitely say the battle system – it’s a robust system that we’ll be able to modify for use in future games, but it took substantially longer to program than I expected. Also, getting a save/load system to work on the XBox 360 is a major pain.

WD: What advice do you have for other XNA / Indie game developers trying to find their own?

RB: First, I’d say just get started making something. All the great ideas in the world don’t do a whole lot of good if you don’t sit down and actually turn them into a game. Consider your abilities and make something that’s not beyond you, but will still push you to your limit. Then use that as a stepping stone for future games.
To use myself as an example, my first two XBox Live Indie Games are very simple technically, but the experience I gained making them gave me the foundation in programming necessary to make our current game. Not only that, but they attracted the attention of my current partner, William Stiernberg, without whom, I would never have been able to make this game (among other things, he’s responsible for the visuals & level design of Breath of Death VII).
Finally, I would recommend looking closely at the market before starting a project. Try to find a niche that’s not being served and fill it. Much as I like dual stick shmups, I don’t think I’d ever make one just because there’s so much competition in that arena right now – unless you’ve got the most amazing shmup ever (and maybe, even if you do), you’re just going to be overlooked.

WD: Breath of Death VII certainly sounds like a huge step forward for Zeboyd Games, but if it’s only a few weeks from finish, what can we expect next from your studio?  Care to spill the beans just a tad on where your mind is heading next?


RB: We have a few ideas that we’re tossing around but we haven’t decided for sure what our next game will be. At this point we’re primarily focused on making Breath of Death VII as good as possible and getting it finished and released. We hope everyone enjoys it when it comes out this April!

I know I will, thanks Zeboyd Games!

Learn more about Zeboyd Games here.

View the trailer here.

Orbital Battleship Previews – Flotilla Interview

A WDesm exclusive for XBoxHornet

Flotilla is game taking the PC indie gaming scene by storm: It has near-instantly gained a cult following for unique gameplay, thorough polish, and a supernatural receptiveness to bugs, tweaks and requests (since its PC launch on February 27th, 2010, it has already hit version 1.7 – that’s seven revisions in less than seven days!).

What’s it all about? Flotilla is a space exploration/combat game, featuring randomly-generated universes that give you a new experience with every playthrough. Your fleets move in a full 3D environment, letting you flank the enemy from all angles.

The game also supports splitscreen multiplayer. Join a buddy and explore the galaxy together. Or, play the Skirmish gamemode and blow up your buddy!

-Brendon Chung, BLENDO Games


Gamers worldwide are enthralled by the casual nature and tactical intensity, and BLENDO’s receptiveness to their player’s requests makes them a flavour-of-the-month, for sure.  But even if this PC game is so innovative and gobsmackingly awesome, what does it have to do with XBLIG?  Well, good news for all you gaming junkies out there that prefer a couch; Flotilla is currently worming its way through XBLIG approval, and will descend upon us all very, very soon.  I caught up with Brendon Chung to discuss the awesomeness of Flotilla.

WD – How long has BLENDO Games been around, and how many people are involved in BLENDO Games?
BC -I started Blendo Games in December 2008.  I do all the development myself, and have friends willing to endure my prototype playtesting.
WD – It seems that each and every game by BLENDO is incredibly unique – no two seem very much alike.  Is this intentional, have your interests changed, or do you just like to keep things fresh?
BC – It’s a fun challenge to try developing different genres.  I’m a big fan of developers that mix bits and pieces of different games together, so I try to dip my toes in as much different genres as possible.  I had never made a strategy game before, so it was a nice change of pace to make Flotilla.  I think there’s a certain joy in seeing someone work on something outside of their comfort zone.
WD –  Flotilla seems to be incredibly unique in terms of game design.  How was the gameplay of ‘Flotilla’ born?
BC – I made a 2D spaceship game a while ago, about turn-based fleet combat.  I never got around to finishing it, so it never got  a public release.  Some years later, I wanted to learn how to make a 3D game. So, I took that old 2D space game and expanded it to make Flotilla’s combat component.

From Original Prototype.....

...To Finished Product!

WD – Are there any games or videos that inspired you during development?  The deadly ‘serenity’ of watching combat choices unfold reminds me of Defcon, and the fleet-on-fleet battles could easily be at home in any number of space operas.
BC – I’m a sucker for submarine movies.  There’s always that balletic cat-and-mouse duel between subs – I love that.  I see the Flotilla ships as enormous submarines stalking through outer space.  Armed with huge hulking proton beams.

WD – Specifically in terms of artwork, what made you choose the graphics style you did?
BC – I’d love to say that the ships are beautifully stylized, but they’re more of a product of my limited 3D modeling skills.  As is, the simple flat-textured ships took quite a while to look decent.

It was nice to be able to stretch out and do some 2D artwork for the adventure portrait pictures.  My games are typically 3D, so it was nice to finally give my drawing tablet some work!

WD –  What about the music and sound effects?  What sort of background ambience can we expect in Flotilla?
BC – The adventure mode has music cues attached to all the different random encounters, so there’s quite a variety.  The combat mode features nice piano pieces from Chopin.
WD – Gameplay-wise, Flotilla seems to hit upon many loved buzzwords – multiplayer, randomly-generated content, and in-depth configurations.  With all of this variability, was it a nightmare-and-a-half to code it together?  What were some of the biggest challenges?
BC – The biggest problems were the rendering code (mostly because this was my first attempt at coding a 3D game) and the control scheme.
A simple move order required a tremendous amount of button presses.  I was very lucky to have people test out the early versions and give helpful feedback.  It’s nicely streamlined now, and I think it works pretty well.

Some of the space you can hope to explore

WD –  While the Windows version is already out (and attracting quite the cult Indie following for its creativity and uniqueness), the XBLIG is lagging behind just a bit.  Other than the obvious hurdle of being peer reviewed, are there any other content differences between the PC and Xbox version?
BC – The PC uses a mouse and keyboard, but other than that, the content between the two platforms are identical.

WD – The PC version has already received a few bugfixes since Flotilla’s launch – can Xbox users expect the same treatment?
BC – Yup, the Xbox version will also receive updates and fixes.

WD – Between multiplayer game modes and randomly-generated adventures, it definitely seems like Flotilla is going to be easy to get your money out of tenfold, but is there any plans for long-term support, bugfixes, or even DLC, or do you already have your eye on the next hurdle for BLENDO games?
BC – Flotilla has received several version updates since its release, and I intend on continuing that.  Beyond that, I have a couple of projects on the drawing board that I’m pretty excited about.

This still isn't as ridiculous as a "Psychic Dog Advisor"

WD – XBLIG has picked up a stigma as a ‘casual’ gaming repertoire, and some devs have expressed trouble trying to swim upstream from that label.  Do you think “Flotilla” can be classified as a casual game, or is it exclusively for the hardcore?
BC – I’d call Flotilla a light strategy game.  There’s certainly things in there for the hardcore crowd, like flanking the enemy and coordinating fleet maneuvers, but it’s all streamlined pretty well.
WD – What would be some words of encouragement to other Indie developers looking at using the XNA framework / releasing a game on XBLIG?
BC – The XNA framework is quite well done.  I think we’re all barely scratching the surface of what it’s capable of.  I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what cool things people make with it further down the road.


After answering my barrage of questions, Brendon had to get back to work (working on version 1.8 already, perhaps??), but he was kind enough to leave us with two other prototype screens, just to show how far the game has evolved.  After viewing the screens, take a stop by BLENDO Games and try out the PC demo, join their Messageboard, view the trailer on the XTube, or wait impatiently for the XBLIG release!

The prototype screenshots - The 3D upgrade looks so much better!

View the trailer here.

Developers Websites

This page contains a list of developer websites, if you would like yours to be included please email me at xboxhornet@gmail.com along with a list of the games you have made or are making.

You can click on the name of the developer to go direct to their website, or if a link is available you can click on the name of the game to see information, screen shot, video and even download a free demo straight to your Xbox 360.

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Think you have played the best Xbox Live games? Check this out.

A.
Aztec Games – Double Vision, The Amazing Rumbling Hypno Disc, The collector

B.
Barkers CrestEasy Golf
Bewoot GamesPuzzwords, LED Display, Graffiti LIVE coming soon
Binary TweedClover
BlackpwnPwned
Bionic Shark StudiosAir Legends

C.
Cletus Clay – Cletus Clay(XBLA) Coming soon

D.
Dark Omen GamesNebulon

E.
Evolution dream studiosBomb Disposal Expert, Planet Delta

F.
FunkmasonryGroov

G.
GYKO Games – SBARG, coming soon

H.
HalfbrickHalfbrick Blast Off, Halfbrick Echoes, Raskulls (coming soon)
The Hamster Allianceezmuze+ Hamst3r edition
HemigamesOrbyx

I.
J.

K.
Kindling GamesHieronymus Bash

L.

M.
Mad Ninja SkillzEZMuze Break and House edition
Milkstone StudiosLittle Racers
Mommy’s Best GamesWeapon of Choice, Grapple Buggy (coming soon)

N.
Noverleaf StudiosBiology Battle

O.
Occasional Gamertwitter.com/mechaghostGum Drop Celestial Frontier
Ophidian Wars – Ophidian Wars (coming soon)

P.
Q.

R.
Running PixelCrystal Crush, Bricks4Ever

S.
SGN GamesAlien Ambush, Golden Royal Blackjack, Slottso Party, (Golden Royal Omaha and Texas Hold’em, Legends of Lore: Episode 1, Blipits) , coming soon
Stephen Bennett – Poker Squares, Find Teddy

T.
Team Mango – GravSheep

Tower 17 GamesMania, Aphelion (coming sson)
Trino TeamTrino
Triple B GamesFitba

U.
V.
W. Wam GamesPegzo
X.
Y.
Z.